27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. I refer to the decision of the High Court earlier this year which invalidated orders made by various officers of State courts in the matrimonial causes jurisdiction and the announcement by the Attorney-General that the Commonwealth would introduce legislation designed to remedy the position. Is the Minister aware of the very serious problems that are being caused to wives and children in various parts of the Commonwealth because of the invalidity of the orders and of his undertaking to introduce legislation? Will he inform the Senate when we may expect the legislation to be introduced?
– It is a fact that I made a statement that the Government would introduce legislation to validate those orders which had been declared invalid by the decision in Knight v. Knight. The particular problem arose in South Australia and I understand that the concern which has been expressed is essentially limited to South Australia, although there may be instances in New South Wales where a comparable situation has developed. However, I think that in New South Wales it would have a limited area of operation. The legislation is in the course of drafting. I am unable to say precisely when it will be introduced, but it will be introduced as soon as possible. I reiterate for the benefit of the honourable senator and those who may be interested that the Government’s intention to introduce this legislation is firm.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that the Prime Minister has written to President Nixon protesting at Mr Nixon’s failure to give him advance warning of the announcement of the President’s proposed visit to Peking? If this is so, does this indicate that the Government is working against the American alliance and has been seriously embarrassed by President Nixon’s failure to take the Australian Prime Minister into his confidence on such a vital matter? As Mr McMahon claimed 4 days before President Nixon’s stunning announcement of his impending trip to Peking that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, was played like a trout while in Peking, is Mr McMahon’s letter of complaint an admission that the fish was on the hook in Canberra and not in Peking? In a more serious vein I ask: Does this not confirm public suspicion that there has been a fundamental change in relations between America and the McMahon Government?
I am sure that I would not be expected to respond to a question which is framed and couched like that and which at this point is based primarily on Press reports of statements between Heads of State. For me to answer the question now would be absolutely absurd. If the honourable senator wishes to put his question on notice he is welcome to do so.
– Order! I remind honourable senators that the Standing Orders lay down rules for the framing of questions. Honourable senators are not to use ironical expressions. Questions are not to be framed in such a way as to elicit answers based on policy. 1 intend to see that in future questions are couched in their proper form.
– Can the Minister for Works inform the Parliament how many employees of the Commonwealth Department of Works will be dismissed before Christmas 1971 in the Brisbane metropolitan district and in the Queensland country district?
– From information that I gave the honourable senator yesterday, he will know that it is inevitable that the Department of Works will issue notices of termination of employment to 8 officers in the Townsville area. I shall have to consult the Department and obtain detailed information about the position in other areas of Queensland. The Department has sought from the Department of the Army increased work so that the employment of the 8 officers at Townsville need not be terminated. The Department of the Army pointed out that the work load that it gives to the Department of Works has to be reduced, mainly because of the reduction in mechanical works due to the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. It has not been possible for the Department of Works to obtain outside contracts which would increase the work load to such an extent that the continuance of the employment of these personnel could be justified. I shall obtain information about the remainder of the question for the honourable senator as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Can the Minister say on what grounds the feasibility study of the tug-barge service planned to serve Tasmania has been rejected by the Commonwealth authorities, as has been reported? Is the Minister aware that the Sydney firm of Marecon Pty Ltd has claimed that the proposition was entirely practicable and that if operated in cooperation with existing freight services it would substantially reduce costs, even to the extent, it is claimed, of halving existing freight costs? Is the Minister aware that the Tasmanian Chief Secretary has said that one of the greatest obstacles to the operation of this system is Commonwealth authority to proceed?
– J have read an article on this matter in the ‘Mercury’ of 22nd September 1971. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has also provided me with some information on the subject. However, it appears that the information supplied by the Minister may refer to some tug and barge operation other than that to which the honourable senator has referred in the first part of his question. If the honourable senator’s question refers to the Marecon proposition, the Department of Shipping and Transport has not been asked to comment on this proposal. The only knowledge that it has so far is from newspaper reports. Earlier this year the Commissioner of the Tasmanian Transport Commission referred another proposal for a tug and barge operation to the Department of Shipping and Transport for comment. It had been suggested to the Commissioner that rail vehicles could be moved between Tasmania and Victoria by this means. I understand that the Commissioner rejected this proposal but asked the Department to comment on the tug and barge operation only.
A full feasibility study was not undertaken. However, after consultation with the Australian National Line, the Department’s comment was that such an operation would not result in cheaper freight rates or provide Tasmania with as good and as reliable a service as that presently given by the vehicle-deck ship operation. The Minister is not aware of any remarks such as those the honourable senator suggested were made by the Tasmanian Chief Secretary. However, 1 will direct to the Minister a copy of Hansard containing the honourable senator’s question and my reply, to see whether he can add anything to aid the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: What supervision is his Department maintaining to ensure that the current New South Wales-Victorian State government campaign against locust infestation does not develop into an insecticidal extravaganza and create the secondary problem of stream pollution?
– The honourable senator had a discussion with me on this matter and I said I would seek some information for him. I have that information now. The control of locust plagues is a State responsibility. However, in continuation of the very intensive co-operation in respect of pesticide usage, which has existed between the Department of Primary Industry and the State departments through the Australian Agricultural Council, the Department of Primary Industry has been fully informed of the proposed control methods for the pending locust plague. The proposed spray programme to be used in New South Wales will vary depending on whether the control is of locusts before the wing stage in lightly grazed areas or flying locusts in good pasture areas. The New South Wales Department of Agriculture is aware of the need to ensure that pesticide treatments are maintained at a level which will kill the plague locust and at the same time maintain pesticide residues at a low level. Considerable planning and research work have been undertaken to ensure that the most suitable types of pesticides are used. As emphasis will be on treatment within the limits of good agricultural practice, it can be expected that any contamination of streams will be minimal and well below the level which would be detrimental to wildlife or fish.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Why have invitations been extended to mining interests generally for the mining of bauxite in the Arnhem Land reserve at Marchinbar Island when the Prime Minister announced on 6th May 1971 that Aborigines would be given reasonable preference in mining prospecting and exploration? Would it not have been more in keeping with policy to have offered the Aborigines of Elcho Island and Yirrkala, some of whom were born on Marchinbar Island and consider it clan territory, the first opportunity to form a company to develop the bauxite mining?
– I think I have the details of this matter, but I am not sure whether it is the responsibility of the Minister for the Interior or the Minister for National Development. Either way it is my responsibility. I understand the honourable senator’s concern with and his attachment to this problem. 1 think that what I should do for him is to seek from the responsible Minister the story of the position, ascertaining whether the reports are true and what is the general policy. I think the honourable senator would be aided if I obtained this information for him in detail. Accordingly, if his question goes on notice I will do my best to see that he gets all possible information.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. In view of the difficulty that some pensioners have in obtaining suitable board or lodging at a low cost, will the Minister state whether moneys received by a pensioner when he lets a room to another pensioner are to be included in means test calculations? If so, will he consider allowing exemption of these moneys so received?
– It is a fact that assistance is given to single- pensioners who are in difficulties with the payment of their rent in order to facilitate their rental payment. On the other hand, where persons derive from the letting of premises income which is part of their means, then I should have thought on general principles that it is to be included as part of their means as assessed to determine whether or not they are eligible for a pension. However. I note the point which the honourable senator makes and I shall convey his question and my answer to it to the Minister for Social Services for his comments and further reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Works. In determining the successful tenderers for works or services for which tenders have been , called by his Department, is any consideration given to the fact tha! goods or services are available within the State for which they are to be purchased or provided, to the current economic conditions in that State and to the amount of. Commonwealth Government expenditure within that State relative to the whole Commonwealth?
– I point out to the honourable senator that at all times we try to keep the expenditure in focus State by State, but it is not possible to make works programme expenditure proportionate to the income, the population or the area of any State. I also point out to him that it would not be practicable to take into account in the acceptance of tenders the economic circumstances of any particular area at that time. Thirdly, with regard to local suppliers, 1 point out to him that it is not the policy of the Department of Works to give any preference to local suppliers; but, of course, it always has to be understood that the very fact that they are local suppliers gives them a position of which they ought to be able to take advantage and tender a lower price than is tendered by their more distant competitors.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the urgent need for many primary producers to diversify their products in order to survive, what provisions exist for accurate short range and long range forecasts of world marketing prospects, particularly with regard to such products as oil seeds, coarse grains and beef? What plans are there for the holding of an Agricultural Outlook Conference in the future and for the effective dissemination of data from such a conference to the farmer?
– I think the honourable senator will recognise that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics does a tremendous amount of work in obtaining information from all over the world as to what will be the world situation in regard to primary products, which would include the 3 products he mentioned. This up to date information is then distributed to primary producers and primary producer organisations. In addition, a large amount of marketing information is provided in surveys, and that is distributed from time to time by the Department of Primary Industry in departmental journals and by the Minister for Primary Industry when be makes speeches in various areas.
The next Agricultural Outlook Conference will be held in Canberra between 1st and 3rd February next year. As was the case this year, invitations will be issued to primary producer organisations, marketing boards, State and Commonwealth departments, scientific groups, universities and business firms associated with agriculture, and also to the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The main aim of the Conference is to bring primary producers up to date with the marketing prospects for the commodities they produce and to provide to farmers in general the widest publicity of the information obtained by the Bureau and the Conference.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy. On behalf of Australian dock workers, will he seek from the Minister for the Navy an apology for his outrageous imputations of disloyalty against these workers and their union officials? Perhaps he is not aware that the record of these men compares more than favourably with his own reputation and that of his-
– Order! Ask your question, Senator.
– It is part of the question.
– No,’ you are giving information. Ask the question.
– I shall drop the word /perhaps’. Is he not aware that the record of these men compares more than favourably with his own reputation and with that of his fellow Ministers whose record is one of fawning acceptance-
– Order! Senator Georges, you are defying the Chair. I call Senator Drake-Brockman.
– 1 do not think the honourable senator is doing any good for the men he is trying to represent with the verbiage he is using in bis question. I shall certainly direct .the Minister’s attention to the .honourable senator’s question.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science aware of a statement by Professor J. Auchmuty, Chairman of the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, reported in yesterday’s Press, that a significant amount pf student union fees collected by universities is being used for semi-political and non-university purposes? Are Commonwealth moneys paid to such student unions on behalf of the holders of Commonwealth scholarships? If so, will the Minister take steps to have the Joint Committee of Public Accounts investigate the use of public moneys for such non-academic purposes?
– 1 did see with great satisfaction reference to the statement of the Chairman of the Australian ViceChancellors’ Committee, Professor Auchmuty. I noticed that (he statement contained, among other significant matters, a reference to the fact that a proportion of students’ fees compulsorily collected by their union is devoted to non-university purposes and political purposes. However, in my opinion it would not be appropriate to suggest that the matter be referred to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. It is my understanding that that Committee exercises its own judgment as to the subjects which it shall seek for its inquiry.
Nevertheless I shall direct the question to the Minister for Education and Science and see whether anything is necessary in our administration to ensure that any part of Commonwealth moneys supplementing students’ fees is hot used for non-university purposes.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, refers to a loan which the Commonwealth made available to Victoria in the amount of S4.2m to enable that State to make a special loan to the Shepparton Preserving Company Limited. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that thai money was made available by the Commonwealth on the understanding that Victoria would underwrite the repayment of the loan. Further, is it a fact that the loan was made available by the Commonwealth and the State on the understanding that the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank of Australia would indicate that the Shepparton Preserving Company was a viable company and demonstrate its faith by making available adequate funds for the processing of the 1971 fruit crop? Did the Reserve Bank in fact provide this undertaking? If so, can the Minister indicate why payments to grower-suppliers of the Shepparton Preserving Company have been he’d up?
– 1 sought some information on this matter from the Treasurer. In response I say that yes, the Shepparton Preserving Company Limited Act of 1971 authorised the Commonwealth to provide a . loan of $4.2m to Victoria for the purpose of enabling the State to assist the Shepparton Preserving Company Limited to make payments to growers for fruit delivered to the company. In relation to the second and third questions asked, as far as the Commonwealth is concerned the loan was not subject to any condition relating to the provision of finance by the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank of Australia. The terms of the accommodation provided by the Reserve Bank to enable the company to make advances to growers in respect of deliveries of fruit are a matter between the company and the bank.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity of representative of the Treasurer. Is an Australian investor in a local mining enterprise who purchases shares which he subsequently sells at a profit required to pay tax on the increment received, and is he subject to provisional tax on that increment? Is an overseas investor who purchases shares in the same enterprise allowed to repatriate the proceeds, including profit, without attracting Australian tax? If this is the case, does it not constitute a serious anomaly, wherein local risk investment is discouraged, and does it not militate against ultimate increased ownership by Australians of Australian mining enterprises?
This question, with slight variations, has been posed to me previously. The basic answer is that the income tax law provides that the assessable income of a taxpayer shall include profits , arising from the sale of any property acquired for the purpose of profit-making by sale, or from the carrying out of any profit-making undertaking or scheme. As this provision applies equally to residents and non-residents of Australia, where the relevant tests are satisfied, there is no question of an Australian resident who buys and sells shares in Australian companies for profit-making purposes being placed at a disadvantage as compared with his overseas counterpart.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether it is true that specifications for an aircraft to replace the present Mirages have been finalised, that major overseas aircraft manufacturers have commenced bidding for the contracts and that procedures have already been established for consideration of those contracts. If these are facts, what has been determined by the Government as to co-production or a share in such work by the Australian aircraft manufacturers?
Royal Austalian Air Force requirement for a replacement aircraft for the Mirage has been’ finalised and shortly will be issued to interested companies. The submissions by the companies in response to this requirement will be studied by the officers of my Department to determine the aircraft which will be best suited to the RAAF requirement. They will be subject to a detailed evaluation. In all the studies and in the evaluation of the successful aircraft not only will the performance and costs be studied but participation in the project by the Australian industry also will be fully explored by the Department of Supply.
-^ My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. It refers to educational opportunities available in the city of Darwin. Would the Minister inform me of any tertiary level courses available at present in the city of Darwin? I understand that plans have been approved for a community college in Darwin which is expected to be ready for occupation in 1974. Have any courses suitable for carrying on in temporary accommodation been planned to commence prior to that date?
– It is with some pleasure that I hear the honourable senator bring to notice the proposal to establish what is I think a unique institution in Australia - a community college in Darwin. It is considered that it is most appropriate to the circumstances of Darwin, a growing city, needing services that will enable the local youth to improve their technological skills and other knowledge. With regard to courses that are planned in the interim, I will consult the Department and inform the honourable, senator as early as possible.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: What liaison has been entered into with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Wildlife Division to evolve practical means of increasing our ibis population? To this end, have the River Murray Commission and similar bodies been asked to co-operate in retaining maximum wetlands habitat for the purpose of using the ibis and other bird allies in the anti-locust crusade?
– 1 understand that the Wildlife Division is not conducting an investigation into the ibis at present, but has made a study in that field. I also understand that a paper on the subject has been printed. I believe that there is an agreement between New South Wales, Victoria and the River Murray Commission, that where a habitat is suitable to the ibis and other wildlife it will be reserved for that purpose.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. Since the introduction in 1969 of the dwellings for. aged per? sons scheme, what funds have been allocated to Queensland for that purpose?: Has any provision been made, for the City of the Gold Coast?
– I shall get the statistics by application to the Department and inform the honourable senators.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime .Minister: In view of extended drought conditions now prevailing in East Gippsland, Victoria, has the Commonwealth Government received arequest from the Victorian- Government for financial relief?
At the moment I do not know the answer to the honourable senator’s question. As I’ have explained here in the past a protocol operates in this regard whereby the Premier of a State applies to the Prime Minister when he considers that, allowing for the sovereignty of the State, the disaster involved is beyond its normal capacity to cope with. If the State in its judgement decides that it is a national .calamity which would justify Commonwealth intervention, that criterion is invoked. I am not aware whether the Premier of Victoria has written to the Prime Minister in this instance, but I will find out for the honourable senator and let him know.
– In addressing my. question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport I . refer to a recent statement issued by the office of the Minister with regard to the training of Australian merchant seamen. The statement suggests that the present training systems for Australian seamen are fragmented, obsolete and too unsophisticated for today’s complex shipping industry. It would therefore seem that there is a strong case for the establishment of an Australian nautical academy by which adequate training may be given to prospective seamen. Can the Minister indicate whether the Minister for Shipping and Transport has such an institution in mind? If so, to what extent will the Commonwealth Government be prepared to finance the proposal? Is the Minister aware that the South Australian Government through the Department of Marine and Harbors has made land available for this purpose sufficient to accommodate buildings, playing fields and so on? Will the Commonwealth Government seriously consider building an academy in South Australia?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport recently announced that he was issuing a copy of a paper entitled Training for Work at Sea’ to maritime employer and employee organisations. When people have had some time to consider the paper the Secretary of the Department of Shipping and Transport will set up a discussion. The Minister made it clear that the paper was prepared on a personal basis by an officer of his Department and the Minister was not committed to any of the particular lines and thoughts developed in the paper. But the fact that these ideas come from a man with long experience and knowledge in these matters means that the paper warrants serious consideration.
There would indeed appear to be a strong case for a basic re-examination of present methods of educating and training men for work at sea in all work categories. Whether there should be a single training facility was one of the questions that could be examined through studies and discussions of the ideas in the departmental paper. Before thought can be given to any particular site many important aspects in relation to matters such as how the scheme might be financed, how such a facility should be integrated with the existing system of technical education, particularly at the tertiary level, and by whom it might be administered, would have to be discussed and resolved. The Minister is well aware of the land available for this purpose in
South Australia, and the honourable senator can be assured that if agreement were reached on the need for training facilities
– Oh, Mr President!
– Order! Senator Cotton, 1 must take some notice of this matter. Is this question entirely without notice?
– No, it is not.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral provide to the Senate specific answers to the questions which I asked yesterday with respect to the surveillance by Commonwealth Police of the premises of the Radical Action Movement at Palmerston Street, Carlton, Victoria, during 25th, 26th and 27th September 1971? How many Commonwealth cars were used to patrol the area and for how long were they used? How many Commonwealth Police were used for the purposes of this exercise and for how long were they engaged? What was the total cost to the Commonwealth of this operation?
– If the honourable senator does want to know - I understand from his reiteration of his question that he does - exactly how many cars were in use from a certain hour on Saturday until a certain hour on Sunday night, I shall endeavour to obtain that information for him and also exact confirmation of the number of Commonwealth policemen who were employed. But I think that I should point out by way of elaboration of my answer that the police were engaged in an exercise which was designed to enforce warrants which had been granted by magistrates for the arrest of people and that, in the pursuance of that objective, it was prudent that steps should be taken to ascertain as far as possible where the miscreants who were avoiding arrest were located. I regret very much that the persons who were sought to be arrested were not in the place when they were sought. I regret very much that the State President of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria suggested that because the police had tried to arrest these people he would have to consider -
– Mr President, I take a point of order.
– … or that the ALP would have to consider -
– Mr President, 1 wish to take a point of order.
– What is the point of order?
– The point of order is that I have asked a specific question of the Minister and the Minister has not answered the question. In his answer he is extending his remarks far beyond the subject of the question.
– What is the actual standing order to which the honourable senator refers? I will anticipate the honourable senator’s answer. The situation is that a Minister is entitled to answer a question directed to him in his own way. I call Senator Greenwood.
– In response to the question as to the way in which I am answering, I would say that the matters of time, effort and expenditure to obtain the details which the honourable senator is seeking and to which he is entitled if he persists in his request are relevant factors. To conclude the answer that I was giving, it is to be regretted that in the circumstances in which the police sought to arrest these people, the State President of the Australian Labor Party should say that the Australian Labor Party would have to consider providing bodyguards to protect persons for whom warrants for arrest have been issued against the police who seek to arrest them.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has his attention been drawn to an article in the Adelaide ‘News’ of 27th September in which Mr R. R. Cant, the chairman of judges at this year’s Adelaide wine show, claimed that wine consumption -in Australia has dropped by 14 per cent since the imposition of the wine tax in the 1970 Budget and that the Federal Government has delivered a real kick in the pants to the industry by the imposition of this tax? I further ask the
Leader of the Government: Can he foreshadow any relief from this tax for the Australian wine industry?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONNo, I have hot seen the article and, no l’ cannot foreshadow any relief. But I can certainly refer the matter to the Treasurer.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. With the introduction of daylight saying in the eastern States imminent, would any consideration be given by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to changing the cut-off times for general viewing - this relates in particular to the times for programmes watched by children - on television to adapt to the adjusted social patterns that will inevitably accompany this scheme?
– I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to the Postmaster-General for his consideration.
– My question again is directed to the Minister for Works. Can the Minister inform the Parliament how many employees of the Commonwealth Department of Works will be dismissed before Christmas 1971 in each of the following States and Territories: New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania. Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern. Territory?
– The answer is no.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the Department of Civil Aviation entered info any arrangements for the purchase of land on French Island iri Western Port Bay in Victoria for the establishment of an airport? If so, what area and from whom has the land been purchased? If land has hot yet been obtained, are negotiations currently taking place between the Commonwealth and land owners for such a purchase?
– I .ask- that the question be put on notice. I have no knowledge of that happening, but I shall try to find out what the Department is doing. The Department has informed me of no such procedures as those that have been referred to by the honourable senator.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. As there is a good Australian citizen at present in Cadell labour prison in South Australia for no reason other than that he has a conscience, as this heroic martyr will be eligible for immediate release upon the coming into operation of an amendment to the National Service Act, and in view of the attitude of the present Attorney-General who will not recommend his release until the Bill becomes law, will the Government do everything possible to expedite the passage of the Bill through both Houses of Parliament, thus permitting the release of this courageous Australian to the companionship of his parents and permit him to contribute to Australia’s welfare by following his normal occupation, which happens to be thai of skilled building worker?
If a decision has been made by the AttorneyGeneral it is a decision of government. On the basis that the Attorney-General has taken a decision, it seems to me to be singularly inappropriate to address a question on that subject to the Prime Minister. Although I do not think it is an appropriate matter for the Prime Minister, if the. honourable senator feels that it is and puts the question on notice I shall have it directed to the Prime Minister.
– ls the Minister for Health aware that under the present system of most common fees some specialists can be paid $100 for as little as 20 minutes work? For instance, if I may state an example, an orthopaedic surgeon managing a chipped femur may simply look at an X-ray and have some other . person set the leg, so that the specialist’s work is only in removing the plaster, which takes about 20 minutes. If the Minister is aware of such things, does he approve of them? If not, has he given thought to modifying common fees to prevent such anomalies?
The honourable senator has asked a question relating to the schedule of the Health Act which fixes specialist fees. He has given an example of a specialist’s work and suggested that in terms of time little is involved. I presume that he is disregarding know-how or special qualifications. He has suggested that there may be anomalies in the fixation of specialist fees in various categories of specialty. I understand the question and I think we all grasp its significance. I think it is sufficient for me to say that at present I am interviewing various specialist groups who are expressing their views to me. Last week, while the Senate was not sitting, I gave over practically the whole of one day to interviewing, at their request, various specialist groups who had a view to express on these matters. For that reason I think it is fair comment for me to say in response to the honourable senator’s question that I am aware of the problems as they have been expressed to me. Without in any way committing myself at this stage I am able to say that I am currently examining the views that are being expressed to me on this aspect.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is there widespread concern among wool growers that wool sold privately is not eligible for the Government’s price support subsidy? If this is so, will the Minister give a firm assurance that there will be no discrimination between wool sold privately and wool sold at auction when subsidies are paid?
– I think the honourable senator will agree that the biggest area of private buying is in Western Australia. Recently the Minister for Primary Industry went to Western Australia to open a show and, in the course of his speech, referred to private buying of wool. Although he expressed some concern that he and the Government felt about the amount of private buying, he did nothing to alter the present policy that eligible wool sold either at auction or privately will attract a deficiency payment. That is how. the position stands at present.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer. Has the Government emerged sufficiently from the economic limbo in which it has floated to give some information as to where the nation stands financially in the dollar crisis? What is the value of the Australian dollar in relation to overseas currencies, especially the yen? What has been the effect on internal costs of goods and overseas prices of Australian exports? If there is as yet no answer to these problems, when is it expected that there will be one?
I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Acting Treasurer. As the honourable senator knows, the Treasurer is overseas at present. Many of the matters referred to iri the honourable senator’s question are matters of great concern among financial advisers throughout the free world. To expect that I, representing the Acting Treasurer, would give a ready answer to this question is getting a bit into the realm of Gilbert and Sullivan. If the honourable senator wants to put his question on notice, I am quite happy for him to do so.
– 1 ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As the Minister responsible for the order of business of the Senate, will .he expedite through this chamber the Bill now before the other place to amend the National Service Act and thus permit the immediate release of Charles Martin from Cadell labour prison?
It is true that I have responsibility for the order of business of the Senate. I think it is proper to tell the honourable senator - and I am sure that most other honourable senators would appreciate this - that at present we are dealing with Bills which emanate from the Budget. Most will give vast concessions in terms of social services, repatriation and superannuation benefits and the like to thousands of people. The longer we take to pass the Bills the longer the increased benefits will be denied to these people. To date the Senate has been most co-operative. 1 feel bound to say that the Opposition, through its leader, and the Democratic Labor Party through its leader, have been most co-operative in the passage of these Bills. I hope the co-operation will continue. Against that background let me say that Bills come here by message from the other place, as we all know. Once we have disposed of the budgetary considerations, which essentially are Bills which have to be passed by a certain date, we will proceed to deal with the other Bills in an orderly fashion and, I hope, expeditiously, because if we do not we will be here until Christmas Day.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. In view of the contemptuous answer given me earlier today-;-
– Order! I point out to the honourable senator that the President may direct that the language of a question be changed if it seems to him unbecoming or not in conformity with the Standing Orders of the Senate. ] think the honourable senator’s interpolation is unbecoming. The honourable senator will rephrase his question.
– I will do that. I nsk that the same course be followed and the Minister also be pulled into line when he uses contemptuous words. 1 now ask the Minister this question: As he publicly refused to disclose the number of Commonwealth Department of Works employees to be dismissed in the various States, will he inform the Parliament whether the total number to be dismissed in the various States before Christmas 1971 will be in excess of 200?
– I did not at any time refuse to disclose the number of employees of the Department of Works to whom it might be necessary to give notice of termination of employment before Christmas. 1 merely indicated to the Senate that I could not inform it of that number because I did not know. Furthermore, in answer to the question that is put to me again, I have no anticipation whatever that anything other than the normal number of personnel who retire through one circumstance and another will leave the employment of the Department of Works. But 1 am bound to say in regard to the repairs and maintenance section of our functions that a review has been undertaken for some 2 years as to the most economical way in which those repairs and maintenance can be carried out, and consideration is being given to all alternative means, in some instances day labour. 1 indicate that as a matter of general policy, but there is no intention of any abnormal termination of employment in the Department of Works.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I refer again to the retrenchment notices issued by Qantas Airways Ltd to some 150 officers and workers, including air crew and flight engineers, some months ago but to take effect from October. Is the Minister able to advise whether ‘ these retrenched staff will now be maintained in view of the agreement in relation to United StatesAustralia air services? If he is not able to advise us at this time, will he find out the position and let the Senate know?
– Actually I am waiting on that information myself at the present time. As soon as I get it I will see that the honourable senator receives a copy of it.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will the Government through its embassy in Greece seek clemency for Lady Fleming who, at 62 years of age, has been imprisoned for 15 months by a military tribunal?
– She is old enough to know better.
– That is a- typical remark to expect from Senator Gair. (Opposition senators interjecting)
- Mr President, 1 seek to ask a question on clemency.
– I was hoping that your colleagues would give you some assistance by remaining silent.
– Surely Australians owe enough to the late Sir Arthur Fleming, discoverer of penicillin, to justify intercession on behalf of his widow, no matter what her guilt.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am not sure whether this matter falls within the responsibility of the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Prime Minister, but I will direct the question to the appropriate Minister.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that the south western Queensland town of Roma is rapidly becoming a ghost town because of the wool crisis? Is he also aware that 40 employees of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are now about to be transferred and that this virtually will bankrupt almost every small business in Roma? Will the Minister take immediate steps to cancel the transfers, thus eliminating hardship for the employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department and ensuring that the town of Roma does not completely disappear?
– I am aware of the general programme of reorganisation which was announced by the PostmasterGeneral and on his behalf I presented to the Senate yesterday a statement on the matter. As I understand the position, it is not intended that these transfers shall take place immediately. They are part of a general rearrangement which is designed to promote greater efficiency and service within the Postmaster-General’s Department. However, I shall see that the particular problem which has been raised with regard to the township of Roma is conveyed to the Postmaster-General.
– Is the Minister for Air aware that a charge has been laid in the last few hours against a senior person associated with the production of the FI 1 1 and that the charge relates to the suppression of information regarding the inclusion of sub-standard and faulty parts in the manufacture and assembly of the Fill? As it is possible that this is not an isolated case and that some of the Fill crashes have been caused because of the deliberate inclusion of faulty parts and materials, will the Minister cause an immediate check to be made of the planes being purchased by Australia? Will the Australian order be cancelled if iris proven that large numbers of inferior parts have been included in the Australian Fills?
– The charge to which the honourable senator has referred was laid in 1968 or early 1969.
– It is before the court now.
– The case is now before the court. In 1968 the then Minister for Defence answered a similar question in another place. He said at that time that this incident did not affect Australia’s aircraft. I have made investigations into the matter, and I understand from the officers on the project in the United States that Australia’s aircraft will not have any defective welds in them.
(Question No. 1263)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
Minister for Supply has furnished the following reply:
(Question No. 1269)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On the 7th and 19th May, Senator Mulvihill- asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) 2 questions without notice concerning the launching of a world appeal for South Vietnam war orphans. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
The Australian Government has not supported a specific aid programme designed exclusively to assist war orphans. The policy of the Government has been to concentrate its aid on economic development projects, such as water supplies, which have important and wide-ranging social benefits for the entire population including the orphans. Australian assistance for orphans in South Vietnam has however been undertaken on an ad hoc or voluntary basis. The Australian Civil Action Unit, the Surgical Team at Bien Hoa and units of the Australian forces in South Vietnam have given much voluntary assistance to various orphanages. Substantial aid for South Vietnamese orphans has been provided by private Australian aid organisations, which have given financial support for orphanages or individual orphans.
The Australian High Commissioner in London, Sir Alex Downer, has associated himself with support for the Pestalozzi Children’s Village Trust. This Trust, of which Lord Sainsbury is President, is responsible for helping needy children from underdeveloped countries. Children are brought to the United Kingdom, provided with secondary and further’ education and, on completion of training, returned to their homelands to assist in the economic and cultural development of their nations. By agreement with the South Vietnamese Government, the Trust has recently extended its aid to an initial group of 24 orphaned children from South Vietnam. In order to raise funds for its work the Trust launched an appeal in April 1971 with the. co-operation of the Dean of Westminster and sought the joint patronage of the American and South Vietnamese Ambassadors and the Australian High Commissioner. All agreed to lend their names as joint patrons. It is not the intention of the Government to make a specific independent grant to the Trust’s appeal for funds.
– I refer to the question addressed to the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) by Senator Poke on 7th September in regard to the health risks associated with the pollution of marine life by metals especially mercury. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has provided the following answer:
I am aware of the study being carried out by
Professor Bloom. Details are not at present available but results are expected to be published later this year. Officers of my Department and expert committees of the National Health and Medical Research Council will then consider these results. Food legislation is a matter, for individual States, the Commonwealth having responsibility only in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern
Territory. The Council has recommended a maximum level of 0.03 parts per million of mercury in all foods. However, it is the responsibility of the States and the Commonwealth to decide whether to accept this recommendation or to set levels they consider appropriate.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation Report of the 1967 Joint Meeting of Experts on Pesticides Residues in Foods stated:
By way of guidance however practical residue limits of from 0.02 parts per million to 0.03 parts per million mercury according to local conditions are suggested.
The question of mercury residues in foods is being kept under continual review by expert committees of Council. Council will consider this matter in detail at its seventy-third session in October 1971:
(Question No. 1154)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Has any inquiry been made by any agency of the Commonwealth into the likely costs and benefits to Australia, as distinct from Armco, of the Jervis Bay steelworks proposal; if not, will the Minister have such an inquiry instituted as a matter of urgency.
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
To my; knowledge, no agency of the Commonwealth as inquired into the likely costs and benefits to Australia of the proposed Armco steelworks at Jervis Bay.
There does not appear to be any reason for the Commonwealth Government to undertake the inquiry suggested.
(Question No. 1174) and (Question No. 1175)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
What is the financial contribution,’ by way of interest on loans, made by the Commonwealth government to each non-government school in the Australian Capital Territory since 1st July 1956.
asked the Minister representing the Minister; for Education and Science, upon notice:
What non-government schools nave been assisted by the Commonwealth in respect of capital costs; how much has been paid in respect of each, and in what years.
The information requested is set out in the ensuing tables which include materia] on:
Interest payments by, the Commonwealth on loans raised by independent schools for approved school building projects since 1st July 1956. Payments of interest under all Commonwealth schemes of assistance in the A.C.T. are included.
Repayments of capital costs for approved school building projects under the following schemes:
Capital Aid Scheme for the A.C.T. and N.T.
Both Territories are included.
Cash grants for science laboratories built at independent schools in the A.C.T. as a result of the Government agreeing that payments to A.C.T. schools should be made on the same basis as that applying to independent schools in the States under the States Grants (Science Laboratories and Technical Training) Act 1964.
Subsequently, the Government decided that science laboratories in the A.C.T. and N.T. should be included in the Capital Aid Scheme i.e. loans raised for approved science laboratories would be covered under the 20 year capital repayment schemes.
The Government varied its decision in November 1968 and decided that, in future, direct cash grants should apply to both science laboratories and libraries built in independent schools in the A.C.T. and N.T. on a similar basis to the payments made to independent schools in the States under the appropriate States Grants legislation. Payments of cash grants are included in tables 2b, 2d, 2b, 2p.
They are shown separately at Table 3.
If the honourable senator’s question was intended to include assistance for capital expenditure by independent schools outside the A.C.T. and N.T. i.e. capital expenditure on science laboratories and libraries under the relevant States Grants legislation I shall arrange for such information as is available to be supplied.
TABLE 3- 30th JUNE 1971
Commonwealth Payments and Approvals of Amounts for Capital Expenditure at Independent Schools In the A.C.T. and N.T.
Interest Subsidy/Capital Aid Conversion Scheme. (A.C.T.)
(Question No. 1229)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
Does the existing policy relating to the issue of crude oil export licences discriminate against XL Petroleum Pty Ltd.
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. The position is explained in the ministerial statement on indigenous oil policy made in the Senate on my behalf on 8th September 1971 (Hansard pages 531/533).
(Question No. 1285)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2), (3), . (4) and (7) The position is explained in the ministerial statement on indigenous oil policy made in the Senate on my behalf on 8th September 1971 (Hansard, pages 531/533).
asked the Minister representing the. Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
The States were asked to. furnish information which enables an answer tobegiven to the honourable senator’s question. The figures supplied by the’ States Cover the period’ from the inception of the scheme to dates ranging from 27th August to 9th September. These figures show that over the’ relevant periods:
State reconstruction authorities had received a total of 5,294 applications for assistance under the rural reconstruction scheme. 4,783 were for debt reconstruction and 511 for. farm build-up. The corresponding proportions are 90 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
9 per cent of the applications, have been approved; 24 per cent have::been withdrawn after lodgement, or refused; and the remaining 67 per cent are under consideration.
(Question No. 1312)
asked the Minister’ representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
New South Wales- Accepts qualifications from Britain, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and certain institutions in the United States of America.
Victoria - Accepts qualifications from Britain, Republic of Ireland and New Zealand.
Queensland - Accepts qualifications from Britain, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and accredited institutions in the United States of America.
South Australia - Accepts degrees from Britain and New Zealand and by administrative decision usually accepts qualifications from Canada, Republic of Ireland, South Africa and the United States of America.
Western Australia - Accepts qualifications from’ Britain.
Tasmania - Accepts qualifications from ‘Britain and New Zealand.
Northern Territory - Accepts qualifications from Britain,’ Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and accredited institutions in the United States of America.
Australian Capital Territory - Accepts qualifications from Britain, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and certain institutions in the United States of America.
In addition there are in most States, and in the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory, provisions under which a veterinarian who does not hold immediately acceptable qualifications may seek registration. These provisions vary, but in general include a formal examination conducted by examiners appointed by, the registration board concerned. Exemption from passing the formal examination may be granted by the board if it considers that the qualifications of a particular applicant are such as to warrant it.
The New South Wales Veterinary Surgeons (Amendment) Act of 1952 enacted that a person not otherwise eligible could obtain registration if:
In 1969 the words ‘within a period of 15 years after the commencement of the Veterinary Surgeons (Amendment) Act, 1952’ were deleted. An applicant may sit for the examination before he has fulfilled the residence requirement but may not be registered until after he has resided in Australia for 12 months. He may also obtain approval to practice under the supervision of a registered veterinary surgeon for up to 5 years so that he can follow his profession while fulfilling the residence requirement and preparing to sit for the examination.
There is close co-operation between the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications, the Veterinary Boards in the States and Territories and the Australian Veterinary Association, and an expert panel has been established with their support to investigate overseas training and qualifications.
However the conditions under which overseas qualifications are recognised remain the responsibility of the Registration Boards concerned.
(Question No. 1328)
asked the Minister for
Air, upon notice:
Has the Minister new and additional information that the F111 aircraft is likely to fly, and when Australia may expect to take delivery of the first of the 24 aircraft on order.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The F111 aircraft operating with the USAF have now flown over 100,000 hours with the lowest accident rate of any F century series of aircraft. There are about 340 Fills flying both in the U.S.A. and the U.K.
As previously stated, the Fraser/Laird Agreement provides that the Australian Government is to be satisfied with certain operational and technical criteria of the aircraft before they are accepted. My Department and Department of Defence are presently examining these aspects following a visit to America by a team of experts. I anticipate that the Government will make a decision on this matter later this year.
(Question No. 1339)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
When will the Minister extend to persons employed in the Australian Capital Territory all the provisions of the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1971, in view of the extension to such persons of the increased rates of compensation under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1970.
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Department of the Interior is at present engaged in a comprehensive review of the. Workmen’s Compensation Ordinance 1951-1971, and it is proposed that as far as practicable the provisions of the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1971 will be included in the Ordinance. Discussions are being held with other
Departments concerned in the matter and when all details have been resolved, firm proposals will be discussed with interested parties such as employer, employee and insurer organisations. The necessary amendments to the ordinance will then be made as soon as possible.
(Question No. 1341)
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:
Admiralty House- 924 feet.
Kirribilli House- 200 feet.
Office accommodationat rear of 31 Carabella Street, Kirribilli - 130 feet.
HMAS ‘Platypus- Torpedo Establishment, High Street, Neutral Bay- 870 feet.
Boatshed and Marine Centre, Lower Ben Boyd Road, Neutral Bay- 280 feet.
RAAF Provost Unit, Hayes Street, Neutral Bay- 280 feet
(Question No. 1352)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
How many persons were registered as aliens in accordance with the requirements of the Aliens Act 1947-1966 in the years 1968 to date, and bow many such registrations were there in each State in those years.
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The following table shows the number of aliens registered in each State as at 31st December 1968-70 inclusive and as at 30th June 1971.
Formal Motion for Adjournment
I give notice that on Wednesday, 29th September, 1971, I shall move that the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until the next day at 10.59 a.m. for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely:
The implications for Australia of the world population explosion.
Respectfully, LIONEL MURPHY
– I move:
That the Senate, at its rising,, adjourn until the next day at 10.59 a.m.
I do so for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely:
The implications for Australia of the world population explosion.
– You do not mean they are starving. Do you not mean that they are under nourished?
– This is a lot of rot.
– Wheat production could be doubled.
– I acknowledge the point. 1 took exception to your remark that it appeared that we had reached maximum food production, and I think Senator Little also objected to that point.
– Is the honourable senator quoting from somebody on this subject?
– I think the Senate is indebted to Senator Murphy for the fact that he has brought a reasoned contribution to a topical subject. I do not agree with all that he said because I think there is a certain Malthusian sentiment which seems to have pervaded what he had to say. Indeed, one senses the same attitude in the recent interviews and public statements of Professor Ehrlich when he was on the national television network. To a degree these statements have brought topicality to this subject. His statement that the world is heading for overpopulation - and indeed may have reached it at the present time - and Senator ‘ Murphy’s statement that the world has probably reached a stage of maximum food production are all statements which have the echoes of what Malthus was saying in the early 19th century. It may be that Malthus was approximately 150 years before his time. But certainly the view of Malthus was that the society in which he was living was a society which was heading to a stage of extinction.
I would like to remind the Senate of what Malthus had to say from and 1 quote the ‘Encyclopedia Britannica’ which sets out a short statement of his views:
The increase of population will take place, if unchecked, in a geometrical progression, while the means of subsistence will increase at only an arithmetical progression. Population will always expand to the limit of subsistence and be held there by famine, war and ill-health. ‘Vice’ (which included for Malthus contraception), ‘‘misery’ and’ self-restraint alone would check this growth.
What is being said today is that we are in an impossible position and. there is nothing which mankind can do. We are faced with over-population; we are faced with a situation in which the world cannot meet what is required to sustain the population we have at present and as it will become. That is the view of the pessimists. It is the view of some scientists and certainly from the way in which Senator Murphy expressed himself he would appear to accept it, although I make the qualification that in so much of what he said he prefaced his remarks by saying: “This seems to be the’ expert view’.
There is undoubtedly a question as to whether or not .the world is at a stage of overpopulation; there is a question as to whether or not the world will have the food to sustain its population. But none of these matters are proven. I believe that they are not capable of proof. It is fair enough, as I would understand it, only that we give our attention and our consideration to these matters. To illustrate the point that I am making I refer to what Professor Ehrlich has written. He said in his book The Population Bomb’:
Each year food production in the undeveloped countries falls a bit further behind burgeoning population growth.
That statement is the foundation upon which the Ehrlich doctrine has been built up. Yet when he appeared on television in Australia he met a man who is just as eminent a leader in his own field as Professor Ehrlich is in his. I refer to Professor Clark.
– Professor Ehrlich destroyed Professor Clark.
– But Professor Borgstrom, the great authority, says almost identically the same thing.
– That means that they will just about double in 35 years.
– Is that natural increase?
– As I understand the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), who has just resumed his seat, he suggests that there is a difference of opinion among the world’s experts as to whether there is in fact a population problem. In reply to the experts cited by Senator Murphy the only expert whom Senator Greenwood relied upon was Professor Colin Clark. I also read the apologia by Professor Clark in this morning’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. I am familiar with the arguments which Professor Clark has advanced against the thesis of Professor Ehrlich. But I make bold to suggest that Senator Greenwood did not himself see the programme on television in which Professor Clark had every opportunity to advance his arguments against those of Professor Ehrlich and was left, in the view of anybody who saw the debate, open mouthed and speechless. There is no doubt in the mind of anybody who witnessed that debate - it was shown twice on television - that Professor Ehrlich left Professor Clark for dead. The Opposition has not launched this debate in any narrow party political spirit in order to put the blame on any particular party or individual for the present plight of the world. Our aim is to bring this great debate as to whether this planet is heading for some sort of disaster, as suggested by ecologists like Professor Ehrlich, and whether it is a fact that this planet has a future at all, into one of the places where such a debate should take place, that is, in the national Parliament.
Sometimes there are indications that the Government of this country is aware of a population problem in relation to Australia. That is evidenced by such actions as the appointment in November last year of a distinguished demographer named Professor Borrie who was charged with investigating the desirable future population levels for Australia. This was announced by Mr Lynch who was then Minister for Immigration. It is true that we were warned that Professor Borrie’s inquiries would take several years to complete, but on other occasions we find responsible spokesmen for the Government reiterating the old ‘populate or perish’ cliches. For instance, Mr Snedden stated in December 1969 that large scale migration was necessary to bring Australia’s population to 25 million in 30 years. It may or may not be right that it is desirable for us to have such a population, but I suggest that the time is past when we can pluck such figures out of the air. We need expert advice, and this is tacitly admitted in the appointment of Professor Borrie to come up with expert advice on this question.
We certainly do not discredit an inquiry into this problem by sneering at Malthus who, I suggest, has been proved belatedly to be correct. But it is certainly appalling when we get a reaction such as we had in the Parliament last week from the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) to a question which was put to him by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). The Prime Minister was asked to let us have his thoughts on the propositions that had been advanced by Professor Ehrlich. The Prime Minister stated that he could well remember in his very early days at university, which one must assume were 30 or 40 years ago. when he was studying economics, that there were many other people who had made similar forecasts to that of Professor Ehrlich and had been proved wrong, just as the Attorney-General suggests that Malthus has been proved wrong. lt has been precisely during these last 30 or 40 years that the problem we are discussing today has assumed the proportions which lead us to consider that it is of the dimensions to require a debate in this place.
Mr McMahon went on to say that he knew thai Australia could provide better living standards for a population vastly larger than IS million, and he added in his inimitable political style: ‘provided only that the Liberal-Country Party coalition remains in government’. The reaction of the scientists to this statement of Mr McMahon was significant. For instance, the secretary of the Society for Social Responsibility in Science claimed that this statement dramatically illustrates the Federal Government’s apparent total lack of awareness of the world crisis resulting from the population explosion. 1 prefer the reaction of Mr Lynch to this problem, that is, one of humility, one of wanting to know what are the dimensions of the problem, and of appointing experts to let us know what the problem is. I prefer to listen to the real experts of whom Professor Ehrlich is one of the foremost. I remind the Senate that opposition speakers alone seem to be referring to the experts. All we hear from the other side of the chamber is that there is a division of opinion. We would like to have been favoured with some authority for the opinions that weigh against the thesis that we are attempting to develop.
– We are doing that already.
– As the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) has said, the Senate is indebted to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) for raising this very important matter. I appreciate that it has been raised in a spirit of concern not only for the Australian situation but also for Australia’s involvement in the world situation. So I suppose that in truth Senator Murphy is correct when, in his letter, he asks for a debate on a matter of urgency, namely, the implications for Australia of the world population explosion. Whatever the outcome of the debate, it will focus public opinion on this matter.
But I should like to think that the debate also is a response to the fact that within the community there is a public debate, the content of which has extended considerably in recent times. This debate today reflects the public interest in statements, interviews, articles and books which have emerged and which refer, in one way or another, to this wide ranging subject. All of these have had the effect of alerting and interesting an extending range of people - not only the scientists and the demographers but also what I will call the man in the street. The Parliament and the Government must give their time, not only today but more often in the future, to a study of the matters flowing from a subject of this nature.
It may well be that, as we discuss it now and in the future and as we play our part in the interstate and international discussions on this subject, the whole question of the environment, population explosion and matters flowing from it will influence political philosophies and principles. There is a sense in which this subject and this debate throw our continent very much into total world history and the influences of geography. We need to take a close look at the lessons of history and the influences of geography on this subject and its place in the total Australian context.
The situation has been described as an explosion. It is an in thing today to use the word ‘explosion* to describe any situation that appears to arise before us more or less unexpectedly. Maybe it is accurate to talk about the population explosion. About 3.6 billion people inhabit the earth today. According to my information, they represent 4 or 5 per cent of all the people who have ever lived. Figures relating to world population have been gathered only since about the seventeenth century. The figures for times prior to that have been worked out on various projections. The point to be noted about the figures, as we are discussing them, is that not only has the world’s population increased continuously but the rate of increase has increased. For example, in 1650 there were 500 million people in the world. Two hundred years later the world population had doubled to 1,000 million. Between 1850 and 1930, it doubled again from 1,000 million to 2,000 million. So that doubling took place in only 80 years. Between 1930 and 1975 the world population will increase from 2,000 million to 4,000 million; that is, it will double again. But this doubling will take place not in 80 years but in 45 years.
I do not wish to engender any note of complacency in a debate of this urgency and of this kind; but I submit that for some considerable time the world has had the experience of living with this kind of population explosion and that only as the population gets into greater numbers and there are new circumstances does the problem become more urgent than it has been in other years. If the annual rate of increase is 2 per cent and it remains constant, the world population will double in the next 30 years, or by about the turn of the century. A 2 per cent increase means that 20 persons per 1,000 are added to the population each year. But if one adds 20 persons each year it will take 50 years to double the population. Of course, as everybody knows, the doubling time is much less. Populations grow in very much the same way as money grows at compound interest. People added to the population produce more people. The implications of this programme, this development and its relationship to Australia have been referred to the Senate by way of an urgency motion. But this is not the first occasion on which a motion of this kind has come before the Senate. 1 remind the Senate that the motion refers specifically to the implications for Australia. The whole of the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution were put against the background of a rapidly changing and growing population situation within Australia. The report stated:
There is fairly general agreement in Australia that population, cities and industry will continue to grow and that, if anything, growth rates may well be faster than those experienced in the postWorld War II boom.
The Committee report quoted from the 1968-2001 projection of the Common^ wealth Bureau of Census and Statistics issued in April 1969. This report showed a population of about 18 million in Australia by 2001, exclusive of immigration. This projection was based on assumptions that the basic figure of 18 million would rise to almost 23 million if immigration were assumed to bring in 100,000 persons per annum. For most practical purposes it is generally assumed that the present population of about 12.5 million will double by the end of the century. This means that the Australian situation is very much related to the problem abroad. I think we also have to remember that any story of human population growth is a story not only of changes in the birth rate but also of changes in the death rate. We are all familiar with the progress of medical and other sciences in our country. People are living longer and more people are active for a longer period. All of this is a long way from the time between 1348 and 1350 when the bubonic plague or the black death killed some 25 per cent of the then population of Europe.
In the Asian nations there has been a change in this death rate which, of course, has had an influence on the world population figure. In later years in these Asian nations over a 15-year period Ceylon, for example, went from 16 deaths per 1,000 persons in 1945 to 8 deaths per 1,000 persons in 1960. India went from 28 to 19 in the same period and Japan went from 17 to 8 in the same period. There are many changing influences on world population growth in what this afternoon we are pleased to call an explosion. The implications of this situation as far as Australia is concerned are many and diverse. They are also many and diverse as far as the world is concerned. Probably the main worry which is on everybody’s mind is that the world may not be able to feed, house and service the next generation. Another worry is that the number of human beings will increase the elements of pollution and damage the environment. If we look at these 2 implications we see certain factors, A former professor of agriculture economics has put forward a warning about how slight are the reserves which producing countries such as Australia hold from year to year. He said that 10 million tons - which is more than we hold - are just enough to feed the world’s increase for one year. Yet it must be noted that in the recent past new agricultural technology has saved certain famine situations and has redeemed certain food problems. New breeds and strains of wheat and other grains have been introduced for tropical countries where such situations threaten.
But we cannot simply go from crisis to crisis. One of the implications for Australia in a situation where there is a world population explosion is that it must be aware of the situation around it, step up its research and widen its items of production and the diversity of its food potential. That is not to say that we are not doing this kind of thing already. There are extensive programmes of research being carried out in this way. The Australian Government is involved in a wide number of international programmes relating to the sustaining of this generation of the world’s population and of the’ next generation. Throughout Australia there is a great awareness by voluntary bodies of this situation. Indeed, we have a good record in the development of our country. So we will be able to make the maximum production under the circumstances which will be facing the country in future. But we are also part of the world’s consumers of fossil fuels and metals. How long these will last is a matter of some study and some argument, but it is certain, and understood, that the supply of some of these fuels and metals has a limited lifetime. But there are also other factors. All of these are brought within the total concept of continued and diverse research experimentation in the interests of meeting the situation which will confront the world in the next half century and century.
Assuming that there will be food, metals and fuel for an X period of time, say 30 years, and the improvement of research will help in the continuation of these, the implications of the population explosion include the question of whether we can support increased numbers without destroying our environment of land, sea, air and water. We should look at the examples of history; we should look at the examples of other countries. For instance, I read that in California for every 1,000 people a sacrifice is required of some 200 acres of land for roads, housing, and other services. Today people tend to live in cities and towns. They require more services. Therefore there needs to be a greater awareness in terms of education and international conference regarding emphasis on the quality of life. It is fitting that we are aware of the international conference on the environment which is to be held in Stockholm next year. Last year during my visit to the headquarters of the United Nations in New York I heard something of the details and preparation for this conference from our Ambassador, Sir Laurence Mclntyre, and of our involvement in various committees to which the Minister has referred. The Australian Parliament was represented at a conference held earlier this year in: Bonn in relating to the environment. There! are plans for a conference on water pollu-tion and quality to be held in Israel in conjunction with the United Nations conference next year. Of course all of this harks back to where we are going in Australia in relation to the examples of history.
In the last few days there has been reference in the public columns to the problems which have flowed from the establishment of the large Aswan Dam and the increasing problems which are likely to come as the dam is developed and made even higher. This poses the question of whether consideration has been given to what is involved in relation to a dam storage development and whether we in Australia should be giving more attention to quality of water rather than quantity. But all of this relates to environmental studies and the total problems of environment. As has been mentioned, this urgency motion concerns the implication for Australia of the world’s population explosion. We are a country which is concerned about our population growth. As far as Australia is concerned any study of population growth must of necessity include some reference to immigration. The Government’s immigration policy and record arc well known to honourable senators. Our policy has been established and efficiently run. ft has done a great deal for Australia. It is only natural that as this policy grows and develops - with the background of the motion which we have had today - there Ls some concern in relation to Australia’s population growth.
I take up what has been said earlier and draw attention to the awareness of the Government, to this very factor. Distinguished research has been undertaken by Professor Borrie from the Research School of Social Sciences and Pacific Studies. He is a demographer of some international standing. The fact that this research will be detailed and will be related to Australia’s optimum population - not only its growth, but also its ability - indicates that there is a measure of concern and flexibility within Government thinking concerning the population of Australia in the future. Side by side with this research there is a cost-benefit study being undertaken by Professor Wilson. Granted, this refers to the economics of the situation but it is related also to total population, growth and development.
Finally, we have to remember that when we are dealing with a study of this kind we are dealing with human beings, all of whom have, in addition to their food needs, emotions and feelings and the need to express themselves. They all belong to families. While we may limit things and may prescribe and have computers-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– In putting the point of view of my Party on the matter of urgency I think I should begin by complimenting Senator Murphy for bringing this matter before this chamber so that we might have the chance of discussing it. This is a rather topical question at the moment. Even international societies have been formed recently which hold the view that the world will perish if it populates. I am grateful to Senator Murphy for bringing this question before the chamber. I can see already that this subject has had some impact upon his thinking in view of previous statements he has made in debate in this place. I welcome this afternoon his definitions of Australia’s particular situation and his recognition of the tremendous population growth in 2 of our major cities. I gathered from his remarks that he deplored such a set of circumstances, yet I well recall that I interjected while he was making a speech in this place on one occasion and he referred to me and my colleagues as belonging to a peasant party because we believed in decentralisation. He expounded the theory that we must promote a greater concentration into the major cities so that we may achieve proper production for defence purposes and so on.
– They import food, do they not?
– The Senate is debating a matter of public importance proposed for discussion by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) who, in presenting this matter, described it with the words: ‘The implications for Australia of the world population explosion’. I congratulate Senator Murphy for bringing this matter before us. It is one of great importance in the world context. This is not the first time that this matter has been referred to in the Senate. If one looks at the speech on the Budget delivered in 1968 by my friend, Senator Prowse, our honoured Chairman of Committees, one will find quite an excellent address dealing with the world food problem, if this matter is to be considered a problem. His advice demonstrated that a world food problem does not exist.
By proposing this matter for discussion, Senator Murphy is alerting us to a call for action throughout the world. The fact that action is required within Australia dominates his speech. I think that the burden of his speech was directed to Australia’s population problem and the relation between a possible food shortage throughout the world and Australia’s ability to assist with that problem.
To use the words of Senator Murphy, the population of the world is exploding. Looking at population growth over past years, we are told that in 8000 B.C. the world population had reached 5 million. In 1650 A.D. the population was 500 million. By 1850 the population of the world had reached 1,000 million. In 1930 the population had risen to 2,000 million. It is expected that in 1975, 45 years after the last occasion on which the population of the world had doubled, world population will be approximately 4,000 million. It can well be said that the population of the world is exploding. This fact must be of concern to us all.
The problem is enormous. Undoubtedly it cannot be dealt with adequately in a debate in which each honourable senator is allowed only a quarter of an hour to present his speech. I am surprised that Senator Murphy brought this matter forward in the form that he did, so confining honourable senators to that limited speaking time. The ramifications of population growth have an enormous significance in a variety of ways. Senator Murphy has based his main comments on a book and articles which have been written by Dr Paul Ehrlich, who recently visited Australia. Paul Ehrlich has written a number of articles. One of his publications is entitled ‘Population Resources and the Environment’. One of his articles has been entitled ‘The Multiple Crisis’. That title perhaps best sums up the situation that we face. It is a multiple crisis. It is a crisis of population and of resources and certainly the crisis relates to the environment.
Man is the greatest polluter of our planet. The solution to the problem, because man is involved, is perhaps a little more difficult today in an advanced society than it was some years ago. If this explosion in our population growth continues I think that we must give credence to the proposition that, 20 years after the end of this century the population of the world will again have doubled. If this is an indication of the future growth of population in the world, it will create a problem in the century to come.
Within Australia this problem is not readily apparent. I am of the view that the average Australian citizen is not aware of the possible scope of the problem. Indeed, one could hardly expect Australians to he as concerned about this problem as perhaps people in other countries. I believe that Australia has no immediate population or environmental problems. Australia’s population is far removed from any personal food problem. It might be said that the general attitude adopted by Australians to the plight of other nations - every week we hear of some problem relating to famine or some other environmental difficulty associated with an overseas country - is the tendency to say ‘We are fortunate that we are here and that we are not there’. We view the location of other people as their misfortune. We say that our responsibility is to our nation and to our children; that is our prime responsibility. 1 believe that the world problem, as reported, is so great that it is perhaps beyond the physical means of any Australian or group of Australians to overcome. The world population growth problem that appears to face us at the moment is an enormous one. To demonstrate the interest which Australia has shown in the past in this subject, 1 quickly state that the Senate by its Committee Reports has taken great steps to alert the Australian population to the problems of pollution of the environment. State and Federal portfolios are held by Ministers who are interested in bringing to the attention of the Australian people a greater awareness of this problem. Community service committees exist. There is a growing industrial awareness of pollution. Labour groups, particularly in Victoria, are forcing their views in relation to those matters which are seen to upset the environmental balance.
This population and food problem was mentioned years ago, in the theories of Thomas Robert Malthus who, in the early 1800s, afforded us the first indications of this problem as he saw it. He was appointed Professor of Political Economy at Halbury in England, the first such appointment in the world. He argued as a young man that the perfect human society would always founder. It would always founder on the tendency of population to outrun the food supply. That argument was taken up in recent years by the World Health Organisation. I do not know that anybody looks with any great respect on the statement by Lord Boyd Orr, World Health Organisation’s first chairman, that one third of the population of the world was dying from starvation. That is incorrect. It has been proved untrue. The World Health Organisation now suggests that a large section of the population of the world is suffering from malnutrition. Undoubtedly this is the correct assessment of the situation. People in Australia are suffering from malnutrition. I am not too sure what the community is doing about this problem but it does exist here in 1971 and will exist in 1972. Whatever we do we are not eliminating malnutrition where it exists in Australia. The evidence is undoubtedly slight. A comment in the Press about the effects of malnutrition in the United States draws our attention to the fact that in even the most advanced of societies a malnutrition problem exists. No shortage of food exists in the countries that I have mentioned, but the people arc not getting a proper protein intake or a proper calorific content in the meals that they have. 1 turn to the ‘Science Journal’ of May 1968. I direct the attention of honourable senators to this journal which is one of the most important journals on this subject available. I call attention to this special issue with the sub-title ‘Feeding the World’, lt points to factors which have led to the consideration of the world food shortage. In dealing with nutritional requirements, John Yudkin who was Pro. fessor of Nutrition at the Queen Elizabeth College at the University of London, said:
There is no simple dietary, requirement and even the amounts of different foods required to prevent crippling disease or produce optimum health are very imprecisely known. Vet, such knowledge is vital if malnutrition is to be prevented.
This is something which even in our time we are doing insufficient to prevent. We would be foolish, I believe, to say today that within Australia a food problem exists. With regret but without the physical oppoosition of the Federal Government, in my own State of Victoria 20,000 tons of fruit last year was ploughed into the earth. At present quota restrictions are imposed on wheat production. There is a problem of disposing of lamb in Western Australia at more than 3ic per lb. Here we have a situation where the encouragement of the right type for production in Australia could yield enormous quantities of food if it were possible to distribute it to the best advantage. Indeed, that is the problem of most advanced societies; that is the world problem, lt is said that America today could produce at least 4 times the volume of food which is being produced at present.
The magazine to which I have directed the attention of the Senate has some most interesting articles which relate to the very problem of food production. There is no doubt that a problem of malnutrition is present throughout the world. But if we consider this problem surely we must be encouraged, by looking at what is happening in our own society and at what is happening in other countries, to believe that we require only organisation by governments to achieve the production of sufficient food. In this way food of sufficient quality could be made available for a population far in excess of the world’s population today. The potential of the earth is unknown. Mr H. L. Penman, in an article entitled ‘The Earth’s potential’, made the comment that Man’s food is based upon green plants which grow by using the energy of sunlight falling to the earth. He went on to say that less than I per cent of this energy is being put to use. There is also a comment on the animal harvest, which indicates that whilst we are willing to look at domestic animals that we have, there are millions and millions of animals which are roaming free. I believe that there is a greater possibility of obtaining wealth from kangaroos than from the inadequate method by which we harvest our own domestic animals. There has to be an improvement of methods of traditional agriculture as we know it. There are indeed many propositions of more efficient harvesting to produce greater volumes of food.
Another method of increasing food production is farming in desert areas. Australia has enormous desert areas. However, articles in the magazine to which I referred demonstrate what has been done in Israel, where salt water has been used for irrigation. This can be done. These areas present little problem and food can be produced. We in Australia are just starting to look into the production of legumes and what can be achieved with soya beans and other products. The ocean reservoir and the food supply therein has certainly not been tapped as far as we know it. If it is said that today we are damaging some of the natural resources there are still the untapped resources of synthetic foods production. All these possibilities are great and must afford encouragement to one who may be led to believe that there is, in Senator Murphy’s words, a problem of a food shortage in the world. The magazine made the comment:
The main obstacle preventing a radical attack on the world’s food problem is that too few people see that a radical approach is needed. The hungry are far away and consciences, if they should stir, can be stilled by ascribing to some particular symposium or some particular community body which may be attempting lo do something for distressed people.
The most important person now is the one with an idea about a better plant, an unused animal or a by product that can be turned into food.
Honourable senators who spoke prior io me made 2 general points. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood), in replying to Senator Murphy, made the comment that he envisaged that no policy requires adoption in Australia. I would challenge that view, if I have interpreted him correctly. I think that there are policies which are required in Australia. Quickly, they relate to a better world attitude to the distribution of food. This can be achieved through discussion with other countries. There are problems relating to the direction of our research. If we look at what is happening in Australia today we see that our main volume of cash research is related to wool and wheat, and as much as 1 would not wish to detract from those products, there are many other areas which should have our concentration at the moment.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– This is a most interesting debate, and interest is heightened when one speculates on what the result would be if Senator Murphy’s motion was ever put to a vote. Senator Murphy introduced this matter by moving that the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 10.59 a.m. tomorrow. Every speaker has congratulated him on bringing this matter before the Senate, that is with the possible exception of the last speaker because I did not hear his opening remarks.
– This subject is a very important one and I thank Senator Murphy for bringing forward the urgency motion. I think the discussion can do nothing but good, even with the limited time at our disposal. That there is a world population crisis is beyond dispute. That it is accelerating is beyond dispute. That it has world implications and, within those, vital ones for Australia also is beyond challenge. Two things are under challenge. Firstly, is it possible that the population explosion problem can be solved? There are those among us who say: ‘No’. If it is possible, by what acceptable methods can it be solved? Within that context there is the real crux and the nub of the subject - the implications for Australia.
As I see this, it is not just one subject but it is in 4 distinct categories. It is not just one question about the world’s population: can we cope with it? Can we feed it? How? Can we feed it with a balanced diet? Within the whole system we have to look at what the developed countries in the Western world are doing both in their internal activities and in their relations to neighbours. The first thing that we can do as people of the world, and particularly as Australians, is to look to something that is receiving growing attention, the so called ecosystem, the relationship of man with the flora and fauna of the world, the preservation of the balance of the ecosystem and the prevention of its deterioration whether by over-heating of the atmosphere, radiation, pollution, pesticides, the wrong types of fertilisers or a multitude of other things. The first thing that we must do in Australia, as people throughout the world must do, is to face up to this requirement.
Senator Murphy mentioned the United Nations meeting on the environment next year. I think it would be as well to add an even more significant event; that is that the American space agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is launching ERTS, the earth resources technology satellite, which is the first monitor of the ecosystem. Apparently it has a quite phenomenal capacity to measure radiation, heat, pollution and erosion, which fascinates me.
– 1 enter this debate in a transitory role to allow the Leader of our Party (Senator Murphy) to close the debate at a later stage and also to allow Senator Laucke to make his contribution to a debate which has attracted the attention of honourable senators on both sides of the House. The contributions to the debate have indicated that honourable senators are concerned almost in unanimity with the problem that faces us - the problem of the population explosion. It is a very complex problem and perhaps it is a pity that we cannot devote much more time to it, especially since Australia is caught between its position of needing population and the position of the world as a whole requiring a smaller population. It is a matter that ought to be left to the scientists and to the sociologists to advise the politician. We can no longer depend upon the advice of priests who are not prepared to accept the responsibility of theories which add to the population and which add to the problems and which cumulatively present us with the crisis we are discussing tonight.
The politician must carefully assess what has been stated lately by prominent sociologists and scientists and do that which is necessary to prevent the destruction of our environment by over-population and by over-production. For so many centuries we have depended for population control on war, on famine and on pestilence. We can still depend on war in a small measure to wreak havoc, death and injury and to cut down the population in various unfortunate parts of the world, such as Vietnam whose population is suffering considerable loss through a war that ought not to be fought. Because of the balance of terror which has been presented to us by the atomic weapons, those horrific instruments that man has devised, it is likely that major wars will be postponed for some time to come. We have reached the end of the 20-year cycle in which major wars take place. Because the balance which exists between the major powers and which depends upon terror, one side is not prepared to unleash its resources because it knows that retaliation will come from the other side. We cannot depend on the ageold device that nature has provided to limit population.
So far as pestilence is concerned, in the last 20 or 30 years science has achieved many improvements which have led to longer life for man, not only in the developed countries but also in the underdeveloped countries. But there is a balance here also, because having solved the problems of plague we have imposed upon ourselves new illnesses. Many people now die of diseases created by our development, by congestion and by over-population. Many more of us now die of lung cancer which we inflict upon ourselves by the over-use of tobacco in the smoking of cigarettes. Wc inflict upon ourselves an increase in the death toll or the carnage on the roads, which increases daily. We inflict upon ourselves illnesses which can be related directly to the polluted condition of overpopulated cities. This is evident here in Australia. As is borne out by the increasing cost of health services in this country, we have added a whole series of illnesses that were not known in the past. Perhaps, having gone through the part of the cycle in which man has been assisted by the wonder drugs, we are now entering a period in which pestilence again will act as a dampener upon population growth.
Over-population of the population explosion presents a severe problem because it is erratic in its effects. There are population explosions in the countries of Asia. There are also population explosions in the cities of Australia and in congested cities all over the world. The erraticalness of the situation, in that there is a density of population or over-population in one spot and a lack of density in another, such as the continent of Australia, presents a problem for us in decisions which have to be made as to whether we can afford to take unilateral action for the reduction of our population growth, lt would be unwise for us to do so because the pressures that bear upon Australia from without - from the increasingly populated areas to the north - will increase. It would be undesirable for us to place ourselves in a position of underpopulation unless we are prepared to change our attitude to race and immigration and are prepared to accept in far greater numbers people from the over-populated and under-privileged nations of the world.
– What are you saying?
– I asked the question because that position is open on your Party’s policy. We are waiting to hear a definitive explanation.
– The matter of urgency which is now being debated and which was brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) is:
The implications for Australia of the world population explosion.
We are indebted to Senator Murphy for introducing this subject. It is salutary and timely that we should debate a matter of this nature tonight, realising that in our own activities in Australia there has been an alerting to and an awareness of the situation in respect of the environment. I am happy to note that this has occurred quite definitely in recent years. So. in the context of our own awareness we can note the implications from the world scene generally which are relevant to us.
Among the problems that confront the world today, there is none more pressing than those associated with the preservation of the human environment. It is good to see that in international conventions these days there is deep and wide discussion of where we are heading in an overall context in respect of maintaining the environment of the whole world and the atmosphere surrounding it while pursuing the activities that we must pursue in providing for the requirements of our population. 1 believe that implicit in this matter, as far as tha implications for our country are concerned, is the need for an assessment of where we are going in respect of attaining a desirable and sustainable population in the light of worldwide experience.
I do not believe that this constitutes a matter requiring the consideration of measures to curtail our natural population increase: rather do I believe that it is one requiring careful and far-sighted planning of the management and usage of our natural resources in order to meet the needs of a much larger population than we now have. This is largely a matter of sustaining and improving the overall environment so that our capacity to continue in food production, for instance, is unimpaired; indeed, so that we may play an increasingly important role in food production to meet the demands of over-populated countries.
The fact is that Australia has one-third of one per cent of the world population. That is a very small part of the whole. Yet we have a continent of 3 million square miles - a huge area - for the production of foodstuffs, mineral wealth and so on. It would seem reasonable to suppose that Australia, as a developed nation with high living standards, is in no danger of developing the sort of situation that exists today in, say, India. But I believe that we need to observe those environmental pitfalls into which we could fall in the usage of our resources. I can see no similar pattern of concern in relation to population numbers here as is applied in many of the less developed countries.
I feel that we have an obligation to maintain in the best productive capacity the resources which we have in order to assist those countries which are less endowed than is ours. But in my opinion we have no economic problem in respect to the curtailment of natural increase in population in our country. In fact, I believe that we should do all in our power to encourage within Australia a virile and growing population, generated from our numbers, the better to develop our resources. At the same time we should take note of and heed the need to retain environmental situations which are conducive to the happiness and wellbeing of our people while yet, as I say, sustaining the ability to serve other countries in ways in which they need help. Any population explosion in some countries imposes great pressures on land and resources elsewhere and will certainly affect Australia to quite a marked degree. To really appreciate our obligation to the world, insofar as our capacity lies, I think that we have to assist within our capacity in the general wellbeing of the world’s population.
We are confronted with a situation in which there is the need for industrial development and utilisation of resources. I was rather intrigued today as I listened to Senator Murphy. I admired his speech in relation to this matter. He was speaking of the need for watching closely population explosion trends in other parts of the world. He said that we have to give more consideration on a worldwide basis to the retention of the environment. But in September 1969, when speaking about the Budget, he said:
If we are to have a strong Australia, if we are to defend Australia, there is no escape from the fact that we must have these great industries, the great shipbuilding industry, the great electronics industry, the great computer industries, and we must have great cities, and more cities and greater cities. This is how we are going to be strong. We will get the industrial strength and we will be able to protect Australia.
On the one hand we have the rigid economic requirement within a given economy to make use to the full of resources and at the same time we have this pressing need with care and consideration to go about the utilisation of our resources in such a way as will not be detrimental to our environmental situation. This matter is very complex. It is not easy of solution. I think it calls for a careful balance as between what is economically feasible and what is necessary in the interests of the people as a whole. Where does the obligation lie between retaining capacity for production and the providing of basic wealth for future generations, between handing down our productive capacity in a way which can continue to meet the requirements - as indicated by Senator Murphy - which are basic for our wellbeing, our defence, our overall security and ability to maintain high living standards and, at the same time, not intruding unduly into the environmental background.
With 12 million people in 3 million square miles 1 think we have a great obligation and a moral right to take action in respect to the utilisation of our country and its resources. We are not in a position in which it could be taken that we are not morally entitled to all that we have here with the handful of population which we have - 0.325 per cent of the world’s population. This is indeed a heavy responsibility on our nation.
I shall turn now to our migrant programme. Maybe in the past we have, to a degree, suffered from economic indigestion through the intake of numbers which, at times, places on our economy difficulties which lead to some concern as to how to encompass the situation in regard to costs and inflationary tendencies. In respect of the population capacity of our nation I am pleased to see that the Government looks to the future with a scientific and a research background which is good to note. Through the Department of Immigration the Government has set up a sudy in relation to the settlement process of migrants, based on a sample of 10,000 newly arrived migrants. From this study we can work out what is the effect on our economy, what absorption capacity we have, the retention of living standards for our population and so on, then study the costs and benefits of immigration. A major national inquiry is being conducted into all phases of population, natural growth rates - both internal and external migration - distribution and the interrelation of demographic social and economic effects of population growth in Australia and of the countries around us with which we have economic, cultural and other associations. Careful research and determination are the background of our attitudes. I have no time at all for the attitude which we bear expressed in Australia that we should not pursue to the uttermost the development of our resources and a continuing increase in our population, although 1 am aware that we must protect our environment as far as we possibly can. We have had inquiries into air pollution and water pollution in Australia. We are looking continuously at whether weaknesses could develop in our attitude towards environmental matters, which weaknesses would be detrimental to the well being of our people. 1 feel that the relevant Senate committees have done a national service in alerting the populace generally to the dangers of pollution which arises from a non-awareness of what could transpire were care and heed not taken of overseas experience in relation to the control of environment. We have 2 rather irreconcilable views. On the one hand there is the desire for continuing economic, industrial and technological growth. On the other hand are the definite finite resources of the earth as a whole and the limits of tolerance to change in the ecosystem. As we view the implications for Australia of the world population explosion we have to give consideration all the time to the part that we would play in transmitting-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– 1 do not want to take up very much time in this debate but 1 want to emphasise a couple of points that have been mentioned casually. I think they should be given greater emphasis. I think all honourable senators are indebted to the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Murphy, for introducing this urgency motion to enable a debate to take place on this extremely important subject of the implications for Australia of the world population explosion. 1 was one of those who heard Professor Ehrlich’s address and saw him interviewed on television and I was impressed with what he said. Many years ago 1 felt that we could cope with any population that the world could produce by the proper use of our resources, particularly the development of plankton. I thought that perhaps we could rely on that as a sort of semi-synthetic food. But a couple of incidents shook my faith in the optimism I had felt about the future population of the earth.
The first was that a number of biologists, anthropologists, social scientists and Others analysed the situation in order to determine the possible maximum population that the earth could support on the best of living standards. I do not mean mere existence: I mean having the best of everything that there was to have and really enjoy life There are many imponderables in such a determination and the experts have to leave out a lot of factors because otherwise it would take far too long to come to an adequate and correct conclusion. However, recently, with the development of computers, it has been found possible to get answers to questions in a very short time. This same problem has been fed into a computer in the United States of America. The people concerned were able to put into the computer a great deal more information than was available for earlier consideration by scientists and others interested in the subject. The interesting fact is that the computer, which was given more information than was available to the ordinary scientist, came to the conclusion that the earth could adequately and happily sustain 1,000 million people. This level of world population was passed 150 years ago. Therefore this is a pretty serious subject and we have to look into the situation because we have now trebled that number.
While travelling to Canberra from Melbourne early one Tuesday morning with my friend Senator Webster 1 was very interested to come across a book on this subject. I do not know whether he read it but his wife had read it. It is called The Doomsday Book’ and was written by Gordon Rattray Taylor. It deals with the population explosion in the world. The author brought up 2 extremely important points and they are the ones I want to emphasise. Firstly he brought out the point that we are living on a spaceship. The important thing about this is that we are cut off from all other possible resources. We have only our own resources and we have to deal with them. When men are sent to the moon in a spaceship the air that they breathe is recycled, as is the water that is consumed. All these things are recycled. The same thing happens on earth.
We have taken it for granted for centuries that the earth will recycle all the carbon monoxide produced by various living things. We have taken it for granted that the earth will recycle the water that is used. The author goes thoroughly into the situation. I do not have time to go deeply into it at the moment. I want only to point out how important this point is because we are using up the available oxygen at a tremendous rate. Since I mentioned oxygen I shall first quote from page 118 of this book. The author said:
We are destroying oxygen today in far larger quantities than the world has ever seen. Every motor vehicle consumes oxygen. So do motorboats and snowmobiles. Every aircraft consumes still larger quanties: a 707 jet burns 35 tons of oxygen every time it crosses the Atlantic. . . .
Imagine, 35 tons of oxygen, is used every time a jet crosses the Atlantic, and there are 3,000 jets in the air around the world at any one time. As the author says, that amounts to about 16 million tons of oxygen that we are losing each year and we cannot bring more back to this earth. Oxygen has to be recycled on the earth. The point is that if we wipe out our forests, pave our cities, cut out vegetation and do the other sorts of things that we are doing, the carbon monoxide cannot be recycled to produce oxygen. Only about 30 per cent of the oxygen is recycled in this way; the remaining 70 per cent comes from the sea. The micro-organisms in the sea recycle 70 per cent of the oxygen that the earth needs, and we are using oxygen much faster than it is being produced. That is why we are worried about the population explosion producing this significantly dangerous situation. We are polluting the rivers which run into the seas. We are polluting the seas and killing fish and the micro-organisms which recycle oxygen.
I have referred to water and oxygen but we tend to forget about nitrogen. This is very important because it represents fourfifths of the air around the earth. Nitrogen is tremendously important and we are not recycling it to meet the rate at which it is being used. I will quote now what the author said on page 16 of his book. He said:
All we have is a narrow band of usable atmosphere, no more than seven miles high, a thin crust of land, only one-eighth of the surface of which is really suitable for people to live on, and a limited supply of drinkable water, which we conlinualy re-use. And in the earth, a capital of fossil fuels and ores which we steadily run down, billions of times faster than nature restores it. These resources are tied together in a complex set of transactions. The air helps purify the water, the water irrigates the plants, the plants help to renew the air.
We heedlessly intervene in these transactions. For instance, we cut down the forests which transpire water and oxygen, we build dams and pipelines which limit the movement of animals, we pave the earth and build reservoirs, altering the water cycle. So far, nature has brushed off these injuries as pinpricks. But now we are becoming so strong, so clever and so numerous, that they are beginning to hurt.
I recommend that honourable senators read ‘The Doomsday Book’. It is available from the National Library and is tremendously important. I think that Senator Jessop wants to say something on this subject so I will allow him 2 minutes. I would like to continue referring to this book but the opportunity is not available at this time. If Senator Jessop wishes to speak I will allow him the opportunity to do so.
– 1 would like to thank Senator Wilkinson for his courtesy. When we think of population growth these days we automatically think in terms of ecology, the pollution of the ecosystem and so on. Perhaps this interest is growing because before Dr Ehrlich and his colleagues focused attention on the world population explosion probably the people of Australia did not know what ecology and these other terms meant. It is significant that the Senate is now discussing this important matter. I have no doubt that action is necessary to safeguard our future. We must encourage people to make a conscious effort not to use non-biodegradable materials, and so on. We must discourage them from using motor vehicles and encourage them to ride a bicycle or to walk. Naturally governments have to upgrade the standard and frequency of public transport.
I became very conscious recently of the effects of water pollution when I and my colleagues on the Public Works Committee inquired into a Commonwealth sewerage project. I came to see that the Government must take a long term view and treat this matter as a national problem. I read with interest the findings of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The time allowed for the discussion of this matter having expired, the Senate will now proceed to the business of the day.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1971.
Repatriation Bill (No. 2) 1971.
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill (No. 2) 1971.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I have to inform the Senate that I have received letters from the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party and Senator Townley advising of appointments to the Estimates Committees as follows: Estimates Committee A, Senator Gair; Estimates Committee B. Senator Byrne: Estimates Committee C, Senator Little; Estimates Committee D, Senator Townley: and Estimates Committee E, Senator Kane.
Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - Pursuant to section 29 of the Australian Tourist Commission Act 1967 1 present the Fourth Annual Report of the Australian Tourist Commission for the year ended 30th June 1971, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - Pursuant to section 24of the National Capital Development Commission Act 1957-1960 I present the Fourteenth Annual Report of the National Capital Development Commission for the year ended 30th June 1971together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s report on those statements
Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - Pursuant to section 38 of the Industrial Research and Development Grants Act 1967I present the Fourth Annual Report of the Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board for the year ended 30th June 1971.
Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - Pursuant to section 31 of the Atomic Energy Act 1953-1966, I present the Nineteenth Annual Report of the Australian AtomicEnergy Commission for theyear ended 30th June 1971 together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - For the information of honourable senators. I present the financial statements on Commonwealth Railways operations for the year ended 30th June 1971.
Debate resumed from 14 September (vide page 686), on motion by Senator Greenwood:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I would like to ask whether Senator Willesee proposes that the Post and Telegraph Bill and the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill be debated together. If that is so, the Government has no objection.
– I would agree to that approach. If the honourable senator so moves, I will agree.
– I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– We are opposed to the Post and Telegraph Bill and the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill and intend to move the amendment which is being circulated at the moment. I gave notice of the proposed amendment yesterday to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair), and the independent senators. It is becoming a regular practice to increase postal charges. I do not think it is sufficient for the Government to write this off simply by saying that we are in an inflationary period in which wages and costs are rising. On previous occasions the Opposition has moved that the whole question of the Post Office, and particularly its management, should be referred to an inquiry. After 70 years of operation no outside inquiry has been conducted into the Post Office, as distinct from its internal departmental inquiries which have taken place from time to time.
After more than 70 years of operation an inquiry into the Post Office is due. An investigation should be conducted to determine whether the Post Office should be under direct ministerial control, whether the central body of the Public Service Board should still be administering the Post Office, or whether it should be conducted by a statutory body a practice which has been so successful with TransAustralia Airlines, the Commonwealth Bank, the Snowy Mountains Authority and similar bodies of which honourable senators are aware.
Our proposals have always been rejected by the Senate in the past so on this occasion we will move an amendment in different terms. To the motion that the Bill be now read a second time I move the following amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert - the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted because the increased charges are against the national interest and because the Bill does not provide for (a) the severance of the Postmaster-General’s Department from the control of the Public Service Board and (b) the application of special telephone charges in those areas designated for accelerated development by agreement between the Commonwealth and any State and its Authorities.’
The Post Office is the biggest employer of labour in Australia. It employs about 112,000 people, and that is a big work force, even when compared to enterprises such as that conducted by Broken Hill Pty Co. Limited. I do not know whether the situation still applies, but at one time the Post Office employed 4 times as many people as the next biggest employer in Australia. The Post Office, as an employer of about 112,000 people, is by far the biggest responsibility of the Public Service Board. About 47 per cent of employees covered by the Public Service Board are employed by the Post Office. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department has fixed assets of $2,410m. An interesting fact is that 95 per cent of those assets are tied up in what we call the telecommunications side of its activities. Today this deals largely with telephone services. The rates charged for telegram services have reached such an enormous cost and the slowness with which telegrams are delivered present such a poor picture in comparison with the use of telephones that the result is that telephone services have taken over substantially from the telegraphic side of activities.
If anyone wishes to move the old amendment that the Opposition used to move on Bills of this kind which sought to refer this matter to a body which would investigate, first, as our present amendment suggests, taking the control of the Post Office away from the Public Service Board which, ipso facto, raises the second point of whether or not the Postal Department should be a statutory body away from the control of a Minister, we would certainly be happy to look at that amendment because we have proposed it in the past and we still believe in those objectives. As we have failed with that amendment when it has been moved on previous occasions and as we are getting a little tired of butting our heads-
– The honourable senator has opposed such a proposition on occasions when I initiated it.
– You are misrepresenting me. Be honest.
– Of course I am opposed to them.
– I am.
– Is it the policy of the honourable senator’s Party not to charge interest?
– You have been saying that for 22 years.
– The honourable senator is not able to give me a simple answer to-
– I asked the honourable senator a simple question whether a Labor government would or would not charge the Post Office interest, and the honourable senator would not answer yes or no.
– I am simply asking a question.
– I did not get an answer, yes or no.
– Next year, after you have been elected-
– Would your Patty charge interest or not?
– There is a reduced charge for pensioners.
– Oh no!
– I was referring only to the reduced charges for pensioners.
– You have not put that suggestion this year.
- Senator Willesee, who has just resumed his seat, moved an amendment to the Post and Telegraph Bill, which is the main Bill being debated. Included in that amendment were the words:
In the course of his speech he mentioned the large staff in the Postmaster-General’s Department. He forgot to remind the Senate that increased wages must have a very large and cumulative effect on a department with such a large staff. The Department has, as he told us, one of the biggest staffs in Australia. Does he want the general taxpayer to subsidise the Post Office? In effect this is what he suggested. He mentioned that there should be decentralisation in a big way. He did not explain how it was to be carried out, what would be the cost, and so on. As I understood him, he mentioned the big buildings in capital cities which are being used for only one shift in 24 hours. I understood him to say that they could be used for an afternoon shift or even for 3 shifts. If thai proposal were implemented, would not penalty rates for night work be incurred? What would be saved by using the building for 2 or 3 shifts would be more than cancelled out by increased costs and by penalty rates.
The basic postal charge is proposed to be increased by lc. Postal services have come a long way since Sir Rowland Hill introduced penny postage in 1840. This innovation meant that the volume of letters quadrupled in 10 years and increased tenfold in 30 years. In the United Kingdom the penny rate remained the same for 75 years. Today the Government is proposing that the basic postage rate shall be 7c. This rate is still about the world average. It is below the rates applicable in some countries. The Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) has pointed out that, in Australian currency, postage in the United Kingdom costs 6.4c, in Germany 7.3c, in Canada 5.8c, in the United States of America 7.1c, in Sweden 9.5c and in France 6.4c. The mail section of the Post Office is a very high labour content service. Most of the increases in wages in the last 12 months have had to be absorbed in that section. In 1970-71 postal operations lost S25m. In 1971-72, even with the increase in the postage rate of lc, that section is still expected to lose $17m. On the other hand, in 1970-71 the telecommunications section made a profit of $23m. This year, with the increased charges, it is expected to make a profit of $53m. in effect every telephone user is subsidising the mails in a substantial way.
The present automatic telephone system is a good investment for the Post Office. I have been informed by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department that subscriber trunk dialling alone has saved the Department a tremendous amount. In the last 12 months if every long distance call had been made through manual switchboards it would have cost the Department an extra $20m. That is the estimate. The capital investment that STD required has meant a very substantial saving due to mechanisation. About 91 per cent of our telephones are now automatic. It is the other 9 per cent which concern me considerably because they are in small country towns and rural or pastoral areas. A large number of places still have manual exchanges and some exchanges operate restricted hours only. I believe people in the areas covered by those exchanges should be given a continuous service as soon as possible. Two things delay the introduction of that service - limited funds and a shortage of technical staff. These prevent the introduction of that service as quickly as possible.
I refer now to the new rural telephonic policy announced last year. This is a big step towards providing a good telephone service to the rural areas.
– Who gave you this information?
– Is it?
– You are apologising for the fact that you live in the country.
– You do not believe in decentralisation. You are moving all the Post Office people into the cities. .
– Good heavens!
– In listening to Senator Lawrie, who has just resumed his seat, one could well have thought that he had a foot in both camps, because although he is supporting the Government’s legislation he supported the amendment, in part, when he started to speak about decentralisation. I want to make it quite clear that I heartily endorse the amendment moved by Senator Willesee. In particular, I lay stress upon paragraph (b) of the amendment, which reads:
The application of special telephone charges in those areas designated for accelerated development by agreement between the Commonwealth and any State and its authorities..
I will come to that later. Firstly, let me say that I read with some apprehension a screed which was distributed in this chamber a few days ago and which is headed ‘Reorganisation of the Australian Post Office Telecommunications Activities’. I noted the following words in the second paragraph:
The objective of the reorganisation is to establish a number of fully equipped business management headquarters under the control of Area Managers.
As just a boy from the bush and a long time dairy farmer, I am apprehensive when I read the words ‘business management’ because in my time I have had some experience of business managers in public organisations. In fact, one of the reasons leading to my ascension to this august chamber is related to the fact that many years ago the Victorian Railways took action similar to this and its business managers decided that because certain areas of the Victorian Railways would not run at a profit those areas had to be wiped off the books. The result was that many hundreds of people in rural areas of Victoria lost either their railway station or their entire railway service. So, 1 am somewhat apprehensive of that notification which was posted in this chamber recently.
Before I refer to the matter of trunk line call charges I wish to say a few words about the 33 per cent increase in private bag charges. You, Mr President, being a long time rural dweller in a rather remote part of Victoria, will appreciate that the private bag is a means by which many people in rural areas are able to receive and send mail. Many of these people pay for this service because they belong to organisations of which they are either the secretary or the president. In order to be sure that the mail they deal with on behalf of their organisations is delivered safe and sound they pay a sum each year for a private bag service. I notice in the ‘Australian Post Office Financial and Statistical Bulletin’ for the year 1969-70 that 76 nonofficial post offices in Victoria were closed in that year. The names of many of the small country post offices in my area are running through my mind at the present time.
I believe that because these post offices have been closed there should have been an increase in the demand for private bags; but if the Postmaster-General’s Department increases the charge by 33 per cent I fear that, in the present situation of rural recession in many areas of the State, there will bc not an increase but a decline in demand for private bags, and in many areas this could well lead to this service no longer being available. When one is living in the bush there is nothing worse than having what is known as a roadside delivery, because then one’s mail is at the whim of every passing dog, breeze and shower of rain and one never knows in what form one will receive’ it. At least the private bag assures some security for the mail. As I said, I propose to lay a great deal of stress on section (b) of the amendment moved by Senator Willesee.. Any politician from rural Australia who is not aware of the great controversy which is raging over increased trunk line, charges has not been doing his homework or has not kept his ear to the ground. Last year in 4 trips around Victoria I found that this matter was a redhot topic. It has always seemed very strange to me that within the ambit of an organisation one can post a letter which may go across the street or across the nation for 6c yet when one uses the other arm of this organisation one is charged on a distance basis. I do not know why this is so. Perhaps, like Topsy, this system ‘just growed’. I think it is time that the Post Office and the Government had a hard look at the current situation.
In May 1960 the Post Office introduced the extended local service areas, or ELSA. Under this scheme many short distance trunk line calls became local calls. As a result, there was a drop from 134 million trunk calls in 1960 to 75 million in 1961. That information is taken from table 32 of the Australian Post Office Financial and Statistical Bulletin for the year 1969-70. In the 10 years since 1961 the number of trunk C:,ils has again built up, and last year totalled 198£ million. I wonder why the Government or the Department cannot take a further look at ELSA and in the interests of country people, and particularly country industry, extend the local call areas and so give some equity to people who live so far from metropolitan areas.
Let me make a comparison between charges for a business house set up in the metropolitan area of Melbourne as against one set up in my city of Warrnambool where there are many business houses, particularly small engineering firms. For a local call fee of 4.75c - as will be the case if this Bill passes through the Senate - a Melbourne businessman has available 198.500 business telephone connections plus 346,439 private connections: He has all those connections for a charge of 4.75c a call. His counterpart in Warrnambool who is trying to run the same business in a decentralised fashion has in toto approximately 6,000 connections. Six thousand available connections for the business man in the Warrnambool call area compared wilh half a million available to his counterpart in the metropolitan area. Both men can talk for as long as they like for the local call charge. At this level there is no great distinction in overhead charges between the 2 industries. But let us suppose that we try to put the businessman in the Warrnambool area in touch with as many people as his Melbourne business counterpart has available. We move the Warrnambool man into the next telephone district. His fee rises by 400 per cent for every 3 minutes he is on the blower. We have to go into the next district to come anywhere near a numerical comparison with the metropolitan man, and the fee rises by 1,200 per cent. If we go into the next district it rises by 1,800 per cent for every 3 minutes the businessman is on the phone. This last move brings the businessman into the metropolitan area where he finally must go to obtain the same numerical comparison with his business partner in the metropolitan area.
Frankly I believe that decentralisation or regional development has little chance of making any headway while trunk line charges of that order prevail. I have made some inquiries through the Victorian Chambers of Commerce and on the telephone and by letter to many business enterprises throughout the length and breadth of Victoria in relation to this matter. In fact, information is still coming to my office and to my address in Canberra. Unfortunately some of the more pertinent material has not yet arrived but it may come in handy in a later debate.
At this stage I shall deal with some of the disadvantages that face decentralised industry in rural Victoria because of the trunk line charges it must pay at the present time. One factory with its major activity in the country has been offered a tied line to its minor activity in the metropolitan area for 57,000. Of course, one realises that a tied line is an expensive exercise to the Postmaster-General’s Department. But I suggest that this cost puts this man behind scratch when it comes to competing with his city counterpart in relation to the price of the finished article. A district base hospital 180 miles from Melbourne last year paid $3,380 for trunk line calls. Last year trunk line charges for a small engineering factory in the same town which employs 18 people cost $3,000. I quote from a letter from a small moulding factory which employs 22 people, lt states:
We are located some 40 miles from Melbourne. . . We are successful in exporting some of our products. Our total number of employees is not high - only 16 males and 6 females.
It is estimated on figures to hand, that over the past financial year our telephone account was a little over $2,000, of which nearly $1,550 was trunk or metered STD calls, which clearly indicates that after the rental is taken out, the cost of local calls is negligible in comparison to the high cost of the distance calls.
In a relatively small business such as this, an overhead expense as large as the telephone account takes a good deal of recovering and if assistance was given by way of reducing this expense, we feel sure that industry as a whole would greatly benefit.
I have further correspondence here from a factory situated 130 miles from Melbourne. It states.
We are of the opinion that country industries should enjoy special trunk and telex rates in view of their separation from the main merchandising centres of Australia.
This factory employs 376 people. Its telephone charges for 1970 were S5.884 in total and the trunk call component was $3,948. For the half year of 1971 its trunk calls cost $2,022. Its telex charges for the year are estimated at $1,880. I heard someone interject - I think it was Senator Greenwood - asking whether that was a profitable business. It probably is, otherwise it would not be there, but I suggest that this factory’s profit would have been enhanced had it been able to operate on the same basis as its city counterparts. Let me quote from a letter from another factory. It states:
Our Company is a carpet manufacturer with 303 employees. . . .
It is situated 47 miles from Melbourne. One obtains some idea of the overhead cost of telephone charges in rural areas when one receives mail of this order. The letter continues:
Excluding the cost of telephone accounts in the capital cities in which we have sales offices our . . telephone accounts have been as follows:
Over 3 years there is an approximate increase of 60 per cent. The letter continues:
A large part of the increase is due to the increased cost of the service and not to increased usage.
Over the last 5 years the average telephone calls for another large firm - perhaps this is the daddy of them all - amounted to $55,317 per annum. Perhaps I am boring honourable senators, judging by the interjections, but if anybody would like to peruse these letters, even the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) himself, relating to the sort of charges he is inflicting on decentralised industries, he is welcome to my file. I have a letter from a large building firm operating 47 miles from Melbourne. It states:
We would advise that our annual charges are in the vicinity of $17,500. We are unable to give accurate figures concerning the trunk calls, as the biggest part of our usage is carried out through STD between Geelong and Melbourne; the Head Offices of most of our clients and suppliers are located in Melbourne and a conservative estimate of our STD calls would be S 14,000.
The letter concludes:
We agree . . . that telephone charges are a major cost’ factor operating against this Company having its Head Office in Geelong, and we believe that some consideration should be given to enterprises operating outside the capital cities.
A small road transport service, again operating outside the metropolitan area, wrote this letter in which it stated:
Last financial year the Company paid a total of $7,265 for all telephone charges which included $1,215 for specified trunk calk. I fee) however, that these figures are most misleading because a high proportion of our total telephone costs are for trunk calls made STD and charged together with local calls, under the one heading, ‘Metered calls’.’
In other words, our telephone, accounts are now rendered in such a way that it is no longer possible to isolate the total cost of trunk line calls.
I could go on presenting this evidence showing what trunk line charges cost businesses in rural areas. A report in the Warrnambool ‘Standard’ of 14th July stated:
The Postmaster-General’s Department ls examining the possibility of introducing uniform telephone rates.
Quite frankly I only hope that some steps are being taken along these lines. One of the great tragedies of rural areas in Australia for many years, a tragedy that has been compounded by the rural recession, has been the drift of the children of country residents to the great metropolitan areas. A great deal of this has been brought about by the failure of governments to provide incentives to industries to move into rural areas. One sees the facts of life day by day as one travels on trains from metropolitan to country areas. On Sunday nights the youth of our country journey’s to the metropolitan areas and on Friday night they travel back home to their parents in the country. Rural residents over the years have educated their children to the highest standard available in their areas, or to the best of their financial capacity, only to find, unfortunately, that when those children leave school they have been educated beyond the employment capacity of the district in which they were born and bred. Consequently the drift to the city goes on-
Let us be perfectly frank. I believe that the Government is using the PostmasterGeneral’s Department as a taxing device. I do not see any reason why the Government cannot, if it is so minded, use the Postmaster-General’s Department as a device to help industries establish in country areas and to give further encouragement to those already there so that this drift to the metropolitan area at least will be slowed down. Perhaps in the long term this will help shift some of our population from our smog covered cities.
– I want to join my colleague Senator Primmer in lending support to the amendment moved by Senator Willesee. I think I ought to emphasise the words used in that amendment. We submit that increased post and telegraph charges are against the national interest. The amendment states:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert - the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted because it does not provide for (a) the severance of the Postmaster-General’s Department from the control of the Public Service Board and (b) the application of special telephone charges in those areas designated for accelerated development by agreement between the Commonwealth and any State and its Authorities’.
That basically sums up the feeling of the Opposition about this Post and Telegraph Bill. I was amazed at what the Country Party member, Senator Lawrie, said a few moments ago. I felt he was speaking very effectively on behalf of a very small minority of people in Queensland. Today during question time I asked what was going to happen to the south western Queensland town of Roma because of the decision announced in the statement made a few days ago in the other place by the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) and presented in this place by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood). That statement was titled ‘Reorganisation of the Australian Post Office Telecommunications
Activities’. Over the last 6 or 7 years we have looked upon the Postmaster-General’s Department as a buffalo department. We do this because the services have been continually restricted by the Government and the charges are in keeping with the old statement about charging like a buffalo.
In my home cityof Townsville we put up a valiant effort to save the loss of telegraph facilities at weekends in that city, lt was the last provincial city in Queensland to retain those facilities. In spite of opposition from local people and local business houses the weekend telegraph facilities were abolished. Conceivably one may have a death in the family occurring in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane and if a home is not connected to the telephone system and the death took place on a Saturday afternoon those concerned would know nothing about it until the Monday morning. There has been a continual reduction of service for country people and a continual increase in charges, for all types of services, for the community. The time is long overdue for the suggestions outlined in the Opposition’s amendment to be. given very deep consideration.
Turning to the question I asked today, Mr President, Senator Greenwood, representing the Postmaster-General, assured me that this reorganisation was not going to happen overnight. Advice I have received from Post Office people generally reveals that it is going to happen overnight. In country towns a large part of the local economy is built up around employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Overnight we will find that the economy of the small towns will disappear. On the first page of his statement the PostmasterGeneral said:
The objective of the re-organisation is to establish a number of fully equipped business management headquarters under the control of area managers. These will be capable of handling to finality the normal Post Office telecommunications services.
At the back of the statement detailed maps are attached showing where these new management headquarters will be situated. So far as Queensland is concerned, Mr President - I have no doubt that the general pattern will not be different in the other States or Territories in Australia - they are going to be based on the larger population centres. In his conclusions - this reminds me of a Senate Select Committee reports - the Postmaster-General said:
Finally I would like to repeat that there will be no large scale relocation of staff. A small number of positions representing less than 4 per cent of total staff in country districts will be affected by the change.
These are the words of the PostmasterGeneral. He continued:
For many of the individual staff members affected, the change will be accompanied by immediate promotion. For all those affected the Post Office will take all possible steps to minimise personal problems.
In theory this looks very good. 1 am not one of those who knocks the progress of 1971 or progress in the. future. Progress is inevitable and we have to ‘ accept it and encourage it. But the statements made by the Postmaster-General in this document in fact are not strictly true.
Today I asked a question about the town of Roma in south western Queensland. It used to be a thriving town because of the oil and gas industries in that area, but that is not to continue. It has reached a state of crisis because of the collapse of the wool industry. If 40 employees are to be taken out of that small country town the backbone of the local economy will be removed. Hardship will be faced by the people being removed and that ought to be taken into consideration. The grandiose statement made by the Postmaster-General does not cover the basic facts of the case. lt does not matter whether people are shifted only 20 miles or many miles away to a new centre, as is to happen in this case, hardships will be caused when they own their own homes. The national economy is declining, as we know, but the position is aggravated in a town like Roma. People there own a block of land or a home or are paying it off. About $8,000 or $9,000 is tied up in each case in property in a town that will become a ghost town. Those people will be lucky to get back about half the real value of their properties.
The Postmaster-General has said that he will make it as easy as possible for these people. Is he to compensate them for the loss of capital that probably constitutes their life savings? Unless we are prepared to face up to the realities of the situation in this country today, not only in this field but also in many other fields, it will collapse about our ears. The people responsible for the dangers sit on the Government side of this chamber and the other place. They have adopted an attitude of waiting to see what turns up tomorrow. It is not good enough.
We have become a country of nonplanners. Government supporters hope that the public will keep them in government. I forecast that if this sort of non-planning continues for many more months the Government will go out of office, but the great tragedy is that the economy of this country will collapse while the Government is engaged in this sort of non-activity in all sections of the community, not only the Postal Department. It has been said by my colleagues in the Australian Country Party that we have one of the cheapest postal systems in the world. This is not true. As from 1st October we will be paying 7c to post a letter.
Parliamentarians ought to be the first to realise this because the postal costs in their offices come out of their electoral allowances. They ought to have a proper realisation that over the last 4 or 5 years postal charges have increased by a tremendous percentage. Such charges are a very big factor in the conduct of a small business. They have become a nightmare for the ordinary householder. Many of my friends do not now send Christmas cards to thenrelatives in the festive season because no longer can they afford the cost of postage of a few dozen Christmas cards in addition to the cost of the cards and the envelopes. The Government is pricing people out of the postal services.
Today in a capital city a telephone is a luxury, unless it is required for business or medical reasons. The average working man cannot afford a telephone. It ought not to be a luxury. There ought to be a telephone in every home in this so-called affluent nation, but the rental and call charges have become absolutely prohibitive. Every time that the Government looks like being in trouble it says: ‘Let us put up the postal charges.’ It is a very short term way out. If you are not prepared to plan for the future obviously you will price telephones out of the shops of the small businessmen, too. But it is worse than that, because it is the people who cannot really afford a telephone who must pay the increased rentals.
The big business houses are able to pass on the costs; in other words, they pass the buck. When their telephone rental and call charges and postal and telegram charges are increased, obviously the costs are added in so that the retail selling prices of the goods sold over the counter are increased. Who can blame them for that? They have to get their costs back somehow.
Those people in the community who in fact cannot afford a telephone and must limit the number of letters they post, must cut their trunk line calls to a minimum and make fewer local calls than they want to make in order to bear the burden of the increased costs. The Opposition contends that this situation has been largely brought about because of the slaphappy attitude of the Government to the great problems that confront this country, not least of which are in the administration of the Postal Department. If this Bill is withdrawn and redrafted the increased social service benefits will not be delayed. Only the increased postal charges will be delayed for a few days or a few weeks. For how long they are delayed is up to the Government.
We suggest sincerely that the increased charges are against the national interest and that to adopt a practical approach to the whole situation the Bill ought to be withdrawn and redrafted. So far as I can see, the opposition of the Government is not even based on logic. In this debate there has been a dearth of speakers from the government benches. That also happened in the other House because there were not enough apologists on the government benches to conduct a decent debate. The same thing is happening here. My friend Senator Primmer spoke immediately before me. He pointed to the disabilities being suffered by country people in Victoria. The situation in Queensland is even worse. Even though charges by the Post Office have been increased we still cannot get adequate services in the north western Queensland city of Mount Isa, one of the greatest mining towns in the Commonwealth. Many people there are waiting for telephones to be installed. Doctors wish to open surgeries in the area but are not able to get telephones. I probably get more representations from this area than from anywhere else in Queensland from people seeking telephone connections which the Post Office cannot supply.
– There are 400 outstanding applications for telephones on the Gold Coast.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority .. .. 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 September 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19710929_senate_27_s49/>.