21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr, Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. Herbert Victor Johnson made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the division of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
Petitions in relation to the marginal rates of Commonwealth public servants were presented as follows : -
By Mr. COSTA fromcertain Commonwealth public servants.
By Mr. JOHNSTON from certain Commonwealth public servants.
Petitions received and read.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the Government has yet reached a decision in regard to the carrying out of the death sentence on certain natives in the Telefomin area of New Guinea who were sentenced to death for the murder of two young Australian patrol officers recently? In view of the fact that the parents of those unfortunate young men have petitioned the Government to exercise clemency, and as the Minister for Territories has stated that certain reforms are to be made in those areas for the purpose of redressing grievances; real or imaginary, about which the natives have complained, will the Government commute the death sentence to that of life imprisonment? Finally, in view of the fact that public opinion in Australia would be shocked if the death sentence were carried out-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is going right outside the scope of the question.
– Cannot I state the reason why it should not be carried out?
– Not according to the Standing Orders. The honorable member may not canvass any decision before the Executive Council which, in this instance, is a judicial body.
– Then, the sooner we alter the Standing Orders, the better.
– I have read about these cases. They have not yet reached the Cabinet, but they will do so, of course. The Minister for Territories will have the necessary material assembled, and there will then be a discussion about them. Meanwhile, no discussion has occurred, and therefore no decision could have been given.
– Has -the attention of the Minister for Territories been drawn to certain allegations of bitter dissatisfaction among Europeans in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea due, it is alleged, .to .government policy which precludes such people from taking up land in .the Territory? Is it true that such is the policy? If so, will the Minister state whether he considers that a relaxation of that policy, particularly in relation to certain areas, might be conducive to more rapid development of the Territory and “not necessarily be prejudicial to the future welfare of the native population ?
– -Reports which contained allegations .as stated in the question would be incorrect reports. The position is that the basic land policy of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is unchanged. That land policy is that the native ow.nersh.ip of land is respected. No land can be acquired from natives except by the Administration. The Administration will .not acquire land from the natives unless the natives are willing to sell, and unless the Administration, in its own judgment, considers that the land is neither essential now, nor will be essential in the future, to meet the needs of the natives themselves. That policy has been established for many years in the Territory and is quite unchanged. Over the last three or four years, however, we have been devoting ourselves to building up a more modern and more efficient lands administration in the Territory, and as the result of the re-organization of the .Lands Department of the Territory, it is now possible for us to introduce procedures relating to the application of that policy which, I think, are more in conformity with modern land administration practice. Those procedure?, briefly, are that instead of the role of the Government being merely to accede to the -wish of the land seeker, the Government itself will decide in advance .what land is to be available for settlement. ‘That land will then be advertised as open for application and applications can then go before a land board, and the land he allotted by the board. That .system is one which enables the Administration to keep more perfect control over policy, and it is one which is more eminently fair !to ‘the land seeker than were the old procedures under which the land seeker spotted out the area he wanted. It may be - and I can quite believe that it is so - that some of the people who are seeking land in New Guinea have a .grievance during the transitional period. I am sure that the grievance would last only for the transitional period and that it would .relate only to the fact that a landseeker may not be able to obtain the particular block that he wanted because the Government considered that particular land should not be alienated. However, other land would be available. The improved availability of land is well illustrated by the fact that over the last four years at least .100,000 acreas of land have been made available for settlement. There is really no scarcity of land for any genuine land seeker in the Territory.
– “Will the Treasurer inform the House whether Australian suppliers are deemed to be liable to the payment of income tax in New Zealand on business transacted with New Zealand customers? If so, will the Treasurer state whether there is any possibility of entering into a reciprocal arrangement to assist the Australian manufacturer, who has clients in New Zealand, to market his products in that country on a ‘fair and reasonable competitive basis without having to pay double taxation ?
– The question touches upon a matter of policy which has been engaging the attention of the Australian and New Zealand Governments for some time.
– Will .the Minister for External Affairs inform the House whether the Australian Government has pressed for the admission of the States of Laos and Cambodia to the United Nations Organization? If so, is it true that the State of Viet Nam is not included in the proposal? If Viet Nam is not included, will the Minister state the reason ?
– It is true that Australia has caused to be placed on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly an item in relation to the admission of Laos and Cambodia. The Australian delegation will both propose and support their admission. The State of Viet Nam has not been included, for the simple reason that in the present known circumstances, there is not one overall government which controls the affairs of that State as a whole. Before a State may be proposed for membership it must have a government controlling it as a whole, because one of the requirements is that the government of a proposed new member nation must give an undertaking to the United Nations that, if it is elected, it will abide by the terms of the United Nations Charter. I hope that in due course the State of Viet Nam also will be proposed for membership.
– Can the Minister for Social Services inform the House whether any alteration will be made in the method of calculating the amount of reduction of pension in relation to property in excess of £200? If no decision has been made, will the Minister consider making the amount of reduction of £1 a year for each £10 of the amount in excess of £200? I have advocated such a method for many years.
– Order! The honorable member must state his question.
– I consider that such an alteration would be necessary to pay even a small pension to a person with property valued at £1,750 ?
– The present method of computing deductions from social services benefits as a result of the application of the property means test is an exceptionally difficult one. Although I have tried to apply the formula and ascertain how it works, I have not been able to do so. I agree with the honorable member that the method is in need of alteration. During the last few weeks the Government has been considering the problem and it has decided that something will be done in legislation complementary to the budget. The new formula will be very simple. I am sure that its applica tion will be clear to all honorable members, and that the honorable member for Port Adelaide will be very satisfied with it.
Mr.FALKINDER.- Social services legislation provides that the recipients of social services pensions may have a specified allowable income from other sources. As I believe that there is some general misunderstanding about the matter, will the Minister for Social Services inform the House whether the term “ other sources “ includes 100 per cent, rate repatriation pensions and service pensions ?
– I am not too familiar with the sections of the act involved, but there are certain circumstances under which a person who receives a social services pension can also receive a war service pension. The provision is subject to some limitations which, I think, are called a ceiling test. The Government has been considering the ceiling test lately and in the course of the next few weeks, an amending bill will be introduced in the House to give effect to the decision. That reply relates to Avar pensions. As to service pensions, I shall have a look at the provisions of the act and furnish a reply to’ the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services upon what information does he base his view that the present rate of pension of £3 10s. a week is high enough. Did he conduct a personal investigation by renting a room at the current exorbitant rates, which average 30s. a week, and then attempt to feed and clothe himself on the balance of the pension? If so, will he tell the House how he was able to obtain decent accommodation, nourishing food and warm clothing, and other necessaries, on £3 10s. weekly?
– Order! Where is the honorable gentleman heading?
– If the Minister’s view in relation to the pension is not based on personal experience, will he admit the mistake that has been made in the denial of justice to pensioners, and immediately recommendreconsideration of the budget ?
– Order! From my point of view, the question is completely out of order.
– In view of the widening of social services benefits to the Australian people, and the fact that 90,000 more people are receiving benefits this year, will the Minister for Social Services arrange for officers of his department regularly to visit main country and outlying centres to assist and advise pensioners orpersons eligible for pensions?
– About 90,000 pensioners will receive increases in pensions as the result of the proposals made in the budget, and about 71,000 extra pensioners will come into the pensions field. I understand the importance of the problems raised by the honorable member tor Darwin. I shall put his suggestion to the DirectorGeneral of Social Services and see that proper consideration is given to it.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Does the Minister consider that, despite the apparent failure of the Brussels conference during the week-end, some prospect of achieving agreement on a European Defence Community treaty still remains? Can the right honorable gentleman give the House any information additional to what has appeared elsewhere on this matter, which is so crucial for England and our allies, and therefore, for us?
– Australia is not directly concerned in the negotiations for the formation of a European Defence Community, although, of course, in common with all other civilized countries, we are greatly interested in the proposal because, in the past, it has not been unknown that Europe has been the seat of troubles that have spread throughout the world. It would be greatly deplored if the European Defence Community did not eventuate as planned. The dilemma is to obtain a set of conditions under which Germany may have adequate opportunity for self-development so that it may be able not only to defend itself, but also to support like-minded nations, should the need arise, to defend themselves in Europe, and under which Germany shall not at the same time become a general menace to peace in Europe. The European Defence Community plan was designed to achieve this object, and it would be deplorable if, at the instance of any one country, anything should happen to prevent the European Defence Community plan coming into being, at any rate without an adequate alternative acceptable to the remainder of the free nations of Western Europe. I regret that I cannot offer any particular hope of success. I can only say that I believe that Sir Winston Churchill has been in close communion with the French Prime Minister, M. Mendes-France, during the weekend. I cannot conceive any arguments that Sir Winston Churchill will not have advanced in the interests of a stable community in Europe for the future.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has ever suggested, requested or directed either the chief, or any other member of the Australian security service, to withhold from the Leader of the Opposition any information involving national security. If, as administrative head of the security service, he has not been responsible for the withholding of information from the Leader of the Opposition, will he institute an immediate and searching investigation of this departure from the accepted practice and report the result as soon as possible?
– As to the method that might be employed by the security service, I have said before and I wish to make it completely plain that I am not answering questions in this House. The securityservice was established, not by me, but by my predecessors in office. Its authorities and instructions are, in substance, unaltered. So far as the Leader of the Opposition is concerned, all that I need say in his absence is that the present head of the security organization has seen the Leader of the Opposition on a number of occasions. I have no recollection of having been seen by the head of the security organization at all when I was Leader of the Opposition.
-Will the Prime Minister ask the chief of the security service whether a telephone conversation tha* I. made from Parlia-ment House on Wednesday of last week to an inspector employed at Chrysler Australia Limited in Adelaide was tapped? Will the Prime Minister ask the security service to explain how a security officer who questioned’ an inspector- of the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate yesterday in Adelaide for1 several hours was able to refer to facts that were given to me in the course of a telephone conversation to’ my home on Saturday ?
– The police state is here.
– I have already made it abundantly clear that I shall not ask the security service for any information of this kind or any other kind.
– Does the right honorable gentleman approve of honorable members’ telephones being tapped?
– I made a statement in this. House some time ago - and I have no reason to believe it to be untrue: - that honorable members of this House did not have their telephone, conversations tapped. These questions represent a campaign against the security service, and. it is very noticeable that it is being conducted, in parallel with, the campaign in another, place. I. want to make it abundantly clear that, in no. circumstances will. I, or any other member of the Cabinet, answer questions of this kind. Therefore, if they are put; they are put solely as propaganda.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for Health.
Recent reports claim that the addition of fluoride to public water supplies- would improve the dental health of the community. Has the Minister any information on this subject, and if the claims are correct, will he discuss the matter with the Health Ministers of the States with a view to the introduction of fluoride into public water supplies so that those dental benefits may be made available to the majority of the Australian people?
– The. National Health and Medical Research. Council, over the last couple of years, has con ducted extensive investigations into the value of fluoride in drinking- water, and has now expressed the opinion that it has very definite advantages, especially when combined with dietary factors. The council has recommended’ that a panel of advisers be established in each State to supervise and examine all suggestions for the addition of fluoride to drinking water supplies in towns and cities. The States of Queensland and New South Wales have, I think, set up such advisory panels and. the matter is being examined in the Australian Capital Territory. I do not know the position, in other States.
– Can the Minister for Health inform me whether the British Medical Association in Australia has given any indication that, because of the increased number of pensioners consequent on the proposed easing of the means test, the association may review its attitude to- its participation in the pensioner, medical, scheme?. In fact, is the British Medical Association likely to revoke, its participation in that scheme because of the increased number of pensioners entitled to. benefit?
– That question has not yet arisen.. I have- no. news at all about the. matter.
– In view of the report that, the Government proposes to bring down. a bill. for the purpose of. establishing television, in Australia, and considering the huge cost that will be involved, in the provision, of this amenity, will the Postmaster-General consider deferring that project, and spending the money in an endeavour to modernize, sub-standard post offices, such as. that at Maroubra Junction in. my electorate, and also for the purpose of installing all the outstanding telephones, that have, been applied for? The lack of consideration that has been given to-
-Order ! What is the question ?
– The lack of consideration that has been given to those two important matters is the cause of grave public resentment;
– The answer is, “ Yes “ and “ No “.
– Why did the Postmaster-General refuse to answer questions put to “him during the week-end about telephone tapping ‘by lis department ?
– I think I have “the right to decide whether I shall answer questions that ‘are asked me over the telephone or otherwise.
– A fortnight ago, I asked the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, -whether he had received any advice about reports that myxomatosis was losing its effectiveness. Has he any further information :to give to the House on this matter ?
– I am glad that the honorable member has repeated his question because I had proposed to ask for leave to make a statement in reply to his earlier question as this subject is of interest to other honorable members as well as the honorable gentleman. On the 28th July last, a conference of technical officers representing State authorities, the Australian National University and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, met in Melbourne to discuss the performance of the disease over the last season, the research in progress and plans for future work. At this conference, some time was spent discussing the appearance in the field of less virulent strains than the one originally liberated. Professor E. Fenner and his colleagues of the Department of Microbiology at the Australian National University aTe actively investigating this matter. They reported that there was a strain capable of Trilling 90 per ,cent. of ;all susceptible rabbits injected, which was very wide-spread throughout Australia. The fully -virulent laboratory strain which is used almost exclusively in the artificial inoculation campaigns is capable of killing approximately 99 per cent. Professor Fenner was inclined to the view that the strain which was now wide-spread was probably well adapted to the Australian .environ ment, and he thoug’ht that it was likely that this would be able to compete .successfully with, less virulent strains which were bound to ^appear from time to time.
– I rise to order. The Minister, obviously, is not answering a question. He is reading a prepared statement and, in so doing, is avoiding the requirement under the Standing Orders that he obtain leave to read a statement of this kind. He is consuming the question time of “the Parliament with a long dissertation on myxomatosis.
– I understood that the Minister had information ready to answer a question that had been asked on a previous occasion by the honorable member for Indi. To that extent he is in order. He is only talking about myxomatosis.; he is npt introducing it here.
– I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that by saying what you have just said you have removed any personal fears that the honorable member for Melbourne may have entertained. From observations made by officers of the Wildlife Survey Section of the -Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, it was apparent that the disease had died out in certain localities during the winter of -1953. -Of course, when this occurs a susceptible population is built up, and it is possible then to introduce, or to re-introduce, the fully virulent laboratory strain. This has actually happened on a large property in New South Wales and it is to be fully expected that the fully virulent strain will have the same effect. This will be introduced when ‘the current less virulent strain happens to die out in any district It has been suggested that we might import from France a very virulent strain which has ravaged the rabbit population in that country. That strain could be introduced into Australia with proper safeguards. The full report of the meeting of technical officers, which is of interest to all who are interested in primary production, will be made available to the honorable member and to any other honorable members who are concerned about the progress of primary production in this country.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any information about the alleged aggressive preparations being made by the Communist Government of China against Formosa? Has thu right honorable gentleman been in consultation with the Government of the United States of America and the United Kingdom Government on that matter?
– In answer to a question on the same general lines asked in this House fairly recently, I said it was clear that there had been a great stepping up of propaganda and threats by the Communist Government of China against the Nationalist Government in Formosa. I am afraid we have no inside information from Peking on this subject, but the position is being watched with considerable anxiety because the effects of an invasion, or even an attempted invasion, of Formosa might very well be extremely grave. We have no information that is peculiar to ourselves, but as I have said, with the other countries concerned, we are watching the situation anxiously.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is true that three Ministers have been appointed by Cabinet to deal with the case which should, be presented to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on behalf of the Govern ment when the application by the Australian Council of Trades Unions on the margins issue is re-opened. If that is so, as the Victorian, Tasmanian and Western Australian Governments have indicated that they are prepared to support the application by the Australian Council of Trades Unions for increased margins for all workers, will the Prime Minister ask the Cabinet committee to examine the margins question with a. view to supporting the claim for wage increases for all workers who receive margins? Will the right honorable gentleman also support tho application by the Australian Council of Trades Unions for an earlier re-opening of the case ?
– I was under the impression that I had answered a question about this matter last week. Cabinet very frequently informs itself, through
Cabinet committees, and through official committees, and therefore I do not propose to discuss this matter. The view that will be put by the Government on the margins case will be made abundantly clear in the Arbitration Court when the application is being dealt with.
– I understand that representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and of 23 unions having members in the employ of the Australian Government waited on the Prime Minister on the 15th July, when representations were made for increased margins for skill. If this is a fact, will the Prime Minister indicate what reply, if any, has been given to the representations that were made on behalf of Government employees?
-I sent a reply in writing to Mr. Monk, who acted on behalf of the deputation. I shall see that the honorable member is provided with a copy of that reply.
– The right honorable gentleman just said “ No “. There is nothing in it.
– The honorable member is quite right. The reply said “ No “, and I say “ No “.
– In view of till ( urgent necessity for the construction of a bridge over the Goodradigbee River to link Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory with Tumut, and so shorten the distance between the National Capital and southern New South Wales and Victoria, will the Minister for the Interior take immediate steps to provide the money required by the Government of New South Wales, which is the building authority, to enable this work to be started without further delay?
– I am afraid that the answer to the honorable member’s question is “ No “, because there are many more important works to be done first that require the supplies of materials available at the moment.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the coverage by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to the north-eastern portion of Tasmania is a most indifferent one? Can the Minister inform me whether investigations have been made with a view to setting up a boosting station in the St. Helens area which would ensure a more adequa te coverage ?
– The question of the improvement of broadcasting services in Australia in general has been engaging the attention of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board over the last two or three years. Very considerable improvements have been progressively made. The claims of Tasmania have not been overlooked.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. In view of the very serious world situation, has the Government a plan for the civil defence of this country? If it has a plan, how far has the plan been advanced ?
– The matter of civil defence has exercised the Minister for the Interior and the Defence Department for some time. Honorable members will notice that a certain sum is set aside on the Estimates this year for the establishment of a school for the training of key personnel for the civil defence of Australia.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Interior in his capacity as Minister in charge of war service land settlement. As there is much concern and, I believe, misunderstanding regarding relations between the Commonwealth and the State of Victoria in connexion with war service land settlement valuations, can the Minister state briefly the true position, or will he make a statement on the matter to the House in the near future ?
– I very much regret that I cannot state briefly what has been argued over the last three years. A ministerial conference on war service land settlement will be held probably about the second week of next month, and I expect that the matter will be further discussed on that occasion. If all of the matters on which the honorable member desires information are not raised at that conference, or if information about them is not made available to the public, I shall be very pleased to give him or any other honorable member all the information I. have on them.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Has any money been received by the Australian Government from the Thailand Government that can be used to provide repatriation benefits for Australian prisoners of war who helped to build the Burma-Thailand railway, known to prisoners of war as the “Railway of Death”? If so, what amount has been received? When will it be distributed among the prisoners of war, and what amount will each of them receive? Will the Prime Minister say when Australian prisoners of war can expect to receive the financial assistance from Japan that was agreed upon when the Japanese peace treaty was signed four years ago?
– I think the mostconvenient course will be to prepare a short statement, setting out the exact position of these matters at this time, and to make it available to honorable members.
– No doubt the Government will concede that the cost of living in Australia is affected vitally by the price of steel. Does the Prime Minister know that in the near future Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is likely to increase the price of steel in Australia? If the company does so, will costs of production be raised in both secondary and primary industries? Would that have dangerous consequences to our economy and make ridiculous the Treasurer’s statement about the stabilization of costs and prices? Does the Government intend to do anything about the steel price move by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited ?
– I know nothing about this matter.. If a business cares to raise its prices for a variety of reasons, with some of which the honorable member is very familiar, that i& a matter, for that business.
– Are not prices stable ?
– I think prices in this country have reached a degree of stability in the last eighteen months that one would have believed to be impossible five years ago.
– Does the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider that Australian exporters are receiving proper consideration, from the overseas shipowners who were relieved recently by this Government of a considerable levy, but did not reciprocate by reducing their freight charges to any real degree ? Is the Government satisfied that Australian exporters are being fairly treated by the overseas shipowners?
– The Department of Commerce and Agriculture has interested itself for several years in trying to arrange freight rates on the best terms for Australian exporters. Numerous circumstances have combined to justify some increase in freight charges. The slow turn-round of ships here during a certain period was perhaps the most notorious circumstances that gave the shipowners some justification to claim an increase. However, officials of the department, negotiating with other exporting interests, have succeeded on at least one occasion in abating increases of charges proposed by the shipowners. I give an assurance that the department, in accordance with the policy of the Government, will continue to watch the interests of our export industries.
– Towards the end of the last Parliament, the Minister for Supply stated in this House that the Government had decided to withdraw from sale the Commonwealth line of steamers. Can the Minister give an assurance now that that proposal will not be revived during the life of this Parliament?
– That is a matter of policy.
– I ask the- Minister acting for- the Minister for Immigration whether any consideration- has been given to the high cost to New Australians of making application for naturalization in connexion with newspaper advertisements and the fee of £5 that is charged. If not, can the matter be- examined with the object of lessening the cost because of: the necessity for having all people who a-re1 willing: t& conform, to tha laws, of the country naturalized ?
– I shall have the matter examined and will furnish a reply to the honorable gentleman.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether, once the Vickers Viscount aircraft ordered by Trans-Australia Airlines commence service on regular passenger air routes, these aircraft will” operate between Melbourne and Adelaide, Melbourne and Hobart, and Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, and not be confined simply to service between the capitals in the eastern States?’
– No,, I” cannot say that. That is a matter for determination by Trans-Australia Airlines, but I believe that the organization intends to use the aircraft on all capital city routes.
– Will the Prime Minister lay upon the table of the House the agreement or such other papers as have relation to fishing- for pearl-shell by Japanese fleets in; Australian waters, and will he supply any other information, that is available in relation to the recentoperations of the Japanese fishing fleet in Australian waters?
– The question seems to be, if I may say so, a little on the wide side. No doubt copies of the agreements that have been made can be produced without much difficulty. If the honorable member would like to be supplied with any further particulars in point of fact, perhaps, he will he good enough- tolet me- know so- that I can arrange: f or. the information to. be- supplied to. him..
Debate resumed from 19th August, 1954 (vide page 519), on motion by Mr. Lindsay -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral be agreed to: -
We,, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in. Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– The GovernorGeneral’s Speech referred to the need for the development of Australia’s resources, and I want to-day to deal specifically with the subject of the development of northern Australia. I have decided to do so because I believe there is a great deal of misconception in the minds of many persons, not only in this House, but also elsewhere throughout Australia. We hear many rather wild statements about the development of northern Australia. People declare that there should be a very large increase of the population of that region in a short space of time, and we are often told that there are unlimited resources available there for development. Before we can discuss, in detail, what is actually taking place, it is necessary for us to have an appreciation of the potential of the north for development. I shall deal, especially, with the undeveloped regions of north Australia, which include the peninsula and gulf areas of North Queensland, excluding the partially developed east coast region, and including the central and northwest regions, as well as the Channel country of Queensland, and the land masses to the north of a line drawn from the Channel country to Carnarvon in Western Australia. The development of northern Australia generally has been slow, compared with the development of the southern and eastern States. It is more than 100 years since the first settlement of Darwin and other areas in the north of Australia took place yet there are still vast unsettled areas which are unproductive and support only a sparse population.
There are many reasons why development in the north has been slower than in the southern and eastern States, including low rainfall, poor soils, sparse pastures, inadequate water, and the fact that the regions are situated long distances from centres of dense population. The necessity to do something about the development of Australia, from both strategic and economic points of view, was realized in 1946. In that year, the Northern Australia Development Committee was established for the purpose of formulating policy in relation to the development of northern Australia. It comprised representatives of the Commonwealth, Queensland and Western Australia. Since World War II., the constantly changing international outlook in connexion with East Asia and the progress of science in relation to agricultural and industrial development, have made imperative the development of our northern regions. We are confronted with a situation to-day in which not only the people of Australia, but also those of other countries are assessing the extent of the natural resources of those areas, and the period of time necessary in which to develop them. The population of the undeveloped regions to which I am directing my attention, excluding full-blooded aboriginals, is only 50,000, comprising approximately 25,000 in Queensland, 16,000 in the Northern Territory, and 9,000 in Western Australia. Their total area is approximately 1,250,000 square miles, or about 42 per cent, of the area of Australia. More than 54 per cent, of the population is dispersed through twelve towns in these undeveloped regions, such as Darwin and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, Hughenden, Mount Isa and Cloncurry in Queensland, and in the west, Carnarvon, Broome and several other smaller centres. It is easy to see, therefore, that this area poses a very significant problem immediately. It poses, in addition, a problem of natural resources. I shall examine, briefly, the geographical features of the area. Practically the whole of this northern region is a plateau, the average height of which is about 1,000 feet. Only in a few parts of the MacDonald Range in the Northern Territory, and the Hammersley Range in
Western Australia, are there heights which reach approximately 3,000 feet. There are also one or two points in the Kimberleys where the height reaches 2,000 feet. Generally speaking, however, the whole of the area is a flat plateau with an average height of about 1,000 feet. That fact, of course, has a significant relationship to the developmental potential of the country. The coastal area, practically throughout the whole of this undeveloped region, consists of mangrove swamps, with some’ exceptions around the Gulf country and in some areas round Arnhem Land. There is an ill-defined drainage system in the interior, but the greater part of this area is practically riverless so far as permanent streams are concerned. There are only a few permanent streams, principally in the Gulf country, including the Daly, the Roper and the Gregory, and a few in the peninsula area. Apart from those rivers, however, there are practically no permanent streams in the whole of this land mass of approximately 1,250,000 square miles.
Climatic conditions are another disability so far as development is concerned. Annual rainfall varies from 60 inches in the Darwin area to less than 5 inches in the far interior. Apart from the narrow coastal fringe extending eastwards from Broome, the zone receiving 30 inches or more is confined to the Darwin, Arnhem Land and Cape York Peninsula areas. This zone has some prospects of agricultural production, but it easy to realize the disabilities and difficulties that arise in relation to rainfall, when there is a high rainfall in the coastal area and a very low rainfall inland. That position poses some further significant problems so far as agricultural development is concerned. A marked seasonal incidence and extreme variability are characteristics of the rainfall in. most parts, in that the rainfall over practically the whole of the area is confined to about three months of the year. The area is dry for the remainder of the year. In the lower rainfall areas in the centre there is, naturally, a higher rate of evaporation than would be the case if the rainfall were spread over the whole year, A large proportion of this huge undeveloped region is virtually sandy desert, with a particularly high rate of evaporation, and a concentration of rain in one short period each year.
The vegetation through this undeveloped region conforms to the concentric, climatic zones. There are some very definite types of vegetation in these areas. In the arid centre of Australia we- have the familiar type of spinifex country; in the open plains of the Barkly Tablelands and other points, we have the Mitchel and Flinders grass areas ; and in the coastal belt we come to an area of tall tropical grasses. It is, of course, obvious that there is rapid growth of pasture during the short rainfall period, followed by rapid drying and loss of pasture nutrition during the long dry period in the remainder of the year. As I have already mentioned, streams of a permanent nature are few and isolated. Although this area has an ill-defined drainage system there are, during the wet season, some very turbulent and large stream?. They How rapidly to the coast during the short rainfall period, but. for the remainder of the year, they dry up into a series of waterholes. This is obviously for the reason that there is n low rainfall in the inland areas. The high rainfall is on the coast, away from the source of the rivers. Certain artesian basins extend throughout the whole of this undeveloped region. They may be classified as the Barkly Tableland basin, the Ord-Victoria basin in the Kimberleys area, the Fitzroy basin, and the northwest basin on the north-west coast of Western Australia. They are fairly clearly defined artesian and sub-artesian basins which provide a reasonable supply of water which can be used for the purpose of maintaining stock routes in those areas.
The land use in northern Australia is largely determined by the inter-related factors of moisture availability and type of soil. At present, grazing is carried out fairly extensively but secondary development is concentrated mainly on mining leases. This presents rather a gloomy picture of northern Australia. It does not present a picture which indicates rapid and virile development such as has been claimed for northern Australia in the past.
I think that we should make up our minds where we are going in relation to the development of this region. What are the real prospects of development of secondary and primary industries? What are we doing to examine these resources and further the real development of these areas? In fact, quite a lot is being undertaken at present. Investigations are being conducted in relation to agricultural and pastoral research, transport possibilities, mining other than coalmining, coalmining, irrigation, and also pearling and fisheries. It is necessary to have a full and complete understanding of the problems associated with development in the north and to solve some of these problems, not only so as to develop fully the limited resources of northern Australia, but so as to protect those resources from unwise exploitationsuch as took place in the early development of some of the more rich and highly developed southern States. Research work is fundamental to agriculture and pastoral development. We cannot avoid a complete examination of these problems if we are to exploit wisely the resources available for agricultural and pastoral development.
Excluding the east coast area of Queensland, which is rich and fertile, and coming across the dividing range into the land mass of northern Australia, we find that virtually the whole of the area, from a pastoral point of view, is being used solely for extensive grazing. Many inherently difficult problems arc associated with development. Otherwise, real development would have taken place in the agricultural and pastoral industries during the 100 years in which settlement has been established in these areas. There are no easy steps that can be taken for the full and rapid development of this country. It is necessary to collect scientific data in relation to the potential of the areas before any other steps can be taken. Consequently, a section of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization known as the Land Research and Regional Survey Section was established for the purpose of describing, mapping and assessing, region by region, these undeveloped areas in the north. Some of the section’s reports have already been published and the work is being continued, but I do not doubt that it will take another two or three years to complete.
Another step in developmental research in the area was taken by the establishment of a research station at Katherine in the Northern Territory. Investigations are being conducted into the raising of such crops as cotton, peanuts, tobacco and grain sorghum. Research is also being conducted into the development of pastures which could be grown under existing conditions of soil and rainfall with the addition of certain trace elements and fertilizers. Those experiments have indicated that certain crops can be grown suitably under controlled conditions. It will probably be years before the real value of thiswork can be assessed. Naturally, development of this nature is not as fast a process as many consider it to be. Ricegrowing experiments arebeing carried out in the Adelaide Riverarea of the Northern Territory. Some reasonably satisfactory results have been obtained, both from the point of view of hydro-logical work, and the development of varieties suitable to conditions in that area. I think that the greatest possibilities in this area are in the development of ricegrowing. In view of the value of rice to our nearby neighbours, rice growing could be, not only an economic adjunct to the development of the north, but also something of strategic value. This work is showing considerable promise and it is hoped that, in the nottoo distant future, it will be possible to attract additional capital from overseas for investment in these areas. Approximately 2,000,000 acres of country in the Northern Territory are similar to that in which the ricegrowing experiment is being conducted. The significance of this experimentcould be great if it proves successful. A research station has been established on the Ord River in the Kim- berleys district of Western Australia, and there are now great possibilities of establishing a satisfactory irrigation system in that area. At present, approximately 500,000 acres of land in this district could be irrigated from a dam constructed on the Ord River. Experiments have been carried out in the Ord River research station, connected with the growing of crops such as sugar, rice and other minor crops, and the development of suitable types of pasture for the district, and all those experiments have proved to he most satisfactory. Therefore, honorable members will perceive that the prospect of development in that region is extremely hopeful. The main thing that we must remember at present, is that we must press on with the development of this irrigation system. After the dams have been constructed and the irrigation system developed, there is no doubt that the crops that I have mentioned could be grown in that area almost immediately. We shall have a ready-made area of about 500,000 acres, which can be immediately utilized when water is made available to it.
Recently, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, which is a division of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, carried out a survey of the cattle industry throughout the whole of northern Australia, including the Northern Territory, the northern part of Western Australia and the northern part of Queensland. A full report on the survey has been submitted to the Department of Territories, and has been found most useful by it. Moreover, much valuable data has been obtained from that report about the industries and the people of the northern areas. That survey work is still proceeding, and officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture are still operating in the northern areas and taking action wherever necessary to keera the report up to date. Their activities are extremely valuable to our northern cattle industry.
Let us now consider briefly the transport problems of the north. It is quite safe to sav that poor transport facilities have been synonymous with life in northern Australia. Distances there are very great, there has been low productivity over practically the whole of the area, and the population has been sparse. Therefore, honorable members will well understand that it is almost inevitable that transport facilities should have been poor. Consequently, we are faced, in the whole of northern Australia, with a need for additional railway systems, new roads, additional stock routes, additional harbour facilities, more ships and additional air services. The development of the transport systems of the north is, to a degree, under examination at present, and some important work is being done now. For example, a new wharf is being constructed in Darwin, and it will not be long before it is in use. That, of course, will be of great value to the port of Darwin. Additional stock routes are being constructed in the Northern Territory, and water points are being established along them. A developmental road is under construction, and partially finished, from the Victoria River district to the developmental north-south road running south from Wyndham. That road is designed to assist the development of the cattle industry in the Victoria River district, down to the south Kimberleys area in Western Australia.
The Australian Government is giving financial assistance to the Queensland Government for the development of roads and stock routes in the Channel country in south-western Queensland, and such road construction is assisting the development of Queensland’s very important cattle industry. The Stuart Highway, the main artery between Alice Springs and Darwin, is at present being maintained by the Commonwealth, as also are some of the roads which link the Queensland road system with that of the Territory. Some of the western roads are also being maintained. Moreover, the Commonwealth and the West Australian Government are paying subsidies to maintain the air beef system now operating between the Glenroy district and Wyndham, in Western Australia. Extension of time granted.’] I thank the House for granting me an extension of time and I now desire to deal with the matter of regular shipping to the port of Darwin. The Government has been considering that problem for some time, and has been operating ships to Darwin at a fairly substantial loss. At present it is necessary for those ships to call at Darwin, in spite of the losses being incurred, and it is understood that for many years tocome ships operating in that area will show a loss which must be borne by the rest of the people of Australia as part of the cost of developing the north.
Certain aerodromes are now being built by the Commonwealth, and others are- being improved. Several railway proposals have been put forward and discussed in this House, and they will, when given effect, assist in the development of northern areas. A north-south Line from Darwin to Alice Springs was a matter for discussion with South Australia when the Territory was ceded to the Commonwealth. There is also the proposal to link up Dajarra, in Queensland, with Newcastle Waters, and eventually with Birdum, in the Northern Territory, in order to assist the movement of beef cattle from the Barkly Tableland to fattening districts and markets in Queensland. There are also proposals for spur lines east and west from the DarwinNewcastle Waters line, and there is a proposal for a line to be constructed from the Victoria River district to Wyndham. The construction of the railway lines within the Northern Territory is a responsibility of the Commonwealth, but the construction of the lines that link up with Commonwealth lines at the Territory borders are really the responsibility of the State governments concerned. However, it has been fairly strongly put to the Australian Government by honorable members in this House, and by certain persons in Queensland in relation to the development of the railway line from Dajarra to the Northern Territory, that the Commonwealth should financially assist the Queensland Government in this matter.
At present an examination is being made into the possibilities of an airlift in substitution for the proposed railway through the Barkly Tablelands. I understand that that examination is still proceeding, and we hope that it will not be long before some practical proposal for either a railway or an airlift will be forthcoming, because it is essential for the development of this area that there should be some additional transport facilities. An interesting experiment in what might be called sea beef, is at present being carried on in northern Queensland. Live-stock .are being shipped from the peninsula area, which has been isolated up to date except for a very arduous stock route, to the northern markets in Cairns. The Marine Contracting and Towing Company is operating a land- ing-barge, which is known .as Wewak. It operates from about five points and transports cattle to certain places on the coast south of the peninsula, .and - to the meat works at Cairns. That is an interesting development, and one that offers great possibilities for the development of the hitherto neglected peninsula area.
Now let us consider the mining potential of our northern regions. The most effective and quickest way to open up certain areas in northern Australia is to develop mining leases. It is interesting to note the developments that are taking place at the present time in relation to uranium. As ‘honorable members know, Mr. J. White located deposits of uranium at Rum Jungle in 1949. Now, there are possibilities of good finds in the Adelaide River area and also in parts of Queensland, particularly at Mount Isa and Cloncurry. Those finds may lead to more rapid development of the areas in which they -‘are located, as the Rum Jungle and Batchelor areas are being developed at the present time. Indications of promising oil fields have occurred at Rough Range, in the Exmouth Gulf area of Western Australia. We hope that those strikes will become a fruitful source of supply and that the fields will prove to be the first commercial oil propositions in the country. On Marchinbar Island, off the coast of Arnhem Land, there are good deposits of bauxite. The result of a survey indicates that there are approximately 10,000,000 tons of usable bauxite, or sufficient for our requirements for many years to come. Iron ore, of course, is a very important product of Yampi Sound, and I understand that a survey of the area has disclosed that approximately 74,000,000 tons of iron oxide are available for use by industry in Australia.
The mining of blue asbestos and manganese in Western Australia, and of lead, zinc, copper and tin at Mount Isa, is also being carried out at the present time. There are no indications of coal deposits in the undeveloped regions to which I have referred, but in Queensland, there are coalfields at Callide, Nebo, Blair Athol and Collinsville. The irrigation possibilities of some areas of the northwest -are sound, such as in the Ord River, Fitzroy River and .Adelaide River areas.
A pearling research station has been established on Thursday Island. As honorable members know, during the previous Parliamentary sessional period, legislation was introduced with a view to giving Australia control over its continental shelf. The development of the pearling industry is important to northern Australia. So, also, is the development of the fishing industry. At the present time, two vessels are operating in research work on tuna fishing off the coast of Queensland. In my opinion, that could be quite an important industry in the ‘future.
It can be seen, from a brief examination of the prospects of northern Australia, that two essentials emerge. The first is that research work must be continued vigorously, and the second is that we must try to attract additional capital for the development of those regions. As I have said, the combination of economic and strategic factors makes the development of our northern regions vitally important. We are dealing actively with the problems of research at the present time, and we have some, knowledge of the potential resources of the area. Legislation introduced in this House during the present sitting of the Parliament will assist in the provision of capital within the Northern Territory. The future of Australia as a whole is irrevocably bound to the full economic development of all known resources in northern Australia. The eyes of people inside and outside this continent are focussed on those undeveloped regions, and it is the duty of all Australians to encourage, in every possible way, this vital developmental work.
– At the outset of my remarks, I wish to congratulate two of my colleagues, who are new members of this House, for their splendid contributions to this debate last Thursday evening. I refer to the honorable member for “Bass (Mr. Barnard) and the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts). They stamped themselves as honorable members who will contribute valuably to the future deliberations of this House.
I wish to take up, to some extent, the theme discussed the other evening by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), when he touched upon the ways in which this House conducts the business of the nation. The honorable member suggested that, in many respects, procedure which had been adequate in the past required alteration to-day. He stated that, because of the volume of business that cropped up during the war years, important changes had been made in the way in which that business waa transacted by the Parliament, and suggested that those changes were not necessarily for the better. He argued that there should lie greater scope for committees, or sections of the House, to discuss technical matters, and urged that, at the committee stage of debates, greater opportunity should be given for discussion. Both the honorable member and I have had experience in a State legislature. I suppose it is true to say that determination of the bulk of public law still, resides in the State Legislatures. In the State parliaments, much more time is devoted to debate during the committee stage of bills than is the case in this Parliament. I suggest that, in relation to certain measures that come before this House from time to time, more adequate debate at the committee stage might enhance the quality of the legislation passed by the Parliament. An example that I have in mind is income tax legislation.
By means of income tax, the Australian Government collects approximately £500,000,000 of revenue every year. Many amendments of the Income Tax Act have been made by this Parliament, with virtually no debate at the committee stage of the relevant legislation. During the last Parliament, there was an occasion when important amendments were made to legislation that affects the gold-mining industry. The amendments were inserted after the second-reading debate had taken place, and there was no debate in relation to the principle of the amendments. They were inserted in the legislation without this House being given an opportunity to discuss them at all. I suggest that that is quite wrong. The Income Tax Act has grown from a slim volume to a thing of some 300 or 400 separate sections, many of which have been so amended from time to time that they contain monstrosities of addenda. All the letters of the alphabet have been exhausted, and the draftsmen have been obliged to resort to the use of double letters, and even to Roman numerals, in some instances. I suggest that the time has come for codification of the Income Tax Act, with a view to ascertaining whether many of the principles which were laid down when income tax was only ls. or 2s. in the £1 accord with modern usages. We have very little opportunity in this House to consider such important legislation in that way. lt is true that, in recent years, the Government set up a Committee on Taxation, which was charged with the task of suggesting amendments of the act with a view to rectifying anomalies. That committee did valuable work, but that is not the manner in which such matters should be considered in a democratic community.
We say that there may be more efficient forms of government than the democratic form, but that eventually they are not as satisfactory. If we ask expert committees to determine these matters, we substitute bureaucracy for democracy. Ultimately the Parliament makes the law, and I suggest that, instead of appointing expert committees which hear evidence and coldly draw, up a report on the basis of the evidence, the experts should give evidence before a parliamentary committee. The Treasurer, in his budget speech, foreshadowed the formation of another committee of which the chairman will be a competent member of the Parliament, but of which the other members will be persons from outside the House. That committee will investigate the very important subject of depreciation allowances. Although that committee may make a recommendation, the Parliament must embody that recommendation in legislation. For that reason, it would be better to have a committee of honorable members and for the outside experts to submit their ideas to that committee. Sometimes in the volume of business we overlook these important matters, but probably the legislation suffers because of the oversight and the Parliament is not so well informed. It is of no use for us to say, as the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) said, that it is the fault of the Opposition as much as of the Government. The Government determines the order of business, and the time that shall be allotted to each item, and whether more time shall be given to a discussion of principles in the secondreading stage or less time to details in the committee stage. I suggest that the plea of urgency cannot be used as an excuse to the same degree that it was in war-time. Even if an adequate consideration of these matters meant keeping the House sitting for another week or two, the time so spent would be well spent.
– Does the honorable member really think that a Labour government would do it ?
– I am not putting it on that basis. I am saying that, in my opinion, it ought to be done and that tho Government should consider the provision of ample opportunity to consider these matters. If the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand), as a new member, thinks that such a change is necessary, he may be able to prevail upon his colleagues to make changes that will benefit himself and the community as a whole.
I refer now to the important subject of housing. My colleague, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), referred to this subject on the 19th August. It is often thought that the provision of housing is a physical problem only, but, in addition, it is a financial problem, and in many ways the financial difficulties seem to be greater than the. physical difficulties. I recently placed on the notice-paper a question in which I asked the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) what weekly payments would be required to repay over a period of 30 years the sum of £3,000 lent at various stated rates of interest, including 5 per cent, per annum and 3 per cent, per annum. A person who wishes to build a house nowadays is not always in the favorable position of being able to pay cash ; he must negotiate a mortgage. The rate of interest and the period over which he may be expected to repay the loan are of great importance to him. The erection of a decent brick veneer or weatherboard house in any State costs up to £3,000. Once a person has bought his block of land and has made provision for furnishing the house, he must borrow approximately £3,000 to complete the project. There is a big difference between interest rates of 3 per cent, and 5 per cent., and a big difference between the weekly repayments that they call for. If a person borrows £3,000 from another person or from an institution, he borrows it at the current rate of interest, and the lender expects to have returned to him at the end of the contract time the principal sum that he has lent. Two transactions are involved. On the one hand there is the annual interest payment, and, on the other hand, an amortization payment. If a person borrowed the sum of £3,000 at an interest rate of 5 per cent, and weekly payments were involved, that person would be called upon to pay £3 14s. 4d. each week over the 30 years currency of the loan. If the interest rate were 3 per cent., the weekly outgoing would be £2 18s. 5d., a reduction, of more than 20’ per cent.
We hear many references, to the necessity of reducing costs, the implication being that the cost’s that are most capable of reduction are wage costs, that the wager earner is not doing all that he ought to do and that greater production is required of him. Costs could be reduced quite simply by effecting small changes in the current rates of interest. That is one matter in relation to which the responsibility can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the government in office. The Government for the time being in office, through its monetary and fiscal policy, determines the ruling interest rates; Under the administration of a Labour government the ruling rate of interest for gilt-edged securities was held at 3$ per cent. The interest rate for giltedged, securities determines the hierarchy of interest rates for bank overdrafts, mortgages,, debentures,, and preference shares. After four and a half years of administration by this Government the interest rate for gilt-edged securities has increased, by If per cent., to 4£ per cent., with corresponding increases throughout the structure of interest rates. That means that whereas a- person, when Labour was in office, could have negotiated a mortgage at perhaps 3£ or per cent., he must now pay 44 or 5 per cent, on first mortgages and rates as high, as: 7 and 8 per cent, on second mortgages. The example that I. have: cited indicates the real additional cost incurred by home builders and purchasers as: a, result of the increase of interest rates.
– How much money will the honorable member lend at 3 i per cent. ?
– The Government would not. peg the interest rate, but allowed it to rise progressively. It may say that the increased interest payments on government loans do not much matter,, but the effects of higher interest rates do not end there. Their venomous influence reaches out into the daily lives of the people. Persons who borrow money to build or buy homes must pay the higher interest rate for perhaps 30 years during the currency of the loan. The increased interest rate has added more than 20 per cent., to. the cost of home building in Australia. The very people who defend the increase of interest rates throw up their hands in horror when it is suggested thatquarterly adjustments- of 3s. or 4s. to wages of £13 or £14 a. week should continue, and say that the community will be submerged by inflation. A greatincrease of wage margins, or of any other component of workers’ incomes, would be required in order to increase by 20 per cent, the wages costs of home building. The Government has complacently stood by while an equivalent additional financial costs has been imposed on those who buy or build homes. This Administration is culpable, and does not absolve itself of guilt by saying, “We are- building more houses in Australia to-day than ever before “. It is true that we are building more homes than ever before, and this is as it should be, but the people who most need them are not getting them. Those who are in fortunate economic- circumstances are getting them, and those who are most in need are being forced out of the housing market by the additional financial burdens that have been inflicted on them. This situation must be faced’ and remedial action must be taken. The Government has the power to reduce the interest rate by taking action- analogous to that taken by the United States of America and Great Britain - the two countries to which, we look for example. In both countries average reductions of 1 per cent, of the ruling rates of interest have recently been announced.We in Australia should be taking the same course and the Government should not be saying, “ The loan market is prosperous “. The loan market last year yielded £120,000,000 at 4½ per cent, interest. It should have yielded much more at, say, 4 per cent, and the interest rate should ultimately be reduced to 3½ per cent.
As I have said, the influence of interest rates is not felt only in relation to government bond’s. Increased interest charges are being passed on to those who buy or build homes, and a study of the budget papers will reveal the effect of increased interest rates on the Australian economy and the taxpayers. The total interest burden in respect of the national debt, both State and Commonwealth, last financial year amounted to approximately £109,000,000. The previous financial year it totalled about £100,000,000. Because loans are being progressively converted from 31/8 per cent, to 4½ per cent, the interest burden on the Australian taxpayers in aggregate is increasing at the appalling rate of approximately £9,000,000 a year. Supporters of the Government should make a careful study of the voluminous documents in relation tothe public debt that are contained in the budget papers. If they do so they will not be as complacent about the prevailing interest rates in Australia as is the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride). The Government is very keen to follow the example of other countries when it suits its purposes, and I appeal to it now to take a leaf out of the book of the United States of America and Great Britain in respect of interest rates. The figures that I have cited, which were made available by the Treasurer, indicate precisely the additional burden that is imposed upon homebuilders and purchasers by increased interest rates. As I shall demonstrate, interest rates have an important influence in relation to public works, both State and Commonwealth, through the future conversion of loans. Approximately £300,000,000 to £400,000,000 of public loans fall due for redemption within the next year or two, and if they are converted from 31/8 per cent, to 4½ per cent., as seems probable, the Australian taxpayers will have to meet an additional interest burden of about, £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 annually. The Government should give serious consideration to this problem, which affects all sections, of the Australian community. It affects home builders and also taxpayers who are concerned whether they will be called upon to pay taxes, not because they will get anything more for their expenditure, but solely because the stupid financial policy of this Government makes it necessary.
.- I wish to direct my remarks to that portion of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, at page 5 of the printed copy, in which he referred to housing in the following words : -
My Government will continue to undertake a large housing programme both directly and in conjunction with the States. The provision of war service homes will be vigorously pursued.
I shall refer shortly to another paragraph in the Speech. You will notice, Mr. Acting Speaker, that His Excellency said, as he did in relation to so many items of government policy, that the preexisting state would continue. He used the word “ continue “ and its derivatives twenty times in a speech of six pages. After reading the stereotyped script that the GovernorGeneral’s advisers gave him one cannot blame him, as a blunt soldier, for departing so often from prepared scripts. A continuance of the Government’s attitude to housing is not enough. We want, not a continuance of the policy that it has adopted hitherto, but an accelerated rate of homebuilding. The position in relation to housing cannot be better shown than in the figures for the total investment in dwelling construction in Australia for the financial years 1951-52 to 1953-54, which were made available to honorable members last Wednesday evening. These figures are alarming: In the financial year 1951-52, £209,000,000 was spent on the construction of dwellings. The expenditure on this type of building fell to £182,000,000 in 1952-53, and declined further to £177,000,000 in 1953-54.
Expenditure by State housing authorities and other bodies on dwellings for rental purposes, included in the above figures, amounted to £36,000,000 in 1951- 52, declining to £31,000,000 in 1952- 53, and remaining at that figure in r,he financial year that has just concluded.
Progress in housing construction lias come to a halt during the past three years of this Government’s term of office and, in fact, has gone partly into reverse. In other words, the Government has set its sights too low. Recently the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) issued a statement in which he said that home building throughout Australia was tending to level out at a rate of about 75,000 dwellings annually. Commenting upon that statement, the general secretary of the Association of Co-operative Building Societies in New South Wales, W. G. Pooley, who lives in my electorate, said -
The Minister is being led up the garden path by his advisers on Australia’s housing needs. . . . Senator Spooner said that 60,000 houses a year met normal current needs. The other 15,000 houses were reducing the back-lag. The statement made by Senator Spooner has a totally unrealistic outlook on the true position. The minimum number of houses needed in Australia annually to meet current needs is between 90,000 and 100,000. Added to this is the terrific back-lag and requirements of migrants who are coming in at the rate of 2,000 a week.
The figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician show that about 70,000 couples are married in Australia each year. In the last financial year, about 50,000 persons came to Australia from overseas. It is quite plain that not enough houses are being built in Australia to provide for those who get married and want to set up a home and those who are coming into the country to live here, and to replace the great number of substandard dwellings. This Government is to blame in three- directions for the fact that housing has slowed down to such an extent. The Government has been responsible for about one-third of the finance that has been provided for housing since World War II. In that period, more than 500,000 houses have been built in Australia. Of those dwellings, 70,000 have been built under the Commonwealth and State housing agreement. Between 40,000 and 50,000 of the new houses were built through the War Service Homes Division. In addition, various other bodies such as the Commonwealth Bank have made money available through Credit Foncier schemes and advances to co-operative building societies. Altogether they amount to one-third of the 500,000 dwellings that have been built since the war. This Government has slowed down the rate of progress in all three sections of housing construction - through the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Commonwealth Bank and the War Service Homes Division. This Government has not enough faith in the future of Australia. It has no consideration for the social service that is involved in providing housing for the people who were born here and for those who are immigrating.
It is the proud claim of the Australian Labour party that, under the leadership of the late Mr. Chifley, a housing agreement was made ‘between the Commonwealth and the six States for a period of ten years which will come to a close in the present financial year. Under that agreement, the States could build all the houses they wished to construct and the Commonwealth would provide all the money they required. The bill for those houses was to be sent in each quarter to the Australian Government which would automatically meet the claim. In the five financial years for which this Government has been in office, that agreement has been flouted. This Government does not want to allow it to operate successfully. Instead of meeting the bills as they were presented each quarter, it tied the finance that was to be provided under that agreement to the loans that were approved by the Australian Loan Council. Without waiting for the bills to come in, it announced at the beginning of each financial year, how much money would be made available as a maximum, irrespective of the claims that the States would be able to make, and were entitled to make, because they were able to build a greater number of houses. To summarize the position, this Government has made available only two-thirds of the money to which the States were entitled under that agreement. Specifically. New South Wales will receive £26,000,000 less than the amount to which it was entitled under the agreement in the financial years 1950-51 to 1954-55, which is the period during which this Government has been responsible for this scheme. In the same period, Victoria will receive £11,000,000 less than it is entitled to get. Queensland will receive £8,000,000 less and Western Australia will be down by £6,000,000. Tasmania withdrew from the scheme in August, 1950, and South Australia entered it only a year ago. In its initial year ended on the 30th June last, South Australia received £500,000, or 10 per cent., less than it requested. The only Liberal State government in Australia, that of South Australia, therefore has no reason to feel indebted to the Australian Government in this connexion. If this agreement had not operated- to the satisfaction of the present Government, it could have ended the agreement by giving the States a year’s notice, but instead of doing the honest, legal and decent thing, it continued to apply the brakes. As I have said, about £50,000,000 less than the amount to which the States were entitled will have been made available by the end of the five-year period.
Referring to the agreement the Governor-General said in his Speech -
My Government now proposes that it should lie made possible under r.h<; Commonwealth State housing agreement for tenants to purchase on liberal terms the homos in which they live. Negotiations have been commenced with the Statu governments to reach agreement on vh:it those terms will be. When agreement has been reached with the States, legislation will be introduced to amend the Commonwealth and State housing agreement to put my Government’s plans into operation at the earliest possible date.
I direct the attention of honorable members to the statement that negotiations have commenced. In fact, they were started in December, 1951. They have been mentioned repeatedly at conferences between the Commonwealth and the State Housing Ministers in the past three years since that date. In December, 1951, at Hobart, the Ministers passed a resolution providing that the agreement be amended to provide for the sale of homes erected by the States under the agreement on a minimum deposit of not less than 5 per cent, with repayments over a period not exceeding 45 years. The Ministers representing the Australian Government have done nothing in connexion with that resolution since then. In July, 1952, the New South Wales Government asked the Australian Government to facilitate the sale of homes along the lines of that resolution. In September, 1952, the Australian Government replied that the time was notconsidered suitable to vary existing arrangements.
– The Government moves swiftly.
– With lightning rapidity. On the 10th August, 1953, the Commonwealth and State Ministers met at Canberra, and the Australian Government was asked to convene a conference to amend the agreement to provide for the sale of homes. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, however, that he would not agree as the Australian Government was still considering the agreement and would place its proposals before the States and arrange a conference when the time was ripe. The Government has taken almost three years to give effect to the resolution that the Ministers passed in Hobart in December, 1951. Even now there is no indication that an agreement will be swiftly concluded or that it will soon be submitted to the House for consideration. The States have found that they can easily sell the houses when terms can be arranged. In fact, all the States have built some houses for rental purposes outside the agreement, and when they have put them up for sale on terms to the occupants, nine out of ten of the houses have been sold.
I pass now to the second aspect of the decline in housing for which the present Government has been responsible. I direct attention to the activities of the Commonwealth Bank both as a central bank and as the authority which finances co-operative building societies. During the terms of office of the Curtin and the Chifley Governments, the Commonwealth Bank commenced advancing loans to builders on the Credit Foncier system and making advances to co-operative building societies. From, the beginning of the financial year 1946-47 to the end of the financial year 1952-53, the bank had made available ‘the sum of £30,000,000 by way of individual loans and the sum of £57,000,000 in loans to co-operative building societies. The official figures for the financial year 1953-54 have not yet been published, but in the year the lank made less money available to co-operative building societies and by way of CreditFoncier loans than it made available for housing purposes in any of the four preceding financial years. That is an indication of the fact that this Government either does not impress the bank with the need for aconsistent policy on housing or is not, itself, interested in a consistent housing policy. The volume of house construction should not be affected by fluctuations in the economy. As the increase of population and other movements of that character are steady,house construction should be kept steady. We must keep housing compatible with the increase of population by natural increase and by immigration.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has shown the consequences to homebuilders of the policy of increasing the rate of interest. He demonstrated that a person who borrows £3,000 to be repaid over a period of 30 years will be obliged to pay 16s. a week more if he is paying interest at the rate of 5 per cent, than he would pay if the rate of interest was 3 per cent., and that in repaying a loan over a period of 45 years he will pay nearly 18s. a week more if the rate of interest is 5 per cent, than he would pay if the rate of interest was 3 per cent. That fact clearly reveals the results of the Government’s attitude towards the Commonwealth Bank as a central bank and as a bank making advances to co-operative building societies. During the recent war, the Labour government fixed the interest payable by co-operative building societies to the ‘Commonwealth Bank and to all banks at 37/8 per cent. In July, 1952, the present Government increased that rate to 4½ per cent. The consequences have been that a person who borrowed money from a building society, which used to pay interest at the rate of 37/8 per cent., must now pay weekly instalments for a longer period or, alternatively, increase the amount of his weekly instalment. As a result of the increase of the rate of interest from 37/8 per cent. to 4½ per cent.,aperson who subscribes to one of the model terminating building societies whose term of life is 20 years, will have to repay the sameamount weekly for a period of 22 years instead of for a period of 20 years, or, alternatively, he will be obliged to increase his weekly repayment by 10 per cent. For the same reason, if the life of the society is 30 years, it will take him 33 years instead of 30 years to repay his loan as a result of the increase of the rate of interest. TheGovernment has continued this higher interest rate although, since it assumed office, therate of interest in the United Kingdom and in the United States of America has been decreased.
I have already pointed out that in the last financial year the Commonwealth Bank made lesser sums available in advances to building societies and to private borrowers on the Credit Foncier system than it made available in any of the four preceding financial years. In this respect, I do not criticize the Commonwealth Bank. The bankhas shown a degree of social responsibility with respect to housing which no other financial institution has shown,and if this Government had a similar sense of social responsibility it would have encouraged the policy of making loans to building societies and to private individuals to the extent of the demand for housing, and would have arranged for such loans to be made available at a low rate of interest.One cannot say that a low rate of interest is not feasible, because the Commonwealth Bank, State banks and all the private banks now make housing loans available to their employees at a rate of interest of approximately 2¼ per cent., or, at the highest, 3 per cent. It should be possible for those financial institutions to make housing loans available at the same rate of interest to all sections of the community.
I refer now to the operations of the War Service Homes Division. I am particularly interested in this matter. During the debate on the budget in this House last year, I revealed that the division was clandestinely introducing a waiting period, which varied in each of the States, before allotting houses to applicants after they had completed all legal formalities.Following my remarks on that occasion, a person inWestern Australia was questioned by officers of the security service. It was alleged that he had given to me the information that I divulged in the course of that debate. It was not a case of tapping telephones. The officers interviewed this man in daylight, and he showed them the door in no uncertain fashion. A report of the federal president which will be made to the conference of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia to be held in Canberra next October, states that such questioning by officers of the security service of a delegate was, to say the least, high-handed. That is a very modest reaction on the part of old soldiers.
– The individual made certain information public.
– According to newspaper reports, he was accused of having shown a certain document to me. He did not show me any document, either in confidence or in any other way. But he was charged with having done so. During the financial year just concluded, the War Service Homes Division made fewer homes available to ex-servicemen than it made available in any complete financial year for which this Government has been in office. Last financial year, 12,393 houses were provided, but. that figure was 471 fewer than the number provided in the preceding year, 3,400 fewer than the number provided in the year before that and 3,200 fewer than the number provided in the year before that. Not only have fewer houses been provided by the division, but less money also has been expended by this Government on war service homes. The Government has; put a. ceiling upon the annual expenditure of the division and, at the same time it has not credited repayments that have been made to the division which in successive financial years under this Government, have amounted to £4,854,757, £6,473,954, £7,263,453! and, in respect of last year, £9,399,785. The Government, under its budget for the current financial year, proposes; to make available the sum of £30,000,000 for the provision of war service homes, that is only £2,000,000 more than the amount that was voted for this purpose for the last three financial years. However, that increase will be compensated for by the increase of repayments to the division during this financial year. It is estimated that these repayments will total approximately £12,000,000.
There is one feature of war service homes administration in respect of which this Government is particularly culpable. It has not decreased the deposit which ex-servicemen have to pay although in the United States of America a veteran may secure an advance of 100 per cent. In the United Kingdom the figure is 95 per cent. In the field of group building, which is the most economic form of building because a builder only has to move his materials and men from one block to the next instead of from one suburb to another, the Government provided fewer homes last year than were provided in any year since 1947-48. Less money was made available for group building last year than in any complete financial year in which this Government has been in office, with the result that the number of houses being constructed was only twothirds of the number under construction in the previous year, only half as many as were under construction in the year before that, and less than one third as many as in the two years before that. So, this Government, in the belief that the provision of war service homes is a socialist form of. house building, has done its very best to level off group building, and has placed a ceiling on expenditure as a whole.
To sum up, I accuse this Government of having delayed building in several ways. In regard to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, it has for three years refused the request of the States to enable tenants to purchase homes on terms. It has for five years made available to the States for the construction of houses only twothirds of the money that they have been entitled to under the agreement. Consequently, in every State, applicants for housing agreement homes have to wait for some years to get them. In regard to co-operative building societies, the Government has increased the interest rate from 37/8 to 4½ per cent. It has also restricted the advances which the Commonwealth Bank makes to co-operative building societies. So, if a person wants to join a cooperative society, he has to wait for well over a year before the society receives money from the Commonwealth Bank or any other lending institution. Then, when the applicant finally receives the money, he has to pay onetenth more a week or he has to pay the same amount for a period of years that has been extended by onetenth. In relation to war service homes, a ceiling has been placed on expenditure. In fact, taking into account the amount of repayment, there has been less money spent in each financial year and the number of houses completed was fewerin the last financial year than in any preceding financial year under this Government’s administration. The waiting list has never been longer.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) have attacked the Government’s housing policy. One might suppose from their observations that the Government has taken a sadistic delight in depriving people of an opportunity to obtain homes. Such an extraordinary situation suggests that there must be a catch somewhere, and, of course, there is. Both honorable members overlooked the fact, if they have not been intellectually dishonest, that we are concerned not only with the supply of money for building purposes and the rate of interest on that money, but also with the capacity of the building force that is available. I suggest that our home building labour force today is stretched to its utmost limit. If we pour out more millions of money, no additional homes would be provided, but undoubtedly the price of the homes that were built would be increased. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports believes it is wicked that the rate of interest should be so high. Of course, the supposition of honorable mem bers opposite is that all those who lend money must be bloated capitalists. The truth is that funds for home building come largely from institutions such as life insurance companies. But, in any case, the supply of money, like the supply of other commodities, is limited. If there is a shortage it is reflected in the higher prices that people are prepared to pay for it. If we want the people to lend money, we have to be prepared to pay a rate of interest at which they will be prepared to lend. That is all there is to it.
The dismal picture painted by the honorable member for Werriwa is not borne out by statistics. I have before me the quarterly bulletin of building statistics for the March quarter of 1954. Unfortunately, I have not the most recent bulletin which is apparently in the possession of the honorable member for Werriwa, but in this document there appears a table which speaks for itself. It shows the number of new houses and flats completed in the various years since 1947-48. In each instance the year concludes on the 30th June of the year mentioned. The table is as follows : -
That table shows very steady progress. In fact, it shows that, in comparison with 1948, the number of houses completed in Australia in 1953 had almost doubled. It should not be necessary for me to say very much more about the dismal picture painted by the honorable member for Werriwa. He also criticized the administration by the present Government of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. He was fair enough to point out that that agreement may be cancelled at a year’s notice by any party to it. No doubt it is the knowledge of that provision that has induced the State governments to accept such allocations as the Commonwealth has been able, after due consideration of the whole loan programme, to make to them for homebuilding purposes. Naturally, the Commonwealth has been influenced by the factor to which I referred earlier - the availability of building labour. To provide more money than is required to keep that labour force fully employed on the construction of homes, would be futile. The honorable member for Werriwa said that the Commonwealth had insisted that its allocation for housing be regarded as part of the total loan allocation made for all purposes. Of course it has. Clearly it would be undesirable to make money available for housing without regard to the other claims by the States and by the Commonwealth itself for loan moneys. Naturally, the housing programme has to be considered in relation to all the other construction projects. Finally, the honorable member for Werriwa complained that until quite recently steps had not been taken to enable the tenants of housing agreement homes to purchase their dwellings. That allegation surely is a change of front. Many honorable members, of this chamber will recall that when the legislation embodying the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was before this chamber, the then Labour Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, Mr. Dedman, who introduced the bill, said it was not intended to create a lot of “ little capitalists “. The measure represented a plan by the socialist Government to provide for tenancies and nothing else. Therefore, the attitude of the honorable member for Werriwa is surely a change of front. Indeed, I would say that for any honorable member opposite to complain that the Government is not doing what it ought to do to encourage home ownership, is great effrontery.
I pass now to certain other matters upon which I propose to address the House. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) drew attention last week to what he considered to be certain defects in the procedure of this chamber. He spoke of the lack of opportunity for private members to participate in the work of government. I would hesitate to speak upon this matter, but for the fact that I had the privilege for something like seventeen years to observe procedure in another Parliament, and, of course, I have observed the procedure in this House since I have been a member of it. The honorable member for Yarra made three sug gestions. The first was that bills should be referred to committees of the House., rather than the committee of the whole House. The second suggestion was that there should be a greater interval between the second-reading speech of the Minister in charge of a bill, and the resumption of the second-reading debate thereon, so as to give honorable members an opportunity to study the explanation given by the Minister. The third suggestion was that more time should be allowed for the consideration of the Estimate? than in the past, and that the responsible Minister should be at the table while the Estimates for the department he administered were under discussion.
With much that the honorable member for Yarra has said, I agree. With other things he has said, I do not, agree. It is true that the House of Commons has a number of committees. Each of them consists of approximately 40 members, and bills are referred to them. But it must be remembered that the House of Commons has about GOO members and that this House has only 123 members. In any case, not every bill which comes before the House needs that detailed consideration in committee referred to by the honorable member for Yarra. Other bills are peculiarly susceptible of treatment in that way. I propose to make another suggestion in that respect in a few moments.
I agree entirely with the view of the honorable member for Yarra about the consideration of the Estimates. I believe that the general debate on the budget should be confined to financial principles and matters in relation to the stability of the economy as a whole, and that the innumerable administrative matters, which are sometimes introduced into a general debate on the budget, could be dealt with much better in a more prolonged discussion of the Estimates, particularly if the Minister in charge of the department whose Estimates are under consideration, is at the table. I entirely agree with the views of the honorable member for Yarra on that point, but, of course, he overlooks the fact that the reasons why it is not possible for more committee work to be done effectively in the Parliament are that a government is unwilling to let any power slip out of its hands, and that the Labour party, in its theory and practice, regards the Parliament as merely a place where the decisions >of caucus or the movement outside are recorded if that party happens to be in office, or as an occasion for political propaganda if that party happens to be in opposition.
When I make those statements I am not speaking in any partisan spirit. I think that I have given a fair description of the theory and practice of the Labour party, and I am not complaining about it at the moment. I merely state it as a fact, and point out that, as long as such a position obtains, little effectual committee work can be done by this House. The theory and practice of the Labour party makes it, not actually impossible, but very difficult indeed. On some occasions, useful committee work has been possible. The Public Accounts Committee, over which the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) presides so admirably, has done excellent work. It has been possible to overcome party antagonism in that field. I believe that effective committee work is also possible in the field of external affairs, and that a bi-partisan policy may be worked out in the interests of Australia. I urge the honorable member for Yarra, and those honorable members on the other side of the chamber who think like him, to co-operate with the Government in the establishment of the Foreign Affairs Committee on a proper by-partisan basis.
The Public Works Committee has done some useful work. The weakness there is that only such works as are referred to the committee by the Minister may be the subject of its investigations. I suggest that the time bas come when all public works, the estimated cost of which, exceeds .a certain figure, should automatically be the subject of investigation by that -committee. Recently, the Government appointed the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), to the position of chairman of a committee - not a committee of this House - which will inquire into an important matter. I believe that there is scope for many more select committees than have been appointed in recent year’s. I have indicated that the very attitude of the Labour party limits the field in which committees of that kind can .do useful work, but there may well be circumstances, according to the subject matter and the knowledge and experience of honorable members from each side of the House, that are susceptible of proper treatment in this way by select committees. I suggest that it is merely a matter of choice of subjects and that the Government should be less reluctant to avail itself, by these means, of the abilities of honorable members.
After all, what a parliament is, depends very largely on the attitude of its own members. It is of no use to complain that forms and systems are not producing the right results. When all is said and done, forms and systems are what they are by reason of the m«n who operate them and we cannot, merely by forms and systems, create something that is not in the heart and minds of the men who operate them. If this Parliament really wishes to take a greater part in the’ work of government, then it is in the hands of honorable members to do so. It is in the hands of the Opposition by modifying its attitude on a number of matters. It is in the hands of Government members to do the same thing. Wo cannot complain that the forms do not make it possible.
Speaking still about Parliament, I should like to say a few words on the subject of parliamentary broadcasts, which I raised in this House a few days ago. I -have made some inquiries into that matter, and I find that our proceedings were broadcast on 65 out of the 365 days last year. It is, of course, in the interests of the newspapers that th, public should learn about the proceedings of this House only through their columns. They may wish to make a great deal of some matters that happen in Parliament, or suppress other matters. They almost suppressed the Parliament of New South Wales by ignoring it. They decided that it would not be reported, and it seldom was reported until recently, when certain sensational events occurred. It may be in the interest of the newspapers to do so, but it is certainly not in the interests of the people of Australia. It has been contended that only about 1 per cent, of the people listen .to parliamentary broadcasts.
– That is only press propaganda. The press wants to destroy this House.
– It is an argument, which, I think, on the face of it, can have little weight. Clearly, the number of people who listen at any given time to any particular debate or to any particular speaker, will vary enormously. I suggest, for example, that though few people may wish to listen to me on this subject this afternoon, the position would be different if we were on the verge of war, and this House were debating whether war should be declared by Australia. Considerably more than 1 per cent, of the people of Australia would wish to hear any such debate. People, if they have any sense of right, do not wish to be deprived of the opportunity to listen to parliamentary broadcasts when they desire to listen. If the political atmosphere at the time is quiescent, they can always switch off their radios, or tune in to other programmes. Parliamentary broadcasts are not intended primarily for entertainment in the same sense as jazz music may be intended for entertainment. This claim to be heard is also the claim of those people who listen to a station like 2BL in Sydney. Those listeners constitute a relatively small minority of the people of New South Wales, but they are entitled to hear that station, because it puts on the air programmes of good music, drama and informed talks. For the same reason, those persons who wish to hear parliamentary broadcasts, now or at any other time, though they be in a minority, are entitled to hear them.
I pass on to an important matter that I raised in a question this afternoon. I asked the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) whether he had any further information about the hostile preparations allegedly being made by the Communist Government of China against the island of Formosa. I was prompted to ask that question because I know that certain prominent members of the Opposition in the United Kingdom Parliament are visiting China, and because I know also that more than one of them are eager to throw their arms around the necks of the Russians and the ‘Chinese, despite the hostilities that those countries arc waging continually against the free world. I know further that one of the objects of Russian policy, and in fact of Communist world policy, is to drive a wedge between the United States of America and the United Kingdom. I can imagine no better way to do so than for the Chinese Communists to attack Formosa if the United Kingdom, partly as a result of the views expressed by the British members of Parliament now visiting China and partly for other reasons, were unwilling to support the United States of America in any steps it took to protect that island. Those who think that China is a. country with which we can make friends at the present time are, I am afraid, gravely deluded. The leaders of China, Mao Tse-Tung, Chou-En-Lai and the rest of them, were trained in Russia and have frequently professed to be merely disciples of the masters of communism in Russia.
– Does the honorable member believe that the millions of Chinese peasants are Communists?
– 1 do not follow the honorable member’s question. I know that collectivization has been going on in China. I know there is evidence of China’s hostile intentions towards us. It may be that China, like Jugoslavia, will split off from Russia, but if it happens, it will be only because it is in China’s own interests to do so. It will not be because we have agreed to make futile gestures of friendship. If China splits off from Russia, it will be because China has discovered that the possession by Russia of Manchuria, Outer Mongolia and Sinkiang, which are really Chinese provinces, is as detrimental to Chinese national self-regard as, it may be, is the possession of Formosa or some other former Chinese possession by other people. That could happen in the future, but it has not happened yet.
Meanwhile, we are confronted with the plainest evidence of hostilities. Let me refer to some recent manifestations of them. Under the Chinese budget, which was introduced in the middle of June, expenditure on all forms of social, cultural, educational and health services is only two-thirds of the sum that is to be spent openly on armaments - in a country where soldiers come pretty cheap. The Chinese People’s Daily, in a leader published on the 24th July - only the other clay - said that modern, armed forces could not be built up without heavy industry and, therefore, it would be wise for the Peking Government to enter into suitable agreements with Britain for the purchase of heavy machinery. Honorable members may recall that recently a Chinese trade mission to Britain suggested that trade worth £100,000,000 a year could be done with China along those lines. The Chinese have said that they are building up the second largest army in the world. “Within the last few weeks, the Chinese Commander-in-Chief, Chu Teh, in an Army Day speech, has promised that Formosa will be liberated soon. On the 23rd July, the People’s Daily - a newspaper rather like the Russian Pravda - referring to the repossession of Formosa, stated -
The powerful Chinese people will never pause until this aim is achieved.
The paper described a suggestion by Mr. Attlee that Formosa be placed under United Nations trusteeship as “ putrid “. I have not used an unparliamentiary word. I have quoted the comment of the Chinese People’s Daily on Mr. Attlee’s suggestion. In the July issue of the English language People’s China, it was stated that under the new Peking constitution the millions of Chinese in Siam, Burma, Indonesia and Malaya, “ neglected “ by earlier Chinese governments, would now be “ protected “ by Mao Tse-Tung’s regime.
In the face of all this evidence of hostility on the part of China, it would be foolish indeed for us to hope that we could be on terms of friendship with the Chinese in the near future. Therefore, when the United States of America seeks to preserve Formosa as a bastion of defence on the western side of the Pacific, surely it is in the interest of this country to give the Americans our full support. If there is a suggestion’ that the Nationalist regime in Formosa is of such a character that we ought not to be associated with it - that is a part of the Communist propaganda - we must be quite clear on the source of that suggestion, and consider whether Formosa i3 a bastion that is worth preserving from the strategic viewpoint and whether our vital interests are involved in its preservation. It so happens that in this matter our interests and those of the United States of America are identical. The Americans want to bold down an expanding and hostile country, as China unquestionably is, within its continental area, by means of strategic islands in the western Pacific. They want to hold China down within its boundaries. I assume that that is also the view of Australia.
The people who claim that recognition; of red China is only a legalistic matter are either deceiving themselves or seeking to delude other people. It is quite clear that if we recognized the red Chinese government, we should have taken a very long step towards withdrawing our recognition of the government in Formosa and that we should have weakened that government to that degree. If, as I believe, it is vital to hold Formosa, that step ought not to be taken. Therefore, in the circumstances that have arisen and in view of the threat poised at Formosa from red China, I urge the Australian Government to proclaim its support of the action proposed by the United States Government.
Mr. TOM BURKE (Perth) [5.12’.The Address-in-Reply debate has dragged on for some weeks. That is an undeserved tribute to the material contained in the Speech that was read to us by His Excellency. A government that is facing a complex world situation and a difficult, situation at home has put very little into the Governor-General’s Speech that will commend it to the Australian people. I describe the Speech as words and still more words. But all we have come to expect from this Government is highsounding phrases and glamorous promises of great undertaking. When action is required, the Government does very little to promote the development or defence of this country. So it was again in the Speech that His Excellency read to us.
Let me remind the House of a passage in the Speech which, I have no doubt, was designed to tickle the ears of the Australian people. His Excellency, reading from the prepared script that had been given to him, said -
My advisers regard their responsibility during the life of this Parliament to be the strengthening of Australia’s security, the maintenance of a healthy economy, the development of our national resources, and the social welfare of the Australian people.
Those are fine and noble sentiments, but they have received very little concrete support in the shape of action by this Government.
We face a situation to-day in which Australia’s domestic economy is in real and growing difficulties. The cost structure of Australia makes it impossible for our products to compete successfully in the world’s markets with the manufactured goods of other countries. We cannot sell our goods either in old-established markets or in markets that have more recently been opened to us. This is because the Government, without any regard for the future welfare of the country, has allowed the cost structure to become completely out of hand. Even in our local markets there is daily and increasing evidence of the inability of Australian manufacturers to compete successfully against foreign manufacturers, notwithstanding protective tariff barriers. The present Government, since it first came to office four years ago, has done little more than use glib phrases to mislead the people. Its utterances give evidence of a desire and willingness to counteract the unfavorable economic trend, but by its inaction in some instances, and by its actions in other instances, . it has continued to promote inflation. Prices have been forced upward so that the costs of producers have been increased and the living standards of the people have been lowered. I shall discuss this situation at greater length later in my speech.
I come now to the situation of the agricultural component of Australia’s industrial community. It is true that wool still commands a high price that is attractive to the growers and brings fairly substantial benefits to the Australian community. But the cost of growing wool has mounted steadily during the regime of this Government and, although we can still grow, export and sell wool at remunerative prices, even this great industry would not be able to withstand a minor price recession. I move now to the condition of the wheat industry. Largely as a result of the bungling of this Government, we have no assured market for this major staple, which is of vital importance to our economy. Responsibility for this circumstance rests squarely upon the shoulders of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). As I have said, we have no assured market for any substantial portion of the wheat crop, ‘ and costs in the industry are making it unprofitable to sell wheat at the prices that rule in the world’s markets.
The situation may become even worse, because the great dollar countries have huge accumulated wheat stocks that they cannot dispose of at present. Their trouble is, not that they cannot dispose of their wheat at a price that would be acceptable to them, but that they cannot dispose of it for dollars. The result is that wheat is stored in every nook and cranny of the United States of America and Canada. Every liberty ship in America is packed as heavily as it can be with wheat grown on American farms. Every farm has become a granary. Wheat is paid for under the American price support system, but it is held on the farms without check because it would not be possible to check the total quantity of wheat produced in that country. The United States of America does not dare to drop those huge stocks on. the world’s markets to-day, and, in any case, it could not sell the grain for dollars in a dollarstarved world. In this situation, the Government has allowed Australia to be placed at a disadvantage as a result of its failure to take advantage of a world agreement providing for the disposal, on reasonable terms, of fairly substantial supplies of Australian wheat. The Government is to blame also because it has deliberately forced up interest rates and committed a whole series of additional sins of omission and commission which have caused the costs of the industry to rise. It has allowed to develop a very precarious future for the great section of the Australian community that depends on the wheat industry; and, at the same: time, it has laid up trouble for the rest of the community because, we in Australia lean heavily, not only on wool and manufactured, goods, but also on wheat. Thus, the promises that the Government put into- the mouth of the Governor-General when he opened this- Parliament were just another series of glamorous phrases of the kind that .we have heard repeatedly from, this Government in recent years.
The Government went on, in the Governor-General’s Speech, to refer to events in South-East Asia, particularly Indo-China. It is important to remember that the spotlight of world affairs has shifted largely from Europe and the Balkans to Asia generally, and to SouthEast Asia in particular. Therefore, it is right that the Government should stress the significance of events in Asia and point to the lesson that ought to be learned from those events by the people of Australia, in common with the rest of the world: The Government indicated in the Governor-General’s Speech the possible results- of developments in Asia, principally in- relation to Australia, which is set in the Pacific as an outpost of European civilization. The Government declared - and I agree with it - that we ought to have a regional security arrangement, and- it proposed that such an arrangement be made with our great American allies. I wholeheartedly support the, proposal. Our geographical situation, and the size of our population-, must determine our foreign policy. However, I have looked in vain for any sign that the Government proposes to make a real contribution at home to Australia’s security, although, it has admitted that security depends upon, the maintenance of a sound domestic economy. It would be hopeless to put large numbers of men into uniform and provide the machinery and accoutrements of war if. our economy was insecure. The fact is that our economy is unbalanced ,and that, the Government has produced no plan for the support of our fighting forces should we ever have to put them in the- field again. I hope to prove later, by quoting from documents published by the Government, that Australia’s economy is unbalanced and unhealthy, that, Australian producers cannot, look to the future: with any certainty of obtaining- markets for their products or support, from the Government,, and that the most, important single need of the country at present is some bold and deliberate effort by the Government to halt, and then push down,, the still-rising costs of. production.
Our industries, of course, can obtain further tariff protection from the enlarged. Tariff Board. Such assistance would provide a buffer against, imports from, other countries, but it would not offer any prospect of obtaining, in the long term, any additional markets for the products of our expanding manufacturing industries. It would not provide any assured market for our wool, or offer a single glimmer of hope to our wheatgrowers. It has been suggested, of course, by a man who, I believe, frequently acts as the spokesman of the Government - Sir John Teasdale, who is the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board - that Australian farmers ought to reduce wheat production. Such a course of action would be. tragic. It is shocking to suggest that we should produce: less wheat when there: are so many millions, of people, in the: world near starvation level.
Tha countries, of South-East Asia,, if suitably, encouraged and properly supplied, would undoubtedly provide new markets, which would be capable of almost unlimited expansion, for the products of Australian farms and. also,, in all probability, the products of our factories. As I have said, Sir John Teasdale,. in my opinion, frequently makes inspired statements on behalf of the Government that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is unwilling to make. Whether the Government takes deliberate action to reduce wheat production or not, there is not the slightest shadow of doubt that Australian wheat-farmers, of their own volition, having studied the economic portents and the world situation generally, will substantially reduce their wheat acreages. In the absence of a statement or undertaking by the Government, the effect has been tantamount to a deliberate governmental reduction of wheat acreage. There can be no assured, future: for the wheat-growers while the Government does not concern itself with the forecasts that were made by the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board. It is incumbent on the Government to maintain the volume of food production in this country, in view of the fact that there are countless thousands of underfed people in the world to-day. Probably millions more people in other countries would eat commodities manufactured from Australian wheat if they could purchase the wheat at a reasonable price. The sale of our wheat to them, at a reasonable price would prove that Australia is interested not only in selling its wheat, but also in assisting depressed humanity in the backward countries of the world to maintain a decent standard of living. The GovernorGeneral stated -
My advisers report a general and continuing state of prosperity throughout the Australian economy.
Apparently, the Government obtains advice from queer sources, including, I presume, people who arc associated with industrial establishments and great vested interests, such as banks, insurance companies, and great financial monopolies and combines in Australia. His Excellency continued -
The number in civilian employment is the highest ever recorded in this country; and the output of goods and services is correspondingly high.
The extreme rub was given in the next sentence -
Prices have remained remarkably steady.
Indeed, prices have remained “remarkably” steady. The fact that this Government was unwilling to take any action to hault the disastrous inflationary spiral that had engulfed Australia forced the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to discontinue the announcement, quarterly, of cost-of-living adjustments, and refuse to grant a previous application by skilled and semiskilled workers for an increase of marginal rates. The court’s decision resulted from the deliberate policy that had been applied by this Government. Consequently, prices have remained “remarkably steady”. The Government placed fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Australian workers the burden of combating the inflationary situation. Although prices have remained “ remarkably steady “, conditions have not remained constant for workers in industry who have family responsibilities. Their standard of living has been reduced considerably, because increased costs have not been reflected in higher wage rates. This supine Government has been unwilling to take action to curb the tremendous increase of profits in Australia, in order to protect people who elected it to office. It has been unwilling to halt rampant profiteering in recent years, but has permitted the court to take the action to which I have referred. There were two consequences. The first was to place upon the shoulders of the workers and their wives and families, the whole burden of stabilizing prices. The second, which was equally damaging, was to cause the workers to believe that arbitration was not in their ‘ best interests. It caused many workers to think that arbitration was not good for them because when prices fell, wages dropped accordingly, but when prices rose, the court, ultimately, abandoned the system of quarterly adjustment of wages, in order to .offset increased costs. The Government still naively claims to have brought about a remarkable steadiness of prices. It does not admit that it placed the burden on those people who were least able to bear it. I refer to the married men with family responsibilities. The burden did not fall so heavily on single men, married men without families, and those whose families had grown up. For married men with families, whose interests this Government professes to protect, there has’ been a considerable decline of living standards. Let us consider the Government’s claim that prosperity -has never been at a higher level in Australia than during recent times.
– Hear, hear!
– It is all very well for the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) to say, “Hear, hear!” I have before me a report by the National Security Resources Board on Defence and Development, 1950-53. I advise the honorable member for Paterson to read not only the foreword to the report, but also the voluminous supporting details. The report reveals that there were rapid and considerable changes in the value of retail sales between 1949 and 1953. On page eighteen, the following paragraph appears -
These figures refer to values only. If the “ C “ series of price indexes, not very satisfactory for the purpose, is used to correct for price changes, it is found that there has been a surprising stability in the total of goods sold in view of the rising population. While the boom of 1950-51 led to a rise of about 7 per cent, in the amount sold compared with 1949-50, by the end of 1952-53 there was a downward movement to a level slightly below 1949-50 sales.
It is true that the value of monthly retail sales rose substantially. But that is not the real test. It is the physical quantity of the goods sold that matters, and that is at a level slightly below the level of sales in the peak year, 1949-50.
I turn now to transport communications. The Government states that a sound defence policy must be backed by a healthy economic system. This report makes that statement in more elaborate terms, and, after referring to the increased tonnage of shipping engaged in the coastal trade, makes the following comment: -
However, nearly 100,000 tons of Australian shipping is already overage and needs replacement, and the proportion of overage ships is increasing. A further . 100,000 gross tons of overseas chartered shipping now operating on the coast might be withdrawn in the event of war.
But what is the Government doing about it? Nothing, of course! It merely uses a lot of glib phrases. The ears of the electorate are filled with the cloying oratory of the Prime Minister while the country’s economy runs down. Discussing rail transport, which is vital to this country, the report states : -
Big programmes of work remain outstanding, and there is still much to be done before the Australian railway systems could meet a war emergency.
Railways are the backbone of our internal transport system. The report also deals with the number of people employed in Australian industries including the building industry. The Government claims that employment is at an all-time peak. The report, on the other hand, points out that 26,000 fewer workmen were engaged in the building industry at the time the report was compiled than were employed in it in the peak year. Yet this Government prates about the soundness of our domes tic economy. The report, dealing with the supply position of selected building materials, states -
In general building materials are at last in broadly adequate supply, and demand is growing. The building materials industries are at present operating below full capacity, and could, with some exceptions, meet an expansion of demand of 20 to 25 per cent.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Daly) negatived -
That the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) be granted an extension of time.
Sitting suspended from 5.39 to8 p.m.
.- Quite a number of members of the Opposition, including the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), have mentioned the supply of food for Asia. I think that they have not yet grasped the full significance of the need for give assistance to our friends in Asia. It has been mentioned in this House that when food has been offered to the Asian people they have said that they did not need it. The long-range policy of the present Government is to assist in the development of Asia’ to a far greater degree than would be possible merely by supplying a certain quantity of food. If we give to those countries only a certain amount of food, then our assistance to them will be finished when the food has been eaten. In the course of his Speech, His Excellency the Governor General said -
My Government will continue, with other nations, its practical contribution to the welfare of the South and SouthEast Asian area through the Colombo plan. Such measures of help encourage sympathetic understanding and goodwill.
Under the Colombo plan, the assistance given by the Australian Government is not merely in food but also in tractors, trucks and machinery, which help these people to develop their own countries. That kind of assistance is far more important than the supply of food, and the Government is to be commended on having given it. The Government has also brought young people from these countries to Australia for training. They come as ambassadors from their own countries to us. Conversely, when they return home, they become ambassadors from this country to their own lands. Under the Colombo plan, the Government is making a valuable contribution to the solution of the problems that confront the Asian countries. We do not imagine that all these difficulties will be overcome in the space of a few months, or even years. But these are the foundations that we are laying for the further development of these countries so that they, in their turn, may take their place with the Western democracies. The Government is giving these countries the tools and the wherewithal to develop their soil. It is not merely handing out charity to them. It is giving them that which will enable them to take their place in, and make their contribution to, world affairs.
His Excellency’s Speech covered a tremendous area. It gave thought to the progress that Australia has made and to the future development of our country. But we have not yet come out of the economic wood. His Excellency pointed out that hard work on the part of every person in this country will be needed if we are to continue along the road that we are traversing at the moment. It will need the training of our young men and the development and defence of this country. On many occasions we have heard it said that this country has one of the greatest futures of any country in the world. I believe that that is true. But I believe that it behoves each and every one of us to realize that he has to play his part in the development of this country. Now we have machinery that was not available to our forefathers. To assist us in the development of this country, we have modern science and machinery which was not available when the United States of America, and even the United Kingdom were being developed. But there are other factors which make the development of our land difficult. For example, in the early days, when the people of Britain armed themselves with bows and arrows, £200,000,000 was not spent on a defence budget. An amount equal to 20 per cent, of the budget is now expended on defence. Countries in those days did not face the international difficulties that we face today. At the same time as we are developing Australia, we must devote great attention and large sums of money to the defence of our country. We must link the development of our country with the training of our young men for defence. We must not place too great emphasis on one at the cost of any of the others.
In the course of his Speech His Excellency said -
At 30th June,1954, Australia’s international reserves stood at £570,000,000, an increase of £9,000,000 over the previous twelve months.
This improvement in our international reserves is an indication of our national stability. The reserve has been built up on sound lines by the export of the excess of our primary production. Honorable members on this side of the House have always contended that Australia should have an ample supply of its own production and we have tried to plan so that there may be an excess to export and so stabilize our economy. But the argument has been put forward that we are importing too much into this country. I think that the present situation justifies the action of the Government in that it stresses that primary production is the foundation of a stable economy. The electorate that it is my privilege to represent in this House is one of the most fortunate in relation to primary production. There, we have vast resources of timber. Our dairying and agricultural areas are the best in Australia. We have advantages in that north coast electorate which honorable members would do well to see.
Each and every one of us must play his or her part in the development of Australia. For that reason I am surprised at the attitude that some honorable members opposite have expressed towards the problem of labour. It seems that Opposition members regard themselves as the sole representatives of labour in this Parliament. They seem to think that no one else has any thought for the vast labour force in this country. Whom does one class as a labouring man? We all are labouring men. We all work for our living. But we are not all socialists. Honorable members on this side of the House believe in free enterprise. We believe in the right of every individual to choose his own particular way of living. On many occasions honorable members opposite have stressed the importance of those whom they call the working men. I point out to them that honorable members from this side of the
House have also laid great emphasis upon the importance of the working man in this country of ours. The honorable members for New England (Mr. Drummond), Lawson (Mr. Failes), Gwydir (Mr. Allan) and Riverina (Mr. Roberton), have continually stressed in this House the importance of the great wheat areas in their electorates. They stand here in this place and fight just as much for their constituents who support the Labour party as they do for those who support the Government parties. The honorable members for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) and Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) have, on a number of occasions, brought the problems of the sugar refining industry before honorable members and the Government. The honorable members for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) and Fisher (Mr. Adermann), have quite often fought in this House just as much for the working men as for anybody else. Quite recently the honorable member for Fisher showed conclusively that the Queensland Labour Government was not giving to local government authorities in Queensland sufficient of the money that had been allocated to it for that purpose by this Government.
Opposition members interjecting,
– If honorable members opposite will be patient, they will discover that some of their colleagues will also be mentioned by me, but perhaps not in a complimentary fashion. The honorable members for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) and Moore (Mr. Leslie), often bring before this House the problems and the difficulties that are experienced by the people of Western Australia. At one stage the honorable member for Mallee (Mr, Turnbull) even went to the length of bringing a certain weed here and exhibiting it before honorable members, so that he could make his representations with regard to the eradication of its species more easily understood by the
Minister who was at that time in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Re°search Organization. Again, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden ) has, on many occasions, strongly put forward the viewpoint of the people of Victoria. I mention all those honorable members in order to show that they, together with their friends and colleagues of the Government parties, are just as much in support of the working man as are any of the honorable members opposite. Surely honorable members opposite will not continue to say that they are the only ones who represent the working men. Let us all realize that work, planning and thinking need to be done in Australia by all of us, not by only one section, one class or one creed. During World War I., World War II., and, perhaps, also during the Korean conflict, men fought and died side by side without any thought of creed, class or even colour. If we are to go forward and develop this country in our time, we must have the same attitude as they had. We must not work only for one particular section of the community, we must work for the whole of the people of Australia.
In view of the Government’s record, it seems astonishing to me that the Government parties should still be charged with being the supporters only of big business, and what honorable members opposite like to call the capitalists. However, it must be remembered that on many occasions big business has done great things for this country. I also point out that recently big business has criticized this Government for not introducing certain new legislation that would benefit it, and for not continuing similar legislation that had been introduced by Labour governments. In view of those facts the criticisms of honorable members opposite appear to be rather hollow. The Government cannot be supporter of one section of the. community and yet be severely criticized by that section. His Excellency referred in his Speech to the security of this country. He said -
My advisers regard their responsibilities during the life of this Parliament to be the strengthening of Australia’s security, the maintenance of a healthy economy, the development of our national resources, and the social welfare of the Australian people.
The conduct of Australia’s external relations over the last three years has been a complex task. The course of world events gives ground for concern that this task will be no less difficult during the life of the 21st Parliament.
As honorable members are aware, a debate on international affairs was recently conducted in this Parliament. While I do not wish to traverse the ground covered on that occasion, it is relevant to note that all speakers pointed out that the international situation .gave rise to anxiety. Events that have occurred within the last two or three days have shown that the danger is growing and not receding. Honorable members remember that there is a hitch over the ratification of the European Defence Community, and that some concern has been expressed both in Cyprus and the United Kingdom over the matter of Cyprus remaining a British base in the Mediterranean. Events such as those indicate that the international situation is deteriorating, and therefore we should bend every effort to the adequate defence of this country. Another disturbing matter that has emerged recently from behind the iron curtain, is the report that the Kremlin has set out with ‘ greater determination than ever before to stamp out the Christian faith and belief in spiritual values. The Communists are attacking the Christian faith, because they realize, as Hitler of Nazi Germany realized, that for all its weaknesses and for all its faults, the Christian church is the greatest power for the good of mankind that our time has known. If we had had any doubts before about the purposes of those who rule the Kremlin, the news that we received within the last 24 hours would have dispelled them.
I now desire to deal with the place of the Australian Parliament and Government in our national life. There has been much talk lately about constitutional reform, and various matters which should concern us in the next few months in relation to our National Parliament. L believe that consideration should be given to extending the life of a parliament from three to five years. It might be said by some cynics that if a bad government should attain office, we should have to suffer it for five years instead of three. That is a weakness, of course, but I believe that an outweighing advantage would accrue to Australia if we should have a good government, because then it would be able to administer the country and carry out its policies more effectively in a five-year term than in a three-year term. There may be some criticism of this proposal, because it might be said that some members are afraid of losing their seats. I believe that if a man places the safety of his seat in the Parliament against the welfare of the country, he does not deserve to be in this place.
– Hear, hear !
– Because of the “ Hear, hear ! “ of the honorable- member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), I mention the fact that a former honorable member for Hume, Mr. Charles Anderson, said on one occasion that he would support certain legislation before the Parliament because it was for the welfare of Australia, even though such support might cost him his scat. Although I was not a member of this House at that time, many honorable members on both sides of the Parliament will remember that the then honorable member for Hume supported that legislation - and lost his seat. I think that far more honour is due to him than to somebody who, speaking in this House, betrays every principle in which he believes.
In my opinion, thought should be given to extending the term of the Parliament from three years to five years. I am also of the opinion that honorable members on both sides of the House should give some thought to their behaviour during debates. The conduct of some honorable members recently has done nothing to enhance the dignity of the House in the eyes of the people, and” if we wish to see the Parliament honoured and respected, we must behave in a more dignified manner. The attitude of some honorable members could well be improved. They should remember that sometimes their attitude is reflected in the votes cast in the electorates they represent. Often, the people do not appreciate that a member is obliged to spend much time in connexion with his parliamentary duties, nor do they realize that if members are to make a proper contribution to the legislation which is passed by this Parliament, they must be given sufficient time to devote their attention to such legislation. I do not deny that it is important for an honorable member to appear at social functions in bis electorate, on occasions with his wife, but his primary duty is to the affairs of this Parliament, to which he has been elected. If we are to be true legislators we must give due attention to bills that are presented. It has been said that honorable members sometimes feel frustrated. In that regard, it may well be necessary for the Parliament to set up committees to study legislation before it is presented. The functions of the members of this Parliament are most important, but it is also important that they conduct themselves with dignity.
.- The Address-in-Reply debate provides honorable members with an opportunity to affirm their faith in Australia, to survey the national economy, and to express themselves upon the grave issues which face the country. I am pleased to be able to participate in this debate. At the outset, I wish to refer to a passage in the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General, which read as follows: -
My advisers regard their responsibilities during the life of this Parliament to bc the strengthening of Australia’s security, the maintenance of a healthy economy, the development of our national resources, and the social welfare of the Australian people.
I propose, first, to deal with matters relative to the security of Australia, and in the course of my remarks, to submit to the House a plan whereby honorable members of this chamber might be much more usefully employed than they have been in the past, and better able to come to grips with the major problems that beset this country. If time permits, I hope also to say something about national development and the social welfare of the Australian people.
I think it appropriate that I should refer to the workings of this Parliament, because it is not possible to attend to our tasks as we should, and to consider the vital matters which affect the country, if we do not concern ourselves with the operations of the Parliament itself. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) rendered a signal service by directing attention to the inadequacies of our parliamentary system and institutions. The failure of this Government to call the Parliament together for the purpose of considering urgent matters of vital national concern, reveals an attitude which borders on contempt for our democratic system and the elected representa tives of the people. The Parliament had met on only seven days this year before the commencement of the Twenty-first Parliament. Yet, never at any time in the history of the country, have such vital issues required the mature consideration of the spokesmen of the people. The Senate had met on only six days prior to the commencement of the recent sessional period. Then, after having assembled for six or seven days, the doors of the Senate chamber were closed and the honorable senators went home to their respective States. Instead of assisting in the moulding of decisions and helping to translate into practice the legislative policy of the Government, the members of the Senate are now scattered throughout Australia.
Instead of the members of this Parliament being consulted on the affairs of the nation, they are obliged to depend on the press, which provides information in the most sketchy fashion. The Government does not discuss with us matters affecting international affairs, national development, the Constitution, and social services. We must obtain information concerning the policy of the Government in relation to such matters from statements which are handed out to the press from time to time. Honorable members are denied their fundamental right to discuss the policies of the Government, which rarely have parliamentary approval. It is essential that the private members of this Parliament should strive to make the parliamentary system work. It is deplorable that, whilst honorable members are here, ready, willing and eager to come to grips with the important problems that face the country, their services are not availed of. We are, perhaps, at the crossroads of our national development; the very future of Australia may be at stake. In those circumstances, I suggest that the members of this House should be given an opportunity to serve their country in n practical and useful way.
The newspapers make it plain, day after day, that it is not the policy of the Government with regard to the recognition of red China, trade with Japan, or finance, which is under fire, but the policy of the Australian Labour party on those subjects. Since the Austraiian press regards the views of Labour men as of such great importance, it seems to me proper that honorable members on this side of the House should be consulted about the various matters which affect our country.
– Will the Opposition appoint representatives to the Foreign Affairs Committee?
– 1 expected that some honorable member opposite would behave in true cockatoo style and refer to the Foreign Affairs Committee. However, honorable members on this side of the chamber have no intention of discussing the matter at this stage. I remind honorable members opposite, however, that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) seemed to indicate, earlier to-day, that he had a. change of heart, as well as a change of front, in relation to that committee. In any case, we want to participate in the government of Australia. We do not want to become members of a mere school in which we receive hand-outs on matters that are perhaps of no great importance. If we judge supporters of the Government by their expressions, perhaps it can. be said, without transgressing the Standing Orders, that they seem to be singularly illinformed despite their participation in the deliberations of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I agree with the statement that greater use should be made of parliamentary committees to provide members with scope to exercise their talents. Before I make submissions that are designed to give honorable members an opportunity to play a more effective role in the government of the nation, let me state quite clearly and unequivocally that I, and I believe every other member of the Opposition, will never cease to strive for peace. The horror of war is all too recent for us to forget it, and an appalling tragedy of that kind must be averted at all costs. Whilst we strive for peace and believe, in it, we are realists and. our proud record in the realm of defence has proved that it has been the Australian Labour party which has moulded defence policies that have stood to this country in time of war and have formed the basis of policies that have been adopted by other governments.
The outstanding item of government expenditure in recent years has been that of defence. I do not think that any genuine Australian would object to the spending of the defence vote to provide for the adequate and necessary defence of Australia. If the taxpayers generally knew that the money was being spent wisely, they would be prepared to accept the position, but I do know that they have an uneasy feeling that public funds are not being spent to the best advantage. The taxpayers, and indeed the vast majority of the people of Australia, who are concerned about the defence of this country, should be reassured on the point. They should know that the money that is being voted for defence is being spent on defence. For the purpose of really appreciating this problem and of ascertaining the manner in which the money is being spent, the expenditure of the defence vote should be fully investigated and we should be certain that Australia’s defences are in order. Public confidence and support are required. Before the defence scheme of any country can succeed, it must have the support of the people. A country which loses the support of its people cannot succeed in any great undertaking.
I suggest that an all-party parliamentary committee should be appointed to investigate defence preparedness and expenditure. The appointment of such a committee would give honorable members an excellent opportunity for service, and at the same time it would reassure the public. There are honorable members on both sides of the House who are singularly well equipped and who. if they were appointed to the committee, could assist the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in their appreciation of these problems and in having our defence scheme understood, accepted and respected by the whole community. Such a committee should be authorized to make inspections and to report upon, first, all aspects of Australian defence and preparedness. Special reference should be had to the quantity, quality, standardization and dispersal of all weapons of defence. Secondly, it should report upon the economic position of Australia in relation to its capacity to produce essential munitions. Defence needs should be considered also. Thirdly, a review of road, rail, air and sea transport facilities should come within the scope of such an inquiry. Fourthly, having regard to modern weapons of war, an investigation of the civil defence needs of the nation should be made. The Australian Labour party has always led the way in these matters, and it is my own personal opinion that that party would be prepared to play its part in reassuring the community in relation to the expenditure of the Government’s record defence vote.
Such a committee could follow the pattern of a very fine committee, the War Expenditure Committee, which was established during World War II. and which saved this country hundred? of thousands of pounds. That which we were able to do during the war could be re-enacted to-day, and undoubtedly it would save the nation vast sums of money. The War Expenditure Committee rendered outstanding service. I hope that responsible supporters of the Government will not run away from my suggestion but that they will act upon it, because to do so may be of great value to the country. That suggestion will test the sincerity of the Government’s desire to give honorable members an opportunity to serve the nation and so to occupy themselves that they will not feel acutely frustrated by the lack of opportunities for service, as the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has suggested they are. An all-party parliamentary committee of the kind I have suggested could perform outstanding service. It should be given the opportunity of making inspections, of calling for reports and papers and of keeping an eye generally on government expenditure on defence activities to ensure that the country is receiving full value for its money. The taxpayers will not object to this large vote for defence if the nation receives value for the money that is spent, but there is grave uncertainty in the public mind on this matter. The Parliament also should be assured that the money is being spent wisely, but so far no such reassuring statements have been made. One may ask questions in this chamber of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), or the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip
McBride), but usually a negative reply is given and honorable members are left without any worth-while information.
– The Minister for the Army would not know..
– I should not like to be so uncharitable as to say that the honorable gentleman does not know or that he would not know, but the Parliament is not being informed about these matters. The Parliament should be informed, and to withhold information from it is a very serious matter. The disturbing overall lack of defence of the north of this continent should be investigated. Aerodromes that cost thousands of pounds to build are now in a state of desrepairIn New Guinea, the jungle has overgrown many airstrips and forward bases that otherwise could be of very great value to us in the immediate future. I have been reliably informed in relation to the recent air exercise in the north that the munitions had to be flown from the southern States. I ask honorable members to contemplate that situation. Despite all the disturbing and alarming reports and statements that have been, made in the chamber and the swashbuckling attitudes that have been adopted, at Darwin, the very doorway to Australia from the north, no ammunition is available even for the purpose of conducting a mock exercise to test our ability to defend ourselves. That information came to me from a most reliable source. As Australia is the testing ground for modern weapons of war, Parliament should know whether we have at hand an adequate supply of the most modern weapons for our defence. But there is no information made available on that subject, and questions asked about it are usually met by the Government with a wall of silence. Development of Australia’s rich uranium resources seems to be lagging. I am, perhaps, not alone in holding this view. The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, on the 20th August, published an article in which the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) declared that the survey of uranium resources in the north of Australia is tardy and inadequate. Not only is the survey of uranium resources tardy and inadequate; also, though Australia probably possesses the greatest resources in the world of fissionable materials such as uranium and pitchblende, the neglect of measures for the provision of atomic power and the development of the available reserves of fissionable materials is so shocking as to beggar description. Development of these resources should be undertaken as a matter of urgency, and the appointment of a committee such as I have proposed might assist in obtaining action in this matter on which, as I have said, at present we are given no information.
The failure of the Minister for the Army to give a convincing reply to my question about the adoption of a standard service rifle and to indicate that a standardized weapon will be manufactured in Australia is deplorable. Australia must strive to become self-sufficient in defence requirements. The Australian Army should forthwith authorize the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) to get to work on the production of essential materials for defence, but unfortunately there seems to be a complete bottleneck in defence production. Surely the number of service Ministers in the Cabinet is adequate. There are Ministers for Defence, for the Navy, for Air, for the Army and for Defence Production, but there seems to be no liaison between them. None will tell his colleagues what he knows.
– They are in different elevens.
– At least those in the same eleven might co-operate with one another. The matter is of such grave concern that it should be investigated. A nation that is incapable of producing the munitions and weapons of war necessary for its defence must be regarded as backward. Unless we take immediate action to make ourselves self-sufficient in these requirements we shall forfeit our right to nationhood. Some of the actions of the Government are wholly incomprehensible. The Minister for the Army has made the bewildering decision to declare surplus the Bathurst army camp, which proved to be of great value during World War II. The Minister has declared this camp to be surplus, although it cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to establish. He -will doubt less seek Parliament’s sanction for the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds on the construction of other army camps whose functions could be performed by the existing Bathurst camp, which is adequate and suitable for the purpose. Servicemen who trained at the Bathurst camp prior to going abroad for service in World War II. can testify to the suitability and value of the camp as a training centre. The disposal of unwanted military material and equipment also calls for attention and review. It seems to be a never-ending practice that clothing, munitions and material of all kinds are purchased for the Army, and, a short time afterwards, are displayed in cheap-jack shops in the large cities for sale at bargain prices. The process by which these materials find their way to disposals stores requires thorough investigation. Parliament should be informed how the taxpayers’ money is being spent on army materials that are quickly disposed of as surplus.
Losses of material and equipment from service establishments constitute another scandal. I shall not refer to details of which I _ have heard concerning certain court actions that are pending, but I believe that it is common for vast quantities of materials that have cost the taxpayers considerable sums of money, to be taken from army and air force camps without authority. A thorough investigation into these losses is necessary. If the House is really concerned about coming to grips with . the problems of defence it will support my proposal for the appointment of a committee to investigate defence preparedness and expenditure, composed of members from both sides of the chamber and empowered to undertake the closest .possible examination of government expenditure on all aspects of defence.
I shall not have timo to discuss fully the lack of economic development. On this all-important matter I wish to say in passing that although the Government has declared that it has a development . programme, little new development is being undertaken. Almost the entire development programme wasinitiated by a former Labour Government, and is mainly due to the efforts of the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) who was Minister for Works and Housing in that administration. I pay him warm tribute and offer him my congratulations on his great service to Australia in initiating development projects.
The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) said that Government supporters have as much regard for the interests of the workers as have Labour members. But the Government shows no tangible signs of this regard for the working classes. If it would regard kindly the aged and the infirm ; if it would abandon the pegging of wages so that the basicwageearner might earn a. decent living, which he has the right to do in this country; if it would use its influence in an effort to have margins increased ; and if it would regard working men in the same light as it does the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which proposes to increase the price of steel again, it would render great service to Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not intend to try to follow the arguments of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti). I merely make the comment that it is remarkable that he should criticize the Government’s defence programme when he knows that the former Labour administration refused the request of the United States of America to cede to- it Manus Island, which the Americans would have developed into a great bastion, of defence in the Pacific, with great advantage to Australia. It is strange that the honorable member, apparently in a spirit of panic, should offer criticism of numerous aspects of the Government’s defence programme. The honorable member suggested that development of strategic resources and of north Australia’s defence potential was lagging. Perhaps we who live in Queeusland have a much better knowledge than has the honorable member for Macquarie, who probably has never visited that State, of the lack of defence preparedness in north Queensland during World War II. The honorable member’s colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) established “ the Brisbane line “ just north of Brisbane, and the Government of which he was a Minister refused to allow reasonable defence preparations to be made north of that line.
I have risen hi this debate to speak in particular of a passage in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech in which His Excellency said -
My Government will continue to undertake a large housing programme both directly and in conjunction with the States.
Several honorable members on the Opposition side have spoken of housing during the course of this debate. I refer in particular to the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) find the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam). Although it is not my usual procedure to use a newspaper article as the basis of my speech, I intend to do so in this case because I believe that the article to which I shall refer presents an unbiased approach to the activities of the Queensland Housing Commission. I shall read from it at considerable length, because I believe that every word of the article is correct and that it justifies complete condemnation of the Queensland Government, the Labour City Council of Brisbane and the Queensland Housing Commission. The article was published in the Brisbane Sunday Mail of the 22nd August, and was written by Mr. Jim Mulcahy, a reporter employed by that newspaper. It states -
When I first looked into the plight of the hundreds of families living hopeless lives in temporary housing camps around Brisbane, 1 expected to find sub-standard accommodation, but not the primitive conditions there arc.
Now, tenants of Queensland Housing Commission permanent estates at Chermside and Holland Park are bringing me complaints of conditions at these suburbs.
This week, Mr. J. Thompson, of the Chermside estate, wrote to the Sunday Mail. “You will find a lot of discontent in regard to the f 3-odd a week rent that has been imposed by a so-called workers’ Government.
I could not imagine a better description for the Labour Government than “ a so-called workers’ government “. I believe, if rumour is correct, that the Australian Labour party is to hold a postmortem to-morrow upon the result of the last general election for the House of Representatives. I suggest to honorable members opposite that they are in Opposition because the working people of the community do not trust them. The article in the Sunday Mail contains this further extract from Mr. Thompson’s letter -
Nobody expects a rent-free home, but when you go into a brand new home with a wood stove, wood wash boiler and no drainage, then you have to admit the rent is pretty high.
That is the conclusion of Mr. Thompson’s letter. The article by Mr. Mulcahy continues -
This estate, a 1,200 homes project is only five to six miles from the G.P.U. Residents are entitled to much more than they get for their rentals of from £2 12s. 6d. to more than £3 a week.
The Housing Commission’s last annual report says that temporary housing has been cleared from the Chermside area where 140 houses which were imported from France have been erected. These houses are soundly constructed and the workmanship is good.
But the report does not say anything about, the lack of drainage on the estate, or when permanent homes, some mere than two years old, will be able to throw away their wood stoves and wood coppers.
Remember, it’s only five miles to the G.P.O.
When I saw Chermside last week, it had not rained for nearly a week, and dust was rising from the roads.
Yet the yards of many homes were quagmires.
I’m sure the Brisbane City Council would not. allow the private home-builder to get away with the conditions allowed at Chermside.
I, too, am sure that the Brisbane City Council would not allow private homebuilders to get away with conditions such as those that exist in the Chermside Housing Commission area. I believe it is almost ludicrous when one compares conditions in those places with the conditions that exist in a private subdivision adjoining. In the private subdivision there are bitumen roads. All the usual services are provided before a start is made upon the construction of a building. Those who are conversant with conditions in Queensland, however, know that the Brisbane City Council, which is a Labour council, is completely under the control and domination of the Labour State Government of Queensland. They knowvery well that when the Queensland Government amended the Shops and Factories Act it insisted that private employers should provide amenities of a certain standard in the factories. But the same conditions were not applied by the Queensland Government to workers in government establishments. Is it any wonder that the difference to which I have referred is to be found when a comparison is made between a private subdivision and an estate that is being developed by a housing commission under the control of the Queensland Government? The article in the Sunday Mail continues -
The council’s Health Department should have a close look at the festering drains and sumps on the estate.
Drive along the streets of the Chermside estate. If a tree-planting project could get rid of the bareness and the “ housing estate “ look, the estate would rate a pass - from the street.
But you have to go into the homes, walk around the backyards, to’ see the real Chermside.
Many houses at Chermside are brave little homes. Gay flowers and neat vegetable rows are testimony to the spirit of the residents.
For the most part residents have tidy lawns.
Tenants were not backward in telling me what was wrong with the estate, but they were not too keen to allow me to use their names - they said they did not want “ to get into trouble with the Housing Commission “.
I can understand that attitude because when the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) took action with regard to the Zillmere estate, most of the people who had complained to him were turned out of their homes by the Queensland Housing Commission. Is it any wonder that the people living at Chermside are frightened to allow their names to be used publicly? I continue to read from the article in the Sunday Mail -
There are whole rows of houses at Chermside without drainage. Waste pipes from bathrooms, kitchens, and laundries end just above the ground. Residents are supposed to collect the waste water and broadcast it on their ‘ properties.
I believe that is an indecent request to make of any tenant. A woman should not be expected, day in, day out. to take waste water and spread it over the ground of her property for a period of two years. The article continues -
There are many young children on the estate and daily they must run the risk of gastro-enteritis and other intestinal complaints as soiled water empties on to the ground.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) in order in reading his speech?
It is not even his own speech. He is reading an article from a newspaper.
– Order! The honorable member for Petrie is entitled to read a quotation if he is so minded.
– We would lite to hear his own speech.
– Would I be in order, Mr. Speaker, in moving that the article that has been quoted by the honorable member for Petrie be incorporated in Hansard and so save the time of honorable members ?
– Order ! The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan)., as a former Chairman of Committees, knows that his suggestion is out of order.
– This article is of such a nature that it should be incorporated in a radio broadcast and not only in Hansard. It continues -
Some back yards are mud-holes where tenants have to slither around in slimy ooze.
In Ballantine Street, there is a three-foot drain badly covered by loose boards that could be a trap for toddlers or the unwary at night.
Some footpaths are slimy mud. I saw a hose being used to syphon soapy-coloured water from a sump on to the footpath. On the flat ground, sumps can’t be syphoned. They just well-up, and the stagnant water lies on the ground.
Pechey Street is a revolting sight. At the side of and running to the front of a house where kiddies were playing, 1’ saw an iron inspection drain cover surrounded by slimy ooze, about 30ft. long and 12ft. wide. I was told, it was an old drain, a relic from the old Chermside Army camp. It was bottled ‘ up when Pechey Street was graded.
Next door, slimy water has covered a well kept lawn where new planted roses are struggling to live.
Here the ooze was ankle deep and the yard was supposed to bc the playground for a toddler whose mother is expecting another child.
Last week the woman slipped and fell heavily in the mud. Her husband had to stay home from work to look after the toddler.
I suppose that members of the Opposition would not be the slightest bit concerned that a working man should lose a day’s pay because of his being obliged to stay home to look after his children under these conditions. The article continues -
For two years he has been waiting for drainage.
This family pays £2 18s.. a. week. Yet. the wife uses a wood-stove and. wood copper.
The article proceeds to describe similar conditions in another home, about which it states -
There waa only one cupboard: - a. broom cupboard in the whole place.
Members of the Labour party advocate that modern amenities should be provided in the homes- of workers, but the Queensland Labour Government is not prepared even to provide a linen cupboard in houses under its control in order to make the task of the housewife easier. The article proceeds to deal with conditions at the housing estates at Chermside and Holland Park. The latter estate is situated in the electorate of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis).
Opposition members interjecting,
– I know that these facts hurt members of the Opposition.
– Order ! I shall insist upon silence being maintained while the honorable member for Petrie is addressing the House. There was complete silence whilst the preceding speaker was on his feet. The same courtesy should be extended to the honorable member for Petrie.
– In the same issue of the Sunday Mail was published a letter from a resident at the Holland Park housing estate. I quote the following from that letter: - “ I have complained to the Housing Commission about my conditions, but I can’t get any satisfaction “, she said. “ For 14 months in a so-called permanent new home in the old temporary housing area we have had no electricity, no drainage, no fences and no roads. And the house is only a stone’s throw from Logan Road.”
In other words, from the Pacific Highway which is the main arterial road south from Brisbane. That newspaper has described conditions that exist at the housing estates at Chermside and Holland Park. Honorable members are already aware of the disgraceful conditions that existed in relation to the Zillmere housing project which the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) has described on a number of occasions in this House. Of course, honorable members opposite would like to place the blame for those: conditions upon this Government because it finances those housing projects. That responsibility does not rest upon this Government because, as every honorable member knows, the Queensland Government ha.? at times refused to allow officers of the relevant Commonwealth department to make an inspection of the houses at Zillmere. Surely there cannot be any objection on the part of the State government to a representative of this Government going along the streets in Chermside and seeing at first hand the conditions that exist there. I believe that the Brisbane City Council should have done something about these conditions.
The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) said that when Sir John Chandler was defeated for the position of Lord Mayor of Brisbane he, himself, became a member of an enlightened council. The fact is that that council permits these conditions to exist in the metropolitan area of Brisbane withoutmaking any protest whatsoever because, I suppose, it is under the control of thE Queensland central executive. It is desirable that this Government should have some control of housing projects of this kind. If it is to continue to make money available for such projects, it should insist upon a proper standard being observed in respect of drainage and roads and in the provision of electricity and other essential amenities in a housing estate. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech indicates that the Government intends to do something about amending the housing agreement. I believe that this is one of the most urgent subjects to which His Excellency referred.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) have criticized the Government’s policy in relation to housing. I point out that in Australia there is a home to every 3.6 people whereas democracies throughout the world accept as a satisfactory standard the provision of one home to every four people. On that basis, the Government is deserving of commendation for what it has d.one in this sphere. Members of the Australian Labour party argue that .still more money should be made available for hous ing. If that were done, what would be the position in respect of man-power and materials? In Queensland, at present, it is impossible to obtain, a terra-cotta roof or bricks within six months of placement of orders, whilst, in many instances, baths and cement cannot be supplied for considerable periods. It is useless for honorable members opposite to talk about the need for making more money available for housing when both materials and manpower are in short supply. I am prepared to go further and to say that if more money were made available for housing at present the price of a house, due to restricted supplies of man-power and materials, would be increased by perhaps £50, £100, or even £200 overnight. Many people who are directly engaged in the building industry will confirm the truth of that statement. Only last week, the Queensland Minister for Housing stated that owing to the . shortage of materials and man-power his Government was considering the re-imposition of restrictions upon the building of house as seaside resorts in Queensland. It is useless for honorable members opposite to argue in this House that it is only a case of making more money available and that by that means we shall work the oracle and provide all the housing that is required in the community. The solution of this problem is not so easy as that. The Queensland Government has sufficient sense at least to know that manpower and materials are in short supply. I have presented these facts to the House, and I have read the article that I have cited, because I believe that the facts constitute a serious condemnation of theQueensland Housing Commission and of the Labour-controlled Brisbane City Council.
.- I know little or nothing of the facts of the housing situation in Queensland. I do know, however, that in all the States if one wishes to find classic examples of skulduggery and devotion to profit and mammon at the expense of the unfortunate people who are to dwell in the houses that are constructed one will find such examples in houses that are built by private contractors, whether on their own behalf or for housing commissions for the
War Service Homes Division. I am inspired by the vague platitudes that the Government has put into the mouth of the Governor-General to offer a few comments which I consider to be apt in relation to the state of the nation at present. I am amazed at the blissful unawareness of our people. I am amazed at the astonishing lethargy, self satisfaction and complacency of the average Australian. The facts of geography are simply non est. We do not know them, and we are living in a fools’ paradise. When my party did me the honour of sending me to the Coronation, the very first port of call was Djakarta. When the liner Oceania made fast at the wharf, we were met by an armed guard with helmets, bayonets and revolvers, and with all the braggadocio, bluster, and arrogance of a self-confident people, conscious of their place in the sun, and of the fact that they are reaching out in a truly imperialistic way for new territory in New Guinea. Here are we in Australia, with a population of 9,000,000. In Indonesia, right on top of us, are S0,000,000 people!
I am amazed also at the unsophisticated and superficial innocence of those who refer to nationalistic movements in South-East Asia. No one will suggest that any one with my name and ancestry would be averse or unsympathetic to purely nationalist movements. They are in my blood. Claims for self determination and the right of self government have ever distinguished the Celt and his descendants throughout the ages. But who can justify this modern devotion to nationalism - the so-called righteous desire of the people of China to rule themselves; their overwhelming and inordinate seeking after freedom; and their hungry yearning over the decades to free themselves? Yet we in Australia are asked to encourage them! The people of Indo-China, too, we are told, are striving for freedom and selfgovernment, and the harsh repressive rule ‘of the European is to be thrown over. We must subscribe to that view in its entirety. The people of Malaya are urgently yearning for self-government. But what section of the people of Malaya? The majority? The Chinese who constitute the belligerent band of insurgents, or the Malayans, themselves? Then we come to Indonesia, and ultimately to Australia.
The essence of the proposition that I am putting to-night is that there is1 in this country to-day an unfortunate tendency to think of the Pacific in terms exclusively of Asia. It is high time that all sections of this community, irrespective of their party affiliations, thought of Asia in terms of the destiny, defence and survival of Australia. It is so obvious, so kindergarten, I am at loss to understand why people cannot see that, superimposed forcibly on the purely ethical and legitimate edifice of the struggle for nationalism, is the allpowerful all-pervasive force of Marxist imperialism. That is the motivating force in Asia to-day, and ultimately it will be the co-ordinating, uniting, and dominating force there. In 1945, our physical immunity ended for all time. Formerly there were the British Army in India, Ceylon and Burma, the French Army in Indo-China, and the Dutch Army in Indonesia. But when the legitimate claims for nationalism with which we are suffered to sympathize came to fruition ultimately, those armies disappeared and, with their disappearance, there was left only a vacuum between the 1,000,000,000 people of Asia and the 9,000,000 people of Australia. Therefore it is with some impatience that I express my utter disgust at this continual forcing of the concept that these are purely nationalist uprisings.
With the withdrawal of Great Britain from the Middle East, including the evacuation of Suez, the time may come when the interests of the British Commonwealth may, willy nilly, have to stop at Gibraltar, and therefore, if we are to survive in the Pacific to hand Australia on to our children and to our children’s children, our destiny is finally, irrevocably, and indissolubly, bound up with the United States of America. That is the stand I am taking here to-night. But now I shall strike a lighter note. To-day is the 24th August.
– The last day of Pompeii !
– Ali, some one does know the day. On the 24th August many many years ago Pompeii fell. That fact strikes a significant chord. After all, if one place can fall by an act of nature, by conquest, or by any .other means, the logical deduction in my mind is that my country, too, might fall. Whilst on the subject of Asian history, I have thought of something else. Demosthenes was born in 384 B.C. There is an extraordinary analogy between the Greece of old and Australia to-day. Greece in those days was beset by a tyrant whose name was Philip of Macedon. In Athens there were people who thought that Philip was not a bad sort of fellow ; that he could be cultivated, and that in the interests of peace it was vital that he should not be irritated. Demosthenes, the great patriot of Athens had as his opponent a man named Aeschines. And, Mr. Speaker, would you believe it, this Aeschines was the leader in Athens in 384 B.C. of the peace party. The members of that party - and this is historical fact - were the priests of the temple. They were the disciples of Plato and Socrates - woollyheaded professors, vague thinkers, and leaders of modern thought. They all subscribed to the naive doctrine that Philip of Macedon could be placated provided be was not irritated. Demosthenes was the danger, and this great man, whose name has come down the ages to our own time, put forth for our edification these sublime words -
T saw a tyrant preparing to enslave the world, and I stood in his path.
There was also in Athens in those days a fifth column - people who were not aboveselling Greece to the mercies of Philip of Macedon. It is extraordinary how history repeats itself. Demosthenes decided to enlist the aid of the people of Thebes to defend the country, and he went on his way. What did he find? The people of Thebes were engaged in profound discussion about the Olympic Gaines. Negotiations were protracted, as they are to-day. Men said this, and men said that. The wise men of the East and the West gathered in conclave, the pundits gave forth and the professors assailed the ears of the groundlings. But while Demosthenes was trying; to bring this treaty to fruition, King Philip of
Macedon arrived at the gate of Athens, and the darkness of terror, despair and death descended upon Grecian culture and civilization.
There was also in Athens a man named Attleas. He decided to pay a visit to Philip. He wanted to see the Gates of Heavenly Peace, and the Wall of the Nine Dragons. He wished to sample the delights of this attractive foreign civilization, and he was greeted, of course, with great verve and gusto. The Chinese lanterns were lit, and he was feted with caviare and vodka. The slaves, mark you, of Philip’s household did sinuous and graceful dances for Attleas and the other guests. Salome - the very Salome who had demanded the head of John the Baptist - performed the Dance of the Seven Veils. Attleas, fortified by the wine when it was red, viewing the distant scene from the bottom of a wine glass, and drinking cheery toasts of “bottoms up “, “chin chin”, and the like, decided that things were not so bad after all ; and while the strains of soft music filled the air, the cries of the tortured, the oppressed, the dispossessed and the dying in the torture chambers could no longer be heard.
But Attleas was a politician. He made the unpardonable error of asking Philip, because he was concerned with ballots and elections, “ What chance do you think there is of the Opposition party coming into power at the next election? “ Philip replied, “You tell rae, and then we will both know “. Attleas had swallowed the Eggs a Thousand Years Old, and had feasted with gusto on birds nest soup and other delightful dishes, but could not swallow that reply, even though Philip conferred upon him the Order of the Celestial Sucker.
Wise saws, modern instances ! As the walrus said, we can talk of many things. We derive wisdom not only as a- heritage from our more immediate ancestors, but from early history. To-day is but a repetition of yesterday. Surely, then, it is obvious to anyone that we no longer have to think of expeditions of liberation, and. the pros and cons of whether a movement is nationalistic. We have to think of the fundamentals of life. People are being delivered up to a tyranny that is unparalleled in the history of mankind ; a tyranny that is independent of geographical boundaries or the limits of language or race; a tyranny that for the first time is as universal as the earth itself and stretches from pole to pole. One million, five hundred thousand Catholics have been delivered into bondage in Indo-China. Nine million, five hundred thousand Australians may be delivered into the selfsame bondage for the selfsame reason which is that Communist Asia, Marxist imperialist Asia, cannot afford to leave a vacuum called Australia as a base for an American counter-offensive. If Asia falls to communism, and it has come closer to that catastrophe, we also fall. Our isolation in the Pacific has gone. Life has changed, and has become real and earnest.
All joking and quips aside, we should be conscious of the realities of life today ; conscious of the lessons of history, ancient and modern ; conscious of the fact that we have a great heritage and that it is our duty to hand on the torch to those who come after us; conscious of the fact that we have to leave to our children and our children’s children the greatest country on God’s earth. We have a traditional duty to perform. The urge to perform it is in our bones. It was in the stock from which we have sprung. “We must be conscious of the fact that there is in Australia a something that is beyond a material something and is independent of the acquisition of wealth and devotion to Mammon ; a something that transcends profit and the ordinary daytoday problems. This is the matter of survival for yours and mine, and everything we hold dear, including the Christian faith. It is the stratum on which we rest, and unless we meet the challenge, there is no hope for the advancement of our people or the glory of our race.
Dr. DONALD CAMERON (Oxley) 9.28].- The House is indebted to the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) for his extremely eloquent speech. I am sure that we all agree with a great deal of what he has said. We agree with his theory that the present trouble in Asia cannot be ascribed to nationalism, and nothing more. Of course, it is a much more complicated picture than that. But, then, the whole problem is much more complicated than that. I wish to refer to an interjection made in the course of the debate this afternoon by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) referred to Communist China, and the honorable member for Wilmot interjected, “Are they Communists?” Frankly, I do not know what he meant by that interjection. All I can say is that the government of China is Communist in form, that it follows all the totalitarian precepts of communism and that it is allied to and extremely friendly with the government of Soviet Russia, the greatest Communist power in the world. Not only that, but the leader of the Chinese Communist regime, Mao-Tse-Tung, has proclaimed on more than one occasion his devoted adherence to the principles of Marxism. But there are other things of which we must all take cognizance. First of all, I believe it is true to say that the present regime in China is there to stay, and that we shall delude ourselves if we imagine it can be swept away easily. It is a regime that has been accepted by 500,000,000 or 600,000,000 people. It has welded the Chinese people into a coherent state, perhaps such as they have never seen before in the course of their very long history. It is important for us to realize that. I believe it is also important for us I have said this before in this House to attempt to understand the Asian attitude to this state of affairs. To make my meaning more plain, I want to read to the House an extract from a recent speech made by the Prime Minister of Burma. It was a public speech and was in no way secret. It expresses his view and, I believe, the view of many other Asians on this problem. Speaking of America, he said -
We can see the Americans as a nation of great men and women who are capable of milking this world a better world. We can also see them as heroes who had saved the world from the scourge of Nazism and Fascism during the two world wars, at huge sacrifice of manpower and materials. We can also see them playing the unprecedented role of benefactors, showering the needy world with billions worth of free gifts, when most countries are indulging in taking instead of giving.
Then, let me tell you how we also see the Peoples’ Republic of China.
It is important that we should understand this point of view -
To start with, this viewpoint is different from that of most of those who are antiCommunists. As we do not like communism, we do not want to see the spread of this creed into our territories. We have, therefore, been doing our best to prevent such a contingency here. But, it is far from our intention to meddle in their affairs. They have chosen communism in order to suit their own circumstances. In fact we had never in our lifetime seen a united China. The unity of the Chinese people under Chairman Mao-Tse-Tung gratifies us as Asians.
He went on to say -
In the past we had witnessed China, with over 500 million people, bent low under a handful of foreigners. Things have changed under Mao. His China has earned the respect of many foreigners, and as Asians we take pride in this new phenomenon. In the past the great country of China was plagued with bribery and corruption from top to bottom. Under Mao such practices vanish like the “ snows of yester year.” As Asians we applaud this new moral climate. In the past in China, only a handful of upper strata could roll in wealth and luxury while the down-trodden teeming millions were, in dire straits. Now things have changed. China’s new leaders, at great sacrifice to themselves, are building a new world for the masses. As Asians we are delighted at the great strides made there.
I think that expresses very plainly an attitude which many of us in this country perhaps find hard to understand. To us it seems so apparent that communism is something evil, and so apparent that the struggle in the world, especially the struggle in the Pacific, is a struggle between democracy and communism, that we are inclined to think that every one else looks at things in that way too. I do not believe that many people in Asia do. It is very important that we should try to understand their points of view. I do not say that I subscribe to all those points of view, but I do say that unless we understand that they are held by people in Asia, our policy in Asia will be largely ineffective.
I pass to something else that was spoken of by the honorable member for Gellibrand. In an allegorical sort of way, he talked of ancient Athens and spoke of the visit of Attleas to Philip of Macedon. Of course, what he was referring to was perfectly clear to the House. It is very easy to criticize the visit to China of the present leader of the British Labour party. It is possible, and I suppose probable, that both good and bad results will flow from it. But I want to put to the House the point of view that nothing can replace the value of personal contact. “While great countries such as the Communist Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics exist in the world, nothing will be gained if we try to shut them up in compartments, have no contact with them, and turn down every opportunity to get a clearer understanding of their processes. An endeavour to make contacts with them and get a clearer understanding of their processes does not commit us in any way to approve of them, adopt them or submit to them, but it does at least recognize the fact that it is impossible to divide the world into two camps that have no contact whatever with each other.
I want to make clear some other facts about the visit of the leader of the British Labour party to China. It is not an official British Government mission. The British Government has had official contacts with Communist China on a very high plane. I refer to the recent Geneva conference. It is a matter of common knowledge that Mr. Eden, I understand on his own initiative, sought personal contact and personal discussions with Chou-En-Lai. I have yet to be convinced that anything but good to the free worlds can result from those contacts. Our own Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) - in whom, I assert, this country has the utmost confidence - did exactly the same thing. I believe that nothing but good will come to Australia and Australian diplomatic relations with other countries as a result of his action. I believe the people of Australia approve of the action of the Minister for External Affairs in having those contacts with the Foreign Minister of Communist China.
Let me say something further about Mr. Attlee. It is very rarely that I find cause to say something from my place in this House in praise of Labour leaders, but I shall do so to-night. Mr. Attlee is a man of responsibility and great astuteness. After all, he was the Deputy Prime Minister of Britain throughout the war. He is a man who, as the possible next leader of the British Government, was taken to the Potsdam conference by Winston Churchill. He represents a very large number of the British people. As I have said, his visit to China will in no way commit the British Government. Surely it is right and proper and, I point out to the House, consistent with what has been said this afternoon in this chamber by members of the Australian Labour party, that a leader of an opposition should have some responsibility in the examination of foreign affairs. Having said that, I want to say also that I believe that British foreign policy and the conduct of British foreign relations has been a mirror of wisdom and responsibility for the rest of the world to look into. If we did some looking into our own past as well as into the past of Greece, we could learn some lessons from it. I believe that nothing can replace the value of personal contact. I believe it would be of advantage for the leaders of Britain to have personal contact, not only with the leaders of Communist China, but also with the leaders of Soviet Russia. Most of us are aware that the present Prime Minister of Great Britain, than whom nobody stands higher in every one’s opinion as a conductor of foreign affairs, has on many occasions proclaimed his willingness and desire to make, personal contact with the leaders of the country with which at present we have only tenuous and hostile contacts. If we are going to adopt the point of view that we will have no contact with countries like Communist China and Russia because we believe that some evil effects may flow to us, or because we believe them to be potential enemies, then we shall put ourselves in the position of saying, “Well, there must be an alternative “. Surely every one of us realizes that the alternative is war ! If we are not going to have contact and are going to reject all advances, then I think it must be plain to all of us that we are going to accept in our own minds the alternative, and the inevitability, of war. I do not believe that war is inevitable, and I do not believe that this House or this country subscribes to the theory that it is. Having said that, I want to make this plain: that personal contact with those countries implies no retreat from the ground on which we stand in our dealings with them.
We shall, in the very near future, send a delegation to a conference for the purpose of setting up the strength to oppose the countries with which I am now advocating personal contact. The two things are quite compatible. While we stand in strength, in independence, and in readiness to repel anything in the nature of aggression, I do not believe that we improve on our position or our strength by refusing at the same time to have any contact with our potential enemies. That would be a counsel of despair. I believe also that, when we say that we are willing to make contact with them, we can make it perfectly clear that, at the same time, there are things on which we stand and on which there can and will be no compromise, and that, if they exhibit towards us the hostility which we fear, then we are perfectly ready to meet it. There is a famous passage somewhere in the writings of Sir James Barrie in which he says that he believes that, in the last dire extremity, the British people - and that, of course, includes all of us - have always been willing to put the issue to the awful arbitrament of arms. He said -
I suppose all the lusty of our race shake hands on that.
That is just as true to-day as ever it was, and the fact that we are willing in the first place to be reasonable does not mean that in the last place we shall not also be determined to remain free and unconquered.
I believe that one of the most important things in the conduct of our foreign relations is that we should endeavour to understand the point of view of the other fellow. We do not understand it by standing completely aloof, by closing ourselves off, by refusing to have contacts, and by standing completely apart from negotiation. It is not possible for any one - even for us - to be right all the time. It is possible that, by the contact of one human mind with another, we can avert the most awful catastrophe that could possibly overcome the world - a third world war. Let us make no mistake about this: the worst catastrophe that could overcome this world would be another war on a large scale! Whilst it may be that events will finally force us to accept that alternative, because there are some things worse than destruction, I believe that we can only weaken our present position and make war inevitable if we completely close ourselves to contacts with other nations, even nations whose processes we hate, whose forms of government we detest, and whose methods we are determined not to fall in with. And so I submit to the House that there is a sane and sensible way in which we can accept contact with other nations, but we need not, therefore, fall victims to what we fear from them.
. - This debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is drawing to a close and it is appropriate that, as one of the last speakers in the debate, I should devote myremarkstothe last subject that was raised in the Speech. His Excellency said -
A proposal will he submitted to the Parliament for the appointment of a Committee of the Parliament representing both Houses and all parties, to review certain aspects of the working of the Constitution, and to make recommendations for its amendment.
Among other matters which it is hoped that Committee will consider is the method of ensuring in the future some coincidence between the dates of elections for the House of Representatives and of elections for the Senate.
It is most desirable that there should be a general review of the working of our Constitution, but it is imperative that the problem which arises from the fact that the dates of elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate have fallen out of line should be tackled once and for all. The people of Australia are heartily tired of all the elections that they have been called upon to vote at in recent years. As a result of this astonishing anomaly in the Constitution,we find now that elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives take place at intervals of about eighteen months. It is worth looking at the Constitution in order to see how this curious and anomalous state of affairs has come about.
The term of the House of Representatives, under section 28 of the Constitution, runs for three years from the date of the first meeting of the House. That is a proper and straightforward procedure. But the term of a senator, under section 13 of the Constitution, runs from the first day of July following the date of election, except in the case of a dissolu tion of the Senate, when the term dates back to the first day of July preceding the date of election. Thus, after the 1951 double dissolution of the Parliament, the term of the House of Representatives dated from the first meeting in 1951, whereas the term of the senators dated from the 1st July, 1950. That means, following on the elections that have been held since then, that an election for the Senate is due in 1956 and that the next election for the House of Representatives is due in 1957. There are various ways in which this state of affairs can be remedied. The House of Representatives could be dissolved upon the date when the Senate election falls due in 1956, and the elections of the two Houses would then coincide again. But, although that would solve the problem temporarily, the causes inherent in the Constitution which have brought about the unsatisfactory state of affairs that now prevails would still remain, and the dates of elections could again become separated in the future. It is essential, in my opinion, that we should study the sections of the Constitution which cause this trouble and have them amended so that, in future, elections for both Houses of this Parliament will be conducted simultaneously upon a permanent basis.
Earlier in this debate the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) devoted some attention to this problem and suggested that, at each election for the House of Representatives, whether it takes place at the normal expiration of the term of the House or at some earlier date, half of the senators should automatically retire. That is a matter that certainly should be considered by the committee that the Government proposes to establish. It is a suggestion that contains a lot of merit. That and other matters should be considered. By co-operation between both sides of this House, we should be able to work out what the people of Australia are demanding in this matter, that is, a method to reduce the frequency of elections due to the fact that the dates for elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives do not now coincide. That is the first and obvious matter with which the proposed allparty committee should deal. There are other matters concerning the other chamber in this Parliament that should be considered.
The general question of the retention of the Senate is one which, as a matter of practical politics, does not arise despite the fact that the Senate has failed, in its role as a States’ house or as a house of review, to live up to the intentions of the founders of the Constitution. It is clear from the attitude of both parties that the Senate will continue to operate as an integral part of this Parliament. Such being the case, it is desirable that we should attempt to remove at. least some of the more glaring defects which affect the operation of the Senate in this Parliament. The first question that comes to mind is the question of deadlocks between the two Houses. We who have been in this Parliament since 1949, have had practical experience of this matter. It is imperative that the horribly cumbersome procedure laid down, by Section 57 of the Constitution, whereby, in the event of a disagreement between the two Houses there shall ultimately come about a double dissolution - and if the disagreement still continues after the dissolution, then a joint sitting of both Houses - should be got rid of once and for all. Apart from the difficulties arising from that section, the provision itself is quite inconsistent with one of the fundamental concepts of our Constitution, the principle of responsible government.
When the provisions of our Constitution were under consideration, . its founders drew a lot of inspiration from the United States of America, particu, larly in relation to the terms “ the House of Representatives “ and “ the Senate “, and the fact that the federal partner to the compact had enumerated powers and the States residual powers, but they did not adopt the American presidential system of separation of the executive from the legislature. We continued the practice which had been operating in the colonies prior to federation, by adopting the British system of responsible government. The Cabinet is responsible to the Parliament, and the Government is, in reality, a committee of the Parliament. Although the Government is responsible, theoretically, to both Houses of the Parliament, it is the so-called lower House - this House - which makes and unmakes governments. We have had the experience, since
Mr. TP. M. Bourke. 1949, of a government with a minority in the Senate continuing as the government of this country, hut if once a government loses the confidence of the House of Representatives, it is no longer able to continue in office. Such being the case, it seems logical that, in the event of a conflict between the Senate and the House of Representatives, the will of the House of Representatives should prevail. In order to bring about that state of affairs, it seems to me that we again should look to the practice which prevails at present in the British Parliament, wherein, I suggest, we could find a ready solution of the problem of deadlocks between the two Houses which has caused so much trouble in the past in this country. The Parliament Act, which was passed by the United Kingdom Parliament in 1911, and amended in 1949 by the Attlee Government, provides that the House of Lords, the Upper Chamber of the British Parliament, has no power to reject legislation passed by the House of Commons, It has power only to delay, not to reject, legislation. I suggest that we should adopt that principle here, and write it into our Constitution. We should provide that the Senate shall not have power to reject legislation that has been passed by the House of Representatives, but only to delay that legislation; that if this House passes a bill which the Senate rejects, and the House passes the bill again it should after the expiration of a fixed period of time - under the Parliament Act of Great Britain, the period is twelve months - automatically become law. If that provision were adopted, the Senate would serve a proper and useful purpose as a house of review. That procedure would provide a breathing’ space, a sufficient .period of delay to prevent a government forcing through the Parliament controversial legislation without proper consideration, and would obviate deadlocks, which clutter up the machinery of government and prevent the Australian Government from operating in an efficient manner in the interests of the people. This is one of the matters to which the proposed all-party committee, should give urgent consideration. It is a simple, straightforward suggestion that we should adopt the identical provisions that prevail in the
British’ Parliament as a means of. solving the problem of deadlocks between our two Houses. If this proposal is adopted the Senate would no longer be able to reject legislation, and bring about political crises. If it had the power only to delay legislation,, the Senate would ultimately gain in stature, and might be able to bring about other reforms of government and perform a more useful part in the constitutional machinery of this country.
While on the question of constitutional reform of the Senate, the proposed committee should, I think, look to the system of filling casual vacancies in the chamber. Section 15 of the Constitution provides that if the place of a senator becomes vacant before the expiration of his term of service, the Houses of the Parliament of the State for which he was chosen shall choose a successor. That method of indirect election is undemocratic, and, as such, is undesirable. I think that we should alter that provision, in order to get back to a method of direct election by the people to fill casual vacancies in the Senate. The present method of indirect election by the State. Houses of Parliament could be particularly dangerous to the political organization of this country. I am referring not only to the present state of affairs but also to the situation that could prevail during the next few years. We have operating in respect of Senate elections a system of proportional representation, under which, so long as it prevails, the Senate will be fairly evenly divided. There will not be a considerable margin between the strength of the respective political parties in the Senate. It could come about that the majority of the government of the day - speaking generally, and not referring only to the present situation - could be lie smallest majority possible. In the event of a casual vacancy occurring, a State Parliament could- elect a senator of a different political complexion from the senator who has ceased to represent his State in that chamber, and that circumstance could alter the balance of government in the country, and frustrate the will of the people expressed at the previous election. This is an additional reason why the indirect method of election to fill casual vacancies in the Senate is undesirable and contrary to the demo cratic principles upon which our constitutional system is based. It is a matter to which, I suggest, the proposed committee should give attention, with a view to proposals in relation, to the alteration of. the Constitution being submitted to the people.
In addition to the matters concerning the Senate the committee should examine generally the workings of the Constitution in the half-century or so that it has been in force. When the Commonwealth celebrated its jubilee in 1951 there was a. general hope among people who are interested in this matter that the opportunity would be taken, on that occasion^ to take stock of the working of the Constitution. Unfortunately, there were political crises in the making at the time and nothing in that direction was done. However, this first session of the Twentyfirst Parliament, to which the Government has announced its intention to review certain aspects of the Constitution, should be an appropriate occasion for a general review of the manner in which the Constitution has worked. Australia has seen tremendous changes since the adoption of the Constitution at the beginning of this century. We have had wars, economiccrises, tremendous industrial development and great scientific advances. Certain weaknesses and flaws in our constitutional machinery have become apparent. Despite those weaknesses, however, on the whole the Constitution has worked very well. I wish to stress that point, because it is a point that is not often made in discussions on the Constitution. I say again that, despite certain weaknesses, the Constitution has worked well, and we have every reason to look with admiration and pride on the work done by the fathers of the Constitution in draftingthat document. I say again that it has served us well as a people. We can apply the test of experience to show how the Constitution works in time of war. During war-time the nation was geared to a total war effort and, as a result of wide judicial interpretation of the defence power of the Commonwealth, there was no constitutional bar to prevent Australia from giving of its best,, as in fact it did, in the two world wars. In other words, our Constitution has provided, us, during war-time, with, all the advantages of a unitary system. At the same time the States were not obliterated, but continued to exist and to retain their powers and functions. In peace-time, the Constitution has enabled the Federal Parliament to make really significant and far-reaching social and economic changes for which there has been a sustained and continued demand by the people. I do not think that that statement exaggerates the position.
This Parliament has been able to give effect to these changes under the Constitution which was drafted in the last decade of last century. We have made remarkable progress in developing our country and in building up a standard of living on which we have every reason to look with justifiable pride a standard which compares favorably, taking all things into consideration, with the standard of living of any other country in the world. We have been able to do these things in peace-time, under our Constitution. I repeat, therefore, that the Constitution despite certain flaws, has worked very well.
I should like to make a plea to the Parliament that we should have more national consciousness and national pride, not merely in our great country and in our flag, but also in our Constitution. We should talk about it more, and feel a sense of national pride in it, as the Americans do in their constitution. As I have said, we should look back with great pride upon those giants of the past, those men of faith and vision, who gave us our Constitution and whose figures loom large in our history. I should like to make reference in particular to one man who, I think, is the only survivor of the men who played a prominent part in the framing of the Constitution. I refer to that grand old man, Sir Robert Garran, who was secretary to the drafting commission at the federal convention which drafted the Constitution in 1897. As the permanent head of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department for a number of years he played a prominent part in the development of the working of the Constitution. According to a report of a speech which I came across recently, he spoke to a church gathering in Canberra, during the Jubilee celebrations in 1951, in some what the same terms as I have used tonight. In his remarks, which were reported in the Canberra Times, he praised the Constitution and appealed for more national pride by the people in this basic document. He said -
The Commonwealth Constitution stands for the common welfare of all, an attitude of humble relianceon divine favour, and religious tolerance.
That is a striking tribute that raises matters in regard to the Constitution that are perhaps not referred to as often as they might be. Sir Robert, that very fine old gentleman with a very close association with the development of our Constitution, pointed out that the word “ Commonwealth “ was derived from the old English term “ common weal “, or common welfare. The Constitution, as I have already said, has enabled tremendous progress to be made in connexion with the welfare of the common man, and as such it should occupy an important place in the hearts of our people. Sir Robert also referred to the fact that in the preamble to the Constitution there is an unusual provision, which I shall read to the House. It invokes the blessing of Almighty God upon the workings of this country. The preamble states -
Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Constitution hereby established.
It is apparent, when we review the great progress that has been made in this country since the adoption of the Constitution, as well as the tremendous dangers that Australia has faced in the past, that the reliance that the founders of the Constitution said we placed on the blessing of Almighty God has not been misplaced, and that the blessing of Almighty God has in fact, been upon this country during those years. We can only hope that, in the dark and perilous days that lie ahead, such a state of affairs will continue, and that in the troublous times that we fear, but which we hope will not come upon this country, the blessing of Almighty God will still be with us, so that Australia will continue to be a free, white and democratic nation which our children will continue to control and not be subject to a foreign yoke. The final point that Sir Robert made referred to section 116 of the Constitution which provides that -
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religions observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have a few words to say on the subject of foreign policy that was raised by the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron). Since 1939, some rapid political and economic changes have occurred throughout the world. Previously strong European countries such as Italy, France and Germany have become mendicants. During that time India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma have obtained self-government. Russian communism now dominates Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, East Germany, Bulgaria, Albania, Roumania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. The Tito Communist Government is in complete control of Yugoslavia and in Italy communism is gaining in every election. In addition to the 470,000,000 Chinese, in China proper, Chinese Communists dominate Mongolia, Tibet, North Korea and the Viet Minh area of Indo-China. Burma has gone socialist and Indonesia seems to be wavering between socialism and communism and feudalism. In view of this position, Australia has to give serious thought to its foreign policy. The embers of nationalism in Asia have now burst into- flames and 1,200,000,000 Asians are demanding Asia for Asians in their time.
Australia will have to play an important part in this rapidly changing scene. We have to decide whether we shall try to fit ourselves into this scene or try to change the present trend of world events. We could fit into the scene quite easily by becoming a vassal state of the United States of America, or by simply accepting Communist domination of Asia, as well as Australasia, as being inevitable. I believe that neither course would be acceptable to any selfrespecting Australian. A policy of helping Asian countries with food, machinery and technical aid’ seems to be a practical course to adopt. Millions of people in Asia are on the threshold of starvation. The promises of the Communists that they alone can raise the living standards and end the exploitation of the masses of the Asian people must be countered by showing the Asians that they can raise their own standards by reforming their land system and expanding production. First, we should supply more food until the Asians can grow it themselves. Australia could supply its surplus production of such commodities as wheat and dried fruit. America could send its surplus eggs, bacon, butter and grain. Australia and America and other Western countries could supply industrial equipment in order to develop Asia’s primary and secondary industries, and they could send technical advisers and trained men to show the Asians bow to use them. These need not be sent as free gifts. They could be supplied on a long-term payment basis of say 50 years or more. Even if the money used to do this were non-interest bearing, the cost to the West would be infinitesimal compared with the cost of an East- West war.
I believe that our objective of lifting living standards for Asians requires that safeguards must at all times be stipulated against private control of the new instruments of production in Asia, for this could only lead to the kind of exploitations which provide fertile soil for communism. It becomes of paramount importance, therefore, that whatever aid is given should be for government-owned and government-controlled developmental and industrial projects. Aid must not be given to Asian countries in such a manner as to allow the benefit to be derived by a few members of Asia’s ruling classes. An all-out effort to educate the masses so that, by democratic means, they may hold their living standards and strive for improvement, is a final essential to a new life for Asia’s teeming millions. Communist domination of all Asia or a suicidal atomic world war appear to be the alternatives in the present course of history. As -Churchill has said, another world war may result in the Allies being victorious on a heap of ruins or we may see the complete domination of Asia by communism. It is not possible to stop communism by -making speeches and uttering threats. Communism is an idea and it can only be stopped by a better idea. In fashioning Australia’s foreign policy, we must remember that ever since the Japanese exploded the myth of white invincibility, white imperialism in Asia has been doomed and Asian selfgovernment and self-determination is its natural corollary. We must also remember the effect of Communist agitation for land reform, higher living standards, and national equality.
To revert to my point that the West, in giving any aid, must insist that it be not used to make possible the exploitation of the masses of the Asians by a few Asians, I invite the attention of honorable members to happenings in India, China, Malaya and most other Asian countries during the past century. In those countries the workers have been grossly exploited by some of their own nationals who were eager to make big profits. In India, 600 native princes sucked the economic life-blood of the people for centuries. The war lords of China and the ruling castes of North Korea did this, also. Australia must use its influence with the United Nations organization to obtain the absolute maximum amount of technical aid necessary to assist in plans for the development of millions of acres of fertile jungle land and for the better use of land already under cultivation. It is not generally known that there is idle land in Asia with a greater potential for growing food than exists in the whole of Australia and the rest of the Western countries. Millions of acres of the richest land in the world is still under jungle in Asia. If that land were cleared by heavy equipment it could supply enough food to keep all the Asian people in plenty. There is no need in Asia for aerial expansion. It is equally important that we should teach the Asians to harness their tremendous water supplies. We must teach them how to control their rivers, not only to obtain cheap hydro-electric power for industrial expansion, but also to prevent the flooding which takes so heavy a toll of life and property in Asia each year.
I now desire to refer to the question of the recognition of red China. We know that the Attlee Labour Government of the United Kingdom decided, on the advice of the British Foreign Office, that it should recognize Communist China. Since that time New Zealand has recognized Communist China and I believe that the day will come when Australia will also recognize it.
– New Zealand has not recognized Communist China.
– I shall correct my statement, and say that the responsible Minister in New Zealand has said that New Zealand should recognize red China, and should also vote for its admission to the United Nations. It is quite absurd that Chiang Kai-shek, who represents about 5,000,000 Chinese on the island of Formosa, .should be recognized as the spokesman for China, when in fact about 470,000,000 Chinese on the mainland of China are under the control of Communists. The recognition of a country on the diplomatic level does not involve .any recognition of the political regime, or viewpoint, of that country. Recognition of a country implies that we only recognize the government that is in control of the people of that country. In that connexion I desire to refer honorable members to a statement made by the late Mr. Chifley, who was perhaps the greatest Labour leader that this country has’ ever seen. This very wise statesman is reported at page 85, volume 212 of Hansard to have said -
If my Government had been returned to office (in 1D4.D) it would have supported -China’s admission to the United Nations, not because we like the Communists or support anything associated with communism, but simply because we prefer to be realists.
I suggest that those words indicate the crux of the whole matter. How much longer can we continue the silly business of saying that Chiang Kai-shek, on the small island of Formosa, represents the people of China, .and of trying to close our eyes to the fact that the real ruler of China is the Communist government on the mainland ? Chiang Kai-shek knows he will never go back to China. Sooner or later some countries must realize that trade with China is inevitable for their own continued existence, and for the existence of China. Because of our foolish, stupid policy on the recognition of Communist China, we are forcing that nation into the orbit of Moscow. We refuse to have any foreign relations or trade with China, and consequently we force China into foreign relations and trade with Russia.
– What is the honorable member’s attitude towards Japan?
– We must abandon our policy of bolstering up native princes and war lords who rob the peasants of seveneighths of their harvest. That the land of Asia should belong to the people of Asia in Communist propaganda is the real meaning of “ Asia for Asians “. At page 87 of volume 212 of Hansard, the late Mr. Chifley is reported also to have said -
Japan is a country whose actions in World War II. will not be readily forgotten by most Australians. If Japan is not able to maintain reasonable living standards for its people, it will have to seek expansion abroad. Japan cannot achieve an expansion of area in the overcrowded Asian mainland, so once again it will turn towards New Guinea and Australia. I support wholeheartedly the remarks about Japan that have been made from time to time by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), who, alone of the supporters of the Government, seems to recognize the great danger that we face through the rearmament of Japan.
– What rot!
– I suggest that if the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) also recognizes that danger, the difference between him and the honorable member for Angas is that the latter has the courage to express his view. The danger from Japan is, in my opinion, the most compelling reason why Australia’s foreign policy should be aimed at raising living standards in Asia. A big Asian market is the only outlet for Japanese industry. If we can raise Asian living standards so thai the demand for manufactured goods is increased then there will be no need of areas expansion for Japan, and it will be contentwith maintaining its position as an industrial nation. Its actions in that regard will be parallel to those of the United Kingdom, which for the past century or so has been content to remain as a manufacturing nation within its own islands. We must cease following a foreign policy that is more concerned with capitalism and America’s industrial future, than in giving Asians the right to enjoy a better standard of living than that offered by their present agrarian economy. We have no right to expect the Asian people to accept capitalism as the only means of raising this living standard. We can never defeat communism by monopoly capitalism. If we attempt to cling to monopoly capitalism for much longer, the battle against communism will be lost. The only way that we can win the battle against communism is to destroy the evil effects of monopoly capitalism, not only here but also in Asia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron) . - I shall ascertain when it will be convenient for His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to receive the AddressingReply, and honorable members will be informed accordingly.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Apple and Pear Organization Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 90.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal Purposes -
Dartbrook ( Muswellbrook ) ,. New South Wales.
Edinglassie (Muswellbrook), New South Wales.
Louth, New South Wales.
Northern Territory (Administration) Act -
Crown Lands Ordinance - Reasons for resumption of reserved land at Finke.
Ordinance - 1954 - No. 5 - Petroleum (Prospecting and Mining).
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Defence Production - J. T. Moroney.
Postmaster-General - P. L. Cumming.
Repatriation - R. K. Lyons, J. O. Ward, W. J. P. Woolcock.
Supply- J. H. L. Cohen, B. M. Smythe. Public Service Arbitration Act - Determination - 1954 - No. 34 - Australian Workers’ Union.
Services Trust Funds Act - Services Canteens Trust Fund - Report for 1953.
House adjourned at 10.28 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
GOVERNMENT LOANS and FINANCE.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. As Commonwealth Aid Roads grants are made to the States under Commonwealth legislation, power to determine the allocation of the grants among the States rests wholly with the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Parliament. On such a matter, however, the Commonwealth usually consults the States before making a decision. Thus at the Premiers Conference last June the Prime Minister asked the Premiers whether they desired the existing formula for apportioning the roads grants among the States to be included in the new Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation which is to operate for the next five years. Five of the six Premiers indicated that they desired no change in that formula.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.Swartz asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount in sterling was released by the British Treasury recently from Egypt’s blocked sterling balances in the United Kingdom ?
Is it anticipated that the Egyptian Government will now relax the Exchange Control Regulations which have been in force since 1952?
a asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The annual interest payable on Australia’s national debt at 30th June, 1954, expressed in Australian currency. was £94,924,000 in Australia, £14,233,000 in London, £5,626,000 in the United States of America, and £245,000 in Switzerland, the total annual interest bill being £115,029,000.
Swiss Loan Agreement Commission payable by the Commonwealth to its fiscal agents is excluded from the interest liability figures, but is included with other loan management expenses under Division 191, Item 2, of the Estimates.
– On the 12th
August, the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) asked the following question : -
Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs informme of the value of imports to this country for the month of July this year, and the value of exports for the same month?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s question : -
Australian Imports and Exports for July, 1954.
Final figures are not yet available but assessment of preliminary figuressuggests the following: - Imports, £70,500,000; exports £53,000,000.
s asked theMinister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
ser asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Stromlo Observatory since the 1st July, 1950. and at what cost?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 August 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19540824_reps_21_hor4/>.