20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.3Q a.m., and read prayers.
Petition. Mir. WARD presented a petition from certain citizens in New ‘ South Wales, praying that thé Parliament will increase pension benefits to civilian widows.
Petition received and read*.
Petitions in relation ‘ to the Superannuation Act were presented as follows : -
By Mr. CLAREY, from certain citizens of the Commonwealth.
By Mr. WILSON, from certain citizens of the Commonwealth, being members of the Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Clerks Union.
By Mr. LUCOCK, from certain citizens of the Commonwealth.
-^ understand that the petitions presented by the honorable members concerned are- exactly the same in wording as were the petitions that were presented yesterday on the same subject. I suggest that as the petitions received yesterday were read by the Clerk, the petitions now presented be merely received. However, the matter is one for determination by the House. If there is objection to the course that I :have suggested, the petitions must be read by the Clerk.
– I suggest that they be read because their contents are important from the petitioners’ viewpoint.
Petitions received and read.
– POSTAL DEPARTMENT. .
Mi-. PETERS. - My . question is directed to the Postmaster-General.. As the hundreds of distinguished visitors to the Federal Members Rooms, in Melbourne, while waiting for the lift, look out at the Elizabeth-street post office building, they see hanging from its windows the most filthy and dilapidated remnants of sun blinds. These ragged eyesores have been in this condition’ for at least four years-
-Order! I» the honorable member asking a question or making a statement?
– I am asking, a question.
– It does nM appear to me that the honorable gentleman is asking a question.
– I shall conclude my question. Will the Postmaster-General have those remnants of the blinds removed?.
– If the honorable member for Burke will do something about the Yarra, I shall see what I can do about the blinds to which he has referred.
– Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Health inform me whether any provision is made in the Commonwealth health scheme for the making available of spectacles free of charge? What is the position regarding the treatment of diseases of the eye under this scheme?
– At the present time, Commonwealth legislation does not make provision for the making available of spectacles free of charge. The time may come when such provision will be made, but at present there is no intention of doing so. The answer to the inquiry whether eye treatment, in the ordinarily accepted way, can be obtained under the scheme is in the affirmative. Benefits are payable if a qualified medical practitioner refers a patient to an ophthalmologist. However, no benefit is payable if the specialist is asked by the patient to prescribe spectacle lenses. This has caused a little doubt in the minds of some optometrists and, in order to put the issue beyond all doubt, the Government intends to amend .the legislation that is now before the House.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, concerns a booklet issued by the Minister for Health. I preface my remarks by saying that the document is not an ordinary document issued under the health scheme. It is entitled Progress with Australian National Health, and contains a report of an address delivered by the Minister for Health to an annual conference of the World Medical Association, held at the Hague. It is issued as a. public document with the compliments of tho Minister for Health, Commonwealth of Australia. It bears the coat of arms of the Commonwealth. Will the Prime Minister say why, in those circumstances, the booklet was printed by the Daily Examiner of Grafton, in which the Minister for Health, as a private citizen, has a controlling interest? Has the cost of the booklet been paid by this Government? Who issued the contract?
– I have not had an opportunity to see this document, but it was mentioned to me the other day. I caused inquiries to be made .to’ ascertain whether the Government had paid for it. The answer that I received was that the Government had not done so.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that in November, 1951, the peak period of full employment, 2,643,000 persons were employed throughout the Commonwealth and that, in addition, 50,700 wore engaged in the defence forces. Is it also a fact that the latest figures issued by the Commonwealth Employment Service show that 60,000 less employed-
– Order ! Is. the honorable gentleman asking for information or giving it?
– I am asking the Minister to confirm these figures.
– I should say that a question of that sort should be put on the notice-paper. I do not think if reasonable to expect the Minister to have that information at his finger-tips.
– Can the Minister advise me of the exact number of persons at present unemployed throughout Australia, taking into account the 66,000 fewer engaged in employment in the defence forces, tho large number of children who have left school since November, 1951, and the many thousands of immigrants of working age who have arrived in this country since November, 1951?
– Order ! In my view that is a question for the noticepaper.
– I can supply some of the information, Mr. Speaker. .
-The Minister may do so.
– I am not able to give all the information sought by the honorable member immediately. However, as the honorable gentleman is aware, I. make a monthly survey of the employment situation in full detail, and the latest results of that survey should be available within the next week. I am able to give some reasonably precise figures which indicate the employment trend, and I assume that the House is particularly interested in the trend of employment as an indication of the general economic situation. I am happy to be able to inform the honorable member and others who take a keen interest in this problem that August was the eighth successive month this year that showed a substantial drop in the number of person receiving unemployment benefit. Compared with a total of 42,000 person who received unemployment benefit in January of this year, the total in August was 22,000. There was a further drop during the four weeks of August of 2,406. What is perhaps even more significant is the fact that the number of people registered for employment dropped by 8,384 in that period of four weeks.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for the Interior, I refer to the fact that the Queensland Minister for Lands stated last Saturday that 87 land blocks in the Wandoan area, which had been reserved previously for ex-servicemen under the war service land settlement scheme, would be made available for open ballot. Has the Minister any authority under the war service land settlement agreement to intervene and prevent the Queensland Government from dishonouring a solemn promise that every ex-serviceman who desired to be settled on the land would receive a block? As the development of the Wandoan blocks has been financed by funds made available to Queensland by the Australian Loan Council specifically for war service land settlement, is the Queensland Government legally entitled to offer the benefits of this expenditure to the general public?
– The Queensland Government has complete authority to allocate its funds in any way it likes. I think it is correct to say that these blocks at Wandoan were developed with money that was set aside specifically for the purposes of war land settlement. I have no authority to alter any decision that has been made by the Queensland Government. I have not received official notification that the blocks will be used for- purposes other than those of war service land settlement. As I said yesterday, the only official notification that we have received is to the effect that in future all land settlement in Queensland will be administered under the State Lands Act. 1 understand that exservicemen settlers will have to take their chance with civilians in a ballot. I think all honorable members will agree that. although there has been no legal breach of any obligation or agreement, the fact that these blocks, developed with money set aside for war service land settlement, are now to be offered to civilian settlers constitutes a moral breach of obligationundertaken by Queensland at conferences, not only with representatives of this Government but also with the Premiers of the other States, when the original agreement with the principal States was prepared and money for war service land settlement was allocated over a period of years. I hope the Queensland Government will reconsider its decision.
– In Victoria widespread circulation has been given, probably for political reasons by supporters of the Labour party, to a rumour that the Menzies Government is not in favour of completing or continuing freehold tenure in that State under the War Service Land Settlement scheme, commonly called the soldier settlement scheme. Will the Minister for the Interior inform the House of the Government’s attitude to freehold tenure for soldier settlers in Victoria ? Will he give clue consideration to the issue of a public statement on this matter, in view of widespread misrepresentation of the ‘Government’s attitude to it?
– I was nor aware of the propaganda statement that bad been issued about this matter until the Corangamite by-election took place. I understand it was widely stated that this Government wanted Victoria to become an agent State in order to stop freehold tenure of soldier settler blocks being granted there. Proof that that statement could not be farther from th* truth is the fact that, until this Government took over the reins of office, soldier settlers had no chance to obtain freehold blocks in any of the agent States, but now they have an option to take up freehold tenure.
– That is not true.
– It is true. Previously, only leasehold tenure was available, but this Government has given settlers un opportunity to accept freehold tenure if they so desire. The Government has no intention to prevent freehold tenure. I hope that Victoria will continue with what has been up to the present time the most successful form of administration of soldier settlement in Australia.
– Does the Prime Minister agree with the statement made by his colleague, the honorable member for Petrie, at a recent meeting of the Liberal Party in Queensland, that democracy died, immediately this Government was elected to office, for the reason that the rank and file of the membership on the Government side hud no opportunity to cast a vote in the election of the Cabinet? Can it be taken for granted that the Government’s decision to increase pensions by 2s. 6d. is the first tangible step to restore the democracy which, the honorable member for Petrie has claimed, died when this Government was elected?
– I have not seen the suggested statement that democracy died when this Government was elected. T cannot believe that the honorable member for Petrie would talk any such nonsense.
– I direct to the Minister for Immigration a question concerning the immigrant centre at Parkes, which has remained unoccupied for some time. In view of the deterioration of this camp and of the requests by Parkes Council and other public bodies in Parkes for the use of part, or all, of the centre, will the Minister say whether the centre is to be opened for immigration purposes and, if so, what type of immigrants he expects will be accommodated in it?
– The centre to which the honorable minister refers is the property of the Royal Australian Air Force and has, I understand, been restored to that service. It is not at present required for immigration purposes and, so far as I am concerned, will not.be required for such purposes. I understand, that it is being maintained on a caretaker basis. Whether some use could be made of it locally in the manner to which the honorable member has referred is a matter which he might perhaps take up with the Minister for the Navy and for Air.
– My question to the Minister f or Immigration is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Calare. Can the Minister give any further information to me and to this House regarding the future operations of the Bathurst immigrant camp? Will he also, when replying to that question, deal with his department’s future policy in respect of immigration generally, stating whether the Government intends to extend immigration and, if it does, whether the very favorable conditions at Bathurst, so typical, of Australia, will be kept in mind?
– I cannot answer, offhand, the honorable member’s question regarding Bathurst immigrant centre, but I shall obtain the information and supply it to the honorable member. I do not think it would be appropriate to attempt, during question time, to review immigration policy generally as it relates to the future, but I hope during the course of this session to place some information before the House on that matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. In view of the fact that it is computed that for each immigrant an investment of at least £1.250 is required for enlarged or new community services, such as the provision of schools, hospitals and other ancillaries of community life, and that such services must be provided by the State governments, will the Minister consider the advisability of calling a conference between the Commonwealth and the States on the subject of migration for the purpose of discussing the difficulties confronting the States in the provision of those services and also seeking a closer working accord in future phases of migration policy?
– I think that the first part of the honorable member’s question misstates the economic position in this matter. The .honorable gentleman has taken a figure which, he says, represents the capital requirement of a migrant who comes to this country. Undoubtedly, every new settler in Australia does create, in a general sense, a capital requirement in respect of community resources and services, in the sense that the immigrant needs accommodation, hospitalization, schooling, industrial equipment if he is employed in industry, or agricultural equipment if he works on the land. But there cannot be attributed to the services provided by governments anything corresponding to the sum mentioned by th«* honorable member for Batman. A good deal of research has been conducted into this matter, and I may be able to obtain for the honorable gentleman a figure which more clearly represents the claim made upon the services that are to be provided by governments.
– Some economists sa.y that the figure is £2,000.
– There is a certain amount of hit-and-miss in this matter. We can form only a general estimate. I am able to inform the honorable member for Batman, in reply to the second part of his question that in response to a request made at the recent conference between tie Prime Minister and the State Premiers, it has ‘been decided to hold a conference between Commonwealth and State Ministers for Immigration on Monday, the 5 th October next I understand that invitations to attend that conference have already been issued to the States, and we are awaiting their replies. The matter raised by the honorable member for Batman may be among those that will be brought forward by the representatives of the States for consideration at the conference.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether there is any way in which he can inform the Ministers for Agriculture in Victoria and Queensland, and the Min ister for Prices in New South Wales that, f ailing agreement by the States and the wheat-growers’ in relation to the orderly marketing of wheat, the ownership of the crop now being grown will revert to the growers on and after the 30th September and that, with or without confiscation, it will not be competent for them to dispose of the forthcoming crop without perpetrating a very grave injustice ?
– I regret .to Bay that the position is not perfectly understood by at least some of the State governments, and is certainly not perfectly understood by some of the wheat-growers’ organizations. The position, stated briefly, is that the Australian Wheat Board, under existing Commonwealth and State legislation, will cease, after the 30th September, to have any power other than that of disposing of past crops as yet unsold. My advice is that delivery of wheat from the new crop will commence on the 1st November. Unless there is an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States to establish an orderly marketing arrangement, which can be constructed by legislation in the seven parliaments, ready to receive wheat at the 1st November, there arc only two alternatives. The first is that the States might themselves separately establish compulsory State pools, and the second, that the wheat trade might revert to private enterprise on the 1st November. I say to the State governments, and to the wheat-growers of this country who have not faced this problem, that I do not believe that with the best will in the world private merchants can, at such short notice, finance the purchase of a £100,000,000 crop; nor can they possibly, in the complex circumstances which now exist, make a fair estimate, no matter how bona fide they may be, of what prices they can and should pay to growers on the 1st November. Those complex circumstances are, a variety of home prices differing in the different States, ari incomplete international wheat agreement to which Australia and the greatest buyer in the world are not parties, and the complete impossibility of predicting the level of export values of wheat during the year. If the State governments do not come into line at the meeting which will be held to-morrow, there are all the prospects of a grave disorganization of Australia’s second greatest industry.
– My question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is supplementary to the question that he Las ju3t answered. May we take it thai he believes that the power of controlling orderly marketing within the Commonwealth, at least in relation to wheat, should be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament? If so, has he not changed his view, and have his colleagues not changed their views, within recent years?
Mr.McEWEN. - I have no hesitation in saying that constitutional power exists if there is co-operation between the Commonwealth and State Governments to establish a completely adequate and satisfactory orderly marketing system for this important primary product.
– Does the Minister for Labour and National Service consider that he has been double crossed in hia agreement about the Bowen waterfront dispute? Did the agreement, include an agreed rate of loading at. 24 tons per gang hour?
– There was no agreement about the specific rate of loading. What was understood by all present at the conference held in Melbourne last Friday, was that the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, and the Australian Council of Trades Unions - insofar as it could exercise some supervision - would ensure that cargoes were satisfactorily loaded in the future at- the port of Bowen and at the other Queensland sugar ports. I believe that I should place before the House the facts relating to the latest development, which suggest that the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia has failed to honour its undertaking in the agreement that was reached on Friday. At the conference we were told that in addition to bringing the regular port strength to the prescribed number of ISO, there would be a transfer of 4:0 waterside workers from Brisbane for the remaining part of the meat loading season. We suggested terms for the transfer which we considered were reasonable to the point of generosity, and which were accepted a= reasonable by the official representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Those representatives have since sent a strongly worded telegram to the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. The position in Brisbane to-day is that at a pick-up this morning 993 men became eligible for attendance money, which means that they were not able to secure work. Previously 80 men or thereabouts had volunteered to go to Bowen. This morning, the Brisbane branch was addressed by its president, who purported to state the conditions of engagement at Bowen. Having done so, not one man volunteered from his branch for transfer. It is quite clear to me that the federation does not propose to transfer labour to that port under conditions which reasonable men would regard as satisfactory.
– What were the conditions?
– They were that fares would be paid both way3, that travelling time would be paid to Bowen and that free sleeping accommodation would be provided there. The accommodation to be provided was that agreed upon at the. conference on Friday. A hangar was specifically mentioned. That was the kind of accommodation that was discussed at the conference. In addition, it is known that on an average those who volunteered to go to Bowen would be able to earn at least £15 a week while they remained there. The average earnings at the port last year were in excess of £17 a week. Notwithstanding these inducements, hundreds of men are in receipt of attendance money because they are unemployed in Brisbane. I have been told that by tomorrow about 1,000 men will be in receipt of attendance money in Brisbane, yet to-day the federation could not provide one volunteer to go to Bowen, knowing that an emergency existed there. That suggests that the obstructive and delaying tactics that have marked the history of this port throughout the present season are being continued by the federation at this time. In view of the obstruction of the federation I am now exploring with the Australian Council of Trades Unions another proposal under which we may be able to utilize the services of the seamen on the ships in the port in order to supplement the work force available there.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to published reports this week that a cobalt bomb is likely to be exploded shortly in central Australia under the authority of both the Australian and British Governments? Is the Prime Minister aware that a leading Sydney nuclear authority has stated that radio-active particles from such an explosion could remain active for up to five years, and that an unfavorable wind could cause cloud drift that would greatly damage many major cities of the Commonwealth, and that people should be told what is likely to take place? Is il the intention of the Prime Minister to make a statement to the House on this matter? If not, does the right honorable gentleman agree with the reports tha.’* have appeared in the press, or does he agree that such reports can undermine, the morale of the public, and cause fear and concern in their minds, as well as be a danger to our security? Will the Prime Minister take action to see that reports which have no foundation, and which could undermine public morale, are not, allowed to be published in future foi public consumption ?
– I have no control whatever over what some newspapers choose to publish.
– You wish you had !
– No, I do not. Therefore, I cannot satisfy the last portion of the question. As to this story of the cobalt bomb, which has been so sensationally presented, all I can say i3 that I know of no foundation for it whatever.
– On my behalf and on behalf of the honorable member for Gwydir, who is unfortunately ill and unable to be present, I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the very serious slump in the price of tin in Australia. Has it been brought to the right honorable gentleman’s notice that there is serious unemployment on the tin fields owing to the fact that dredges can no longer be economically worked? If his attention has been drawn to these facts, can he give the House an assurance that an inquiry is proceeding into the best means of assisting this industry and other base metal industries?
– This matter has not come before me. I shall make inquiries from the relevant department, and provide the honorable member with an answer as soon as practicable.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Army. When Australians were being recruited to risk their lives in fighting aggression in Korea, did he tell them that Australian citizen? who gave assistance to the enemy, and who resided in Peking in official contact with the government which sent troops to kill Australians, would be free to flaunt, themselves later in the streets of Sydney while this Government took no action whatsoever to prosecute them? Is it the intention of the Government to prosecute the persons concerned for the treason that they have committed?
– On the face of it the question asked by the honorable member is too ridiculous to justify an answer. When men were asked to serve in Korea in defence of their country and the thing1? which they valued and took pride in, no proposal of the character suggested by the honorable member was ever dreamt of. The men volunteered to serve their country without qualification.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware of the current shortages of bran and pollard in New South Wales? As the situation is causing concern to stockfeed consumer*, can the Minister inform the House whether he has had any indication from the State Departments of Agriculture as to how long this shortage will continue? Can he state whether, any quantities of mill offal are being exported under Commonwealth licence?
– I know that reports have been received of shortages of mill offals which affect stock feeders in New South Wales at the present time. Tn March, mill offals were accumulating at the rate of 1,000 tons a week. After consultation with the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, and with the approval of that department, approval was given for the export of mill off ais ; but in July the milling scene changed due to a diminution in the export demand for dour. As soon as it became apparent that there was likely to be a shortage of mill offals we imposed an export prohibition. There has since been a slackness in the export trade of flour which has resulted in a comparative shortage of mill offal. 1. have been informed by a number of New South Wales millers not directly, but through my department, that they are still able to supply their normal customers, but that in the circumstances of shortage, as might bc expected, people are placing excess orders. I am watching the position very carefully, I assure the honorable member that no approval will be given to export mill offals until adequate supplies are available for our own purposes.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me whether it is a. tact that Trans-Australia Airlines for some time now has . been a profit-earning undertaking? As the objective of TransAustralia Airlines, as a community-owned undertaking, should be service to the public at minimum fares, with the emphasis upon safe operation, and as the organization has no private shareholders looking for dividends, will the Minister state the reason for the recent increase of air fares? Is it also a fact that the recent increase of fares was granted to meet the wishes of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which would find it impossible to operate alongside TransAustralia Airlines on a basis of fair competition ?
– The matter of the increase of fares by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and TransAustralia Airlines was investigated by officials of the Department of Civil Aviation in order to ascertain whether the higher rates were justified, and was also examined by Sir John Latham, the Arbitrator appointed under the Civil AirlinesAgreement Act. Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited made joint representations to me for the increase of fares, which was recommended by the Arbitrator.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order ! I inform the House that honorable members who have asked a question yesterday or to-day will not receive the call until other honorable members have had an opportunity to put their questions.
– I desire to make a personal .explanation.
– Order ! Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented ?
– I have not received an answer to the question that’ I addressed to the Prime Minister yesterday. I ask to be accorded the privilege of repeating that question to-day.
– No. I want it to be clearly understood that I desire to distribute the calls at question time over the whole House, in what I believe to be a fair manner. The rule which I have adopted is that so long as honorable members are rising who have not received a call, I shall give them preference over honorable members who have received a call either yesterday or to-day. I propose to - enforce that rule unless the House over-rules me.
– As the development of Australia is the primary responsibility of the Commonwealth, will the Prime Minister arrange for a referendum to be held at an early date with a view to obtaining for this Parliament powers to carry out developmental works within the States which are considered to bc urgent and essential? Will the right honorable gentleman also seek by way of a. referendum powers in respect of trade and commerce in order to enable this Parliament to shoulder the responsibility of giving stability to our primary an<l secondary industries? I believe that these matters call for action by the Australian Government.
– The answer is in the negative.
– by leave- I should like to inform honorable members that His Excellency the Governor-General, Field. Marshal Sir William Slim, has agreed to unveil the memorials to the Australian war dead who are buried in Australian territories as follows: - The 19th October - Port Moresby; the 21st October - Lae; and the 23rd October- Rabaul. The Government has given consideration to the form of official representation at the unveilings, and has decided to send an official delegation, which, will include representatives of the Government, Parliament and the three services In addition, the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s. Imperial League of Australia and. the Ais Force Association will each be invited to nominate a representative.
The Government is deeply conscious of the bravery and the sacrifice of those soldiers, sailors and airmen who played such a heroic part in the defence of Australia in the territories, and of the fortitude and’ sacrifice of. the parents and widows of those who did not return. The Government welcomes the opportunity, therefore, to, associate with the delegation representatives of the widows and of the parents of those who made the supreme sacrifice. It is proposed to in* vite three war widows and six parents to accompany the official representatives. These will be. drawn from those whose loved ones, are buried in. the cemeteries where the unveiling will’ take place.
The equality of sacrifice made by all who. gave, their lives is. appreciated, and the Government proposes to recognize this by ensuring that those bereaved relatives eligible, to be. selected as. representatives will have an opportunity to submit their names, for selection. The Government proposes therefore to set. up- a. small committee, on which the Returned Servicemen’s League, the Air Force Association and. the “War Widows Guild will be invited to be: represented,, and this committee, will recommend direct to- th* Government the. names of the official representatives. All. bereaved relatives who are anxious to offer themselves for selection, should write to the Secretary. Prime Minister’s Department, Canberra, on or before Wednesday, the 23rd
September, and arrangements will bc made for all letters received to bo con-, sidered by the committee before a recommendation is made.
Air transport for the representatives selected will be provided by the Government and appropriate accommodation arrangements will also be made. The official Australian delegation which is selected will attend the three ceremonies. Honorable members may not be aware that the number of Australian war dead from all three services who are buried in these cemeteries is approximately 7,600.
- by leave - Members of the Opposition associate themselves with the decision reached by the Government on this matter. I have a. very personal interest in the announcement, by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that invitations will be extended to certain wives and mothers of Australian servicemen whose graves are located, in- the cemeteries? at Port. Moresby, Lae and Rabaul. .Some, service personnel lost, their lives in Montevideo Maru. They, of course, are buried at sea where the vessel was torpedoed. I know of. one mother who has- a particular interest in this matter. She, lost; her husband and her1 two brothers in. World War I. and had four sons and a brother engaged in World War II. One of her sons lost has life- on- Montevideo Maru. I. ask the Prime Minister whether any provision has’ .been made for those whose graves are not’ actually in the areas that he: has mentioned, such as the men who died on. Montevideo Maru.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Prime Minister). - by leave - I have mentioned a total of 7,600 Australians who lost their lives. That number includes the men who were1 lost on Montevideo- Maru, whose names- are included under the heading1 of memorials to those- with no known graves, so that they have not been excluded from consideration.
Motion (by Mr: Ema j-. HARRISON) agreed to -
That, until the- end of the session, unless otherwise, ordered1,, the House, shall, meet for the despatch of business,, in addition to. the. days fixed by Standing. Order 38,. on each Friday at 10.30 a.m., commencing on Fri’day, the 18th September. ,
Motion (by Mr. ERIC J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the Joint Committee of Public accounts have leave to sit in Canberra during the sittings of the House.’ . INCOME TAX AND SOCIAL SERVICES CONTRIBUTION ASSESSMENT BILL (No. 2) 1953.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1930-1952, as amended by the Taxation Administration Act 1953 and by the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1953.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act 1941-1942, as amended by the Taxation Administration Act 1953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill i3 designed primarily to increase the amount of the statutory exemption from pay-roll tax from £1,040 per annum to £4,160 per annum, which is four times the amount of !the existing exemption. The existing exemption is at the rate of £20 a week, or £86 13s. 4d. a month. Employers who pay wages in excess of £20 a week are at present required to register for pay-roll tax purposes and to pay tax at the rate of 2J per cent, on the excess of the wages over that figure. The tax is payable monthly. In each monthly return, the employer is entitled to a deduction of £86 13s. 4d. on account of the statutory exemption. Where, as a result of the pay-roll fluctuating from month to month, the full amount of exemption is not claimed in the monthly returns, the law provides for adjustment on an annual basis in order to ensure that the full statutory exemption, of £1,040 per annum shall be secured.
The exemption now stands at the same amount as was provided at the inception of the tax in 1941. Since that time, rates of wages have increased to such an extent that many small employers have been brought within the scope of the tax by reason of that fact alone and without any increase of the number of their employees. Some of the smaller employers have complained that lack of office organization and pressure of business activities generally have caused them substantial difficulty in meeting their obligation under the law.
Upon a review of the incidence of the tax, it has been concluded that an increase of the annual exemption to £4,160 is justified. It is proposed, therefore, to increase the exemption accordingly as from the 1st October, 1953. When this amendment becomes effective, registration of an employer for pay-roll tax purposes will be required only if he pays wages in excess of £S0 a week. The monthly deduction for wages paid in each of the months of July, August and September, 1953, will be £86 13s. 4d., but it will be raised to £346 13s. 4d. in respect of wages paid in October, 1953, and subsequent months. This means that the higher deduction will be allowable for the first time in the returns to be furnished early in November, 1953, in respect of October wages. For the financial year 1953-1954, the annual adjustment will be made on the basis of £3,380 for the year instead of £1,040, this figure being arrived at by taking the first three months at the old monthly allowance of £86 13s. 4d., and the remaining nine months at the new monthly rate of £346 13s. 4d. In subsequent financial years, the annual adjustment will be based on the full rate of £4,160 per annum.
As previously indicated by me, approximately 90,000 employers are at present liable to pay pay-roll tax. It is expected that the effect of the proposed increase of the statutory exemption will be to relieve approximately 50.000 of these employers from liability for pay-roll tax. This opportunity is also being taken to amend the law to authorize exemption from payroll tax in respect of wages paid by certain international authorities or organizations, namely, the Imperial War Graves Commission, specialized agencies of the United
Nations, the South Pacific Commission and the United States Educational Foundation in Australia. In anticipation of such an amendment, tax has not been collected from these bodies, and it is proposed, therefore, that the exemption shall ratify this arrangement.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir ARTHUR Fadden) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to repeal the acts of the Parliament relating to entertainments tax, and for purposes connected therewith.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is made evident by its title. It is designed to remove the entertainments tax on payments for admission to entertainments to be held on and after the 1st October, 1953. The tax was brought into force in 1942 as a means of raising revenue for war purposes. The amount of revenue gained from this source is relatively small, and there have been numerous complaints regarding the incidence of the tax over the period of its currency. Its application to functions conducted by clubs and other organizations for social purposes has caused considerable irritation. Its effect has been vexatious also in certain cases where entertainments genuinely held to raise money for charitable or public purposes have failed to comply with the prescribed condition of exemption that the expenses must not exceed 50 per cent, of the receipts. All honorable members will be aware of these cases. The amount of the tax, in. some instances, has served to increase the cost of admission to such an extent as to have an adverse effect on attendances. It has added greatly to the cost of entertainment for the family man.
In these circumstances, the Government takes pleasure in the abolition of the tax. The cost to revenue in a full year would be approximately £7,000,000. For the current financial vear, the estimated loss is £5,300,000.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned. 1
Motion (by Sir ARTHUR Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for un act to amend the Estate Duty Assessment Act 1014-1950 as amended by the Taxation Administration Act 1053.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move - That the bill be now read a second time.
The principal purpose of this bill is to increase the amount of the statutory exemption for estate duty purposes. At present, the law provides that, where the whole of the estate passes to the widow, the children or the grandchildren of the deceased, there shall be a deduction of £2,000, diminishing, as I shall indicate later, where the value of the estate exceeds that amount. The provision for deduction of this amount has been in force since 1940. It is proposed now to increase the deduction in such cases to £5,000, having regard to the fact that abnormal increases in values of property since 1940 have had the effect of bringing within the scope of the duty numerous small estates which otherwise would not have been dutiable. These include estates in which the principal or the only asset is a modest family home. In some such cases, the raising of money to meet the liability for duty has presented serious difficulty. The increase to £5,000 will serve to adjust the amount of exemption to a level more in keeping with the intention of the legislation that such small estates shall be excluded from liability.
In cases where no part of the estate passes to the widow, children or grandchildren of the deceased, the law at present allows a statutory deduction of £1,000, which also diminishes, as I shall indicate later, according to the value of the estate. The bill increases this amount to £2,500. Where the estate passes partly to the widow, children or grandchildren of the deceased and partly to other persons or institutions, a proportionate allowance is made.
In all cases where the value of the estate exceeds the amount of the statutory deduction, the amount of the deduction diminishes in accordance with a prescribed formula. At present, the statutory exemption of £2,000 decreases by £1 for every £10 by which the value exceeds £2,000 up to a value of £10,000, and thereafter the deduction decreases by £1 for every £2 by which the value exceeds £10,000. Under this formula, no exemption is allowable where the value of the estate is £12,400 or more. On the other hand, the lower statutory exemption of £1,000, applicable where the estate does not pass to a widow, children or grandchildren of the deceased, diminishes at present at the rate of £J for every £10 by which the value of the estate exceeds £1,000 up to a value of £6,000, and thereafter at the rate of £1 for every £8 by which that value exceeds £6,000. In such cases, the exemption vanishes when the value of the estate is £10.000 or more.
If the present rates of diminution of the exemption continued to apply to the new increased statutory exemptions, the results would be anomalous. The exemption of £5,000 would be exhausted when the value of the estate amounted to £19,000, and the £2,500 exemption would vanish at £23,200. This effect would be contrary to the long-established principle of giving more favorable treatment when the estate passes to a widow, children or grand-children. Therefore, it is proposed to provide that, in all cases, the amount of the statutory exemption shall diminish by £1 for every £3 of the excess value of the estate. The effect of this provision will be that, if the whole of the estate passes to a widow, children or grandchildren, the statutory exemption will cease to apply when the value of the estate reaches £20,000. In cases where no part of the estate passes to a widow, children or grandchildren, the exemption will vanish at £10,000. The higher statutory exemptions will apply to the estates of persons who die on or after the date on which the amending bill .receives the royal assent.
Advantage is being taken of this opportunity to authorize the allowance, in respect of the estates of persons who die on war service in Korea or Malaya, or as a result of injuries ‘sustained or disease contracted during such service, of the special deduction of £5,000 already provided for in respect of the estates of persons who die on or as the result of service in the second world war. This deduction, which is of the fixed amount of £5,000, without diminution according to the value of the estate, is granted by section 9 of the Estate Duty Assessment Act. The deduction is allowable in respect of so much of the estate as passes to the widow, children, grandchildren, parents, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces of the deceased. This deduction is separate and distinct from the statutory exemption which I have already discussed. The special war service deduction is made before applying the provisions of the law relating to the statutory exemption.
In cases where death occurs after the termination of war service, but is caused by that service, the allowance is made where death so occurs within three years after the termination of that service. It iti proposed that the amendment to authorize this allowance shall be deemed to have commenced on the 27th June. 1950, which was the date of commencement of Korean war service. The allowance has, in fact, been so applied in anticipation of the necessary amendment of (the law.
The cost to the revenue of the foregoing amendments is estimated to be £430,000 on an annual basis, and £80,000 for the current financial year. The relatively low cost for the current year is due to the lag in the lodgment of estate duty returns. These are not due for lodgment, until three months after the death of the deceased.
Debate (on motion by Mr. CALWELL adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Go vernor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill foran Act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund sums for the purpose of financial assistance to the States.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Sir ArthurFadden and Mr. McMahon do prepare and bring in a hill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthurfadden, and read a first time.
Sir ARTHURFADDEN (McPherson-
Treasurer) [11.42]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment to the States of a special financial assistance grant in 1953-54 to supplement the amount payable under the formula embodied in the existingtax reimbursement legislation. The precise amount payable to the States in 1953-54 under the formula will not beknown until later in the year. It is estimated, however,that the formula grant will be approximately £120,549,000. The need of the States for a grant to supplement the amount payable in1953-54 under the tax reimbursement formula was discussed at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held last month. During that discussion theCommonwealthoffered tomake a supplemen- tary grant sufficient to bring the total tax reimbursement payments for 1953-54 toto£ 142,000,000. In making this offerthe Commonwealth indicated thatallowance had been made for the fact that it is not proposed in 1953-54 to make a separate grant to reimburse the Statesfor the cost of their controls over prices and rents. As the amount payable under the tax reimbursement formula is estimated at £.120,549,000, this offer involved a special financial assistance grant of approximately £21,451,000.
The Premiers ‘were invited to indicate the manner inwhich they considered that the special financial assistance grant should he distributed among the States.
The Premiers did not reach agreement on this aspect although a majority of them favoured distribution of the grant among the States in the same way as the formula grant. Finally, the Commonwealth proposed, andthe Premiers agreed, that the amount of approximately £21.431,000 should be distributed in the same proportions as the formula grant, but that an additional amount, estimated at £419,000, should be paid to Victoria to give that State a total amount of £35,000,000, and that a further amount of £40,000 should be paid to Tasmania. With these additional amounts Victoria and Tasmania will receive this year approximately the same proportions of the special financial assistance grant as they received last year.
Mr.Calwell. -Not enough.
– -It never is. There is not enough money in , the world for that.
The effect of these additional payments is to increase the special financial assistance grant to approximately £.21,910.000 and the total tax reimbursement payments in 1953-54 to approximately £142,459,000 or £6,559,000 more than last year. The total payments which, it is estimated, will be made to each State in 1953-54 as a result of this legislation are compared with the total payments made to each State last year in a table which, with the consent of the Mouse, I shall incorporate in Mansard.
– I should like to have a look at the statement first.
– The Opposition is agreeable to itsincorparation.
1 commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate .(on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 9th September (vide page 21), on motion by Mr. McEwen=-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As this is a very important bill I hope that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), who is in charge of it, will be present, or, at least, available, during the debute, because valuable suggestions may emanate from the speeches made on the bill. I am glad that the Minister has now entered the chamber- This is the third lime that we have had this problem before i.m during the last fifteen or sixteen months. J. consider that it is important (o understand the situation, and to ascertain whether action already taken by Australia can bo improved upon in this third attempt,. I think that all honorable members agree o.n the necessity for strict control and regulation of the pearl fishing industry, and for that purpose we arc also agreed Ou the need for the control of the wm tars affected round the coast of Australia anc! the Territory of Papua and -New Guinea, The be3t way to emphasize the importance of this -industry and thu need for action by the. Australian Parliament and -Government is to .refer first to a short statement in the Minister’s second-reading speech. He .said -
It will be recalled that the Japanese entered the -area to the north of Australia in the year 1935, yet by 1040 had taken somewhere about 12,000 tons’ from tho area. This uncontrolled fishing and marketing was responsible, in large part, for -the serious economic difficulties that faced the. Australian industry pre-war, and which necessitated subsidies and other assistance by the Australian Government.
So. Ave -knew .perfectly what the situation w;;s, from the economic .point-of view, before the wai;. But there w.as a wy much m ore important, pr at least, equally important aspect. That was the .aspect of defence .security,. Prior to the last war, and during the war, it was estab lished beyond doubt, .in such matters as the Larrakia case, that Japanese fishermen in Australian waters, thousands of miles -from their homeland, were becoming systematically acquainted with all the waters surrounding Australia and its territories. When war finally came, because of the aggression of Japan, the supreme commanders’ in this part of the world caused all Japanese nationals who could be found to be detained. General MacArthur himself averred that it was most dangerous that such persons should, return to their homeland during a period of hostilities, even though they were civilians, because of the fear that they had been successfully engaged in espionage.
Now let us consider what has happened recently. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has told the House quite frankly that while the Austraiian Government was attempting to negotiate an agreement, as it was hound to do, the Japanese took the law into their own hands and extended their fishing operations to an area that had been prohibited by the Australian Government. That was an area in which they were interfering with Australians who were carrying on our own fishing industry. Then the Japanese announced that they intended to continue their activities in this area. If they do so, then Australian pearlers will be reduced to relatively small catches. I suggest that that action of the Japanese was an open and .flagrant defiance of the .obligations that .rest -on countries which are trying to reach an agreement- as the Australian Government was doing. I believe that tie whole matter can be sufficiently »well summed up by saying that although a restricted to’nnage of .shell was being strongly insisted upon .by the Australian Government, the Japanese expressed their intention of ignoring their obligations and went into a forbidden area to take a much greater tonnage. -Consequently, it is obvious that our pearling industry is threatened.
Now what is to be done about this matter? It seems to me, with the greatest respect to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, that the situation has been badly fumbled. For instance, the
Japanese could not have resisted a clause being placed in the peace treaty to oblige them not to fish in Australian waters unless an agreement had been reached with the Australian Government, If that had been done, the Government would not have been put into its present position. It would have been able easily co prevent the Japanese from fishing in these waters which are so far from their own shores, unless some agreement had been made. Japan is a defeated country, but the arrogant attitude of the Japanese would lead us to believe that it was victorious. Japan was vanquished, and could have been forced to agree to a clause such as I have mentioned being inserted in the peace treaty, [n the 1930’s, when a whaling expedition was undertaken by the Japanese Government, their whalers, according to al! official- reports, broke every agreement designed to conserve whales in the Antarctic. Therefore, everybody knew the attitude of the Japanese towards fishing agreements. Of course, only a section of the Japanese industry may be involved, but we must learn the lessons of experience. A relevant clause in the peace treaty reads as follows: -
Japan will enter directly into negotiations with allied Powers so desiring for the conclusion of agreements provided for the regulation or limitation of fishing and the conservation or development of fisheries on the high naas.
According to that clause the Japanese are obliged to enter into negotiations, but they comply with the clause when they merely enter upon such negotiations. They do not have to arrive at a decision. I understand that the United States of America and Canada were not content with such a clause about their own fisheries, but obtained a firm agreement with the Japanese Government which defined the area in which the Japanese would be permitted to fish, the size of the catch and so on. “We did not do that. Of course, when the Japanese peace treaty was negotiated the matter was dealt with by the Minister for External- Affairs (Mr. Casey), and not the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but obviously a blunder was made.
Let us now consider what should be done about these matters. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has placed certain legislation before the Parliament. The power of the Parliament to past legislation is expressed as power to make laws with regard to fisheries in Australian waters beyond territorial limits. Therefore, the courts of Australia will enforce all legislation which deals’ with fisheries in Australian waters beyond territorial limits. One w.ould think that that power, first assumed in 1901, might be queried by international lawyers today, hut we have to remember that beforefederation a body existed in Australia composed of representatives of New Zealand and some of the States of Australia., which was called the Federal Council of Australia. In 1888 that council i sassed a motion to regulate pearl shell and beche-de-mer fisheries in Australian waters, and the relevant clause is set out in pages 570 and 571 of the leading text-hook written by the late Sir John Quick and Sir Robert Garran. Thipreamble to the resolution reads, inter alia -
Vessels employed in such fisheries arc in prosecution of their business sometimes beyond the territorial jurisdiction of Queensland.
Therefore, the conservation of fisheries is not a new matter, although the Japanese aspect of it is comparatively new, dating back only to the mid ‘thirties. Turning to the bill, we see that the main amendment is contained iri clause 3. I ask the Minister to give- special attention to my remarks about it. Section 5 of the principal act will be amended by omitting the definition of “Australian waters “, and inserting in its stead, among others, the following definitions : - (a.) Australian waters beyond territorial limits;
The measure then attempts to give express power in waters above the continental shelf which surrounds so rauch of Australia and its territories. I presume that the object of that is to avoid any chance of Janan claiming before som? international tribunal that we have gone beyond our powers, internationally, in legislating- in respect of waters outside the continental shelf. There is no absolute rule on this point in international law. Once it was thought that die territorial limit over which a country exercised, jurisdiction extended for 3 miles from the coast. Later, as artillery range increased, the limit was accepted as the range of gunfire from the coast. Later, the more common-sense view prevailed chat it included waters outside the socalled territorial limits of 3 miles.
– No limit has yet been fixed.
– That is so. The idea nf the continental shelf would probably bass muster in the international court. However, as I reminded the Minister yesterday, that is not the sole measure of our jurisdiction. The danger of the limiting of jurisdiction to the continental shelf is that, should a dispute arise, there will be protracted argument, long delays, inconvenience and defiance of the law until it is shown precisely where the fishing operations had taken place or where the vessel proceeded to go immediately after the fishing operations had been completed. It would have been vi:rj much simpler to have made this legislation apply to all Australian waters. Australian waters obviously include the high sea3 but the term “Australian waters “ has not unlimited application. Reasonable limitation must be given to it. But what limits should be prescribed? Australia is very closely linked with New Guinea. Only a narrow strait separates the two countries. The territorial waters of New Guinea,, which includes Papua and the trust territory of New Guinea, must be regarded as Australian waters. They extend to the Admiralty Islands, which are close to the equator. Our power must be exercised in the widest possible way. That, however, still leaves the practical problem unsolved. Judging by the conduct of the Japanese negotiators one would think that the Australian Government, would have refused to permit the Japanese to fish in Australian waters after Australia’s authority had been defined. But that is not the intention of the bill. The hill intends that the Japanese should still bc permitted to fish in Australian waters subject to the provisions of a licensing system. The danger in such an arrangement is that it may lead to evasion and lack of enforcement of the law, and even if the law is enforced, to the possibility of interminable litigation.
That brings me to the ultimate issue in this matter, which is whether or not the Japanese should be permitted to engage in pearl fishing in waters under our control. Our own fishing industry is struggling and, as the Minister has frankly admitted, its future is threatened. In these circumstancse is it not right that the Government should seriously consider whether the development of fishing in waters under our control should not be confined to the Australian industry? That could not be done by international law unless Japan agreed, and unfortunately the Japanese will not only not agree to such a proposition, but also have refused to complete, the negotiations for an agreement on the matter. We could achieve that objective by taking the power in the bill to prohibit fishing in certain areas, say, within the area of the continental shelf, for a period on terms and conditions. Such an action may bring about a complete change in the attitude of the Japanese.- However, a dog-in-the-manger policy is not a good policy. We should not look for a multiplication of causes of difference with the Japanese, but. we must protect our own industry. Unless such protection is afforded to the Australian industry in a definite way by the Government this legislation will fail just as the previous legislation has failed. We have failed, not because we have not suitably amended our legislation, but because of the intransigent attitude of the Japanese and the fact that the Government believes that it will be safer, internationally, to limit the jurisdiction of Australia to the continental shelf. As the Minister has pointed out, the continental shelf is not confined to a narrow area. In some parts of Australia it extends over a very wide area. Indeed, it joins the continental shelf of portions of New Guinea and Indonesia. Power is taken in the bill for the Governor-General to declare the area of the continental shelf which appertains to Australia.
It is true, as the Minister has said, that there are waters adjacent to our coasts the depth of which is far greater than the area which defines the continental shelf. In some places the depth extends well below 100 fathoms. Yet they may clearly be referred to as the continental shelf which in some instances surrounds these deep channels which extend for many miles. Instead of providing that such areas form part of the continental shelf for the purposes of this bill the Governor-General is to be given power to proclaim that the submarine area shall be deemed to be part of the continental shelf. The Japanese may fish in an area and say, “ This is not a part of the continental shelf because the depth of water here is .1.22 fathoms. You have no jurisdiction over the- area in which we are fishing “. It would bepractically impossible for the GovernorGeneral to define such areas. They must be regarded as part of Australian waters. I do not believe that any international court would listen to arguments that Australia has no jurisdiction over them. I am merely illustrating the difficulties and evasions that may occur.
The Opposition supports the bill but desires to strengthen it. It asks that consideration be given to the matters I have outlined because, in the long run, it will not be entirely satisfactory for the Minister to push the bill through the Parliament without considering them. The Governor-General’s power to proclaim areas as part of the continental shelf should be amended to cover waters of that character. Unless they are proclaimed to form part of the continental shelf innumerable difficulties will arise relative to whether or not certain waters are within or beyond the jurisdiction of Aus. tralia.
– The right honorable gentleman realizes that pearl shell is not. found on the sea bed below 100 fathoms?
– I understand that that is not the extreme limit. Why is not’ power to be given to the Governor-General to declare that waters below a depth of 100 fathoms shall be part of the continental shelf? The owners of a Japanese ship may break the Australian law concerning the continental shelf proper on the ground that the area in which they are fishing is in excess of 100 fathoms. The Japanese may be fishing in the deeper channels. If the vessel is seized the
Japanese fishermen may defend their actions on the ground that they were not engaged iti a prohibited area at the time when the ship was seized.
– The provision that the Minister may proclaim Australian waters and that such proclamation shall be evidence before a court is designed to meet the very situation that the right honorable gentleman has illustrated.
– A more general definition should be included in the bill. Having regard to what has happened recently when negotiations with the Japanese were terminated arbitrarily as a result of Japanese action, there is doubt whether the Minister can be reasonably sure that the licensing system will be obeyed by the Japanese. We should take power to prohibit fishing in certain areas for a period specified by the Government.
– I am sure that that could be done.
– It probably could be done, but not under the law as it is at present enacted.
– Under section’ 9 of the principal act the Minister, by notice published in the Gazette, may prohibit, either at all times or during a period specified in the notice, the taking from proclaimed waters or from an area of proclaimed waters, of pearl shell, trochus, bec-he-de-mer or green snail. That provision should meet the objection raised by tho Leader of the Opposition.
– Not at all. I am speaking df a prohibition to be applied to certain groups of people. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) has referred to a section which deals with the prohibition of the taking of pearl shell from certain areas. I am referring to a different question altogether. The Japanese may be given a licence to fish in certain areas on certain terms. I suggest that we should take power to prohibit and not to license fishing in certain areas. If the Government sought to take action under the section to which the Minister for the Navy has referred, the Japanese would say, “ This is not a prohibition on the taking of shell but a prohibition’ imposed to prevent certain people’ from taking it’ “.
– I assure the right honorable member that if the law does not permit us to take the action he has suggested it will he altered to enable us to do so before the bill is finally passed through the Parliament. I have been advised that by the form of the licence and by the prescription of the class of persons to whom the licence is issued the situation envisaged by the right honorable gentleman can be dealt with.
– A licence is a document of authority to do something, not a prohibition against the doing of it. I am speaking of the prohibition for a period of the practice of Japanese pearling fleets coming to Australia.
– Has the right honorable member a general prohibition in mind?
– Such a prohibition may have to be exercised for a period and be relaxed or insisted upon according to the state of the Australian industry. Section 9 contains no such power. We should take power to prohibit the fishing for pearl shell in any Australian waters which would be applicable to everybody. There has been on the part of the Japanese a defiance in substance of the moral rights of Australia of a kind never previously witnessed “anywhere in the world. The Japanese pearling fleet is fishing at a great distance from its homeland and it is acting in this defiant, unfair and most ungenerous way notwithstanding the generous treatment- which the Japanese have received from the Australian Government. Imagine how Australian fishermen would fare if they attempted to fish in waters within 5 or 10 miles of Japan ! We know that such fishing would not be permitted. ‘ In a sense the Japanese are here only as invitees of Australia.
– As intruders !
– They would he intruders but for the fact that they have- been permitted’ to come here. I appeal to the Government to take power in this bill to prohibit fishing in certain areas. In making these comments my sole desire is to strengthen the legislation. I realize, from the tone of the Minister, that he is most indignant at the way in which the Japanese treated the negotiations at a crucial stage. The Government must have power to take the kind of action to which I have referred. Such power is not conferred under section 9 of the principal act and, in the circumstances, the Government will be well advised to take the necessary authority.
– Has the Leader of the Opposition examined section 10 (6.) of the principal act?
– That section relates to licences and registration.
– A person who is’ not, granted a licence is prohibited from fishing.
– He may be. I have been speaking of a general power to stop these vessels from coming into Australian waters, or the area of the continental shelf. I do not think that the Government possesses that power. If the Government is content with its existing powers, I consider that it is taking another risk. This bill is the third attempt on the part of the Government in eighteen months to deal with this situation. Let us make the bill strong so that the Government will be able to exercise the power that it requires. This Parliament possesses great constitutional power in matters of this kind. Let us make the legislative power of the Parliament correlative with the constitutional power. At any rate, that is the Opposition’s view. This bill is important, and the situation justifies the fears and forebodings that were expressed by many people during the negotiations on the peace treaty with Japan. My supporters and I are not opposed to this legislation, but we should like it to be strengthened. It may be strengthened if a little more time and thought are given to the situation by the Parliamentary Draftsman. I repeat that this bill is the third attempt by thE Government in the last eighteen months to deal with the situation. I admit that it is not easy to draft such legislation, and the Labour party desires to help Australia by suggesting to the Government what should be done to strengthen the bill.
– The Government was gratified when the Leader of the Opposition^ (Dr. Evatt) announced that he and his supporters, in all matters of principle, agreed with the action that we have taken in this matter. Some slight differences of opinion exist between us about the effect of the bill, and whether or not it is desirable to widen its scope. Before I discuss the principles of the bill itself, may I deal with some of the criticisms . of the right honorable gentleman? He claimed that the whole matter was fumbled by this Government, because it had not taken action to have incorporated in the Japanese peace treaty a clause which would have prevented Japanese from fishing in Australian waters. I should like to make this matter perfectly clear, because I felt that the Leader of the Opposition may have known a little about the actual course of the negotiations during the last three months. The truth of the matter was that we tried to have specific clauses inserted in the peace agreement, but neither we nor our friends and allies were able to do so.
– Some of our allies had an agreement before finality was reached on the peace treaty with Japan.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has put his foot in it, and will not be able to extricate himself from his predicament. [ welcome his interjection. Long before the peace treaty was signed, the Chifley Labour Government could have conducted the necessary negotiations at the same time as the United States of America and Canada raised the matter with Japan. The Labour Government missed the opportunity to do so.
– That is a lot of rubbish.
– I knew that the honorable member for East Sydney would put his foot in it if he were given a chance to do so. I make it clear to the House that this Government tried, to the limit of its ability, to have inserted in the peace treaty with Japan a clause restricting the rights of Japanese to fish in Australian waters. However, we could not obtain the approval of our allies and friends in that matter, and, consequently, it had to be dropped. It is true that prior to the drafting of the peace treaty, the Governments of the United States of America and Canada came to an agreement on the matter with the Japanese Government. However, those arrangements were made before the Menzies Government assumed office. The Chifley Labour Government, had it wished to take action to obtain a separate agreement with Japan, doubtless could have tried to do so. I do not know. I do not offer an opinion about whether or not action by the Australian Government at that time would have been successful; but I do say that the impression created by the Leader of the Opposition that the Menzies Government has fumbled its opportunities in this matter are proved false by the facts. If any fumbling occurred, the Chifley Government was responsible.
Another matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition was the problem of defence security. The right honorable gentleman said that, in the past, the Japanese had treated these fishing excursions into Australian waters as opportunities to become acquainted systematically with Australian territory. That may have been true. I offer no opinion about it. But, speaking as the Minister for the Navy and the Minister for Air, I do say that once licensing has been introduced we can keep any fishing fleet under more or less constant surveillance in areas that will now become Australian waters and which are covered by the licence. I say quite positively that we have known exactly where a Japanese expedition has been fishing recently, and we have, on occasions, detected them slipping outside the proclaimed or agreed area, and have, got them to return to their agreed fishing grounds. The Navy and the Air Force have kept the Department of Commerce and Agriculture constantly supplied with intelligence about the activities of the Japanese, and I think that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is deeply gratified to those two services for their splendid efforts.
The Leader of the Opposition has questioned our power to prohibit persons, whether they be Australians or foreigners, from fishing in Australian waters. He has also asked whether we can exclude persons from Australian territorial waters, and has discussed the power to insert restrictive clauses in licences that may be issued under the principal act. I point out, in reply to the right honorable gentleman, that the Government, as advised by its law officers on this matter, feels quite confident that it will be able, under this legislation, to prohibit Australians or foreigners from fishing for certain kinds of shell in Australian waters. Such power is conferred on the Government by section 9 of the principal act. Section 10 of that act provides that licences may be issued to persons who apply for them for the purposes of fishing. Section 10 (5.) of the principal act empowers the Government to prescribe the conditions that it considers desirable before it grants a licence to an applicant. I say to the House, in clear and positive terms, that it does not appear at the present time that we should take any wider powers unless we are prepared to tell foreigners that they shall not sail their ships in Australian waters because they might carry on fishing operations. T put it to the Leader of the Opposition that we have the right under section 9 of the principal act to prohibit either at ail times or during a specified period the taking from proclaimed waters of pear shell, trochus, beche-de-mer and green snail.
Under section 10 of the principal act, fi licence may be issued with such restrictive provisions as the Government deems fit. Therefore, I claim, in respect of the two major matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition, that he has either failed to read, or failed to understand, the act and the bill now before the House. However, the Opposition is in agreement with the general principles of the Government’s proposal. The Leader of the Opposition has made that pronouncement in clear and precise terms. The right honorable gentleman has .raised two or three small issues for consideration. I contend that all his objections are effectively covered by the act and the amending bill. The Government believes that this legislation is required so that we shall be able to control sedentary fishing in Australian waters. I remind the House that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has always shown in the past a disposition to listen to criticism, and to watch events closely. When he, in his wisdom, has considered that an amendment has been desirable, he has been the first to admit the fact. So, I am certain that, if by any mischance opportunities for the evasion of this legislation were detected, the Minister would say, “ Let us examine the situation in the light of the new events “. If it then became necessary to introduce amending legislation to deal with the situation, this Government would be only too happy to take the requisite action.
I have dealt in externa with the arguments advanced by the Leader of tinOpposition. I wish now to discuss the provisions of the bill. This measure has ompurpose, and one purpose only, and tha; is the conservation of Australia’s natural resources either within Australian water.or in waters which we believe are so close to us that we-have a right to protect the natural resources within that area. Thi* bill is a conservation measure, and we believe that we have a duty to protect our natural resources in the interests of the Australian people and, indeed, in the interests of most of the people in the world. Previously, the Government wai* of the opinion that it would control Australians who were fishing in those waters, but we felt that, as the first step, it wa.not wise to take arbitrary action against the Japanese. We considered that wv should give the Japanese an opportunity to come to an agreement with us, with a view to restricting their rights to fish for sedentary shell off the Australian coast. Most honorable members will agree that it would have been far better for us to have come to an agreement with the Japanese Government on the matter, so that we could have prohibited or restricted the activities of Japanese fishermen in Australian waters. The Government had every right to think that the negotiation? into which it entered with the Japanese Government would be successful, because the Minister had been able to persuade the Japanese Government earlier to fall in with whatever suggestions had been made by or on behalf of ‘ the Australian Government.
I think that most sensible people will agree that the proper procedure to follow initially was to restrict the fishing of Australians - to discriminate agains? them, it is true - and to try to reach an agreement with the Japanese Government about the restrictions that should hr- imposed. Now, the Australian Government has found that it cannot come to an agreement with the Japanese Government mid, therefore, it is prepared to apply exactly the same restrictions and conditions to Japanese fishermen as are applied to Australian fishermen in these waters. We have tried the means of conciliation and compromise but we have failed, and so we are now prepared to place on the statute-book legislation that will mean non-discrimination among Australian and foreign fishermen alike. On each occasion when an application is made for a licence to fish, the matter will be dealt with on its merits and in a nondiscriminatory fashion as between Australians and foreigners. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in his secondreading speech, used these eloquent and crucial words in reference to the purpose nf the bill-
A formal assertion of the sovereignty over the Australian continental shelf will be made.
We shall assert our sovereignty and, if necessary, undertake restrictive or prohibitive action to prevent the unnecessary exploitation of Australian natural resources. 1 shall now deal briefly with the history of these matters. Most honorable members will agree that from 1935 to 1940 the activities of Japanese fishermen themselves showed that some restraints must be. imposed upon their exploitation of the resources, because in a matter of five years, they so exploited certain beds to tho north of Australia as to denude them of shell of various kinds. The government of the day,” and succeeding governments, considered that the maximum exploitation should be at the rate’ of approximately 2,000 tons of shell a year. However^ the Japanese took 3,000 tons or an even greater tonnage year after year, and the beds to which I refer were denuded of sedentary fish. The Japanese themselves agreed that the results of such denudation could not be replaced within a reasonable time, and certainly not within a period of five years. Thus, prior to 1939, the Australian Government had good reason to conclude that restrictions must be imposed on sedentary fishing. During the war years, the sedentary fish - trochus, pearl shell, green snails, and so forth - were partially replenished. Never- theless this Government was fully conscious of the fact that, with unrestricted! exploitation, these beds would once again be denuded to the detriment of Australia. The action of the Japanese fishermen has provided ample proof, if any wereneeded, that unrestricted exploitation can take place. Although it was agreed that’ Japanese fishing crews should operatein an area of 900 square miles 35 milesnorthwest of Bathurst Island, they sothoroughly fished out that area that they moved to within coo-ee distance of Bathurst Island. This has demonstrated that restrictions must beimposed upon their fishing rights if thebeds are to be preserved and Australia’s natural resources are to be properly conserved. The Minister for Commerceand Agriculture has handled this matter in a conciliatory fashion. Although he has been unsuccessful, his conduct has been in accordance with the best traditions of the Australian Parliament.
The pearl shell industry is extremely important to the Australian people. Pearl shell can be sold to-day for £670 or £700 a ton. The Japanese agreed that they would take about 1,250 tons a year,, which would be worth about £850,000 in Australian currency. Pearl shell is sold mainly in the United States of America, and therefore it is a good dollar-earner. Before World War II., Australian fishermen were able to operate on many of thesepearl shell beds, and they removed about 1,200 tons of shell annually. Obviously, from the Australian point of view, the pearl shell industry is of first-class importance and must be preserved. We have a double duty to ourselves to protect the industry. Fir-st. the Government has. a duty to preserve Australian assets.. Secondly, it has a duty to ensure that an Australian industry shall not be destroyed as a result of its overexploitation by foreigners operating near our shores. That is why I declare that the Government has ample justification for initiating the action that it proposes to take under the terms of this bill. Furthermore, I believe that such action will be in the interests of Japan as well as of Australia. It should be taken immediately.
What will, the bill achieve? It prescribes certain waters as “ Australian waters “. This is not a novelty. The United States of America, for example, has declared that all waters lying over its continental shelf are United States waters. Those waters, under the terms of a special proclamation, are subject to certain restrictions imposed by the Government of the United States of America. Recently an international law commission issued a report entitled “ The Regime of the High Seas “, in which the commission recommended that the continental shelf, which it defined as an area extending from the mainland of any country to a point where the sea-bed reached a depth of 200 metres - not 100 fathoms, as in this bill - should be declared to be within the jurisdiction of the neighbouring State. The Government does not intend to go so far as the commission has recommended. It has decided, in its wisdom, that it will proclaim the continental shelf to be the area adjacent to our shores up to the distance at which the depth increases to 100 fathoms. That is consonant not only with the practice adopted by the United States of America, but also with the recommendations of the international commission. Many countries in the past have permitted the fishermen of other nations to operate over the continental shelfs adjacent to their shores, but most of them have imposed restrictions of various kinds on the size of catches.
I do not regard international law as being static, and I am sure that the Leader ofthe Opposition is in agreement with me on this point. It would be wrong to hold the view that a statement of international law, once it had been decided, must remain on the international statute books for ever and a day.We believe that international law is constantly evolving and that, if it should be in the vital interests of the Australian people to alter the scope of that law, such an alteration should be made. That is my personal belief, and I think it represents the unanimous view of my colleagues. What is international law, after all? It represents an agreement based upon common sense, an agreement that has the consent of large numbers of people, that certain rules should apply in the international field. The Government considers that . most nations will agree with the policy of con trolling operations over the continental shelf adjacent to the mainland of any country. The Government has embarked upon a course of action that has been sanctioned by practice and that is based upon sound common sense. As a matter of personal reminiscence, I mention that, when I was in Japan about six months ago, I discussed the difficult question of international law with the Premier of that country, Mr. Yoshida, who agreed with me that in no circumstances should the lawyers be permitted to determine for all time the form that international law. should take. He said that wisdom and common sense might well dictate amendments of international law from time to time, and that the parliaments of the nations concerned should decide what amendments should be made. Mr. Yoshida was not discussing the subject of fisheries at that time, but was referring to the general principle of amending international law.
To what kind of activity does this measure relate? The Government has designed the bill for the purpose of dealing with what are called sedentary fish. These, in general terms, are the fish that grow on the sea floor and the resources that lie underneath the sea floor. The Government is not contemplating action in relation to swimming fish, such as sharks, bream and whiting. Such fish, if they happen to enter Australian waters, of course, may be taken in certain circumstances. What the Government is trying to do is to preserve what it considers to be the natural resources of the Australian people in the form of sedentary, or immoveable, fish that lie on the sea bottom and the resources that lie beneath the sea-bed itself. I have been interested in this matter ever since the subject was first raised in this Parliament. I believethat it involves certain vital interests of the Australian people. Australia has certain vital defence interests, which this Government has striven energetically to safeguard. The former Labour Government failed to display such a close interest in these matters. I do not wish to discuss the subject in boo much detail, but I emphasize the fact that these special interests are being constantly considered by the Government, and especially by the defence authorities.
Equally important with our defence interests, and the way in which they may be affected by the conduct of northern countries, are our internal and external resources, which the Government lias a solemn duty to protect. We take the trouble to control the rate of exploitation to our coal resources. We take the trouble to ensure that our forests shall not be too rapidly denuded by our citizens. Will anybody in his senses argue that the Government has not an equal right to protect our resources on the con.tinental shelf adjacent to Australia?- I personally believe that we have a duty no do so. The Government has faced up to that duty in a realistic fashion, and it has proceeded wisely in this instance. I am convinced that it has complete powers of prohibition and restriction in relation to foreigners in the waters that lie above the continental shelf. Should experience prove that precautions’ additional to those for which this bill provides should be applied in order to protect Australia’s vital economic interests, this Government will be happy to take such action as may be necessary.
– I shall suspend the fitting until 2.30 p.m. in order to enable honorable members to hear and question Mr. Duncan Sandys in the dining-room it 1.50 p.m. if they wish to do so.
Sitting suspended from 12. J/1 to 3.80 p.m.
.- During a debate which took place in this Parliament in the course of the last sessional period the Minister for the Navy (“Mr. McMahon) was warned that he’ must not lightly accept any undertakings given so him by the Japanese. The Minister was reminded of the history of the association of the Japanese with the pearling industry in Western Australia over a number of years and an appeal was made to him to tighten the laws against them in order to achieve some proper control of an industry that is of great value to Western Australia. Apparently the Minister has found that these warnings were fully justified because he now seeks to extend the boundaries of what is termed, in this legislation, the continental shelf of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), whose knowledge of international law is respected, not only in Australia but throughout the world, has expressed some doubt concerning the drafting of this legislation and concerning the competency of the Government togive effect to it. My concern and the concern of the people of the north is that the activities of the Japanese pearling fleet should be placed under proper control once and for all. I doubt whether this legislation will provide the necessary protection for the industry. In the course of his discussion of the measure the Leader of the Opposition offered some very sound advice to the Government. I sincerely hope that what he said will be fully and thoroughly investigated. The Leader of the Opposition stated that the Opposition did not intend to oppose the legislation, but expressed grave doubt as to whether it would deal with the situation adequately.
Those who know the history of the pearling industry are aware of the extent to which valuable pearl beds have been exploited indiscriminately, year after year. In addition to exploiting the pearl beds the Japanese engaged in that work have gained a knowledge of this country that should not have been accessible to them. A.s the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and I pointed out last year, the Japanese have been able to infiltrate inland into northwestern Australia and many of them have become more conversant with the intricacies of the north-western coastline than are our own people. That was found to be a. fact during World War II. A few months after being elected to this Parliament I attended a function arranged by the then Ambassador of Japan. I recognized his private secretary as a Japanese who had been employed on the north-west coast of Australia’ for years. I reported this fact to the then Minister for the Army, now Sir Percy Spender, and the then Leader of the Opposition, the late Mr. John Curtin, suggested to the Minister that a. conference should be held concerning developments on the north-west coast of Australia.
This is not the easy, little problem that some honorable members may imagine it to be, and the Japanese are not as innocent as many people in this country believe them to be. No other country has a. right to the secrets of this country without the consent of the Government. I am prepared to give every assistance to the Government in drafting legislation that will solve the problem of how to police this important industry and stop indiscriminate infiltration by the Japanese. I cannot accept the contention that international law is so complicated that legislation cannot be drafted for the purpose of protecting our own country as we should wish. I consider that such legislation could be drafted. I am aware of many of the international complications which exist and I do not wish to make statements that may embarrass the Commonwealth. But we cannot stand idly by without tackling this problem in a sane and just way. We do not want the Japanese in Australia. If we allow them indiscriminately to exploit our pearling beds our own people will have to go farther afield in order to get supplies of pearl shell.
I know that a few people in the pearling industry would welcome Japanese labour. They have told me that they cannot get any one who will do the job of pearling as well as the Japanese. I do not believe that is so. I do not believe that, over the years, we have really tried to make a success of pearl fishing. I believe there are people in Australia to-day who could become as efficient as the Japanese in this industry if we gave to their training the attention that we should give to it. I say, with due respect to the Government and to the proposed legislation, that in this matter I do not feel ‘the degree of ‘ confidence that I should like to feel,- The Minister for the Navy has said that the regulations can be policed properly bv the Royal Australian Navy. I hope that he is right. T hone also that, when decisions are made to prosecute people for overstepping the new boundaries, we shall be able to enforce those decisions and keen those people out of territory into which they have been forbidden to enter.
Mr. FAIRHALL (Paterson) r2.41”. - “We should do well to address ourselves to this measure with some degree of urgency, because, while the debate is proceeding, the Japanese, exploiting the superior equipment of their government-sponsored pearling fleet, are. already stripping pearl beds near Darwin which were discovered by Australians and which have been worked on a reasonable basis by our own pearl fishers for 70 or 80 years. The importance of the industry cannot be overstated. From Onslow on the west coast to Torres Strait and down the coast of Queensland lie rich pearl shell beds. They lie on what is, in fact, Australia’.continental shelf. Unlike ordinary fishing grounds, pearl beds must be worked in such a fashion as to ensure that they will be conserved. If they are overfished, the will be destroyed. They were overfished by the people who, by this legislation, we are attempting now to bring under control. The pearl beds, conserved as they have been by Australian pearlers for many years, will produce a constant annual harvest. That is what they have been doing. The pearling industry make.-‘ a great contribution to the development and the population of the northern part of Australia. In terms of employment offered and of returns- from production, the industry is exceeded in importance only by the pastoral industry and thimining industry. Important centres on the northern coast of Australia such as Broome and Thursday Island depend almost entirely upon the pearling industry. It is interesting to note that of some 5,000 Torres Strait islanders ou Thursday Island, no fewer than 1,100 are permanently and solely employed in the industry.
The House should have the background of the industry in mind. As early as 1870, Australians were established in the pearling - industry. At the turn of the century, 650 boats were employed and some 5,000 men were engaged. Between them, they produced about 2,000 tons of pearl shell a year. For the first 40 years of the century, 2,000 tons of pearl shell was produced year after year. So, on the figures alone, it is reasonable t<> assume that, under the conservation methods of fishing used by Australian pearlers, 2,000 tons of shell a year represents a reasonable output of the bed.?. At present, pearl shell is selling for between £600 and £650 a ton. On to-day’s market, the annual catch of 2.000’ ton- for which, we ought to budget would bring to -this country about £1,250,000 of export income. In view of the fact that 80 per cent, of our pearl shell is sold to the United States of America, about 2,000,000 badly needed dollars should be coming to us each year from the pearling industry.
In 1935, after a couple of years of investigation of the industry and of the pearl beds, the Japanese entered the pearling industry on a fairly large scale. From then onwards, the beds were badly over-exploited by the Japanese. During the period from 1935 to 1940, the Japanese took something like 12,000 tons of pearl shell from the beds. In each of two successive years during that period, not less than 3,000 tons of shell was taken from them. That was in addition to the quantities which our own industry was removing. As a result, by 1940, large areas of the known pearl shell beds had been badly depleted. It is safe to say that if the war had not intervened, there would not now be any pearling industry at all in the hands of our own nationals or of the Japanese. Only the war years and the consequent enforced lay-off from pearling gave the beds a chance to recuperate.
In the light of our pre-war experience of Japanese pearling activities in the waters of our continental shelf, the Government has determined that fishing there shall be licensed and regulated. The Leader of the Opposition (Dir. Evatt) has criticized the definition of the areas. He takes the view that the definition is inadequate. He considers that it is loose drafting to provide that only certain areas which are in fact part of the continental shelf but are separated from it by deep channels shall be covered by proclamations. It occurs to me that that is the most precise method of covering the areas in which we shall regard the infringement of the regulations or of our licensing provisions as being punishable. I see no objection to that.
We propose to take these regulatory measures, not to protect an .Australian pearling industry that is still struggling to get back on its feet after the almost complete destruction of our pearling fleets during the war, but to conserve a valuable Australian asset. We intend not to exclude the Japanese from access to our pearling beds, but to ensure that there shall be a fair division of the products of the beds, within the framework of conservation measures. We should not overlook the fact that we are legislating to protect the natural resources of what is, after all, Australia’s own continental shelf. The sovereignty of seaboard nations over their continental shelves is now becoming generally recognized.
We have taken the right and proper stand in this matter. We entered into negotiations with the Japanese. As honorable members know, the Japanese are obliged, under the terms of the Japanese peace treaty, to enter into such negotiations. The negotiations, which began on the 13th April, got under way at a time when the Japanese proposed to despatch a pearling fleet to Australian waters. By agreement, the Japanese delayed the despatch of their pearling fleet until the negotiations for a fishing agreement had proceeded long enough to indicate that there was some real prospect of the negotiations being successful. When that position arose, no further objection was taken to the despatch of a Japanese fleet. So the Japanese arrived in our coastal waters and began to fish strictly within the terms of the proposed agreement until the 10th August, when, quite out of the blue, we were notified that the Japanese pearling fleet proposed to move and to take from certain specified areas a tonnage of pearl shell that indicated quite clearly that the Japanese proposed to adopt their pre-war policy and virtually to denude large portions of the beds. So far was that policy outside the terms of the proposed agreement that it effectively terminated further negotiations. It left the Government at the point at which it. now is, where we have no alternative but to proclaim our sovereignty over the natural resources of our continental shelf and subsoil. We therefore propose to license and control pearl fishing in that area. There is not the slightest doubt that we have the means to police these regulations.
I cannot understand the approach of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to this matter when he suggested that we should fortify ourselves with the power to deny other nationals access to this area. It seems to me that if the powers of licensing mean anything at all, then the withholding of a licence is a very effective prohibition. “We shall have it in our power, under this legislation, to cover in the most precise terms the conditions under which we are prepared to allow foreign nationals access to the resources of our continental shelf. There is ample precedent to be found in the 1945 declaration by the United States Government of sovereignty over the American continental shelf and its products. I believe that we are also fortified by the recent draft articles of the International Law Commission which recognize the sovereign rights of a coastal state over its continental shelf, including the right to explore and exploit the natural resources, including pearling.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) has suggested that surely international law is such that we should be able to devise watertight legislation to cover this matter. The plain fact is that international law on this subject is still in the making. What we are doing here to-day is part and parcel of that process. We welcome the support of honorable members opposite and appreciate their concern that this legislation should be sufficiently strong to give us an effective control in order to preserve what is one of our most important industries in the northern part of Australia. The Opposition may accept the statement, which the Government has made, that’ here in this law we shall have all the powers that we need to police, control and preserve that industry.
.- The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) has endeavoured to impress the Opposition with the urgent need to pass this legislation. If the members of the Government had heeded what the Opposition had to say when we were passing through this chamber a measure to ratify the Japanese peace treaty, they would not find themselves in their present difficulty. The fact is that this Government has once again bungled and has again sacrificed the interests of Australia. I do not say, of course, that it has knowingly done so.
When the peace treaty with Japan was being discussed in this House, it wasnot only honorable members on this side who criticized it. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) described the treaty as a fait accompli and as an act of folly. Why is it that Japan, after the passage of such a short space of time since the ratification of the treaty, isagain becoming the belligerent nation that we knew in the days preceding World War II.? I suggest that it is because this Government, dragged along at the heels of another nation, accepted a treaty with Japan which was not in thebest interests of this country. Why is it that Japan is to-day disregarding the decisions of this Government and of thegovernments of - other nations? The answer is that Japan got a “ soft “ peace treaty, to which this Government agreed,, and because it already has been told tobuild up, with the consent of the victorious powers, military strength which will be much superior to that of the Commonwealth of Australia. For thosereasons Japan has become completely disdainful of tho opinion of the Australian Government in matters such asfishing rights.
All that this Government succeeded inhaving inserted in the peace treaty with’ Japan, in regard to rights over fisheries,, was the provision that the countries concerned were compelled to negotiate. TheJapanese cunningly accepted that provision because it did not bind them to anything other than to send their delegates to a conference.
I think that it was the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) who spokeabout the responsibility of the Chifley Government in this matter. The Government should produce all of the available records and documents in regard to discussions of .this matter and not merely make assertions without producing evidence. If it did so it would discover that, as far back as 1947, the Chifley Government, in its representations to. the FarEast Commission and in conferences with other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, was taking a stand against the rearmament of Japan and the extension of fishing rights in our national waters to former enemy countries.
The members of this Government who attempted to excuse the “soft” peace treaty with Japan, said that we had no alternative but to ratify the treaty, that although it was not the kind of treaty they would have liked, it was nevertheless one that we had been compelled to accept. They hinted that the particular power which compelled them to accept it was the United States of America. It is significant that the delegates of the United States of America safeguarded the interests of their country in regard to fisheries. They did not sign a peace treaty with their former enemies and then negotiate about fishing rights; they reversed the procedure. The same thing applied in regard to the Canadian delegates. It was only the Australian delegates, the representatives of this Government, who failed in their duty and sacrificed the interests of their country. How often in this chamber, when the ratification was being debated, did we hear the members of the Government refer to the concessions that they had been able to obtain in regard to the filial terms of the treaty? Did not they tell us that, it was only because of the very strong stand taken up by Mr. Spender, as he then was, who represented Australia at the negotiations, that we were able to obtain reparations in respect of former Australian prisoners of war ? It seems to me that if they were able to take a strong stand on that point they should also have been able to take a strong stand in order to protect the fishing rights of the Australian community.
We must remember that it is one thing to assert rights and another to have the power to enforce those rights. It will be readily agreed that disputes such as this have led to serious consequences in the past. I am not suggesting that the Australian people should not take a strong stand to protect their rights in this or in any other matter; but we must be realistic and practical. The fact is that this Government agreed to the rearming of Japan. Therefore, we must measure the possibilities should a dispute arise over Japan’s refusal to accept our sovereignty over these waters. What, then, would we do about it? The Minister for the Navy has said that we have ample forces in the north. I do not know what he regards as “ample” forces, but a report, which appeared in the Sydney Sunday Sun of the 31st May last, stated that the forces are as follows: -
Stationed at Darwin - 100 troops, mainly storemen, clerks and drivers, and - not one infantryman.
One Wirraway trainer plane (obsolete before World War II.).
One Dakota transport.
One out-dated Lincoln bomber used for air-sea rescuework.
A frigate used for coastal patrol and policing of pearl fishing.
H.M.A.S. Emu, an unarmed tug and our lightly armed Seaward defence launch.
These, then, are the forces whichthis Government regards as ample to protect and assert Australian rights in the north. When this Government signed the sofe peace treaty with Japan we were assured that the rights and interests of Australia were being amply protected. “When attention was drawn by the Opposition to what it regarded as some of the weaknesses in the proposed peace treaty the Government assured us that there wasto be a complementary measure, and that we were to have the assistance of the great United States of America underthe Anzus pact. Under that pact, which placed obligations on the three signatorycountries, Australia, the United States of America and, New Zealand, mutual assistance was to be afforded by each country to any of the others which found itself in difficulties in this area. The Government has apparently brought down this legislation in its usual panic-stricken way. after negotiations with the Japanese delegates have been broken off, and after the Japanese pearling fleet has moved into Australian waters, without having availed itself of the opportunity of discussing tinmatter with the other member nation: of the Anzus pact, whose support and assistance in this area would be of such great importance to us! I say that the Government does not know where it is going. It has been described as a “fits and starts “ government. That is what it is. A few months ago it was askingus to adopt a soft attitude to Japan. Asa matter of fact, it was deprecating some of the statements made in this Parliament against the Japanese nation, because it was trying to establish the idea that the Japanese were no longer our enemies, but had become our allies and friends. It- is quite true, as other honorable member’s have said, that the Japanese have a reputation for bad faith. I am not speaking ‘of tho Japanese community generally, but about the Japanese militarists who were defeated in the last war and who were restored to power in Japan as a result of the actions of this Government and other governments. Only a few mouths ago the Government wanted us to adopt a soft attitude towards the Japanese because it was hoped to use the wily Japanese in some future conflict against the Soviet. The Government fold us that therefore we had to be soft and considerate towards our former enemies. As a matter of fact, never before in history were such soft peace term? imposed on a defeated enemy, and in this instance our enemy had been responsible for appalling atrocities against our peoples and our fighting men. Now the Government, having failed to heed the warnings that the Opposition uttered about these dangers when the peace treaty was before the Parliament, tells us that it is prepared to take strong action against Japan in order to defend the rights of the Australian people.
This is not the first time that the parties opposite, which now constitute the Government of this country, have let clown and betrayed the- interests of Australia. The best contribution that the Government could make to Australian interests would be to get out of office and make way for a government nhat has a realistic approach to these problems. I should like to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), to answer a few questions because he has been rather vague in his approach to this matter. He said in his second-reading speech -
Up to the 10th August the negotiations were going very well.
What led him to that opinion? Had the Japanese agreed to anything up to the 10th August, or were they merely “‘kidding” the Australian delegates? I also ask the Minister whether the Japanese have advanced any counter proposals to the Australian proposals. Have the Japanese expressed any opinion on the Australian proposals for an agreement ? The Minister has been silent on these matters. He merely referred to the fact that while the negotiations were proceeding the Japanese pearling fleet moved in. I have a recollection of something similar having happened in the past, at the time of Pearl Harbour. While the Japanese emissaries were in the United States of America discussing an arrangement with that country, Japan’s forces were moving to the attack on Pearl Harbour. The Japanese have used in regard to the Australian pearl fishing industry the strategy they used on that, former occasion. The Opposition is not satisfied with the Government’s actions in relation to the whole matter. We had hoped that the Government would have taken, at a time when it could have done something to protect the interests of the Australian community, action of the kind it now proposes to take. It could have had an agreement regarding the fisheries long before its representative put his signature to the- soft terms of peace withthe Japanese nation. The people of Australia can. rest assured of one thing. The Labour party has proved that it has a realistic and practical approach to these problems. It understands them, and it knows where the interests of Australia lie. A government composed of parties opposite goes bumbling and fumbling along, messing up every proposition and proposal that it has to handle, and the best thing I can suggest that it do in the interests of Australia is to get out of office and give a Labour government the opportunity again to control Australia’s affairs.
.- One of the obvious results of the introduction of this amending measure is that it has provided the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) with the opportunity to make one more of his soap-box attacks against the Government. He has delivered his usual diatribe about the Government’s shortcomings, apparently seeking to hide the faults of the previous government, faults which this Government has the duty of remedying. What is the position regarding the soft, peace treaty with the Government of Japan? What was the position that this Government took over, when it inherited the duty of finalizing the negotiations, with, the other nations concerned, for a peace treaty with Japan? Let it be well and truly remembered by every one that the role of this Government was not to initiate and carry through negotiations for a peace treaty, but was simply to complete negotiations that had been already begun. Every one knows that the position bequeathed to us by the previous government was weak because our predecessors had frittered away the advantage gained for Australia by our fighting ‘ men. After Originally placing an army of occupation in Japan the Labour Government saw fit to withdraw practically the whole of our forces there, so that by the beginning of 1948 both the Americans and the Japanese themselves had come to the conclusion that Australia was no longer interested in Japan. As a result, America decided that as the whole responsibility was being left to it, it would act according to what it thought was right. That was the position as it was stated to me by American leaders in Japan and by Japanese leaders themselves. That is one of the reasons why certain features that we all would have desired included in the peace treaty, could not be included. It is also one of the difficulties this Government has faced in connexion with, this matter.
I shall deal with one criticism levelled by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and repeated by the honorable member for East Sydney. They pointed out that both America and Canada had entered into a fishing agreement with Japan which put them in a very much better position than we are in, and that they had done so before any fishing operations had actually taken place. They contended that the Government was to blame for not having taken similar action. The true position is simply that America was able to conclude a fishing agreement with Japan long before the actual signing of the peace treaty, by virtue of the position of command that America had established for itself in Japan. After all, America was expending hundreds of millions of dollars a year in rebuilding Japan. It was feeding Japan and was giving it materials in order to enable that defeated country to rehabilitate itself. It was therefore able to say that it wanted certain fishing rights for itself and Canada. It was not a matter for determination by negotiation. It was a matter, more or less, of a. simple determination by America of the terms that it wanted, and acceptance of these terms by Japan.. I point out again that we, too, might have been in a similar position had not the previous government frittered away out advantage.
Honorable members on the Opposition side have seen fit to ignore another factor. That is that until the actual signing of the peace treaty with Japan, there was a so-called MacArthur line some distance south of Japan. Japanese vessels could not go beyond that line until the peace treaty was signed. Therefore, any efforts to conclude a fishing agreement just prior to the signing of the Japanese peace treaty were thwarted by our American friends, firstly, because we had thrown away our opportunities and, secondly, because this MacArthur line ruled out, up to that point, the need or justification for such an agreement. Those facts should be considered when honorable members seek to determine the rights and wrongs of this proposition. This matter is of great importance to Australia and should be discussed in the tolerant manner of the Leader of the Opposition rather than in the manner of the honorable member for East Sydney.
I believe that there is general agreement in the House that we must prevent the Japanese from .exploiting the pearlfishing fields as they did prior to World War LT. This Government has set out to do that. In doing so, it has been careful to ensure that its actions will not. be open to successful challenge later. It would be foolish for Australia to take action designed to prevent the exploitation of the pearl fisheries by Japan or any other nation, only to discover, in the event of a challenge in the High Court of Australia or before some other authority, that its action could not be sustained.
The matter is not an easy one to determine because I believe this is the first time that an Australian Government has been forced to take its operations into the field of international law by legislation. International law is not something that can he determined simply by perusing a book. Even now it is in the course of formulation. It cannot be laid down by a deliberative body engaged in the passing of laws because there is no such body. It arises because of developments between nations, as in the case of the Geneva Convention which is now accepted as part of international law. The provisions of that convention were determined on the basis of common sense, justice, equity and the national rights of member nations. The convention was accepted by all the contributory nations. Until such action is taken, there is no such thing as international law on the relevant subject. Therefore, in the matter with which honorable members are now dealing, the Government must be careful that any action it takes towards the implementation of its desires must be of such a nature that it will withstand any challenge before an international commission or any other authority. A close study of the proposed action in this case reveals that it is not open to any challenge.
As to the question of delay, the Japanese peace treaty was ratified only last year and negotiations have been proceeding with the Japanese on this matter for some time. The Minister was guided, in my opinion rightly, by the fact that in the schedule to the Treaty of Peace with Japan, Article 9 states -
Japan will enter promptly into negotiations with the Allied Powers so desiring for the conclusion of bilateral and multilateral agreements providing for the regulation or limitation of fishing.
Some honorable members have already pointed to a weakness in Article 9 in that it provides only for Japan to enter into negotiations. There is no responsibility or onus on the Japanese to come to an agreement once the negotiations have been started. That is not the fault of this Government because most honorable members know that the Australian representative, Sir Percy Spender, when dealing with this matter in the determination of the various articles of the peace treaty with Japan, tried his utmost to obtain something more definite and complete than that article. However, because of reactions in the United States of America in particular and on the part of represen- tatives of other countries also, Article 9 as it is now framed was the strongest, that Sir Percy Spender could secure in the treaty to safeguard Australia’s rights. The Minister had to be guided by that article. Before coming forward with legislative action, he determined rightly that he should exhaust the possibilities under the articles of the peace treaty and he has done so.
Again we have found that the word of the Japanese is not worth taking. It may be said that we realized that before but under the terms of the peace treaty, it was essential for the Minister first to explore the possibilities of determining this matter by negotiation and agreement. That course has been followed. Within about a week of its becoming evident that we could not successfully negotiate along those lines, the Minister has before the House a measure to put our desires into legislative form. The Government realizes fully that this industry must not be smashed as it very nearly was by exploitation before the second world war. The taking of pearl shell from the beds must be regulated to ensure that the supply is not exhausted within a few years. I believe, despite the criticism of the proposal by the Leader of the Opposition, that the action that has been suggested by the Minister will suceed in preventing improper exploitation-
The first criticism that the right honorable gentleman had to offer related to the choice of the 100-fathom line as the delimiting feature of the continental shelf. He said he believed, that that delimitation was not definite enough and that there could be areas outside the actual 100-fathom line which should be controlled. The right honorable gentleman suggested also that because of the way in which the bill was framed, a question could arise as to whether Australia was entitled to prevent the Japanese or other fishers from working certain places where channels existed between the defined areas. He seems to have failed to realize that in determining the 100^ fathom limit, the Government was allowing a wide margin of safety. I am informed that economic fishing for pearl shell cannot be carried out at more than 40, 50 or, at the most, 60 fathoms. That is with present methods. Therefore, in setting the limit at 100 fathoms, we are ensuring that the beds contiguous to Australia over which we have sovereignty will be included within the line of delimitation. The Minister, realizing that in some localities an area reasonably close to Australia below the 100-fathom mark may possibly be excluded from the rest of the continental shelf by a deep channel, has made special provision in this amendment to provide that in such cases, it shall be proper to include those additional areas, which might be described as submarine islands, within the scope of this measure. It seems to me that that objection by the right ‘honorable gentleman will not bear scrutiny. It is essential that any legislation passed by this Parliament should be based on sound ground, so that ii will stand any judicial challenge. I assume that because the Government has taken proper legal advice, the measure before the House will stand challenge in our own courts, but we must realize that we may be challenged before international courts. Therefore, in order that the Government should be in a secure position in the event of any such challenge, the Minister has taken all possible action to reach an agreement under Article 9 of the Japanese peace treaty. The Minister is now attempting to take action similar to that taken by the United States of America when, under proclamation by President Truman, America claimed sovereignty over the sea bed contiguous to America which was not more than 200 metres from the surface of the ocean. America claimed authority over waters that are slightly deeper than those over which Australia is claiming control, and, consequently, not only has the -Minister pursued the proper course as laid down in the Japanese peace treaty, but he has also taken action for which a precedent has already been established by the United States of America. Therefore, if any action, as indicated in this measure, is taken by the Government and is challenged, we may be assured that it will stand the test of any judicial proceedings, and so we shall be able to prevent any exploitation of the fisheries resources of our own waters by the nationals of other countries. This House has now to ensure that the bill be passed speedily, so that it may operate within the next few weeks. That is most desirable because the exploitation ‘ of our resources has already commenced, and will continue unless it is checked. Every week is important in this matter, and I commend the Minister for his prompt and efficient action.
.- The honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) has given honorable members an excellent review of events since the last war. Moreover, his geographical knowledge of the islands to the north of Australia and his grasp of international law are reasonably sound. A very important part of the international law that he mentioned concerned the national rights of member nations of the United Nations. He said that their rights would be protected. Australia is a member nation, and, consequently, “the rights of Australia will be protected under international law. We all know that this Government’ conducted certain negotiations with the Government of Japan. After a period, the Japanese refused to negotiate further, although at that time they were engaged in extensive pearling operations. In other words, they were skimming off the pearl shell while the Government was fiddling with the . whole matter. Of course, honorable members should appreciate any attempt to deal with Japanese encroachments within our territorial waters, but this measure is a weak and anaemic attempt to deal with people of the calibre of the Japanese. Any person listening to this debate could- be pardoned for assuming that Japan had won the war and that instead of negotiating with a defeated nation, we were negotiating as the vanquished with the victors.
Under a pre-war government led by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), conditions in our north were very similar to the present .conditions. At that time one small boat, Larrakia, under Captain Hultain, was required to protect the interests of Australia against the southward encroachments of the Japanese. Mother boats of the Japanese pearling fleet were then being used in the same way as they are being used to-day, that is, to chart Australian waters. It was reported time and time again to the Government that these mother boats were also mine-layers, but the government of the day, led by the present Prime Minister, refused to take any’ effective action to protect Australia against their activity. When Larrakia brought some of these boats into Darwin the same government, as a result of a law suit, and in an attempt to placate the Japanese, paid them about £20,000 as compensation for the seizure of the mother ships. It has been said during this debate that the Japanese have surveyed the whole of the northern and western coast of Queensland. I am well aware that they have surveyed those areas, and’ I am further aware that they have surveyed the eastern coast as well. Apart from a few surveys carried out by Australia after the war, there has been very little surveying done by Europeans in those waters since the days of Captain Flinders, and the Japanese have a far better knowledge of the coasts of Queensland than we have. Before the war, small Japanese cruisers used to sail down the east coast and use fast cutters in their survey work. We must take firm action to stop that sort of thing from happening again.
This measure will prove to.be of no use unless a naval vessel, able to deal effectively with Japanese encroachments, is stationed in the area. This is a weak bill and will not provide proper protection on the spot for the sea wealth of Australia. At present the Japanese are removing pearls, pearl shell, beche-de-mer, and other sea wealth as fast as they can. Whatever the Government may say, itshould have taken action before now to deal with this menace because now it will not be able to act quickly enough to prevent the Japanese from filching enormous sea wealth from, the people of Australia. The Government has failed to take effective action. The Japanese took so little notice of the Australian government led by the present Prime Minister that they actually stole the property of Australian citizens who resided on our northern islands. No action was taken to protect the interests of Australians from those Japanese pirates. When the Japanese first appeared off our coasts they committed some horrible atrocities. They are not gentlemen, as we know the term, and quite often when the island boys, whom they employed as divers,. became tired after a heavy day’s work and refused to dive again, it was not unknown for a couple of Japanese to take them down and drown them as an example to other divers. There were plenty of others, and such treatment taught them to fear the Japanese and induced them to work to utter exhaustion. The Japanese have no conscience in their dealings with island peoples. To-day, it is common to hear visitors from overseas as well as Australians speak about the need to provide for the welfare of the native peoples in the Pacific. The Japanese do not appear to worry themselves on that score.
Many Australian citizens are engaged in the pearling industry and are employing native divers. Natives in Queensland, under the supervision of an officer of the Department of Native Welfare, are engaged in this industry. They repair their own boats and carry on the venture on their own initiative. Many Australians have invested their savings in luggers. We should protect their right to work peacefully in their chosen occupation just as the nation protects that right in respect of the remainder of its citizens. The bill fails to afford the protection to those engaged in the industry to which they are entitled. Although the negotiations that took place on this matter were protracted, the Japanese refused to come to any agreement, but simply decided to clean up the shell completely and to ignore the Australian Government. Unfortunately, members of the Government seemed to be preoccupied with other affairs. The Prime Minister, for instance, in recent years has made several trips overseas, and, apparently, has been too busy to attend to matters of ‘ this kind. The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Hasluck) also appeared to be so preoccupied with other matters that he was precluded from dealing with problems of this kind which are of the utmost importance to the welfare of this country. Although the Opposition will not oppose the measure, I believe that we on this side of the chamber will be returned to office within the next seven or eight months. We shall then accept the opportunity to make this legislation really effective.
.- Honorable members on both sides of the chamber have emphasized the importance of this measure. It relates to an important industry, and is important also from the point of view both of the security of this country and of the welfare of the Australian aboriginal race. In the past, the criticism has been voiced tfr aif, the. aborigines have suffered at the hands of Japanese pearlers who have been allowed to operate in Australian waters. This matter assumes considerable importance from the point of view of security, because, in the past, Japanese pearlers were given the opportunity to become thoroughly acquainted with the Australian coast, and with our river system. Perhaps that aspect is more important than the protection of an ‘ industry which is carried on in out northern and north-w.estern waters. However, the industry not only provides employment for many Australians, including aborigines, but also is a dollarearner for this country because the pearl shell is sold in the United States of America.
All of those points have been adverted to in the course of this debate, but the majority of honorable members have concentrated on Australia’s relations with the Japanese and the possibility that this country may be arraigned before an international court as a result of action that may be taken under this legislation. Some members of the Opposition have made the charge that the Government omitted to discharge its responsibility when it failed to have inserted in the peace treaty with Japan a peremptory provision that would prevent the Japanese from operating in Australian pearling grounds. It is entirely idle for any honorable member to attempt to make that point. In any event, honorable members opposite cannot hope to gain any party political advantage on that score because, as the Minister for the Wavy (Mr. McMahon) has pointed out. the Labour Government which preceded this Government should have formulated and pressed for an agreement to give effect to such a provision with a view to having it included in the peace treaty. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that in 1940
Mr. Chifley was of opinion that Australia’s interests in these pearling grounds should be fully protected. The fact remains that neither Mr. Chifley, nor his Minister for External Territories who, at that time, I understand, was the honorable member himself did anything whatsoever to ensure the protection of these grounds. However, as I have already said, it is idle for any honorable member to attempt to make the point that I have indicated. The mere making of treaties, agreements, or laws, will not prevent persons who wish to break them from breaking them. These marauding expeditions by the Japanese may, perhaps, be of a kind with expeditions that have been featured in history, such as those that were made by Sir Francis Drake and other Elizabethan mariners; they may even be carried out with the silent approval of the Japanese government of the day. We cannot prevent such happenings, if persons are determined to do such things, but we can deal with them when they take place. Consequently, this legislation will be as effective as any treaty, or any agreement, that we might make on the subject would be.
It has been suggested that this legislation is of great urgency. That may be true in that it more precisely defines the meaning of “ Australian waters “. However, under the existing legislation “ Australian . waters “ are defined to mean “ Australian waters beyond territorial limits “. Those are the vital words in the Constitution which gives power to this Parliament to make laws relating to fisheries. So, if this measure was not passed we should still have power to deal with these Japanese marauders. The primary object of this legislation is to define more precisely the term “Australian waters “. It has always been difficult to understand precisely the meaning of the term “ Australian waters “. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in his remarks, which have been commended by honorable members opposite, pointed out that various interpretations had been placed upon the term “ territorial waters “. The reason why this Government has introduced this measure is that only this year has that term been given the expanded meaning as set forth in this bill.
Before I deal with, that matter I shall refer to the statement made by a number of Opposition members that the Government has neglected its duty to Australia in regard to the operations of the Japanese fishing fleet. That statement can hardly be justified because the only legislation on the statute-book that deals with this matter was introduced into the Parliament by the present Government. Although, as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has said, the late Mr. Chifley, when Prime Minister of Australia in 194:7, was fully aware of the danger of the intrusion of Japanese fishing fleets in Australian waters and the need to deal ‘with them, years went by until tho Labour Government was finally banished from office without having done anything about the matter. When the present Government assumed office it initiated legislation on this subject which has met with the approval of the whole of the members of this House. Although slighting remarks have been made by Opposition members to-day, purely for the purpose of obtaining a party political advantage, the fact ca111101 bc denied that when the legislation which they now pretend to condemn came before the House it was heartily supported by them. Because we are now attempting to improve that legislation they decry our efforts. There is not very much finesse about that kind of attack.
Opposition members have ako characterized as untrue the statement made by the Minister for the Navy that the Royal Australian Navy is .able to protect n« from undesirable intrusions by the Japanese fishing fleet. “Upon what authority have they based such an allegation? To prove their contention one of them produced a copy of a Sunday newspaper. It is a great pity that an honorable member who, at one time, was a Minister of the Crown, should produce no better authority to support his remarks in this House than an extract from a Sunday newspaper. The abysmal depths of ignorance and the contempt of this chamber displayed by honorable members opposite is, to say the least, astonishing.
– For how long have the Japanese been fishing in these waters ?
– The Minister has told us that they moved into these waters on the 10th August. The fact that the first bill to be introduced in the House after the resumption of the sittings was the bill now before us clearly demonstrates that there has been, no delay on the part of the Government in regard to this matter. By contrast, the Labour Government, which knew for years that such a problem existed, did nothing whatever about, it.
– There were no Japanese fishing in Australian waters when the Labour Government was in office.
– Opposition members knew that the problem existed and that its solution was urgent. In 1947 the Labour Prime Minister said that the control of Japanese fishing was an important matter, hut he did nothing whatever about it. I leave the point there because I realize’ that some people are prepared neither to listen nor to learn.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) expressed doubt about the competency of the Government to give effect to this legislation. There may be some doubt in the honorable member’s mind on that score, but there is none whatever in the mind of the Government. Power to deal with this matter stems from the Commonwealth. Constitution. The bill before us defines Australian waters in terms of international law. Under the Constitution we have power to make laws for the. peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with regard to fisheries in Australian waters outside territorial waters. That is the constitutional position. From the point of view of international law, should we be brought before The Hague tribunal for any action arising out of the exercise of that power, we would have no difficulty in establishing the fact that we had acted in accordance with the terms of international law. If we were charged before that tribunal with having committed a breach of international law in relation to our exercise of this power, our answer would be that we had done nothing more or less than we were entitled to do in accordance with international law.
The Leader of the Opposition criticized the bill on the ground that it does not give sufficient protection to the Australian industry in that no provision was made in the bill for the prohibition of fishing in certain areas. I was quite unable to follow the right honorable gentleman’s reasoning. His statement was apparently based on sections 9 and 10 of the principal act. It is quite clear, however, that unless a person or body of persons holds a licence from the Government, he or that body may not fish in these waters. Thus, there is a definite prohibition unless a licence has been granted. The right honorable gentleman said, “ That is all very well, but the Japanese could disregard the terms of the licence “. Of course they could do so. As I said earlier, we may make a law, but we cannot make everybody obey it. However, if a person disobeys the law we can impose upon him the penalty prescribed for its breach. The Leader of the Opposition omitted to refer to those provisions in the legislation under which penalties may be imposed. If he would have the goodness to turn to section 14 of the principal act he would see set out in it a list of offences against the act and the penalty prescribed in respect of them. The- act clearly states that fishing may be carried on under the terms of this legislation only pursuant to licence. If a licence to fish is not obtained, there is an absolute prohibition against fishing. Apparently the right honorable gentleman did not take the trouble to read section 14 in order to inform his mind on the subject. We need have no fear about the efficacy of the protection which the Navy will afford us in this matter. The .Minister in his secondreading speech clearly indicated that as soon as the Government discovered that the Japanese were going beyond the agreed limits, the Navy was informed and furnished to him the fullest information regarding the whereabouts and the activities of the Japanese fishing fleet. An extraordinary feature of this debate is that Opposition speakers, particularly the honorable member for East Sydney, do not appear to realize that we are concerned now with the Pearl Fisheries Bill and not with the question whether the Japanese peace treaty should or should not have been signed. I point out again that immediately after the sittings of the Parliament ‘had been resumed this week the Government introduced this bill to bring the principal act within the terms of the latest decree on international ‘law. Far from the Government having been dilatory in this matter, as has been alleged by Opposition members, it has been right on the mark from the start and is determined to see that these Japanese marauders are appropriately dealt with.
.- The introduction of this measure is like bolting the stable door after the horse has gone. Irreparable harm may already have been done to this country because of the Government’s neglect of Australia’s interests, particularly when, the Japanese peace treaty was being prepared. The action contemplated in this measure could even be provocative. It could lead to a dispute and possibly to another clash with our former enemy, the Japanese. We all know that military wars generally arise from trade wars, and should we again be involved in hostilities, the Opposition could be pardoned I am sure for saying, “ We told you so. We warned the Government when the peace treaty with Japan was being drawn up.” The bill is an admission of the Government’s failure to protect Australia’s interests in spite of the warnings of the Opposition. The Government should have insisted on the inclusion in the peace treaty of provisions protecting Australia’s fishing rights, particularly against inroads by the Japanese. At that time the Japanese would probably have been more disposed to accept Australia’s point of view than they are to-day. They are gathering strength and are becoming less amendable to reason. Indeed, they are even becoming truculent as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEWEN) admitted in his second-reading speech. The Government cannot escape the charge that it has been guilty of serious neglect in this connexion - neglect which might well prove fatal te this country. We have been told by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) that Australia did not insist upon the insertion of adequate protection for its interests in the Japanese peace treat) because our allies would not support us. But our allies are not in the same position as we are in relation to Japan. Their position is much stronger. Also, they have greater commercial affiliations with Japan than we have. Just imagine what would have happened to this country had we not stood up for our rights at the peace conference which followed World War I. Whatever political differences wo on this side of the chamber may have had with the late Mr. W. M. Hughes, it is to his ever-lasting credit that he took a strong stand on behalf of Australia after World War I. Honorable members will recall that Japan had been our ally in that conflict, and that some of our other allies were prepared to hand New Guinea to Japan. Mr. Hughes fought like a tiger cat against that proposal. Apparently our representatives at the meetings which drew up the Japanese peace treaty after World War IT. adopted a weak-kneed attitude, which may prove to be just as vital to Australia’s future as was the admirable fight put up by Mr. Hughes at Versailles.
There has been a lot of talk in this debate about the continental shelf and the niceties of international law. It seems to me that Australia will be “on the ‘shelf We shall be left high and dry because of the lack of protection in the Japanese peace treaty. We concede that Japan is in an invidious position. It has a rapidly expanding population and needs trade outlets. The Japanese have a right to live. They are hemmed, in by trade restrictions imposed by other countries. They have a natural urge to break through the barriers by persuasion or by force as they did during the last war. But Australia too is in an invidious position in relation to Japan. We have a favorable trade balance with that country. We are sending about £70,000,000 or £S0,000,000 worth of goods annually to Japan and importing goods worth only about £4,000,000 or £5,000.000. Naturally we want to remain friendly with Japan and to continue our present happy trade relations with that country. But we cannot overlook the facts of the last war and the possibility of a recurrence of the events that led up to it. We know only too well that our northern coastline is wide open. I had an opportunity recently to visit some of our northern areas, and I was appalled by what I saw or rather by what I did not see. There is no sign of any defences on our northern coast. That is our Achilles heel. The Japanese know that to-day as they knew it before World War II., when their pearling fleets served the dual purpose of pearl fishing and gleaning all possible information about our northern coast-line - information that was put to good use in the battle of the Coral Sea. Obviously, should Japan again be in a position to threaten this country, it will not make the same mistakes as it made on the last occasion, and we may not be given the chance to defend ourselves which fortunately was ours then.
The application of the licensing system to pearl shell fishing is causing considerable concern to Australian pearlers and to Torres Strait islanders, who are engaged in the pearling trade in our northern waters. There is a fear that pressure may be exerted by certain traders to admit Japanese divers into the trade because they are able to collect more pearl shell and therefore to provide better profits than can be provided by the natives now engaged. I am not in a position to know whether or not that is correct. Perhaps the Japanese crews are in the nature of suicide squads and are prepared to go down a little further to get more and bigger pearls, but the fact remains that many of the Torres Strait islanders served this country faithfully during the last war. They are entitled to some protection in the industry in which they are engaged. They are most concerned about the Government’s real intentions in this connexion. Some assurance might well be given by the Minister that this is not the thin edge of the wedge, and that it is not intended under the licensing system to admit the Japanese to the pearling industry in our northern waters, even in small numbers. That is a most important aspect of this bill. Apparently the same weak-kneed policy has been adopted in this matter as was adopted in regard to Japanese war prisoners who, until recently, were vin Australia’s hands. These war criminals have now been handed over to the Japanese on condition that they will serve their full sentences in Japanese gaols. That concession indicates a weak attitude on the part of this
Government. We ‘should have insisted upon the strict ‘terms ‘of the sentences feeing carried -out. The Australian Government will be placed in an invidious position, because those men will not be regarded as war -criminals in their own country. They will be hailed as heroes, and martyrs, and it will be difficult for any democratic government in Japan to restrain undemocratic forces that may seek to re-establish a totalitarian regime. The Australian Government, in its whole approach to this matter, has not displayed a sense of reality, or a proper understanding of practical politics. The least the Government can do now is to admit that it has made a mistake, and continue its negotiations with Japan. Some countries work on the principle that might is right. Let us strengthen our defences, and stand up to the Japanese in this matter.. The Government must take power to deal with the situation. Let it continue the negotiations that were commenced some time ago in an effort to reach an agreement with Japan that will avoid a conflict in future. When all is said and done, it is preferable that we know now what is really in the minds of the Japanese. Let us, by our attitude, put the acid test on the Japanese, and ascertain how far they are prepared to go.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to this debate, and I marvelled at the apologies advanced by Ministers in an endeavour to reply effectively to the speech of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The honorable gentleman, in the course of his remarks, referred to the Japanese peace treaty. He was merely replying, in effect, to a statement made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McE wen) in bis second-reading speech. The honorable member for East Sydney pointed out that provision was made in the Japanese peace treaty for the conduct of negotiations on fisheries. The reason for the introduction of this bill is that negotiations which were commenced in -accordance with that provision in the peace treaty, have broken down. The Minister claimed that he was alive to the possibilities early in 19-53, and, therefore, I find it passing strange that he dM not enter into negotiation’s with Japan until the 13th April last. The Minister said in his second-reading speech -
Accordingly, fisheries negotiations with Japan commented in Canberra on the 13th April.
He proceeded -
During the course of the negotiations I made two press statements., one on the 13th. May, Che day that the Japanese fleet left Japan -
I direct attention to the fact that the negotiations commenced in Canberra on the 13th April, and that the Japanese fishing fleet left Japan exactly a month later. We are well aware that a mother ship and the attendant luggers could not have been fitted out for the expedition in one month. For a considerable time prior to the 13th April, the Japanese had made manifest the fact that they proposed to fish in southern areas for mother-of-pearl and trochus shell. But it was not until the 13th April last - incidentally, during the Senate election campaign - that negotiations were commenced with the Japanese. On the 13th May, the fleet sailed from Japan, and it arrived in Australian waters on the 5th June. Spokesmen for this Government have had a good deal to say about national security. Like individuals, we as a nation should learn from experience. Apparently this Government is not aware of the fact that during World War II., our shores were threatened because a foreign power knew as much about our coast-line and sea-lanes as ‘ we ourselves knew. That foreign power had been permitted to send its nationals to fish in the waters off the east, north and north-west coasts of Australia. I repeat that it was not until the 13th April last that the Australian Government commenced negotiations with the Japanese Government about these fishing problems. The Japanese have treated this Government in the same way as the honorable member for East Sydney said the United States of America was treated at Pearl Harbour.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) said that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) claimed that the bill contained no prohibitions. He then mentioned certain provisions for the prosecution of a person who committed a breach of the act, such as a failure to take out a fishing licence. The Japanese have commenced to fish in our waters. What will happen, if they refuse to recognize this legislation, and decline to take out a licence.? No agreement exists between Australia and Japan in this matter. If the Japanese have no licences, the Australian Government must prosecute them. Where will they be prosecuted? Weshall accept the fact that our jurisdiction in respect of our own courts extends to the limits prescribed in the act, that is, to the edge of the continental shelf. We also accept tho statement of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) that the Royal Australian Navy or the Royal Australian Air Force will be able to bring the, offenders before an Australian court. Well then, the Japanese are within the jurisdiction. They are prosecuted. What happens then ? They are fined 5s. with 3s. 6d. costs. If they are refused a licence, what is to prevent them from resuming their fishing activities?
Suppose action is taken by the Australian Government in. the International Court at The Hague for a violation of our territorial waters in accordance with the provisions of the bill. We have heard a good deal to-day about the International Court. The honorable member for Balaclava made extensive reference to it. I remind him that not so long ago, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company proceeded against the Persian Government in the International Court. The Abadan refinery was not restored to the company, and petrol from it is being sold in various parts of the world. Suppose the Australian Government takes action, as prescribed in this measure and in accordance with the Geneva agreement, against Japanese fishermen in the International Court. Let us also assume that the Government Li successful and is granted a restraining order, or that the Japanese fishermen are fined. I assume that the Japanese principals in the case would be commercial interests. How can the Australian Government enforce the verdict of the International Court? We may seize the Japanese ships. At this point, I remind the House that international incidents have arisen in the past over fishing rights. The International Court at The Hague has heard a case involving Russian fishermen.
The point that I am endeavouring to make is that many Australian exservicemen are engaged in the fishing industry. When they were demobilized from the services, they invested every penny of their capital in the purchase of luggers, or for that matter, any craft that would float, in an attempt to make a living in the industry. Most of them were successful. Now they are demanding from this Government the same kind of protection as every other Australian industry demands when its interests, are threatened. I have not been in touch with many of these men since the introduction of this legislation, but I know from my personal experience of them that the measure will not be received with a great deal of confidence. Before the outbreak of World War II., Japanese mother ships came into our northern waters, and Japanese luggers fished oat our trochus and mother-of-pearl beds. The result was that the shell market was flooded. I represented Thursday Island in this- chamber as that time, and I recall that protracted negotiations took place between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments in an endeavour to obtain a government guarantee of overdrafts to enable Australians to remain in that industry. Now we see an intention to return to something of the pre-war conditions which existed in the pearling industry. This is the lame sister that has been introduced to give a measure of protection to people who are engaged in an industry that is earning dollars which are invaluable to this Government and to the British Commonwealth of Nations. Their earning capacity is threatened. The Opposition supports the measure, but we say that it does not go far enough. It is not definite enough, or sufficiently restrictive. If the Japanese get away with thi3, what will prevent other nations which are fishing for mother-of-pearl and trochus shell in areas in other parts of the world not so prolific as are the areas to the north of Australia, from entering these areas? Would there not be some inducement for them to go into these waters w here pickings are good and money can be made quickly? This Australian industry will lag and dollars will be lost to this country, and those who have their capital invested in the industry will be driven onto the labour market because the capital value of their investments .will soon be considerably less than it is to-day. The Opposition is very concerned about this matter. That is the reason why this debate has been continued. We are conscious of the fact that the people in the northern parts of Australia do not want a return to pre-war conditions in the pearling industry. The security of this country demands that foreigners be excluded from our territorial waters, and we must also consider the welfare of the natives who live in the northern parts of Australia. I do not doubt for a moment the capacity of our navy and air force to do as the Minister suggests, but I have a vivid recollection of Larrakia going out from Darwin to bring in a marauder. As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) has said, the marauder brought in Larrakia. We can judge from that experience the condition of the ships that will be used in that area, and when we consider the condition of the aircraft that will be used for spotting purposes we can measure the control that will be exercised.
I come now to the administration of this measure and the utilization of the powers of arrest. I have a vivid recollection of the arrest in pre-war days of a Japanese sampan, as such vessels were called, which was fitted with diesel engines. It was on a Saturday morning. A telegram ‘ was sent to Canberra for instructions, but the officials in Canberra did not resume work until 9 o’clock on the following Monday morning, by which time the sampan had departed. The delegation of power in connexion with this matter is something to which the Government should give very serious consideration. There ought to be somebody in northern areas with power to act without waiting for some authority in Canberra to be communicated with by telegraph before any decision can be made or action taken.
Mr. WHITIAM (Werriwa) [4.151.- This b;ll is the third bite at this subject that the present Government has had in eighteen months. The point that has caused most debate is the definition of Australian waters. The bill before the
House incorporates the third such definition, and it is illuminating to observe that swift as has been the growth of international law, the views of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) on international law have grown even more swiftly. In March, 3952, when closing the second-reading debate on an earlier measure dealing with this subject, he stated -
I believe that the Government’s advisers are doubtful whether international law would permit the exercise of Australian authority under Australian statute law over foreigners in waters outside our territorial limits.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) interjected -
That is, beyond the three mile limit? and the Minister said -
Yes. There is some doubt on that point.
In February of this year the Minister had strengthened his view of our constitutional power. He stated -
The Pearl Fisheries Act, when amended, will clearly operate in waters outside the territorial limits of the external territories, as well as of the Australian continent.
Yesterday he stated -
This point on Australia’s rights under international law and under our constitutional law beyond the territorial threemile limit was asserted by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) eighteen months ago, and it was similarly asserted by all the speakers on both the measures which are to-day being amended. Apart from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who introduced the legislation, the only honorable members who have spoken on pearl fishing have been from this side of the House. I refer to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, the honorable member for ‘ the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), as well as the Leader of the Opposition.
– That is not so.
– I mean before to-day. Just as the views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition on the Commonwealth’s constitutional powers and international powers in this connexion have been vindicated by our experience and have been adopted by the Minister, so also have the views expressed by the previous speakers of this side of the House about the Japanese been similarly vindicated. This is a humiliating bill for the present Government to introduce. The Opposition supports the bill, but it suggests that at least the measure should be made clear and unequivocal in its terms. Our powers should be expressly and clearly stated in the bill.
It has been stated that the Chifley Government had the opportunity to negotiate a treaty relating to fisheries before the conclusion of the peace treaty with Japan. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) said that such treaties were drawn up between Canada, the United States of America, and Japan while the Chifley Government was still in office. That is not in accordance with the facts. A treaty between those three countries was drawn up at a tri-partite fisheries conference which took place in Tokio between the 5th November and the 13th December, 1951. A draft international convention for the high seas fisheries of the North Pacific. Ocean was there drawn up, and it was signed on behalf of the three countries on the 9th May, 1952.
– That is a little different from what the Minister said.
– Yes. The Minister for the Navy and for Air may have been a little at sea, or even up in the air. At any rate, he was a little astray when he suggested that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who needs no defence from me, had put his foot in His mouth when he said that the Government should have taken steps to initiate such a treaty long before it did so. The plain facts are that, two years after the Chifley Government went out of office, the Governments of Canada and the United States of America initiated discussions on this subject with Japan and that, within six months, the treaty was confirmed by all three countries, and confirmed in such a way as to make it impossible for Japan subsequently to deny Australia’s rights in its own waters because, as honorable members will have noticed, that convention relates to high seas fisheries, not merely to territorial fisheries or fisheries over the continental shelf. About the same time, the same three countries - the United States of America, Canada and Japan - exchanged notes on pelagic fur sealing. These notes entered into force, on the 8th February, 1952, with respect to the United States of America, and on the 1st March, 1952, with respect to Canada, which was within a month of the exchange. It is clear that Australia should have acted, under the present regime, with similar promptitude and firmness. Instead, the Government merely held out a promise that Japan, as a term of its treaty of peace with us, should enter into negotiations with us. That is all Japan did; perhaps that is all it ever will do.
Those negotiations dragged on for four months, from the 13th April to the 10th August of this year, more than a year after our friends and former allies had already concluded their treaty. While the offer that had been made by Australia was being considered by Japan, the Japanese, unilaterally, contemptuously, and contumaciously, took the law into their own hands and told us that they were doing so. It is of little consequence that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in his temperate but shame-faced statement to the House yesterday, should have said that the negotiations were broken off the next day. I was astonished to hear the learned and honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) say that the learned and right honorable Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) had shown that he had not taken the trouble to read the act. The honorable member for Balaclava quoted the offences specified in the act and the penalties provided therein to be exercised against offenders. The Leader of the Opposition not only had read the act but also had ascertained that no proclamations had been made under the act. I suspect that the honorable member for Balaclava was not aware that proclamations had not been made under the act. The truth is, not only that this is the third measure on the one subject that the Government has produced in eighteen months, but also that there has not been a single proclamation under the act, which will remain a dead letter until a proclamation is made.
By section 8, the Governor-General may by proclamation declare any Australian waters to be proclaimed waters. Yet neither the present Governor-General norhis predecessor has made such a proclamation. Everything that follows in the act, whether it be the regulation of fishing prescribed by section 9, the issuing of licences and the requirement of registration prescribed by section 10, the powers of officers to board and inspect under section 11, or the offences specified in section 14, relates to “ proclaimed waters “. But no waters have yet been proclaimed. Therefore it is idle for this Government to suggest that it hasbeen diligent in asserting Australia’s rights in respect of the rich, valuable and strategic assets that we have in the pearl fisheries on our continental shelf. It has dithered about with the definition in the act, and it has done nothing to proclaim, what are Australian waters. It is to be hoped that, when this bill is passed., either in its present form or in the form that has been suggested by the Opposition, a proclamation will at last be issued. Only the Government can issue a proclamation.
I speak on this subject less in anger than with regret because I should be the last to deny that the Japanese, a great maritime people with a teeming population, should have the opportunity to support and enrich themselves. There is nothing unusual in maritime peoples fishing so far from their shores. After all, the French have done so for at least two centuries off the coast of Newfoundland, and they have followed the practice laid down by treaty loyally and decently. There can beno question, as I have said, that the Japanese could he bound by some such agreement. The French, off the coast of Tunisia, enjoy the right to limit the exploitation of sponges. The United States of America, in the Gulf of Mexico, on the continental shelf well over 3 miles from the shore, limits the exploitation of oil wells. Similarly, by act and by proclamation, we can limit the exploitation of our pearl fisheries. This bill provides us with an opportunity to do so. The only regret that the Opposition Ms is that the act is not cleaner and more unequivocal.We suggest that this is the time to make the act clear and firm in its language, and that no further time should be lost in ensuring that the policy of the Australian Government shall be similarly clear and firm.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 4th March, 1.952 (vide page 733, volume No. 216), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the following paper he printed: -
Sugar industry - Price increase - Committee of inquiry - Ministerial statement.
.- At first sight it might appear that the statement on the sugar industry which was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in March of last year does not warrant discussion at this late stage. However, I consider that the statement is still of considerable interest because of the results which have flowed from it. In the course of his statement the Prime Minister mentioned that some months previously the sugar industry representatives had made application to the Government for an increase of21/2d. per lb. in the price of sugar. Following the procedure that had been adopted formany years, the industry presented a case to the Government and that case was submitted to departmental officials who had been handling sugar problems for some time. There was a considerable disparity between the first recommendations of these departmental officials and the claim submitted by representatives of the sugar industry. Therefore, the industrypressed Cabinet for an announcement by the Government because it was highly desirable that any action taken should have application as from the beginning of the 1952 crushing season; in other words, from about J une of last year. In response to that request the Prime Minister made a statement in this House to the effect that in view of the considerable disparity between the recommendations of the departmental officials and the claims of the industry the Government considered that the matter should be referred to what might be called a roundtable conference between industry representatives and the departmental officials. The fact that that decision was made indicated that the standing of the representatives of the sugar industry was very high in the opinion of the Cabinet. Cabinet recognized the fact that previous submissions by the industry representatives had been reliable, and its suggested action that some common ground .on which an agreement could be based which could be -reached by discussion between the industry representatives .and the departmental officials.
The Prime Minister went .on to state that, following that decision by .Cabinet, which was intended to give immediate relief to the industry, a committee of inquiry would ‘be appointed to .examine the situation in the sugar industry :because .there had been no complete inquiry into (the industry for a number of years, and that nf .the committee of inquiry mecommended a further increase to apply .to last year’s crop, action would be ta.ken “to implement -the recommendation. It is :now desirable to examine the results which ‘flowed .from the prime Minister’s statement. [r,he representatives -of the industry met departmental .officials immediately after ‘the statement was .made and as the representatives -o’f the industry were able to ^sustain their case ‘the -officials agreed ‘to recommend an increase o’f Id. per ,lb. -It is ito ‘the great credit of ‘Cabinet ‘that, having .considered a’ll -the ‘facts contained ‘in .’the departmental ‘recommendations ‘and ‘the submission df the industry, -it decided to -permit -an immediate increase df 1 1/2d. per lb. in ‘the price of -re’fined. sugar. (Let it ‘-be remembered by those -who would criticize the Government’s ‘policy in ‘relation »to ‘the sugar industry ‘that after -considering the case put ‘forward by ‘the industry, which -originated ‘in sa request for an ‘increase- of 2*d. per 1b, Cabinet finally permitted an interim increase of l-M. per 1b
Although the Prime Minister had stated tHat the committee of inquiry would consist of Mr. McCarthy as chairman, one representative of the Department of Trade and Customs and one representative of the Treasury and probably one representative of the State Government, Cabinet later agreed to the submission of the industry that the State Government .should have two representatives. It was considered that as the agreement under discussion was between the Australian Government and the State Government, not between the Australian Government and the sugar industry, the committee should have at least two representatives of the State Government, for the Australian Government would be represented by three members. So Mr. Bell, the Under-Secretary of the Department of Agriculture in Queensland, and Mr. Donnollan, who iws been secretary of .the Sugar Board for many years, were appointed to the .committee. Although the committee was -required, in the first instance, to .submit .a report , bv the 30th June, 1968, it was not physically possible for it to report by ;that date, and so it was granted a-n extension .of time, with -the result that it was September before ‘the voluminous and -extensile report of the committee was submitted to Cabinet. The .report stated that a further increase in , the price :of sugar payable ;to the industry -was warranted. ‘There -was a difference of -opinion .among ‘the .members of the .committee. I think that Mr. McCarthy and Mr. <Wolfensberger, -who represented -the Department of ‘Trade and ^Customs, found -that an increase of about 5Sd. -per lb. was justified. ‘In their recommendation -they stated that the increase should -be 3/4d. -per lb., -to the nearer farthing ‘forward. The two ‘Queensland members, Mr. Bell and Mr. -Donnollan, finally .recommended an increase of Id. T.he Treasury .representative, ‘Mr. Kentwell, recommended .an increase nf only <£d. i-So - Cabinet, when -.it came -to consider the report, was faced .with recommendations -f for ^increases -of £d., 3/4d. and Id. ‘It is ‘to -the -credit of .’Cabinet that finally it -granted an increase ..of ;ld. per “lb. on .refined sugar, –the ‘highest in- crease recommended. The -reliability and authenticity >o’f ‘the representations ,ma.df by <the sugar industry .are -shown tbv thi> fact that, after those two inquiries, the increase of 2 1/2d. per lb. originally requested was found to be completely justified and was granted. I know the industry is proud of its record in this connexion. When it submits a case for a variation of price or conditions it knows that that case can stand up to any fair and proper investigation and that it will succeed.
We must remember that in determining this matter. Cabinet had to consider many varied factors. It had to bear in mind that it was legislating in the interests, not only of one industry or of a section of industry, but of the whole community. It had to take into account also the effect that any increase of the price of sugar would have on the cost of living. Nevertheless, the case submitted by the industry was so strong that Cabinet agreed to accept the highest recommendation, and it granted an increase of Id. I know that the decision of Cabinet to grant such an increase was influenced by the fact that originally it had promised the Sugar industry that the report of the committee of inquiry would be available by the 30th June, and that the decision would apply to the whole of the crushing. But, as I have pointed out, that proved to be physically impossible, and the increase that was granted finally applied only to sugar sold in Australia after, I think, the beginning of October. About half the season was lost. I believe that that was one of the factors that influenced the decision of Cabinet to grant an increase of Id. Cabinet said, “We shallkeep faith with these people. We were unable to make effective from the 30th June the increase which has been determined to be necessary. Therefore, we shall give the industry an increase of Id., or £d. more than the departmental recommendation “.
I want to make a point that I believe to be of some importance. The industry is gratified and satisfied with the action that this Government has taken, not only on this occasion but also on other occasions when it has been approached. Let me interpolate the remark that the two increases made last year, taken together with other increases granted to the industry since this Government came into office, represent an increase of 4d. per lb. on refined sugar. The price applicable previously was 5d. per lb. The price that prevailed when this Government took over the reins of office has been increased by SO per cent. In those circumstances, it will be seen that not only the sugar industry but also Queensland realizes that it has received fair treatment from this Government. But there are two matters that were discussed which were responsible for creating a good deal of interest and some dissension in the discussions. I think I should refer to them, because they have been, to some degree, left unresolved. They are likely to come into the picture again if, in the future, further approaches have to be made by the industry to the Federal Government. I want to place them upon record a3 matters that are still unresolved and may arise again for consideration.
The industry contended that in any cost determination made, say, in October, the actual costs on the farm to be taken into account should be the costs then prevailing, because they would be the costs that were being met by the farmers from the returns from cane then being harvested. If I were ploughing and planting my land now for cropping next year, my actual operations, payment for fuel, payment of wages and the purchasing of plants would be financed from the money that I received, not from last years crop but from this year’s crop. Therefore, it would be fair that those costs should be taken into account in determining the return for this year’s sugar. However, the committee of inquiry determined that that contention was unsound, and that the costs to be taken into account in determining the price of this year’s sugar should be the costs that prevailed last year. Good arguments could be advanced to support both sides. This is something that we call cost projection. The determination was made finally on the basis of the recommendation by the committee that present day costs should not be taken into account. The determination and the increases that flowed from it meant that the costs then prevailing were not taken into account in that determination. If, now or at some time in the future, a further determination showed that costs this year were not greater than those prevailing last year, the industry would be entitled to say, “ We have some leeway to make up, because the costs involved in the present price are, not 1952 costs, but 1951 costs “. I am referring mainly to costs on the farm. I know that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) will support me in this. I want to make clear that that is one factor that was not taken into account, and we contend still that it should have been.
The industry contended also that the export price and home-consumption price should have been combined in order to determine what was a reasonable return to enable the industry to continue on a sound basis. It was contended that the export of sugar had become an integral part of the national economy. Doubtless honorable members will acknowledge that that is so when I say that this year exports of sugar will help our export income by at least £25,000,000. Therefore, the returns received by growers, millers and the whole of the industry for overseas sales should receive at least some consideration when a determination is being made of the average price for the whole of the crop. In the industry, under the present system of control and expansion, there is no differentiation, as far as the farmers and millers are concerned, between the home-consumption portion of the crop and the great bulk of the export portion. For the purposes of the economy of the State and the industry, all the sugar is pooled. Therefore, in relation to returns to individual growers, it is not possible to differentiate between exports of sugar and sugar consumed locally. We contended that in this determination the returns that should be taken into account and the price that should have been determined should have been such as to marry those two figures, so that the resultant child, so to speak, was representative of both. That contention was not accepted by the committee of inquiry. The industry will press it again if another application is made to this Government or to some other government. I want to go on record as having said that although we feel very satisfied indeed with the final determination, partly because of the Government’s action in giving us the extra farthing as compensation for loss of time, we still contend that the two factors to which I have referred should be taken into account in any future determinations, so that the whole matter could be put upon a thoroughly sound basis.
There are some people in this House and outside of it who have said, “ You. are getting a pretty good deal. We feel that you were treated rather generously, and that you possibly got at least as much from it, if not more than, you should have received “. Of course, the facts submitted by our representatives do not bear that out.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Because the effect of this increase was felt some time ago, unfortunately it is too late for the matter to be debated properly in this House. The honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) stated that the matter was the subject of an inquiry by a committee set up for the purpose, and that the report of that committee was expected by the Government before the 30th June of last year. However, the honorable member said it was physically impossible for the report to be made available by that time, and that it did not in fact become available to the Government until the end of October. It is in that connexion that I wish to address myself to this subject.
The honorable member for Dawson rightly stated that two or three versions have been given concerning the decision to increase the price of sugar as a result of a deputation to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) by representatives of the Queensland Government and the sugar interests of that State. I do not wish to take away from this Government any of the credit which the honorable member for Dawson attributed to it, but I believe that the persons concerned in the matter are also entitled to some credit. The honorable member knows as well as I do that this Government would not have done anything if certain representations had not been made to it. He also knows, but refrained from acknowledging the fact during his speech, that, in the first instance, the growers make application to the Queensland Sugar Board, which then makes representations to the Queensland Government, which in turn makes representations to the Australian Government. The sugar interests, that is to say, the general secretary of the Cane Growers Association, and the secretary of the Australian Sugar Producers Association, go along to the Queensland Sugar Board with a case for an increase of the price of sugar. The board, in turn, considers the matter and refers to . the Queensland Government the case represented to it by the sugar interests with its recommendations. On each occasion that such a review has occurred the Premier of Queensland has’ led a deputation to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the Commonwealth Treasurer. J think that the honorable member for Dawson might well have referred to that procedure. Instead, he gave credit only to this Government, for the fact ‘that the sugar-growers of Queensland now enjoy the benefit of an increased price for their commodity.
As the honorable member fo’r Dawson stated, a ‘committee of inquiry Was set up. It will be interesting to hear the Views of honorable me’mbe’rs opposite concerning the reasons foi” the ‘establishment of ‘that committee. The ‘true position is that the Queensland members of the Australian Country :party met and, for obvious reasons, decided that they could not reject the case put up for an increase of the price of sugar. The members of the Liberal party then met. They had entirely different views from those of the members of the ‘ Australian Country ‘party, because the Liberal party Iras never given a tinker’s curse for the man on the land. ‘They ‘decided forthwith that no increase was war ranted. Consequently, the “powers that ‘be were in :a ‘dilemma. I speak .sub ject to correction at this point, but my information -is that the joint Government parties met ‘during the then current Parliamentary sessional period ‘aird that the overall result of the meeting was that the matter was left in abeyance. No decision -was ‘reached, except that the Department ‘of the Treasury recommended that an increase of one-eighth 1Of a penny a pound was justified “on the ‘ca’se made out by the sugar gr- 0‘ers
-But an interim payment was made.
Ml-. EDMONDS.- I agree that an interim payment Was made, but it was not the final payment. I am sure that the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) will be interested when I say that after the rank-and-file members of both the Liberal party and the Australian Country party returned to their electorates the Cabinet decided to have another look at the matter. It was then that the Government granted this interim payment and decided to establish a committee of inquiry to investigate the whole matter. The Prime Minister announced that it was expected that the report of the committee of inquiry would be available to the Government approximately in June of that year, but as the honorable member for Dawson has said, it was not possible for the report to be submitted until the end of October. During the intervening period the cane-growers had harvested almost all of their crop. “When the report was submitted, it was necessary for the ‘Government to .consider its contents. After due deliberation, a final decision was made. Once again, that decision was token by the Cabinet alone. What had been happening to the cane-growers up -to that point? In common with industry throughout Australia, the sugar-cane industry was subjected to increased costs ‘due to the failure of this Government ‘to arrest rising costs. Almost the whole of last year’s crop was harvested before the cane-growers got one iota of relief from the recent increase of the price of Sugar. I make those statements because .1 want to -give expression to -my quarrel with the Government regarding the delay that occurred in arriving .at & -decision on an increase of the price and how much that increase would i&e. I wish to make it quite clear to ‘honorable members opposite, in case the wrong .story gets ‘out, that .all the credit is -not due .to this .Government, although -I wish to be honest and say that it ‘is entitled to its .fair share of it. The Queensland .State Government, of which -we bear -so .rauch from the other side of the House every -day because it is a -Labour ^government, was finally responsible “for .placing before the Government -the case for .an increase rot price, and I put it to the Prims Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other honorable members, that if the Queensland Premier had not presented a justifiable case there would have been no increase of the price of sugar. Do not let us get the idea that this Government runs round willy-nilly handing out benefits to any industry. The honorable member for Dawson, who, like myself, has a selfish interest in this matter, because we both represent sugar electorates - and I suppose it is expected of us that we shall make an endeavour to justify our existence when matters concerning sugar are debated here - made some reference to export sugar. It is important that we study that aspect of the sugar industry. I am sure that the honorable member for Dawson is aware of, although I am not so certain that all honorable members know, the precarious position that the sugar industry was in until only a week or so ago. The sugar industry could not survive if it relied only on local consumption of sugar. It is .maintained by its exports. The United Kingdom, of course, takes most of our sugar, but it must not be wrongly understood that it uses all the sugar it imports from Australia. The United Kingdom happens to be the distributing agent for Australia’s export ‘sugar.
The sugar industry found itself recently in a position in which, despite what it had accepted to be a tangible agreement on export sugar, the export of Australian .sugar was in dire danger. ‘That arose from the fact that there are other sugar-producing countries which have not enjoyed a market for sugar in ‘the United Kingdom - that is- to say, in the United Kingdom as a distributing agent. ‘The West Indies, for instance, wanted to know why the United Kingdom was not taking more West Indies sugar. My humble view is that the United Kingdom has ‘been endeavouring to maintain a sugar industry that is -a “‘white “ industry. There is ‘not much doubt about that. If we believed otherwise we Should ‘only lie pulling -our ‘Own legs.
I do not want “to introduce the colour question, or the racial question, hut there is no doubt, in my mind at least, that that “was $ic idea behind the - Unite( Kingdom”.?, policy. T attended a -con ference in New Zealand two years ago which was also attended by representatives of the West Indies. They were indignant that West Indies sugar was not acceptable in the United Kingdom. Australia, on the other hand, insisted that Australian sugar be taken in the United Kingdom even to the exclusion of West Indies sugar.” The committee appointed to deal with the importation of sugar to the United Kingdom gave more than due consideration to the fact that Australian sugar is manufactured by white labour working under award conditions, and for that reason should have some preference over sugar produced elsewhere. I hope that that position will not deteriorate at any stage. The position facing the conference was that -we had an agreement, but it was claimed by some people that it had never been signed. The agreement that we believed we had provided that the United Kingdom would take 650,000 tons of our sugar a year at a certain rate, that rate to be subject to amendment from year to year. At the conference we found that there was a suggestion that the agreement was not being conformed with. I pay tribute to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), who led the Australian delegation, and also to the Premier of Queensland, the Honorable V.. C. Gair, and the Queensland AgentGeneral, for the results that proceeded from that conference. The Australian delegation found that it had to fight like Kilkenny cats to maintain the principles of the agreement .that we had thought existed. Whether the agreement had been signed or not, it was suggested that it was not tangible, and the delegation had to start off from taws .and arrive at a new conclusion. To the everlasting credit of the Australian delegation, the .sugar industry of this country has been saved. 1 am amazed that the honorable member for Dawson -did not remind the House of that situation. I am horrified, in fact, to think that he .refrained from doing so in case by mentioning it he would have had to give some credit to the Labour Premier of Queensland. Whether the honorable member and other honorable members are aware of it or not, it could easily .have happened that in a matter of only a few days our sugar ‘industry would have ‘been destroyed. According to my understanding o’f the matter, Canada has been a terrific factor in the reaching of the new and tangible agreement. As far as I know Canada is not obliged to take sugar from the United Kingdom. It can obtain its sugar from wherever it pleases. If Canada had decided that it did not want any more Australian sugar at the higher price, but was prepared to take West Indies sugar at the lower price, I am afraid that the conference would have failed most dismally. The Australian sugar industry should be for ever grateful for the fact that, for whatever reason, Canada decided it wanted Australian sugar even though its decision necessitated it paying a higher price than that at which it could have obtained other sugar. I am not authorized to speak for the Australian sugar industry, but so far as the limited authority that I have goes, I say that it is grateful to the delegation for having saved the sugar industry from what otherwise would have been almost complete destruction.
I turn now to the price of sugar. I know, from observations that have been made on both sides of the House, something about the attitude towards that increase. Victorians are always closely interested in increased prices for sugar. When bread was 4jd. a loaf sugar was 4-^d. a lb. Since then the price of bread has risen to ls. Id.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds). He said that he was surprised that I had failed to make any reference to the recent negotiations in Great Britain to arrange an international sugar agreement. He said he believed that the omission on my part was due to some fear that if I had mentioned the matter, I would have been forced to give some credit to the Labour Premier of Queensland. I wish to inform the honorable member and this House that I did not mention the international sugar agreement solely because it had nothing to do with the matter that is under discussion. It did not arise in the paper that honorable members are debating and I would not have been in .order :in referring to it.
– The honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) has dealt very fully with the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). That statement was made when certain matters relating to the sugar industry were under discussion but had not been resolved. Since then, certain results have been achieved and the honorable member dealt fully with the events that have transpired since the Prime Minister made his statement to this House. I am glad that the sugar industry of Australia has been able to preserve its growers’ organization entirely free from political intrigue. They have been most successful in that regard. Their activities have been above party political wrangling. As a result of their efforts, an economic price has been obtained for the industry which has produced this season the biggest crop of export sugar in the history of the Australian sugar industry. Moreover, the price to the growers is the result of honest and direct dealings. Those results were achieved because ali concerned, including Australian Government and State Government representative, have worked together for the industry. If that principle could be followed by some other organizations, the benefits that would accrue to all primary producers would be greatly enhanced.
The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) lives in a great sugar district and has a close knowledge of the industrial side of the industry, but he made one serious blunder in his speech. He said that the honorable member for Dawson had failed to explain that the growers did not benefit from the last increase of Id. in the price of sugar because the sugar was already on the market. Nothing could be further from the truth. Practically all the sugar that was produced last year before the Id. increase was granted has been marketed since the price rose. The honorable member for Herbert implied that raw sugar was sold to the public. The fact is that the raw sugar has. to be processed before it- is available for public consumption. I believe that the honorable member for Dawson will agree with me that probably only six weeks’ output of the previous season’s sugar did not reach the market after the price was increased. The growers received that increase as a result of the advocacy of the organization. That was encouraging to primary producers because they have had no control over the quarterly adjustments of the basic wage although the variations affect their costs seriously.
A comparison of the price increases for primary products since this Government was returned to office is interesting. The United Kingdom contract price for beef has risen from 8.67d. per lb. in 1950 to l<5.35d. per lb. in 1953. In the same period, the price of first-quality lamb has risen from 12.11d. per lb. to 17.87d. per lb. In 1949-50 the guaranteed price for choicest grade butter at the factory door was 2s. 4.5d. per lb. In 1952-53 it n-as 4s. 1.29d. per lb. In the same period, the export price for butter has risen from 313s. 9d. per cwt. to 392s. 9d. per cwt. The Australian domestic price for refined sugar of 1a grade was £41 9s. 4d. a ton wholesale or 5d. per lb. retail on the 19th December, 1949. Those prices had risen to £73 16s. lid. a ton wholesale and 9d. per lb. retail at the 4th March, 1953. The sugar-growers have received the advantage of those increases largely t , 11 rough the activities of the leaders of their organizations which have enjoyed the confidence of the Australian Government and the Queensland Government.
The arrangements for the marketing of sugar in the United Kingdom will also confer great benefits on the sugar industry, and there is now a sound prospect of increased production at a reasonable price if the quarterly basic wage adjustments do not upset our economy any further. This latter and successful contract was mainly caused by the British purchasers’ agreement with Cuba. That agreement caused the Australian growers to feel some doubts about our future market in Great Britain, but these doubts have been resolved, and the increased production and manufacturing capacity of the sugar industry have been fully justified because the arrangements made by the Government, with the support of the Opposition and all sections of the industry, have been quite satisfactory. Perhaps the leaders of other industries might follow the leaders of the sugar, the beef, and the fruit indus tries and endeavour to obtain similar favorable prices for their products without engaging in controversy one against the other. Since its establishment, the sugar industry has worked in the interests of all sections of the community as a truly Australian organization. It has succeeded in putting before our people the best and whitest refined sugar available anywhere in the world, at the cheapest price that our economy makes possible. That is a credit to the leaders of the sugar industry, and the continuing success of the industry will be largely due to their activities, and to the activities of all governments which desire to have, in the interests of Australia, a strong and successful sugar industry.
– I have a kindly feeling for the Government to-day, because for the first time since I have been a member of this House it has almost done the right thing. The sugar industry has quite a long history that starts with the pioneers who first began to boil a little sugar, and has continued to the present time when we have an enormous sugar industry. Of course, it has again been said that at one time coloured labour was introduced into the industry, but through the good sense of the Australian people those coloured workers were returned to their island homes. Fortunately, Australia decided that it would not benefit the industry, or the country, to employ coloured labour. Australian governments have fostered in Queensland a virile new population that would be a credit to any part of the world. Before 1914 the sugar industry was struggling for a market, but with the outbreak of World War I., the industry soon discovered that it could not supply our own requirements. When we imported sugar we had to pay as much as £80 a ton for it, although it was made from the primary product grown by black labour. From that time the sugar industry has steadily progressed, and all Queensland and federal governments have co-operated to ensure that the industry will remain in its present healthy condition. That hope, which was expressed by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), is shared by all of us. The industry is at present well able to present a good ease in support of the price it requires for its product. Indeed, only once has the price of sugar been reduced and that was done by the Minister for Agriculture in the Lyons Government. Since then, great encouragement has been given by all governments to the development of the industry, and during the war more people learned to use sugar and the demand for it became greater. Of course, from that time onwards, costs also increased.
It is true that at one time a board of inquiry was established to investigate the industry, and later an inquiry commission was set up. But during that time the cost of production increased by 1 1/2d. per lb., while sugar-growers were waiting for a decision on the price. When the commission completed its inquiries, the interim amounts that had been granted to growers had been eaten up by increased costs. I believe that the commission made a thorough investigation into every aspect of the sugar industry. Of course, to-day we are able to provide Great Britain with sugar because of the great mechanization of the industry. During the last slack season in the sugar districts two sugar mills increased their capacity at a cost of about £250,000 each. The sugar industry machinery is expensive, and the manufacturers have to be compensated over a period of time for the money that they have expended to bring efficiency to the industry. A matter that has never been stressed is that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, which refines the industry’s sugar, did not submit its accounts to the sugar-growers so that a full picture of costs could be placed before the commission. However, as soon as an advance was made to the growers, the company claimed its share. On numerous occasions Mr. Forgan Smith, who was an authority on sugar recognized throughout Queensland, represented the sugar industry in London. Later, the late Mr. Hanlon, also a Labour Premier of Queensland, visited London on two occasions to represent the sugar industry. The Minister for ‘ Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) also visited London and discussed this matter there. I do not know whether he has a very wide knowledge of the industry though he knows that some people use sugar in their tea and that it is used in the manufacture of confectionery and jam. In any event, as a member of this Government, he contributed to the discussions. Subsequently, the Minister for Agriculture in the _ Queensland Government, Mr. Collins, went overseas with the sanction of this Government to participate in the negotiations from which the agreement emerged. Prior to the making of agreements of this kind, Australian growers experienced difficulty in obtaining a fair price for sugar that was exported. For many years it was the practice in the industry to determine the amount of sugar that could be marketed in Australia. All sugar that was produced in excess of that peak was supplied to a general pool and was sold overseas at a price much lower than the home-consumption price. As the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) mentioned, this year’s crop will be a record. Last year the value of the Australian sugar crop was approximately £50,000,000, and, this year, it is expected to be much higher. This development can bo attributed not only to increased efficiency in all sections o_f the industry but also to the introduction of gamercine, which has successfully combated the grub that previously had destroyed thousands of acres of cane.
Many of the mills are now equipped with the most modern machinery and greater efficiency has been achieved by the growers, cane-cutters, mill bands and mill managements. To-day, the industry is on an economic basis. The principal difficulty that confronts it, and which will confront other primary industries, is the provision of adequate transport for the distribution of the product not only in Australia but also overseas. The shipping companies have a strangle-hold on such transport. In passLug, i express the hope that the Government will not sell to those companies tho ships that the people now own. During the period when the various conferences were being held, the cost of production of sugar increased substantially. I remind honorable members that the industry had been providing bonuses to the jam manufacturing industry that aggregated £1,000,000. The bonus is to be discontinued until the amount is reduced to £500,000.
That provision will afford welcome relief to the growers. As a result of the impetus that will be given to the industry under the new agreement, it will be enabled to export a record quantity of sugar this year. If it continues to receive similar encouragement in the future, it will become one of the greater primary industries in this country.
.- This debate has been refreshingly novel in that all members of the Opposition who have participated in it have spoken in mild fashion whilst some of them have complimented the Government on the attitude that it has always adopted toward the sugar industry. All who are associated with the industry readily pay tribute to the former Tight honorable member for Bradfield, the late Mr. William Morris Hughes, in thankfulness for the assistance and encouragement that he gave to it. I recall that in 1921, when he was Prime Minister, he took the industry under his special caTe and, responding to pleas made on its behalf, took the unprecedented step in Australia’s history of guaranteeing a homeconsumption price for sugar. At that time, the price was fixed at approximately £30 a ton for a period of five years. Mr. Hughes challenged the industry to make itself capable of supplying all of Australia’s requirements by the end of that period. The faith that he displayed in the industry and the value of the assistance that he thus gave to it were evidenced by the fact that the growers achieved that production goal in not five, but three, years and then commenced to export sugar for the first time in the history of the industry. The industry has continued to expand until, to-day, as the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) has said, it is one of our leading primary industries. Had it not been for the foresight and courage that Mr. Hughes displayed in 1921 it would not now, perhaps, be in so favorable a position. I move among growers and workers in the industry and I know that they still pay tribute to the courage of the man who in those early days foresaw that the industry, if given encouragement, would develop as it has developed to-day.
Tribute should also be paid to those who, in the research field, have developed new species, improved the care of plants and successfully combated pests and thereby contributed to the increased productivity of the industry. This aspect was brought home to me very forcibly last year when I had the opportunity, officially, to visit the Territory of Papua and New Guinea in company with other honorable members. In New Guinea, we were shown a plantation from which, we were told, the first cane introduced into Australia was transplanted. Thanks to the work that has been done in the research field in the intervening years, the productivity of the species has been multiplied. Whilst, to-day, the parent plants remain in New Guinea practically uncared for, those who hope to revive the industry in that territory are looking to the Australian industry to enable them to do so by supplying off-shoots of the plants that were originally obtained from New Guinea. In modern times this industry has had a romantic history. From a comparatively little-known industry in former years it has come to the forefront of the nation’s thoughts. J greatly regret the slight slur cast by the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) on the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan). The sugar industry has never had a better friend, than the Minister. It has been most pleased by the results of ‘all of his negotiations with it. At all times he has attempted to meet the requirements of the industry and to extend to it every courtesy and consideration. He possesses a very wide knowledge of its requirements - indeed, a rauch wider knowledge than one would expect from a person who was engaged in the avocation followed by the Minister prior to his entry into politics. At present there is in operation at Plane Creek in North Queensland a special type of mud filter essential for the production of sugar which could be obtained only from the United States of America. The filter costs a great deal of money and if was necessary for the importers to obtain a licence and an allocation of dollars to import it. It is to the credit of the. Minister for Trade and Customs that immediately the need for the filter was made known to him thi requisite dollar allocation was made available and an import licence was issued. Queenslanders are very well pleased with the attitude of this Government to the sugar industry and with the assistance that the Government has always been willing to give to it.
In 1941, the homo-consumption price to the growers was approximately £33 14s. a ton. In 1952, the price was raised to £ 44 3s. a ton. The industry hasflourished as a result of the incentives given to it by the Government. Whereas, in 1952, Queensland produced 933,000 tons and New South Wales produced 15,000 tons of raw sugar, this year it is expected that the production figures will be 1,200,000 tons and 35,000 tons respectively. As the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has said, this additional production represents a 30 per cent. increase and has made a very valuable contribution to our overseas balances.
I was interested particularly to hear the remarks made by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), who also has a great knowledge of the sugar industry. He knows, as I do, though he did not say so, that although representations concerning the industry are formally made to this Government by the Queensland Government, the submissions are not formulated by the State Government and that it merely presents to the Commonwealth a case that has been prepared for it by the leaders of the sugar industry. The representatives of the industry come to Canberra at fairly frequent intervals - they have been here on three occasions during the last fifteen months - to present their case to the Government. On each occasion they presented a very carefullyprepared document for consideration. The State Minister who formally presents the case to the Commonwealth may not even know “B from a bull’s foot “as applied to the industry. He is able to present a carefully prepared case solely because he has in his hands a sound and balanced document that has been prepared for him by the leaders of the sugar industry. If the honorable member for Herbert wishes to give credit where it is due he should give it, not to the Queensland Government, but to the leaders of the sugar industry.
The sugar industry offers to other primary producing industries a very good example of efficiency which they might well follow. Those engaged in it are constantly on the alert seeking means to improve its efficiency, and to ensure that its product shall be produced as cheaply as possible in order that sugar of the best quality shall be provided and that sugar-producing lands shall be used to the best advantage. Its organization is splendid. As a Queenslander I am proud of the fact that the sugar-producers have grasped the incentive offered to them by this Government, and have expanded their industry to the extent that I have indicated. The sugar industry is a growing industry of which we may be justly proud. It deserves the support of every honorable member in this House and I am sure that it will always receive it.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 5.47 to 8 p.m.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
– (1.) That, in this Resolution - “co-operative company “ have the same meaning as in Division 9 of Part III. of the Assessment Act; “ life assurance company “ have the same meaning as in Division 8 of Part III. of the Assessment Act; “ mutual income in relation to a life assurance company (other than a mutual life assurance company) , mean -
Imposition of Income Tax and Social Services Contribution.
– (1.) That a tax by the name of income tax and social services contribution be imposed at the rates declared in this Resolution. (2.) That, notwithstanding anything contained in this Resolution, income tax and social services contribution be not imposed upon a taxable income which does not exceed One hundred and four pounds derived by -
Rates of Income Tox and Social Services Contribution Payable by Persons other than Companies. 4. -(1.) That the rates of income tax and social services contribution payable by a person other than a company be as set out in the First Schedule to this Resolution.
Limitation of Tax and Contribution Payable by Aged Persons.
– (1.) That this paragraph apply to a taxpayer who -
Minimum Tax and Contribution.
Rates of Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Payable by a Company. 7. -(1.) That the rates of income tax and social services contribution payable by a company, other than a company in the capacity of a trustee, be as set out in the Fifth Schedule to this Resolution. (2.) That where the taxable income of a non-profit company docs not exceed Two hundred and eight pounds, the maximum amount of income tax and social services contribution payable by the company be one-half of the amount by which the taxable income exceeds One hundred and four pounds.
Elimination of Pence.
That where the amount of the income tax and social services contribution which a person would be liable to pay under the preceding provisions of this Resolution, before deducting any rebate or credit to which he is en titled in his assessment, is an amount of pounds, shillings and pence or shillings and pence -
Tax and Contribution where Amount to be Collected or Refunded would not exceed Two Shillings.
– (1.) That, notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding provisions of this Resolution, where a person has, in accordance with section two hundred and twenty-oneH of the Assessment Act, forwarded to the Commissioner a tax stamps sheet or group certificateissued to him in respect of deductions made in a year from his salary or wages, and the difference between the available deductions and the income tax and social services contribution which would, but for this subparagraph, be payable by that person in respect of the taxable income derived by him in that year is not more than Two shillings, the income tax and social services contribution payable by that person in respect of that taxable income bean amount equal to the available deductions. (2.) That the last preceding sub-paragraph do not apply -
Levy of Income Tax and Social Services Contribution.
Provisional Tax and Contribution.
General Rates of Tax and Contribution Payable by Persons other than Companies.
The rate of income tax and social services contribution for every £1 of each part of the taxable income specified in the first column of the following table is the rate set out in the second column of that table opposite to the reference to that part of the taxable income : -
Rates of Tax and Contribution by Reference to an Average Income.
In the case of a taxpayer to whose income Division16 of Part III. of the Assessment Act applies, the rates of income tax and social services contribution are -
the rate ascertained by applying the rates set forth in the First Schedule to a taxable income equal to bis average income and dividing the resultant amount by a number equal to the number of whole pounds in that average income; or
Schedulewere applied to the total taxable income and dividing the resultant amount by a number equal to the number of whole pounds in that remainder.
Rate of Tax and Contribution by Reference to a Notional Income.
For every £1 of the taxable income of a taxpayer deriving a notional income, as specified by section eighty-six or section one hundred and fifty-eight of the Assessment Act, the rate of income tax and social services contribution is the rate ascertained by dividing the tax and contribution which would be payable under the First Schedule upon a taxable income equal to his notional income by a number equal to the number of whole pounds in that notional income.
Rates of Tax and Contribution Payable by a Trustee.
For every £1 of the taxable income in respect of which a trustee is liable, in pursuance of either section ninety-eight or section ninetynine of the Assessment Act, to be assessed and to pay tax and contribution, the rate of income tax and social services contribution is the rate which would be payable under the First, Second or Third Schedule, as the case requires, if one individual were liable to be assessed and to pay tax and contribution on that taxable income.
Rates of Tax and Contribution Payable by a Company oilier than a Company in. the Capacity of Trustee.
In the case of a company (not being a private company, a co-operative company, a non-profit company or a life assurance company) which is a resident, the rates of income tax and social services contribution are -
In the case of a company (not being a private company, a co-operative company, a non-profit company or a life assurance company) which is a non-resident, the rates of income tax and social services contribution are -
In the case of a company which is a private company, the rates of income tax and social services contribution are -
In the case of a company (not being a private company or a life assurance company) which is a co-operative company or a non-profit company, the rates of income tax and social services contribution are-
In the case of a company (not being a private company) which is a mutual life assurance company, the rates of income tax and social services contribution are -
In the case of a company (not being a private company) which is a life assurance company other than a mutual life assurance company, the rates of income tax and social services contribution are -
For every £1 of interest in respect of which a company is liable, in pursuance of sub-section (1.) of section one hundred and twenty-five of the Assessment Act, to pay income tax and social services contribution, the rate of income tax and social services contribution is Seven shillings.
Briefly stated, this resolution provides for a reduction in the rates of income tax and social services contribution on individuals and companies; the abolition of further tax on property income; the introduction of a concessional rate of tax on the abnormal income receipts of authors, artists, composers and inventors; and an increase in the exemption from tax for aged persons.
The proposed reductions in the individual rates of tax and contribution for the financial year 1953-54 represent an overall reduction of 121/2 per cent. at a cost to revenue for a full year of £51,250,000. The reductions proposed will be graduated from 24 per cent. for a person without dependants on £150 per annum. to 105 per cent. on an income of £10,000.
The reductions for persons maintaining dependants will be even more substantial. This is due in part to the fact that in the Assessment Bill the Government proposes to increase the present concessional allowance of £104 for a spouse by £26 to £130. As a result of the combination of the reduction in rates and the increase in this allowance, the amount of tax payable by persons with dependants will be reduced by 100 per cent. on the lower income groups, by about 20 per cent. in the middle income groups and by nearly 11 per cent. at an income of £10,000.
Although there is an overall reduction in rates of 121/2 per cent., the lower percentage reductions proposed for the higher income groups result in an overall reduction to the salary and wage earning section of the community of approximately 15 per cent. The overall rate reduction to persons who derive income from sources other than salary and wages is, therefore, less than 121/2 per cent. Consequently the major part of the relief from income tax through rate reductions and the increase in the wife allowance will be received by the salary or wage earner who supports a family. To provide some incentive for those persons in the upper income groups who are primarily responsible for initiating expansion of business activity and encouraging development, it is proposed to reduce the maximum rate of tax from 15s. in the fi to 14s. in the £1. For the same reason, it is proposed that the maximum rate shall apply only to taxable income in excess of £16,000 instead of the present £10,000. An examination of the schedules circulated to honorable members will, I am confident, bring satisfaction to all who are prepared to consider, on a dispassionate basis, the rates of tax necessary to maintain effective social services and to take proper care of the nation’s defence. At every income level, the tax payable in Australia is lower than in either New Zealand or the United Kingdom, despite recent reductions in both those countries.
The proposed new rates of tax which will apply to income derived from 1st July, 1953, will be reflected in lower instalment deductions from salary and wages. However, owing to the time required to calculate, print and distribute new scales, the reduced instalments will not come into effect until the 1st November, 1953. Any excess deductions will be refunded to taxpayers when assessments on 1953-54’ incomes are issued. The provisional tax payable on account of 1953-54 non-salary and wage incomes will be appropriately adjusted to reflect the reduced rates of tax. These provisional amounts will be included in assessments based on 1952-53 incomes, which will issue later this year.
Since the inception of the Commonwealth income tax, income from property has been subject to a heavier taxation than income from personal exertion. Many reasons have been advanced for this differentiation, but most of them were evolved in the last century when tax rates were low as compared with presentday rates. Consciously or unconsciously, they centred in the belief that property incomes were large and personal exertion incomes were small. In essence, therefore, they resolved themselves into a justification for a greater degree of graduation in the rates of tax. It is generally agreed that tax rates to-day are sufficiently progressive by any standards. In addition, the large incomes of to-day are not derived principally from property, but contain a large element of personal exertion. In fact, it is very doubtful whether any real and fundamental difference can be drawn between income from personal “exertion and income from property. Any distinction between the two types of income must be based upon a statutory definition which in itself is subject to limitations. It is most difficult, if not impossible, to determine with any precision the amount of income which may arise through a property element as distinct from a personal exertion element. For instance, the income of a businessman is composed of an element of return of capital invested and also an element of his own personal industry. All this income has, to the present, been treated as personal exertion but it could be argued that some proportion of this income should be deemed to be income from property. On the other hand, a person deriving income from investments is taxed on this income at property rates. As a large amount of personal effort in many cases could be expended in ensuring a continuation of the income, in equity, some portion of it should be regarded as personal exertion income. This difficulty of distinguishing between the sources of income has long been recognized in the Australian taxing system by not imposing a differential tax on large property incomes. As a result the middle incomes have borne the main burden of this additional tax.
As I have already mentioned, the theory of differentiation was hammered out in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, long before inflationary spirals of the severity caused by two world wars were considered possible. Increasing costs tend to diminish the share of property incomes in total personal income. For example, in 1938-39, rent, interest and dividends constituted nearly 12 per cent, of total personal income. In the intervening fourteen years, property incomes have only slightly more than doubled, whereas other forms of income have increased fivefold. As a result, in 1952-53, property incomes comprised less than 6 per cent, of total personal income - or less than half the percentage in 1938-39. It is clear that the time has come for a reappraisal of the position if. adequate saving and investment is to be encouraged. Other countries have already taken the initiative-, the United States abolished differentiation in 1943 and New Zealand in 1950. In Canada, only token respect is paid to differentiation where a surtax at a flat rate of 4 per cent, is imposed on property income in excess of 2,400 dollars. The United Kingdom continues to have some regard to differentiation, but even there it is limited to income up to £2,025. It is of interest to record that although, income tax was introduced in the United Kingdom in 1798, it was not until 1907 that differentiation was included in the income tax law.
The Commonwealth Committee on Taxation examined the question of taxation on property income in its Report on Income Tax Rates Schedule - Reference No. 1. The committee expressed the view that a differential rate for property is not warranted. It said - ft causes unnecessary complications- and administrative difficulties and is particularly irksome to taxpayers with personal exertion income and small amounts of property income. Abolition of the differential rate would tend towards simplicity in the return form, in the ascertainment of taxable income and the calculation of the amount, of tax.
In view of these facts, it. has been decided not to Te-impose the further rates of tax on property income for the financial year 1953-54. These rates began at Sd. in the £1 on property income in excess of £100 where the total income exceeded £400. The property rate rose to a maximum of 16d. on property income between £1,000 and £4,000, and gradually diminished to a minimum of 4d. on. property income from £6,000 to £10,000, and vanished altogether on the income in excess of £10,000. By the abolition of further tax, savings will be encouraged and the income tax law will be further simplified. Some 250,000 taxpayers now subject to the additional levy will receive simpler notices of assessment and be able more readily to calculate their taxes byreason of the abolition of the levy. The cost to revenue will be £3,500,000 in a full year. Of this relief, nearly 56 per cent, will accrue to taxpayers whose incomes lie between £1,000 and £5,000.
– T,he preceding Labour Government could have granted similar reductions. It failed to do so.
I now turn to> the proposal to increase the age allowance,’ which was first introduced into the income tax law by this Government in 1951 as an earnest of its desire to reward thrift and saving. This provision grants exemption from income tax to persons who, by reason of age, are eligible for the age pension but who, because of their incomes, are not qualified to receive the pension. At present, a single person qualified by age is exempt from income tax if his income does not exceed £254. A married couple, who are both qualified by age, are exempt if their combined incomes do not exceed £507. It is now proposed to extend the exemption points for age allowance. In future, a single person qualified by age and residence will be exempt on aa income up to £375. A married couple will be: exempt if their combined incomes do not exceed £750. The proposed increases which will operate from the 1st July, 1953, are £121 and £243 respectively, and will cost revenue £1,500,000 in a full year.
Provision is made in the resolution fer some relief for those- taxpayers whose incomes are slightly higher than the- proposed exemption. It will be provided that where the income exceeds the appropriate exemption, the tax payable shall not exceed one-half of the amount by which the income exceeds that exemption. In the case of married couples of pensionable age, the effect of this provision is to- reduce the tax payable on combined incomes of as much as £973. The Government feels that this substantial increase, in the exemption points will relieve the burden of tax upon those people who, by reason of their thrift in the past, have accumulated sufficient to provide them with an income in their old age.
– That will not provide much relief.
– The Labour Government did not provide any relief. For the last financial year, public companies were liable to income tax at the rate of 5s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of income and 7s. in the £1 on the balance. An additional levy of 2s. on every £1 of taxable income was also imposed. It is now proposed to abolish the additional levy and consolidate the rates of tax. Public companies which are liable to pay the additional tax of 2s. in the £1 will, under this resolution, pay 6s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of taxable income and 7s. in the £1 on the balance. Those public companies which were not liable to the additional levy, that is, non-profit companies, co-operative companies and nonresident companies - so far as income from dividends was concerned - will continue to pay tax at the rates of 5s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of taxable income and 7s. in the £1 on the balance. The new rates represent, in the generality of cases, a reduction of ls. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of income and 2s. in the £1 on the excess over £5,000.
It will be recalled that last year the rate of tax on income under £5,000 of public companies was reduced from 9s. to 7s. in the £1, so that, over the last two years, public companies will have received a reduction of 3s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of income and 2s. in the £1 on the excess over £5,000. The present rates of tax on private companies are 5s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 and 7s. in the £1 on the excess. It is now proposed to reduce those rates by ls. in the £1, so that the new rates of tax will be 4s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 and 6s. in the £1 on the excess over £5,000. Life assurance companies will continue to be taxed as to mutual income at the rates of 4s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 and 6s. on the excess. The proposed rates will apply for the financial year 1953-54, that is, to income derived during the year ended 30th June, 1953. The cost to revenue of these changes is estimated at £28,750,000 in a full year.
Provision is also made in this resolution for the imposition of a concessional rate of tax upon the incomes of artists, authors, composers and inventors where that income includes abnormal receipts representing the culmination of several years work. This concession will be further explained when the Assessment Bill is introduced.
This resolution provides for nearly three-quarters of the reductions proposed by the Government for this financial year. They have been distributed between individuals and companies in such a way as to encourage private effort as much as possible. Individuals will no longer have any tax deterrent to increasing their earnings either through overtime or additional effort, nor will there be any real basis for claims that the weight of company taxation is stultifying initiative and development. The rates which I have announced herein are the lowest which have obtained in Australia since uniform tax was introduced in 1942. In terms of actual revenue they are the largest reductions ever proposed by a Commonwealth government.
It gives me great pleasure to announce these reductions which have been made possible only by the improvement in the stability of the economy which has occurred by the financial efforts of the people in the last two years. I commend the resolution to honorable members.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and read a. first time.
– by leave - I move - That the bill be now road” a second time.
This bill is one of a number of measures to give effect to proposals that were outlined in the budget speech which I delivered last night. Important features of the bill are the proposed increases in the concessional allowance for a dependent wife and for the expenses of educating children. The maximum concessional deductions for medical and dental expenses also are being increased. The wife allowance is being raised by £26 - that is, from £104 to £130. This increase will apply also to the deduction allowed for a dependent father or mother, a daughter keeping house for a widowed taxpayer, and a housekeeper having the care of children under the age of sixteen years. The increased allowances will apply in assessments based on income of the current financial year 1953-54, and will be reflected as from the 1st November next in the reduced tax instalments to be deducted from salary and wages. The increase in these concessions’ is estimated to be worth £5,550,000 to taxpayers in a full assessment year.
Concurrently with this increase in the maximum amount of concessional deductions allowed for a wife or daughterhousekeeper, it is proposed to grant more liberal allowances where such dependants derive separate net income. Under the present law, the concessional deduction for a wife or daughter-housekeeper is diminished by £2 for every £1 by which the dependant’s separate income exceeds £52. Under the proposed allowances, the normal deduction of £130 will not be diminished unless the dependant’s separate net income exceeds £65. Where the separate income is between £65 and £130, a partial deduction will be allowed to the taxpayer. This is a more liberal provision than the present law, which provides for no deduction whatever where the dependant’s income exceeds £104. This further concession will be worth £450,000 in a full year.
As I have already indicated, the bill provides for increased allowances in respect of expenditure incurred by taxpayers in the education of children. When this concession was introduced for the first time by this Government last year, I promised that it would be kept under review and that, when circumstances permitted, it would be increased and enlarged wherever possible to meet other types of inescapable expenditure incurred by parents in connexion with the education of their families. The fulfilment of that promise is found within this bill. It is proposed, in the first place, to increase from £50 to £75 the maximum amount which may be deducted in respect of each child receiving full-time education. The conditions attaching to the concession are also to be made more liberal. For example, under the present law the concession has been restricted to payments made directly to the school at which the child was receiving full-time education.
This restriction will be removed and the deduction extended to all expenses, up to a maximum of £75, necessarily incurred in ‘connexion with the child’s education. The allowance will now cover, in addition to school fees, such expenditure as the cost of board and accommodation, fare3 incurred in travelling to and from the school or university, and the purchase of text-books, stationery and equipment.
A further extension of the allowance will permit a deduction in respect of expenses incurred in the education of any of the taxpayer’s own children who is under 21 years of age but who, by reason of receiving government assistance or earning separate income, is not classed as dependent upon his parent for the purpose of income tax allowances. Under the present law, a parent who incurs expenditure on the education of his child has been excluded from the benefit of any deduction for that expenditure if the child was in receipt of, say, a government scholarship to the value of £78 or more. These amendments will apply as from the 1st July, 1953, at an additional cost to revenue, in a full assessment year, of £1,950,000.
The Government has given careful consideration to representations made on behalf of taxpayers who have had the misfortune to incur- medical expenses in excess of the present maximum deduction of £100 allowed for each member of the family. With the introduction of the Commonwealth Medical Benefits Scheme, such instances will be less common in future. Nevertheless, in consonance with the Government’s policy of extending tax concessions where more liberal allowances are merited, it is proposed to raise to £150 the maximum medical, dental and optical expenses in respect of which a deduction is allowable, and to increase the maxim-um dental expenses subject to the concession from £20 to £30 for each person.
These amendments also will apply as from the 1st July, 1953, and, in a full year, the cost will be about £100,000.
Other provisions in the bill are designed to give effect to concessions which were announced by the Government some time prior to the introduction of the budget.
One of these concessions is the allowance of a deduction in respect of contributions of £1 or more to the Queen Elizabeth the Second Coronation Trust Fund for Mothers and Children. As honorable members will recall, this fund has been established to commemorate the special occasion of Her Majesty’s Coronation, and it is fitting that citizens who desire to contribute to the fund should receive the same tax concession as would apply to gifts to public hospitals caring for mothers and babies.
The other concession which has previously been announced relates to the exemption of profits earned .from certain mining operations. For some years the law has provided that a proportion of profits earned from certain base metals and rare minerals should be free from income tax. This exemption ceased to apply, in the case of companies, as from the 1st July, 1952, and, in the case of individual taxpayers, as from the 1st July, 1953. Provision is made in the bill for a continuation of the exemption, in all cases, until the 30th June, 1960. Shortly stated, one-fifth of profits earned from mining operations for the prescribed metals and minerals will be exempt from tax. Dividends paid by mining companies wholly and exclusively out of the exempt profits will also be tax-free in the hands of the shareholders. Associated with this extension of the period of the concession, it is proposed to extend the exemption to one-fifth of the profits from mining operations for certain other minerals which will be specified in a regulation to be gazetted after the bill becomes law. The extension will be operative as from the 1st July, 1953. As a result of these exemptions, the mining industries concerned will receive additional tax relief to the extent of about £500,000 annually.
The bill provides also for a relaxation in some of the conditions relating to the undistributed income tax payable by private companies. As honorable members are aware, a private company may retain a proportion of its distributable income free from liability to undistributed income tax. This provision is known as the retention allowance. Under the present law it applies to business income only.
It is now proposed to grant a retention allowance in respect of income from property, such as rent, interest and dividends, except dividends received from other private companies. One-tenth of distributable income received by a private company from rents, interest and dividends from public companies will now be free from undistributed income tax. Although this retention is on a lower scale than the percentages allowed to be retained from business income, it will assist private companies to build up necessary reserves for such purposes as modernizing rent-producing premises. This retention allowance will apply to income of the year 1952-53, and will reduce the undistributed income tax payable by private companies to the extent of about £350,000 annually. It will be recalled that the private company tax legislation enacted last year specified a period of five years up to the 31st December, 1957, for the distribution of tax-free dividends to shareholders of private companies. This period was then considered adequate to enable private companies to distribute, free of tax, accumulated funds on which tax had been paid at shareholders’ individual rates. Further information supplied to the Government indicates that there will be cases in which the period of five years may not be sufficient and may result in hardship. It has been decided therefore that the extension of this period by a further five years is warranted. The period during which tax-free distributions may be made will accordingly be extended to the 31st December, 1962.
Last, but not the least important of the amendments to be mentioned in connexion with this bill, is a new concession in regard to income earned by authors, artists, dramatists, composers and inventors. By reason of the system of graduated rates of income tax, the receipt in one year of abnormally high amounts of income may involve the recipients in taxation at unduly high rates. As abnormal receipts of this nature frequently represent the fruits of several years’ work, these taxpayers are at a disadvantage in comparison with other taxpayers. In order to minimize this disadvantage, it is proposed to apply a. concessional rate of tax to income which includes such abnormal receipts. Shortly stated, the taxable income, including the abnormal receipt, will be taxed at the rate appropriate to the taxpayer’s normal income plus one-third of his abnormal receipt. For the purposes of this concession, abnormal income is defined in the bill. Broadly, it includes all such lump sums as consideration received by an author for the sale of the copyright of his work or by an inventor for the sale of the patent of his invention, advance payments of royalties received by the author or inventor, and prizes won in literary or artistic competitions.
Recurrent payments such as royalties will also be regarded as abnormal income when received by the author or inventor, to the extent that those royalties exceed the taxpayer’s annual average from these sources over the three preceding years, or the amount of £500, whichever is the greater. However, salary, wages or other forms of remuneration derived by an author or inventor for services rendered will not be regarded as abnormal income. Such remuneration will be taxed at the usual rates. The concession I have mentioned, which should provide substantial encouragement to cultural and inventive activities, is estimated to cost revenue about £50,000 in a full assessment year. It will apply as from the 1st July, 1953. The only other amendments proposed in the bill are consequential upon the abolition of the further tax upon property income, whichproposal I have already explained. These amendments are of minor drafting character only, and may be more appropriately discussed, if honorable members so desire, in the committee stages. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr.Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 13th March (vide page 1043, Vol. No. 221), on motion by Sir Phillip McBride -
That the following pa.per be printed: -
Korea - Australian contribution - United Nations’ Forces - Ministerial Statement.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 19th February (vide page 111, Vol. No. 216), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the following paper be printed: -
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 19th February (vide page 145, Vol. No. 218), on motion by Mr. Beale -
That the following paper be printed: -
.- The paper now before the House, which was presented in August, 1952, refers to the reduction of the intake of immigrants during the year 1952-53. I shall not devote a great deal of time to the subject, but I propose to discuss one or two important points that arise from the statement. Until 1952-53, we had attempted to introduce approximately 150,000 immigrants annually, but in that year the Government decided that, in view of economic developments in Australia, the intake should be considerably reduced. In fact, it was reduced to about 80,000 persons. The programme for the year was limited almost entirely to the completion of family units. In other words, we admitted mainly wives, children, fiancees, brothers and sisters of’ persons who had reached Australia already.
Although in my opinion, and in the opinion of most honorable members, it is vital for us to continue with a vigorous immigration programme, we must be prepared at all times to regard it as a flexible programme so that it can be adjusted according to conditions that rule within Australia from time to time. It is not an easy task to introduce flexibility into such a programme. The pressure of population on the other side of the world, notably in Great Britain, Holland, Italy, Greece, and even such countries as Malta, is serious. The pressure in Western Germany may increase as refugees escape to that zone from Eastern Germany. If Australia is to have a bold programme that will encourage the introduction and assimilation of people from those countries, it must be based upon a long-term plan. Arrangements cannot be made overnight for the selection, medical examination and transport of immigrants, and, when they have been made, they cannot be cancelled at short notice. Therefore, we must prepare in advance to cope with difficult situation: such as that which arose last year. Fortunately, as a result of recent events in this House, such a situation is not likely to develop again for a long time. Nevertheless we cannot ignore the possibility that a prolonged drought or other misfortune may force us to. reduce the intake of immigrants.
The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) was overseas when the statement t which wo are now considering was submitted to the House by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). He was engaged at that time in explaining to . the governments of various countries the difficulties with which Australia was confronted, and, fortunately, he succeeded in pursuading them to accept the view that a restriction of migration to Australia was temporarily essential. At that time, many British and Dutch citizens were eager to come to Australia. Another difficulty that might have had a serious effect upon our immigration plans at that time arose from complaints about hostel accommodation made by British immigrants. Honorable members will recall that a committee was appointed to examine that problem. I was the chairman, and the other members were the secretary of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, Mr. Broadby, the federal secretary of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Mr. Neagle, and the world vice-president of the Young Women’s Christian Association, Mrs. Kumm
I take this opportunity of thanking the members of that committee publicly for the tremendous work that they did at a great deal of inconvenience to themselves. They presented a unanimous report which has been accepted by the Government. Although a small number of immigrants did not like the report very much the difficulties which had arisen have now practically disappeared.
– That is a great simplification of the issue. There is still a good deal of dissatisfaction.
– Of course there is. But if the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) reads the report of the committee to which I have referred he will see that we found out why there was dissatisfaction.
While I was in Perth a few weeks ago 200 angry immigrants sailed back to England, saying that Australia was a rotten place. But about the same time, a boat arrived in Fremantle full of British immigrants who had been here previously and who were returning to this country, having changed their minds about it. Of course, there has been dissatisfaction ! But it has been among a small percentage of immigrants only. Since 1946, 350,000 British immigrants have come to Australia. The trouble that we had in connexion with the hostels was limited to about 4,000 immigrants. If the honorable member for Perth will read the report which my colleagues and I prepared he will find that a great deal of trouble was fostered from an address in Bourke-street, Melbourne, and that the legal advisers of these people belonged to a party with which neither we on this side of the House nor honorable members on the other side of the House have much sympathy. I do not suggest that all the immigrants who were dissatisfied did not have reason to be dissatisfied. Some had reason for dissatisfaction. I do not suggest that the whole of their complaints were inspired by Communist people. They were not. But, generally speaking, immigrants who have come to Australia determined to do a job and gain something for themselves have been able to do so. The turnover of residents at hostels has been 104 per cent, a year so that the population of a hostel could change completely in twelve months. Consequently, when one found people who had been living in a hostel for more than two years one wondered whether they had really tried to get out.
As the honorable member for Perth has said, there is still a good deal of dissatisfaction. Of course there is ! People want their own. houses. Nobody is very happy with hostel life. But less and less is it necessary for people to stay in hostels for a long time.
The Minister’s statement dealt with the Government’s policy of restricting immigration during 1952 and I want to commend to the House the action of the Minister in insisting on a flexible programme. An immigration programme must remain flexible at all times in the interests of the people who come to Australia and in the interests of the people who reside here.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I think that honorable members who are interested in the immigration programme should take this opportunity of indicating exactly what they think of the attitude of the Government to the need for assisting immigrants to obtain housing. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) and the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) know that there lias been continuous discontent among immigrants who have been confined to accommodation in hostels. Complaints have been made about food, lighting, sanitation and the standard of accommodation generally. I do not intend to apportion the blame to any particular government. A very vast programme was initiated by the Chifley Government and it necessitated the creation of emergency accommodation. In some cases this was provided in unused wool stores and in all sorts of camps and buildings. Had this accommodation been used only for a few months I do not think that there would have been the degree of discontent that has obtained during the last two or three years. Even if the Government now provided the most expensive food and all sorts of amenities and concessions to the people who have to live in these temporary accommodation centres they would not be satisfied. That state of affairs is very understandable and any person who has had to live in any place other than his own home should be able to sympathize with thee people. In view of the fact that the Government has announced that there are ample supplies of building materials, ample supplies of steel, ample tiles, ample timber, ample fibrous plaster, and ample land on which to build, it appears that it is high time that the Government announced a satisfactory plan to enable people who have been confined in these establishments for so long to obtain a roof over their head.
It came to my notice recently that the British immigrants who are accommodated in the Brooklyn hostel in my electorate had made a very satisfactory move to help themselves. Under the laws of the State of Victoria they had embarked on a project under which a number of them became members of a co-operative housing group. With the assistance of their local member of the State Parliament, the Minister for Education in Victoria, Mr. Shepherd, and the Victorian Minister for Immigration, Mr. Slater, they approached the State Savings Bank of Victoria from which they obtained a loan of £150,000. They purchased a block of land at Altona which will be large enough to accommodate 600 homes. This is an ambitious project. They began their first housing group with only £150,000 available to them. 1 have visited their building site. I have seen them working there at week-ends. They have already completed about a dozen houses, each of which is valued at not a penny less than £3,000, but the net cost to the occupants will be £1,700. The workmanship is good, because in the main these people are competent tradesmen.
They are enthusiastic. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has assisted them in many ways. He has put at their disposal for prefabricating work one of the great wool-sheds at the immigrant hostel. But here is the rub. Finding themselves short of capital for the formation of another co-operative housing group, and not being able to satisfy even the requirements of the members of the first group, they approached the Commonwealth Bank and inquired whether it would be possible for the bank to advance funds to enable them to form at least a second housing group. They were informed by officials of the bank that it would be- anything up to two or three years before the requisite finance for the building of further homes on this estate could be provided. Surely it is a reflection on this Government, which, in the final analysis, has power to direct the Commonwealth Bank, that some action has not been taken to make finance available to these people. They want to remove themselves from unsuitable surroundings. They are willing to supply voluntarily the labour of competent tradesmen, and they can offer as security for any loan made to them the houses that they erect and the materials on which they are working.
I do not want to misrepresent the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown), but I understand that he made some reference to an idea that exists in the minds of some people that British immigrants are not prepared to help themselves. They are working hard. It is a pleasure to see them at work. It may be that the Commonwealth Bank has not sufficient liquid finance available to enable it to advance the money for which they have asked, but surely this Government could do something to ensure that the bank, backed, if necessary, by the resources of the Commonwealth, will be able to provide the requisite finance. We have been told that the era of shortages has passed. All of the necessary materials are available and there is a reservoir of labour, but, owing to a lack of finance, these very desirable people, our own kith and kin from the United Kingdom, are unable to build their houses at the rate at which they would like to so that they can leave this dreadful hostel as soon as possible.
I do not accept statements without some confirmation of their accuracy. When these people told me that the Commonwealth Bank could not provide finance for anything up to two or three years, I wrote to the bank in order to obtain confirmation of the statement. But it is difficult to get officials to put on paper something that they have said verbally. I asked the bank whether it was a fact that officials of this voluntary organization had been informed that finance could not be provided for two or three years. The reply from the bank was of such a nature that it did not specifically confirm the statement that had been made to me, but there was enough in it to indicate that, under existing circumstances, it would be a very long time indeed before finance could be provided for this group. By another method of approach, which I do not desire to mention publicly, I confirmed that it would be two or three years before the group could obtain finance from the bank for the very desirable effort that it is making.
I wrote to the Minister for Immigration about this matter three or four weeks ago. I told him of the attitude adopted by the ‘Commonwealth Bank, and asked whether, through the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), he would take some action to assist the people who were working on this project with such enthusiasm. My criticism is not intended to be unfriendly. It is of a constructive nature. I suggest that the Treasurer and the Minister for Immigration read thoroughly the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 and decide whether it imposes an obligation upon the bank. I ask them to consider whether, if the bank is unable to discharge that obligation, an obligation rests upon the Treasurer and the Ministers responsible for the continuation of the immigration programme to see whether means can be evolved by which these enthusiastic people, who are doing something of a constructive nature, can he lifted from the mire in which they are being kept, not by a shortage of material* or a lack of desire to use their own labour voluntarily, but because they have been told that the finance that they require cannot be made available for two or three years. I hope that what I have said will make the responsible Ministers realize that there is a need for urgent action to be taken to assist these people to solve the serious housing problem with which they are confronted.
.- I have listened with a great deal of interest to what the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has said. I join with him in praising immigrants for the self-help activities in which they have engaged in an endeavour to establish themselves here in a worthwhile manner. But I am sure the honorable member will agree with me that all major schemes such as the scheme for immigration into this country must suffer from growing! pains of one form or another. I hope he will agree, and I am certain that, if he does not. the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) will, that what thi? Government has done to assist immigrant” to this country has been of outstanding value both to the Australian community and to the newcomers. There may be instances in respect of which the immigrants have some ground for complaint, but they are isolated instances that can be dealt with satisfactorily. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has been confronted with major problems and with many minor problems arising from a great influx of newcomers to the community, but, in the main, his work has been commended by the Opposition and his efforts have received the wholehearted support of the Government parties. The co-operation of the people of Australia in the immigration programme has been splendid.
Since the Minister made his statement, it has become necessary to impose some limit upon the influx of immigrants, but there is still a steady stream of newcomers, and they are being assimilated into the community very well. I am pleased that the methods of selecting and screening immigrants before they leave their own countries have been improved. A better selection is being made now than was the case previously when large numbers of immigrants were coming to Australia. At the beginning of the immigration scheme, the methods of screening prospective immigrants from the health stand-point left something to be desired. People who were suffering from disease managed to gain admittance to Australia. Perhaps the diseases were dormant, or perhaps they were known to the immigrants. However, by some means, due to the rush of applicants for admission to Australia, some such people were able to get through the screen. During the last few years, particularly during the last twelve months, the screening process has been intensified, and fewer people of the kind to whom I refer have been able to escape detection. This problem is of great importance to Australia. Our immigration laws provide that if, within two years of arrival in Australia, an immigrant is found to have an infectious disease, he can be deported. Therefore, it is necessary that we should discover in those first two years whether an immigrant is suffering from a contagious or infectious disease that may make him a danger to the health of the community of which he hopes to become an integral part. Under section 8 (a) (i) (c) of the act, if immigrants become inmates of an asylum for the insane or a public charitable institution during the first five years of their residence here they may be deported or repatriated to their former countries, lt is in that regard particularly that I wish to speak.
Of late months it has -been found that people have come into Australia suffering from tuberculosis. Whether they contracted the disease before or after their arrival is beside the point. In some States of the Commonwealth, including New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, the only institutions in which they may obtain treatment for tuberculosis are public hospitals run by the government. Such hospitals are classified as public charitable institutions. The ironical situation therefore exists that if an immigrant, between the second and fifth year of his residence in Australia, is found to be suffering from tuberculosis, he must, of necessity, enter a public charitable institution for treatment and thus make himself liable to deportation under the strict letter of the act. I suggest to the Minister and to the Government that a more realistic approach should be made to this problem, because it is essential that every person suspected of suffering from tuberculosis should be examined and that every positive case should bo treated, or at least isolated. If immigrants know that they are liable to bo deported if they are found to be suffering from tuberculosis, I suggest that many of them will not report to doctors if they suspect that they have the disease.
– They are not necessarily deported.
– They may be repatriated. It seems to me that most of them would not knowingly place themselves in a position that might result in their having to go back to the countries from which they came. If immigrants conceal the fact that they have tuberculosis, they become a danger to the health of the community generally. As the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) is no doubt aware, because there is an Italian community in his electorate, recently the general rule was reversed in a particular instance and the Italian concerned allowed to remain in this country, although he has tuberculosis.
It has been argued that the treatment of tuberculosis is very costly. That is true. It involves many long months of hospital treatment. However, I claim that it is better to encourage immigrants to come forward and undergo treatment rather than to allow them to be at liberty in the community and perhaps spread the disease by contact with others in places such as bars, picture shows and transport vehicles. In my opinion, the present situation is a serious danger to the health of the community generally, and may lead to the defeat of our efforts to eradicate tuberculosis.
In most communities immigrants are being assimilated very well, and I think that the old Australians are to be praised for the way in which they have extended a friendly hand to the immigrants and attempted to bring them into the community life. However, we at times hear isolated complaints. When one looks for the cause of these complaints it is usually found that there is some degree of misunderstanding on the part of both new Australians and Australians by birth. I am particularly interested in the attitude of people in the north of Queensland to new members of the Italian community. On a recent visit to that area, an Australian said to me, “ These Italians are arrogant. They walk along the footpath and push you into the gutter if you do not watch out “. I made inquiries and found that this was indeed true. However, I learned that the Italians sometimes walk on the inside of the pavement because in Italy it is the custom to walk on the right-hand side. It is not unusual for a group .of men, lost in conversation, who have been brought up to walk on the right-hand side of the pavement, to come into rather violent contact with people who have been taught to walk on the other side of the pavement. That is an understandable thing. I suggest that it is the responsibility of all of us to recognize the fact that such differences exist and to exercise a little more understanding.
At a reception at Mareeba to the new Italian Minister to Australia, one of the ai.eal.crs complained to me that the
Italians in that community and in other parts of northern Queensland greet each other in their own language when they meet in the street. He said, “ This is an abominable thing. We cannot have it. Why cannot they speak English ? “ Signora Daneo, the wife of the Minister, who was accompanying him at the time, came to me after wards and said, “You people do not understand. If two Australians were to meet in the streets of Rome, would not they throw their arms round each other’s shoulders and sing Waltzing Matilda’?” I said, “No, they would be hardly likely to do that. They would be more likely to clap each other on the back and say ‘ Come and have a .beer ‘.” There is room on our part for understanding of a people brought into a strange community life who are endeavouring to adapt themselves to our customs.
As the honorable member for Herbert will no doubt agree, the second generation of immigrants in his electorate are fine Australians. An excellent spirit exists in the community centres, where second generation Australians and other children all play together. Recently, I visited a school where, of a group of 30 children, only five were full-blooded Australians. Some were half-caste aborigines and some second generation Italians and Poles. Yet this conglomeration of nationalities played happily together. If we in Australia find that people of particular nationalities are grouping themselves into small communities, with their own libraries and gathering places, the fault can be placed fairly and squarely, not upon the Government or the immigrants, but upon those who have forced them out. Perhaps we are the victims of some complex or other which makes us tend to do this. Whatever it is, I suggest that we should endeavour to exercise greater compassion and more friendliness towards the new arrivals in Australia. We should extend towards them the fellowship that we would expect to receive from them if we visited them in their countries.
.- I commend the simple trust of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) in requesting the Government to examine further the immigration problem. I should like to inform the honorable member that that problem has been on the notice-paper for the last twelve months. So much for the Government’s enthusiasm in respect of finding a solution of it. On the 7 th August lats year, the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) made the ministerial statement on immigration that we are now discussing. I suggest that the honorable member should tell the Government at the next meeting of his party to give further examination to this problem and a great many other problems that require attention - that is, if he is allowed to do so. I am concerned not so much with the foreign immigrants in our midst as with our blood brothers, the British immigrants. I have studied the problem thoroughly. I do not suppose that there is any honorable member who has spent as much time as I have on it. From day to day I have visited the British immigrant hostel at Bunnerong, and I believe that the scurvy treatment handed out to these people is enough to make them want to throw in the towel and return home. But they are made of different stuff. They are prepared to fight it out, and as an Australian and a great believer in the great Australian principle of “ a fair go “ I consider it incumbent upon me to take up the cudgels on their behalf. I think that the vile and un-Australian attacks that have been made on the British immigrants recently evicted - “ evicted “ is a horrible word - from the Bunnerong hostel, which is in my electorate, have been scandalous. I have been in close contact with these people over the last two years and I have observed them both individually and collectively. I. have found them to be honest, reliable and ever-ready and eager to help in playing their part in the. development of their adopted country. These people were deceived by the Government, which made all sorts of rosy promises to lure them away from their homeland. First, it made such promises as that relating to the provision of a cafeteria system of catering which, it said, would be adopted. Every one knows about the arguments that were presented over the last few years by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), the honor-
Mr. Curtin. able member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), myself and other honorable members in deputation after deputation, until we got sick of calling upon the Minister on the matter. The communal meal system was adopted. It can be expressed in the words, “ Take what you get, and if you don’t eat it you pay for it just the same “. These people rightly were not prepared to pay for food that they could not eat. Secondly, they were deceived by a callous misrepresentation which the Government knows, and knew, was not the truth. They were told that, after a six months’’ residential period in Australia, they would be entitled to enter the New South Wales Housing Commission’s ballot. Everybody knows that no person who is a resident of a hostel is eligible to be an applicant for a Housing Commission home. Why the Government included such a clause in a contract with immigrants I do not know, unless it was for the deliberate purpose of deceiving them. I challenge the Minister on that question, and I shall be anxious to hear his reply. Thirdly, the immigrants were not told, when they were on their way to Australia, or before they left Great Britain, that a hostel corporation would be established. Everybody knows that Commonwealth Hostels Limited was established for one specific purpose, which was to remove a very prominent public servant from his job and install another very prominent public servant in it.
– That is a lie, anyhow.
– It is a positive fact, and the way the Government went about that business was indeed shocking. Commonwealth Hostels Limited was born, and a gentleman by the name of Funnell was evicted - that horrible word again - from his position as secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service. I challenge the Minister tc» deny that statement. Another very prominent public servant who was lower in seniority to Mr. Funnell was appointed to that position. Smooth, suave and subtle on the surface, Funnell would ako deceive people with his very smooth line of talk. Beneath the surface he proved himself to be hard, cold and relentless’, and a great believer in the fascist method of control^ - the iron heel - intolerant of any criticism, and very careless of the truth, as close analysis of published statements by him will show. I am greatly concerned about the publication in the newspapers and over the radio of the very snide attacks on these British people. The first administrative act of this gentleman was to purchase for office accommodation a mansion at Kirribilli, a “ posh “ suburb of Sydney. He then staged a grand opening of the new corporation by holding a sumptuous cocktail party to which all the elite of Sydney were invited. I challenge the Minister again on that matter. Then he set about making large increases of the tariffs payable by the British residents of the hostels under his control. It is contrary to the conception of the Australian way of life to base charges to people according to their nominal wages. The’ Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration sees fit to base our standard of life, which depends on wages and other payments, upon the basic wage. That was not good enough for this fascist-minded dictator. He wanted something different. He could not get enough out of the immigrants by basing accommodation charges on the basic wage. It is as if a brick-, layer who earned £20 had to pay more for food than his mate, who earned only £17, had to pay. Such is the incentive system in Australia under a Liberal . partyAustralian Country party coalition. In long discussions with Mr. Funnell and other members of this Parliament who introduced a deputation from the immigrant hostels, these people told the truth. They said they were unable to pay the charges demanded. When we pointed out to Mr. Funnell their inability to pay the charges he refused point-blank, after long discussions, to alter his decision or even to have a conference on the matter. It was pointed out to him that these honest British people were reluctant to run into debt. No honest person likes to run into debt. Because the tariffs were causing them to run into debt they asked to be allowed to cook their meals in their own flats, so that they could live within their means. That request also met a point-blank refusal from this sawdust caesar. I want to emphasize the iniquities that these people have suffered. Mr. Funnell went to great lengths to emphasize the danger of fire that would result if the immigrants were given the right to do their own cooking, but Mr. Funnell did not tell the public that the persons who work inside the hostels for Commonwealth Hostels Limited are allowed that privilege. They cook their meals for themselves. I challenge the Minister to deny that statement.
Last January the immigrants decided that they would not pay the charges to Commonwealth Hostels Limited and would cater for themselves. From that time, a relentless character assassination campaign was carried on by this arrogant, incompetent, fascist-minded bureaucrat. Be claimed that these people were Communistminded. At all times he has used the Communist smear in true McCarthy style when referring to these hardworking, honest and conscientious’ British people. They formed themselves into a welfare organization and elected as their spokesman a gentleman named Mr. Boreham. This Mr. Boreham is a very able, intelligent and honest man, quite a contrast, of course, to the director of the Commonwealth Hostels Limited, Mr. Funnell. Mr. Boreham immediately became the object of splenetic attacks by Mr. Funnell, both on the radio and through the press. This fascist-minded director of the hostels accused Mr. Boreham of having Communist affiliations, when, in truth, Mr. Boreham has had twelve years’ honorable service in all theatres of war, including Dunkirk. While Mr. Boreham was trudging up and down the beach of Dunkirk for seven long, weary days, waiting for a ship to take him to England, a German bomber destroyed his home in London and all his belongings were lost. Mr. Boreham’s wife and small children were forced to live in an air-raid shelter for three years while Mr. Boreham was abroad-
– It must have been a decent change for them.
– It would have been a decent change for the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who has so much that he can laugh at the predicament of these people. Of course, the honorable member for Henty is well fed and sheltered and well endowed with worldly goods. It is an established fact that of the 120 families who have been evicted from the Bunnerong hostel, the same story could be told because every man jack of the men belonged to the armed services in England. They were in the navy and the army and some were Battle of Britain pilots; yet they are called Communists and smeared by this fascist-minded bureaucrat called Funnell.
The time is ripe for Mr. Funnell to look into this matter because to-night, at the Randwick Town Hall, a public meeting has been convened by the mayor of Randwick to inquire into the conditions under which these people are living. To-day rain has been falling heavily in Sydney, but Mr. Funnell has decided that he will evict the immigrants who have hired caravans and tents and placed them on land adjoining the hostels. Such is the stuff of which this man Funnell is made.
The Government is likely to get a rude shock. The Randwick Council may reach a decision that will end in the Government vacating the hostels because the Government has no right to use its hostels on these properties for the purpose to which, they are being put. . I suggest to this bureaucrat Funnell that he analyse these facts and compare himself with these servicemen from Dunkirk and the North African desert, who have fought on land and braved the terrors of the sea. Mr. Funnell should hold his tongue and stop smearing them. Honorable members on the Government side used the smear of communism freely themselves until six months ago. Now they have dropped it like a hot potato. A gentleman named Baume, who broadcasts from 2GB radio station on certain nights, is more or less a voice for Mr. Funnell. Both Mr. Baume and Mr. Funnell will look like very small potatoes when the facts of v these cases come to light. Then the British immigrants may get what they want. They do not seek favours from anybody, in the Australian vernacular all they asked for is a fair go.
.- The Government has bungled immigration just as it has made a mess of everything that it has touched. The Opposition has never been opposed to planned migration but honorable members on this side of the House believe that the Government has wasted public money by the policy it has pursued and has contributed to the inflationary spiral because it has not planned immigration. Neither has it properly screened the new settlers. It is true that many thousands of good people have come to Australia and made it their home. They are prepared to contribute to the development of the country. But many undesirable types also have been brought into Australia under the immigration scheme. One has only to take a casual look through the newspapers and read statements by public men to discover what has happened. I have a copy of a statement by Mr. Justice Nield, who said -
Too many new Australians have shown readiness to use violence out of all proportion to that shown towards them.
That is the statement of a judge of the New South Wales court based upon his experience. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) would probably excuse the sticking of a knife into an Australian over some ordinary dispute and dismiss it as an old Spanish custom that should be overlooked because the new Australian who used the knife had been accustomed to do so in his own country. It is rather significant that neither the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) nor the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who acted for him while he was abroad, is in the House now. Perhaps the Minister for Immigration has gone overseas again because he is a frequent overseas tourist these days. Their absence shows that the Government, is treating this Parliament with contempt when it is discussing such an important matter as immigration. I should like to have asked the Minister for Immigration, or the Minister who acted for him, how many of the new immigrants have been deported because they were found guilty of criminal offences, were suffering from serious ailments or for other reasons. According to a recent publication, 54 violent: criminals have been deported from Australia since January, 1950, and scores of other new Australians are serving long gaol sentences. Of course, that is not a reflection upon the many thousands of decent people who have been brought to this country, because they are not involved in this criticism. However, it indicates that the Government is not worrying about the type of immigrants that it is bringing to Australia, that it is not properly screening them and that its only reason for bringing them here is to create a pool of unemployed in this country. The Government wants to increase the labour force here, because if that is not its intention it would have made proper provision for the accommodation and housing of immigrants. In any part of Australia to-day many native-born Australians and new Australians cannot find proper accommodation. Some of them have had to commit offences and bring themselves under the notice of the police to secure sustenance and shelter because they could not find employment.
Some time ago when Italian immigrants rioted in Sydney because of their ill treatment by this Government, the Government adopted its old tactic, which has already been referred to by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), by branding the incident as Communist inspired. Of what use is it to spend millions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money to bring immigrants to this country if there is not proper preparation and planning for their absorption into our economy? Therefore, I say to the Government that its contribution in regard to immigration has been wasteful and inflationary. According to another publication, 27 unwanted immigrants were deported in New Australia, a vessel that left this country recently. Of that number sixteen were criminals and eleven were mental patients. Honorable members ‘will also recollect the case of an unfortunate immigrant, certainly mentally unbalanced, who admitted to a number of crimes and was recently hanged in South Australia. That man admitted to four murders in Australia and one in Paris, and investigations disclosed that before he entered Australia he was an inmate of a mental asylum in Roumania. Surely that case indicates the type of screening undertaken by the Government before it allows persons to enter this country. On the other hand, many thousands of decent people who were brought here by tho Government are vcr anxious to return to their homelands when they can afford to do so. The honorable member for Watson has to-day given some illustrations to prove my argument.
Those who are able to afford to pay their passages home, and those who have been able to earn enough money to do so are departing from Australia. It would interest me to learn from the Minister for Immigration how many assisted immigrants have left these shores because they were dissatisfied with their treatment in Australia, and .how many applications have been received .from people who want to leave but want the Government, because it has not honoured it3 promises to them, to pay their fares home.
One or two very serious matters have lately occurred in regard to immigration. I do not blame the Government for the circumstances that led to these irregularities but I am amazed at the failure of the Government to act in a certain direction. For some time Chinese nationals have been brought to Australia under special permits. They have to be nominated by Chinese business people in the community, and are brought here to fulfil labour requirements for which at the time, probably no Australian workmen are available. I do not object to that system at all. However, a serious position arises when the Minister himself admits that there has been evidence of .certain abuses and that these regulations need tightening up and. that the administration of them needs to be overhauled. The Minister admitted that a number of Chinese who had arrived in this country had faked identity papers, and;> he said that that was disclosed in a departmental report. I refer now to the particular case of a Chinese^ which I brought to the notice of the. Government when I received a -circular, -as no doubt many other honorable members did, referring to it. I :sent the circular to the Minister who was then acting : for,’. )the Minister for Immigration and he stated that the Communists were behind the incident. I pressed for some better reply because I wanted to know the full facts of the matter, and now I shall briefly inform honorable members of the circumstances. A certain Chinese had been brought to Australia under one of the permits about which I have spoken, and of course there is nothing wrong or illegal about that. This transaction is illegal and wrong in that the unfortunate
Chinese stated that he had had to pay his nominator £500 sterling in order to enter the country.I thought that that matter required some explanation by the acting Minister, and in reply to my request for informationI received a communication dated the 22nd July. In that letter the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration stated -
Any payments of the sort alleged by Ung Chan Bunn are, of course, illegal and improper and not to be tolerated.
I heartily agree with that statement, but what action did the Government take about that matter? I advised the acting Minister that this Chinese had complained to some of his compatriots that he had been paid no wages, and was afraid to protest because he had been warned that he would be deported if he did. He was told that, notwithstanding that he had paid £500 sterling for his entry permit. I should say, in fairness to the acting Minister, that he issued a permit to delay the departure of this man who had been arrested after leaving his employer and nominator and had been placed in Long Bay gaol to await deportation. When it was indicated that the man wanted to take legal proceedings to recover his money, the acting Minister agreed that his departure should be delayed on the following conditions: -
Those conditions were no sooner announced by the acting Minister than the Chinese’s compatriots put up £500 to secure his release, and telephoned Long Bay gaol to find out what time they could meet him outside. Although only a few hours had elapsed between the decision of the acting Minister and that telephone conversation, they were informed that the order of release had been cancelled, although the £500 security had been put up as required by the acting Minister, and action had been taken through a Sydney firm of eminent legal practitioners to secure the return of this man’s money. Up to that time he had not been able to satisfy the Department of Immigration that he had paid £500 for hi? entry permit. However, on the 24th July, after the Minister’s communication dated the 22nd July had been received by me, I received a letter by hand from the acting Minister dated the 24th July.
– I rise to a point of order. Can you, Mr. Speaker, tell me how the subject being dealt with by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) comes within the scope of the debate on the paper before the House?
– To tell the honorable member the truth, I cannot recollect what was in the paper. It appears that thirteen months ago this paper was brought before the House, and, asI am not a mental reservoir, so far as I am concerned anything in connexion with immigration is in order in this debate.
Mr.Gullett. - I rise to a further point of order. I quite realize that it is very difficult to obtain this publication, and with great pains to myself I got one of the few remaining copies. If it will assist you, Mr. Speaker, I shall give you this copy and you will then be able to see that the subject now being dealt with by the honorable member for East Sydney has nothing to do with the paper.
– What the honorable member has said may possibly be true in respect of other speeches that have been made, and also of speeches which, J believe, are about to be made. ‘ In the circumstances, I think that it is better to allow honorable members to say what they desire to say about immigration. If the House gets tired, it has certain wellknown methods by which it can take action.
– The communication which I received from the Minister who was acting for the Minister for Immigration contained some astonishing information. He wrote -
Since writing to you I have been personally informed by the Consul-General for China that he has £500 which he is handing to the Department of Immigration to be given to Ung Chan Bunn, in refund of the amount paid to Sam Hop in connection with Ung Chan Bunu’s entry into Australia.
The Minister admitted in that communication that £500 was paid by this unfortunate Chinese for no other purpose than, to obtain entry into Australia. I know nhat the Government will have its own explanation of this matter. Already, it is suggesting that this money was advanced from China to this unfortunate Chinese for the purpose of purchasing a share in a market garden in Australia. Such an explanation is ridiculous because this Chinese was allowed to enter the country only on a permit and would be obliged to leave when the permit expired. But what happened? The following day, this Chinese was sent out of the country. I appealed to the Government not to cancel the deportation order, but to delay his departure in order that proper proceedings could be taken in the court. Honorable members will agree that if the Government desired to deal effectively with the people who were alleged to be trafficking in this way, it would regard this Chinese as being an important witness. Instead, the sum of £500 was paid over by the Chinese Consul-General. How does that gentleman come into the matter? No one has explained how he became aware of what was happening. The Minister admitted that there were many Chinese in this country who had gained entry on faked papers. It is obvious that trafficking was occurring in this respect. There is nothing wrong with Chinese entering Australia on proper applications and on the issue of proper permits. But that is different from the payment of money by this unfortunate Chinese in order to obtain illegal entry into Australia. This case again demonstrates the failure of the Government to administer properly the immigration laws of this country.
We have an immigration policy which has been criticized in many parts of the world. I am now referring to that part of our policy which restricts certain people from coming into Australia. The attitude of the Australian Labour party has always been to restrict the entry of these people, not on the basis of any claim nf racial superiority but because we recog nize that, living in an area with teeming millions of unskilled and unorganized labourers in close proximity to us once the doors of this country are opened to that labour our industrial conditions will be destroyed forever. That is why the Australian Labour party adheres strictly to the policy that is known as the White Australia policy. Members of the Australian Labour party are determined to defend the good industrial and living conditions that exist in this country. The Government, however, is not worrying about that matter. I recognize that difficulties arise in securing evidence in cases of this kind. Sometimes the Chinese involved do not want to talk because they are afraid of the consequences if they do. But when the Government knew of one Chinese who was prepared to talk and was able to prove that there was some substance in what he had to gay, why did it permit the deportation order to continue and allow him to be sent out of the country? I do not know to what destination that Chinese has gone, but, probably, at this stage, he would not be available for interrogation. As he is an important witness, he may have disappeared. Therefore, the Government has to answer for its mishandling of this matter. It stands condemned on its activities in respect of immigration, as it stands condemned because it has bungled everything that it has undertaken.
I revert to the White Australia policy. Is it not a fact that the newly appointed Japanese representative in this country recently talked about the necessity for Australia to’ alter its immigration policy to permit the entry of millions of Japanese to the northern parts of Australia in order to develop that portion of the continent? Strangely enough, if one searches the newspaper files at the time that that representative made his statement one will find that Ministers who were asked whether they had any comment to make maintained . complete silence. What does that mean? Does it indicate adherence to our immigration policy, or, on the other hand, does it demonstrate weakness and uncertainty oh the part of the Government ‘ in respect of “that policy?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 shall not delay the House unnecessarily. Indeed, I would not have spoken at all had it not been for the extraordinary and intemperate remarks that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has just made. We have just heard three, or four, speeches from members of the Opposition which were attacks upon immigration in any form. Members of the Opposition who spoke first in this debate spoke with a certain- degree of moderation. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), by inference condemned the entire immigration policy of this country, and, following him, the honorable member for East Sydney condemned any form of immigration at all. I think that any honorable member, well informed or otherwise on this subject, will have something to* say about that fact.
The need for immigration to this country heeds no emphasis by any honorable member. The fact, as all of us know and recognize, and also was recognized by every responsible member of “the Chifley Government, is that in this country, in the words of the late Right Honorable William Morris Hughes, “ We must populate or perish “. We have no alternative. Recognizing that fact the Chifley Government, in which the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is now Deputy Leader of the Opposition, was Minister for Immigration, introduced an immigration scheme. To the main principles of that scheme, this Government has been entirely loyal. It has carried on from where the Chifley Government left off. It has not deviated from that policy to any degree. It is significant that those members of the Opposition -who have spoken in this’ debate have -not included the honorable member. -for- -Melbourne, who, with all his faults - and they are many - is a man of integrity. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who was a member of the- Immigration Advisory Committee, also has not spoken in this debate. We- do not hear .those honorable gentlemen make ill-founded, foolish and false statements of the kind that we have listened to for the last twenty minutes. The honorable member for Parkes has a fundamental appreciation of the needs of this country and of the job that is being done by the Department of Immigration. It is left to the least responsible, the least reputable, the person on whom not only this House but also the country as a whole places the least reliance, to attack the immigration policy of Australia. I am amazed that, in this National Parliament, there should, be found any honorable member who, for one political purpose or another, would attack the absolute fundamentality of the need for bringing immigrants to Australia. It is easy enough, to make cheap jibes about the immigrants and to say that there are far too many members of the criminal class among them. If we look into that matter the first fact that comes to our attention is that the police associations of the States, the members of which should know something about criminals because they are the people who are knocked about by them, less than six months ago voluntarily gave -to the Minister a statement which showed that the incidence of crime among new Australians was far less than among our native-born population.
– We heard that two years ago.
– We will hear it again. As for the honorable member for Watson, we shall deal with him in due course. He has delivered many addresses in this House, but not one of them had in it the ring of truth, as every one who listens to the proceedings of this House well knows: It has also been said that among the immigrants who come to Australia are far too many of feeble intellect or sufferers of diseases which place them far below the minimum standard of health of Australians. Again, if we consult our medical authorities, we shall learn that the standard of health of immigrants is far superior to that of our native-born Australians.
– That is a slur on the Australian people.
– If the honorable member’s health is so good, why did he not enlist and serve his country during the war? I am not prepared to listen- in silence to the kind of debate to which we have listened to-night.
Dishonest and false statements have been made, by Opposition members in regard to the immigrant camps. I propose to say something on that point; but first, I should like to say something about those establishments where the immigrants are received upon their arrival in Australia. I know something about them because I have visited them in order to interview prospective employees. I know many of the people who have been through them. As recently as last month I visited the camp at Bonegilla. The manner in which immigrants are received there, the work done by Australians, Britishers and new Australians to assist the new arrival, to find employment for him and to look after him- is, in my opinion, beyond all praise. We have nothing to be ashamed of in our immigration scheme. On the contrary, it is, as is well known, one of the best-run schemes in the world.
Opposition members have said to-night that we are getting the worst immigrants in the world. Far from that being so, we are getting the best of them. Indeed, it is far easier for a person to get into Canada, South Africa, South America or even New Zealand than it is for him to get into Australia.. We have the most efficient immigration set-up of any underpopulated country in the. world. That fact is proved by the results that we have achieved. Even at a time when there was talk of unemployment in Australia, the immigrant camps were rapidly cleared month after month. Indeed, only on one occasion was there any form of unemployment or any lack of demand for new Australian labour since the immigration scheme was formulated.
I have also heard complaints about the way of life of immigrants housed in the more or less semi-permanent establishments. No guarantee was ever given to those who came here to make a new life in Australia that they would be found permanent homes by the Australian Government any more than it was given to those honorable members of this House who came from the Old Country - and looking around the House I notice that there are quite a few of them. All that, we promised the prospective immigrant was that if he came to Australia we were prepared to find him a livelihood or give him an alternative choice of livelihood which, if he pursued it with diligence, would provide a way of life and, ultimately, a home for him. Ninety per cent, of the immigrants have accepted our offer and are now reaping the fruits of it. .1. invite honorable members to visit Queanbeyan, the neighbouring town in New South Wales, to see for themselves what is going on there. But perhaps Queanbeyan is too far away for some Opposition members to travel for such a purpose. 1 have heard sneers about Polish immigrants. Let me say that some of the greatest men who have come to Australia have come from Poland after having served in the Polish army. They fought for liberty before and long after many honorable members opposite ever heard the word “liberty” or were prepared to strike a blow for it. They have a great deal to teach us. Let Opposition members go to Queanbeyan and see for themselves what these immigrants have done. They have started off in a small way, first building a small garage in which to house themselves and their families. After a few years they have begun to build houses for themselves. I invite honorable members to look at their children in order to see for themselves what a credit they are to this country and how they may ultimately become our salvation. T am amazed, and, indeed, dismayed, to hear such an attack on the1 immigration scheme as has been made by Opposition members who should have at heart the helping of every under-privileged person if he is a white man and is qualified to be admitted to this country. Thank Heaven that all members of the .Opposition are not’ tarred with the same brush. I know that many of them are not, in particular the honorable member for Melbourne, who- introduced the present immigration policy which this Government has continued. I hope that Opposition members, such as the honorable member for East Sydney, will be disciplined by their party, not as a matter of politics, but in the interests of Australia. I hope that’ there are a sufficient number’ of Opposition members who1 consider so seriously the question of immigration, the future of our people and our capacity to* defend’ an’d- develop Australia, to put a stop to such attacks as we have heard to-night.
.- For national security and even survival, if not for humanitarian reasons, this nation i3 in duty bound to continue its planned immigration policy. But we must not lose sight of the humanitarian considerations. Because of our deeprooted Christian thoughts and beliefs we must do our best to assist the unfortunate people of other nations. In other parts of the world there are many hundreds and thousands of people who need homes just as urgently as we need additional population. Australia is a vast land with very few people. I do not subscribe to the view expressed by some honorable members opposite that all is well with immigration. I believe that there is a certain looseness; but, whilst there is undoubtedly room for improvement, it would be an utter calamity if we were to denounce immigration completely. It is vital to our survival, and we who have inherited this country must recognize the responsibilities that are imposed upon us by the proximity of our land to SouthEast Asia. We enjoy great prosperity, yet throughout the world the lot of many people is not nearly so fortunate as our own. We must seek to develop our land to the fullest possible degree. We must also be prepared to admit that in certain directions our immigration scheme has failed in the past. More must be done to make the conditions of immigrants to this country a little better than they have been in the past. We must not shut our eyes to the unhappiness of many of these people. That is not the way to overcome our problems. Australia’s prestige throughout the world will deteriorate if we permit a recurrence of the conditions which last year incited immigrants to riot. They found themselves in a land which was crying out for development, yet because pf economic conditions, no work was available for them.
The policy of this Government has been to create unemployment as it did last year, first amongst our own people and then amongst immigrants. That action rendered a great disservice to this country and to our immigration plan. I sincerely hope that a new approach will be made to the problem, and that in future immigrants will not be kept in holding centres doing useless jobs such as tending gardens, or removing weeds around air strips. There is no reason why useful employment cannot be found for them. It is particularly undesirable that immigrants of peasant stock who desire to work on the land should be compelled as they have been in the past to become city dwellers when they should be out in the backblocks, helping to develop and so to defend this great country. Vast tracts of land are awaiting, development. Members of this chamber who from time to time have visited our northern areas will testify to the great wealth that awaits exploitation. Our agricultural, pastoral, and mining industries are all capable of vast development. The opportunity to exploit this latent wealth is being neglected by a government which is bringing immigrants to Australia only to swell our already over-populated capital cities, and so to contribute to the pool of potential unemployed people. That is not at all satisfactory. Something must be done to hasten development so that Australia will be capable of absorbing many more millions of good citizens.
The construction of a railway line through the central west of New South Wales to Dajarrah in Queensland and then on to Birdum is an urgent necessity. The establishment of railway stations at intervals of say 50 miles along such a line would ensure the rapid development of many thousands of square miles of land where immigrants could live in peace and happiness enriching this country as it should be enriched. Thousands of immigrants are arriving in this country craving an opportunity to establish their homes in the hinterland and till the soil. Many more would come willingly if they thought that such an opportunity would be presented to them ; but I am sure that if even the Minister for Territories (Mi. Hasluck) who is now at the table were asked- how much land was available for immediate settlement and development in the northern areas of Australia, he would give only a most disappointing answer. Let us break up many of the vast estates of thousands of square miles and convert them to economic areas that can be made available for settlement. Then our immigration programme will have a worthwhile chance of success. Prospective immigrants must be given an assurance that there is work for them to do here - profitable and useful work in which they will feel happy knowing that they are doing a good job in a new land. Immigrants have a right to feel that they have come to a glorious and good land which promises them new happiness, new hope, and a new chance of living at peace in a troubled world. Immigrants who have no such feeling are not starting off on the right foot. However, .[ am tired of the propaganda of those who say that we in Australia should provide all the opportunities for immigrants. Newcomers should be prepared r.o emulate our pioneers and go out into the country to establish their homes. They should not have to depend on us to do everything for them. After all, tens of thousands of Australians are themselves unable to obtain homes and are suffering just as acutely if not more acutely than the immigrants are. Letus encourage our immigrants to make their contribution towards the provision of their homes and so assist in the solution of a common problem. Recently a married couple, the man a Lithuanian and the woman a Yugoslav, came to me. They had three young children who are good Australians and are entitled to all the opportunities that this country can offer to them; but merely because their parents have not lived- in Australia for five years the family is not eligible for a government home in New South Wales. That is a disgraceful state of affairs. I see no reason why the fullest opportunity should not be presented to these people to occupy a home.
My principal purpose in taking part in this debate is to say a few words about our camps for immigrants. A considerable amount of uncertainty and doubt appears to exist about the policy of this Government on immigration at the present time. While the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) was overseas and was planning an extension of immigration, the flow of immigrants had to be drastically reduced because of the economic collapse that occurred in this country due to the false policies of the Government. Consequently, the Minis ter, on his return to Australia, was confronted with a completely new set of conditions. Nevertheless, the construction of huts for immigrants continued unabated throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Camps were built for them as rapidly as possible, and contracts were let to builders who worked feverishly on their construction programmes. Indeed, contractors are still building huts at Cowra, in New South Wales. A manager’s residence has just been completed there. Additional accommodation is being erected in other centres for immigrants, despite the fact that the intake of persons from overseas is not nearly adequate to fill the existing hutments. A similar situation has arisen at Bathurst, in New South Wales. A manager’s residence has been completed there, although a decision had been made to close the camp. To-night, I plead with the Government not to continue that kind of policy.
I believe that the immigrant centres have played a useful part in the assimilation of newcomers into the Australian way of life. The hillsides and the gum trees in the Bathurst area provide a typical Australian scene. Immigrants who live for some time in a centre like’ Bathurst, have an excellent opportunity to observe the Australian people. They can see Australians at work on farms in a district where intensive cultivation is practised. Under those conditions, immigrants are introduced to the real Australia, the rural Australia, the Australia that produces food for the people of other lands. We need immigrants so that we shall be able to produce greater quantities of food, which are urgently required in other parts of the world. We have a vast and great country. Many millions of people in other lands are hoping that they will be given the opportunity to settle in Australia and play a useful part in the development of thi? great nation. I do not know how much time we shall have at our disposal to populate this country adequately, but I am ever mindful of the presence of teeming millions of people to the north of Australia. If we fail to heed the warning.* that we have received to increase our population. we shall really be deserting the true cause of Australia. From day t« day, evidence of the instability which exists in those countries to the north of us impresses every thoughtful person. Those conditions cannot be ignored. If we work hard, we should be able to raise this country to such a position as will unable it to hold its own. But we must remember that all the things we havewon in , the strenuous days of war could be lost to us in the days of peace unless we do in peace-time the things that our conscience dictates should be done for the good of this country.
Question resolved in the negative.
Message received from the Senate intimating that Senator Maher had been appointed a member of the Public Works Committee in place of Senator Reid, resigned. [ Quor urm formed.. ]
Motion (by Mr. Kenthughes) proposed -
Tha t the House donow adjourn.
.- The matter which I raise to-night follows the question asked in the House this morning by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) about a document which bears the following words on the cover : -
With the complimentsof the Minister for Health,
Progress in Australian National Health.
World Medical Association’s Annual Conference The Hague, August29 to September 4,1953. by
The Rt. Hon. Sir Earle Page, G.C.M.G., C.H., M.B., ChM., F.R.C.S., F.R.A.C.S., D.Sc, M.P. Minister for Health of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The document, as was mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes, was printed by the Daily Examiner, at Grafton, in New South Wales, and covered the address that the Minister for Health is to deliver to the conference which, I understand, is now in progress. The Prime Minister (Mr.. Menzies), in reply to. thequestion, stated that the cost of printing the docu ment had not been paid by the Commonwealth of Australia or the Treasury. . 1 should like to know why the cost has not been met by the Commonwealth, becausethis is an official document issued by the Minister for Health in relation to the mission on which he is engaged. My information is that when any official document is printed by other than the Government Printer, permission should be obtained from the Treasury, and payment made accordingly. Naturally, I accept the statement made by the Prime Minister this morning, but I point out that at least there is some irregularity in the printing of tin’s document. I presume that the Minister had to print his speech in order that the delegates to the conference would bo able to understand him, becausewe in this Parliament have never been able to understand the spoken word of the man who administers the health scheme in the Commonwealth.
I point out that if this is an official document, and I presume that it is, it has been printed by a company in which the Minister concerned is one of the major shareholders, and in that respect an irregularity has occurred. Apart from the fact that no authority has been obtained for the printing of the document, an irregularity also occurs-
-I am deeply grateful to the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) for his pertinent interjection. In this case it could be that the Government woke up to this proposition just in time, and decided not to pay the account but to let the Minister for “Health pay it. I do not know whether that is the case and I do not make any insinuation. We want to know the whole reason behind the printing of this document. If it is so valuable, possibly the expense of sending the Minister abroad could have been avoided by posting copies of it to the delegates.
– The big companies may have defrayed the cost of printing.
– I thank the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) for the interjection. The. first page of this unusual document is devoted to an attack on the Australian Labour party in general, and in particular on Labour governments of former days. 1 should like to know why the Government has sent the Minister for Health abroad at public expense to address the World Medical Association’s annual conference, and whether the Minister had the authority of the Government to launch an attack against the Australian Labour party before that .gathering.
– There is no danger because the delegatus will not be able to understand the right honorable gentleman.
– That is so. In addition to criticizing the Australian Labour party and making a number of false statements in relation to the health scheme that was implemented by the Chifley Labour Government, the document fails to give credit to Labour for the introduction of the scheme to assist sufferers from tuberculosis and of other schemes that were introduced during the regime of the former Labour Government. The document, in addition to being suspect as far as its printing is concerned, inasmuch as it was printed by a company of which the Minister is a sim rob older, which thereby places him in the position of accepting an office of profit, under the Crown, is completely inaccurate and false in many respects. It should not carry the endorsement of the Australian Government because of the implications it contains against the previous Curtin and Chifley Administrations.
The .Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley), who is acting for the Minister Cor Health during his absence abroad, is a partner of a firm in Hobart which is contracting with the Government for the supply of free medicine. Although I make no personal charge against the Minister for Social Services, and I respect his integrity, the fact remains that he i.s at present adjudicating on contracts and deciding the basis on which certain medicines shall bc supplied. Therefore it would appear that both the Minister for Health and the Minister for Social Services are in positions similar tn the position in which Senator A. J. McLachlan found himself in 1938, when he had to resign from the Ministry at the request of Mr. Lyons because govern: ment contracts had been let to. the Hume Pipe Company, of which he was a partner at the time. As the Minister for Social Services is a partner in a chemical business in Hobart which has a contract with the Government, does he not place himself under suspicion of accepting an office of profit under the Crown, and thereby disqualify himself from holding the position of Minister for Health even in an acting capacity? The Minister for Health also is suspect, for the reasons that I have outlined. 1 believe that a full investigation should be made by the Government along “the lines that were suggested in the question that was asked by the honorable member for Parkes this morning and in the light of the statements that 1 have made to-night. The Government is ever ready to criticize Labour on ethical grounds, and is ever ready to take advantage of any little irregularity that occurs in connexion with members of the Australian Labour party. I believe that I have made out a case for investigation on whether the two Ministers are qualified to remain in the Ministry in view of the fact that they have been directly or indirectly concerned in offices of profit under the Crown. Although I do not wish to labour the matter further, I point out that recently the Melbourne Age published statements similar to the ones that I have made to-night and expressed the opinion that they should be investigated. When all is said and done. I am not concerned with personal matters as far as the Ministers arc concerned. T have already expressed my views about, his administration quite frankly to the Minister for Health. Although the Minister has been unable to explain the Government’s health scheme clearly to this House, the Government has seen fit to send him abroad to tell the world about it. I go as far as to say that if the delegates to the world conference that I have mentioned can understand the implications of the Page health scheme, they should be brought here to explain it to honorable members.
– Dutchmen may have a 1-ettnr’ chance of understanding the right honorable gentleman.
– That is right. I conclude by reiterating that I consider that a case has been made out against both Ministers of being concerned in offices of profit under the Crown. The cases are worthy of investigation and the Government, in its own interest, and in the interests of parliamentary integrity, should cause a full investigation of these matters r.o be undertaken without delay.
Mr. DRUMMOND (New England) 1 10.26]. - We have just listened to a most extraordinary address by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). I am not quite sure what he was really complaining about, but it seemed that he rather objected to the fact that a Minister - a man with a great reputation nationally as well as internationally, a man who occupied for a time not long ago the position of Prime Minister of Australia, a man whose integrity he said he respects, and a distinguished gentleman - bas gone abroad at the invitation of a most important international body. He seemed to think that there was something wrong in that. I do not wish to traverse past history, because I think perhaps the honorable member for Grayndler is an authority on travelling abroad. I seem to have heard something to that effect in the past - something associated with dollars. I do not suggest for a moment that the honorable member was not greatly advantaged by going abroad. As a matter of fact I am all in favour of honorable members going abroad. But certain innuendoes have been made against ft very distinguished member of this House, a Minister of the Crown, who has gone abroad. As a member of the Australian Country party and a supporter of the Government in this House, I consider it a very great compliment not only to the right honorable gentleman but also to this Parliament that he was invited to give an address before the World Medical Association. According to the honorable member for Grayndler who said he was not casting any doubt upon the bona fides of the right honorable member for Cowper, the enormity of his offence is that the document has been printed by a concern in which the right honorable gentleman is supposed to be interested. I have received a copy of the document and I think that it is a most excellent publication. Tt was printed at the office of the Grafton Daily Examiner, which indicates to me that it has been circulated at the rigo* honorable gentleman’s personal expense., not at public expense. Without raking up past history, I can remember publication* affecting certain honorable members on the Opposition side of the House being sent out. They had very impressive covers, were printed on art paper, and contained photographs and very fine public information, but they had the Government Printer’s name at the bottom. When a right honorable gentleman who is a member of the Government that .1 support decides to publish a booklet al his own expense, is it fair that he should be subjected to attack by innuendo? At least the attack might reasonably and fairly have been withheld until the right honorable gentleman could be in the House to answer it. However, his reputation stands unsmirched. It is one of magnificent service to Australia and of great personal sacrifice of money, time and health in the interests of the people, particularly those who live in rural areas. The honorable member for Grayndler hai not damaged that reputation, and my only regret is that he has conferred nu honour upon himself by the manner off his attack.
– I understand that a few minutes ago certain statements were made about me in my capacity as Minister acting for the Minister for Health, and that it was suggested that as a chemist - although T regret to say in the last four years I have had very little opportunity to take an active part in my own business - I had been engaged in negotiations for the conelusion of contracts with the Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia. T should like to make a few pertinent comments on those statements. There i.= nothing novel about the situation in which I find myself and to which, T understand, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has taken exception. The honorable, member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), for instance, who is s farmer, entered into all sorts of negotiations with farmers when he wa9 a member of the former Labour GovernmentMany similar examples could tie cited.. Tn fact, I might make some extremely pertinent remarks about the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) as a member of the legal profession and certain cases he has handled in recent years.. The negotiations with the chemists ‘ to which the honorable member for Grayndler has referred were initiated a long time ago. [ came into the picture after they had reached a stalemate. Indeed, discussions and agreements had been completed before I took over the office of Minister acting for the Minister for Health.
On the 17th July last, before the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) went abroad, the Pharmaceutical ‘ Service Guild after long negotiations was notified hy the Government that certain terms had Seen decided upon. I point out that one or two of the terms embodied in the proposals had been initiated by ‘and agreed to by the chemists themselves. The Government had accepted their suggestions. On the 2nd April, the guild wrote to the Government urging it to put into operation at the earliest possible moments the plans agreed to for example in relation to the dispensing of prescriptions to pensioners. The matter was of a technical nature, and departmental officers were obliged to carry out an extensive price survey of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of prescriptions. In July, tho Government could see that the end was in sight and that it would be .able to introduce its new scheme, which the chemists had requested in April; by. the 1st September. Therefore, . on the 17th July, the guild was notified to that effect. But the guild wrote to the Government on the 24th July and said that it could not agree to the terms stated by the Government. The situation was bewildering. A proposition had been agreed to, the guild had urged the Government to put the plan into operation as quickly as possible, and the Government had decided to do so and had notified the chemists that tho scheme would start to operate on the 1st September. Then the chemists said that they would not accept the scheme. ‘ The Government said to them,- in effect, “ “What are your objections to the plan? It is your own scheme. However, if you have reason to believe that any of our propositions are unreal, unjust or unsatisfactory in any way, present us with a few facts and figures and. we shall be glad .to examine them”. Oddly enough, the guild said that it was not prepared to do that. That is a brief outline of the course of the negotiations. ,
Since I have been, in charge of the Department of Health, due to the absence of the Minister, I have tried to resolve this difficulty. The fact is that the present “flat-rate” scheme, under which the chemists have been working for a long time and which, incidentally, was introduced in complete agreement with them, involves them in a substantial loss when certain prescriptions are ‘ dispensed. The Government is fully aware of this, acknowledges the fact freely, and has agreed to adopt the alternative scheme, which the chemists themselves proposed. “While ever the “flat-rate” scheme continues in operation, chemists undoubtedly will lose money on certain prescriptions. This was the real reason for the new proposals. But that is not the point at issue at the present time. Honorable members will realize that any agreements that have been made had been completed before I began to act on behalf of the Minister for Health. I .hope’ that any Minister of State - even a Labour Minister if the Opposition should happen to gain office 50 or 60 years hence - would be a man of integrity who could be trusted to carry out such negotiations faithfully. I point o”t that I have not been a member of the Pharmaceutical Service Guild for many years. I am a member of the Pharmaceutical Society, which is the approved body. However, when a member of the Opposition insinuates that I, in- my negotiations with the guild, would descend to certain practices that have suggested themselves to his mind, I am justified in rising, not to defend myself - because I do not think that any defence is necessary - but to explain the circumstances. I am bound to add that, judging by what I have gathered from my correspondence with the guild, from my conversations with guild members, and from many extravagant press statements that the guild has issued, there never has been any suggestion that I have done anything that I should not have done to assist the chemists. On the contrary, the general opinion of the chemists- appears to be that I am a cross between Herod the’ Tetrarch and Genghis ‘Khan.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented !-
Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure- for year 19S2-53, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.
Ordered to be printed.
Defence Transition (Residual Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations– Orders - Inventions and designs (4).
Lands Acquisition Act1 - Land acquired for Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Tooraweanah, New South Wales.
Postmaster-General’s Department - Fortysecond Annual Report for year 1951-52.
House adjourned at 10.38- p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530910_reps_20_hor1/>.