21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-I desire to. inform the House that the Right Honorable 0. D. Howe, Minister of Trade and Commerce and Minister of Defence Production in the Government of the Dominion of Canada, is within the precincts of the chamber. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall invite him to take a scat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable MEMBERS - Hear, hear!
Mr. Howe thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– I have to inform the House that I have this day issued a writ in relation to the by-election for the Division of Cook, and that the dates fixed were those announced to the House yesterday.
– During the debate yesterday afternoon, a remark was made that was not heard by me, as I stated at the time. That remark was recorded by Ilansard, but it will not appear in the official proof. It appears in the press, and no doubt it was broadcast. I call upon the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) to apologize for making the remark.
– I apologize, but you, Mr. Speaker, taught me that one always placed the adjective before a common noun, and that is all that I did.
– Order ! I inform the House that in future incidents of that kind will be met by naming. Nu chance to apologize will be given.
– I should like the Prime Minister to consider whether he can make available to the House, before the resumption of the foreign affairs debate next week, documents relevant to the debate, to some of which he referred in his statement last night. In particular, I refer to one in relation to the recent meeting of the council of Seato, and to his own statement upon the understanding that was approved by the President, and the Secretary of State, of the. United States of America. If possible, will the right honorable gentleman look at any other relevant documents and make them available too?
– If there are any other such documents, I shall be very glad to do as the Leader of the Opposition suggests. I can also provide the right honorable gentleman with a copy of the statement that I made in relation to my discussions with the President of the United States of America, together with the covering letter from Mr. Secretary of State Dulles.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether there is any truth in tho report which alleges that he has prevented the issue of an import licence to American or other manufacturing firms for poliomyelitis vaccine.
– I have not seen any report to that effect, but I have a letter from Dr. Turnbull, the Minister for Health in Tasmania, in which he makes that allegation, which is absolutely false. Approximately a month ago, and three weeks before the declaration by Dr. Francis in relation to the value of the vaccine, I communicated with the Australian agents of all of the six firms that have been making the poliomyelitis vaccine in the United States of America, find J. asked them to discuss with me the question of the supplies that would be available. I informed the representatives of Parke, Davis and Company Limited, the firm that Dr. Turnbull falsely mentioned, that the company could have an import licence if it wished, and the licence has been granted already. L stated also that I believed that we in Australia would need a very much greater quantity than that for which an import licence was sought. The representatives of the firms who are to meet me to-morrow will bring with them all the available data with respect to the availability of supplies of the vaccine. I might say that not only have American firms offered help, but also British firms such as Glaxo, have offered their available experimental supplies, which, unfortunately, are very small. The United States Government, in response to our request for its assistance, has cabled indicating that it has imposed licence restrictions on the export of the vaccine from the United States of America and that it hopes to be able to inform us by the end of this week when vaccine supplies might be available from that country. I wish to give the lie direct to Dr. Turnbull’s statement that action has been taken deliberately to prevent supplies of the vaccine from coming into Australia until the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories were producing it. In fact, the reverse is the case, and overseas organizations arc anxious to help us in the period during which the Commonwealth laboratories are getting into action.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Health. In view of the fact that on the 4th April, 1954, I asked a question regarding the provision that the Government contemplated making for the production of serum for the prevention of poliomyelitis and the importation of monkeys for that purpose; and in view of the assurance that was given by the Minister for Health that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories representative was then travelling back to Australia in order to report as a preliminary to action being taken, what explanation has the Minister to offer for the fact that no significant action has yet been taken in this country to produce a serum although details necessary for its production have been known for a very considerable period? When does the Minister contemplate that production of serum for mass distribution will commence in Australia?
– The first consideration of the Government is the health and safety of the people, especially of crippled children. The Government has no intention of introducing a system which will increase the chances of their being disabled. We are trying to ensure that they will not be disabled at all. About eighteen months ago it was decided in the United States of America that the national foundation for the prevention of poliomyelitis which has many millions of dollars at its disposal should carry out an experiment which, up to that time, it had not been possible to make anywhere in the world. They were able to secure the voluntary co-operation of about 2,000,000 children for tests. The virus which at that time was being produced by Dr. Salk in an experimental way with the skilled assistance of the Australian, Dr. Bazeley, was to be the medium through which this test was to be made, and Dr. Bazeley was requested to continue with the test in America. That test was made in the United States and Canada during the period of the year, corresponding with spring and early summer in Australia, when, polio epidemics are usually at their height. Approximately 500,000 children were vaccinated with the vaccine, another 500,000 children were vaccinated with the basis of the vaccine but not with the active substance of it, and a third set of children was examined simultaneously, thus making the experiment complete in every way. We were informed bf the result of this experiment on April 12th, which, as I have said, covered some 2,000,000 children and involved a tremendous amount of control and supervision. The best men in America, in particular the American College of [Physicians, appointed Dr. Francis, the. secretary-general of the college, to examine all the evidence and to determine whether the vaccine was really achieving a useful result. In the meantime, all those interested were asked to stay their hand because the vaccine was being made bv only six companies to whom a contract had been let for this purpose. That determination, as to the value of the vaccine, was made only nine days ago, that is, on the evening of Tuesday of last week. “We now have that report, but only in condensed form, because, unfortunately, when the report was made insufficient copies in extenso were provided to meet the demand. However, we expect to receive another copy to-day. I understand that the main firms have already received copies, in its condensed form, but not the full report. That was the first indication that we were given of the value of the vaccine. As Sir Macfarlane Burnet said about eight days ago in a statement published in the press in this country, we should not have been justified in going on with this matter to any great extent until we had received that report.
– Will the Minister for Health advise the House whether there is any truth in the allegation that certain members of the medical profession are defrauding the Government under the National Health Scheme relative to the free medical service to pensioners? If there is any truth in this allegation, will the Minister advise the House on the following points : (a) What is the nature of the fraud? (&) Have criminal proceedings been taken against the medical men against whom the allegations have been made, and if so, what penalty has been imposed ? (c) If no action has been taken against those responsible for the alleged fraud, why not? (d) What action is being taken to prevent unscrupulous medical men from indulging in- these practices in the future?
– When the National Health Act was passed by this Parliament, special provision was made for appointment by the medical profession of disciplinary committees. The British Medical Association and the organized medical profession in all the States have appointed to these committees men of the highest possible standing. Their function is to examine all cases in which there is apparently over-visiting or any other question of service to which exception can be taken. In accordance with the terms of the act, the committees make recommendations whether the name of the doctor in question should be gazetted, whether he should repay the money he has obtained, and the like. In several instances the money has been collected, and in other instances not merely has this been done, but also the doctor has been suspended from the pensioner medical service.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is a service pensioner under the Repatriation Act at a disadvantage compared with a civil pensioner in the assessment of income for the purposes of the means test ? Is it a fact that, under the Repatriation Act, assessments are made on a fortnightly basis, whereas, under the Social Services Act, income is assessed on an annual basis?
– I do not quite appreciate why this question is addressed to me, because I do not handle these matters, but I shall refer the matter to the appropriate Minister.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories. On two occasions during the last sessional period I directed to the Minister a question concerning the adjustment of zone allowances, which were introduced in 1945, as a small measure of compensation to people who are domiciled north of the 26th parallel in the State of Western Australia. I pointed out that an adjustment had been made to meet the increased costs in 1947 but since that date, notwithstanding the steep increases in the cost of living, the matter has been wholly neglected. I now ask the Minister when this long overdue adjustment can be expected?
– That matter is still under examination.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that about 3,000,000 acres of pastoral and arable land in the Riverina have been proclaimed by the State Government of New South Wales? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that a proclamation of the kind that has been made by the socialist Government of New South Wales immediately and effectively destroys the freehold tenure and must inevitably lead to the confiscation of freehold land? Will the right honorable gentleman explore every avenue to prevent funds which have been made available by the Australian Government from being used for the purpose of acquiring land, except under sections 51, sub-section 31 of the Commonwealth Constitution which provide for the payment of just terms?
– I am not aware of the details of the matter, but I am aware of the general problem from a variety of sources, none of which has been more eloquent than the honorable member for Riverina who had directed my attention to it previously. At this very time, the matter is being closely examined by the Government, particularly in relation to New South Wales, and the Minister concerned is taking a direct and personal interest in the subject. The honorable member for Riverina may be assured that it has not been overlooked.
– Can the Minister for Defence Production say whether the Government proposes to erect a munitions plant at an estimated cost of £5,000,000? If it intends to do so, has he considered putting that plant in a country area, having regard to the need for decentralization and considerations of defence? Will he examine the possibilities offering in this respect at the large immigration camp at Parkes, which is unoccupied, and also the immigration camp at Cowra, only portion of which is now occupied by immigrants?
– The Government has not made a final decision with respect to the establishment of an explosives filling plant such as the honorable member has mentioned. It is perfectly true that I am having investigations conducted to determine a suitable site. I am also having investigations made and estimates drawn with a view to being in a position to make a final recommendation to the Government on the matter. When I am able to do so, I shall proceed with the recommendation and the Government will then decide whether it will establish that plant. I should like to inform the honorable gentleman that a close investigation has been made of all possible sites, including the two sites that he has mentioned. When a final decision has been made I. shall advise him on the matter.
Mi-. CLARK. - I have received by telegram requests that mail be delivered by air to centres along the Darling River that have been isolated for the past fortnight by flood waters. I passed on one of those requests to the Postmaster-General, yesterday, in relation to Tilpa. I should like to know what action the Minister ha3 taken to provide mail services to the people isolated in that area.
– The department has done its utmost to keep the mail services going to people in isolated areas, but it is not always possible to provide an air-mail service. For example, aeroplanes are not always available unless they are provided by the airline companies or we use Royal Australian Air Force aircraft which, again, may not be available when they are wanted for that particular purpose. However, the department will do the very best it can to keep the mails going to the people referred to by the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Social Services been notified of charges made against the War Service Home3
Division by an alleged contractor at a Returned Soldiers League conference in Brisbane recently? Has this self-styled contractor actually had dealings with the War Service Homes Division, as he has alleged, and been subjected to delays and frustrations? Oan the Minister tell, me whether the views of the Master Builders Association of Queensland have been ascertained with a. view to seeing whether that organization has similar protests to make against the division?
– My attention was drawn to a report by an alleged contractor in Brisbane who said that he had been subjected to delays in the payment of -funds for war service homes. Investigations have been made and it has been ascertained that this man has never submitted a contract for the building of a war service home, and that he is little known in the building industry in Queensland. I have had checks made by the master builders associations throughout Australia, and they have assured me of their confidence in the operations of the War Service Homes Division.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs inform me whether the Australian Government has an official representative, as an unofficial observer, at the Bandoeng Afro- Asian conference? If so, in view of the great importance of this conference to the Pacific nations, and for other reasons, will the Government make available to members of this Parliament, and perhaps to public libraries as well, a report of the speeches and the decisions reached at the conference?
– I am afraid I did not get precisely what the honorable gentleman was saying, but so far as I understood what he was saying, my reply is that wc have our Ambassador to Indonesia at Bandoeng, and we have also sent a senior officer of the Department of External Affairs to Bandoeng to assist the ambassador, so that we shall have, in due course, such reports as are available concerning what has gone on there. I understand that the pressure on telegraphic services is such that our only means of getting information from our ambassador, who is temporarily at
Bandoeng, is to send an actual individual as an air courier from Bandoeng to Djakarta, and for any material to be either telegraphed or air mailed from there; so that there is likely to be some delay in our receiving information that, has not been already reported in the press. However, if we receive, from time to time in the next few days, any reports of consequence - reports of speeches - I shall see that they are made available to honorable members who may care to see them. . I believe that the early meetings are open to the public, and I would expect the (losing meetings also to be open, but I understand that in between those meetings the gatherings are in private.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services in relation to a request which I submitted during the course of a speech last year regarding the rehabilitation of physically handicapped children. The Minister, in reply, stated that the matter was then being considered by Cabinet and by the Department of Social Services, and that he hoped to be able to lft us know of a completed scheme at an early date. I ask the Minister whether any finality has been, reached in connexion with the provision of rehabilitation assistance for physically handicapped children and whether it is proposed, in connexion with any provision made by the department, that assistance should be given to publicly maintained private institutions which handle such children, so as to assist them in the work they are doing? I stress that this is a matter of urgency, and draw the attention of the Minister to it because each day may mean the loss of opportunity for a young child to rehabilitate himself or herself from a physical handicap.
– About three weeks ago, the Government announced that it had decided to extend the scope of the rehabilitation provisions of the Social Services Act. I hope to introduce, during this session, a. bill containing the decisions made by the Government. Insofar as the question of the honorable member for Moore relates to help to public institutions. I do not think that matter is covered by the act, because it is not intended to cut across the work now being performed by State instrumentalities or private organizations. One provision in the proposed legislation relates to adolescents. The full import of the changes will be made available to the House as soon as possible, but I should like to make it clear that the Government has made a decision, and has published it through the medium of the press.
– Has the Treasurer had any talks about the convertibility of the £1 sterling with the American dollar and the effect of this action on the Australian £1? If he has had talks on this subject, is he in a position to assure the House and the nation that the Australian £1 will not be further devalued in relation to the £1 sterling?
– The talks that I have had in connexion with this matter took place when I attended the Economic Conference of Commonwealth Ministers in 1952. I have not participated in any further talks. The matter has been under serious consideration by the governments concerned, and regard must be paid to the general trends and the economic conditions prevailing.
Several Government supporters having risen in their places,
– Honorable gentlemen on my right, who have risen, received the call yesterday. I shall call an honorable member on my left who has not been given the call to date.
– Will the Prime Minister instruct the Public Service Board not to proceed with its appeal against the decision of the Public Service Arbitrator, Mr. Castieau, to grant the full two and a half times the salary and wage margins as they stood in 1937, because an adjustment at less than that rate would mean an underpayment, and wage injustice, to more than 100,000 Commonwealth public servants and would represent a negation of the principles which the Full Arbitration Court established in its judgment in respect of marginal increases ?
-If I remember rightly, that matter is before the court.
– That is so, but in any event, I do not propose to give any such instruction to the Public Service Board.
– Is the Minister for Territories aware of the apparent dissatisfaction existing among the people of Norfolk Island to the extent that they are petitioning Her Majesty the Queen to repeal certain acts of this Parliament! In view of the circumstances, will the Minister agree to a small parliamentary delegation visiting Norfolk Island, thereby securing a full knowledge of the islanders’ grievances?
– I can scarcely fail to be aware of the existence of some dissatisfaction on the island by reason of the unusual method which the islanders took for drawing attention to the situation. I think, however, that the reply which has been sent to their petition, and the action which the Government has taken, both to examine their grievances carefully, on the spot and to remedy such of those as could be remedied, has led to a. considerable diminution of any grievance that may have existed. I shall look carefully into the possibility of a small delegation from the Parliament paying a visit to this territory, in the same way as other delegations have paid visits to other territories under our administration.
– I call the honorable member for Burke.
– I rise to order. Normally, Mr. Speaker, you call one honorable member on this side of the House and one on the other “side of the House in rotation. At the moment you are departing from that practice, and I should like to ask you what procedure you are adopting in this respect.
– It has been my custom not to call honorable members who have already asked a question until other honorable members who have not asked a question, but who want to do so, have received the call. I propose to continue to observe that procedure, and I ask honorable gentlemen who asked questions yesterday, or have already received the call to-day, to be good enough to assist me by refraining from rising to-day until honorable members who have not asked a question have had an opportunity to do so.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Now that the right, honorable gentleman has had an evening to think over the suggestions made yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, will he consult with hi& colleague, the Minister for the Interior, with a view to adopting the English law regarding permissible election expenses, and applying it to candidates and organizations in future federal elections in this country? Will he also appoint a royal commission to inquire into political party funds, generally, and particularly into charges made by certain members of this House concerning an alleged payment of £13,000 to the trustees of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party Trust Fund ? Further, in order to protect the reputations of honorable members against malicious slanderers, will he include an inquiry into the incomes of members, and the sources of such incomes, in the terms of reference?
– If my friend the honorable member for Burke thinks that I remained awake last night pondering the proposal he has mentioned, he is very much mistaken. I slept the sleep of the just. I know I may be in the minority in that respect. Insofar as I have given the proposal any thought since the honorable member rose, I must say I do not favour it.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that the important elections for the Commonwealth Council of the Amalgamated Engineers Union, which is the supreme governing body of that key trade union, have just been held? Is he also aware that that union has now reverted to Communist control? Is the Minister further aware that this is one of the first-fruits of Evattism and the non-aggression pact with the Communist party?
– I am able to give the House some information about this particular matter. It is a fact that comparatively recently the control of this very important trade union, which is a key union in the industrial structure of this country, was wrested from the grasp of the Communists, largely, I believe, as a result of those groups inside the industrial movement that were working to combat Communist influence. It is also a fact that quite recently a candidate, who was- himself not known as a Communist inside the union, but who was undoubtedly receiving the combined support of Communist interests in the union, was elected, to office and, in effect, the Communist control of this particular union has thus been restored. I want to tell the. House that this is-
– The Minister is starting to smear people
– I am not proposing to smear anybody. I am dealing with facts that are within my knowledge. It is within my knowledge that originally it was proposed by the. Communist interests concerned to put up as candidate for this position a man whose- adherence to communism was notorious, in the person of Mr.-
-Order ! The Minister may not mention a name.
– In deference to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I shall not mention the name. I shall say, however, that it was originally proposed to present this man, whose Communist adherence was notorious, as a candidate for the office. It was then decided that, rather than do that and risk defeat, support would be given to another man who, it was expected, would give support to Communist policy. That is a technique that we can expect to see adopted far more extensively now that the groups,, which were formerly rendering such public service in combating Communist influence, are no longer receiving the support that they formerly received.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform the House whether compensation has yet been paid to the next-of-kin of the three national service trainees who lost their lives in the Stockton Bight amphibious disaster early last year? If compensation has been paid, how muchwas allowed in each case? Does the Minister consider that the amounts paid in each instance represent just and adequate compensation for the sacrifice made by the young Australians concerned?
– Every claim for compensation in connexion with the disaster to which the honorable member has referred has been met.
– How much?
– It is not possible for me to tell the honorable member from memory the amount granted in every case, but compensation has been paid, and every one concerned has expressed sa tisf action.
– Will the Minister provide details of the amounts?
– Is the Minister for Labour and Industry able to give an assurance to the sugar industry, based on the latest information in his possession, that all sugar from last season’s crop still awaiting shipment at north Queensland ports will be cleared before the commencement of the next crushing season early in. June?
– The problem of ensuring the movement of sugar cargoes from north Queensland ports is always difficult and is a matter of importance to the sugar industry. Consequently, much attention has been given to it by the Government and by the Department of Labour and National Service in recent years. With the co-operation of various organizations concerned, it has been possible to move a steadily growing volume of sugar cargoes. I am pleased to be able to advise the honorable member, whose interest in this matter is appreciated, that at this point of the year we have moved about 14,000 tons more than the. very la rge volume of sugar moved in the corre sponding period last year. Present indications are that all the sugar cargoes that are to be transported interstate will be moved within the period that the honorable member has mentioned. Whether all the sugar cargoes for overseas destinations will be moved depends, not so much upon the availability of waterside labour and similar factors, but upon the arrival of ships from overseas to remove the cargo. I have been assured by officers of the Department of Labour and National Service that the sugar industry is satisfied with the present position, and recognizes that considerable cargoes have been moved in the time I have mentioned.
– As Chairman, I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Proposed erection of automatic telephone exchange building at Redfern, New South Wales.
Ordered to be printed.
– As Chairman, I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject : -
Proposed erection of new studios for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, at Forbes-street, Sydney, New SouthWales.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising adjourn to Wednesday next, at 2.30 p.m.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie
Cameron). - I have received a letter from the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The failure of the Government to provide for adequate supplies of Salk anti-polio vaccine to bo available for distribution in
Australia immediately its value was proved; and the absence even now, of any satisfactory evidence that the Government is taking every possible step to ensure that the vaccine is provided without delay in full supply and free of charge nation-wide, as required to safeguard health and life.
– You are not a party.
-Order! The honorable member for East Sydney must maintain silence.
– They will have no cause for complaint if, in future, they find they are not notified by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) of our intention to submit any matter to the House for discussion.
– I think it is reasonable that, when notice of this kind is given to Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Ballarat should be informed of it. I shall be quite happy to do that. With regard to yesterday’s proceedings, I received no notice of them until after two or three visits had been paid by some person or persons to Mr. Speaker. The newspapers knew of it long before I did. I did not receive much courtesy then. The honorable member for Ballarat is entitled to courtesy, and he will get the same treatment from us as we always give to other parties. The omission to give him notice to-day was not intended as an act of discourtesy to him. I make that statement in deference to the honorable member for Ballarat, not his deputy leader.
– Is the proposal supported ?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
– April 12th of this year will always be memorable as marking the announcement of a very important advance in medical science, namely, the official announcement of the proof that the Salk anti-polio vaccine was safe, effective and potent. Australia has considerable cause to be proud of its association with that great step forward, because an Australian, Dr. Bazeley, an officer of the Commonwealth Health Department, was Dr. Salk’s right hand man in these experiments. He was, indeed, in charge of the mass inoculations that took place in the United States, and constantly informed the Australian Health Department of the progress of these experiments. So, while this date is memorable in medical history, and while there is cause for Australia to be proud of the association of one of its sons with this great step forward, there is also, unfortunately, cause for considerable reproach to the Australian Government in that, when the announcement was made on a date which had projected two years beforehand, the Australian Government was found to be almost totally unready to apply this tremendous weapon in the cause of health in this country. Since the 12th April when this great announcement was made, a stream of statements has been issued by the Government, and particularly by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). Those statements have been in explanation, in excuse, and in defence of the Government’s failure. The explanations and excuses have varied from day to day, and have been contradictory. They have been indeed pitiful, but they have not been nearly so pitiful as the unnecessary suffering that will now have to be endured for mar.y months by Australian children who are unfortunate enough to contract this disease because of the Government’s failure to prepare in advance so that this weapon, if proved to be of value, could be used immediately in the campaign against poliomyelitis. That is the charge against this Government, and it is a charge to which I believe there can be no answer. Nothing can hide the fact that the Government failed in its duty to the people of Australia, and particularly in its duty to protect the health of children and mothers.
So far as I can see, the reason for the Government’s failure lies in its procrastination, its lethargy, and its lack of interest in public health. In other countries - and this is the test of the Australian Government’s failure - including the United States of America, Canada and even South Africa, mass free vaccinations of children with the Salk vaccine are already proceeding. The machinery for the vaccinations was established in those countries in advance. It could have been established in advance here. That was not done. Thousands of cases containing millions of shots of the vaccine, were stored ready in refrigerated warehouses in the United States. That could have been done here. It was not done here and Australian mothers and children will suffer as a consequence. Everybody knew that the result of the experiments was to be announced on the 12th April. In the United States, as soon as the announcement was made, plans which had been carefully made were put into operation. In New York, the first 2S0,000 children to be vaccinated will get their immunization shots on Monday next, and the community will foot the bill. Immunization could have started on Monday next in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, and the other capital cities of the Commonwealth. There is no excuse, and no satisfactory reason for the Government’s failure to be prepared for this. It could particularly have happened here, because Australia was placed, by Dr. Salk and his associates, in a preferential position in this matter. We were given all the information at every stage, and there was no reason whatever why we could not have done in this country everything that has been done in other countries. Yet, and this is the amazing fact, it was not until two days ago, after a storm of public protest, that the Cabinet decided even to authorize the erection of a building in which Australian scientists could commence mass production of this vaccine.
-Order ! The taking of notes in the gallery is out of order. The paper on which notes are being taken will be surrendered.
– According to the information which is available, we cannot now expect the production of this vaccine in Australia, except in experimental quantity, before the end of this year, and it will be, at the best, some time in 1956 before Australian vaccine is available in sufficient quantity to conduct the mass innoculation that is required to give Australian children this new and most valuable protection of their health and lives.
The Government has a duty in this matter, but it has failed the children and it has failed the mothers. The Opposition also has a duty in this matter. The duty of the Opposition in such a matter as this is clear. It is the duty of the Opposition to apply the whip-lash of public criticism and anger to the back of the Government in order to ensure that from now on, at least, there will be no further avoidable delay. Already that whip-lash of public criticism has been applied to the Cabinet by the newspapers, and by various radio commentators throughout Australia. They have done a valuable and useful service. I refer particularly to the powerful commentaries given by Mr. Eric Baume over the Macquarie radio network. Those are signs of the working of a healthy democracy. I further give notice to the Government now, that the Opposition, at least, will not cease from its duty in this matter until the Government has done its job; until it has made the Salk antipoliomyelitis vaccine available free, nation-wide, and in full supply wherever required, in the interests of the lives and health of the children and other people in Australia who are liable to contract poliomyelitis in the future.
I point out that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have been available throughout for this task, and I contrast the complete inaction of the Government in this matter with the steps taken when a preceding Labour government was in office and the great boon of penicillin became available to the world. At that time the then Minister for Health, Senator Fraser, took steps immediately to establish in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories the opportunity and the machinery for the production of penicillin, and to place it on the free list for use wherever necessary in this country. On that occasion the late E. G. Theodore, at the request of Senator Fraser, gave a No. 1 priority to the erection of the building required, and immediately the opportunity was there the work was begun and the building very quickly completed. The production of penicillin was then commenced, .and it has been produced over 3ince in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories.
I do not know when the building, which was authorized by the Cabinet as late as two days ago, will be commenced, but I warn the Government that if it has any further interest in this matter it should not leave the construction of that building in the hands of the present Minister for Works, a man who is a very prince of ditherers in this country. If the Government has any interest at all in the production of the Salk vaccine, it should take steps to ensure that the construction of that building is placed in the hands of some one who can get on with the job. What sort of excuse has the Minister put forward for the Government’s complete failure in this matter? When the news from America first came the Government’s attitude was, “ We must be very cautious. We must not accept this immediately, but make further investigations “.
– Quite right.
– That was immediately branded as absurd by leading Australian scientists, who pointed out that every possible investigation had already been made in the United States over the course of two years by officers who included this Government’s own representative, Dr. Bazeley ; that 5,000,000 dollars had been spent during those investigations to check the potency and efficacy of this vaccine; that 120 workers had been continually tabulating the reports from 20,000 doctors and 40,000 nurses on 1,880.000 children during the trial; that 430,000 of those children got vaccine and 1,400,000 did not receive the vaccine, but were “ controls “. Does the honorable member still say that we should not accept that result, that we should not now give the immediate opportunity and advantage of this vaccine to the children of this country? The Minister has retreated from that position.
– I have not altered my position one iota.
– Then the Minister has been overruled by the Cabinet, because the announcement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) certainly at least makes it plain that there is a complete change of attitude by the Government, which is now proposing, without further investigation, to purchase the vaccine and make it available as required throughout this country. But if the Minister wants the real indictment of his inaction, it comes from Dr. Jonas Salk himself - the discoverer of this vaccine - who, in a radio-telephone interview reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 15th April, said -
I am amazed to learn the Australian Government had not begun mass production of the vaccine . . . Your Government has had all the details of my vaccine for months . . . In fact your country has been the first one in the world to have this information of how to produce the vaccine. Your Doctor Bazeley (of Melbourne) was sent here to me by your Government in October, 1052. He has worked continually with me and been of great assistance. All the time he has been sending progress reports, keeping your Government fully up to date with all progress in our work. He has had the benefits of findings and has sent those findings long before they were even published in the medical papers of this country.
What, then, is the next excuse of the Government? It is this: That it had no right to spend £200,000 in the production of this vaccine before it knew that the vaccine was safe, potent and effective. I would agree with the Government if it had said, “ We had no right to use this vaccine until we were completely satisfied that it was safe, potent and effective”, but what possible excuse can there he for the Government’s attitude that it cannot afford to spend £200,000 or even £1,000,000 ? (Extension of time.granted. 1 thank the House for its courtesy. I repeat, what excuse could there be for the Government, in view of the reports that were coming in from its officer indicating the progress of these experiments - of the possibility of their success - not spending £200,000 or even £1,000,000 if necessary, so that the weapon would be available if its value was proved and if the tests were successful? That is the indictment of the Government.
Surely a government which is prepared to spend £200,000,000 a year for the defence of this country should have been prepared to spend at least £1,000,000 for the defence of the health of the children of this country. The Government does not say, “We will not build an aeroplane, or a gun, or a bomb unless we are absolutely certain that it will be used and can be used in a war “. This is a war against disease. There was every indication that soon there would be available a weapon of tremendous value in this struggle. In America, Canada and other countries, money was spent and preparations were made so that not a day would be lost in giving effect to this great discovery as soon as its value and effectiveness had been proved. In this country, on the other hand, not one step of any kind has been taken beyond the production, in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, of the equivalent of 100 or 200 injections of the vaccine in an experimental pilot form. The fact that it was produced on an experimental pilot scale showed that it was possible to produce it on the larger scale that was necessary to ensure that it would be available immediately the signal to go ahead had been given. The Government has failed to produce it on that larger scale. It has let down the people of this country in an extraordinary manner.
However, that belongs to the past. The thing to be done now is to ensure that the Government will no longer falter or dither, but that it will give top priority to the production of the Salk antipoliomyelitis vaccine in Australia, and its distribution free of charge in every centre of the Commonwealth. Honorable members must have been amazed at the reply that was given by the Minister yesterday when he was asked whether the vaccine would be made available free of charge. He stated that that was a matter yet to be determined. How long does the right honorable gentleman propose to falter and delay? Here is a preparation that is of value in the protection of the health of every child in Australia. Why is it not made available? Why does the Minister, even now, not get up and say that what is being done in America, in Canada, and in so many other countries, will also be done in this country, and that this great weapon for the protection of health will be made available? What does he say instead? He says, “Tomorrow I am going to confer with the representatives of the commercial drug houses to ascertain how much of the substance they can import to this country under a profit-making arrangement, in which they themselves state that the cost will be 30s. for each vaccination for each child, apart from the fees of private doctors “. It is not a matter for the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) to laugh at. Does he approve of that arrangement?
– Who produced the vaccine in the United States?
– I will tell the honorable gentleman. It was done solely by commercial drug houses.
– The money was provided from private sources.
– Does the the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) approve of that arrangement? Does he think that production of the vaccine is not the responsibility of the Government ?
– It was done, and done excellently.
– The Minister’s attitude is that it is not the responsibility of the Government, but the responsibility of the private drug houses.
– I said that it was done by the private drug houses.
– Order ! The Minister for Social Services must not interject.
– It should have been produced in Australia by the
Government. It would have been of great value, but it has not been produced. If the honorable gentleman admits that is true, let him be quiet.
– Everything has been done that could be done.
– Order ! The Minister for Social Services must cease interjecting.
– As long ago as last November - and this fact was known to the Australian Government - the National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis in America announced that it was taking a 9,000,000-dollar gamble by ordering 25,000,000 cubic centimetres of the vaccine. That was to be sufficient for 9,000,000 people to receive three injections each. It was done in the United States, and it could have been done here. The information was available to the Government, but it was not acted upon. The Parliament has been in recess for almost six months while Ministers have been touring the world. Reports from Dr. Bazeley have been coining in, but, so far as I can ascertain, they have been allowed to moulder on the shelves of the Department of Health, because there is not the slightest evidence that the Government has taken one step forward in the matter. The Prime Minister (Air. Menzies) made an announcement recently which, although it was in the name of the Prime Minister, the Minister for Health states was prepared, by him. In that announcement, the Prime Minister condemned the Government, because he stated that it had more knowledge on this matter than had. any other government except those of the United ‘ States and Canada. He stated -
Because of the Government’s foresight -
And these are the words of the Minister for Health, on his own statement -
Australia has more advanced knowledge of the vaccine than any other country in the world excepting the United States and Canada. During the time he was seconded to Dr. Salk, Dr. Bazeley was in charge of the mass production aspects of the vaccine. Actually he produced more than one-third of the total quantity of vaccine used in widespread pilot trials in North America.
That, incidentally, is the answer to the Minister for Social Services. The Government had the advanced knowledge.
It had its expert there, who was engaged actively in the production of the vaccine, on the admission of the Minister for Health himself, yet not one step had been taken in this country until Cabinet decided two days ago to authorize the erection of a building in which production of the substance could be commenced.
The Government has totally failed the people ; it has totally failed the children and the others of Australia. It has done so because it has not a real interest in public health and because the Minister for Health, although not interested in the commercial drug houses himself, looks at this matter in the same manner as the Minister for Social Services, that is, that it is fi matter for private enterprise.
– -They look at the provision of the vaccine as something that should be done by the commercial drug houses.
– We are interested in having the drug manufactured.
– If I have mistaken the meaning of the remarks of the Minister for Social Services, I am sorry, but that is the impression he gave me, and that is certainly the only impression that could be gained from the complete failure of the Government to act.
.- I welcome the opportunity that has been provided by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) of making a considered statement on this subject. I was considering what would be the best line of approach for me to adopt, but the honorable member has graciously obliged by using the forms of the House to enable us to discuss the matter. The premises upon which the honorable member based his argument were false, and that is proved by the fact that nobody other than the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, apparently, knew that the results of the experiments were such that everybody was proceeding with the production of the vaccine. The United States Government is in short supply of the preparation for its programme of vaccinating 9,000,000 people, and it has already reduced the number of injections to be given from three to two, in spite of the fact that Dr. Salk and Dr. Bazeley have said that the third injection is by far the most valuable as it provides a bigger anti-body in the blood than the other two injections put together.
In order to be certain of the position, the Australian Government communicated with the American Government by cablegram. It wanted to be certain of the position before I met representatives of the various drug houses to-morrow. The message was sent on the 12th or the 1 3th April, immediately after the declaration was made in America. The Government of the United States replied stating that the Salk vaccine had been placed under export control because local demand currently exceeds supply. The authorities in America stated that they were considering our proposals but that the decision of the United States Department of Commerce in relation to the amount of vaccine that would be available for export could not be expected before the end of this week. They promised that they would inform us of the decision immediately. In a subsequent cablegram, they suggested that we should look elsewhere for supplies of the vaccine because of the shortness of supply. The American authorities asked us to advise them whether we intended to rely solely on the United States for supplies. They also informed us that Dr. Bramble, who is one of their chief officials, had stated that the vaccine would shortly be manufactured outside the United States and that it was already being produced in West Germany.
The position in the United States is exactly the same as that in England and all other countries. Until the report on the vaccine was received no action could be taken. Dr. Francis, secretary-general of the American College of Physicians, over a period of four or five months, until the end of the summer season in the United States, experimented with and studied the records of the vaccine, and every one awaited his report. Sir Macfarlane Burnet has stated that until a definite announcement on the vaccine was made no government would be justified in taking action, not merely from the point of view of the expense, but also because of the lack of certainty that the vaccine would be of real value to the children of Australia.
That is the complete answer to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, whose entire case is based on false premises that have no basis in the history of the handling of health matters in Australia. What was done by Labour in its eight years of office? I found that by the financial year 1948-49 Labour had expended on the cost of medical treatment under various health schemes almost £6,000,000. In the financial year 1954-55 this Government will spend approximately £40,000,000 for the same purposes. Yet the honorable member dares to suggest that we are cheese-paring. Let us think of medical research. In 1936, as a result of my discussions with representatives of the British Medical Association in Australia and in the United Kingdom, the National Health and Medical Research Council was brought into being, and I obtained for it an annual grant of £30,000. During the early ‘forties the grant was reduced by Labour to the amount of £20,000 a year. The allocation was about £50,000 annually when I became Minister for Health five and a half years ago. This year the Government will grant £150,000 to the council. Some of that money will be paid to research scholars in various institutions, such as the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Research, who are undertaking basic research on viruses and other medical problems. The work that we have done, therefore, entirely repudiates the allegation that this Government has been cheese-paring in its attention to health matters. We are concerned to ensure that any vaccine or other medical agent shall have behind it the whole weight of the Government’s imprimatur as an indication to the people that it is perfectly safe. We shall not support any treatment that might not be safe. Our concern is with the lives, safety and health of the community.
A typical example of irresponsible statements on this matter is the one that I corrected this morning, in which the Tasmanian Minister for Health deliberately lied, knowing that his assertion could be disproved. His allegation bas been completely disproved by my contacts with the firm with which he stated he had dealt, and also by official documents in the Department of Health. There is the complete answer to the charges that have been made against this Government. We have not delayed. We sent Dr. Bazeley, whom the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has praised so much, to the United States two years ago, because we believed, after discussions with the National Health and Medical Research Council had taken place, that Dr. Salk’s method of combining three different poliomyelitis virus strains in a dead vaccine in which the viruses had been killed’, offered hope, and that if it did not do much good it would certainly do very little harm. The only possible harm might, result from the causing of allergies, to .which the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) referred yesterday. A dead vaccine would cause no great danger to life unless it were used in such a way as to bring about anaphylaxis. In the nae of a live vaccine, on the other hand, the most extreme care would be necessary to prevent adverse effects.
Dr. Bazeley worked in. close collaboration with Dr. Salk, to whose research laboratory he was seconded, and he regularly reported to us. On the completion of the work, Dr. Bazeley returned to the Commonwealth’s pay-roll on the 1st February last, but on the advice of Dr. Salk he informed the Government that six other large laboratories in the United States and Canada were working on the production of the vaccine and suggested that it might be wise for him to investigate the work of those laboratories before returning to Australia. An order to obtain equipment for use in Australia for the production of the vaccine had already been made, and the making of an allocation of funds for the purpose by the Treasury awaited only Dr. Bazeley’s final report. The decision to obtain this equipment was not a fresh one, because interim approval had been given two years ago for this purpose. Dr. Bazeley advised us that he could investigate the work of the six laboratories within three: weeks, and asked whether he should return to Australia immediately, under the necessity to visit the United States again later, or whether he should finish the task while he was already over there, so that a much better job could be done in Australia on his return. He reported that, if he first studied the work of the laboratories that he mentioned, the Government would be able to make arrangements thai, would permit more work to be done immediately in Australia.
I am concerned not with allegations made in the Parliament or anywhere else, but with the introduction of a poliomyelitis vaccine that will give permanent satisfaction for the future and make it impossible to fault the treatment afforded to the people- of Australia. I instructed Dr. Bazeley to return to Australia with the best information that he could get to ensure that that objective would be achieved. In this matter, we have acted all along on the advice and with the cooperation of Dr. Morgan, the officer in charge of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, and on the advice of expert research workers on the National Health and Medical Research Council.
The extraordinary campaign of research in relation to the poliomyelitis vaccine developed by Dr. Salk does not seem to be understood in Australia. If it were understood, a great many of the irresponsible statements that have been made about it would never have been uttered. The investigation programme could not have been undertaken anywhere except in the United States, because elsewhere sufficient numbers of children for the tests would not have been available.
– The programme was entirely voluntary.
Six EARLE PAGE. - As the Minister has observed, the investigation was made entirely on a voluntary basis. The American National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis paid the whole of the cost of the campaign and of the preparation of the vaccine.
– Did the Americans deliberately risk the lives of 500,000 children ?
– They did not. I shall briefly- outline the method by which the Salk vaccine was developed. First, kidney tissue was taken from monkeys and used as an agent in which to grow the viruses. After the viruses had been grown and the vaccine had been developed, it was tested on monkeys to make certain that any possible lethal qualities were discovered. All possible care is taken to ensure that a vaccine has no lethal properties. Having passed that test, the vaccine was then tested on humans. Every one who submitted himself to treatment in the testing pro- gramme for the Salk vaccine, did so voluntarily. The amount of work entailed was tremendous. The research, workers had to keep detailed records of the injections administered, of the. condition of the subject’s blood, of the development of anti-bodies, and of many other factors. This enormous mass of work was finally assembled in a report made public at Ann Arbor, in Michigan, some ten days ago by Dr. Francis. It was not until the findings of this report were revealed that the green light was shown for any country to proceed with a programme based on the vaccine.
The amount of work that had to be done was enormous. It was work that we could not possibly have done in Australia because we would not: have had nearly enough children to deal with. “We have about 1,800 cases of poliomyelitis every year. In the United States there are many thousands of cases each year. Groups of non-vaccinated children had to be studied at the same time as those wh.o had been vaccinated, and it was necessary to wait for the result.
The question now arises as to what, has been happening in regard to the making of the vaccine. My department received the information that was necessary for its preparation, and a respectable amount of the vaccine was prepared and has been used in hospitals for children with infectious diseases in various states. The records relating to its use have been carefully tabulated. la the United States the people who are making the vaccine were: paid from the funds of the foundation to which I have referred and they did not undertake large-scale production until the green light was given. Consequently, a tremendous amount of vaccine is not available at present _ and production will have to be magnified.. The suggestion that there has been unnecessary delay on the part of the Go vernment is absolutely unfounded. A great deal of money has been mad, available to enable the study of the causation of virus disease in. this country. [Extension of time granted.’]
The next question that arises is how we are going to handle the distribution of the vaccine. “Who will receive itf How much vaccine will be needed to make worthwhile experiments? It i.= obvious that action should be taken in Australia similar to that which has been taken in the United States. It is necessary to deal with certain age-groups. Australia has practically 2,000,000 children aged from one to ten years which is the most susceptible age-group. A supply of vaccine sufficient for 6,000,000 injections would be needed in order to give them three injections each and it is not possible that that amount of vaccine will become available during the next six months from any source. In the course of discussions with representatives of big drug houses who have been interested in this mattei-, I was informed that they would not be able to supply any vaccine during May. They thought that during June they might be able to supply 15,000 units. But about 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 units would be needed in a year in order to- enable a worth-while experiment which would justify the handling of the necessary records. This vaccine cannot bp given indiscriminately to everybody. In the present state of knowledge of this matter, it is necessary to make certain that every case in which the vaccine is used shall be carefully tabulated so that we shall know its effect.
My department will deal with the subject of mass production as soon as adequate preparations have been made. We have the necessary monkeys on order. In Sydney, Sir Edward Hallstrom, and, in Melbourne, the zoo authorities, are willing to help us by holding a surplus of monkeys in order to provide a continuous supply. It is necessary to take this action because there is a season in which monkeys can be caught easily - and ii is necessary to have a continuous supply of monkeys throughout the year in order to keep to a schedule of injections. Substantial laboratory space and equipment are already available for this purpose. Th<? necessary trained personnel are also avail- ii bie and they will be able to get on with this work as soon as the most modern equipment has been installed. I do not think that any one would advocate that an undertaking of this magnitude should be started with out-of-date equipment. I arn sure that the action that is being taken will be in accordance with the general wish of the community. I was glad to see that the Bulletin substantially supported the action that the Government has taken. It did not seem anxious to praise the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). It regards him as a bit irresponsible. The Government is dealing with this matter in a sound and proper way. We have to make certain that, in the last resort, we shall achieve the best results with the greatest safety to all concerned.
– The real object of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) in bringing this matter before the House is to impress upon the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) its imperative urgency. The move is also designed to enable the House to examine the facts and ascertain whether preparations of a more satisfactory character should not have been made. For that purpose, I should like to point out some established facts which are known to the Department of Health and to the Minister. I base my case on the answer which the Minister himself gave to a question which .was asked in the House this morning. He said that it was decided in the United States eighteen months ago that the American National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis should conduct experiments on a tremendously wide ‘ scale. I agree that probably the United States was the only country in which the experiments could have been conducted. The experiments required 2,000,000 children to be submitted to the test. The virus was produced in an experimental way. Dr. Bazeley had been in the United States for years and the Minister for Health deserves credit for keeping him there on behalf of Australia. But because the department had Dr. Bazeley in the United States, Australia was in a special position to benefit from the experiments if they were successful. Tests were made on 500,000 children; then on another 500,000 children; and then on a third group. Then it was decided that an announcement should be made by Dr. Francis of the United States College of Physicians. Companies in the United States had been making the vaccine for this great experiment and progress reports were received by the Minister for Health all through that period. I take it that the Salk vaccine has been found to be sound.
– That is so; it was found to be 80 per cent, effective.
– I refer to the reply which the Minister gave to a question asked in this House by the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) on the 8th April, 1954, that is twelve months ago.
– That was when they were just starting the experiment.
– No; I think the experiment was commenced prior to that. This is what the Minister said in reply to the honorable member for Darebin in April last year -
About eighteen months or two years ago-
That would be nearly three years ago -
Dr. Bazeley was sent from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to the University at Pittsburg, where certain researches were taking place. As a result of those researches, conducted by a team of experts-
This is what the Minister said twelve months ago - it is believed that at last we shall be able to prepare a vaccine for poliomyelitis which Vii be much more effective than anything that has been produced to the present time.
That was a very strong statement.
– That was the reason for the mass test.
– That was a very strong presumption that the vaccine would be a great success. The Minister’s reply continued -
Dr. Bazeley, who is at present travelling to Australia is bringing full information back to enable us-
To do what? I continue to quote the Minister - to work out what will be necessary for the preparation of the vaccine.
– That means in Australia.
– The Minister continued -
When he arrives the whole matter will be thoroughly studied and a decision made.
What decision was made then, when Dr. Bazeley returned to Australia?
– To await the final decision in the United States of America.
– And not to make preparations ?
– Yes, we went ahead with the preparations and made the vaccine.
– It looked extremely probable at the time when that question was asked twelve months ago that the vaccine would be a partial or a complete success. Then the question arises as to what the Government and, particularly, the department did, because the Minister must leave it to the department to get on with the job. Through having Dr. Bazeley in America, the Government enjoyed a priority of enormous value to Australia, but the results of that advantage are not ascertainable.
– They will be in six months.
– The cablegrams which the Minister received from America and which he was good enough to show me this morning seemed to indicate that we might have difficulty in getting vaccine. The reply he received on the 18th April last stated that Salk vaccine had been placed under export control in the United States, because local demand currently exceeds supply, that an application would have to be made to the United States Department of Commerce for an export licence and that an answer could not be expected before the end of this week.
– Is not the real inference to be drawn that America would not go ahead with production of the vaccine because it was uncertain as to what the results might be?
– That is partly but not entirely correct, because six companies in the United States were licensed to produce the vaccine. A second cable which the Minister received on the 19th
April last from the Australian Ambassador in Washington stated -
Please advise also whether you intend to rely solely on the United States for supplies. Bramble says the vaccine will shortly be manufactured elsewhere. He understands it is already being produced in West Germany.
Bramble is the officer appointed by the American Government to deal with the export of vaccine from the United States of America. So, although West Germany did not have a man in America as we had Dr. Bazeley there, that country has beaten Australia, to the satisfactory production of the vaccine. I do not desire to elaborate on this matter. Every honorable member desires that the vaccine shall be made available subject to necessary safeguards. However, I emphasize that the proposal now before the Chair implies that the Government should take every possible step to ensure that the vaccine shall be produced without delay in full supply and free of charge nation-wide, as required to safeguard health and life. The tragic thing is that in spite of the advantage which Australia enjoyed, through the initiative of the Department of Health in the first instance, we are not in a position to go ahead. Whenever cases of this kind arise, the Minister will never admit that a mistake has been made. Never! Have you ever made a mistake?
– Order! The right honorable gentleman must address the Chair.
– I ask the Minister to put life and vitality into the departmental officers. He should not be satisfied with a proposal to have a building which will take two years to erect, but should get on with the job. He will receive the full assistance of the Opposition. The facts are fairly clear, and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro acted wisely in directing the attention of the House to this matter. I shall not elaborate the subject further except to say that in this matter there will be a united effort to see that the necessary things shall be done. But the Minister must look back in order to ascertain where the delay took place. The department is not now ready to go ahead. It is lagging behind as, I regret to say, departments occasionally do. I know how supplies of medicine to the troops were held up. This department needs prodding, but the Minister., instead of doing something about this matter, comes here and says that we have the best of all possible worlds. I pay tribute to his fighting qualities, but he must act immediately.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– There are two elements in the proposal now before the Chair. The first of them is that the Opposition desires to censure the Government for not having taken vigorous and satisfactory steps to provide Salk vaccine in Australia; and the second is that the vaccine is not being provided free. The second element can be dismissed at once, because no statement has been made about the method of providing the vaccine. Therefore, I shall deal with the first element. It is very easy for persons who, themselves, have no responsibility in a matter such as this, which is of great delicacy and difficulty in a scientific sense, to make expansive and, perhaps, sentimental statements about those who have such responsibilities. It is also easy to understand the public attitude and the demand for this vaccine because poliomyelitis is a terrible disease. It has the most terrifying and crippling effects, and it has ruined the lives of so many young people. It is a fearful terror hanging over the minds of parents throughout the country. Therefore, it is easy to understand how, when some announcement is made about some cure or preventive of this disease every one demands that it should be made available immediately. However, in this matter the Government is not faced with an easy problem. I shall mention a few of the difficulties which confront it, but before I do so, I say that one would have expected that a subject of this nature would have been approached on a basis of restraint and responsibility. It is a cruel thing to arouse false hopes or mistaken resentments. It is a very cruel thing to the people of Australia to do what I suggest the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has done, and that is to arouse the idea in people’s minds that perhaps much more could have been done. I submit that when the honorable member raised this matter he did so with characteristic exaggeration, with characteristic emotion, with characteristic overstatement and, I regret to say, with characteristic inaccuracy of statement.
I have referred to the problems which . the Government has had to face. Let me indicate briefly to the House what they have been, because they are very relevant. In the first place, worldwideresearches have been going on into this matter, not only those so successfully conducted on such a large scale by Dr.. Salk in the United States of America,, but also other researches of a different nature in Great Britain, on the Continent, and elsewhere. The Government, to my knowledge, has been advised of those researches. The results of them are not entirely in line with those of Dr. Salk. It is quite right that the Government should have waited and assessed the information reaching it from other sources, instead of relying only on one source.
The hope that we have is that by this particular vaccine - it may be given by, perhaps, three injections or in some other way - a state of immunity might be created which would last sufficiently long for those who received it to be able to withstand an attack of infection by the poliomyelitis virus to which they would almost certainly be exposed in other years of their lives. But we do not yet know how long this immunity will last, and, of course it is most important to know about this. It would be highly undesirable if we were confronted with a situation where we had a period of immunity which was short and where people were given some immunity by the vaccine and subsequently exposed to a disease to which they might succumb, or from which the effects might be very severe. Further technical problems are raised also. These are some of the problems the Government has had to face, and they are not problems that can be answered immediately. I suggest, with great respect, that the answers to some of them are not yet known even to Dr. Salk himself. So I say that the Government has proceeded with judgment, reason ‘and deliberation in what it has done. There was necessity to wait until full and detailed reports were obtained. I hope that what I have been saying has; shown the House, in some measure* how necessary this was.
Let me give a short resume of what the Government has actually done, because it is charged with not having done enough. What has it done?’ It has had Dr. Bazeley giving it information from Pittsburgh for more than two years. It has received frequent reports, and more than that, it has acted on them. Eighteen months ago, the Government provided a large sum of money for the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and a pilot plant was set up. Problems of tissue culture were investigated. Long lists of the chemicals and apparatus which would be required were sent by Dr. Bazeley. These have been ordered and. are now available. Dr. Bazeley, at the instance of the Government, is now inspecting the manufacturing plants and techniques in the United States and obtaining full information for the Government of Australia and the people of Australia. Full investigations have been made about other sources of supply of the vaccine. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) raised the question of people other than those in the United States supplying the vaccine. It is true that some supplies may be obtained from other sources, but at the same time it should be borne in mind by the House that these, perhaps, may not bc quite the same as the vaccine produced in America. For instance, I understand that the vaccines produced in Western Germany, which have been referred to, are not quite the same, and therefore the Government has wisely proceeded with some deliberation and caution, and with more investigation, in order to find out whether these alternate supplies, which, in any case, could only be. obtained in minute quantities, are as satisfactory as the supplies which could be obtained from America.
These are not matters for which the Government can be condemned. Indeed, they are matters of commendation, and I say that it is quite plain, even from the cursory examination of the Government’s actions which one is able to make in a short ten-minute speech, that the Government has acted with great judgment and responsibility in this matter. I repeat what I have already said, that it is doing no service to- Australia and, in fact, may be inflicting’ actual mental cruelty on people, to make it appear that a great prize was in our grasp and that, by negligence or indolence^ it has been withheld from us. I say that that is simply not the fact, and I hope that succeeding speeches from the members of the Opposition will be on a more responsible plane than those we have heard already.
There are other things that the Government has done. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) himself announced to the House this morning how he had arranged to meet in Sydney to-morrow representatives of the great manufacturing drug houses which are making this substance in the United States. In addition to that, the tooling up, as it were, of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories has been put in train by the Government, and the initial action in this regard was taken many months ago. I could go on, if time permitted, to give further instances of responsible Government action which has been taken already, but the sum-total of this action is not that we are lagging behind other countries, as was suggested by the honorable member for EdenMonaro, but that, in fact, we are ahead of all other countries, except the United States and perhaps Canada. At the same time, not only have we received reports from the United States, but we have also made, as far as possible, full investigation of what is being done in other centres, such as Western Germany. (Extension of time granted.) I thank the House for its indulgence.
I wish to point out some of the difficulties which still face the Government. First, there are the technical difficulties. Secondly, there are the difficulties connected with making really sure that its actions are in the best interests of the people, and especially the children, of Australia. These are not things that can be ascertained overnight. Thirdly, there are what one might call mechanical difficulties. There is the difficulty of securing sufficient supplies of monkeys from which this vaccine must be made. That has been overcome by the Government. I am assured that adequate supplies of monkeys are available, and that facilities for housing them have been arranged by the Government, with, I freely acknowledge, the ready assistance of great Australian citizens like Sir Edward Hallstrom. We are glad to ;<c knowledge what these people have done. l t would be easy to say, “ Well, fly all the monkeys in and have everything ready to go off in a few days’ time “. It is not as simple as that. There are other things which a responsible government must consider. It would be perfectly possible to bring monkeys here rapidly in that way and, at the same time, to introduce into Australia all sorts of diseases, such as rabies and foot and mouth disease. The Government has to km all these things into consideration in the action which it has taken.
Finally, might I say a word about import licences. The canard, if I may call it that, has been voiced that the Government has been obstructive in the matter of import licences. I want to give that a categorical denial. It i3 not a fact that the Australian Government raised import licence difficulties in relation to the importation of vaccine, but it is a fact that there are difficulties in obtaining sufficient export licences, from the main sources of supply. What f have said will, I hope, make it plain to the House that the Government has acted with responsibility in this matter, that we can congratulate the Minister for Health on what has taken place, and that we can feel that, although we are not and could not have been been as advanced as the United States, none the less we are far ahead of practically every other country in the civilized world in respect of what this Government has done to establish a protection against the terrible disease of poliomyelitis.
– At the outset, I make it clear that I’ do not attribute irresponsibility to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). No one who holds that portfolio could be other than responsible. However, in the present circumstances, it is a matter of feeling too responsible, or being too cautious. The department must accept some criticism in that respect. I assume that the Minister has been advised, but I believe that such criticism as we have heard has been fairly well founded. On the one hand, the Minister stated this morning that Sir Macfarlane Burnet said that the department was justified in staying its hand until such time as the experiments had been completed. On the other hand, Dr. Jonas Salk said that he was amazed to learn that Australia had not begun full-scale production of the vaccine. So, if thepress and laymen offer some criticism, it would seem that they have founded their criticism on sound premises.
I consider that I, personally, have very good reason for offering criticismbecause, as has already been indicated, it was twelve months ago that I asked the Minister whether the Commonwealth was making preparations regarding thevaccine which would prevent a spread of poliomyelitis. The reply of the Minister was in such explicit terms that I might have expected that the preparations were to be made almost immediately he had completed his answer. I ask the House to note carefully his reply to me. He said -
Dr. Bazeley, who is al. present, travelling to Australia,-
I am not clear from the Minister’s reply this morning whether or not Dr. Bazeley actually came to Australia, because that sentence seems to have been left unfinished - is bringing full information buck to enable us to work out what will be necessary for the preparation of the vaccine.
That is a definite statement and, in the circumstances, I do not consider that the criticism which has been voiced up to this moment has been unfair. Two conflicting authorities have spoken on the subject, and the Minister assured me twelve months ago that Dr. Bazeley was actually on his way back to Australia to begin the necessary preparations here.
Certain interesting matters emerge from the discussion of this subject this morning. The first is that experiments to test the efficacy of this vaccine have been conducted over a period of two and a half years, and that Australia has been quite competently represented in that field of experimentation in the United States of America. Another matter which emerges is that no substantial preparations have been made to manufacture the vaccine in Australia. I do not suppose that any one will quibble with the apologies which, in effect, have been made here this morning in connexion with this matter.
– There have been no apologies.
– Apologies have been offered. No one asked that the vaccine should be distributed before its efficacy had been fully tested. That part is perfectly clear from the discussion that has taken place this morning. I appreciate most definitely that a vaccine of this kind should not be distributed until all the records have been completed and the full facts about it are known. I fully appreciate, too, that the experiments could be made only in a country with a large population, from which sufficient numbers of people would voluntarily submit themselves for the tests, and the field was broad enough to enable a proper record be made. Most of the statements which have been made in the debate this morning have referred to that very point.
No one would ask for the general distribution, of a vaccine which had not been thoroughly tested. Every one realizes that unless proper tests have been made the “ kill “ might be worse ultimately than the cure. I fully agree that Australia should have stayed its hand until the full results were known, but I believe that Australia was expected to go a little farther than that stage. The Minister has made it abundantly clear this morning that it is necessary to house the apparatus, and that the apparatus will be most valuable. Was there any reason in the world why such n building could not have been commenced, say, twelve months ago, at the tune I asked my question in order that that part, which would not have been any loss to the Commonwealth in any circumstances whatsoever, should now be available to house the apparatus? It appears to me that nothing has been done in that direction up to the moment, because I notice that a reply to a question asked in the Senate stated that buildings were now given an order of priority. As everybody knows, that means very little in these times.
Whilst an order of priority may be given for a project, the completion of the work depends on contractors, labour conditions and all those sorts of things.
The logical inference to be drawn from the speech of the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) is that action should have been taken to arrange for the importation of monkeys on a much larger scale than has been attempted by the department. The honorable gentleman has drawn attention to certain dangers. It might be necessary to apply the quarantine regulations to the animals. The least that could have been done was to have the monkeys here by this time in order that the work could be started on animals that had become acclimatized and were actually ready for experimental purposes.
If I understand that position correctly, monkeys must be treated for eight or nine months before the kidneys are removed. One report states that the monkeys are in transit at the present time and are expected to be here about: the time Dr. Bazeley arrives in Australia. So, nine months, or even twelve months may pass before use can be made of the animals. The Minister for Health indicates that he disagrees with me. I inform him that such an idea is current and that I understand it will take at least eight months to prepare the serum. If that is not so, the people should be informed that the preparations can be made in less time. The Minister should be able to give us a reasonable indication of when it will be possible to treat people in Australia on a broader basis than is indicated at the present, time.
The most alarming feature, in my opinion, is what the Minister has reported to us this morning. He has stated that he is to have a conference with some firms that may be able to import some of the vaccine. As I understand the position, the United States has not sufficient vaccine to meet its own requirements, and since charity begins at home, the embargo which has been placed upon the export of the vaccine is certainly not likely to help Australia to augment its supplies. No one in Australia will be able to draw much comfort from the statement of the Minister in that respect.
These matters are rather important, because the people require some reassurance. The Minister or the department has certainly been careful in the matter. I should say that the Minister or the department has been over-cautious and that over-caution can also be dangerous. I do not suggest that the Government should have expended money on experiments which were already being satisfactorily conducted in the United States. However, the Government should have made all the necessary preparations for the mass distribution of this vaccine in order that the public might be assured that the serum would be ready for general distribution as soon as the experiments had been completed.
My criticism is that, at the very least, the building to accommodate the apparatus should have been completed by this time ; and that importation of the necessary monkeys should have been effected by now, because it was known twelve mouths ago that the experiments were likely to be successful. The Government would not have been taking a very great risk had it imported the necessary number of monkeys so as to guarantee their availability to us at the time when experiments would begin in Australia. I believe that the Government has exercised caution to a degree that is shown to be dangerous, now that an embargo has been placed on the export of the vaccine from America. The Government should have known that that was likely to be the case, because it should have known that there would be a rush for vaccination by this new method. Knowing these things, the Government should at least have made preparations to ensure that Australia could carry on with its own work of protecting the lives of Australians, especially young people.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) has attempted to put forward a reasoned case. He has not attempted to criticize the Government severely. He has touched on .some of what might be called the smaller details of the matter. He said, first, that the building of accommodation for the equipment should have gone ahead more rapidly. I can assure him that it is going ahead. A priority will be given, and the fact that the building will not be completed in the course of the next few months will not delay production of the vaccine. Secondly, he suggested that, monkeys might have been imported at a greater rate. It is extremely doubtful whether that could have been done. There are already enough monkeys here to permit the pilot plant to operate effectively. Another 200 are already on the way and will be landed in Australia shortly. Under arrangements now being made it is hoped to import between 2,000 and 2,500 monkeys a year. In other words, it is hoped that Australia’s total requirements will be met by importation.
Finally, the honorable member said that in his view the Government had acted too cautiously. I cannot agree with that statement, and I am certain that the Government cannot agree with it. As my colleague has pointed out, we must not create false expectations in relation to this matter. Nothing would be worse than the creation of an impression that a permanent cure for every kind of poliomyelitis had been discovered, or that, even more important, a preventive had been discovered. I do not think that Dr. S’alk himself would argue that he has found a perfect cure for poliomyelitis, and this Government would certainly not make such a claim. For that reason it was essential that the Government should proceed prudently. I believe we can prove that the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has not only shown imagination and initiative, but has also been careful not to create false expectations that a permanent cure for this terrible disease had been found. In my view the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) might at least have expressed his great joy that at long last there was a possibility that a cure for, or preventive of, this dreadful disease had been found. Instead, very hesitantly .and timidly he attempted to criticize, in a somewhat exaggerated way, what has actually happened.
In my view this discovery could well be the breaking of the dawn of a new era, and we may hope that this dread scourge will at long last have been brought under control. But it is pertinent to mention that there are many scientists who say that caution should be exercised in relation to the claims made for this vaccine. There are also many scientists who believe that alternative methods of experiment should be proceeded with and that we should not place complete confidence, and have complete hope, in this single experiment.
What are the facts? A little over two and a half years ago Dr. Salk thought he had found a cure for, or preventive of, poliomyelitis. Since then he has proceeded with research and experiment and, later, with testing of the results in the United States. It was not until about the 12th April this year that he was able to announce that in his opinion it was possible to prepare a vaccine that would be safe, potent and, perhaps, effective. That announcement was not made until two and a half years had elapsed. It was only then that Dr. Salk himself was able to announce to a television audience that his hopes might perhaps be realized. To show that there were still doubts about the matter it is only necessary for me to mention that in the United States itself, and Canada, where the major experiments had been made, no attempt was then made to produce this vaccine on a major scale. Even now it has been found necessary to reduce the number of treatments from three to two, so as to be able to carry out an increased number of vaccinations of children. It has been decided to increase the number of primary and secondary vaccinations from 18,000,000 to 27,000,000, in the hope that in the meantime the extra booster vaccinations necessary might be prepared so as to enable the third booster injection to be given. So, even in the home of this scientific discovery, where the research and tests were carried out, it was thought that prudence was the wise course to follow, and mass production of the vaccine was not proceeded with until the authorities felt reasonably certain that a solution had been found.
Let me now examine the objections raised by the Opposition. I concede immediately that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) did not raise any substantial objections. He merely urged that there had been real ground for presuming that the vaccine would be a success, and that therefore some more hurried action might have been taken. Those who listened to him will admit that it was a very watery kind of criticism. It is perfectly obvious that he got up for the purpose of speaking only, and not for the purpose of making out a case. Let us examine what the Government has done, and submit it to the test of the facts, and ask ourselves whether the Government has proceeded realistically. I believe that the answer to that question is, in the light of the facts that the Minister for Health has shown imagination, and has proved that this country is further ahead in respect of this problem than is any other country in the world, with the exception of the United States and Canada, which, naturally, had a start on other countries. If that can be said truthfully, then the charge made by the Opposition falls flat. What can we say in reply to the criticisms voiced to-day? First of all, we have technical experts of the highest standard, people like Sir Macfarlane Burnet, who have said, “ Gang warily “, which means “ Go cautiously “, because up to the 12th April this year the tests had not been conclusive. I venture to say that honorable members who have had the privilege of reading the latest report by Dr. Francis will agree that even at the present time the outstanding results achieved cannot be claimed to be really conclusive, and that Dr. Salk himself is proceeding with the preparation of new and improved vaccines.
What has the Government done? In the first place, one of the most celebrated Australians in this field was sent abroad for two years. Initially it was hoped that he might have to stay abroad for only one year. As the honorable member for Darebin has said, at one stage, more than a year ago, the Government contemplated bringing him back. However, because the experiments had not proceeded to a satisfactory conclusion, the Minister for Health wisely decided to leave him there until the experiments had been completed and until he had learned as much as was possible about what was being done. In the meantime, all the information available was being sent here, and people throughout the country are now being trained in the use of the vaccine. Secondly, a pilot plant has been built and is now in operation. The necessary monkeys are here, and the vaccines are in fact being produced in this country. The know-how is here, and the men are here to enable us to expand production very quickly should we decide to do so. More than £200,000 has been allotted for the construction of buildings and the purchase of equipment. When my colleague, the Minister for Health, first contemplated asking Dr. Bazeley to come home quickly, the right honorable gentleman was asked if Dr. Bazeley could stay a little longer because he wanted to see and investigate the newest methods and research in centres other than Michigan’ and Pittsburgh. My colleague readily agreed that Dr. Bazeley should get all the information he could because he wanted Dr. Bazeley to be thoroughly conversant with the latest developments.
I have mentioned rhesus monkeys. Some are here now, 200 are on the way and an endeavour is being made to obtain Australia’s needs totalling between 2,000 and 2,500 monkeys a year. Personnel are being trained at the pilot plant and when Dr. Bazeley returns, the ground work will have been prepared so that we can start immediately mass production of the vaccine. Other important facts emerge-
– .Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) on bringing to the notice of the Parliament the important subject that is now under discussion. I also congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) who, several days ago, publicly drew attention to the failure of the Government to take effective action to give to Australia quickly the vaccine in sufficient quantities so that our people might have the same benefit as the people of the United States of America will have in this regard.
Beyond that, I believe that the Parliament and the Australian Government should indicate in a proper manner to Dr. Salk the great appreciation of this country and its people of the magnificent work that he has done in establishing, for. the first time, a means of preventing poliomyelitis. Although it may not be my place to do so, I wish to congratulate the United States Government upon its decision to give Dr. Salk a life pension of 10,000 dollars a year. I believe that the Australian Government might very well consider earnestly giving to Dr. Salk, by parliamentary consent, a life pension in proportion to the number of people in Australia who will benefit from the great discovery he has made. I urge the Government not to regard this suggestion as a passing reference made in the speech of a member of the Parliament, but to give it very serious consideration. I believe that the whole world would appreciate such a. gesture and that particularly in the United States it would be well received.
This is not a party political question and I have been glad to note that all honorable members on the Opposition side have sought to avoid making a party political question of it. Unfortunately there are some people, too many in fact, who take very little interest in such matters until they become personally affected. While that may be excusable or inexcusable in an ordinary person, according to how an individual views the problem, it is not excusable for the Parliament to adopt such an attitude. This Parliament has to take the initiative in these matters and not wait until members of Parliament are personally affected. For that reason I am not at all satisfied with the actions that have been taken at this late hour by the Government to give to the Australian people some quick and adequate safeguard against the dreadful disease that is under discussion. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) boastingly notified the House that the Government had made available £200,000 for the erection of a building as an instalment towards the production of this vaccine in Australia. That is a paltry sum.
– So far, this Government has seen fit to make available only £200,000 of the £2,000,000 which Sir Macfarlane Burnet says is required to give us sufficient vaccine to vaccinate the whole of the Australian population.
– His figure of £2,000,000 relates only to the actual cost, of the product.
– .1 1 is not possible to measure in terms of money the value of life and limb. When we talk of costs, we should keep in mind the fact that already poliomyelitis is costing us an enormous sum of money each year in treating and looking after victims of the disease in their crippled state. It will continue to do so until the unfortunate victims die. I am almost tired of hearing it said that we cannot afford to give the people health. Surely to goodness a country that can afford to spend millions of pounds on atomic bomb experiments ought to be able to find £2,000,000 to safeguard public health ? The position in South Africa would have been similar to the position here but for the action, of the South African authorities in establishing a fund for the purpose of setting up a special laboratory. Dr. C. Walters, the medical superintendent of the Prince Henry Hospital, said that in this country the children would be compelled to wait for vaccination for perhaps two to three years, because it was so hard to get anybody in the Government to concern himself with the subject of poliomyelitis research. He said also that about the only thing the Government had done so far had been to give Dr. Bazeley leave of absence from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to go overseas, and keep it posted on all these matters, but it had done absolutely nothing with regard to his reports. Dr. Walters went on to say -
It is hard in Australia to get any one from the Government sufficiently interested to pull up a chair and talk for tcn minutes about polio.
There is no excuse for the inaction of thu Australian Government. The West German Government has done something in this matter and, if we can accept the statement that Dr. Walters made to the Sydney Daily Telegraph on the 16th
April, South Africa has already produced sufficient serum to be able to vaccinate all the children in that country, now that the Americans have told us that the serum affords a safe method of vaccination. Dr. Salk said that the Australian Government had had all the details of his vaccine for months, and that he was amazed that we had not begun to produce it. According to a report in the South Australian News of the 15th April, Dr. Salk said -
Your country was the first one in the world to have the information on how to produce the vaccine. Your Dr. Bazeley, of Melbourne, was sent here to me by your Government in October, 1052.
He has worked continually with me and has been of great assistance. All the time that he has been sending progress reports, keeping your Government up to date with all progress in our work. He has had the benefits of findings and has sent those findings long before they were, even published in the medical papers of this country. The thing that surprises mo is this wide gap between us - you, with all your information, have not begun work on the vaccine.
There is no shadow of doubt that although this Government had all the information that was necessary, it chose to take absolutely no notice of it. The Minister says now, as one of the excuses for not having acted earlier, that Dr. Francis said there was no proof that the vaccine was a guarantee against poliomyelitis, but Dr. Salk has pointed out that the test3 made by Dr. Francis were carried out two years ago, when the vaccine was in the experimental stage. I believe there is a lot to be said for the criticism that was levelled against this Government by another eminent doctor. He stated -
The Government in Australia apparently are so completely apathetic towards the question of polio that they have not as yet apparently taken the trouble to read the reports as they come to hand.
It is useless for the Government to say that it could not possibly have been further advanced in this matter than it is at the moment, because according to Dr. A. J. Metcalfe, the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Health, the Salk vaccine has been manufactured in Australia for the past twelve months. What I want to know and what the people want to know-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Like other honorable members who have addressed themselves to this question, the first thing I wish to do, as a member of the National Parliament, is to express my sense of thankfulness that some preventive has been found for the disease which, I suppose, is more greatly feared in this country than is any other. I congratulate the Opposition on the com.parative moderation with which it as dealt with this matter. There has been no attempt on the part of the Opposition to make a general attack on the Government’s handling of the health problem as a whole. I take it that that is because there is at last some recognition by the Opposition that the Government has produced a health scheme that is considered to be one of the best in the world. I am glad that nobody has gone out of his way to make anything in the nature of a personal attack on the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page).
It is in that spirit that I wish to address myself to the problem. I believe it to be one that goes beyond party. Nothing would have been easier for any honorable member than to greatly embarrass the Government, because we know perfectly well that the fear of poliomyelitis is so great that the people’s emotions can be very easily aroused in relation to it. In that spirit I want to say that I do not think the performance of the Government in this field has been as good as it might have been. We have been kept abreast of these developments by Dr. Salk more than has any other country in the world. If we had followed the advice given eight months ago by leading pathologists and authorities on this question outside the Department of Health, the Government would have taken, as those authorities urged it to take, a calculated risk and provided a building and facilities for developing this vaccine. But it did not do so. It is to be noted that the West German Government did take such a step. There we have two directly opposite courses of action. I pause here to express my admiration for the way in which Dr. Salk made his discoveries known all over the world as they came along. That was a wonderful thing. We were all informed.
Some countries acted and some did not. Some countries are in a position to proceed immediately with immunizing their children. We are not in that position. I think nobody can deny those basic facts.
– What about the improved vaccine that has already been discovered by the Pasteur Institute?
– Frankly, I know nothing of it. All that I know about the Salk vaccine is what I have learned from a layman’s point of view. Eight months ago, at the instigation of certain leading medical men and pathologists, I approached the Government on it. Frankly, I do not believe that the response of the Government was all that it should have been, having regard to the extraordinary seriousness of this matter. I do not blame any man for making errors. We must expect our Ministers and the Government to make errors and their supporters to stand by them when that occurs. But I think this is serious to some degree because of the obdurate attitude on the part of the Department of Health. The department was getting information from America. It was known, if not to everybody’s satisfaction at least to the satisfaction of Dr. Salk and the American Government, some eight months ago that the vaccine was so safe that they could proceed to try it out on 1,000,000 American children. Does any one suppose that, if the American authorities were not perfectly satisfied that the vaccine was safe, an experiment - if I may call it so - on such a scale would ever have been carried out? I do not believe that for a moment. To my certain knowledge, as I have said before, some leading people in Australia begged the Government not to carry out an experiment of that kind,, but to establish facilities which, when the success of the vaccine was proved beyond all doubt, would enable us immediately to proceed to immunize children in this country. However, that has not been done, and we find ourselves in the rut with the rest of the world. The great advantage we gained through being kept abreast of developments in the United States has, I am afraid, been largely lost.
The question that now arises is when we shall have the vaccine in this country. lt may be manufactured here, or possibly the United States will make it available to us. The Government has taken whatever steps it can, I understand, to getquantities of the vaccine into Australia at the earliest possible moment. Bearing in mind the fact that we have none manufactured here, I do hope that everything possible will, at this somewhat late stage, be done to ensure that we shall get supplies from overseas as rapidly as possible. There is good reason to believe that, had the Government’s advisers kept abreast of developments in America, and had the Government sent an emissary to that country immediately confirmation of the efficacy of the vaccine was known, supplies of the Salk vaccine would have been made available to this country, hearing in mind the contribution of the Australian, Dr. Bazeley, to its development. I make that remark in all seriousness, and, indeed, with some knowledge of the matter -which I am prepared to disclose to any member who is interested. The last thing I wish to say is that I believe the Department of Health gave wrong advice. The Minister, on the face of it, accepted that advice, and goodness knows, in such circumstances it cannot be easy to determine what is right and what is wrong. At any rate, he took the advice which I am afraid produced the worst result, and for that the Department of Health stands condemned, and is to a degree deserving of censure.
.- I support the remarks of honorable members on this side of the House and of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). First, let me say that all Australians are, once again, indebted to the United States of America which has put its great resources into the development of this new scientific discovery. There are other countries whose scientific inventiveness is as great as that of the United States, but no other country has facilities which can so quickly put scientific discoveries into practical effect, and no other country is so generous as is America in making promptly available to the whole world the practical results of its inventiveness. The Salk vaccine is one such instance.’ To a certain degree, we must all pay a tribute to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) for his foresight in making available an officer of his department, two and a half years ago, to undertake full-time work on the development of Dr. Salk’s discovery. It is from that stage on that we venture to criticize the Minister. He seems to resent that criticism, but this is an important matter in which doubts have arisen and have yet to be allayed.
Our criticism of the Minister is that there was no follow-up in Australia of the discoveries which were promptly reported to us by Dr. Bazeley and that no preparation was made in Australia, either promptly to import the finished product from America, or, more importantly, promptly to produce it in Australia. By our association with America, we were saved all the expense of the initial development, but we should have had the foresight to have the facilities here ready to undertake production. We have not those facilities, and the most that the Minister has been able to say is that £200,000 will be spent on erecting a building. Are we to assume that no production of this vaccine, the efficacy of which has already been proved, can take place until that building has been constructed? Sir Macfarlane Burnet, than whom there is no greater expert in this field in the southern hemisphere, has estimated that the cost of the facilities will be not £200,000, but £2,000,000. The Minister has sought almost to cover up the position, or he has been extremely lackadaisical. He said that in a year or two we would be able to produce this vaccine in Australia. Which is it? A year or two years? This is important, because every year a great number of cases of poliomyelitis are notified, and many of them prove fatal.
The incidence of poliomyelitis fluctuates. In 1952, for instance, there were 4,736 notified cases, but since then the number has declined. The disease follows a parabola. There may be a great number of cases in one year, and then there may be a decline. I regret to say it looks as if poliomyelitis is due for an. upsurge. Its incidence is greatest in the spring and the summer. Considering the delays that have already occurred, it may be too much to hope that Australia will be able to produce this vaccine in time for the spring in Australia this year. But, there is no guarantee yet that it will be available in the spring of 1956! It should be possible, in view of the vast resources of this country and the pressing need for this vaccine, to ensure that it will be available at least by the spring of next year, but there has been no assurance of that in the speeches of honorable members opposite.
We still do not know when Australia will, at last, put into effect the production techniques which our senior officers have already learned on the other side of the Pacific, and which they have repeatedly reported to us. We already spend hundreds of thousands of pounds every year in treating people who are afflicted with poliomyelitis. By undertaking a substantial expenditure now - let us say a capital expenditure amounting to four or five times our present annual expenditure - we could guarantee that at least 80 per cent, of those cases of poliomyelitis would never occur. I say SO per cent, on the basis of the vaccine developed two years ago, the results of which were announced at the beginning of this month. It is altogether likely that the vaccine now being produced in America, mid which we should now be able to produce if we had been prompt in following up the information that we obtained in that country, will be more than 80 per cent, effective. But, taking the purely economic aspect, this money would be well spent.
We all join in complimenting the “Minister in sending Dr. Bazeley to America to assist in developing the vaccine and to learn the techniques for producing it. But we criticize him, or the officers of his department for whom he is responsible, and for whom he is accountable to this House, for not following up those discoveries. One does not wish to speak as dramatically as some Ministers of State governments, who have said that every case of poliomyelitis that may occur in Australia this year or next year will be due to the negligence of the Minister, but it is astonishing that after a debate that has continued for two hours no assurance has been given by the Government that adequate funds will be made available to produce this vaccine, of which we have known for many months - perhaps two and a half years.
There is still no assurance by the Government about the methods that will be adopted to produce it, whether its production will remain in the hands of the drug houses who are not prepared to produce it, but who have the import licences enabling them to import it, or whether its production will be taken over by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, whose economy and efficiency of production are excellent and unapproached in the southern hemisphere. There is no question but that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories could produce the vaccine; the question is whether they will be given the funds to produce it.
The purpose of this discussion is to ensure the provision of this vaccine free of charge to. everybody in this nation. It is commonplace knowledge that people whose children are at the most susceptible age for infection by poliomyelitis are the very people who are meeting the heaviest financial commitments of their lives. People whose children are at the maximum age of incidence have not yet reached the maximum earning capacity. They have, however, already reached the time of maximum commitments, and an assurance from the Minister, or from any honorable member on the Government side who spoke in this debate, would have gone far towards reassuring those people whose children may get poliomyelitis, but who feel that their resources may not be equal to giving them the best attention, that the best provision will be made for their children as far as the resources of this country can make it available.
.- Two aspects of this debate have engaged my particular interest. The first is that the trend of the remarks from honorable members opposite has been entirely different from what I should have expected from a body of responsible men. There has been a great deal of criticism of the actions of the Government in the press and through the radio broadcasting system, and most of that criticism has been particularly irresponsible and ill-informed. I suggest that it would have been far better, and more in keeping with the protestations of goodwill which have come from honorable members opposite, had they submitted a resolution deploring criticism of the nature that I have referred to in connexion with this very vital matter.
With all due regard to what has been said about the efficacy and proven value of the Salk vaccine and treatment for poliomyelitis, it is only ten days ago that those engaged in the experimental work in the United States submitted to the world that they were satisfied that the experiments offered proof that the treatment was efficacious. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) attempted to condemn the Government for not doing something about a treatment that he said had already been proved. I remind him that it was proved only ten days ago. Therefore, apparently the Government is being condemned because it did not anticipate the ultimate success of an experiment that has been so generously conducted for a long time by the United States.
– The Government knew all about it.
– The Government knew all about an experiment that was being conducted, and if it had been possible for the Government to assist in conducting the American experiment it would have done so. But to conduct the experiment in Australia on the extensive scale of the American experiment would have required every child in Australia under the age of fourteen years to become a guinea pig. At this stage when, practically speaking, only a moment ago evidence was adduced that the treatment is effective; - and there are still qualifications with regard to the use of the vaccine - the Government has been condemned for not taking action. Honorable members should remember that even now there are differing views among experts in the United States about the correct method of applying the treatment, and how often and how many times the vaccine should be used. One would have anticipated that if the protestations of the Opposition as suggested in the submission to the House were genuine, the Opposition would have condemned the illinformed and irresponsible criticisms and suggestions that have been made in this country, which might well place human lives in jeopardy, until we are perfectly satisfied about this vaccine. It has taken many years for the medical profession and the health authorities to get people to accept that there is some protection in the use of vaccines for innoculation and vaccination. If at this stage the Government had attempted to do anything which might have caused the slightest adverse reaction among the people the whole of the vaccine system of preventive medicine would have been affected. It is of no use for the Opposition to say that it wants to deal with this matter on a non-party basis, because the Opposition is not doing that. It is disgusting to the highest degree, although it is in keeping with Labour technique, to prey upon the misfortunes of the people in order to gain some party political advantage. The position now is that this Government is going ahead with its plans about poliomyelitis. We .havE heard how the Opposition has ignored the assurance given by the Prime Minister himself about what has happened.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 92.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen, through Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to repeal the Babbit Skins Export Charges Act 1940-1942 and the Babbit Skins Export Charges Appropriation Act 1940.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to repeal the legislation relating to the Australian Rabbit Skins Board. This board was created, as a wartime authority, to ensure an adequate supply of rabbit skins at reasonable prices for both military and civilian use. The control scheme administered by the Australian Rabbit Skins Board began in 1940, and continued, until 1949. The board derived its powers from the National Security (Rabbit Skins) Regulations. Under the scheme, quotas of rabbit skins were allocated to hat factories, and the hat manufacturers were reimbursed the difference between the appraised prices of the skins as specified in a schedule prepared by the board and the ruling market prices. The buying was so organized that the hat manufacturers did not compete amongst themselves. Funds to meet the subsidy payments and to cover administrative expenses were derived from a levy on exports of rabbit skins under the Rabbit Skins Export Charges Act 1940- 1942. The collection of the export levy was suspended as from September, 1948, but the scheme itself continued in operation until April, 1949.
The National Security (Rabbit Skins) Regulations lapsed in 1949, but as there were some outstanding matters, including claims against the board, the other legislation relating to the board was allowed to stand for the time being. All of the board’s affairs have now been wound up and there is no further reason for maintaining the legislation relating to the board. I accordingly commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the charging of fees for consular acts performed by Australian diplomatic and consular officers and certain other officers of the Commonwealth.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to provide machinery to enable the Government to levy fees for the consular acts performed by the Department of External Affairs and by Australian officials abroad. Con-. sular acts are easier to list than to define generally. “Within the meaning of this bill, they are those normally performed by consuls in the course of their official duties, and falling within the categories recognized by international practice. Broadly speaking, they are administrative or legal services performed by Australian Government officials abroad on behalf of (a) Australian citizens travelling or resident overseas, or having dealings with overseas countries which require administrative sanction, or on behalf of (&) citizens of other countries who have administrative dealings with the various Australian authorities. I can make this clearer by listing some of the more common consular acts, such as the issue of passports, the grant of visas, the taking overseas of affidavits and declarations for use in Australia, the authentication of signatures on documents, and the certification of translations. Generally, these acts are performed by officials overseas, but the Department of External Affairs . in Canberra is often asked to perform them as well.
Most consular acts are in the nature of specific services rendered to members of the public generally, and this being so it is reasonable to make a charge for them. Of course, all diplomatic, consular, and trade commissioner activity is undertaken on the public behalf generally. Consular acts, in the sense meant here, are precise services rendered to particular individuals, which at home would, in most cases, be undertaken by municipal authorities or private legal practitioners, who would charge for them. The Australian taxpayer, who provides the machinery for these services abroad, is, I think, entitled to expect the beneficiaries to contribute towards their cost. Such charges are, in any case, general in international practice. For instance, the United Kingdom scale of charges for consular acts contains more than 100 items, and the Canadian scale more than 50 items.
So far as Australia is concerned, the charging for consular acts is relatively novel, and only follows the establishment of an Australian External Affairs service. It may be relevant to mention here that Australian practice does not distinguish, as does the practice of some countries, between a diplomatic service and a consular service. The performance of consular acts by Australian officials abroad is not confined to consuls as such. For this reason, honorable members will observe that the bill covers the performance of consular acts by both the diplomatic and consular officers of the External Affairs service, and by members of the Trade Commissioner service of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
The bill does not, in itself, purport to prescribe the fees which will be payable. It leaves these to be prescribed by regulations, which will list in detail the charges for each particular act. There is already provision under existing legislation for fees to be levied for the performance of certain specified consular acts. For example, the Passports Act and the regulations made under it lay down the fees for the issue of passports. For most normal consular acts, however, there is at present no fee charged, particularly for those acts which are of a quasi-legal nature. The bill provides that a fee under this measure is not chargeable in respect of an act for which a fee is chargeable under another act. Finally, the bill provides that a list of fees payable for the performance of consular acts shall be displayed in a conspicuous position at all overseas posts. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Kent Hughes) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for the setting up of a Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology with appropriate and necessary functions for the up-to-date application of meteorology to civil aviation, shipping, primary production, industry, trade, and commerce. There has been practically no amendment of the original measure, which was enacted in 1906. It is now out of date in respect of quite a large number of things in the extended sphere of meteorology for which, perhaps, there is some tentative authority. The bill repeals the original act by substituting an entirely new measure.
It proposes the repeal of the Meteorology Act 1906, a short measure which provides for the establishment of observatories, the appointment of a Commonwealth meteorologist, and the making of arrangements in respect of meteorological matters with State governments and the governments of other countries. The original legislation was designed to cover the taking over by the Commonwealth of the meteorological services that were previously conducted by the States. The provisions of the 1906 act are now quite out of date, and actually serve no useful purpose. The activities of the Commonwealth in the sphere of meteorology have necessarily developed beyond the usages and practices in relation to weather information that were foreseen 50 years ago. Since that time, the availability of diverse and complicated meteorological information has become essential to the success of operations of the armed services, particularly the air services, and civil aviation, and is of increasing importance for the protection of life and property, as well as for the convenience of everyday life.
Honorable members will recall that recently the Government established two radar stations - I think a third is in the course of being established - on the coast of Queensland for the purpose of trying to plot more accurately the course of cyclones, and to give warning in advance of their arrival. I received a letter recently from one of the chambers of commerce in Queensland, which stated that the new service was very much more effective than that which was previously in operation. I refer to that as an example of the expanding services that are undertaken by meteorologists to-day. It is also desirable that the meteorological authority of the Commonwealth should be brought into line with the functions of agencies of the United Nations to which
Australia is a signatory. The principal commitments in this regard are membership of the World Meteorological Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization. Furthermore, it has become encumbent upon the Government to make proper arrangements for the specialized application of meteorology to many fields which in the past were beyond practical limitations. Those fields involve the training of staff and the carrying out of investigations to take advantage of development in meteorological science. In addition, the growth and development of modern telecommunications have presented completely new concepts of the means of collecting and distributing meteorological reports and information which form the raw material and the product of the bureau.
In particular, therefore, the bill seeks to provide legislative authority for the Bureau of Meteorology to undertake such functions as (a) the provision of meteorological services for civil aviation and the armed services, upon which it i3 already engaged; (b) the provision of educational facilities for the training of observers and professional meteorologists ; (<;) the promotion of the use of meteorological information and the advance of meteorological science; and (d) the carrying out of investigations and research in relation to any of the matters already specified. There are certain other minor matters to which reference is made in the bill such as the change of name from the Meteorological Branch of the Department of the Interior to the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That leave bc given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Nationality and Citizenship
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the Mil be now read a second time.
The clauses of the bill now before the House are aimed chiefly at removing unnecessary obstacles in the way of the achievement of Australian citizenship by new settlers in this country. As the House is well aware, nearly a million migrants have come here since the war. It has been the aim of the Government, as it was that of our predecessors in office, to encourage our new settlers to become true Australians as soon as they possibly could, both in fact and in law. With this aim in view, and having in mind that, great numbers of our new settlers are becoming eligible for naturalization, the fifth Australian Citizenship Convention, which met in Canberra last year, was asked to consider at length the existing requirements for the grant of citizenship, both to British immigrants through the process of registration, and to aliens through naturalization. The convention made a number of recommendations for alteration of the requirements. Certain further proposals arose from further review of the requirements by the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council and by the Department of Immigration. All of the proposals that could be adopted have been combined in this bill, which also makes some other minor amendments of a drafting nature.
The major proposed alterations to the requirements for citizenship may be summarized as follows: - It is proposed, first of all, that the Declaration of Intention to Apply for Naturalization, which at present must be made at least two years before the final application for naturalization is lodged with the department, should no longer be compulsory, but voluntary only. It is then proposed that another procedure, less troublesome to applicants and more effective administratively, should be adopted to serve the purposes which the compulsory Declaration of Intention served. The new procedure will permit applications for naturalization to be lodged six months before the new settler completes his residence qualification, which is usually five years. That period obtains, generally speaking, throughout the British Commonwealth. The complement of this ita provision that, generally, applicants will not be granted their Certificate of Naturalization until at least six months after they lodge their applications for naturalization.
For the explanation of these changes, it is necessary to recall the original purposes of the compulsory Declaration of Intention. As the then parliament was told when the original Nationality and Citizenship Act was being considered, the purpose of the compulsory declaration was threefold: first, to discourage aliens from seeking citizenship at short notice for purely business reasons, without any appreciation of its deeper implications; secondly, to facilitate the instruction of candidates in the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship during the compulsory two-year interval between the declaration and the final application; and, thirdly, to allow thorough inquiries regarding suitability for citizenship to be made before final applications were lodged. It is now considered that for the achievement of these purposes a period of six months, instead of two years, will be as effective and in some ways more suitable. It. will, therefore, suffice if, instead of requiring two steps in the process of naturalization - that is, a Declaration of. Intention first, and application two years later - we require only the application itself, but permit it to be made six months before the normal date of eligibility, and postpone the grant of naturalization, as a general rule, until six months after the application is made. It will still he possible for new settlers to make Declarations of Intention to Apply for Naturalization, after one year’s residence in Australia if they wish. It is not desired to eliminate the Declaration of Intention altogether because, first, it affords new settlers an early opportunity to demonstrate their readiness to become citizens and, secondly, it is desired to avoid disturbing certain arrangements which have grown up, for example, the Army’s rule that aliens may enlist if they have declared their intention to become citizens of this country. The changes which I have so far described are effected by clause 5 and clause 6 (b) of the bill.
The next proposed amendment to the requirements for citizenship will make it possible for certain very limited classes of people to acquire or re-acquire Australian citizenship without necessarily having had any specific period of residence here before applying. At the present time the Minister’s discretionary power to waive all residence requirements, or to shorten the period that otherwise would be required, is confined to minors. It is now proposed that ho shall have such a discretion in respect of the husbands and wives of Australians, and also people who at some time previously have been Australians but have lost their citizenship by becoming citizens of other countries. The explanation of these proposals is simple and is related to the basic purpose of the normal residence requirement. That purpose is primarily to ensure that new settlers shall have an opportunity to be assimilated into our community, to Learn our language, customs, laws and so on. The need for such a period of residence is much less, and often is non-existent, in the cases for which this bill provides. It is frequently the case, as might be expected, that new settlers who marry Australians are already very well assimilated or soon become so. And, of course, the other class of people in mind - those who were formerly Australian citizens - can usually resume life in our community without any prolonged period of adjustment. The changes in respect of this matter are embodied in clauses 4 (b) and 6 (b) of the bill.
The third proposed alteration of citizenship procedure is designed to allow all minors over sixteen years of age to receive certificates of citizenship of their own. Until now it has been the custom, when a man is granted citizenship, to include the names of all his minor children in his certificate, even though they may be nearly 21 years of age. It is considered that young people over sixteen could more suitably be given their own certificates. In the case of certificates of naturalization, this would mean that the young people concerned would appear at the normal impressive naturalization ceremonies to take the oath of allegiance with their parents, and to receive their own certificates. I am indebted to honorable members on both sides of the House and also to senators for the assistance that they give the Government in making these civic procedures more effective and_ impressive for the persons to whom citizenship is’ granted. At such ceremonies, as most members of the House know, newly -naturalized citizens receive a suitable welcome as well as advice about their new rights and duties, and it is important that young people of an age to understand such proceedings should be present at them. These changes will be effected by the new sections 12 (3) and 15 (6) which will bo inserted in the principal act by clauses 4 (&) and 6 (fc), respectively, of this bill.
The final amendment, so far as the requirements for citizenship are concerned, is proposed because it is felt that it should no longer be necessary for intending applicants for naturalization to advertise in the newspapers their intention to apply for naturalization. Since 1917, when this requirement came into force, it has been shown to be unnecessary, and it merely adds to the expense of becoming a citizen. In some instances, the requirement causes embarrassment. Some people who have been long resident in a community and have not previously become naturalized are not happy about having it publicly advertised that up to the time at which the advertisement appeared they were not naturalized. The purpose that the advertisements were intended to serve can be met adequately by other means. The idea implicit in the requirement is that members of the public should know of applications that have been lodged and should be able to protest against the granting of citizenship to people whom they regard as undesirable. But, in nearly 40 years, very few such protests have been made. In fact, on the advice given to me by officers of the Department of Immigration, I think I can say that the protests could almost be counted on the fingers of one hand. Apart from that fact, the department does not, of course, rely on such protests in order to satisfy itself as to the good character of applicants, but makes its own independent inquiries. Clauses 10 and 11 of the bill are designed to eliminate the requirement.
The other provisions of the bill are of a varied nature. Clause 3 proposes to delete “ Newfoundland “ from section 7 of the act; Section 7 names the countries whose citizens are to be deemed British subjects under the act. Newfoundland is no longer an independent nation of the British Commonwealth, but has become part of Canada. Its citizens are, of course, now Canadian citizens and as such are entitled to recognition as British subjects. Clause 7 effects a drafting amendment made necessary by the proposal, which I have described, to give the Minister discretionary powers in the matter of waiving residence requirements for certain limited classes of people. Clause S seeks to confer British nationality upon a certain limited category of women who had always previously been regarded as British, but who, as a result of recent legal opinion, cannot now be so regarded in terms of the law. The women in question are those who were alien by birth, but who married men naturalized in Australia prior to 1920. It had been thought that the Nationality Act 1920 effectively conferred British nationality upon such women, but it is now the view of the law authorities that a flaw in the 1920 act requires remedial action now if we are to continue to accept such women as British subjects. The necessary amendment will be made by clause 8. One advantage of this amendment, if my memory serves me correctly, is that it will have a bearing upon qualification for pension rights. Clause 9 repeals section 31 of the act which no longer has any force or effect, since it concerned only applications lodged before or within two years after the 26th January, 1949.
Clauses 12 and 13 arise from the very great increase that has taken place in the number of applicants for naturalization. It is no longer practicable for the Minister of the day to undertake all the routine work in relation to the granting of certificates of citizenship that formerly was undertaken by him. In my view, it has become essential for the Minister to delegate his routine functions to a greater extent than he has done up to the present.
– To whom will they be delegated - to the administrative head of the Department of Immigration or to some one else?
– The duties will be delegated only to senior officers of the department.
Vf.r. Whitlam. - Is there any such safeguard in the bill?
– I shall look at that matter at the committee stage. I have explained the purpose of the change and the means by which it is to be effected. The last two clauses of the bill are designed to authorize the delegation of such, routine functions. I might say that the Minister will still approve applications and his signature will appear on the certificates.
– The bill does not state to whom the powers shall be delegated.
– No. If it is considered that safeguards should be provided, we can consider the matter at the committee stage, when I shall be able to give more precise information to honorable members.
The House might be interested to know that the action now being taken is part of a. more comprehensive approach designed to encourage the person who is qualified on all counts by residence to become a full citizen of Australia. I am sure that all members of the Parliament will support this approach on the part of the Government. We have taken considerable trouble and been to considerable expense to attract new settlers to this country. A rapid rate of population growth is vital, not only to our development, but also to our security. I am sure that all honorable members will agree that it is desirable that people who have been attracted to this country shall become full citizens of Australia in every sense of the term.
In addition to the legislative changes embodied in this bill, members will be interested to know that some other alterations have also been made in those requirements for naturalization which are not prescribed by statute. These additional changes, like the amendments to be made by this bill, are designed to remove unnecessary obstacles in the way of any new settlers who wish to join us in Australian citizenship. The most important of the changes in question is the reduction of the maximum fee for a certificate of naturalization from £5 to £1. Inquiries had shown that a good many of the new settlers who were putting off applying for naturalization were’ doing so because of financial considerations. A large number of new settlers are, to their great credit, frugal people who have saved a considerable portion of their earnings in order to establish themselves quickly and satisfactorily in Australia. There was some discouragement for them in the fact that when they finally sought naturalization a fee of £5 had to be paid. It was the Government’s view that worthy people should not be debarred from citizenship for such reasons, but that citizenship is something that should be earned and not bought.
Another minor change is the extension of the categories of people who may give character references in favour of intending applicants. For example, executive officers of good neighbour councils and new settlers leagues, that is, the voluntary bodies who are doing so much to help our new settlers become assimilated, can now give these references. The form of certificate of naturalization which has hitherto been a very plain document is also being made more impressive in keeping with its importance to the grantee. The conduct of naturalization ceremonies, which have already been very greatly improved, will be further assisted by the production of a comprehensive handbook on the details of how they should be held. In all these ways, we are seeking to make the process of becoming an Australian citizen a dignified one, but one which does not offer any unnecessary obstacles to those people who have come here from other lands and who are ready to share with us the privileges and duties of Australian citizenship.
Honorable members will, I am sure, be the more satisfied with this bill by reason of the fact that its chief provisions are the result of most careful thought by two truly representative bodies - the Australian Citizenship Convention .and the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council - which are specially qualified -to offer advice on .citizenship matters. I commend the bill to the House, fully confident that it will receive the support of ,all sections of this chamber.
Ifr. CALWELL (Melbourne) [4.18].- The Opposition offers no objection to this bill, the contents of which were known to us in advance because of the deliberations of the fifth Citizenship Convention. The clauses as outlined ‘by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) are acceptable to the Opposition but, in some cases, they require a certain amount of criticism. This is a bill to amend the Nationality and Citizenship Act, an act which is almost as old as the Commonwealth itself. Never before has Australia accepted as many new citizens as it is accepting now. It seems that as many citizens will be naturalized within the next few years as have been naturalized in the first 55 years of federation. About 150,000 people immigrated to Australia in 1949 and about 152,000 came here in 1950. Half of those were people of British nationality and of various citizenships within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Of the total of approximately 300,000 persons, 150,000 came from continental Europe. They will require to apply for naturalization at some time or other. Most of them are becoming eligible for naturalization only now. Those with dependent children, of course, can naturalize their children, at the same time as they and their wives are naturalized. From now on, quite a large number of persons will wish to accept the responsibilities and duties of Australian citizenship and they will wish to take whatever action may be necessary to enjoy the privileges and protection that goes with that citizenship.
Australian citizenship, which involves the acceptance of British nationality, is as important a benefit as any country can confer. Paradoxically, because we are a conglomeration of nations calling ourselves the British Commonwealth of Nations, we find all sorts of peculiar situations arising. On Saturday night last, I was told at a meeting of the Good Neighbour Council in Melbourne that a person who becomes an Australian citizen is not accepted in full as a British national when he or she happens to go to New Zealand. Such a person has all the rights and privileges of British citizenship, but he has to report to the police monthly. I was struck with the absurdity of that situation, but I was assured that I had been correctly informed. Perhaps the Minister for Immigration could make an inquiry about the matter. I should be glad to be advised that that is not correct, but if it is correct the Government should take the matter up on a High
Commissioner basis with the New Zealand Government in order to have the position altered.
The requirement of a five-year period of residence preceding naturalization has never been altered, and I hope that it will not be altered. Some people have said that it would encourage New Australians to become naturalized if they were allowed to acquire citizenship within twelve months of their arrival in this country. I do not need to tell the House the dangers that are inherent in such a proposition. In Great Britain, about the time that World War II. broke out, some people who had come to that country five years before and had acquired British nationality, began to change their names in all sorts of ways. The Chifley Government introduced an amendment to the act which provided that a person who wished to change his name while he was still an alien must obtain the permission of the Minister. The Labour Government, was constrained to take that action because one bright person who had acquired British nationality about 1939 set up in business in 1940 under the trade name of Winston Churchill. If we give away citizenship rights as if they do not matter we shall encourage that sort of undesirable incident. We have not done that to date, and not many objections have been received from intending applicants for citizenship that the requirements of the act are too stringent. If we had uniformity throughout the British Commonwealth in regard to citizenship requirements there could not be any objection on the part of other dominions and the United Kingdom to accepting those on whom we have conferred the benefit of citizenship.
From the statistical bulletin which is issued by the Department of Immigration, and which is a most informative and useful publication, I find that 28,600 people have become naturalized since the war in Australia. They cover at least 30 nationalities. I should imagine that there would be between 50,000 and 60,000 persons in Australia to-day who would want to become naturalized. Therefore, if it is necessary for the department to increase its staff in order to facilitate the processes of naturalization, I hope that the Minister will be able to find the necessary numbers. I understand that the department is working overtime now in preparing certificates of naturalization and in checking the history and good conduct of persons who are applicants. 1 have no doubt that those officers are doing a worthwhile job. A lot of people think that we are heading for war and if trouble is coming and it breaks out in the Pacific Ocean - incidentally every war since World War IT. has happened in the Pacific - in Korea, China and Malaya - then, while we have the opportunity, we should help all those persons who want to do so to become Australian citizens. In war-time naturalization ceremonies are generally suspended or, at least, officers attached to the Department of Immigration are diverted to other work; and we do not want persons who wish to become citizens to be prevented from doing so. Through naturalization they gain great advantages in time of war. They will not have to run the risk of being enemy aliens, having been born in a country with which Australia may become involved in war. It is our duty to enable every person who wants to acquire Australian citizenship to do so as speedily as possible. As I have said, the department will help in this direction, but insofar as we can influence New Australians we should urge them to acquire citizenship.
Under the bill it is proposed to eliminate the requirement to advertise, and also to lower the fee that is charged. Those are steps in the right direction. Some people, in recent years, would not advertise in the newspapers because they were afraid that the statement of their names and places of birth in the press might endanger relatives and friends still behind the iron curtain, and it was a very natural emotion on their part that they should deprive themselves of something in order that they would not endanger persons who might still be under the dictatorship of the Soviet. Under the new provisions it will not be necessary to advertise. As the Minister has said, during the past 40 years very few persons have objected to those who wished to be naturalized. If our security service is as good as we think it is, and if it is a3 good as the money provided for its main tenance should make it, then, obviously, the security people should be able to tell us who is desirable and who .is undesirable. I have no doubt that both the reduction of the fee and the repeal of the requirement that an applicant must advertise will encourage a flood of applications to the department.
I do not like the clause under which it is proposed to empower the Minister to delegate his authority to departmental officers to sign naturalization certificates. I have the highest respect for the officers of the department, many of whom I appointed when I was Minister for Immigration. It is not that they are not competent, or highly desirable citizens, but I think that it is necessary that the signature affixed to a naturalization certificate should be that of a Minister of State.
– .The Minister’s signature would appear.
– I thought the Minister said that somebody else would be authorized to sign the certificate on his behalf.
– For all intents and purposes, the signature will be that of the Minister, but it will not. be personally affixed by the Minister.
– I believe that the Minister should personally affix his signature or delegate authority to another Minister to sign on his behalf. After all, we have twenty Ministers of State and, surely, all of them are not so overworked as is the Minister himself, because he is administering two large departments and is carrying more than his fair share of the burden of administration. Surely, there are other Ministers who could affix their signatures on his behalf. Originally, the Governor-General himself used to sign documents of this kind, until, when there were about 3,000 applicants a year, that duty became too burdensome for him and the Minister was given that authority. If any authority is to be delegated by the Minister, it should not go beyond a member of the Parliament. For instance, a Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Immigration might be appointed and he could perform that task. In any event, such authority should not go beyond a person elected by the people. If we get into the habit of allowing departmental officers to sign these valuable documents they will be handled like taxation clearances and other documents which, though important, are to be dealt with in a matter of fact fashion. We substituted the naturalization ceremony for the issue by clerks of courts of a certificate of naturalization which, previously, was sent out in much the same way as a dog licence was issued from a local government office. We sought to ennoble the naturalization ceremony and the Minister has paid tribute to his predecessors in helping him to impress upon new Australians the importance with which we regard the function of naturalization. It is not good enough for us to say, in effect, “Well, the Minister is busy and anybody else can sign, and say that they are signing for him”. Some other machinery for this purpose should be devised. The Minister should delegate such authority, for instance, to the chairman of the Immigration Advisory Committee. He should be able to delegate such authority to a person associated with parliamentary life rather than administrative life. Officers of the department who, at the moment, are sitting to the side of the chamber will not misunderstand me when I make these remarks, because I regard them as my very good friends; and I shall never tire of paying tribute to the very good work that they have done in building up the Immigration Department during the nine years that it has been in existence.
It is proposed ‘ that the declaration of intention to apply for naturalization shall no longer be compulsory, but voluntary only, and to permit applications to be lodged six months before the new settler completes his residence qualification. That may be desirable. Under the original act, we did what the Americans did, because they seemed to have acquired the technique of making new arrivals in the United States Americans first in spirit and intent and got them to parade down the streets even though they looked the most un-American collection of Americans that ever paraded anywhere iri Hie United States. However, if the
Minister believes that the proposed provision is good, I, for my part, accept it. Let me say, parenthetically, I trust that we shall increase the number of representatives of new Australians at subsequent naturalization conventions even, if in order to do so, we may find it necessary to decrease the number of representatives of Australian organizations who now attend such conventions. The time ha.p arrived when we should sit down and listen to the new Australians telling u« what they want us to do rather than continue the present procedure at such conventions of telling them what they should do. I know that some steps have been taken in this direction and that theyhave been for the better ; but I should like to see twice as many representatives of_ the nationalities now represented in this country attending these conventions and giving us the benefit of their experience, because their fate is now joined with ours. We have as much right to listen to them as we have to request that they should listen to lis.
The issue of certificates, as proposed by the Minister under the new system, seems to be quite good. It is certainly a novelty to give a certificate to a minor of sixteen years of age, but there does not seem to be any logical reason why it should not be done. I suppose it is our innate conservatism - and we are all conservative to some degree - which makes us say that a person can only have these rights when he or she turns 21. After all, when war comes we conscript boys of eighteen years to fight, and while the war lasts we give them a vote in elections to this Parliament.
– This does not alter a right; it merely alters a procedure. We will have the information incorporated on the father’s certificate, but the children will be given certificates of their own.
– I appreciate what the Minister says. It has been the custom, as he says, to put on the father’s certificate the names of all of his children. In future, they will get certificates of their own.
– If they are over sixteen and attend the ceremony and take the oath of allegiance.
– That, in a sense, fits in with what I have said. I think it is quite right. I am glad that the payment has been reduced from £5 to £1, because instead of requiring the newcomer to meet the cost of his naturalization - and I suppose even £5 does not fully meet it in every case - the Australian Government is going to meet the cost, and we will simply ask the person becoming naturalized to pay a nominal fee.
There is not much else that I can say about the bill, except to express pleasure at the fact that I can read in a speech by the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) that a million people will have arrived in this country since the end of World War II. I know of no immigrantreceiving country which has ever been able to put a million more people into its population on the base population of slightly more than S,000,000. That, surely, must be one of the greatest achievements of any western nation in modern times. I think we can all take pleasure in that fact. We are all, I think, apprehensive about the future and wish that the numbers were even greater. Looking back over the years, we can express regret that the cycle of depressions, bad years, drought years and the like prevented immigrants from coming to this country in the numbers in which they have come in quite recent times. If our forebears had only known the right methods by which to handle our financial and other problems, perhaps there would not have been any interruption, and at the end of the century we might have had, instead of 3,000,000 people, something like 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 people. Indeed, we might have had as many people as that if the process of population increase had gone on. as it did over the years following the discovery of gold and the opening up of land.
We all wish for a population of 20,000,000 people in our time. We hope that whatever can be done will be done as quickly as possible to bring more and more people into this country, even if we have to take risks of inflation, and even if we have to take some risks in regard to the standard of living. The more people we get into this country while there is yet time, the better our chances for survival will be if, unfortunately, we are involved in Avar again. We are never the aggressors in war; we wish for peace. No nation needs more years of peace than does this country, in order that it might develop its resources and grow. But the rapid growth of population, both by natural increase and by the surplus of arrivals over departures during the last decade, has greatly benefited Australia. It has added to our prospects of security and must give pleasure to all of us, because immigration is the one question in this House which is bi-partisan, the one question about which we do not quarrel. It is the one policy which we all actively support.
I am glad to know that aliens may enlist in the Army, if they have indicated their intention to become Australian citizens, but it struck me, immediately I heard the Minister say that, that perhaps we should ask, “Why do the Air Force and the Navy not allow young men to enlist in their forces, once they have declared an intention to become Australian citizens ? “ Are the standards of security for the Air Force and the Navy far higher than those for the Army? Is it thought that a youth might be acceptable to the Army but not acceptable to the two other arms of our defence forces? I think that if the Army will accept these young fellows, then the other services ought to accept them too. To say that some people can enlist in one section of the services but not in the others is to maintain a bar against the new people which will not help their assimilation. The distinguished people in the American Navy and Air Force who were aliens when they went to America, but who have served with great distinction, should prove just how conservatively wrong - and people can be conservatively wrong as well as conservatively right. - some of the administrators of our Air Force and Navy can be. As our Air Force is going to be the great arm for the defence of this country in future wars, I think we should encourage all those with aptitudes and ability, who want to join the Air Force, to do so. At least, the Army should, not be regarded as a place where people can go when they are not wanted somewhere else. I know that that is not the intention, hut that is a possible interpretation.
On behalf of the Opposition, I commend the bill to the House. Some of my colleagues will offer their opinions on the matter, and I have no doubt that some honorable members on your right, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will also wish to give their testimony. We can all be pleased with the fact that this bill does record considerable progress in the field of immigration. It will streamline a number of our procedures, and it will give hope to many of those who, as I have said, have joined their fate with ours and will share our destiny, whatever the future might hold for us all, whether it be in the next few years, a decade or twenty years hence. However long or short that period of time may be, it is still, later than we think.
.- It is rather pleasant to have an opportunity to discuss matters relating to the Department of Immigration and the immigration policy of the country, because, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said, this is a matter on which there is a large measure of unanimity on both sides of the House. The amendments which the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has brought forward in the bill are amendments which have been suggested as a result of citizenship conventions. The third Citizenship Convention, of which I was chairman, dealt with this very question of naturalization and citizenship rights. That body is, as honorable members know, a fully representative body covering the whole of Australia. It brings together delegates not only from the federal representative bodies, but also from the churches, the police forces of the States, State Ministers of Immigration, sporting bodies, trade unions, business and employer’s organizations, and so on. The decisions which it makes contain evidence of an amazing degree of unanimity. The honorable member for Melbourne expressed the hope that, in future, new Australians would be given greater representation on that body, and I am quite certain that that will happen. In the last two years, an increasing number of representatives of new Australians has been present. It may not always be wise to have too large a number of them until they have become assimilated in the Australian community, and have come to adopt Australian ideas. I recall a meeting of new Australians in Sydney some time ago, and the generosity of the Australian people would have been severely strained if we had accepted all the demands that were made at that gathering on behalf of persons who landed on our shores. However, the idea of using experienced new Australians and getting their views on problems which have affected them personally, is right, and I am certain that the practice will be continued to an increasing degree.
Many of the matters raised at the citizenship convention have been referred to the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, of which I am the chairman. The advisory council consists of twenty members, and is representative of all phases of Australian life. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and I are the representatives of this House. The Senate is represented ; the trade union movement is represented by Mr. Monk and Mr. Broadby ; and the employers’ federation, chambers of commerce, chambers of manufactures, municipal organizations, ex-servicemen’s organizations and so on are also represented. During the three years that I have been chairman of that body, we have never passed a resolution unless the representatives have been unanimous on the subject. I admit that I may have refused to accept, and I think rightly, a majority decision upon a particular matter. I have said, “ If we are to have a minority party advising the Minister on this matter, we shall not do anything with it at all “. But that is not quite a true picture of what happens. I think the honorable member for Bendigo will agree with me when I say that it has always been possible for us to hammer away at a matter until we have been able to reach a unanimous decision on it.
The advisory council has tried to meet in as many of the Australian capital cities as possible, not because we enjoy travelling and having a good time running all over the place, but because we have become increasingly conscious of the interest of the Australian people in the success of the immigration programme. I have noticed distinctly in the past two years that people in my own electorate - a prosperous country area - who were most critical of the introduction of immigrants and who were a little afraid of them some time ago, are now changing their views completely. I find a much warmer welcome for new Australians throughout the Commonwealth, and a very much more intense interest in obtaining information about the immigration plans of the people of Australia, and so on. If I am asked, as I sometimes am in that area, to talk specifically on immigration, I have a better audience, probably, of all kinds of people than if I were to talk pure politics. That, probably, is a very good thing.
I find, too, that the Good Neighbour Council movement in some of the States, and the. New Settlers Movement, as it is called in New South ‘Wales and Queensland, are gaining strongly. Australians are coming forward to assist the new Australians much more freely and openly than they were three years ago. The reason is that the effects of the big influx of immigrants of five years ago are now fairly well known, and if we take a thoroughly broad view, we must recognize that our immigration programme and policy have been immensely successful. Of course, there have been some misfits and failures, and some difficult problems. As honorable members will recall, a committee was appointed some time ago to consider the problems of British immigrants living in hostels. Some migrants have been homesick, and that has made them bitter, and some are difficult to handle, but more than 90 per cent, of the migrants have been generously and warmly received by the Australian people and have been assimilated in the Australian community. I am quite happy with the results, and I am quite convinced that the process will continue. Honorable members who have attended a citizenship convention must have been astounded, thrilled and gratified at the enthusiasm which these people, who are taken from all walks of life throughout Australia, display in making a job of the assimilation of new Australians.
The honorable member for Melbourne has referred to the need to increase our population to 20,000,000 in our time. We all agree with that statement, but I point out that the 20,000.000 persons must be 20,000,000 Australians. They must be 20,000,000 persons who are proud and happy to be Australians, if they are to be effective in defence or anything else. Twenty million bodies scattered about the country is not our aim. The assimilation of the new Australians has been successful, and will be increasingly successful as times passes.
The principal purposes of this bill arc to simplify the processes of assimilation. Of course, that statement does not apply to the amendment of section 7 of the act, which names the countries whose citizens are to be deemed British subjects. Newfoundland is no longer an independent nation of the British Commonwealth but has become a part of Canada. Its citizens are now Canadian citizens and, as such, are entitled to recognition as British subjects. I believe that as we become more experienced in the ways of assimilation, we shall be able to take some fairly serious risks. I am glad the honorable member for Melbourne said that he was prepared to take them - risks, perhaps, of inflation, and even more serious risks, such as the danger of an attack on our standard of living. If the process of assimilation continues in the present kindly and generous way, we shall be able to increase our migration figures. I should like to see an increase of population of about Z per cent, per annum, of which 1$ per cent, is the natural increase of Australian-born, and 2 per cent, is the increase through migration. It would be a. difficult figure to handle, and it might bring very firmly before honorable members the two risks to which the honorable member for Melbourne referred. But it would make secure the position of Australia at the earliest possible date, and if tackled with courage would enable us to develop the immense resources that are available to us.
I do not propose to deal with the clauses of the bill one by one. or to go into detail concerning them. There might be some criticism of some of the proposed amendments. Those amendments have either been found by the department to be necessary because of drafting faults, or are proposed as a result of representations made by representative bodies of men and women in Australia, who have suggested them in order to simplify naturalization procedure. We have, as the honorable member for Melbourne advised, resisted any recommendation by any group of people for a lessening of the period of five years of residence which is required before a person, other than a minor, may become naturalized. I think that that decision must stand as a wise decision, and I hope it will not be altered by this, or any other, Government. We have discussed that matter on the Immigration Advisory Council several times, and we have unanimously agreed that five years should be the maximum period. We also agreed that the notice of intention to seek naturalization should no longer he obligatory, although a person who intends to become naturalized should be allowed to give such notice voluntarily. It is a curious fact, which I had not realized until the honorable member for Melbourne referred to it, that although the Army accepts notice of intention to become naturalized as a guarantee that a man is seeking to become an Australian, and may therefore be accepted into the military forces, the Navy and the Air Force apparently do not apply that principle. I do not know why that is so, but I shall find out, and see whether either of of those forces would be prepared to adopt the same attitude as is adopted by the Army. The reason why the notice of intention should be discontinued, which was given by the honorable member for Melbourne, is the main reason why the council considered this matter. We found that many people from Europe were not prepared to insert in the press, under their own names, a statement that they intended to become naturalized Australians. Their reason was that they feared that such published statements might react against close relatives of theirs who live in the countries of eastern Europe. We also had a certain number of cases of people who had lived here for many years but had not .become naturalized, and were diffident about publishing the fact. I know one such person in my own electorate. He had lived in a small town for twenty years, running a store, and was a respected member of the community. I was astonished to find that, I imagine merely through lack of thought, he had failed to become naturalized. Everybody thought of him as an Australian, and he took a very prominent part in the life of the town. He was ashamed to have to insert a notice in the paper stating that he now proposed to become, at that late stage, an Australian. He wrote to me at once when he heard that an alteration in the notice of intention provision was recommended, and said it would solve a serious and difficult problem for him. I have never been able to find any adequate reason for maintaining the necessity for people to give such notice of intention. The time at which an application for naturalization may be made is now not more than six months before the date on which a person would become eligible for naturalization after having completed five years’ residence in Australia. It has, in some cases, been found necessary to make certain checks on people to see whether they will be desirable nationals. It was previously considered that a period of eighteen months or two years was necessary to complete such checks. If the department considers that only six months is necessary to make these checks on people’s characters, for security and other reasons, that is a simplification which will be welcome.
Another important point, although it may not sound important, is the fee of £5 for naturalization. When a husband and wife both become naturalized the fee is £10, which is a considerable figure. The reduction of the fee to £1 is a wise step, which will be welcomed by the enormously increasing numbers of new Australians who are now eligible for naturalization and are becoming naturalized.
I am divided in my mind over the request by the honorable member for Melbourne that the naturalization certificate should be signed by the Minister for Immigration himself. I do not want an already over-worked Minister to be further burdened. I believe that the document should be made as valuable as possible to the recipient of it, and I am inclined to agree that the signature of a Minister of the Crown is the most valuable signature to have on it. I do not imagine that the signature of the chairman of the Immigration Advisory Council, which it has been suggested should be the signature to appear on the document, would be as valuable, even if I were certain that that gentleman could write it legibly.
At least once a year, during the consideration of the Estimates, we discuss the affairs of the Department of Immigration. It is a sort of spring period when we congratulate each other, and when we believe that we are all doing rather well, and agree that the officers of the Department of Immigration are doing a magnificent job. Before I conclude, I wish to make an appeal to all honorable members to take their full share of that work. Naturalization ceremonies can be made very dignified and very impressive. They give an opportunity for statements of the real ideals of Australian life, to people who are adopting that life as their own future way of life. I think that honorable members can help the work of the department, and the work of the policy of populating Australia, to a tremendous degree, if at all times they remember that although these people are not yet voters, they will become voters. I do not suggest that that is the reason why honorable members should help, but I ask them to realize that many of those people, evert those just ready to be naturalized, have a right to a little more help in understanding the every-day problems of getting on with other people in a democratic community. They have a right to expect a little more help from their fellow Australians.
As I said earlier in my speech, I am convinced, and pleased to be convinced, that the outlook of the Australian people in relation to accepting and welcoming new Australians has moved very far forward in the last two years. They arc understood better, they are helped more and the curious little antagonisms that were apparent, particularly in the suburbs and the small country towns, are disappearing quickly. Immigration is as important to the defence of Australia, as any other task that confronts us. It is most important that we should get an adequate population to occupy the 3,000,000 square miles of Australia. The more help we can give to new Australians - not just 20,000,000 immigrants but 20,000,000 proud and happy Australians - the better it will be for all the people of Australia.
.- I agree substantially with the statements that have been made by the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) and also by the honorable member for Melbourne, who, as Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), spoke from the stand-point of the Opposition. I think it will be readily agreed that this bill arises entirely from the immigration policy that has been pursued by various Australian governments during the past ten years. That policy was very effectively put into operation by the honorable member for Melbourne when he was a Minister in the Labour Government, and has been carried on vigorously and .progressively by the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt). Because this bill so largely impinges upon the question of immigration policy, one cannot properly analyse it without reviewing that policy in detail to a certain extent and discussing why the alterations to the existing act are necessary as a consequence of that policy. There is no doubt in the mind of any honorable member of the importance of immigration. It can be said with truth that the discussions in this Parliament in recent years on the questions of immigration, nationality and citizenship have been entirely non-party. Members of both sides of the House have worked together in the hope of being able to develop a stream of immigration that would be to the .permanent advantage of Australia. As a consequence of that immigration policy and the transfer to this country of large numbers of people from differentcountries, mostly European, quite a large number of problems have arisen. Not the least of these problems is the question of nationality and citizenship.
What we have to bear in mind in discussing this question is that in recent years, hundreds of thousands of persons have come to Australia for the express purpose of making Australia their adopted country. They have been determined to make it their homeland and, in doing so, to participate and share in the development and prosperity of Australia. Eventually, as the law permits, they wish in turn to become naturalized citizens, able to accept all the Australian conditions of life and the responsibilities that arise from citizenship. Because of these facts, and because so many varied nationalities are concerned, the practice of holding citizenship conventions at the beginning of each year to discuss the problems of immigration, including nationality and citizenship, has become a regular feature of our national life.
As has been pointed out by the Minister for Immigration, the three changes that are invested in this bill and are to be translated into the law have arisen as a consequence of those conventions. The conventions can be described most accurately by stating that they embrace a cross-section of the Australian people. Apart altogether from those who may be members of Parliament, all sections of the community that are in any way associated with the public life, the sporting arena, the trade unions and other sections of Australian life are brought together so that their views on the absorption of immigrants into Australian life may be received and considered. They discuss how we can make it more easy for these people to become citizens of Australia without in any way destroying the safeguards of Australian life. Therefore, this question of nationalization figured largely in the convention held in 1954.
Certain propositions are before us. I believe that those propositions are in the best interests of Australia, and will considerably help the immigrants in becoming more rapidly absorbed into the Australian way of life. At the same time, they will be able to appreciate more, not only the advantages of Australian, citizenship, but the responsibilities that are associated with it. One of the first proposals is an alteration of the period of notice before an immigrant can become a citizen. As has been stated previously, the law provides that a person must be resident in Australia for five years before he can become naturalized. It is possible, as the law stands to-day, for a person to give notice of his intention to become an Australian citizen when he has been in Australia for twelve months. The law prescribes that two years’ notice is necessary before naturalization can be secured. Under the terms of the bill, the Government proposes to reduce that period to six months, but the right of a person to give two years’ notice is to be retained. I am very happy about the retention of the voluntary right to give notice because I can recollect very clearly the earnest discussion that took place at the 1954 convention on this matter. Representatives of certain, organizations pointed out at that convention that at least one section of the people coming to Australia 1110St earnestly desired to be able, at the earliest possible moment, to state their intention of becoming Australian citizens. I suppose I can best illustrate the point I wish to make by referring honorable members to a bulletin which they might peruse at their leisure. That is the Statistical Bulletin of the Department of Immigration. Copies can be secured from the department without difficulty. I direct attention to the issue of the 13th January, 1955. At page 26 of that issue, there is a list of the previous nationalities of persons who were supplied with naturalization certificates between 1945 and September, 1954. Itis rather interesting to find that the persons who applied for certificates were previously residents of 31 different countries, but the list contains 32 designations. The last of them is the one called “ Stateless “. It is the stateless persons coming into Australia who are most anxious to obtain a nationality at the earliest possible moment and to make clear their intention to apply for naturalization.
I suppose it is a part of the psychological make-up of all of us that we desire to belong. Stateless persons, because they have no rights as citizens in any country, take the earliest opportunity to make known their intention to become citizens of Australia. The number of stateless persons who, according to the records of the Department of Immigration, have applied to become naturalized citizens of Australia is astonishing. In the period from September, 1945, to September, 1954, no fewer than 3,637 stateless persons were issued with naturalization certificates. Stateless persons comprise by no means the largest group of immigrants which has come to this country, but only one other group has had a greater number of naturalization certificates issued to it. T. find from the statistics that persons who were previously of Italian nationality have had 8,932 certificates issued to them. The next highest figure, 3,637, relates to previously stateless persons, and the next highest, 3,123, to persons previously of Polish nationality. I cite those figures in order to illustrate what I think is the essential soundness of the measure. It is a good thing to give the immigrants the right to give notice of their intention to become Australian citizens, after they have resided in Australia for twelve months. That is very helpful to people who are endeavouring to settle in a new home, and the provision should be retained.
The second desirable feature of the bill is that it will make the conferring of citizenship a less formal matter than hasbeen the case in the past. By the amendment of the principal act and by the methods used to carry out the provisions of the legislation, there will be an endeavour to let the person who is becoming a naturalized Australian citizen see that the Australian people welcome him as a citizen, as a person with whom they will be living in the future, and as a person whom they trust to discharge the responsibilities of citizenship. Like most other honorable members, I have, from time to time, attended naturalization ceremonies in local town halls. The friends of the person who is to be naturalized, together with prominent citizens, gather together. The Mayor or the person appointed by him as his deputy, performs the naturalization ceremony, The warmest welcome is given to the naturalized person, and all shades of opinion in the community express to him. their best wishes for his health and success in the land he has adopted. That makes a much greater impression on the applicant for naturalization than did the cold, formal ceremony that used to take place in the office of a clerk of the court, when a person walked in, paid his fee, was issued with a naturalization certificate and walked out. He had no feeling that the people of the community which he had accepted as his community were the least bit concerned about whether his future would be good, bad, or indifferent. One of the great things that has been achieved by the recommendations of the citizenship conventions is that a person who becomes naturalized . now feels that he is being warmly welcomed. There is a feeling of understanding between Australians and the new Australian which helps and inspires him in the discharge of his duties as a citizen of this country.
I am very pleased to see that the bill makes provision for the issue of a certificate of such a nature that it can be regarded as typical of the importance of the event to the individual concerned. To the New Australian, the person who is taking out naturalization papers, the fact that he emerges from the ceremony, not as a stateless person or the subject of another country, but an Australian citizen, is of great importance. There has been a complete change in his loyalties and his outlook to other countries. From that moment, he becomes a citizen of what we all believe is a great country. Under those circumstances, not only should the ceremony of naturalization be one that is fitting to the importance of the occasion, but also the document issued to the person concerned should be one that will typify the importance of the event and the great advantages that it confers on him. It is for that reason that I agree with the comments made by the Deputy Leader of my party about section 13 of the principal act. I appreciate, of course, that a document that contains the stamped signature of the Minister, or the signature of a person to whom the Minister has delegated authority, is still an effective document, but the point I am trying to make, is that stamped or printed names do not carry the same weight with the person who receives the document as do actual signatures.
– I bet the honorable gentleman could not detect the difference. I assure him that, with modern processing, the signature of the Minister, which is an actual signature taken and processed on the document, is, in effect, the signature as it would appear if it were imposed by the Minister. To give some idea of the physical problem involved, let me point out that at the moment the rate of applications is about 20,000 a year, and we can foresee the time when it will be about 50,000 a year. Frankly, it would be physically impossible for the Minister to impose his signature on each document.
– I appreciate that. With the very best of intentions, the Minister interrupted me in the course of my remarks. I was about to say that, no matter how great the job may be, in my opinion, and, I think, in the opinion of those who receive these documents, an actual signature should be imposed. I assure the Minister that if a signature is printed, no matter how good the process may be, it never looks the same as it would if it were written by the individual himself. I am trying to point out the importance of the document. To the person who receives it, it is of tremendous importance. It is the document that gives to him Australian citizenship, with all its rights. I say that, under those circumstances, to the extent that we can make that document carry great weight with the person who receives it, we ought to do so. There may be certain difficulties, but I think some of the suggestions made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) are worthy of consideration. The documents could be signed by an under-secretary, the chairman of a citizenship convention, or perhaps the Chairman of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown). But if we can do so, let us make sure that the document contains a signature that carries, so to speak, executive weight, and gives to the recipient the feeling of security and importance that we all desire he should have. That is a very reasonable request. We all want to see our immigration, and nationality and citizenship procedure operating in the best interests of Australia. We have all co-operated towards that end. Worthy suggestions have been made from both sides of the House, and I am sure that all honorable members are prepared to do their best to make our immigration programme a success. It is in that spirit that I make these suggestion?: to the Minister and support the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne.
I am glad that the importance of stressing the solemnity of the ceremony of naturalization is appreciated. I am pleased too that young people, sixteen years of age or over, are to have separate naturalization, and are not to be included in the naturalization papers of their parents. This reform will give young people an opportunity themselves to participate in naturalization ceremonies. Youthful immigrants between, say, sixteen and twenty years of age are passing through perhaps the most impressionable period of their lives, and the fact that they are to participate in a naturalization ceremony, make their own individual declaration of loyalty, and receive their own naturalization certificates, will have a profound effect on their minds. Australian citizenship is one of the greatest things that we can give to a newcomer. We want every immigrant to appreciate the significance of our act, as we ourselves appreciate what the immigration scheme means to this country. It has been stated before, and I think it should be repeated now,, that Australia owes a lot to its immigrants. Many of our big public works could not have been carried out but for the immigration programme. Supplies of many basic commodities, essential to the economic life of this country, such as timber, bricks, steel, and cement, would not have reached their present proportions but for the labours of our immigrants. I can illustrate that best by quoting once again from the Statistical Bulletin of the Department of Immigration to which I have already referred. Table D.4 which appears on page 20 of the booklet analyses the categories of immigrant tradesmen who arrived in Australia between January and September, 1954. These figures are important because they indicate the know-how that is coming into Australia. In that period of nine months skilled building industry tradesmen numbering 2,161 arrived in Australia. The engineering trades received 3,552 skilled men, the electrical trades 607, and miscellaneous trades. 1,528. The total number of tradesmen was 7,848, and most of them were badly needed. Their knowhow is now available to us to increase production and to develop Australia.
The bill, I believe, can be accepted by the House as being in the best interests of the community. It will enable new Australians to obtain their certificates of naturalization with less difficulty than has been the case in the past. This will help materially to make immigrants feel that they are welcome, and that everything is being done to enable them to become citizens of Australia as quickly and as early as possible.
Mi-. THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) [5.30]. - I have pleasure in supporting the bill. A year or two ago, in a question that I asked in this chamber I drew attention to the need for some of the material benefits that this bill now proposes to confer upon immigrants who seek naturalization. I questioned the wisdom of charging £5 for a certificate of naturalization, and I also questioned the need to advertise intention to apply for naturalization in the newspapers. At a naturalization ceremony two or three months ago, I was able to say that the naturalization fee had been reduced from £5 to £1, and that I hoped shortly that action would be taken to obviate the necessity for immigrants seeking naturalization to meet the high cost of advertising their intention in the newspapers. This bill now introduces that reform.
We must not lose sight of the fact that the people with whom we are dealing under this legislation have been in this country for at least five years. They are not new arrivals. They have already been confronted with the difficult problem of settling into this country, and they are entitled to the benefits of naturalization at the least possible cost. In my own district in Adelaide, there are many migrants who, when they first arrived in this country, found that they were unable to get homes from constructing authorities such as the South Australian Housing Trust because of the obligation upon those authorities to meet the demands of our own people who needed homes: Even if the immigrants were prepared to build their own homes, they found that most building materials were in short supply, and that they could not get priorities for those materials. I know that the Department of Immigra tion was eager that these people should vacate the immigrant hostels as soon as possible. It was felt, all round, that the best way to make the newcomers feel thai they were, in fact, Australians, was to assist them to live in their own homes and so become part of normal Australian life. There is an old saying that an Englishman’s home is his castle. By thar we mean that we look upon our homes as the place where we belong. Most immigrants have had great difficulty in obtaining homes. In fact, in my own district, one can see houses made of packing cases which once contained imported machinery. To-day, many immigrants who originally lived in such temporary structures are getting building materials and putting up dwellings that are a credit to them. I believe that, when there are people in our community, who, for five years or more, have shown themselves to be worthy of final recognition by the conferring of Australian citizenship, we should do everything possible to assist them to become naturalized.
I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) about advertisements. There is no need for them. I think that’ the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), too, will agree with that. The only value of such advertisements is to give an opportunity to raise objections to naturalization. I agree with the provision that an application for naturalization shall not be granted until six months have elapsed. This will give an opportunity to officials to investigate an applicant for naturalization, and to be sure that he is indeed morally entitled to become a member of our community.
To the present I have been speaking of the benefits that immigrants may obtain through naturalization. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) mentioned the responsibilities that immigrants should assume, and I agree with his remarks in that regard. I believe thai a person who comes into our community as a fellow Australian and obtains all the benefits of citizenship, should also bear the legal obligations that have been imposed upon Australians generally. While living in this country immigrants obtain many benefits, and they should shoulder the corresponding responsibilities and obligations for the service that is required of Australians in this country. Vew Australians should not be able to escape obligations and stand on. one side while Australians are expected to assume those obligations.
It is perhaps a small matter, but I desire to give an example of the way some people think about naturalization. Recently a young couple were married. The young lady was the daughter of a British immigrant, and the young man was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia. The husband wanted to be naturalized as soon as possible, but his wife said, “ I do not want him to be naturalized, I want him to remain an unnaturalized citizen, so that he will not have any responsibilities. I do not want him to be called up if we go to war, I do not want him to have any obligations or responsibilities. Consequently, she tried to persuade him not to become naturalized. I believe that the attitude shown by that young lady is completely wrong. We welcome immigrants to this country, and in many cases the Commonwealth has helped them financially to get here. Therefore, it is incumbent upon them to become naturalized as soon as possible. In fact, I believe that if there were a legal way of doing so, people who have been in Australia for more than five years and have not become naturalized should be penalized in some way. That is my personal conviction about this matter. The measure before the House will assist those immigrants who are really worthy of assistance, and the people who have battled along through five years of residence in this country will find it financially easier to become naturalized.
With regard to the proposal to include on naturalization certificates the names of children under the age of sixteen years, and to give separate certificates for children over sixteen years, perhaps the Minister could explain the proposal a little more fully. Will such children have to make a separate application and pay a separate fee or charge, or will their parents have to pay separate fees for them when the parents become naturalized ? Moreover, if separate certificates of naturalization are not issued there may be some difficulty for the children in later life. I have had to deal with the Department of Immigration on behalf of people who have maintained that they are naturalized, but who could not produce any document to prove their contentions. If a man has half a dozen children, and the names of all those children are shown on the same certificate then it is obvious that no more than one of the children can have the certificate at any time. Of course, if the department maintains a register and those who are naturalized can refer to the department for proof of their naturalization, the difficulty may not arise. Nevertheless, the Minister should perhaps explain this matter. I also desire to know whether separate fees will be charged in respect of each child over the age of sixteen who receives a certificate, or whether one fee only will be charged for the parent.
– The proposal is that a separate application will not be necessary, and a separate fee will not be charged. Therefore, these children will not be penalized in any way.
– I should like to say, Mr. Minister-
– Order ! The honorable member must address me.
– I apologize, Mr. Speaker. I now desire to put on record my appreciation of the activities of the Department of Immigration in regard to naturalization ceremonies. The first ceremony that I attended was held in the Supreme Court buildings in Adelaide. The Premier of the State, a judge and many other people were present, and it was a very big affair. The next one I attended was in a municipal council chambers where the mayor was presiding, and officers from various organizations connected with new Australians were present. Some of the local clergy and some members of Parliament were also there. A number of those who attended were able to speak to the immigrants and indicate to them how we welcomed them, and what we expected them to do. We also told them that they were becoming part of the people of Australia. I believe that that method of naturalizing immigrants is a very big advance on the old method.
All those immigrants whom I have seen take the oath of allegiance at naturalization ceremonies, both men and women - although I have seen very few women naturalized - have been people of a very high type which we should be happy to have in this country. Some persons seem to be of the opinion that those who come from other countries are not acceptable to us, but I point out that there is a poor element in any group of people, whether they be British, Dutch, Italian, or even Australian. No matter what country we go to, we shall always find some individuals who are not of a very high standard. However, I have always found that those who have sought to become members of our community through naturalization, have been very fine people indeed. I have also noticed that most immigrants have been able to obtain their own places of residence here after a short time. They have built homes and are paying them off, or are buying older houses. Therefore, I welcome the decisions of the Government to ease the financial burden of the naturalization system for people who deserve every assistance to become citizens of Australia.
.- The bill before the House is a very forward step in our policy of assimilating new Australians into our community. T note the unanimity in this House towards the measure, which is indeed a tribute to the citizenship conventions which have been held each year in Canberra. This measure is based on the recommendations of the citizenship conventions, and is another example of how those decisions have been implemented by way of legislation in this House. There is nothing more inspiring, and nothing that gives us a greater feeling of one-ness with all Australians than to attend the citizenship conventions that are held in Canberra each year. People from good neighbour councils and new settlers leagues, and people interested in the assimilation of immigrants gather together, and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) and the officers of his department are able to study at first hand the_ problems of new Australians and the difficulties that they .encounter. The bill before us gives legislative effect to the decisions that have been reached at these citizenship conventions and the recommendations therefrom. The decision to permit declarations of intention to apply for naturalization to be made voluntarily is splendid, because the old arrangement has led very often to delays in the assimilation of new Australians into our community. This is a very great step forward.
I like the new idea of permitting applications for naturalization to be lodged six months before new settlers complete their residence qualification, with the proviso that applicants will not be granted their certificates until at least six months after lodging their applications. This will enable new Australians to become Australian citizens at the earliest possible moment. It is very difficult for newcomers to this country to become accustomed to our laws. It is true that, on arrival here, our laws are explained to them, but so are many other things. In the mess of potage served up to them, the naturalization procedure is very often forgotten. It is true, of course, that the Department of Immigration gives them reminders on the subject. At this stage, I should like to say how greatly I appreciate the splendid work that is being done by the department. I have yet to learn of any of its officers who have not adopted a kindly attitude towards new Australians and their problems. Indeed, I believe that many of the immigration officers exercise discretionary power and sympathetic consideration far beyond the normal line of duty. The head of the Queensland branch of the department invariably exercises sympathetic understanding in relation to new Australians, ranging from the matrimonial sphere to legal and residence problems. Many new Australians now look upon the departmental officers as guides, philosophers and friends. It is refreshing to hear new Australians speak in laudatory terms of the departmental officers, because, from time to time, critics have accused some public servants of being only seat-warmers who are not interested in their jobs. It is true to say that the majority of the officers of the Department of Immigration are willing and eager to go beyond the line of duty in order to help new Australians to solve their problems.
It is probable that we will not see for some time the value that will be derived from granting to new Australian minors over sixteen years of age certificates of citizenship of their own. I know from my own personal experience that, unless such young people are granted individual certificates of citizenship, all kinds of difficulties confront them after their parents die. From the humanitarian point of view, I consider that the granting of individual certificates of citizenship to minors over sixteen years of age will impress upon them the serious view that the Government has of naturalization. The new system will also impress on their minds the obligations they are called upon to fulfil, and show them that the Government is prepared to help them. I believe that those young people will’ prize their certificates even more than do the older folk, if that is possible. I welcome the innovation, and I am sure that it will be well received.
One of the most impressive naturalization ceremonies that I have witnessed was the one that was conducted during the Citizenship Convention that was held in Canberra in 1953. There were on the platform many new Australians drawn from various parts of Australia. They were splendid young people indeed. I assure honorable members that there have never been prouder people in this country than were the young folk who participated in that naturalization ceremony. It was a splendid, heart-warming scene. The new Australians were given a hearty welcome by the people who attended the convention. After the ceremony, I recorded with a tape-recorder an interview with two of the young participants. When I asked them what they thought about the ceremony, they were so bursting with pride that they had difficulty in speaking into the microphone. The predominant thought in their minds was that they were as much Australian as any one could be. That was a splendid thing. Under the proposed system, teenagers accompanying their parents for naturalization will receive handsome certificates of their own. Many of the teenage new Australians whom I have met were splendid young people. The manner in which they have adopted the Australian way of life reflects credit on both themselves and their parents.
The bill confers on the Minister discretionary power to waive residence requirements in relation to certain classes of people. In the past, of course, theMinister has, on many occasions, exercised such a power but this bill will give his actions in this connexion the force of law. This is a. splendid provision, which will enable the Minister to deal with special cases. I am sure that many honorable members who have endeavoured to assist new Australians to overcome their difficulties have received kindly aid from the Minister, whose interest in the Department of Immigration has been allabsorbing. He knows the department thoroughly, and has an intimate knowledge of its workings.
– The honorable member will get on!
– The Minister has a complete grip on the affairs of the department. I am sure that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) would be the first to agree with me that that is so. I am sure that we all have the greatest confidence in the Minister’s ability, and admire his administration. The vesting of discretionary power in the Minister to deal with special cases will assist him to help many new Australians to overcome their difficulties by cutting through some of the red-tape.
From my experience, I do not think that the fact that new Australians have been called upon to pay a naturalization fee of £5 has deterred newcomers from seeking naturalization, but the reduction of the fee to £.1. will alter their perspective towards attaining Australian citizenship. I agree that there is something terrifying about the term “ £5 fee “, and the reduction will minimize that feeling. I was glad to hear the Minister say that he intends to make the form of the certificate of naturalization impressive and more in keeping with its importance to the grantee. That proposal is commendable, because it is a step in the right direction. The present form is a very plain document, which is not in keeping with the value placed ‘on it by a recipient. These certificates mean much more to .new
Australians than many of us appreciate. As new citizens of this country, they prize them greatly, and attach great sentimental value to them. From the legal point of view, they must retain their certificates of naturalization from the time they receive them until they themselves pass away. Giving to them a more impressive form will mean much more to them. I do not think that we as Australians can impress upon the newly naturalized Australians too much just how seriously we view the step that they are taking, or how seriously they should view it. I do not think any one of use is able to comprehend what goes on in the heart of a new Australian when he is making up his mind to give notice of his intention to become naturalized. We have never been placed in a like situation. Even if we could imagine such a. situation, we still could not comprehend the understanding of these people. As members of the Parliament, we must do as much as possible to impress upon the community generally the very important step that applicants for naturalization are taking.
Far too often I learn from the newspapers, and from conversations with other people, that, if there is anything wrong with our immigration policy or with our assimilation of immigrants, it is because Australians themselves mainly are at fault. We, as a people, do not realize the step that has been taken by immigrants in the first place in. leaving their homelands and in coming to Australia. That step, in itself, presents a very big problem. It is one that we should understand and which many Australians do understand, but which, on the other hand, many pass by in a carefree attitude. It should be impressed upon the people of this country that new Australians, and our newly naturalized- citizens, should receive from every member of the community the utmost human understanding. We should exercise our minds as much as possible towards understanding just what they are doing when they become naturalized.
The naturalization ceremonies are being conducted very well indeed. Ceremonies that I have seen in small country towns have impressed me greatly. About six weeks ago, I was called to the small town of Biloela to be. present at a naturalization ceremony. The- chairman of the shire, which covers an area of approximately 20,000 square miles, came a distance of approximately 200 miles by car to attend a ceremony for the naturalization of three people. Other councillors were gathered around. People came from every section of the community. The Rotary Club was represented, the Queensland Country Women’s Association was represented, and even the fire brigade sent along a representative. There was intense interest in the ceremony, an attitude which, I think, is to be highly commended. It is indicative of the manner in which the new naturalization ceremonies have been conducted and have attracted1 interest throughout Australia.
In conclusion, may I say that the executive officers of the good neighbour councils and the new settlers’ leagues who may, if this measure is passed, give references in relation to the character of new Australians, have rendered yeoman service to Australia. There is no testimony that the Parliament can give that would do full justice to the work of those organizations They have borne the weight of our immigration problems. They have given good service and, as a Parliament, we are truly indebted to them.
Sitting suspended from 6 to S p.m.
.- Prior to the suspension of the sitting the speeches delivered in the debate on this measure seemed to alternate between praise of the Minister and support for the bill. f support the measure, but I must say also that it is only as good as the way in which it will be administered. The Department of Immigration is one of the most important departments in the Commonwealth service. Immigration is a basic requirement of development and expansion in Australia, which depend on man-power and materials ; and even materials depend on man-power. On the- shoulders of the department rests the responsibility to provide the basic requirements for Australia’s future development. The department is one of the best administered in the Commonwealth Public Service and it performs its task, as far as it is able to do with the resources available to it, in a most efficient manner.
But having said that, I wish to point to one matter in which a great deal of improvement can be effected. The completion of applications for naturalization should be expedited. Recently a number of new Australians have asked me what has happened to applications for naturalization which they made in June, 1954, almost twelve months ago. I understand that it is not uncommon for such delays to occur, and the usual delay between the lodging of an application and the granting of naturalization now appears to be about nine months to twelve months. If that is so - and the instances that have benn brought to my notice seem to indicate that it is so - the Minister must take action urgently to provide the- staff of the department with the facilities that they need to overtake the lag in the granting of applications. I am convinced that thi; delay is not caused by inefficiency in the department. It is caused either by a volume of applications so great that the department is unable to cope with them because it has not the requisite facilities, or by some other cause beyond the control of the department.
The delay of twelve months that elapses between the lodging of an application and the granting of naturalization has a bad effect upon the people whom we are endeavouring to persuade to apply for naturalization. It is a big decision for a new Australian to make to become an Australian citizen and to renounce his former nationality. He lodges his application for naturalization feeling that he has taken one of the most important steps of his life. He then finds that weeks and months pass and nothing happens. At the rate at which we are proceeding now, there will soon be a lapse of years before anything happens. Naturally, tho friends of that applicant for naturalization begin to look askance at him, and often doubts arise in their minds and they wonder whether something is wrong with him when they see that after many months have passed his application has hot been granted. It is of no use for this House to pass the bill unanimously unless action is taken immediately to1 .provide the
Department of Immigration with thefacilities needed to reduce the very long; delay that at present occurs between the lodging of an application for naturalization and the granting of Australian citizenship.
According to the statistics cited by the Minister, approximately 134,000 aliens came to this country in the years 1945 to 1949 inclusive. in thu years 1950’ to 1954 most of those immigrants would have had the opportunity to apply for naturalization, but only 10,000 naturalizations took place in that period. Many of those 10,000 naturalized immigrantswould have arrived in Australia prior to- 1945. Therefore, we cannot be satisfied with the present volume of applications for naturalization. The rate of applications must be accelerated greatly and a much more active campaign must be undertaken to persuade immigrants totake out Australian citizenship and accept both the benefit and the responsibility of being Australian citizens.
I ask the Minister to exercise in a more general way his prerogative to take into accoun t the residence of certain aliens in the United Kingdom for the purpose of granting naturalization. 1 understand that at present the Minister may take into account the period of’ residence of an immigrant in the United Kingdom, if the immigrant has lived there for a specified time, and if, in the opinion of the Minister, that immigrant is likely to be affected adversely because he is not yet naturalized. Apparently the exercise of that prerogative is made for the benefit of an. immigrant only on individual application to the Minister and on the judgment of the merits of each individual application by the Minister. I suggest that if new Australians have the specified period of residence in the United Kingdom, as a result of which they would be much more familiar with the British way of life and with the English language, the Minister should decide as a general principle applicable to cases, without particular reference to him, except in a general way, that the period of residence in the United Kingdom shall be taken into account where the lack of naturalization is a disability to the immigrant.
It is reasonable for us to conclude thai it is a disability for an alien living in Australia not to be naturalized. The Minister would confer a service on the department if he were to do as I have suggested, because a great deal of work involved in individual applications and judgment of their merits by the Minister would be obviated and many newcomers to Australia would be able to obtain the benefit of residence in the United Kingdom for periods of five years and more, even though they might have lived in Australia for perhaps only two years. 1 ask the Minister to consider issuing to the department a general direction, that in his opinion aliens are adversely affected if they are not naturalized, aud that the period of their residence in the United Kingdom shall be taken into account for the purposes of the qualification period of residence in Australia of five years.
I am disturbed about another matter which, I think, may legitimately he discussed at this stage, in view of the Minister’s statement that the proposals contained in this measure are the result of recommendations from the last Australian Citizenship Convention. I refer, first, to the apparent failure of the Government to interest itself as fully as it should do in the part that immigrants should play in the development of our rural areas and primary industries, and, secondly - and most important of all - to the apparent lack of interest by members of the Australian Country party in immigration, which, as I observed at the outset of my remarks, is one of the most important requirements for Australia’s future development. I attended the 1955 Australian Citizenship Convention and I congratulate the persons responsible for its arrangements. I noticed members of the Liberal party and the Australian Labour party in attendance at the convention, but I saw only one member of the Australian Country party present.
– I attended two earlier Australian Citizenship Conventions.
– That is very good, but I suggest that at the last convention there should have been greater representation of the Australian Country party.
– Other members of the Australian Country party were there.
– In the official list of Commonwealth parliamentary representatives at the last convention, I saw the names of only two members of the Australian Country party. So far as I am aware, only one of those two members attended the convention.
– The proportion of the representation of the Australian Country party was equal to that of the other parties.
– The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), I think, was present. I did not see any other member of the Australian Country party at the convention. The fact that they were missing led me to look more closely at the programme which was provided by the Department of Immigration for the citizenship convention. To my surprise, in looking through the list of specialized groups that had been set up by the convention, although I saw a group for commerce and industry, a group for radio and press, a group for education, a group for churches and a group for sporting bodies, I found that the commerce and industry group did not include any representation of primary industry. I suggest tha.t the Australian Country party is failing very badly to measure up to its responsibility to ensure that primary industry not only receives the benefits of immigration but that the representatives of primary industry should play their part in the immigration programme.
– Attendance is dependent on an invitation.
– I suggest that the Australian Country party should have a little influence with the Minister for Immigration. I assure the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) that if I were a representative of primary industry 1 would not tolerate a convention of this nature being held with representative.’ from every section of the community except primary industry. It is a reflection on the Government that it has not obtained a representative from primary industry but, most of all, it is a reflection on the Australian Country party.
– We are looking after them.
– You are not. If you were looking after them you would be represented on that committee.
– Order ! The honorable member will please address the Chair.
– This neglect by the Government of the representation of rural industry in immigration planning is nothing new. The most important body connected with immigration, the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council has representatives of business, commerce and industry, but only one solitary representative of primary industry, who is Professor Wadham, of the University of Melbourne. He is a good, intelligent man, but I. think that every one who knows him would agree that he takes the most pessimistic view of the development of agriculture. When it is suggested that a few extra sheep should be raised, his views on the matter are coloured by his experience of primary industry during the depression years. A body of the importance of the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council, should have men who will look forward and it should have adequate representation from primary industry. I ask the Government to increase the representation of primary industry on the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council. I agree with honorable members who have said that Australia could not absorb the large number of immigrants that we are bringing to this country if it were not for the great amount of employment that is available for them in industry generally. Obviously, we had to develop industry in order to provide employment for immigrants. But surely primary production is the basis of the development of other industries. It is of no use to provide workers to manufacture machines or shirts if they cannot be fed. With the present state of unbalance between the people who are being sent into primary industry and those who are being sent into industry in general, before long we shall not be aWe to feed the people whom we bring to this country. A great deal of that unbalance has been occasioned by the fact that primary industry is not represented in this Parliament except by stock and station agents and that it is not represented on the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council by representatives who are keen on the progress of primary industry. If the Minister for Immigration is to complete his immigration programme he must place it on a proper basis and have a properly balanced programme.
– To what end?
Mi-. KEON. - The honorable member for Henty would not understand anything about it. The end is to provide for the proper development of Australia; to provide food for those people who have to work in the factories, and to provide an export income to enable us to get raw materials with which our industries may carry on. I would not expect the honorable member for Henty to understand a great deal about that.
– I used to advise new Australians on primary industry, which is more than the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) does.
– If that is a fact, I am still further amazed at the ignorance of the honorable member for Henty on the problem that I have put before the House. The Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council and the immigration outlook of the Government suffers from a general bias against primary production in respect of the necessity for labour supplies. Most immigrants are being found employment in factories; but we cannot continue to employ so many of them in factories if we are to earn sufficient export income to pay for the raw materials that the factories need. Nor will it be possible to keep such large numbers of workers in the factories if we cannot feed them. If the Australian Country party is as recreant to its trust as I have indicated, the Minister for Immigration should himself make provision for the representation of primary industry on the advisory bodies that are connected with immigration. The decline that has taken place in the production of wheat, butter and meat since pre-war days leaves no doubt, considering the rate of increase in population, that our development is not being properly balanced.
I again remind “the House that although in the years 1945-49, 134,000 aliens came to this country, during the subsequent five years only 10,000 persons were naturalized. That is not enough. Something must be done to persuade a much bigger proportion of the people who are determined to make their life in this country to become Australian citizens. I again remind the Minister of the delays that are taking place in the settlement of naturalization claims. There should not be any need for a greater delay than two months between the lodging of an application and the granting of naturalization. The removal of these delays is an urgent matter. I again ask the Minister to take into account residence in the United Kingdom for the purposes of the five years qualifying period. I again remind him that even if the Australian Country party is not prepared to advise him on the requirements of primary industry, he himself should provide that the representation of primary industry is considerably increased on the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council and the other advisory bodies so that immigrants may be diverted to industries in which they are most needed. I suggest that there is a grave unbalance. I suggest that too many immigrants arc being diverted to some industries and that too few are being sent to other industries.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) referred to delays that occur in the granting of naturalization certificates to applicants. Like other honorable members, [ have experienced delays in some instances in which I have interested myself on behalf of applicants, but in fairness to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) and his department I point out that once official attention has been directed to such cases remedial action has been promptly taken. We must also remember that in many instances some good reason is responsible for delays. A particular problem may arise, and time is absorbed in settling it. I was interested to hear the honorable member’s suggestion that periods of residence in the United Kingdom should be deducted from the statutory residential qualifying period in this country. That suggestion could well be looked into. However, the department has already moved some distance in that direction. For instance, periods of service in any armed forces under British command during World War II. is counted as part of the qualifying residential period. At present the residential qualification period of five years in respect of any applicant who has seen service under a British command for, say, a period of two years, is reduced to three years. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) referred to the residential qualification of five years and expressed the hope that it would not be altered. He pointed out, quite rightly, that the existing provision is not affected in any way under this measure. I believe that honorable members on both sides of this chamber will support the contention that no change should be made in the existing residential qualifying period. Whilst, as I have said, we might well examine the suggestion made by the honorable member for Yarra, we should, at the same time, proceed with the utmost caution in considering any proposal to amend the residential qualification for naturalization.
That honorable member also deplored the fact that the number of immigrants who are diverted to employment in primary industries is completely out of balance. He urged that considerably greater numbers of new Austral ians should be found employment in rural industries. This problem is not so easy to solve as the honorable member appears to think it is. Quite a number of new Australians are employed in various sections of primary industry. At all events, that observation applies to conditions in the electorate that I represent, and it is also substantiated by the activities of the rural employment section of the Department of Labour and National Service. One difficulty in this matter is that the number of immigrants who are suited to rural employment is comparatively limited. However, as the honorable member has said that he does not represent a primary producing electorate one can, perhaps, excuse his lack of knowledge of the subject. It is not merely a matter of putting people on the land. Those selected for employment in rural industries require to have some knowledge of and an aptitude for life on the land. It would be useless to place in rural employment persons who are unsuited for such a calling. In fact, that is one of the problems which now confronts our farming community. I know of instances in which good accommodation and good conditions of employment have been provided for immigrants who were willing to engage in rural employment but, despite their eagerness to do so, they were found to be totally unfitted for such work. Therefore, the problem is not a matter of simply placing people in rural industries.
The honorable member for Melbourne referred to our objective of increasing our population to 20,000,000 within a reasonably short period. Whilst all honorable members support that objective in principle, we must guard against adverse effects in our endeavour to achieve it. For instance, we must provide against the risks of inflation and the possibility that our standard of living may be reduced in the process. With proper care and planning, I believe that those risks are being diminished. We need to increase our population as rapidly as possible in order, not only to develop our natural resources, but also to strengthen our defences and to give an impetus to the economic development of this country. It is the duty of all Australians to assist in the absorption of new Australians into our community as quickly and as effectively as possible. We can do that by giving a friendly welcome to immigrants. For that reason, I welcome the introduction of this measure, the main object of which is to serve that purpose. From time to time, undue publicity is given to the experiences of misfits among immigrants, but, when onn realises that a few months hence the 1,000,000th immigrant will have arrived in this country since our post-war immigration programme was implemented, the number of misfits is infinitesimal. I trust that the passage of this measure will give an impetus to the interest and energy of Australians in general in assisting immigrants to make good in this country.
Whilst the honorable member for Yarra stressed the need to provide greater avenues of employment for immigrants in rural industries, I emphasize the necessity for doing all we can to utilize immi grants with the object of decentralizing secondary industry. At present, the tendency in this country is for people to congregate in the cities and industrial areas along our seaboard. That is strikingly exemplified in New South Wales, having regard to the industrial development that is taking place in Newcastle, Sydney and Port Kembla. Many provincial centres are suitable for the establishment of large industries. Indeed, shire councils generally are making facilities available for the purpose of attracting such industries to their areas in order to provide greater employment opportunities locally. Information on this aspect should be passed on to immigrants on their arrival in Australia. Quite a number of immigrants possess a workable capital whilst many without capital are skilled in various trades. We should utilize their knowledge and we can best do so by assisting them to establish themselves in this country as speedily as possible.
.- I support the bill because its purpose is to facilitate the assimilation of immigrants. One of the principal requisites for the success of any immigration campaign is effective assimilation. Real assimilation involves considerably more than the assumption of Australian citizenship. This bill is a step in the right direction. According to figures issued by the department, approximately 400,000 alien immigrants arrived in Australia up to the end of last year, since the present immigration programme was implemented in 1946. So it can be seen that there are many immigrants who could be naturalized and that quite a lot of assimilation must take place if our immigration policy is to be completely successful. It is not a bit of good bringing large numbers of immigrants here if they form themselves into alien communities, refuse to associate with the native-born Australians and carry on in their own way, unconcerned about the traditions and habits of the native-born Australians. We must make them mingle with us, so that in the next generation they will be, speaking in the vernacular “ dinkum Aussies “. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. We must realize at the outset that absorbing these alien people, with such diverse international backgrounds, into the economic, social and cultural life of our country will be an experiment in assimilation of a magnitude and complexity which we have never known before.
There are no such troubles about assimilating British immigrants. They are of our own stock and speak our language. They have our methods of living, and when they arrive on our shores, no difficulty at all is experienced by the authorities or the Australian people in merging them into our way of life. They are assimilated readily and easily. But as far as the inflow of nonBritish immigrants is concerned, we are meeting a number of problems which we do not experience with British immigrants. Fundamentally, we have to appreciate that if all the foreign-born immigrants who have arrived in this country remained here, and if immigration of such people ceased immediately, approximately one in nine of the population in 1960 would be foreign-born or first generation children of foreign-born people. So it can be seen that whether we like it or not, we have a large number of immigrants here who are not Australian-born For my part, I like them, because I realize that this country has to populate or perish. As far as I personally am concerned, I should prefer to have immigrants of British stock, but the circumstances are such that we cannot get as many immigrants of British stock as we require, and of necessity we must take the next best that is offering.
I must confess that the people who have come from countries other than British have, to a great extent, helped to ease our economic problems and have contributed largely to our cultural life. But our present position is that we have the task of fitting the non-British settlers into our Australian way of life.. Assimilation is a long process. It does not consist merely of attending a ceremony, uttering a few words and receiving a naturalization certificate. Doubtless, assimilation of the recipients of these naturalization certificates will not be accomplished for very many years, but naturalization will at least give them a tangible interest in Australian citizenship and make them think they are Aus tralians. Of course, children can form the best link in the merging process between old and new Australians, but we have to deal with an adult population, and I suggest that this bill will help in that direction.
One of the first steps in assimilation is for non-British immigrants to seek naturalization status. It is not the only step, but it is a first one and a very good one. The Government should strain every nerve to encourage those who are qualified to seek such status. What we have to do, of course, is to attempt to inculcate in the minds of new Australians an understanding of the benefits that can be obtained from Australian citizenship. I. should be the first to confess that, normally, the average Australian citizen seldom gives a thought to his citizenship. But this point of view is very different from that of many thousands of new Australians, because for some of them naturalization means exchanging for the sad and negative designation of “ Stateless “ the title “ Australian citizen”. For many others, it is the means by which they can show their faith in their new homeland, by offering to the land of their adoption their services in a multiplicity of directions - and they have certainly proved their worth in employment in this country.
In the post-war period, attempts have been made to elevate the dignity of naturalization and to remove unnecessary obstacles in the way of candidates for citizenship. For example, when the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was Minister for Immigration in 1948, he piloted through this Parliament an Australian Citizenship Act which provided for a formal naturalization ceremony for those seeking Australian status. That ceremony was to take place in the police or law courts of the country, but since then the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), doubtless benefiting from experience gained as a result of the operations of the 1948 act, has taken that a step further, and his action lias met with the approbation of everybody interested in this subject. He has taken the induction services from the austere surroundings of the police courts to the more friendly atmosphere of the city halls and municipal chambers. Today, the naturalization ceremony is a bright and dignified one, with the result that greater numbers have been encouraged to take part in it. I know that honorable members who have attended such ceremonies have felt that their attendance has been well worth while. The pleased faces of immigrants who receive their certificates from the mayor or other official sufficiently indicate that they value highly their Australian citizenship. Unfortunately, despite the fact that these facilities have been available for some years, the results have not been all that could be desired. For example, in 1952 only 1,681 people were naturalized. In 1953, the number rose to 2,532, and for the first seven months of 1954, which are the latest figures’ I have, the number was 6,000. Although the numbers are rising, it is apparent that there are many eligible aliens in this country who are not keen to become naturalized, and the Government has very rightly given consideration to anomalies that have arisen under the act and in the proceedings that have taken place and has made a genuine and an honest effort to eradicate them.
From figures I have seen, I understand that there are approximately 350,000 registered aliens in Australia. “While it is quite patent that the whole 350,000 are not eligible for naturalization, because they have not the requisite five-year residential status, it is obvious, nevertheless, that there are at least 100,000 or 150,000 who are eligible to become naturalized and who have not yet done so. Although approximately 11,000 or 12,000 immigrants were naturalized last year, that rate would have to be accelerated considerably if all eligible people were to be naturalized in a reasonable period of time. Despite the fact that the Australian Government and all citizens interested in this aspect of Australian life would like these people to become naturalized, we must appreciate that there can be no compulsion on our part. Their decision must be a personal one. There must be no pressure or the slightest suggestion of intimidation, because if we compel them to become Australian citizens, naturalization will mean to them only the muttering of a formula and the signing of a docu ment. They must make the decision of their own volition. If they are allowed to do so, when they take that very important step in their lives the chances are that they will become decent Australians in every sense of the term.
Apparently the Government has asked itself three questions in relation to the very disappointing number of immigrants who have become naturalized. It seems to me that the Government has asked itself, first, whether the requirements were too stringent; secondly, whether the fee charged was too high; and thirdly, whether the nature of the naturalization ceremony was a deterrent. I am very pleased that the Government has seen fit ito reduce, from two years to six months, the period before which a person may apply for naturalization, because two years is a long time and many immigrants cannot look as far ahead as that. To-day, some of their fellow nationals, with whom they live and work, are becoming naturalized Australian, citizens, and it is quite possible that they will change their minds and quickly become Australian citizens. In those circumstances, a lengthy time factor should not be retained that might deter them from taking that definite step.
Another current legal requirement, which will disappear when this amending legislation becomes law, is the obligation that is imposed on persons to advertise in the newspapers their intention to apply for naturalization. The deletion of that provision is most advisable. For my part, I cannot see that it serves any useful purpose. Under the existing law, the particulars of intention to apply for naturalization must be advertised in two newspapers which circulate in the home district of the applicant. The purpose of this requirement, like the banns of marriage, is to enable a person who knows of any reason, why naturalization should not be conferred upon an applicant, to report the matter to the Department of Immigration. However, I ascertained from the department some time ago, and the Minister has confirmed the information this afternoon, that in the first 36 years of the operation of the act fewer than half a dozen protests were lodged against persons who intended to seek naturalization, and there were many thousands of them in that period. Various objections have been raised to this legalrequirement, and the Government, by its decision to delete the provision from the act, is acting wisely. In point of fact, the requirement obliged a person to incur heavy expense, and I consider that the provision was vexatious, and futile in nature, and served no useful purpose. It meant the unnecessary singling out of the applicant as an alien, when he was on the threshhold of becoming an Australian citizen. If a person does not seek the publicity, there is no need to blurt out to the world the fact that he is about to assume Australian citizenship. The deletion of this vexatious provision will remove any feeling of resentment that might linger in the minds of people who wish to become Australian citizens.
I am glad that the Minister has seen fit to recommend a reduction of the amount of £5, which is the fee payable at present by a person who seeks to become an Australian citizen. Until 1930, no fee was charged, but, in view of the economic circumstances that occurred in that particularly distressful period, a fee of £5 was imposed. Some people have averred that the privileges of citizenship are worth £5, but I cannot accept that way of looking at the matter. There are some things, and citizenship is one of them, which defy correlation to money values and which, in fact, are cheapened in the process. I should like the Government to abolish the fee, but I can scarcely complain with justification when the amount is to be decreased to £1. Possibly, the time will come when the fee will be abolished. In the meantime, everybody will approve of the reduction.
I have made reference to the naturalization ceremony itself, and I cannot imagine any objection to it, in its present form, but perhaps some immigrants would prefer to assume Australian citizenship unobtrusively and without publicity. I hope that provision, will be made whereby such persons may assume Australian citizenship without the presence of any persons other than the necessary officials.
The Minister and the Department of Immigration should devote some hard thinking to stepping up the numbers of persons who become naturalized Australian citizens. This bill will undoubtedly increase the naturalization figures, but a high pressure publicity campaign is required among the new Australians themselves. We must stress to new Australians that the responsibilities and obligations of Australian citizenship are important, not only from the moral viewpoint, but also from the material viewpoint. The material view-point means that the immigrant can obtain certain social benefits immediately, and other social benefits in future, when he becomes an Australian citizen. While he remains unnaturalized, he is not eligible for such benefits. That fact should be particularly stressed. I doubt whether the great proportion of immigrants who have not yet become naturalized are aware of the advantages that they are missing when they do not seek Australian status.
In my opinion, the department should utilize motion picture theatres to point out to new Australians, through the medium of films, exactly the advantages that will accrue to them when they become Australian, citizens. At the present time, motion picture theatres, before the beginning of a performance and during the interval, show various advertisements for soaps- and other products of mercantile houses, which are not of very great interest to members of the audience. If films could be shown in all theatres throughout Australia in which the great benefits that accrue to persons when they become naturalized Australian citizens are indicated, the number of applications for naturalization would, greatly increase.
The Government should embark upon a vigorous press campaign to give plenty of publicity by means of advertisements and informative articles to this matter. The subject could also be covered in radio broadcasts. In addition, leaflets should be printed on a large scale in foreign languages to inform immigrants just how good things will be for them when they become Australian citizens. I myself have not seen any evidence of a large scale publicity campaign of that kind. Perhaps such a campaign has been conducted, but if it has been, certainly no effort has been made in my electorate, where- many hundreds of new Australians are living. I would welcome the introduction of publicity methods of this kind into my electorate. We should ensure i that publicity methods of that kind are embarked upon, and the department should inform an alien, if he does not apply for a naturalization form on the completion of his residential qualification of five years, of his eligibility to apply for naturalization, and should even send an application form to him. In other words, the department should not wait for the immigrant to come to it. The department should reach the immigrant, by means of a letter, and point, out to him the benefits that will accrue to him if ho assumes Australian citizenship. I suggest that such a method would induce many more thousands of new Australians to join our ranks. We should also take this publicity campaign into the factories and workshops and, in doing so, we should seek the co-operation of employers’ organizations and the trade unions, in order to inform the immigrants who are engaged in the various industrial plants of the measures that they are to take if they wish to become Australian citizens, and of the great benefits that will come their way if they take that step. Australians desire the new arrivals to become Australian citizens as quickly as possible. On this matter, we are at one. Managements and employees are agreed that the population of Australian must be increased, but it is of no use to increase our numbers with persons who form themselves into isolated communities and refuse to be assimilated into the Australian community. The Government should strive to give the widest publicity to these matters, because naturalization is a substantial step towards the assimilation of new arrivals into our way of life.
– in reply - I do not propose to speak at any length, because I appreciate the support which has come for this measure from all sections of the House. It would be a poor return on my part to delay unduly the passage of this bill, when so many honorable members have spoken approvingly of its principal provisions. Honorable members have adopted a constructiveapproach to the bill, and some points havebeen raised which I may usefully deal with at this stage, because I am sure that they possess a general interest that perhaps extends even outside thischamber.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), for example, referred in rathercritical terms to what he felt to be a lack of emphasis on the placement of new settlers in rural areas. I, perhaps, would agree with him that we all would havebeen happier had a bigger proportion of our new arrivals gone into permanent occupation and residence in the rural areas. Before explaining something of the difficulty that develops hi that respect I should like to point out to the honorable member that the picture is not quite so unfavorable as he seemed to indicate in his remarks. If he examines the statistics relating to the occupations of immigrants in the post-war years he will find that a rather higher proportion of immigrants is settled in occupations in rural areas than is the case with the Australian population as a whole. In other words, a larger percentage of the immigrant work force is engaged in work on the land than the percentage of the total Australian work force that is so employed.
– It is only a very small additional percentage.
– I agree that in percentages there is not a great deal to crow about on that particular point, but the picture is improved if the honorable member takes into account that in our planning of the immigration intake, and the placement of immigrants in employment, we have tried so to arrange the shipping movements and the availability of immigrant labour that, at times when there is a demand for seasonal work, and when opportunities of a seasonal character require a temporarily enlarged work force, to those demands is related the movement of immigrants over whom we have some general supervision. The honorable member will find that at the time of the sugar harvest in Queensland the work force in the sugar industry is supplemented very considerably by immigrant workers. At the harvesting periods in December, January, February and
March, again wc 30 order the movements of immigrant shipping that the initial placement of immigrant workers is on to seasonal work on the land. After that seasonal work has cut out we move them into those sections of industry that are short of labour and require their services. As an illustration I point out that si bout .1,500 cn no-cutters and other workers for the sugar industry are being specially recruited overseas, and will arrive shortly and enter employment in that industry. After that work is finished most of them will either gravitate to other rural work of a permanent character in the neighbourhood in which they ha ve been working, or they will come south and be placed in industries in which openings for them exist.
But particular problems arise when we try to settle immigrants on their own holdings, and I am sure that the honorable member for Yarra is as familiar with them as are other honorable members. One problem is ‘the very high capitalization required nowadays to establish a. man on the land. Another difficulty is that of establishing, with that capitalization, a European who is relatively unfamiliar with Australian methods of large-scale farming production, and is more accustomed to the smaller-scale, intensive farming that is practised in European countries. I consider that the most useful and productive way in which to establish on Australian farms the necessary number of new settlers who have a farming background, is to encourage them,_to the best of our ability, to find openings for themselves in share-farming activities. In the first instance an immigrant farmer could perhaps work with an Australian farmer who is becoming too old to work his farm alone, or who has a. bigger area to cultivate than he can cope with conveniently. In that way the immigrant would not only be able to gain experience of Australian farming methods, but, through some mutually satisfactory arrangement with the farmer, might obtain some land for himself. I mention that matter to show the honorable member for Yarra that we have not only given a good deal of thought to this problem, but that we have also attempted, from time to time, to settle labour from European sources, or people from Britain who have some farming capacity, on the land. In our recruiting arrangements overseas each year we plan for the intake of a relatively high proportion of rural workers from the countries in which our selections arc made.
– Does the Minister get any help from the Australian Country party?
– Not as much as from the honorable member for Yarra.
– The honorable member for Werriwa is an applicant for the Liberal party.
– That is a lie.
– Order ! Honorable members cannot make remarks like “ That is a lie “. That remark will be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it, and say that it was inaccurate.
– The withdrawal must be unconditional.
– I withdraw it unconditionally.
– Another matter of some consequence that was raised by the honorable member for Yarra, and was also mentioned by other honorable members, is the problem, of delays which are occurring in the finalization of applications for naturalization. I admit immediately to the honorable member for Yarra that there are delays that have caused me, and the head of the Department of Immigration, as well as other senior officers, a good deal of concern. We realize, as the honorable member has put it to the House, that it is a frustrating and vexatious business for a person who has decided on the major step of naturalization to find the months go by with no finality being reached in relation to his application. I consider, therefore, that I should explain to the House that the procedures which have been adopted 30 far in this matter have been responsible for the delays, and that certainly no lack of effort or application to the task on the part of departmental officers has been the cause. What has been done in recent years, in a period in which disturbed world conditions have been a feature of our life, and in which we have taken in so many hundreds of thousands of people from the wardis.turbed countries of Europe, has been when an application for naturalization has been made, to make a further check in the country from which the applicant has come. I point out that our screening of intending immigrants is as thorough as we can make it before they come here, and that we have, within the first five years of a person taking up residence in Australia, a virtually unqualified power, which is vested in the Minister for Immigration, to deport such a person who turns out to be an undesirable character or unworthy of residence in this country. It has been considered that, when naturalization is contemplated after the five years’ period has elapsed, these checks should be made. I have been giving consideration, with the officers of the department, recently, to the results of this process, because, quite obviously, the care that we are taking in making further inquiries overseas may be regarded, in view of the fact that the applicant has already resided here for five years, and our own records may show nothing to his or her detriment, as carrying caution too far. That may well prove to be a disadvantage that outweighs such advantages as are derived when, as a Ivy-product of the process, we get dissatisfaction and resentment developing on the part of people whose applications have, in their view, been too long delayed. I can assure the House this matter is receiving our very active consideration, and I hope we shall be able to evolve a solution to it that will avoid the delays which have been an undesirable feature of our practice over recent years. I repeat, however, that no blame is attachable on that account to any officer of the Department of Immigration. The officers of that department deal as speedily as they can from this end with the applications received. We do not have the same control over inquiries which are made overseas as “we have over our activities in Australia.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) expressed some concern at the power of delegation which is sought in the bill. I ask the House not to disturb that provision, however conscious it may be of the danger, such as it is, that may develop from it. I hope we shall always have, to administer theDepartment of Immigration, a. Minister of comparative seniority and experience who can be relied upon, to exercise thepower of delegation with discretion, with the intention of improving performance rather than of dodging work which might otherwise be regarded as the Minister’s proper function.
I have answered in part some of the comments that have been made about the relatively small number of persons applying for naturalization. As a result of the great influx since 1947, immigrants are becoming eligible for naturalization in increasing numbers. That has been reflected in the number of applications received. In 1953 there were fewer than 5,000 applications for naturalization. In 1954, there were 16,000 applications and this year, on present indications, we are likely to reach 25,000. If the trend continues, there is a possibility that we shall receive up to 50,000 applications for naturalization in 1956. There was a time when the Minister for Immigration was expected to approve personally every application for naturalization, and had to sign personally every naturalization certificate, but quite clearly it is becoming impracticable for one man occupying a ministerial position to continue the other duties of his office and cope with the machinery work that is involved in such a host of applications. Therefore, it has become imperative that some of the work should be delegated. T assure the House, however, that the Government does not propose to extend the power to be delegated right down the line of the department. It is intended to put into effect the general policy that I have indicated, and the delegation of powers will be confined probably to four senior members of the department. They will be the permanent head, his deputy and, I expect, the next two senior officers who would be able to act from time to time.
– What would be the rank of the two officers after the head of the department and his deputy?
– Two of the most senior officers of the Central Secretariat in Canberra. That is my understanding of the arrangement, but I shall work that out with the permanent head of the department in a way that I think will satisfy honorable members. The arrangements could be reviewed from time to time if desired by the Immigration Advisory Council of which the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) is a valuable member. I believe that the arrangement will work to the satisfaction of the House.
There need be no fear that the certificates will lose any impressiveness. On the contrary, it has been my desire, in altering the design and appearance of the certificates, to give them even greater impressiveness for the recipients. I believe that when the honorable member for Bendigo sees the result of our efforts, hp will agree that we have made some useful improvement in that direction. I do not believe I need cover any other details at this point. If there are any points that I have overlooked, and honorable members wish to discuss them at the committee stage, I shall be happy to deal with them then. I appreciate what has been, said from all sections of the House si bout the capacity and efficiency of the officers of the Immigration Department. They were once referred to by my predecessor, the honorable member for Melbourne who is now deputy leader of the Opposition, as a thoroughly efficient administrative machine in first-class working order. He said that he hoped to get. them back from, me in the same condition at some future time. He has had to wait quite a time for that experience and I fear that, on present indications, he will have much longer still to wait, but I assure him that, with the co-operation of the officers of the department, the Government is keeping the department in full working order and it has probably been improved since I took it over.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a, second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 20th April, (vide page 67), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- -If it were not for the fact that a government needs powers of resumption, it would not be necessary to have a bill of this nature before the House. The Commonwealth has powers of acquiring land by virtue of the Constitution, and a measure of this type is required to identify the means by which land may be compulsorily acquired from the citizens. Nobody likes legislation of this character. It is legislation to acquire compulsorily property owned by the citizens or, in other words, a law which enables the Government or all the people of Australia to acquire land owned by one or more persons who have interests in a particular piece of property. This legislation is a necessary evil. It is necessary because the Australian Government must have the power to acquire land in. certain circumstances. Nobody, except socialists, like laws which arbitrarily take away from a private citizen something that he owns. For that reason, legislation of this nature must be particularly just and equitable. The greatest possible care must be taken in framing it.
This bill is an endeavour to put into better order the existing legislation. It is designed to provide better conditions for the resumption of land than those now existing, and I believe that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) has performed his task well. The bill contains many amendments that are a marked improvement on the old legislation. It has some very good features, and I shall refer to a few of them. One example is the provision for compensation to he payable on the value of the land at the date of gazettal instead of the present provision for the relevant value to be the figure at the 1st January preceding the date of resumption. The right to take a case to court at once if an offer is not acceptable instead of waiting for 60 days is another good provision. That will facilitate the completion of the matter should there be any delay on the part of the Government. Another good provision is that which stipulates that if no agreement is made within six months, the claimant can go to the court at once. At present, there is no provision which enables a. claimant to go to a court. I think the Minister might consider shortening the time from six months to three months, but that is not a major matter. The amendment that is proposed will certainly be of great benefit.
Another excellent feature of the legislation is that it will give a right of appeal, for which no provision is made at present. Clause 11 is worth referring to, because it provides that the Minister shall table notice of land resumptions in this House within fourteen sitting days of the House after the date of publication of the notice and, subject to specified conditions, the House will be able to disallow any intended resumption which has been gazetted. In such circumstances, a claim can be made for compensation for any injury suffered by the person whose laud was intended to be resumed, even though it was not in fact resumed, subject to the qualification that such a claim can be made only when the value of the land exceeds £1 00.
Another important feature of the bill is that an approach can be made to a court to settle, not only the compensation payable to the owner of the land, but also complex matters affecting the interests of other parties, such as mortgagors and mortgagees, licensees and lessees, as well as the apportionment of values in relation to residues and other matters of that kind. It means, in effect, that the court will be able to deal, not only with matters arising between the Government and the land-owner, but also with matters affecting other people who have interests in the land concerned. That provision will be of great help to all people involved in resumptions of land by the Government. I commend the Minister for that provision, which I think is a particularly good one.
Last night we listened to a dissertation by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I gathered that the main cause for his discontent was his objection to the provision authorizing the Minister and the Attorney-General to delegate power to a departmental officer or some one else.’ Although I agree that power of delegation should be watched carefully at all times, in this instance I think it. will he distinctly helpful to many people involved in compensation claims. Lt applies only to cases where agreement has been arrived at and where the value of the lami does not exceed £500.
– Why not to all acquisitions?
– I am speaking of the power of delegation contained in this bill, to which the honorable member for Lalor took exception. It could be very helpful in cases where the Minister was not readily available. It is a worthwhile power of delegation in relation to relatively minor matters, and it will not take away, as the honorable member for Lalor appears to believe, any of the rights of the citizens concerned. It will not take away, for instance, the right of a person whose land has been resinned to approach a court if he disagrees with the compensation proposed. There will be delegation of power to fix up ordinary administrative matters associated with the resumption of land, the value of which does not exceed £000. It will be seen that there is really nothing to cavil at in this matter, yet the honorable member for Lalor, who led the Opposition on the bill, treated it as a. bone of contention. That was quite a foolish attitude to adopt. Shortly before then he had taken part in another important debate, so perhaps he was a little excited when he spoke on this bill and did not fully understand it. The Government is at all times responsible for the actions of those to whom it delegates power.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) spoke of his agreement with the requirement to pay compensation on just terms, but his idea, of just terms appears to be a little different from ours. I think he is under a. misapprehension. He said last night that he believed the members of the Government parties interpreted the phrase “just terms “ as meaning that a laud-owner should be paid whatever he thought his land was worth. That is not so. We say that the Government should pay on the basis of the value of the land at the date of resumption, in the same way as would a private person who proposed to buy land from a not unwilling seller, to use the phraseology of valuation. That is what we mean by just terms. Surely that is fair and reasonable. When a man’s land is acquired by a government, it is, in effect, purchased by the rest of the people of Australia, and the rest of the people of Australia, benefit from the acquisition. In those circumstances, surely it would be most unreasonable if a person from whom the land was taken arbitrarily received for it less than the then market value of the land, on the basis of the test to which I have just referred.
Yet we find - I do not want to dwell on this matter because doubtless other honorable members on this side of the [louse will have something to say about it - that some terrible things are happening in relation to land acquisition. In New South Wales, for instance, the idea of compensation on just terms is compensation based on 1942 values. We know, that in Australia the value of land and of almost everything else has increased by upward of 300 per cent., yet in New South Wales, for the purpose of acquiring land from defenceless people - these people are completely defenceless - values are fixed at the 1942 figures, plus a meagre 15 per cent, which almost adds insult to injury. That type of approach to these matters is completely unjust and should not be countenanced. It is completely inequitable. To put it in stronger words, it is sheer confiscation. Under section 51 of the Constitution, this Government is obliged to pay compensation on just terms, yet we are handing over millions of pounds of the Commonwealth’s money for the acquisition of land, particularly in New South Wales, on anything but just terms. I say in passing that this Government ought to see to it that no money for land acquisition is handed over to any authority which does not pay compensation on just terras to the people whose land it takes.
I want to deal with a number of other clauses and make some suggestions in relation to them. I refer first to clause 13, which deals with notices to owners. 1’ believe that greater efforts should be made to notify, owners that the Govern ment intends to resume their land. Many people are very casual about these things. They may have a tenant on their property, and they may not leave- an address at which they can be found. Sometimes it is difficult to contact them. The bill prescribes certain methods of notification. It takes the old law and adds to it a provision that notice of resumption shall be published in a newspaper circulating in the district in which the land is situated. That is not good enough. In my view, when this Government or a State government arbitrarily takes some one’s land, it is up to that government to go to a great deal of trouble to contact the owner of the land and acquaint him with what it proposes to do. The simple soul in the street, although a. very worthy citizen, is often not aware of all these complex laws. He cannot be expected to know what is happening in relation to these matters, and he does not know his rights under the law. So, I think it is up to all governments to be, in that sense, the protectors of the people. We have all read about notices similar to those that I have described being sent out in New South Wales when a sheriff has had to sell certain property for the satisfaction of a. judgment debt. Grave injustices have been perpetrated in this way. Terrible things have happened. People have lost their entire equity in their homes. Many similar injustices may be perpetrated if greater care is not taken to ensure that people are acquainted with what is proposed in relation to their land.
Under clause 15, a. person authorized by the Minister may enter not only upon land that is to be resumed - I concede that right which is contained in the old legislation - but also upon adjoining land, which may be owned by somebody who is not concerned in the resumption. Such entry may be made “ with such persons, vehicles and things as he thinks fit “. Perhaps it may be necessary for the Commonwealth’s representative to go on to adjoining land. I do not say that, in all cases, it would not be necessary, but clause 16 provides that the authorized person may “ occupy the land so entered for so long as is necessary for the purposes of any works connected with the carrying out of a public purpose “. I thank there, is a need for a further examination of this provision by the Minister with a view to placing some obligation on the Government in relation to the exercise of that power. I know that, in clause 18, it is provided that anybody who suffers -damage has a claim for compensation. But all sorts of things could happen. In any case, a claim for compensation has to be initiated in a court. Under this legislation, somebody may -just walk on to land without asking for permission. If anybody objects, the big stick is brought out. I know of cases in which entry has been made to adjoining land. In an area of my electorate where war service homes were being erected and roads constructed, soil from the roads was thrown on adjoining land to the great inconvenience of the owner of that land. That is a very easy thing to do, but it may cause a great deal of inconvenience to the public. All I ask is that, administratively, or in some other way, action should be taken to ensure that the greatest possible care shall be observed and the greatest possible courtesy extended in matters of this kind. If entry has to be made to adjoining land it should be done in such a way that people not concerned with actual land resumptions are treated with complete justice.
Clause 19’ imposes a time limit of 120 day3 on the making of a claim on the Minister. I realize that other provisions of the bill impinge on that one, but I consider that no such time limit should be allowed to deprive an owner of his right to just compensation. I realize that the Government can go ahead and itself fix the value, but there are cases in which claims have been made and have been pending for a number of years. No person should be out of pocket simply because he has not made a claim within the specified time of 120 days. Let us always understand when we are dealing with land that, frequently, one comes across people who are quite simple about such matters. All they know is that they have their own little corner of the earth. They interfere with nobody and they are splendid citizens in every way, but they just do not ‘understand all these complex matters. Such people should not be .penalized merely because they neglect to do something that they should do, or perhaps because they do not know that they should make a claim within the specified period. If the Government is obliged ultimately to fix compensation, the money should be paid into the Treasury so that the owner of the land may get it later That can be done now, but I believe that the owner should also be entitled to argue his case later if necessary. In other words, I do not think that a time limit should be permitted to deprive a person of justice.
Clause 22 provides that, in determining compensation, regard shall be had to the enhancement in value of the interest of the claimant in adjoining land. I know that a similar provision existed in the old legislation, and it may sound equitable to some people, but if the Government is going to do something that will enhance the value of adjoining land remaining in the possession of the former owner of the acquired land, and that enhanced value is to be taken into consideration in fixing compensation, other adjoiningland should be similarly affected. In other words, if it is equitable to take into consideration the enhancement of the value of the land that is to remain in his possession, owners of other adjoining land should be similarly affected. Perhaps the equitable way would be the imposition of a betterment tax. I do not like betterment taxes, but there are such things. However, I think it is wrong that a valuation of land made arbitrarily by the Commonwealth should take into consideration the enhancement of the value of land that a person still owns.
I have had many years of experience in the approach of the bureaucrat to the fixing of land values. His approach is naturally conservative. He wants to get land for the Government at the cheapest possible price. To-day, there is no need to approach the problem in that way. We have reached the stage in this country when the value of land can be determined scientifically. ‘ There are, growing up in our community, people who are thoroughly qualified to value property. They have studied this job for years. In the various real estate institutes throughout Australia, there are hundreds of men and women who are taking courses in land valuation. Examinations in this subject are set by university extension boards and technical colleges in the various States. We are producing scientific land valuers who can identify value in the proper sense. That is not intended to be a reflection on the valuers of old. They relied more on their good sense than upon the science of valuation. There is a valuation division of the real estate institute in each of the States. Then there is the Commonwealth Institute of Valuers which also sets examinations for people who wish to learn the art of valuing. I believe that everything possible should be done to facilitate the completion of land resumptions to the satisfaction both of the Commonwealth and of the owner. I suggest that in order to prevent the major number of cases that go to court from doing so, the Government could agree to put a provision in the legislation to enable a panel of three qualified valuers to be appointed. One could be appointed by the Government and one by the owner of the subject land, and those two valuers could get together with an independent valuer, according to a system of arbitration, and could meet, compare notes and decide on the value of the land. The Government should be bound by the decision of that panel of valuers, and, if agreement is obtained beforehand, so should the claimant. That would be an extremely simple system, founded on arbitration. With qualified valuers dealing with the valuation of the land we should have a means of facilitating the settlement of such land matters immediately, and so avoid the litigation and consequent costs that are now encountered throughout the Commonwealth through these matters being brought before the courts. Of course, the right of an owner to go to the court must remain, because it is proper to obtain the assistance of the court if no agreement is reached. However, a scheme such as the one that I have suggested would, I submit, enable agreement to be reached in the great majority of cases.
The average citizen would be satisfied if well-known valuers, appointed by each side, together with an independent valuer, considered, and reached agreement on, the value of his land. I suggest that that is a facility that the Government should make available to people whose land they propose to resume, and it is a very simple but effective system which would bring justice to everybody in the country. There are valuers in Australia whose reputation is completely unquestioned, and such men would be available for the tribunals that I have mentioned. I also believe that the Government should pay the costs of the panel of valuers, because, after all, the owner of the land in question should not be called to pay when the Commonwealth is seeking to resume his land.
I suggest that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), who is at present in the House, together with the Minister in charge of the bill, should consider the suggestion that I have just put forward and ascertain where an amendment on the. lines of the suggestion could be incorporated in the measure. I suggest that it could be inserted immediately after clause 23.
– The honorable member may raise that matter in committee.
– Yes, I realize that, but I also suggest that the Minister might submit my suggestion to his colleague who is in charge of the bill. Another matter that I desire to mention is the way in which the Government selects land for resumption. I believe that the Government should approach this matter by placing itself in exactly the same position as that of citizens who desire to acquire property. Wherever possible the Government should purchase the property that it requires on the open market, in the same way as a citizen is required to purchase property. Of course, I realize that there are some circumstances in which that principle could not be applied, and only then should the big stick, or the power of resumption, be used in connexion with the property of a citizen. There have been cases where the Government has resumed more land than it needed. I believe that I have spoken in this House before about the way in which the Government proceeds to pick out the choicest pieces of land in a district without considering the way in which the district is developing. The Government does not consider how the commercial centres are developing, how the district is being planned, what the wishes of the local government bodies are, what the progress associations of very worthy citizens in various areas are doing, and what the chambers of commerce are doing. All those bodies that I have mentioned are very rarely consulted by the Government when it is considering the resumption of land.
– There are a lot of gogetters involved.
– It is not as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) suggests; it is a question of the Government fitting in with the development of the community in the district where it intends to resume land. For example, if land is needed for a telephone exchange, there is no necessity to resume a valuable site in the heart of a commercial centre, when a good block of land in a back street would suit the purpose. After all, a telephone exchange does not need to be in a main street, and, moreover, a block of land in a back street could be acquired much more cheaply for such a purpose. I suggest to the Government that that type of acquisition should he carefully considered. I have mentioned before that a huge area of land was resumed in Crows Nest for a new post office. The land resumed was far beyond the needs of a post office, and I suggest that the Government should not undertake such resumptions. When the land was resumed it was worth probably £100 a foot, and to-day it is worth about £600 a foot. But the Government still holds it as vacant land while an important area is developing around it. Moreover, the Government will not need it for a post office for perhaps another ten or fifteen years. I agree, of course, that the Government should get sites in advance for post offices, but I do not agree that the Government should take more land than it requires for its particular purposes. If the Government should find that it has more land than it needs, it should give the owner from whom it resumed the land the right to take the excess area back again.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to direct my remarks on this measure to a comparison between the Commonwealth legislation and the corresponding legislation in the various States, insofar as a comparison has been made by honorable members on the Government side. I also desire to examine some of the weaknesses in this bill. The features which honorable members on the. Government side have compared with the State acts were referred to very prejudicially by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), and very judicially by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). They singled out one piece of legislation of the New South Wales Government which deals with war service land settlement, and which provides for the resumption of land for that purpose at the 1942 valuation, plus up to 15 per cent, of that valuation.
– I previously heard the word “ confiscation “ used in a very mannerly speech by the honorable member for Balaclava. He also used the word “ black-mail “ in regard to the same State legislation. I am not seeking to justify that legislation at all.
– And not defending it?
– Neither am I defending it, nor commenting on its wisdom or justice.
– Then why did the honorable member raise the matter?
– I raised the matter because the last two speakers on the Government side also raised it. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), who interjects so constantly, heard the last speaker raise the matter, but was not present in the House last night when the honorable member for Balaclava so judicially referred to the same legislation. The only relevance of the New South Wales act to this bill is that they both deal with land acquisition. The New South Wales legislation bears no relation to the method of acquisition which the Government has adopted, or which it is able to adopt under the Constitution. But, as the honorable member for Balaclava said last night, the remedy for the maimer of war service land settlement in New South “Wales lies with the Australian Government; - this Government, the preceding one or a succeeding one. The land settlement of ex-servicemen is a matter which is certainly within the power of this Parliament. To resume land on which to settle ex-servicemen is as much within the constitutional power of this Parliament as to resume land upon which to build war service homes.
The Minister in charge of this measure has on many occasions stated as a threat, but has never tried to implement the threat, that, if the State governments did not pay just prices for the land resumed for war service land settlement, the Commonwealth would itself take over the provision of land for the settlement of ex-servicemen in the only way in which it could take it over, that is, by resuming it on just terms. I do not think that anybody has asserted, certainly no one in this House has asserted, that the Commonwealth has not that power. Indeed, the Commonwealth has used the power in South Australia, “Western Australia and Tasmania. It can exercise power in a similar way in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
– It is not exercising that power.
– I do not intend to accept a correction on a legal matter from the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), although I give every consideration to such interjections by the honorable member for Evans. In three States the Australian Government has resumed land for war service land settlement. What is constitutional in one State is constitutional in another. The Commonwealth’s action has not been challenged in three States and is nol likely to be challenged in the others. Therefore, if the procedure followed by the New South Wales Government is incorrect, this Government can follow a better procedure. It can occupy the whole field of soldier settlement if it wishes, but it is still begging the question, passing the buck, condoning an injustice by allowing a State government to do something which this Government alone can do as soon as it decides to do it. If this Government decides to occupy the whole field of soldier settlement, a State government has no power to do it. As the honorable member for Balaclava pointed out last night, when the interjecting members were not present to hear him, if this Government does not like the way that New South Wales, or any other State, resumes land for soldier settlement, it can make grants of financial assistance to that State under section 96 of the Constitution on condition that the State pays a just price for any land resumed for soldier settlement.
– On condition that the State accepts it.
– The State has no option but to accept it. The Commonwealth can either resume land for soldier settlement itself and pay for it, or it can say to- any State government, “We shall give you such and such a sum for soldier settlement on condition that you spend it by paying a just price for the land you resume “. There is no way for escape. This Government should not blame the State governments for doing something in a certain way when this Government can itself do it in the proper way ; when this Government itself and the three small States already do it in the proper way; when this Government itself, in all six States, does it the proper way in regard to war service homes. There is no more need for the Commonwealth to get the consent of a State government to acquire land for Commonwealth purposes in this regard than in any other regard. If the Commonwealth want3 land for defence purposes, be it for war service homes, land settlement, war service land settlement or the armed forces, it may acquire it whether or not the State governments or the local councils- concur or demur.
I am amazed that honorable members on the other side of the House seem to be so much at variance with the honorable and learned member for Balaclava, who last night stated this question so clearly and so fairly. There is one further point which, perhaps, I might mention, where this bill has an advantage over most of the State acts with which I am acquainted. I do not pretend to be acquainted with all the State acts. I have referred to the only State act that has been criticized adversely. This act, as far as I know, is the only New South Wales act which says that land will be resumed at less than its current value - less than just terms. There is one advantage which this bill confers on citizens, which none of the State acts confers, as far as I know. That is, that if land is compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth under this measure, and it is subject to a lease, and the term of that lease expires, or it is a periodic lease, the lease is determined and is then converted into a right to compensation under the bill. A different position obtains under a great number of the State acts, because in the States the Crown, in the right of the State, or a Crown instrumentality can resume the freehold of land. They then, under their acts, pay a just price for that freehold, but in due course they can give notice to quit. They can evict the tenants of the land, and they do not have to give just terms to the tenants for their leasehold interest. That is because the State landlord and tenant acts do not protect tenants of the Crown. They do not bind the Crown or the Crown’s instrumentalities. This Commonwealth legislation at least confers on citizens a benefit which most of the State acts, at all events, do not confer on them.
This bill reproduces many of the features which were present in the Lands Acquisition Bill of 1952, which was debated in this House in September, 1952, and was withdrawn by the Minister following suggestions from this side of the House and, in fact, from his own side. It bears many marks of the improvements which can be- brought about in legislation by parliamentary discussion. But many of the obnoxious features remain - the transfer of power from the Governor-General, that is, two or more Cabinet Ministers, to the Minister. These objectionable features were very clearly exposed by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) two and a half years ago. The objectionable features which remain concern the power that the Minister has to delegate some of his powers for acquiring land by agreement - and they are considerable. The Minister - not the
Executive Council - or, if he chooses, his delegate, may, by agreement, acquire land whose price does not exceed £500 or whose annual rental does not exceed £500. Furthermore, he or his delegate may now dispose of land of no higher value or rental. There are limitations of value in those regards, but there is no limitation on the value in the case of an agreement which the Minister or his delegate makes as to the amount of compensation to be paid if land is compulsorily acquired within a certain time after the agreement is made. Nor is there any limitation of value in the case of an agreement by the Minister or his delegate on the terms and conditions on which persons may remain in possession of land which has been acquired, but which is not needed by the Commonwealth for the time being. In the last two cases, there is no limitation on value at all. There is no provision in any of those cases for the acquisition to be presented to the House at all. That is, the only way we can learn about it is to read the Gazette. If we do not like it, we have to move a motion of no confidence in the Government. Frankly, honorable members on this side of the House cannot see why the approval of the Governor-General, that is, two or more members of the Executive Council, is required, for the acquisition by agreement of land which is worth more than £500, or is let for more than £500 a year, while the approval of the Minister, or of an. official, or, in fact, of a private citizen suffices for the acquisition by agreement of land of less value, or which is let at a lower rent.
– The little man does not seem to count.
– Exactly. A man whose land is worth less than £500 a year may be just as attached to it, or entitled to it, as is a man whose land is worth £5,000 or £50,000. The small landowner deserves as much consideration as the big one. We should not tell the small man that he is beneath the Minister’s notice, or that he is being removed from this Parliament’s consideration. Moreover, he is usually less able to stand the cost of litigation to obtain just terms than the big man. It is true that, to a certain extent, the bill limits the value of the land which the Minister or his delegate may acquire, but it puts no limitation on the number of neighbouring pieces of land which either may acquire. A great number of the Commonwealth’s instrumentalities, like the Army and the War Service Homes Division, frequently acquire a whole estate consisting of a dozen, or a score, or more lots, each of which is valued at under £500 or is let at less than that annual rental
The individual pieces of property may be acquired by the Minister or his delegate by agreement only. They cannot be acquired compulsorily in the first place, but the owner knows full well that, if he does not agree at that stage, his land may then be compulsorily acquired. He knows, furthermore, that, if it is compulsorily acquired, and if the Minister offers a fair sum for it, he will gain nothing by going to the court to claim just terms, because the Minister already will have offered them. A fair sum having been offered, the owner probably will be denied any cost of litigation. As the bill expressly states, he certainly will be denied interest on the money that he has been offered but which he will not be paid until the court proceedings have ended. The owner has nothing to gain, and there is nothing for him to preserve, by refusing to agree. In other words, if the Minister or the delegate offers a fair amount to the owner of a property which is worth less than £500, or which is let at a rental of less than £500 a year, the owner knows perfectly well that he must hand it over. Naboth would have survived if he had accepted the just terms that King Ahab had offered him for his vineyard, but there was no power of compulsory acquisition in those days.
I refer to one further matter in relation to the delegation of power, and that is the manner of it. The bill does not say to whom, or to what class of persons the Minister may delegate his power. It is to be assumed, as was stated by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) when discussing the Nationality and Citizenship Bill 1955, that those powers will be delegated to a senior official, but the measure does not say so. The delega tion could be made to an estate agent, to a private citizen, or to a temporary public servant, but the character or the substance of the persons to whom the power is to be delegated is not prescribed in the bill. Surely it is necessary that, in a case like this, the Parliament should preserve its ‘power to review those classes of persons to whom such wide powers are granted. After all, the majority of Commonwealth resumptions are probably of pieces of land worth less than £500, and the kind of person who is to have the power to which I have referred should be decided by the Parliament, not by the Minister or even by the Executive Council. That arrangement could easily be achieved by providing that a delegation shall be laid before each House of the Parliament within fourteen sitting days after the date of its publication in the Gazette. In that case, the House may pass a resolution to declare the delegation null and void. It is certainly a safeguard that the Minister himself should appreciate, because, if he authorizes a delegation to somebody who proves to be unworthy or corruptand that has happened in relation to delegations in respect of land transactions in the Commonwealth service, in the State services and in municipal services - he himself is to blame. If, however, the delegation were tabled in the House and were not disallowed, he would be fortified by the acquiescence of the House.
It cannot be stated, as was stated in relation to the bill to which I referred a little earlier, that there will be 25,000 acquisitions a year, but there may well be 1,000 or 2,000 such acquisitions. They should not provide too much work for the Minister himself to deal with and, as I have stated before, these little men are entitled to just as much consideration as the big men. The question of the delegation of power was referred to in September, 1952, by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) and not, as the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) stated, by the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) who, I am sure he will not mind my saying, is a horse of the same colour but from a different stable. The honorable member for Petrie stated -
As a Parliament we should not allow the administration of government, or the property dealings of government, to reach a stage when it may become impossible for the Executive Council to keep a proper control over them . . 1 consider it to be a pity that we should be reduced to a stage where the actual volume of administration is such that it is necessary for powers to be vested solely in the Minister, or worse than that - and I say “ worse than that “ quite definitely - that the powers should be vested in some other person who is no more than a servant of a particular Commonwealth department.
It was after the honorable member had made those remarks and had suggested that the bill that was then being debated should be withdrawn, that it was withdrawn. Most of the powers of delegation then proposed have been withdrawn now. In fact, they have been withdrawn in respect of all acquisitions by compulsion and all acquisitions by agreement in relation to large areas of land, but not in relation to small areas of land worth only £500 or which were let at only £500 a year.
The fact that I disagree with some of the remarks of the honorable member for Benelong (Mr. Cramer) and prefer the attitude of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) does not mean that I do not see merit in some of the other suggestions that were made by the honorable member for Benelong. In fact, 1. do. This bill alone among Australia’s resumption legislation, as far as I know, provides a time table under which acquisitions may be finalized. One of the worst features of acquisitions, and one of the things that has caused most injustice, has been the fact that there have been such long delays in having these matters determined. Those delays have been caused, not only by the courts, but also by the administrative procedures that have had to be followed before the claims have ever reached the courts. This bill is designed to ensure that those administrative procedures shall follow a certain time-table. That form of guillotine, to that extent, will ensure that there is not the denial of justice that often flows from such delays.
I go further and admit that I see very much merit in the suggestion of the honorable member for Bennelong that litigation should be reduced, and that arbitration should be promoted in relation to these matters. There is no doubt that under a federal system there is always a tendency towards litigation. We have litigation to excess. That may suit very many honorable members who have already spoken, and who have already interjected, and who will yet speak, but it does not necessarily tend towards making a more harmonious and justly governed community. Surely the acquisition of land is one of those matters that is not capable of determination between parties in the sense that ordinary jury cases are, and in referring to jury cases I refer to the essence of law where there is an issue that must be decided in favour of one party or the other. Resumption cases are almost always matters of compromise and, therefore, essentially more matters for arbitration than litigation. The suggestion of the honorable member for Benelong that highly qualified persons should determine such matters at the cost of the Government itself is an eminently reasonable, practical, economic and just proposition. .
I make a concluding reference to the bill by referring to the question of interest. Clause 33 sets the rate of interest at 3 per cent., which rate is exactly the same as that which was set when the first legislation of this kind was passed nearly 50 years ago. That rate is too low. I am not an advocate of high interest rates, but I do suggest, with all respect, that the interest rate in this case is too low. Many men, and certainly many of the men whose land may be acquired under this amending legislation by the Minister or by a mere delegate, have acquired their land to build a house or a shop on it. If that land were resumed, it stands to reason that, if they were prudent men, they would look for other blocks upon which they could build their houses or shops. If they were to huy other blocks, it is quite likely that they would find it necessary to borrow money until they receive payment for the old blocks. If they borrow money, it is evident, or, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) would say, it is abundantly clear, that they would not be able to obtain the money at an interest rate of 3 per cent. That means that between the dates of acquisition and of payment the owner will have to pay the difference in interest without any hope of having that difference in interest paid back to him. Those are not just terms. If court proceedings are long delayed, his loss might be considerable. Therefore, in my view, the interest allowed should be at least the amount that the trading banks charge on overdrafts.
I have already referred to the considerable improvements of the Lands Acquisition Bill 1952 that have been made in this bill following the debate on the preceding measure in this House two and a half years ago, and I trust that the suggestions that have been made on this occasion by honorable members on both sides of the chamber will result in the bill being further improved.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) was marked by its professional timidity. The honorable member, of course, is a lawyer, and he advanced, so far as he was able to do, his views about the legal aspects of this bill. A great many of his arguments were answered in advance by lawyers who sit on this side of the House, and I have no doubt that, if the honorable member waits long enough, he will hear his arguments answered also by the lawyers who will follow after me. But there are aspects other than the strictly legal side of a measure such as this. There is, if I may be permitted to say so, the human side of legislation of this description, and it is the human side of the bill with which I want to deal now.
This measure deals exclusively with the operation of what a layman might be permitted to term the constitutional powers of land acquisition, and it is designed to confine those powers within the strict limits of simple justice - I emphasize that term for the benefit of the honorable member for Werriwa - and common equity. In addition, the bill is intended to correct the errors and irregularities of our wretched political past. Therefore, I am not surprised that the bill has been damned with faint praise, on the one hand, by members of the old socialist party, and on the other hand, by members of the new socialist party, who are not prepared to go so far as to embrace communism.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who led the Opposition in its criticism of this measure, never addresses the House without making impassioned references to me, for which, of course, I am profoundly grateful, and without repeating the senseless allegation that I own large areas of land. The allegation is utterly absurd. These references and allegations can be interpreted only as an extravagant demonstration of the affection in which I am held by the honorable member for Lalor. No one should know better than does the honorable member that my circumstances are as humble as, if not more humble than are the circumstances of any other member of this House. No one should know better than does he that I have a small farm, which is smaller than most other farms of its kind. No one should know better than does the honorable member that it has taken me, as it has taken most other original settlers, some 35 years to ensure survival from the convulsions of export parity prices, the vagaries of the seasons and the machinations of sundry socialist governments from time to time. I own no land other than my humble farm. I wish that the honorable member for Lalor could find some more appropriate and more accurate means of showing his affection and regard for me than by repeating these senseless allegations that were first made by that exalted person the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) a number of years ago.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), when he introduced this bill, said, among other things, that it will affect a great many people. That observation can be described only as an understatement. The measure will affect every mau, woman and child who owns or is likely to own land or property anywhere in the Commonwealth, in metropolitan, urban and rural areas alike. Since the entire policy of this Government is designed to increase the number of people who will own land or property somewhere at some time, it naturally follows that this bill will affect an increasing number of persons as the years go by. Consequently, it is of the greatest human importance.
Let me remind honorable members that in the beginning of our history the ownership of all land was vested in the Crown, and by virtue of that fact in the State governments initially, and subsequently also in the Commonwealth. But the Crown could do nothing with land, and never has been able to do anything with it. The Crown could build no villages, towns or cities, and had no opportunity to develop, and no experience in developing, the pastoral and agricultural areas of this or any other country. Therefore, of necessity, the Crown found itself in the position in which it had to dispose of the land to the citizens of our country, to whom it rightly belongs, so that it could be effectively occupied, developed and brought into production. That was the beginning, but even then it was foreseen that the time would surely come when the Crown would he required to repossess some of the land for certain necessary public purposes. To provide for this contingency, powers of acquisition were written into the Australian Constitution, whether or not they were written into any other constitution, by those who conceived and devised the Australian Constitution as we know it to-day. This bill deals with the operation of those powers, and, as I have said, it is designed to confine them within the limits of simple justice and common equity to all our people.
Throughout the bill it is emphasized that the Commonwealth has the right to acquire land - that has never been in dispute - ‘but only for public purposes and not for party political purposes, for punitive purposes for which the powers of acquisition are being exercised elsewhere, or for the purpose of destroying the freehold tenure of land. I hope that this measure will end the senseless accumulation of land throughout Australia for party political purposes, and that it will ensure that land that has been acquired for such nefarious purposes shall be restored to the original owners or sold to other persons. That would be the intelligent thing to do. In my opinion, that is what ought to be done wherever land has been acquired for party political purposes.
I am proud to see that the bill reaffirms and emphasizes almost in every clause the principle that whereas the Government has the right of acquisition it must pay for that which it has acquired on just terms. That is the key to the whole situation. That principle is the foundation of our national economy although it is not frequently recognized by people who are not intimately associated with land utilization. In the course of his second-reading speech the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) said -
The value cf laud compulsorily acquired will, under the bill, be determined as at the date of acquisition and not, as in the present Act, as at the 1st January preceding the date of acquisition . . . It is also proposed that a claimant may institute proceedings if he is not satisfied with an offer without waiting for the expiration of 00 days as “it present. He also will be given a right to go to the Court if his claim is not settled in six months, whereas under the present Act he cannot go to the Court if the Minister has not made an offer or notified him that he disputes the claim. The provisions of the present Act making the determination of the court final and conclusive and without appeal, have not been included in the bill. There scorns to be no good reason why any available right of appeal should be barred.
I ask honorable members to contrast that statement with the attitude of the Government of New South Wales where 3,000,000 acres of land have been proclaimed. That proclamation is binding on the owners of land whether it is urban land, town land, agricultural land or pastoral land - men women and children alike, whether they are dead or alive. Once the land has been proclaimed the owner’s equity in his own property is destroyed. He cannot sell his land. He would be foolish to improve it. He would be investing in property that does not belong to him. He cannot sell it and if he dies possessed of that proclaimed land his heirs and successors cannot sell it. Here we have a complete answer to that biblical mystery, “ Oh death, where is thy sting? “ It is in New South Wales if one owns land that has been proclaimed by the socialist government. If the owner complains, the land is taken from him forthwith. Admittedly, he is compensated at 1942 values, hut those values are anomalous in respect of all land in this country.
The owners of more than 3,000,000 acres of land in my electorate have been subjected to this very grave injustice. Their property has been proclaimed and they cannot escape from that proclamation. There is nothing that they can do or say to free themselves from the iniquities of that proclamation. In ten, twenty, or fifty years’ time the socialist government will acquire their land at 1942 values plus, perhaps, 15 per cent., if they consent to its acquisition. This policy has been supported by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), a man who takes pride in being a lawyer. He is a professional man who feels some resentment that his speech in this House should be followed by that of a humble farmer. But the humble farmer has some common sense and he has also a sense of human justice. Proclamation of land by the New South Wales Government means the end of the men or women who have struggled valiantly, as I have done for 35 years, to get some sort of equity in their land for the benefit of their heirs and successors and the everlasting good of mankind. A senseless government could proclaim my land and that would be the end of my equity and that of my heirs and successors. That is the end of common justice, and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) should recognize that fact.
I am astonished that the House is not better informed on the necessity for this bill. I have just explained one of the nefarious practices that are being inflicted on the people by a socialist government. Let me cite another. In the past, when a man could not obtain freehold land, he was prepared to get leasehold land from the Grown, conscious of the fact that a number of years ago the StevensBruxner Government conceded the right of conversion from leasehold to freehold. The socialist government, in order to achieve its nefarious ends, introduced a bill to take away the right of conversion from these people. The Minister for Conservation in the State Parliament, who was himself a leaseholder for more than 30 years, converted his property from leasehold to freehold before he introduced the bill that took the right of conversion away from every one else. That is the sort of action that the honorable member for Werriwa has defended. That is the sort of action that would give any man with a sense of justice cause for black, burning, everlasting shame. The socialists have perpetrated this injustice on the people of New South Wales within the last few weeks and it will continue until the Australian Government takes a decisive step in order to protect the people of the states from practices of this kind. I and other honorable members on this side of the chamber have been trying, year after year, since 1949, to correct the errors, irregularities, excesses and abuses that were visited upon this country by a socialist government in this Parliament. We have taken a great deal of time to get as far as we have, but, given a little more time, we shall continue .with that great task. I hope that this Government will introduce a measure which will provide that not a single penny of its funds shall be made available to any State to enable it to acquire land anywhere unless that State is prepared to give a solemn undertaking that it will observe just terms of acquisition.
The honorable member for Werriwa said that the Government is condoning an injustice by making these funds available to the Government of New South Wales for the purposes of war service land settlement. The honorable member is a glib-tongued lawyer, and no one knows better than he does - if he does not, he should be ashamed of himself - that the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, by their own act, and with the connivance of the previous socialist Government in this Parliament, elected to be principal States, whilst South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania elected to be agent States under this agreement. That arrangement was entered into not by this Government but by its predecessor. The agreement was a solemn document which was signed by the previous Government and the six State governments, three of them as principal States and the other three as agent States. It was a solemn legal document, but, now, the honorable member for Werriwa, this glibtongued lawyer, rises in his place and says that this Government should repudiate, violate and destroy it. I inform him that, but for this Government’s respect for the sanctity of contracts of this kind, it would have destroyed this document long ago. This iniquitous arrangement has not been obliterated from the statute-book only because this Government has some sense of its moral obligations in respect of arrangements entered into by its predecessors. I know for certain that the Minister for the Interior is struggling day by day to correct this iniquitous agreement, and I trust the time will soon come when he will be able to indicate to the House that it is at an end, and that, in the interests of moral ethics and justice, the New South Wales Government shall be forced to become an agent State and be obliged to discharge its responsibilities under the War Service Land Settlement Act by observing the provision that land shall be acquired only on just terms. So, I address myself to this bill conscious of the fact that it represents a substantial attempt to correct grevious wrongs. The introduction of this measure and the trend of the debate have already indicated to the 300,000 persons outside the Parliament, who are vitally concerned with its provisions, that the Government intends to correct the errors, excesses, abuses and irregularities that have been occurring in the past and will jutify itself as a government of repute and responsibility.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mackinnon) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I take this opportunity to raise a matter which is of great importance to many Tasmanians, particularly those who are interested in the future development of that State. I refer to the proposal to construct a railway line from Launceston to Bell Bay. Personally, I believe that the construction of such a line is imperative, having regard to the requirements of the aluminium production project at
Bell Bay. I raised this matter previously in this House in the form of a question which I directed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in which I asked that further consideration be given to the request for financial assistance to the Tasmanian Government in order to implement this worthy proposal. It is true that the Prime Minister’s reply was not entirely satisfactory. However, bearing in mind the merits of the proposal as well as the justice of the claim that has been made by the Tasmanian Government, I propose to pursue the matter. The need for the construction of a railway from Launceston to Bell Bay has been brought into prominence as a result of the establishment of the aluminium industry. Since this Government has accepted responsibility for that project and has invested so much capital in the undertaking, it has an obligation, having regard to the importance of the project from a defence viewpoint, to contribute at least half of the capital required for the construction of the proposed railway.
The opinion is held by many persons who are directly interested in this matter that the aluminium industry cannot operate successfully in war-time unless such a railway is provided. The distance from Launceston to Bell Bay is, approximately, 30 miles and, according to expert opinion following a detailed investigation, the construction of such a railway would cost, approximately, £1,300,000. Whilst the provision of such a large sum is not, perhaps, beyond the resources of the Tasmanian Government, that Government could incur such expenditure only at the expense of its normal services, such as education, health and other essential services. The Tasmanian Government is not setting any precedent by asking for this financial assistance from the Australian Government. Similar assistance has been made available in the past to enable other State governments to provide transport facilities in their respective boundaries. I shall not discuss that aspect at this juncture, but records are available to substantiate that statement. The Tamar Valley with its long stretches of comparatively undeveloped country presents remarkable potentialities for future development. To-day, that area is served by a highway running from Launceston to George Town but that highway will not be capable of carrying the traffic which it is anticipated will use this route after the Bell Bay plant goes into production. For that reason, the Tasmanian Government has set aside a sum of money for the purpose of constructing a completely new highway to serve the needs of the aluminium industry at Bell Bay. This Government should never lose sight of the fact that the Bell Bay project was established primarily as a defence project and that in the event of a conflict it would be of very great assistance to both the Australian Government and the State government. I need hardly emphasize that during a period of national emergency, petrol, diesel oil, power kerosene and rubber would normally be in short supply. It is obvious also that in the event of an emergency the Australian Aluminium Production Commission would have to depend upon Tasmania for supplies of bauxite. This means, too, that the industry needs to be as independent as possible as far as shipping is concerned. If this Government is interested in the Bell Bay project in relation to defence needs, it must give every consideration to assisting in the construction of the rail link because of its national value. As a peace-time project it would open up avenues for development of agricultural and secondary industries which one can assume would become possible in conjunction with the new industry. It is certain, too, that such development would greatly increase the population of this area. The development of the area would be a means of assimilating many of the immigrants who, it is expected, will be brought to the Commonwealth in the years which lie ahead.
Such a rail link would be most needed during time of war. We cannot afford to wait until this country is engaged in a major conflict before constructing the rail link. If we do so, we shall find that production of a vital war-time commodity is being delayed because of lack of suitable transport facilities. Common sense dictates the construction of a rail link, because the absence of a railway could nullify the vital defence project at Bell Bay. It is on this basis that I appeal to the Australian Government to lend its practical support.
– I wish to draw the attention of the House to an article which appeared in to-day’s Queensland metropolitan press, and I do so because it appears as a statement by the Premier of Queensland and it affects not only the State of Queensland but also the Australian Government. It is a most misleading and highly inaccurate statement. I propose to read it to the House and then give the House the facts. It appears under a large heading which says, “ No Federal Grant for Flood Damage”. It then goes on, in much smaller prints -
The Commonwealth Government had declined to wake a money allocation for repair of flood damaged roads, bridges and local government services in Queensland. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) informed the Premier (Mr. Gair of this yesterday. Mr. Menzies said it was not Commonwealth policy to make grants for flood damage of this kind. The Commonwealth had departed from this policy recently and made a grant to New South Wales because of the catastrophic floods there. He said reports indicated that the Queensland flood damage was not nearly as severe as in New South Wales. Mr. Gair said the Queensland request was made following a report that the Commonwealth had allocated £500,000 on a £1 for £1 basis with the New South Wales Government for repairs to roads, bridges and New South Wales local government services.
The whole purpose of this statement, of course, is to make it appear that the Commonwealth has had no interest in the flood damage in Queensland at all. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has replied to this statement, and I intend to read to the House what he has said. This is his statement -
My attention has been drawn to the statement issued by Mr. Gair to the effect that the Commonwealth Government had refused his Government’s request for a special allocation of money for repair of roads, bridges and other local government services following the recent floods in the Maryborough district. This is the actual message I sent to Mr. Gair on the 20th April - “Your telegram 1st April requesting Commonwealth contribution lor restoration flood damage to roads, &c. Your request has been examined and I would point out it is not the Commonwealth’s normal policy to make grant* to the States to assist in the restoration of flood damage of this kind. The Commonwealth departed from this principle in the case of the Now South Wales floods only because of the catastrophic proportions of those floods. The reports of the Queeusland floods would suggest that they could not be compared in their intensity with the New South Wales floods and for that reason the Commonwealth is not disposed to agree to the request. However, if it can be shown that the floods were in fact comparable with the New South Wales floods and an assessment given of the extent o-f the restoration work that will be necessary on roads, bridges .and local government services the Commonwealth would be prepared to give further consideration to the matter.”
It will be seen that the Commonwealth did not refuse the request, and Mr. Gair has failed to make it clear that the Australian Government offered to examine his request further if he provided information which would indicate the extent of the floods and could show how they compared with the recent floods in New South Wales. This article makes it appear that no Commonwealth aid of any kind had been given. Let me give the House the sequence of events. The Australian Government received a request from the Premier of Queensland asking that a subsidy, on a £l-for-£l basis, for the relief of flood distress be provided. The Australian Government replied that it would be provided, and no limit was put on the amount. The Premier of Queensland then asked the Commonwealth for the sum of £1,000. That is all he has asked for to date. He may be going to ask for more - I do not know - but to date he has asked for only £1,000. In other words, he is proposing to expend £2,000 on the relief of flood distress, half of it to be provided by the Australian Government.
Not only was this article put out by the Queensland Government inaccurate in referring to the provision of relief for what one might describe as local government damage, but it was also intended, I suggest, to create the impression that the Commonwealth was taking no action whatever, which is entirely misleading and quite inaccurate. I bring this matter up because I suppose there is hardly a Queensland member whose electorate has been affected by floods who has not been in touch with the Australian Government and who has not received assurances of consideration and assistance. I bring it up also because it is an obvious attempt by the Queensland Government to score political points off this Government out of the distress of flood victims and to make it appear that the Australian Government is not interested in the relief of flood damage in Queensland. I say that this action of the Queensland Government is a pretty shabby manoeuvre, and it is as well that the people of Queensland should know not only that the Australian Government is willing to provide assistance and has provided assistance up to the amount asked for by the Premier of Queensland, but also that their Government - a Labour government, I point out to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) - is capitalizing on their distress.
– I rise to support the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) in his complaint in regard to the statement that appeared in a Queensland newspaper to-day. While this sort of thing is infuriating to those of us who know the background of the matter, it is also wrong that the responsible Premier of a State of the Commonwealth should descend to the level of being prepared to work upon the distress of human beings and the loss of their property in order to gain a hit of party political advantage. The plain facts of the matter are that never at any time has the present Premier of Queensland interested himself in flood relief in the State of Queensland. Even in this matter, extreme pressure was brought to bear upon him to get him to ask for relief for the city of Maryborough, which suffered badly during the recent floodings a month or so ago. Even when that extreme pressure was brought to bear upon him - and he knows the conditions under which Commonwealth aid for floods is given - he asked for a paltry £1,000 to help the people of Maryborough - that is, £1,000 from the Commonwealth and £1,000 from his own Government, which is not enough to replace the fowls that were washed down the river when the floods came. It is typical of the attitude he has adopted on all occasions. Last year, during the month of March, there was a flood in Rockhampton. The Premier of Queensland was asked to approach the Australian Government for money to assist the people there, in the most disastrous flood in the history of the State, and the Premier refused point blank to ask the Commonwealth for a penny.
– Is that correct?
– It is absolutely correct.
– He refused?
– He refused to ask the Commonwealth for money, and he did not contribute one penny to local governments for the repair of roads or the essential public services that were damaged in that particular flood.
The disaster occurred during the Royal Visit to Canberra, and I was there. I heard that the flood waters were rising and, knowing the district, I could gauge the magnitude of the disaster. I approached the responsible Ministers, and asked them for help for the city of Rockhampton. For instance, I asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) whether the Department of the Army would provide equipment, and he replied, “ If the Premier of Queensland asks for equipment, he can have it “. I said, “ The Mayor of Rockhampton has been in touch with me by telephone, and has asked me to approach the Department of the Army for an Army duck to rescue people in the flooded areas “. The Minister replied, “ If the Premier asks for the duck, he can have it “. I rang the Secretary of the Premier’s Department three days later, and asked him whether he would get in touch with the Minister for the Army, because the provision of the duck was being delayed in the meantime, and I said that it would be made available as soon as the request was received for it. The Premier again refused even to ask for assistance.
This man is completely dishonest. He has no interest whatever in the welfare of those cities. He is not prepared to spend one penny on them, and he insults the distressed and unfortunate people in the flood-affected areas by asking for this paltry remittance of £1,000. As if that is not bad enough, dishonest enough, and cruel enough, the Premier deliberately distorts the telegram from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and issues a statement that the Commonwealth refuses to give aid to Queensland. He was already in possession of a letter which stated that if he would ask for what he wanted, it was available to him, and there was no limit upon the assistance that would be rendered if he could prove the need existed.
This sort of thing is happening in Queensland, and the people are being upset by it. Why is it happening? Because the Premier is not interested in anything that occurs outside the electorates in the metropolitan area that are represented by Labour supporters. He does not know and he does not care about what goes on in places in the State outside the Brisbane area. I was simply stunned last year, after making all those arrangements with the Commonwealth, when this socalled responsible Premier refused point blank to ask for aid, because the aid was already there and was his for the asking.
The city was devastated. The place was smelly as the result of stagnant waters and rubbish left by the flood. We asked for the loan of a fogging machine to go through the streets, de-fog the city and smoke out the pests, or whatever the confounded thing is supposed to do. Yet three weeks passed before he would accede to a request for the machine to be put on the railway and sent to the devastated city. But he has the effrontery to make a statement to the press to the effect that the Commonwealth has refused aid to Queensland. He has never given aid to any devastated areas in any flood. This is the first time, since he has been Premier, that he has asked for anything from the Commonwealth and he now says, “We want £1,000 “. A much greater sum is needed, but he refuses to ask for it because Queensland must supplement the Commonwealth grant on a £l-for-£l basis. It is getting down to a pretty low level when the responsible Premier of an important State uses the distress of the people in the country districts in an endeavour to gain a little party political advantage.
So I condemn the Premier. He is a dishonest man, and a mere party political hack, who is not interested in the people whom he is supposed to represent. His statement, which appears in to-day’s issue of a Brisbane newspaper, is typical of his hypocritical attitude and his desire to put party politics above the people whom he has sworn to represent, and whose welfare he has sworn to safeguard in time of trouble and distress. He has failed in his duty, and I know that the electors of Queensland will remember these things when he goes before his masters next year.
.- I desire to say a few words upon this subject, because within the boundaries of my electorate is the city of Gympie, which has been greatly affected by the recent floods. Obviously, as its representative in this Parliament, I have interested myself in the welfare of the people of that part of Queensland. The Widgee Council approached me concerning a bridge which had been washed away and destroyed. A request was made that the Department of the Army provide assistance, including the erection of a pontoon bridge. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) sympathetically considered the position, and instructed Northern Command to ascertain how it could help. But the local residents and the Widgee Council were alive to the position. When the flood waters receded, it was found that the piles of the bridge were still sufficiently sound to enable a low-level bridge to be built. The council and local help have the job under way, and have advised me to inform the Department of the Army that its sympathetic assistance is not required. So that problem has been removed by the people themselves.
But the Widgee Council, which controls the area surrounding Gympie,, ‘has asked me to watch the position with a view to ascertaining what help can be obtained, similar to that given to . the State of New South Wales. When I approached the Treasury on the matter, I was told exactly what the two honorable members who have preceded me have stated. That is to say, if the Premier of Queensland will ask for help and prove the case, sympathetic consideration will be given to his request. All I can do is confirm their statement that the Premier of Queensland refuses to put a case to this Government, and ask for that necessary assistance.
In addition, I asked the mayor of the city what problems he had, because I knew that one bridge had been washed away, and he said, “Frankly, we have no problems here. Everything has already been met, because the Department of Main Roads has arranged to build a structure on the ordinary terms “. And why not? The State of Queensland has a. surplus of £1,500,000 from the Commonwealth aid roads funds that were given to it by the Commonwealth last year for this very purpose. The Premier refuses to spend the money that the Commonwealth makes available to Queensland for the construction of roads and bridges. He invests the money in bonds, and then has the hide to attempt to make party political capital out of a flood disaster. If ever a man is dishonest and despicable, it is the Premier of Queensland, because he seeks to trade upon the misfortunes of people, and to make political capital out of them.
.- I do not wish to say very much about this matter, but a few thoughts have occurred to me that I should like to express to the House. The first was prompted by the speed with which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) came, by way of interjection, to the defence of the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Gair, when this matter was raised a- few minutes ago. However, the right honorable gentleman quickly realized the situation in which he was placing himself. At a recent conference of the Labour party in Hobart, one of the delegates who showed his resentment of, and objection to the right honorable member, and who walked out of the conference, was none other than Mr. Gair. A little later, when the right of the Leader of the Opposition to lead the Parliamentary Labour party was questioned, and even his membership of the Australian Labour party was considered by the Federal Executive of the party, none other than the Premier of Queensland voted against the retention by the right honorable gentleman of the leadership. Consequently, it is not surprising . that the Leader of the Opposition retired quickly from the table, where he had sprung to the assistance of Mr. Gair, to the back benches. It is quite typical of the response of Opposition members when any criticism is spoken of a State Labour Premier, a State Labour Minister, or a State Labour member of Parliament. I believe that many illustrations of Mr. Gair’s neglect in relation to matters such as those raised by the honorable member for Oxley can he given.
– Why does not the Commonwealth do something about it? Mr. SPEAKER.- Order!
– Why does not the honorable member for East Sydney keep quiet?
– Order !
– I shall tell the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in answer to his interjection, what the attitude of the Commonwealth lias always1 been in relation to such matters. I remind the House that some two years ago a cyclonic disturbance caused a considerable amount of damage in my electorate. The moment I heard’ about it I asked the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) whether the Commonwealth would give some assistance. The Treasurer assured me that such assistance would be forthcoming if the Queensland Government requested it. It was no less than six months later before the Queensland Government made a request to the Commonwealth for the assistance. If Mr. Gair is prepared, on this particular occasion, to make an assessment of the actual damage and to ask the Commonwealth for assistance on a £l-for-£l basis, the Government will, I am sure. be pleased to give that assistance as it did in New South Wales when floods struck that State. .
– According to the honorable member for Capricornia, Queensland has refused assistance because the floods are not so disastrous as those in New South Wales.
– Since the Leader of the Opposition obviously does not understand the position clearly it ‘would be as well for me to cover again the points made by the previous speakers. The position, as was stated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), to the Premier of Queensland, was expressed in the la** few lines of the initial statement that was sent by the Prime Minister to Mr. Gair. They read -
However, if it can be shown that tha floods were in fact comparable with the New South Wales floods- and I suggest that it is Mr. Gair’s responsibility to indicate that to the Commonwealth Government - and an assessment given of the extent of the restoration work that will be necessary on roads, bridges and local government services, the Commonwealth would bc prepared to give further consideration to the matter.
Surely that is a complete reply to the interjections made by the Leader of the Opposition. I want now to make a point that was mentioned by the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann), which is that this, in my opinion, is nothing more than a publicity stunt by the Premier of Queensland.
– It is the honorable member and his colleagues who are putting on a stunt to-night.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney may address the House later if he chooses to do so.
– When the grants made available to the States under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act were being discussed I pointed’ out to the House that the Queensland Government had accumulated no less than a sum of £1,000,000 last year, in the main, or partly, out of moneys made available by the Commonwealth, and that at the 30th June last year the Queensland Government had £2,000,000 in its main roads fund. That money is available to be expended on the type of damage that has been caused in these floods, but Mr. Gair is not interested in repairing the damage. Mr. Gair is interested only in endeavouring to get some snide political advantage at the expense of the Commonwealth, and I believe that this is the right place for honorable members who represent electorates in Queensland to indicate, not only to the members of this House, but also to the public of Queensland and Australia, the type of Premier that Queensland has. I believe that Mr. Gair is onof the poorest types of Premier that the Australian Labour party has ever produced.
– I do not propose to take up the time of the House for more than a few minutes, but I think that as four speakers who represent Queensland electorates, acting obviously in concert, have risen in order to attack some one who is absent, a few words should be said in answer to them. I rely on the document that has been read out. What happened, as I follow it, was that Mr. Gair applied for Commonwealth assistance in relation to certain flood, damage, and it wa3 refused by this Government.
– He was asked how much he needed, and he asked for £1,000.
– Will the honorable member please allow me to speak? He was refused assistance by the Commonwealth on the ground that the floods in Queensland were not comparable with those in New South Wales.
– He got £1,000.
– Leave out the question of the amount for the moment. Now the Prime Minister says, however, if it can be shown that they are comparable, a grant may be made. But supposing the floods are not comparable with the floods in New South Wales? Why should the Commonwealth need proof that the damage in Queensland is comparable to the damage in New South Wales before it will render assistance? If there are floods which have caused extraordinary losses in any State, why should the Commonwealth have to be shown that the floods are of such a disastrous character as those that occurred in New South Wales? I think that Mr. Gair’s criticism, whether one agrees with it or not, is perfectly justified in the circumstances. Why could not those four honorable members from Queensland accept that criticism? Why did they rush into an attack in this House, so as to get somebody who is here from the Brisbane Courier-Mail to put their words into to-morrow’s newspapers? It is because they cannot take the criticism that was made. They are squealing because they are criticized. They are worried. That is my understanding of the matter. I think the comment made by the Premier of Queensland was fair comment on a very important public matter, and that he was trying to defend the interests of his State. Set to one side the argument that the floods have to be comparable with the New South Wales flood. We have the four honorable members from Queensland rushing in simply because the criticism is directed at a Government which, in relation to such matters, almost invariably shows itself to be completely niggardly. It showed itself to be niggardly in connexion with the floods on the north coast of New South Wales. It made niggardly grants and in the end more had to be granted. The Government will not recognize that these disasters are really national disasters, and make appropriate grants. I submit that whether or not one agrees with Mr. Gair’s criticism, it is fair criticism and fair comment.
.- I rise to support the case submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) against that advanced by the honorable members from Queensland. The obvious facts are that the Queensland Government, and the people of Queensland whom those honorable gentlemen try to make it appear they represent in this Parliament, are in need of assistance, and that the Commonwealth, which is in a position to grant that assistance, is withholding. The honorable members claim that it is withheld because the Queensland Government refuses to comply with certain conditions. What are those conditions? They are that the Queensland Government must satisfy the Commonwealth that the floods in Queensland are at least comparable in extent to those that occurred in New South Wales. If the Commonwealth were intending to meet the total cost of the damage caused by the floods in Queensland there might be some merit in the condition, because naturally the Commonwealth would not be prepared to grant a greater sum to the Queensland Government than would be necessary to repair the damage caused by the flood. But what is the actual position ? This Government proposes to give only a niggardly amount of assistance, even if its request to the Queensland Premier met by him on the conditions laid down by the Commonwealth. When there was serious loss of life in New South
Wales, and thousands of people were rendered homeless and placed in a desperate plight, because of floods, what did the. Government say to the people of New South Wales? It said, “We shall provide funds on a fi for £1 basis “. Why should there be any condition in relation to the relief of people who have suffered as- a result of disasters? The Commonwealth controls the nation’s finances, and is in the best position to provide, the necessary aid. Everybody knows of the tremendous extent of the floods in New South Wales, and of the millions of pounds’ worth of damage that they caused. But what has the Commonwealth done’ except to provide a few hundreds of thousands of pounds? Nothing else! A mere bagatelle when compared with the amount needed to re. pair the damage done ! Is that what the Government proposes to do in Queensland? Councillors in the Maitland district of New South Wales have asked the Government to provide a loan of £15,000,000 to repair damage in that area. Is the Government going to ask that that should be paid for on a £1 for £1 basis by the States which have no funds ? The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) referred to the position in his State and talked about dishonesty. If he knows anything about the procedure that is adopted in the departments of the various States with regard to money provided under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement, he will know that not only in Queensland, but also in every State, including South Australia, which is: presided over by an anti-Labour Premier, certain amounts of money are carried over every year so that the States can plan ahead until such time as the next grant comes from the Commonwealth under the agreement. The honorable member for Fisher knows that it is completely dishonest to say that the Queensland Government has been withholding money provided by the Commonwealth for roads and is not prepared to spend it for the purpose for which it was contributed. That is completely dishonest.
What are the honorable members from Queensland trying to do? They are trying to cover up the fact that not only in Queensland, but in New South Wales also the Australian Government has not pro- vided the aid necessary to repair the damage in the flood areas. There arc still hundreds of distressed families in New South Wales who need assistance. What is the Australian Government doing? Can it excuse itself by holding back and saying, “We will provide the money if the States can prove this or that “ ? How can flood damage be assessed? Only an estimate can be made. It is impossible to assess it accurately. Therefore, I say. to the honorable members from Queensland that there is no basis for the arguments they have advanced. All that they have said does not excuse the Australian Government, which is supposed to be responsible for the welfare of the Australian community as a whole and is holding back assistance.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) and another honorable member from Queensland referred to the sum of £1,000, and said that was all the Premier of Queensland had requested. I guarantee that that is a complete and absolute lie.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney must withdraw the word “ lie “ in reference to any honorable member.
– I withdraw and say that it is a complete misrepresentation of the actual situation. I am not prepared to accept the word of even four honorable members from the Government side of the House on this matter and I will await the answer that I am sure the Premier of Queensland can provide. Their wailing? in this chamber to the effect that the Premier of Queensland has not made a request for assistance and that because he has not made a request under the terms and conditions laid down by the Australian Government, the Government will not do anything to alleviate distress in Queensland, will not satisfy the Queensland people. The people have suffered serious damage as a result of floods.. The Australian Government is in a position to assist them by providing finance,, and it cannot hide behind anybody else in an attempt to answer the charge that it has failed dismally to provide for the needs of the people in the distressed areas.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
New Guinea - Charges of Wilful Murder against certain Natives - Proceedings at Criminal Sittings at Wewak (JulyAugust, 1954).
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act - Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board - Sixth Report, for year 11)53-54.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Essendon, Victoria.
Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Civil Aviation - H. R. Sneazwell.
House adjourned at 11.4 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
What is the charge for the right to use a section of the Trans-Australia Airlines assembly lounge as a reception desk for the transaction of his business?
Does this individual enjoy the exclusive right to operate the hairdressing facilities at the airport?
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for
Defence Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
Is any further information available regarding the experiments into the biological control or eradication of lantana, which are at present being conducted in Hawaii?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The Hawaiian Board of Agriculture and Forestry, the Queensland Land Administration Board and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization are collaborating a project concerned with the biological control of lantana. This weed is particularly troublesome in Australia in Queensland and northern New South Wales. An expedition was sent to Central America at the end of 1953, and astudy was made there of the insects found to be attacking lantana. The field workers found a large number of insects in association with the weed, and a number of these appeared to be worthy of trial for control of lantana in Hawaii and Australia. These promising insects have been introduced into Hawaii andsomef them have been successfully bred and tested to insure they had not attacked economic plants. At the present time three insect species of foliage and yoting growth feeders are available in Hawaii for introduction to Australia if present tests of these prove satisfactory. Arrangements are being made to have these and other species which may he found fully tested on plants of economic importance in Australia before their introduction to this country is considered. The Hawaiian authorities propose to send their investigatorback to Central America again this year. He will study in particular certain bisect species, for example, the stem and root borers, which appear to bc nf greater potential value than those at present under test.
Roy al Commission on Espionage in Australia.
Mr.Ward. - Asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 April 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19550421_reps_21_hor6/>.