21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy SPEAKER (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement made on Sunday by the head of the Malayan Government, to the effect that Australian troops, who are being sent to that country to protect an area of vital strategic importance to Australia’s defence, are welcomed by the Malayan people as a contribution to the protection of their country from Communist aggression and as a bulwark of the very substantial measure of independence they have recently achieved? Is it not a fact that the gentleman who made that statement has recently been overwhelmingly elected, winning 52 out of 53 seats, as a result of the first election held in Malaya since that country was granted selfgovernment? If so, will the Prime Minister obtain details of the statement and furnish a copy of it to all members of this Parliament, and to the press, in order that any further statements to the effect that Australian troops are going to Malaya in order to slaughter Asians in the interests of British imperialism, will be branded for what they are, namely, propaganda of the Communist party?
– The answer to each part of the honorable member’s question is “Yes”. I myself was very interested to read the remarks of the gentleman referred to and, like the honorable member for Yarra, I thought that he would be in a better position to express the opinion of the Malayan people than are some people I have heard here.
– Has the Minister for Immigration had an opportunity to study a report that certain immigrants “have endeavoured to return to Australia without the usual re-entry permit?
– If the honorable member for Corio is referring to press reports that some immigrants have endeavoured to return to Australia without re-entry permits, I can tell him that some time ago I received a report on this matter from officers of my department and was then told that, following the discovery, which had been made by officers of the department, it appeared that some irregularity had been practised by one of the permanent officers of the department. As soon as that became evident, the matter was placed in the hands of the Commonwealth investigation service, and a report from that service is now with the Attorney-General’s office. I am awaiting a report from that department. I point out that the irregularities related to the issue of re-entry permits for a number of persons who had previously been in Australia, but had returned to their native lands without having secured the normal re-entry permits which should be obtained, in such circumstances. My department has informed me that they were all persons who, under ordinary circumstances, would have been entitled to obtain a re-entry permit either here or in the country to which they had returned. The effect of what was done was to shorten considerably the period of delay that otherwise would have occurred. Altogether, approximately twenty cases were involved. I have been informed that only seven of the persons involved have actually returned to Australia, and that action has been taken departmentally to cancel the permits that have been issued to the others. I am sure honorable members will appreciate that, in a department that has had to deal with, perhaps, more than 2,000,000 individual transactions over recent years, an episode of. this kind, however much we may deplore it, it is not as surprising as some might imagine it to be. The record of the department confirms the opinion that has been expressed by honorable members on both sides of the House during the debate on the Estimates. It is a tribute to the efficiency of the officers of the department that only two such cases have come under notice in recent years.
– I direct to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question with regard to the recent arrangement whereby the overseas shipping combine has increased its freights by l per cent. What will he the estimated additional cost per annum, first, to the primary producers and exporters and, secondly, to the importers and the general public of Australia?
– I am not equipped at the moment to give an exact answer. The cost to the importers is not covered in the arrangement. The addition to the previous prevailing freight rates in respect of imports is a flat 10 per cent. The increase in relation to exports from Australia will be 7£ per cent., as against a proposed increase of 10 per cent. In proposing that increase, the shipowners declared that their costs justified an even higher additional impost. This freight rate arrangement is the normal arrangement that has been negotiated during the term of office of this Government and that of two previous Labour governments between the organized shippers or exporters of Australia and the shipowners.
– The increase represents a substantial impost on our exports.
– I shall come to that matter. On this occasion, the shippers asked me, as representing the Government, to aid them in preparing their case. I aided them and, without acting as their agent, conducted negotiations with the shipowners. I was able to obtain for the shippers something that they themselves could not obtain - a break-down of the proposed increase from 10 per cent, to 7-£ per cent.
– On exports only.
– Yes, on exports. I understand that that break-down will represent a saving to our export industries of approximately £750,000 a year. On that basis, the total additional cost of the increase of 7§ per cent, will be approximately £2,250,000. As I said, that reduction from 10 per cent, represents a substantial saving. For the purpose of comparison, may I state that the right honorable member for Barton proposed that this Government should take to itself the right to approve freights, as did the South African Government.
– Certainly. It should use the Commonwealth ships, too.
– As a result of the action of the South African Government, shipping freight rates on wool exported from that country have risen by 45 per cent., on refrigerated cargo by 25 per cent., and on dry general cargo by 10 per cent.
– As the PostmasterGeneral is aware, many nonofficial postmasters, especially those in outlying country areas, choose that occupation as a permanent livelihood. Will the Minister give consideration to introducing a form of superannuation to meet the needs of postmasters and postmistresses in that category who, after many years of service to the public, have recourse only to the age pension?
– The conditions of service and the pay of non-official postmasters and postmistresses are governed by awards. Generally speaking, the considerations to which the honorable member has referred are taken into account in making the awards. I do not think it would be possible for me to give, so to speak, outside consideration to their conditions.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is the intention of the Government to continue to import residual oil into this country, in competititon with coal as a source of power, particularly in view of the fact that we could extract oil from our own coal, as other countries are doing? Will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to establishing immediately a plant in Australia for the extraction of oil from coal, so that we shall not be compelled to import foreign residual oil?
– It must be very clear to the honorable member, with his experience, that his question relates to matters of policy.
– My question is directed to the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs. Will the honorable gentleman confer with his colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, to see whether dried fruits can be included in shipments to Asian .countries under the Colombo plan?’
If this could be arranged, it would not only advertise Australian dried fruits in a hitherto undeveloped market, but it would also provide some assistance to the industry in its present economic difficulties.
– I shall confer with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture about the suggestion that the honorable gentleman has made, but I should like to point out to him that we have received no requests for such assistance from any country that we are assisting under the Colombo plan. However, I shall have a look at the matter and see whether dried fruits can be included in any shipments sent overseas under the plan.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that two of the four judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court appointed to hear the appeal by the Public Service Board against the decision of the Public Service Arbitrator in the Public Service case have been taken ill, and that it is thought that at least one of them will be off duty for a considerable time? Does the Minister know that that is likely to cause great delay in hearing the appeal and to do an injustice to public servants who are expecting rises? Will he say whether something is being done to give effect, one way or the other, to the decision made by the Public Service Arbitrator, and so finalize the appeal that is now before the court?
– The Attorney-General is giving some attention to the matter raised by the honorable member. We all very much regret the illness which has afflicted at least two members of the bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and has had the effect that he has outlined to the House. I hope to be able to give him. some more detailed information later this week about the course of action proposed.
– I address another question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture about the dairying industry. Is it a fact that there had been anxiety in the industry about a temporary fall of prices and that our political opponents had seized the opportunity to attribute the blame for that to a slight reduction of the subsidy paid to the industry ? Did the Minister say then that that position was due, not to the reduction of the subsidy, but to a catastrophic fall of prices overseas? Now that the London prices have recovered and a good result for farmers is forecast, will the Minister say whether it is a fact that the subsidy arrangements are regarded as satisfactory?
– It is quite true that, when the Government announced the guaranteed price this year, which was as had been recommended by the appropriate independent authority, unfortunately some leaders in the dairying industry, misunderstanding the relevant significance of two events, attributed the reduction in the interim payment to dairy-farmers to the reduction in the Government’s subsidy, and not, as is the case, to the reduction in overseas values and, even more importantly than that, to the conservative estimates that were made as a result of the absence of a firm contract with the United Kingdom. I am sorry to say that some of those leaders of the dairy industry have not admitted their error, although they now clearly understand the position. The recovery in overseas values for butter and cheese, the better understanding that exists throughout the industry, and the significance of the conservative estimating of the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited, have led dairy-farmers generally, I am sure, to understand that this year they will almost certainly be better off than they were last year. That is a magnificent result at a time when commodity prices generally are on the down grade.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation by stating that, along with some of my colleagues who represent Tasmanian electorates, I have received representations from the Tasmanian Farmers Federation concerning the urgent need for stockholding facilities at some Tasmanian
– I can hardly accept the view that it is the responsibility of the Department of Civil Aviation to provide stock-yards at airports. This matter arose about a year ago, if I remember correctly, when, after examining it thoroughly, we came to the conclusion that there was no reason in the world why local authorities could not build stock-yards next to the aerodrome.
– Is there any land for that?
– There is plenty of land on both sides of the road in the vicinity of the aerodrome. The job of providing stock-yards at such places is a job for the States and not for the Commonwealth.
– Is the Minister for Works able to give the House any information concerning the investigation carried out recently by the Commonwealth investigation service into alleged irregularities in the Department of Works in the Northern Territory? Can the Minister say whether the inquiry has been concluded and what action, if any, is to be taken on the results of that inquiry ?
– I have not yet received a report from the AttorneyGeneral’s Department on results of the investigation to which the honorable member has referred. I know, however, that the startling allegations that were made in connexion .with the alleged
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether instructions have been given to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer to proceed urgently with the compilation of rolls and with arrangements for an early federal election. If this is a fact, will the Minister confirm or deny the suggestion that the Government has at long last plucked up courage to face the electors in December?
– The Government would not need to pluck up any courage to face the electors. The answer to both of the honorable member’s questions is “No”. I have given no special instructions whatsoever.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he will compile a reasonably accurate estimate of the cost to the nation of the increase of 10 per cent, in freights on goods brought to Australia, and also the cost of the increase of 1 per cent, in freight on goods exported from Australia. Will the Minister inform the House also how many ships could be built each year for this nation with the sum represented by these increased shipping freight rates, if the Government had the courage to establish a Commonwealth shipping line?
– I shall be glad to obtain as accurate an estimate as is thought possible by the officials of my department of the amount represented by increased freights on cargoes of commodities brought to Australia and also on those exported from Australia, on which increased freight rates have already been imposed. I am unable to say whether I can relate this estimated cost to that of building ships in Australia. It is fair to estimate that if Australian cargo were carried outward on ships built in Australia at Australian costs, and if the seamen on those ships worked 28 hours a week, as Judge Foster says they work on the Australian coast–
Opposition members interjecting,
– Honorable members opposite do not care for me to speak in this way because it exposes the hypocrisy of the Labour party policy. The result would be that outward freight rates would be almost double those now paid.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. In view of the desirability of introducing new species of plants of economic value into Australia, and of the alleged delays that have occurred in connexion with quarantine inspection, will the Minister review the conditions of plant quarantine in order to lessen or obviate delay beyond what is consistent with the maintenance of precautions against the introduction of disease in new varieties of plants ?
– The Government is eager to introduce into Australia any new varieties of fodder or plants that will be of value, but in order to make certain that nothing injurious is brought in, close contact is kept between the quarantine section of the Health Department and its counterpart in other countries with which Australia is closely associated. I will carefully examine the honorable member’s question with a view to ascertaining whether the quarantine handling of new plants can be expedited.
– Last week, I asked the Minister for Health a question about the refusal of the Medical Benefits Fund, New South “Wales, to pay agreed benefits, in respect of operations, to contributors who had been patients in public wards. In his reply the Minister said that the collection of fees in New South Wales was not legally enforceable against patients in public wards, but that reply appears to me to be in the same category as another statement the relevance of which was as “the flowers that bloom in the spring “. I now ask the Minister specifically whether, for years past, this fund has undertaken to pay benefits in respect of certain contributions. Has it ever mentioned that these payments would be withheld from occupants of public wards? Does this change which is now made meet with the Minister’s approval, and if so, is it not in the category of taking money under false pretences?
– I am very glad that the honorable gentleman has raised this question again because after the question he asked the other day I took the trouble to look up the New South “Wales act. The relevant section of the Public Hospitals Act, which is under the jurisdiction of the New South “Wales Minister for Health, states that -
It will he seen from this that it is quite illegal for a doctor to charge a fee to a public-ward patient or for such a patient to pay a fee to a doctor. I may say that the insurance organizations, the doctors and I, personally, have interviewed the New South Wales Government and the Minister for Health and have suggested that this anomaly should be removed. Sick people generally insure themselves and are anxious and willing to pay both their hospital and medical fees but are prevented from doing so by this particular act. I have suggested that in order to overcome this anomaly the New South Wales Government should have a new tier in its hospitals structure. At present there are three tiers, namely private, intermediate and public. I have suggested that there should be provision for private, intermediate, insured and public wards. That would enable these payments to be made to doctors and the appropriate benefits by the insurance organizations. I assure the honorable member that the present anomalous position is not the fault of the insurance organizations but is entirely the fault of the New South Wales Government.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform me whether it is competent for a land-holder, who has given permission to a neighbour to erect a telephone line through his land, to withdraw that permission and require the neighbour to pull down the line and remove the poles? Can the Postal Department be required to remove poles if it is given notice to do so by a land-holder?
– So far as I am aware any permission is obtained in writing from the land-holder through whose property the line will go. My understanding is that it is a legal and permanent arrangement, but I shall find out what the facts are and let the honorable member know.
– I ask the Prime Minister what action can be taken to bring before this House for debate the contents of a report on the development of the National Capital produced recently by a select committee of the Senate. Would an effective means be for the right honorable gentleman to table a statement covering the major aspects of the report and to move that it be printed? If this means would be effective will the Prime Minister consider taking such action?
– I regret to say that so far, apart from reading what appeared in the press, I have not had an opportunity of perusing this report. I propose to do so as soon as possible. If the honorable member will keep in touch with me I shall discuss with him what procedure may bo available to have discussions about it in thic House.
– As an early appreciation by immigrants of our dried fruit3 would probably be the basis of their continued consumption of these valuable products, will the Minister for Immigration make investigations with a view to assuring that an adequate supply of Australian dried vine fruits shall be included in the diet at immigrant hostels?
– I shall examine the extent to which this important food is included in the diet supplied at the hostels. If an addition can be made within the limitations of the hostels’ budget I assure the honorable member that consideration will be given to his suggestion.
– When did it become apparent to the Prime Minister that the rapid depletion of Australia’s overseas financial reserves was creating a serious position which, if not dealt with at once, would inevitably compel the Government to take drastic corrective action? Was the Government aware of this danger when it granted substantial salary increases to top-ranking public servants and members of the judiciary? If so, does the Prime Minister consider such action inconsistent with the Government’s present appeal for the exercise of restraint ?
– Recently I made a statement on the financial and economic position and an adjournment of the debate was obtained by one of my colleagues after the two leaders of the Opposition parties had spoken to it. The matter is still on the notice-paper. I suggest that it is most undesirable to carry on an argument upon it at question time, when it is completely open to the honorable member for East Sydney to take a hand in the debate.
– I wish to address my question to the Prime Minister because it relates to a matter of some urgency. Is he aware that, notwithstanding the provisions of the Repatriation Act, it is impossible for war widows and their dependants, though considered to be urgent cases, to gain admission to repatriation general hospitals? As this does not involve a matter of policy, will the Prime Minister take any necessary action to advise the relevant organizations that war widows and their dependants must he given the benefit of a service which now is an established right, and which has special significance in the cases to which I have referred?
– The Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation will answer the question.
– I will be very happy to discuss the matter with the Minister for Repatriation at once. If the honorable member can give details of the specific cases that he bas in mind we shall both be very happy to examine the matter.
– Can the Prime Minister say what attitude Australia’s representatives will adopt during the United Nations’ debate on the future of West New Guinea? Is it a fact that the Government has decided to urge that that territory be taken under United Nations trusteeship, and that Australia should administer the trusteeship and develop the territory in a way that will run parallel to the development of Papua?
– The Government’s position in relation to West New Guinea has been stated time after time, and it remains unchanged. We shall pursue the same course this time as we have taken on previous occasions.
– Does the Prime Minister recollect making a statement on the 23rd February, 1951-
– No, I do not.
– In which he announced that the Federal Government was examining a plan for Common.wealthState co-operative purchase of meat when prices were lowest, and its storage for release when prices were highest and shortages greatest? Did he then say that the Government was gravely concerned at the high cost of meat and had been examining methods of solving the problem? If his recollection of any promises is sufficiently good to enable him to remember this particular one, will he say whether the Government is still gravely concerned at the high cost of meat, which is now much dearer than it was in 1951, and whether he is still examining a plan or plans for CommonwealthState co-operative purchase of meat so that the people of this meatproducing country may be able to buy it at a lower price than obtains to-day ?
– It will commend itself to the good sense of honorable members, including the honorable member for Burke, but not including whoever wrote the question for him, that I do not remember what I said in February, 1951.
– Does the Prime Minister remember what he said in 1949?
– I remember that quite well and, oddly enough, I remember quite a few things that I have said about the honorable member for Watson. This is wonderful debating stuff. What did Mr. Gladstone say in 1863 ? I do not know. If the honorable member for Burke can get from his informant the text of the speech to which he referred, I shall be glad to have a look at it and tell him whether I made it or not ; and if I made it, I will undertake to say that it was jolly good sense.
– I preface a question which I addess to the Minister for Immigration by congratulating the Department of Immigration on its action in discovering that a criminal element in Melbourne was forging return passports for immigrants. Will the Minister instruct immigration officers to secure these passports and check them in order to see that they are not given to people who would not be given a passport by the department in accordance with its checking system ?
– As I previously indicated to the House, the documents in question were not passports. They were re-entry permits. In the case of all but a few people who have already entered Australia by using them, action has been taken to cancel other re-entry permits which have been issued irregularly. The danger to which the honorable member has referred does not arise.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been advised that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, meeting in conference at Toowoomba, Queensland, has decided that the production of wheat should be reduced until the present world surplus is halved? Will the Minister state the attitude of the Government to this proposal ? Is the Minister in a position to inform the House of specific proposals to market Australia’s surplus wheat production? Finally, is it a fact that Australia may lose its limited market for flour in Indonesia, due to increased shipping charges ?
– I have not been advised of the decision to which the honorable member has referred, but I have read in the newspapers that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, meeting at Toowoomba, by a majority, decided that wheat growing should be restricted. I have also read in the press that the representatives of the two important wheat-growing States of Victoria and South Australia held a contrary point of view. The position is that Australian wheat-growers have not contributed to the great world surplus of wheat. The number of acres planted with wheat in Australia has diminished by comparison with the normal area in prewar and early war years, so Australia has no moral responsibility for the accumulation of the great surplus. Our area under wheat has been reduced from 14,000,000 acres to about 10,000,000 acres, and it is a combination of the skill of Australian wheat-growers who have used improved techniques, and the occurrence of favorable seasons, that has produced the recent satisfactory, but not recordbreaking, crops. Reference h as been made to the marketing of Australian wheat. I am glad to be able to say that, notwithstanding a tremendous world surplus of wheat, sales of Australian wheat during the current wheat year - and we are within weeks of the end of that year - will, on present estimates, almost exactly equal last year’s crop, which was a very satisfactory crop indeed. That is a pretty good disposal of Australian wheat and only the unhappy occurrence of an adverse season is required to reduce our surpluses to manageable proportions. I have been in touch regarding the circumstances affecting our market in Indonesia. We believe we will, as a result of governmental representations, preserve in full Australia’s opportunity of marketing flour in that traditional market.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is the intention of the Government to force the States to reduce their public works programmes by 10 per cent? If that is the Government’s intention, is it for the purpose of creating a percentage of unemployment, and is this not in line with the statement by the right honorable gentleman during the Fremantle by-election in 1945, that “ There should be a pool of unemployment to discipline the workers “ ?
– The last statement made by the honorable member is utterly untrue, and I strongly suspect that he knows it.
– It appears in the Wheatgrower of the 24th April, 1946.
– I do not care whether it was in the “ Man in the Moon “ ; I did not make any such statement, and you know it. Therefore, having disposed of that piece of fustian-
– You are a bit prickly to-day.
– Am I really? If 1 have been prickly to my friend, the honorable member for Lalor, I apologize. I am never prickly to him; but I am always prickly to lies. Therefore, the whole assumption made by the honorable member for Swan falls to the ground. We have no proposal to force State governments to do anything. We have never said that we had any such proposal, and therefore, that statement also is an invention.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service satisfied with the way that the amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which his government introduced in 1952 or 1953, giving the right of appeal against decisions of conciliation commissioners, has operated ?
– I think that, having regard to the purpose of the appeals system, namely, to give some unified approach to large questions of industrial principle, the system has worked well. Indeed, it avoided the danger of a chaotic situation which could otherwise have developed from conflicting decisions given by a number of conciliation commissioners. 1 feel that that view must be shared by the leaders of some of the State governments as well, seeing that the first use made of the appeal procedure was by the Queensland Labour Government.
rfirSir PHILIP McBRIDE. - Last week, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister to arrange with me to inform the House which countries the Minister for External Affairs favours for admission to the United Nations, as well as the grounds for the inclusion of those favoured and the exclusion of those not favoured. I remind the House that, on the 31st August, last, the Minister for External Affairs said, in reply to a question that was asked by the Leader of the Opposition, that the Government would support the admission to United Nations membership of seventeen applicant countries. These countries are the following: - Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Ceylon, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Libya, the Mongolian People’s Republic, Nepal, Portugal, and Rumania. At the time that the Minister for External Affairs was speaking, 21 applications for admission to the United Nations were outstanding. Among those were four applications which, in our view, can hardly be considered at this time because they come from the authorities who are administering parts of two divided countries, namely, Korea and Viet Nam. As far as the other seventeen applications are concerned, the Government believes that these should be supported, in the interests of attaining as large a measure as possible of universality of membership of the United Nations. Honorable members may have noticed reports within the last few days that .Spain has lodged an application for admission. The Government hopes that it will be possible to resolve the disagreements within the
United Nations which have hitherto prevented progress towards universality of membership. If agreement can be reached within the United Nations on the application of the principle of universality to Spain, as well as to the other candidates, Australia, in conformity with the policy I have outlined, will support Spain’s admission.
– I have mentioned that Spain has applied for membership). China is already a member.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Swan who implied that the Australian Government proposed to cut down State developmental expenditure by 10 per cent. Is it not a fact that the Western Australian Government last year received an advance of £450,000 towards the proposed comprehensive water scheme, and expended only £366,000, or £84,000 less than it was granted? Is it not a fact also that the Australian Government proposes to advance Western Australia this year £682,000, an increase of £232,000? If that is so, does that not contradict the suggestion of the honorable member for Swan that this Government proposes to cut down expenditure on State works?
– The fact in relation to the comprehensive water supply scheme for Western Australia is that the obligation rested on the Australian Government to find £2,150,000 out of £4,300,000, which was the estimated cost of the project. Since then, quite recently, the estimated cost of the work has risen to an amount that I do not remember with exactness, but it is something of the order of £8,500,000. This Government has, in fact, extended its own liability so that it will amount to half of that very much increased sum. Therefore, so far as Western Australia is concerned in its relation to the Commonwealth and any complaint it may have about being cut down, it has, in fact, had more and more money made available to it each year.
– Since the discussions that the Prime Minister had with business managers at which he requested them to restrain their plans for expansion, an announcement has been made that a South Australian refrigerator company intends to expand to the extent of about £5,000,000 by erecting a factory in Victoria. Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether that is the sort of expansion to which he referred in his talks with the business managers ?
– I do not know anything about the particular case to which the honorable member has referred though, no doubt, I can find out. As I do not know about it. I would be reluctant to offer an opinion.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether it is a fact that, within recent years, there has been a substantial increase in the number of stud dairy cattle, high-grade dairy cattle and others of excellent quality, exported from Australia? Is it not, a fact, also, that substantial numbers of high quality and stud dairy cattle are imported into Australia? Is it a fact that the previous Labour Government made available an amount of £250,000 per annum for five years to increase the efficiency of the dairying industry, and that this Government has followed a similar course? Does the Minister consider it good policy, while dairy cattle are being imported, to allow the export of high-grade dairy cattle, thus making it more difficult for Australian dairy-farmers to maintain their herds at a high standard?
– Many of the so-called facts about which the honorable member has inquired seem to be in question. I do not believe that many high-class stud dairy cattle have been exported from Australia in recent years, but a substantial number of ordinary dairy cattle, numbering some hundreds, have been exported to the Pacific area and to Far Eastern countries. Among them are Japan and the Philippines. That has been done without any detriment to the
Australian dairying industry, and has provided a useful subsidiary income to many of those who are engaged in dairying in Australia. It is true that the dairy efficiency grant commenced by the Labour Government when the honorable member for Lalor was in office, has been of great benefit to the dairying industry, and is being continued by this Government. I cannot recall portion of the honorable member’s questions.
– Is it good policy to run out of good quality stock?
– Stud masters in Australia have had permission to import the highest grade of stud stock from European areas and, in the season, imports are permitted from North America. I do not believe that anybody who has a knowledge of the dairying industry, as the honorable member for Lalor has, would regard that as other than good and necessary for the Australian industry.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that, in 1949, the Prime Minister declared profits to be excessive and promised to introduce an excess profits tax? Is it a fact that profits since that year have increased tremendously? Will the Prime Minister state the reason for the abandonment of his original plan to impose an excess profits tax, and will he state whether the Government has any alternative plan to deal with excess profits? If so, what are the details? Was the subject of excess profits raised in the recent talks that the right honorable gentleman had with private bankers and businessmen? If it was, what was the nature of the discussions and of the decisions arrived at?
– The honorable member for East Sydney will be hard put to it to find anything in my 1949 policy speech on this matter, but that will not prevent him from saying it is there. I am happy to say that my 1949 policy speech seems to have been much better remembered outside the House than inside it.
– I did not refer to your 1949 policy speech.
– So well was that speech remembered outside that the people approved of us again in 1951 and 1954. Indeed, if I can take a broad hint from the honorable member for Grayndler, the people may do it again before we are much older.
Thirty-fourth Annual Report of commissioner.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Taxation - Thirty-fourth Report of the Commissioner of Taxation, dated 15th June, 1955, together with Statistical Appendices. and move -
That the paper be printed.
As a result of proceedings in the High Court of Australia with which honorable members on the Opposition side will be familiar - the McGrath case - it is not advisable that copies of the report be made available to the press or published until the Parliament has given authorization. In view of the circumstances, I. feel sure that both the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the leader of the Anti-Communist Labour Party (Mr. Joshua) will not oppose the motion, because it is desirable, in the case of this report, to have it printed and made available as soon as possible.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has summed up the position correctly. The situation confronting the Parliament and the Government is as the right honorable gentleman has stated, and I agree to the course proposed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the 29th September (vide page 1159).
Department of Supply
Proposed vote, £14,134,000.
Department of Defence Production
Proposed vote, £11,253,000.
Proposed vote, £975,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- My remarks will relate to the Department of Defence Production, with special reference to the item of £6,000,000 which it is proposed to vote this year for the purpose of constructing an ammunition filling station at St. Mary’s in the State of New South Wales. In view of the maladministration in relation to the letting of the contract, the bad timing of the proposed construction, the type of contract which the Government is letting, the bad siting of the project, the serious inflationary effect which the undertaking will have on the whole building industry in New South Wales, and the fact that the Australian Government, in going ahead with this expensive project at the same time as it is requesting the States to reduce their overall works programmes by not less than 10 per cent., is not setting a good example to the States, I propose to move that the proposed vote for the Department of Defence Production be reduced.
In my opinion, the timing of the commencement of this £23,000,000 project is extremely bad. First, we were told by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that all the chiefs of staff had said that it was necessary to construct this plant. When, by way of interjection, I asked the right honorable gentleman, “ When did you receive this advice ? “ he did not reply, although he is usually extremely keen to reply to such interjections and give answers which will refute the innuendo contained in them. He was silent then, because I believe that the advice of the chiefs of staff was given to him some four years ago. It will be remembered that it was in 1951 that the Prime Minister came back to this country and said, “ We must be prepared for war in three years “. His lieutenant, who now sits at the table, the Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harriston), said, “ Oh, the Prime Minister is wrong. There will be war in two years “.
Surely it would be on the advice of the chiefs of staff that the Prime Minister and his lieutenant would tell the people of Australia that they must be prepared and geared for war in a matter of three years. If that were true - and surely these men would not give such advice to the nation if it were not true - and a serious shortage of ammunition filling stations existed in Australia, as the Minister’s statement said there was, such advice would have been tendered at that critical stage. But it is not until now, when world tension is easing, that the Government comes forward, in a great deal of supposed haste, and sets about spending £23,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money for the purpose of erecting a filling station which, it says, is necessary because of our commitments and the possibility of
TJ.-91- in the Ear East. That was the war for which we were told to prepare in 1951. That is why I say that the timing of this project is bad. In my opinion, it is unnecessary to go ahead with this work, and evidence which ha3 been submitted by the Government itself supports that view.
So urgent is this work supposed to be that, on the 15th January last, we learned that the Government had decided to choose Messrs. Stephenson and Turner as architects for the work. Again, so urgent is the work supposed to be, and. of such a serious nature, that tenders were called before the Minister even made his statement to the Parliament. Why? Because he had left a paper lying on his desk for some fifteen days and had forgotten all about it. When I suggested to the Parliament that the Government proposed to pay £1,380,000 in the form of a feeand that was only my own estimate - the Vice-President of the Executive Council laughed at the suggestion. A week later, he said that the sum was £1,250,000. Then, when I said that £1,000,000 was to be paid to a construction firm as a fee, he also laughed that off. Ten days later, he told the House that a fee of £1,000,000 was to be paid. These things became known through the daily newspapers of the country, before a statement concerning them had been made to this Parliament. Therefore, I say that the timing of the project is extremely bad. This work is unnecessary, having regard to the easing of world tension at the present time.
The type of contract which the Government proposes to enter into in connexion with this project is of the cost plus fixed fee variety. During World War II., we found that millions of pounds of public money were lost because of that kind of contract. During the post-war period, because of the problems of disorganization and the difficulty of getting firm price contracts, we endeavoured to introduce a new form of contract, that of cost plus a fixed fee. There was a tied fee, regardless of the ultimate price of the work. We found that that kind of contract failed also. At that time, we were moving into the field of the firm contract, with simple rise and fall clauses in regard to material or increases of wages made by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. This Government came along and said that that was not a satisfactory system, that it wanted firm price contracts. From the point of view of sound administration, I contend that that is the best type of contract it is possible to get. The business organizations throughout Australia accepted contracts on that basis, but after prices, as they affected industrial contracts, had been steadied down to a degree, the Government decided that it must adopt the most expensive form of contract, thereby opening the gates again to cost plus and all the malpractices which operate in conjunction with it.
With cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts, the architects say “ We are not going to pay “, the prime contractors say, “ We are not going to pay “ and ultimately it is the taxpayer who pays. Those people are prepared to enter into sub-contracts with any one who comes along. For instance, if they need 3,000,000 bricks, they are likely to say, “ Forget about the price. It is a cost plus job. Sir Arthur Fadden and the taxpayers are going to pay “.
I remind the Vice-President of the Executive Council that within a few miles of St. Mary’s there are two large projects which are being carried out at firm prices. I refer to the bomb storage at Kingswood, and the Royal Australian Air Force station at Richmond, where a very large and improved aerodrome is being constructed to take the biggest type of aircraft in operation. The contractors concerned undertook the contracts on a firm basis. The effect of cost-plus contracts is that contractors are able to offer their employees a six-day working week, with time-and-a-half for four hours and double time for an additional four hours. Wages are negotiated, and men are enticed away from the firm price contract jobs. Naturally, men will choose jobs where the wages are higher and the working conditions better. I do not blame them. I would do the same myself. This is the sort of maladministration for which the Government is responsible, because there is no liaison between the departments concerned. When Labour was in office, the Defence Department wanted to establish its own works organization with its own costing clerks and quantity surveyors. It wanted to establish a body completely separate from the existing works organization. This policy has been adopted and the Minister for Defence Production has gathered into the department a number of crystal gazers who have university degrees and have never worked in the building industry. He accepts their advice without question, and the taxpayers ultimately foot the bill. The type of contract that has been entered into is bad, and the problems that will flow from the maladministration of this Government will have serious effects upon the general cost structure of the building industry of New South Wales.
The St. Mary’s project is badly sited. If war or a serious threat of war made it extremely urgent to have a filling factory there, the private enterprises that now occupy the former munitions establishment at St. Mary’s could be removed and the buildings of the former establishment would be available for use as a filling factory. However, the Government considers it essential to construct another establishment for a filling factory. Why could it not be situated a little farther away from Sydney? Sydney harbour, with its dockyards and the Captain Cook graving dock, is within a few seconds’ flying time of St. Mary’s. What would be wrong with constructing the filling factory at a place like Glen Davis, where water, power and building materials are readily available and where the maximum degree of natural protection is afforded by the hidden valley in which the town is situated.
This project will have an enormous inflationary effect in New South Wales. I have already mentioned the overtime that will bo worked upon it mid the problem of the high project award, which will have highly detrimental effects not only on commercial construction, but also on home building, throughout New South Wales. The project is to be completed in two and a half years, according to the Minister’s statement. It is proposed to spend £6,000,000 in the first year. That expenditure will absorb physical effort and machinery, concrete, steel, bricks and other materials equivalent to the requirements of 3,000 homes. If the project is to be completed on schedule, £17,000,000 will have to be spent on it in the eighteen months following the end of the first year. The total expenditure over two and a half years will be approximately twice as much as the total estimated expenditure of the New South Wales Housing Commission for the same period. These figures will give honorable members some indication of the total physical effort that will be absorbed if the project is to be completed within the specified time. The Government should set an example to the nation and demonstrate that it believes it is essential to have regard to the overall works programme. If the Government considers it essential for the States to reduce their overall programmes by approximately 10 per cent., it should set the example and hold over for several years the St. Mary’s project, which is illtimed and bady conceived and will lead to malpractices and black-marketing, with serious effects on industry.
For the reasons that I have stated, I move -
That the amount of the vote - “ Department of Defence Production, £11,253,000 “ - be reduced by fi.
– I and other honorable members who have sat in this chamber for a long time have listened to many debates and have heard many amendments proposed. But I cannot recall any Opposition amendment based on a case so weak and devoid of a basis in fact as is the amendment proposed by the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon). I expected a slashing attack upon the Department of Defence Production. I have other matters to deal with, and therefore I shall refer only briefly to several points made by the honorable member. He talked, first, about timing, and argued that four years ago we were told that an establishment such as the St. Mary’s filling factory was so urgent that it should be proceeded with immediately. He stated that the Government has only now succeeded in starting the project, and added that he does not think it is worthwhile, and that it is badly timed. If it was necessary four years ago to establish a large ammunition filling factory, how much more important is it to-day ? I do not admit the point that the honorable member has tried to make. I merely refer to it to demonstrate the complete absurdity of the basis upon which he made his attack.
The honorable member for St. George stated also that a contractor’s fee of £1,000,000 will be paid. In that connexion, the honorable member made in this chamber a statement that might well have cost the taxpayers of Australia almost £385,000 if I had not taken action to nullify the effect of that statement. The honorable member must know that, if he had been able, prior to the calling of tenders, to wring from a responsible Minister the statement that the contractor’s fee was estimated at £1,000,000, every tender would have been for £1,000,000 or thereabouts. The honorable member was so neglectful of his responsibilities as a member of this chamber, and as a custodian of the taxpayers’ money, that he was prepared, for political advantage, to hold the taxpayers up to ransom for £385,000. The honorable member’s remarks will give the committee an idea of his irresponsibility as a member of this chamber. The fact is that the fixed fee is not £1,000,000, but £615,000, which is something rather different. That is why I smiled when I witnessed his futile effort to wring from me some acknowledgment of the amount of a fee, the revelation of which he well knew would vitally affect the interests of the Australian taxpayers.
The honorable member made another irresponsible statement about bricks. He stated that the contractors would pay any price brickyards liked to ask for bricks for this cost-plus contract. I have made it perfectly clear that a central control agency will be established not only to govern the purchase of materials. but also to arrange for the free flow of those materials to the project and for all the sub-contracting, so as to ensure that there shall be no unnecessary contracting, no unnecessary additional profits made, and no additional costs incurred by paying more than the market price for materials. The honorable member, as a former Minister for “Works and Housing, should know that that is the proper procedure. If he does know it, why does he try to gain a political advantage by smearing a project that can only help the defence of this country? It is perfectly true that the established policy of Labour is opposed to Australia’s defence interests. Therefore, if the honorable member can destroy the St. Mary’s project, he will be acting in accordance with Labour’s policy. He thinks any argument is good enough in an effort to destroy a project that is vital to Australia’s defence.
The honorable member for St. George stated also that the St. Mary’s project would attract labour from another defence project at Kingswood. On this subject, I have received a departmental report with respect to the policy agreed to between the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of Defence Production on the employment of labour. This report states that the present basic . conditions of that policy, which has been endorsed by the inter-departmental committee appointed by Cabinet are, first, that existing award rates will be paid to all employees covered by awards. Where is the incentive for men to leave other jobs in order to gain employment on the St. Mary’s project, where the award rates are being observed? The report then states -
The Department of Labour and National Service has made a survey of this matter, and, to date, there has been no abnormal movement of labour in the district to the project. At the present time, 820 employees are engaged at the site. 350 of these are from the Eildon Dam project.
The honorable member has claimed that we are interfering with labour at Kingswood. The report states -
This is not so. About 00 men from the Richmond project have transferred to Utah, but they were being retrenched in any case ks the airstrip was completed. The four contractors electing R.A.A.F. buildings at Kingswood have not lost any men to Utah.
The honorable member must be aware of these things; otherwise he has no right to come into this House and make statements regarding the matter.
– May I look at that document?
– No, it is a personal note. If the honorable member for St, George makes such an irresponsible statement in this House, how can he be believed at any time that he launches an attack upon the Government?
The honorable member for St. George has said, “ If it is such an important project why not take over the old factory at St. Mary’s?” The honorable member has a bit both ways, because he says, “ If the Government does not take over the old factory, why does it not build the filling factory somewhere else?” First, he is in favour of taking over the old St. Mary’s factory, which would mean, incidentally, that the thousands of men employed in that old factory area would be thrown out of work, and that the industries being carried on there would be thrown into a state of complete chaos. The people conducting their businesses in the old factory area leased those premises from a Labour government, which government gave them a certain security of tenure. Now the honorable member says, “ Toss them out into the street “. But, fearing that that suggestion might cause an unfavorable reaction, he then says, “ If the Government is going to build the filling factory, build it somewhere else “. I want to tell the honorable member, as I have told the House previously, that the Government considered all available sites for the establishment of this filling factory. It is not an explosives factory. It is a filling factory, and there is a great difference between the two. I think the committee should hear something about the St. Mary’s filling factory, because there has been some very ill-formed criticism regarding this matter, to which it is necessary for me to reply. It h perfectly true that there has been a substantial increase in the Estimates of the Department of Defence Production. The Estimates total £11,253,000, as compared with actual expenditure last year of £5,228,565. Of course the increase, amounting to £6,025.000, is represented by the provision for the St. Mary’s project. I refer to the second phase of the project.
There has been some extraordinary criticism of the St. Mary’s project, and the plain truth of the matter is that it was necessary to establish, this factory because of the critical deficiency in facilities for the production and filling of basic ammunition, particularly shells, mines, bombs, grenades, detonators, fuses and cartridges. This deficiency is serious. It has been referred to by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) as a matter requiring first priority in our defence programme. When honorable members realize the seriousness of this deficiency they will agree with the Prime Minister’s statement. During World War II., we had two filling factories, one at Salisbury and one at St. Mary’s apart from the parent factory at Maribyrnong. After the war, the factory at Salibury was transferred to the Long Range Weapons Establishment, and the premises at St. Mary’s, in the main, were leased by the Labour Government to persons engaged in industry. Every war within my knowledge, and within the knowledge of every member of this House, has been accompanied by charges of serious deficiencies in our munitions. In no war that I know of has ammunition been plentiful enough to satisfy the services. Indeed, only recently, during the Korean war, there was a serious deficiency in ammunition, even that supplied by the United States of America.
As a responsible Minister, I am not prepared to allow the continuance of a deficiency in ammunition, because it is so important to this country if we should be called upon to shoulder our responsibilities as a nation. Therefore, I say that this is a matter of an importance that cannot be lightly passed over. The requirements in Australia, at the time of mobilization for a war, will include 10,000 tons of high explosive for filling purposes. That is much less than the weight of the bombs and the containers. I estimate that about 60,000 tons of bombs and containers will pass through this filling factory each year when it is in operation. For the first year of a war we will need 17,000 to 18,000 tons of high explosive.
Al present, we have only the factory at Maribyrnong, which is a general fac* tory and not purely a filling factory. The factory at Maribyrnong is used for making explosives and propellants, as well as for assembly and filling. The filling capacity at that factory is about 4,000 tons a year, but if the table of safe distances was observed I am afraid that we could not get 4,000 tons from that factory. In addition, there are no facilities at Maribyrnong for the filling of aircraft bombs of 500 lb. weight and more, and it is most important that facilities for the filling of those bombs should be provided. Therefore, our deficiency, at the time of mobilization, would be 6,000 tons of explosives, plus the amount required for the filling of aircraft bombs of 500 lb. weight and more. Therefore, at the time of mobilization, we should need a factory much larger than the one at Maribyrnong. For the first year of war, our deficiency would amount to between 13,000 and 14,000 tons, plus the amount required for the aircraft bombs of 500 lb. and more. The capacity at St, Mary’s will be about 13,000 to 14,000 tons of explosives, plus the amount required for the aircraft bombs of 500 lb. and more. Even with the factory at St. Mary’s in operation, we shall have fulfilled our requirements only from the time of mobilization until the end of the first year of war. Should this country become involved in a war it is quite likely that I shall need another factory of the size of the St. Mary’s factory in order to discharge my obligations to the services. It should also be remembered that Australia may well be a source of supply for overseas forces in this area.
Honorable members must surely realize that we must have ammunition for our conventional weapons. What is the use of having guns, aeroplanes, rifles, mortars or naval armaments if we have nothing to fire from those conventional armaments? The St. Mary’s project i3 designed to provide the means by which we can use our conventional armaments. There has been much criticism of thi3 project. Only the other day, a statement was published to the effect that the cost would be in the vicinity of £50,000,000, that heavy overtime would be involved, p1”1 that the possibility of irresponsible wage payments should be considered. Nothing is further from the truth. That statement is similar to the one made by the honorable member for St. George, in that it is completely devoid of logic and truth. It has been said that the factory will be constructed on a cost-plus basis. The contract is not on a cost-plus basis. It is a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, and I have already said that the contractor’s fee will be about £615,000. Do honorable members believe that a contractor who can get his fee by finishing the job in eighteen months is going to take five years to complete it? Any honorable member who believes that does not understand business. It is to the contractor’s advantage to have the job completed as early as possible, so that he may receive the full benefit of the fee for which he has tendered. There is no basis for the assumption that the total cost will be more than £23,200,000, nor is it a valid assumption that the cost of overtime will be beyond that now provided in the £23,200,000. As for the extravagant wage rate, I have already said that labour will be recruited according to arrangements made between the contractor, the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of Defence Production and those arrangements have been particularly designed to prevent an inflation of the wage structure. As will be seen, we shall engage labour at the award rates; therefore, the wage structure cannot possibly be inflated. I have already pointed out that we have a central control agency. That agency works under the architect, who takes full responsibility for its cost. It will mean no addition to the cost of the St. Mary’s project. The purpose of the Central Control Agency, in collaboration with the Department of Defence Production and with the contractor, is to ensure that there is a steady flow of materials going through the plant, to see that orders are not placed at excessive cost, to see that sub-contracting is not indulged in unnecessarily, and to keep control over whatever costs may be submitted in connexion with any small sub-contracting work that may be done. We could not hope for better control than that. It is an arrangement that must tend to keep the cost nf this project down.
Then we have also what is called an Engineering Process Study. This ha3 already more than paid for its establishment. It, too, is under the control of the architect, and its job is to design the plant in such a way as to give free movement down the assembly line and cut out unnecessary handling. It will be so designed that the building will be erected around the plant rather than the plant being brought into the building. This Engineering Process Study is well known throughout the length and breadth of the world, in places where people do not work in a haphazard fashion, as we are apt to do quite often, places where they work according to a complete study of the project and in such a way that the machinery can be put in easily and the building itself adapted to the requirements of the particular plant that may be put in.
Of the allocation of £6,025,000, I have made an allotment of £25,000 for the acquisition of additional land. The object is to preserve the safety table of distances; it may be necessary to take in some small parcel of land. It is true that we own 2,000 acres just north of the old St. Mary’s, but we are using that land. That is one of the factors that helped us in reaching our decision, because all the facilities associated with a factory of this nature were there, already supplied. They had been placed there for the old St. Mary’s factory. Why should we bother to put in spurs, lines, electricity, water supply, sewerage and the like in some remote out-of-the-way place? If that were done, it might mean the expenditure of an additional £100,000,000.
– It is badly placed.
– I point out to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) that we explored the possibilities of every available site, and St. Mary’s was the one best suited to our purposes.
Several questions have been addressed to me by honorable members in this chamber, and while I am on my feet, I shall deal with them. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) asked why the allotments under the control of the Department of Defence
Production have fluctuated so much over the past three financial years. The allocations for those years were as follows : -
Up to the 30th June, 1954, the services were charged with overhead costs in our factories up to 150 per cent. only. Provision was made in our votes for any excess overhead, which totalled approximately £2,000,000 per annum. If this figure is added to the 1954-55 allotment, it will be seen that the figures for 1953-54 and for 1954-55 are practically the same. The increase in 1955-56 is due to the provision of £6,000,000 for the new filling factory at St. Marys.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) referred to page 205 of the printed Estimates and remarked that, whereas provision was made for thirteen cadet draughtsmen in 1954-55, no such provision is being made in this financial year. That is not the case. In 1954-55, provision for cadet draughtsmen was made under Division 174. This year, provision is made under Division 173, in order to group the cadet draughtsmen with other cadets. This very important provision, of course, will he proceeded with.
Now, I think I should give some indication of the great job of work that is being done by the Department of Defence Production. Amongst other major provisions for the department is an amount of £1,750,000 for machinery and plant. Last year, actual expenditure under this heading was £1,811,006. This allocation is for the purchase and installation of machinery and plant required for government undertakings and establishments, and for specialized plant for defence projects being undertaken by private firms. The Commonwealth has an investment of more than £50,000,000 in machinery and plant, at replacement value, under the control of the Department of Defence Production. As plant must be maintained, and as obsolescent plant requires to be replaced, that £50,000,000 is the replacement value.
The past year has been one of continuing achievement and expanding activities for the Department of Defence Production. Increasing numbers of Australian-built Avon-Sabre jet fighters and Canberra jet bombers are being supplied to the Royal Australian Air Force to equip it with the best operational aircraft of their respective types now in quantity production throughout the world. The Australian-designed Jindivik jet-powered radio-controlled target plane is in quantity production, and has aroused the interest of overseas countries. Indeed, active negotiations are proceeding between the Department of Defence Production and an American aircraft manufacturer with a view to the production of the Jindivik in the United States of America. We are making the main armaments and the main propulsion gear-cases for our destroyers, and 3,600 horse-power diesel marine engines to power our Australian-built bulk coastal carriers. We have developed, and are now making here, a miniature portable wireless for the Australian Army, for which orders have already been received from the United Kingdom.
In respect of munitions, we are producing an American type of smokeless powder, and recently we completed a large-scale order for the United Kingdom on behalf of the Nato countries. The department also produces munitions in satisfaction of orders received from New Zealand. Currently with this, production is either planned, or has commenced, for the latest type of high explosives and propellants, optical munitions, the latest developments in electrical and mechanical fuses, and modem armour-piercing shot. We are now in process of preparing to manufacture at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, in New South Wales, the Belgian .30 semiautomatic rifle, which has been adopted as the standard rifle by the Allied nations. In this, our pre-production planning is in harmony with that of the United Kingdom and Canada. The latter country is converting the metric measurements of components to English standards. Prototype rifles are being produced and tested. Approved drawings will be “ sealed “ by the British Army authorities towards the end of this year, when tooling arrangements will proceed in Australia. The Department of Defence Production, through its overseas representatives, and by its day-to-day activities, is keeping abreast of latest overseas developments in the aircraft, munitions, chemical and engineering industries. In the last financial year, the department either produced or arranged production in industry, for the Australian services, or for overseas and other customers, of goods and equipment to the value of approximately £30,000,000.
It is interesting to note, because I have had the question posed to me, that a government should not necessarily do the whole of its munitions production work, but should establish a potential in outside industry so that it can be expanded readily in time of war. That has been the policy of the Department of Defence Production. In order that I may not be misunderstood, I point out that orders fulfilled by industry during 1954-55 for munitions and aircraft for the three services required an expenditure of £15,400,000. This expenditure was incurred over a wide field in industry on such service stores as -
Ammunition - 3-in. rockets, bombs, 40-mm. shells, ammunition boxes and other components, to a value of £1,500,000 ;
Telecommunications - wireless sets, transceivers, electronic testing equipment, aerial masts, and other components, to a value of £1,160,000;
Ordnance and equipment - gun fire control instruments, gauges, repair and modification of heavy guns, procurement of specialized plant and machine tools, to a value of £1,020,000 ;
Materials - ferrous and non-ferrous metals, and other miscellaneous materials for the production of service stores, to a value of £140,000:
Aircraft - manufacture, repair, and overhaul of aircraft, engines, and airborne equipment generally, to a value of £11,600,000. Approximately 12,500 persons are employed by the Australian aircraft industry, and more than 8,000 are employed by private major contractors to the Department of Defence Production.
That is a very proud record, because a potential for expansion has been established. In time of war we could expand this potential to a degree which would supply us with the needs for the defence of our homeland and its people. We have gone further than that, because we have made an investment in industry. We do not allow industry to carry that burden itself. The sum of £6,000,000 is & very conservative estimate of the capital facilities which are made available to industry. We have invested in industry a capital outlay of £6,000,000. Industry brings to bear the “ know how “ and carries on the work to the stage where it can very easily expand should the occasion so warrant. That illustrates the difference between this Government, which is concerned with the defence of the country, and the Opposition, which is violently opposed to defence in any form.
– Nonsense !
– That is true. The Opposition moved for a reduction in the proposed vote for defence, because it considered that we were spending too much. Another amendment has been moved in relation to the proposed vote for the Department of Defence Production, which is aimed at destroying an undertaking which is of vast importance to the country, a job of the highest priority. The amendment was introduced by the honorable member for St. George in an endeavour not only to smear it, because that is what he tried to do, but also to destroy it should the amendment be carried. How else can one look at it? It is a continuation of the fixed policy of Labour, which is opposed to defence. History shows that it 13 opposed to defence. It was opposed to national service training and the Empire air training scheme. It closed Jervis Bay, curtailed training at Duntroon, and wiped out compulsory training. Then honorable members opposite say that their policy is not in opposition to defence. They have a lot to explain.
There are several industry advisory committees associated with the Department of Defence Production which are composed of men who are expert in their own lines of business. They have given their services in an honorary capacity to the department and to the Government.
The Ammunition Industry Advisory Committee, under Sir Frank Perry, and the Weapons Industry Advisory Committee, under Mr. H. G. Ferrier, have studied the St. Mary’s project and have visited the site. Both committees unanimously endorse the need for the project, the selection of the site, and the arrangements that have already been made. These committees are composed of men of some standing in the community. They know the whole story and they have endorsed the project.
I should like to take this opportunity if I may - and it is with great regret that I do so - to inform the House that Mr. J. R. Cochrane, who was, in addition to carrying out other duties, general manager of our explosive factory, has passed away. I think that honorable members on both sides of the chamber will agree that in the past few years, he has done a magnificent job, which, because of its difficult and worrying nature, has taken a very heavy toll of him. The first of his tasks was the conversion of plant in industry to manufacture sulphuric acid from local materials. Second was the leadership of the team which, this year, has been engaged upon the St. Mary’s project. His death is a great loss, not only to the department, but also to the community generally. I had known the late Mr. Cochrane for some years. I knew of his sterling character and the great work that he had done. I know how he sacrificed his life in the interests of this country. Honorable members opposite, who were privileged to know Mr. Cochrane when they occupied the treasury bench, will support my statement. The Government extends its deepest sympathy to his wife and family, and commiserates with them in their very sad loss.
.- On behalf of the Opposition I concur with the expressions of sympathy that have just been voiced by the Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) regarding the late Mr. Cochrane. It was my great pleasure to know that gentleman personally and have associations with him during the war period in the Department of Munitions. I endorse the tributes which have been paid by the Minister.
In regard to the subject-matter that the Minister has been discussing for the past half-hour, let me say that I shall never cease to wonder how he should rise to his feet and pose as an authority upon war-time production. If any member of a government has a more pathetic record in regard to results achieved than have the right honorable gentleman and those who are associated with him, I should like to know who he is. When we came into office in 1941, there was a shortage of every material and every known requirement for the effective defence of thi3 country and for its essential needs. As one who was called to take responsibility and who dealt in particular with the department now administered by the right honorable gentleman, I say that it was quite evident from what I found on taking office that it was a matter of too little too late, and, therefore, for the Minister to pass strictures on honorable members on this side of the chamber is just too ridiculous for words. The records of the Parliament show that in regard to these matters Labour has made a much more valuable contribution to the defence of this country and to meeting urgent defence requirements than has the present Government. It comes with ill grace for the Minister to make such remarks, with the characteristic expressions of extravagance that always seem to mark his words, working himself up into a frenzy in an endeavour to make people think that he has a case to offer and that those who seek to disagree with him are prompted by some ulterior motive. At all times he has sought to defeat the high purposes of honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber. The VicePresident of the Executive Council will always be known as one who has failed properly to understand the many problems that have faced Australia in the past, and which face us to-day. But we have a right to expect such a proper understanding from him.
During World War II., when he was a member of the then Opposition, he made certain statements in the Parliament which called for a most severe rebuke from the then Government because of their irresponsible nature. Although he accused honorable members of the Opposition of being opposed to any plan for the defence of this country, he knows quite well that that is not in accordance with fact, because the record of the Labour party, both in the Parliament and throughout the country, will stand any examination. Nobody can deny the service that that party has given to this country. The war-time Labour government was able to mobilize all this country’s resources and was able to defend it to the utmost against a vigorous and menacing enemy. That is something that honorable members on the Government side could not do. Indeed, they were not even able to defend themselves. The Labour party accepted the responsibility of defending Australia, and we successfully governed this country for yeai’3 during the war. After the war, we carried on in the difficult period of demobilization and transition from war to peace.
– Order! The honorable member should now return to the proposed votes at present before the chair.
– The honorable member for St. George has well justified his opposition to the expenditure of about £23,000,000 on a filling factory at St. Mary’s. The Government proposes to adopt the cost-plus system in having this factory erected, but even with a fixed fee the cost-plus system may give rise to some unsatisfactory practices by those who are undertaking the work. It is astonishing, after the experiences that we have had with the cost-plus system during the war period, that the Government should be prepared to lay itself open to a repetition of those unfortunate experiences. I cannot understand why the Works Department should not undertake the erection of this particular factory. I understand that we shall be required to pay about £615,000 merely as a fee for this work, and I suggest that that is outrageously excessive. We should save a large proportion of that sum if the work were planned by the Works Department.
Under the Government’s proposal certain private resources will be withdrawn from the use of the community which are urgently required to advance our housing schemes. Also, by placing an enormous factory at St. Mary’s, the Government will be putting a strain on the community- services and housing facilities of that area. The Vice-President of the Executive Council took the honorable member for St. George to task for saying that although the Government had proposed to build this factory four years ago it was only now starting the job, and he indicated that the factory was urgently required. He maintained that we were short of ammunition, and needed the facilities to provide it. That being so, it is all the more remarkable that, although the Government recognized the need for the factory four years ago, it has left it to this late stage to get on with the job.
The Government is making the same mistakes that it made at the beginning of World War II. At that time, it seemed to recognize the need to build up our defences, but somehow or other our defences were not improved, and the Government seemed to be incapable of making any decisions in that regard. It was quite evident at that time that there was a serious division among the members of the then Government, and there was an inability among the Ministers to make sound decisions. A Labour Government assumed office during World War II., almost two years after the war had commenced, and we found then that Australia still was not producing enough arms and ammunition to service our fighting forces. The Minister’s failure to justify the failure of the Government to start this factory four years ago, when the Government first recognized the need for it, is similar to the failure of the Government of which he was a member to recognize Australia’s needs in the early part of the last war.
I suggest that, in view of recent international developments and the present readiness of the great nations to reduce their armed forces, the Government should re-appraise the need for this particular factory. At present, top level conferences are being held among the great powers, and emerging from those talks is a belief that it is now important to effect economies in armed forces, the maintenance of which has been a great strain upon the taxpayers of all the countries of the world. That being so, I ask members of the committee to examine the position and decide whether, at this stage, it is desirable for us to proceed with a project which will involve an expenditure of £23,000,000, and also whether the site that has been selected is the best that can be secured. In my opinion, the establishment of these works so near to the great metropolis of Sydney is altogether wrong in principle. If we should have unwelcome visitors, and hostile aircraft should attempt to destroy our war potential, the City of Sydney would be in danger. These works should be established in a place less vulnerable, so that we shall not run the risk of being denied the service that it could render. For that reason, it should be established at some place west of the Blue Mountains.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have been stimulated to rise by the arrant nonsense that we have heard from the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Makin), who comes before us as a spokesman for the Labour party to tell us of the magnificent war effort and defence achievements of the Labour party over the years, and then proceeds, somewhat illogically, to attack the Government’s proposal to establish this munitions factory.
– The results will speak for themselves.
– It may be that my memory is wrong. If it is, no doubt the honorable member for Sturt will correct me, but I seem to remember that, before the last war, the attitude of the Labour party, both in Australia and in Great Britain, was to rely on the League of Nations and not to rearm. I remember that at all times the Labour party opposed rearmament before the last war. Am I wrong in saying that that party opposed the formation of the Australian Imperial Force, and also opposed sending it abroad? The honorable member for Sturt, as I have said, made great claims regarding the achievements of tha Labour Government during the war, but I was under the impression that men like Sir Essington Lewis were largely responsible for the success of Australia’s war preparations, and for the provision of essential equipment. I thought that it was to the credit of the Labour Government that it did not sufficiently impede their efforts to make their contributions ineffective. But why go back that far? Ever since the war ended, and particularly in recent times, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has spent his time trying to induce us to believe that, because some prominent Russians have smiled, the Russians are our friends, and that consequently there is no need for us to do anything to assist our allies in the defence of the free world. Is that true, or is it not true? No one who has heard the right honorable gentleman speak in recent months would have any difficulty in concluding that it is true. The Leader of the Opposition says, in effect, that there has been a change at the Kremlin, and that the gentlemen who rule Russia have smiled upon us and that therefore we should drop our defence activities at once. That is his attitude. Yet the honorable member for Sturt has the effrontery to rise in his place and talk about the magnificent record of the Labour party in regard to defence matters. His remarks are inconsistent with his attitude in opposing what this Government has done and now proposes to do.
Let us have a look at the amateur strategy of the honorable member for Sturt and others sitting with him, including the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon). They suggest that the establishment of this factory is not important, yet the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said categorically that the Government’s defence advisers are of the opinion that it is a No. 1 priority.
– That was said four years ago.
– If it was true four years ago, its truth has more force to-day. There were atom bombs four years ago as there are now. If the Labour party is sincere, instead of adopting the attitude it has adopted, it should, if it is concerned about our defences, be found criticizing the Government for not getting to work much earlier. But that is not its attitude. The Labour party is inconsistent. Action is more important now than ever. I should say that the defence advisers of the Government, who include representatives of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, might be presumed to have a better knowledge of the best site for these works than is possessed by either the honorable member for Sturt or the honorable member for St. George. These advisers, having examined the matter carefully, have concluded that the location is satisfactory and that the work should be given a number one priority. Who is the honorablemember for Sturt, or the honorable member for St. George, that he should express a contrary opinion? It may be that the chiefs of staff are wrong. They have been wrong before; but they are more likely to be right than are the civilian gentlemen opposite who have expressed a contrary opinion.
However, some observations by way of criticism may not be out of place. In my opinion, the Minister has not given as full an answer and explanation as he might have done. The honorable member for St. George said that the Government proposes to go ahead with this work, which is estimated to cost £23,000,000, by expending £6,000,000 this year and the remaining £17,000,000 next year. The honorable member went on to say that the expenditure of £6,000,000 this year would be made at the expense of 3,000 homes. In New South Wales about 25,000 homes are being constructed each year, so th at even if the honorable member for St. George is correct, that would mean reducing the number of homes built this year from 25,000 to 22,000. But that is not the whole truth. A great deal of other building is undertaken. I have knowledge only of New South Wales, and so I am taking that State as an example. As I have said, building construction in New South Wales is not confined to homes. The economic policy of this Government, as announced in the budget, and explained in the Prime Minister’s recent statement, is to slow down capital development in private industry during the next year or two, until our labour force and our productive capacity have been brought into balance with the purchasing power of the people. It may well be that there will not be so much industrial building in the next twelve months, and therefore the housing programme will probably not be- affected at all. The expenditure on building in New South Wales is about £100,000,000 a year. It is proposed to expend on this project about £6,000,000 in the next year. I do not think that the expenditure of that sum of money will have as serious an impact on our building labour force as has been suggested. Nevertheless, I should like the Minister to make & studied statement on the impact on our labour force and the supply of materials that this project is expected to have. Although, as I have said, I do not think that the impact will be as serious a3 has been suggested, it would be reassuring to the community, particularly people engaged in building, to know just what is the schedule of man-power and materials on this project.
If it is intended, as the honorable member for St. George, who quoted the words of the Minister for Defence Production, has stated, that in the second year £17,000,000 will be expended, I think the Minister should examine the programme in relation to the international situation and our national economy. Perhaps it is not necessary to complete the work within two years. The considerable drain of £17,000,000 in the second year could be avoided if the work were extended over a total period of three years. I suggest that whatever may be the international situation or the state of the economy, the Minister should not firmly fix the twoyear period in his mind at this stage, and that we should not proceed willy-nilly to complete the project within that period if a period of three years would serve the purpose equally well.
I do not know whether the Government has considered the possibility of bringing in building workers from another country to work on this project. The policy in relation to the Snowy Mountains project - and it was a wise policy - was to bring in Norwegian contractors, the Selmer Company, and to provide in the contract for the employment of a certain number of building employees from Norway.
– The Government proposes to use immigrant labour on this project.
– The Minister says that it is proposed to use immigrant labour. I was wondering whether, if all the contracts have not yet been let, it would be possible to let some to overseas builders on the condition that they brought some or all of their building labour with them. In other words, I am asking the Government to give careful consideration to the effect of this project on man-power and materials, and to the possibility of bringing building labour from overseas, some of which, no doubt, would remain and later be of advantage for other purposes. I suggest that the Minister should give the community a more precise idea of what is involved on the economic side of this project. I have no doubt that, to the chiefs of staff, it has a No. 1 priority. We also should regard it as such. If the chiefs of staff are satisfied with the location, I suggest that no better opinion is available within this chamber. The defence of Australia is of great importance to Government supporters. The attitude of the Opposition in holding aloft its magnificent defence record and then doing all it can to prevent the establishment of this factory is quite inconsistent.
Finally, although the Minister may not have sufficient time to obtain the figures before the conclusion of this debate, I ask him to give to the community in the fullness of time a more precise idea of what is involved in this work in regard to man-power and materials as they affect the requirements of the construction industry within New South Wales, where the impact of this project will be felt most. T. repeat my request to the Government to consider bringing building labour from abroad. It may not be possible, because of the non-aVailability of building labour abroad, for contractors to bring their own employees, but I think the suggestion is worthy of consideration.
.- If the amendment that is before the committee had been submitted as a censure of the Government for its placing of this munition establishment in the proposed situation, one would have had little hesitation in supporting it. Because the Government proposes to establish this project in an area in which, in the event of an atomic attack,, it would be severely damaged, we have seen the revolt amongst Government supporters carried almost to the extent of turmoil in the party room by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). It is quite obvious that there is considerable support amongst Government supporters for the view that the siting of this factory is very bad, and that the Government has ignored the essentials of defence and decentralization in this atomic age. On these grounds, one would be entitled to censure the Government.
One would be entitled to censure the Government also on the ground that it has not provided the committee with the necessary information about this establishment. It may be argued by the Government that it would not be possible for the committee to absorb all the essential details during the course of debate. I suggest to the Government however, that, if there were a defence committee of honorable members by whom such projects could be examined in the same manner as similar projects are examined by the Public Works Committee, those honorable members could come into the chamber and assure their colleagues that the expenditure was warranted, that the plans were not extravagant, and that the proposed method of building, whether it be the cost-plus system of otherwise, was in the interest of the nation. But the Government has not followed that course. On that ground also, as I have stated, we would be entitled to censure the Government. If the censure, however, were, in effect, an attack upon the Government’s defence preparations, neither I nor my colleagues in this corner of the chamber would have any part of it. We believe, however, that the Government is open to grave criticism for having chosen the proposed site at St. Mary’s for the establishment of this project, for the method by which it proposes to construct it, and for the lack of information that has been given to honorable members.
Having made those comments, let me return to the remarks of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Makin) and to discuss the proposed vote of approximately £6,500,000 for defence research and development in the Estimates for the Department of Supply. The honorable member suggested that, in view of the present international situation, that expenditure is not warranted. Under this head, I propose to make a few comments about atomic or thermo-nuclear power and its use in the future. One cannot speak about the future use of atomic power, which, of course, has been developed in Australia under the control of the Department of Supply, without referring to the tremendous benefit to mankind of the fact that the United States of America was the first nation to discover the secret of atomic power. It could have been used for good or evil; fortunately for us the United States has sought to use it for good.
– Does the honorable member intend to refer to the military use of atomic power?
– Yes, to a certain degree, but I am concerned with both the peaceful and military use of atomic power. Neither Australia nor many other countries understand properly how fortunate we are that the United States, and not the Soviet Union or Hitler’s Germany, was the first nation to discover atomic power. Too little is understood of the tremendous debt that we owe to the President of the United States and his predecessor for their efforts to ensure that atomic energy would be devoted to the peaceful purposes of mankind, and that only. While phoney peace conferences are being held all over the place and people are trying to use the word “ peace “ as a weapon of war, too few Australians know of the continuous struggle that has taken place, since the United States first learned the secret of atomic power, to ensure that it would not be used for purposes of war but for purposes of peace.
Very few people in Australia could tell us of the plan that was prepared by Bernard Baruch, which culminated in an offer by America, which I suppose was unprecedented in history, to make available to the world all its atomic secrets and to destroy its stockpile of atomic weapons on the sole condition that other countries would agree, having received those secrets, to a system of international inspection to ensure that they did not use the information to build up their own secret stockpiles of atomic weapons. For ten years or more the United States has endeavoured to bring about such an agreement, but on every possible occasion it has been frustrated by the refusal of the Soviet Union and its supporters to agree to that one essential - the system of international inspection. Agreement to such a system is still the prime essential for a successful outcome of the disarmament conference now being held. “ Eventually, however, as a result of the patient planning and great statesmanship of the President of the United States, to whom we all extend our best wishes for his recovery to health so that he may take his place at the head of the democratic nations, we have at least witnessed the success of the “Atoms for Peace “ conference which has resulted in tremendous benefits being given to mankind in the fields of medicine, industry and agriculture, and which will enable the world to take tremendous steps forward in the relief of misery and distress. Let me say that, although some people to-day claim the credit for that success, it was only after two and a half years of patient effort, on top of previous efforts by the United States, that eventually President Eisenhower was able to bring about that “ Atoms for Peace “ convention. If no other tribute is paid to his memory in future, he will at any rate always have the success of that convention as a monument to an outstanding piece of statesmanship. Those people who are continually attacking the United States, and continually talking about American war-mongering and so on, ought to acquaint themselves with the long and arduous struggle by the Americans to bring about what is, I suppose, one of the greatest needs of the world at the present time, that is, atomic disarmament, so that people will be able to move out of the valley of fear of an atomic war, with all that such a war would involve.
Let me say in passing that the fact that we have been able to reach even the present measure of agreement on the peaceful use of atomic energy is in spite of the circumstance that the Fuchs, the Nunn-Mays and the rest of them betrayed their country, and the secrets of the United .States, to potential enemies. However, I do not want to confine myself to the past. I want to speak of the future in relation to this matter. I believe that the issue of disarmament is the greatest issue that faces the democratic peoples of the world at the present time, and that all our efforts should be devoted to endeavouring to ensure the success of the disarmament conference now being held in Europe. I want to say that, in my opinion - and, I am sure, in the opinion of all intelligent and wellmeaning persons - that conference cannot be a success unless world opinion is so mobilized that those who may refuse to take the steps necessary to ensure the success of the conference - those who may not agree to the proposals being put forward by the United States at present - will be branded before all the world as aggressors and war-mongers.
The United States, through President Eisenhower, has put forward what it regards as an essential condition. Whereas previously we could have had an effective system of international inspection which would have preserved world peace, now we cannot have such an effective system, because it is probable that both sides have saturation stocks of atomic or thermo-nuclear weapons. Those stocks would be very hard to discover, and an ordinary system of international inspection would not be effective. What the President of the United States is seeking is an immediate arrangement that will enable each side to be perfectly certain that the other side is not endeavouring to launch a sneak attack on it with atomic weapons from secret airfields. The statement issued by the American President makes it perfectly clear that the first step that ought to be taken in relation to this matter is to provide an effective safeguard against massive surprise attack, which is the major source of fear and international tension. He has said to the Soviet Union, “ You can photograph our munitions works, our aircraft plants and our military installations. They are all available for you to look at, to photograph or to do what you will as far as inspection is concerned, provided that you will do likewise, so that the two major nations of the world can be certain that neither will attempt a sneak attack on the other with atomic weapons. That is the first step that must he taken if we are to proceed further with disarmament “. The second proposition of the United States is that the nations shall disarm by various steps, but the fundamental proposition is that, whatever agreement he reached, there must be a system of international inspection within the borders of all countries, so that each side will know that the other side is carrying out the terms of the agreement.
– Order ! I think the honorable member is going a little wide of the mark.
– The reason I am advancing this argument is that some honorable members who have spoken in support of the amendment have argued that we should not spend a large amount of money on the St. Mary’s filling factory. They say there is a possibility that international relations will improve and, therefore, we should avoid using that money for the purposes of war. I say to people who argue in that way: Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Beware of people who use talk of peace as a weapon of war.
There is one test of the sincerity of the the people who hold peace congresses, chalk “ Ban the Atom Bomb “ on bridges and all the re3t of it. Do they, or do they not, support the one thing that would make disarmament possible? Do they support a. system of international inspection whereby each side could make certain that the other side was honouring the terms of the agreement? I say that anybody who talks about banning atomic weapons and about disarmament, but does not insist on that one condition, and does not make it quite clear that he supports the stand of the United States for the acceptance of that one condition, is nothing other than a fraud. I have had plenty to say about Hobart conference resolutions, but thi? matter is far more serious than a political dispute. I regret to say that the resolution of the Hobart conference about atomic disarmament, banning atom bombs and so on that was read last week by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), contained no reference to that one essential condition. Until such time as the people who talk of banning atomic weapons make it quite clear that there is only one obstacle to disarmament - the refusal of the Soviet Union to agree to international inspection - I shall refuse to accept their bona fides and I shall believe that their protestations of support for peace are nothing other than frauds and shams.
I believe that the Australian Government and the governments of other democracies have been very remiss in educating the people on this problem. The people of the democracies should have been mobilized to bring a blast of public opinion to bear upon the Soviet Union and let the Russians see that, if they refused to accept the condition proposed by the United States, they would stand branded before the world as war-mongers, aggressors, wolves in sheep’s clothing and people who talked peace when they meant war. I put it to the Ministers at the table that they have a responsibility to educate the Australian people in the realities of the situation. For too long have we had phoney peace conferences. For too long have all the woolly-minded idealists and some of the clergymen in the community been led by the nose by those who talk peace, although their real aim is war. There is one test of the sincerity of these people - that is, their attitude to the proposal for international inspection that I have mentioned so frequently in the course of my speech. If a nation is not prepared to agree to a system of international inspection of atomic armaments which will make it possible for an international body to decide whether the terms of a disarmament agreement are being carried out, obviously that nation does not desire peace and is continuing to threaten the future peace of the world.
I believe that, whilst we have a job to work actively and tirelessly in the interests of the defence of Australia, so, too, we have a job to work actively and tirelessly in the interests of peace. I believe that the best way in which we can work actively and tirelessly in the interests of peace is by showing the world just what the position is in relation to the present disarmament plans.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable gentleman’s timehas expired.
.- At the ouset of my remarks, I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) on what I believe was a constructive speech. We often hear honorable members opposite abuse our great ally, the United States of
America. So it was refreshing to hear the honorable member for Yarra express the view that America is doing more to achieve peace than any other country in the world.
– What about old England ?
– England is doing the job on a very big scale, but I draw the attention of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) to the fact that the United States is a considerably larger nation. For that reason, and also because it has a considerably larger industrial power, it has achieved, and probably is achieving, more than the old country in that field. However, I rose not to speak on that matter, but to deal with the subject of defence production, and I am glad to see that the Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) is at the table at the moment. We are asked to vote a total amount of £11,253,000 for the operations of the Department of Defence Production in the coming year. At the time that this Government came into power it was stated by the then Chief of Staff of the Royal Australian Air Force that not one aircraft in 50 in this country was a modern aircraft capable of being used in battle. Our policy in respect of defence production was from the first concentrated on the production of modern service aircraft, and it is true to say that to-day the nation is in a very much better position in respect of fighting aircraft than it was when the Government took office. I admit that when the Government’s proposals to embark on the production in Australia of service aircraft, particularly fighters, was first placed before the Parliament, I was opposed to it, because I knew the history of aircraft production by Australia during World War II. During that war, unfortunately, all of the aircraft of Australian manufacture provided to the Royal Australian Air Force were either obsolescent or obsolete by the time they reached the fighting forces. First, we had the Wirraway, which was built originally as a fighter. It was said by some people that there was so little one could do in a Wirraway that in the event of attack by a Japanese Zero the only method of self defence for the pilot of a Wirraway was to undo the straps and run madly round the cockpit. Later we produced the Boomerang, which also was a very poor fighter compared with fighter aircraft being produced in other countries.
When Australia embarked on the production of the Sabre I thought it was attempting to do something beyond its capabilities; but I am very glad indeed to be able to say that I believe that to-day, in the Sabre, this country has one of the best, if not the best, fighter aircraft that is in standard use in squadron service. Although this aircraft was not designed here it has been considerably modified in Australia so that the Avon engine can be fitted into the American airframe, and it is therefore considerably better than the Sabres that were in operation two years ago in Korea. Very few honorable members realize the full capabilities of this machine. I do not think that people throughout the world realize what a good fighter it is. For example, its rate of climb is almost exactly double the rate of climb of the original F.86a Sabre which was used in the Korean war. Its rate of fire-power is ten times as high as that of the F.86a which was used in Korea. This is because we have been fortunate in getting the Aden 37-mm. cannon, whose terrific rate of fire-power can be altered to make it fire at speeds ranging from 500 rounds a minute up to nearly 2,000 rounds a minute. Because of the nature of the revolving chamber which enables a high rate of feeding in, and ejection, of shells, this cannon is a revolutionary development in aircraft armament, and I think that we have in our Australian-made Sabre the best aircraft now in squadron service.
We hear complaints about the cost of some of those aircraft. That is only natural, because, on present proposals, only about 80 of them are to be manufactured in Australia, and the cost of toolingUp and buying the machines necessary to produce those aircraft, is therefore divided among the relatively small number of 80 to be produced. The only way we can reduce costs is to increase the number produced - in other words, to produce more than our requirements, and try to sell the surplus to other countries. I believe that if we embarked on a real sales promotion campaign for the Sabre and other aircraft produced in Australia we would be able to make sales in other parts of the world. It has been suggested that the fact that we are building the Sabre under licence might be a bar to our selling them overseas. It is quite true that we are building the Sabre under licence, but other countries which are manufacturing aircraft under licence are able to sell them in whatever part of the world they can find a market for them. For example, South Africa has lodged an order for 10,000,000 dollars worth of Sabre Mark VI.’s from Canada, where the Sabre Mark VI. is built under licence. As the Mark VI. has the Orenda 14 engine, which is considerably inferior to the Avon engine fitted in the Australianbuilt Sabre, there is no doubt that Australia would be able to offer the South Africans much better aircraft than those on which they are willing to spend 10,000,000 dollars.
Wo have an Australian-designed aircraft, the Jindivik, which, honorable members may not realize, is quite outstanding in its own field as a pilotless, target aircraft. This aircraft was designed by Ian Fleming, with whom I studied at Cambridge University. The Western democracies have no pilotless aircraft which is anywhere near as good as the Jindivik for the particular work that it is designed to do. In fact, its worth has been realized by the Americans, who, [ understand, are at present trying to negotiate for licences to manufacture it in America. The point that I wish to put to the committee is that all sales of these aircraft have been made as a result of inquiries for them initiated overseas, and not as the result of any efforts by Australia to sell them abroad. The same is true of other aircraft produced in Australia. The Venom and the Vampire are examples in point. The Venom is operational with the Royal Australian Navy, and the Vampire is used by the Royal Australian Air Force as a jet fighter, and there is considerable demand for them. The companies which make those aircraft cannot profitably go ahead building a number just sufficient for the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy, because the orders are so small that it is not economical for them to tool-up in order to build only the small number of these aircraft wanted in Australia. I believe that we should either go right into the business of building modern aircraft, or get right out of it, instead of going only half the way. We should concentrate on producing aircraft of a few good designs, and seek sales for them abroad. Not so long ago the Royal New Zealand Air Force purchased from the United Kingdom, on two occasions, aircraft which were available for supply from Bankstown, in New South Wales. It would have been better for the Royal New Zealand Air Force to have acquired its aircraft from the closest source of supply, and it would have had the assurance that spare parts would have been readily available from the same close source of supply. I understand that even the Royal Australian Navy placed an order with the De Havilland company in England for aircraft which could have been built at Bankstown, and which the factory at Bankstown was only too willing to produce for the Navy.
When one wants to sell anything what does one do? I have a small sheep stud, and if I want to sell sheep and find that no buyers are offering, I take them along to a show where potential buyers can see them. We should be doing the same thing with the aircraft that we produce in this country. We should be taking them to ah’ shows. We will not sell our aircraft by merely waiting for people to offer to buy them, and then telling them that we have none to sell them. We must go out seeking sales. The major air show in the world is the Farnborough display in England. Not only are the best aircraft in England shown there but also all the leading aircraft designers and aircraft manufacturers in the world attend that display, very often with cheque books in their pockets and with a willingness to write large cheques for orders for aircraft in which they are interested. We have seen cases of a single English firm receiving orders for 100 aircraft purely as a result of its having displayed a particular model at the Farnborough display. I suggest it would be well worth our while to exhibit Australianmade aircraft at that display. It does not matter whether the aircraft we exhibit were designed in Australia, so long as they are made in Australia.
Whether or not the aircraft are completely of Australian design is not important. After all, the Australian-built Sabre can be considered to be an Australiandesigned aircraft in that we have been responsible for the modifications that have made it what it is to-day. If a sale of only one aircraft were made, the expense of this display would be recouped. If only one aircraft were sold the cost would be repaid, and at the same time the outside world would see a sample of the quality of Australian workmanship and become aware that aircraft can be produced in this country. Outside aircraft firms might be induced to establish branches of their firms in Australia, as Fairey’s and De Havilland’s have done. The aircraft industry in Australia must be expanded beyond the stage of providing merely for the small, local requirements of the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Naval Air Arm. An effort must be made to obtain orders from countries such as Indonesia, India, New Zealand and South Africa.
– I wish to bring before the committee matters concerning two organizations under the control of the Department of Supply, namely, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. I direct attention to the manner in which these bodies have been dealing with claims for rewards for the discovery of mineral deposits now being worked under their control. Bauxite was discovered in the Wessel Islands, and particularly on Marchinbar Island, off the north coast of the Northern Territory. Subsequently, a further deposit was discovered on the mainland near these islands. The discovery on Wessel Island was made by Captain F. E. Wells and Mr. F. J. Waalks, a marine engineer. They reported this to the government of the day, and a government geologist was sent to the island to investigate and report. As a result of that inspection the Australian Aluminium Production Commission was formed, and further extensive surveys of the island were made. It was estimated that on Wessel Island and Marchinbar Island about 10,000,000 tons of bauxite was available for mining.
A claim for a reward was then lodged by the discoverers, but so far no finality has been reached. As far back as December, 1953, I made representations to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), and received from him a letter dated the 18th January, 1954, in which he said -
Dear Mr. Nelson,
As promised in my letter of 15th December last I have made enquiries concerning Mr. F. J. Waalks, who wrote to you in regard to his interest in the Wessel Islands bauxite discovery and its development.
– It is from the Minister himself. This second paragraph reads -
Although the Australian Aluminium Production Commission withdrew its offer of a reward to bauxite discoverers after the Wessels survey was completed, Mr. Waalks’ eligibility for a reward is not affected. He and Captain Wells remain registered as codiscoverers of the Marchinbar deposits, and their claims will be dealt with in due course.
From that time I ceased to have any interest until my recent visit to Darwin, when again I was asked by one of the co-discoverers to take up the matter with the Minister. He handed to me correspondence between his solicitor and the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor’s office at Darwin. Mr. R. J. Withnall, Crown Law officer at Darwin, wrote to Captain F. E. Wells, Harbour Master, Darwin, on the 14th April, 1955, as follows: -
Bauxite deposits: Wessel Islands : Reward for Discovery.
I have been instructed to offer to you an amount of £250 in respect of your share in the discovery of bauxite deposits on Marchinbar Island in the Northern Territory. A similar amount will also be offered to Mr. Waalks.
It should be understood that this offer is made to you as an act ofgrace and without any admission that the Aluminium Industry Commission or the Commonwealth is liable to pay you any amount in respect of your part in the discovery of the deposits, and that payment of the amount to you will he dependent upon your executing a form of acquittance releasing the Commonwealth front any claims which you may have or might have had.
I should be glad if you would let me know as soon as possible whether you are prepared to accept this amount and to sign an appropriate acquittance.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) R. J. Withnall,
Crown Law Officer.. ;
I shall read the reply from the solicitor to the Crown Law officer, dated the 26th May, 1955, which was written by Mr. A. Brough Newell.
– These negotiations have been going on since 1946. The Minister in an earlier letter acknowledged the registration of the two discoverers of the deposits which have since been proved to be most extensive. Those on Marchinbar Island were estimated at 10,000,000 tons, and a further discovery on the mainland is estimated at 40,000,000 tons, making a total of 50,000,000 tons. I shall read the reply of the Minister to a question asked in this chamber on Wednesday, the 21st September last, by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Luck). It is as follows : -
As the sources of supply, speaking from memory, we have already a reserve of some 10.000,000 tons in the Wessell Island area off the coast of Northern Australia. Quite recently, a qualitative survey of the Arnhem land district revealed what looks like some 50.000,000 tons of high-grade bauxite in that area.
The following day, in answer to a question addressed to him by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), the Minister said it was the intention of the department to establish an aluminium industry in New Guinea operated by hydro-electric power. In his answer he intimated that it was hoped, if the scheme came to fruition, to obtain the bauxite from the rich deposits in Northern Australia. These deposits are so extensive and so important to the nation that an offer to each of the discoverers of the sum of £250 is very shabby indeed. It is out of all proportion to the importance of the discovery to Australia. The Minister admits that eventually the aluminium plant at Bell Bay will be run on ore which will be supplied from these deposits. He also admits that the aluminium industry in New Guinea may be established on ore obtained from the same deposits.
The conditions of the reward are set out in a letter dated the 3rd March, 1952, addressed to the Administrator of the
Northern Territory, following inquiries that he had made for information as to the reward, if any, that would apply. Portion of that letter reads -
The Commission’s policy is to pay a reward to discoverers of deposits of bauxite who disclose and cede their discovery to the Commission. The reward is at the rate of £1 for each 500 tons of bauxite, a deposit being that volume of bauxite located within the boundaries of any mining tenement acquired or taken over by the Commission on the area disclosed by the discoverer.
A reward is payable only if -
the deposit discovered is proved to the satisfaction of the Commission to be economic;
the deposit is ceded to the Commission free from royalties or capital payments to the discoverer other than the actual reward at the prescribed rate, and
mining title over the deposit is secured by the Commission.
All those conditions have been fulfilled. The solicitor in his answer to the offer that was made by the Crown Solicitor said that on the figures in the commissioner’s own letter to the Administrator, these two men would be entitled, in respect of the Wessel Island deposits alone, to a reward of between £19,000 and £20,000. The letter to the Administrator states -
Any reward due to be paid fora discovery will be determined and paid onan in situ tonnage basis as calculated by the Commission, and will be paid either as a lump sum or by instalments over a period as may be preferred by the discoverer and agreed to by the Commission.
First of all we have the Minister agreeing that Mr. F. J. Waalks and Captain Wells were entitled to a reward. The commission set out the conditions under which a reward would be payable and those conditions in this case have been fulfilled. Then we have this magnificent offer of £250 to each of the discoverers. I do not know whether that is to be free of tax. That seems to be a very parsimonious attitude and I suggest that the Minister should take up with the commission immediately the matter of paying a reward to these men commensurate with the importance of their discoveries.
The other matter I should like to deal with is the reported discovery by the Bureau of Mineral Resources on Coronation Day of what is known as the “ Coronation deposits “ of uranium in the Northern Territory. The story as told by Mr. Joe Callinan, of Jimbat Station, the man who made the claim, is to the effect that a couple of days before Coronation Day he asked a survey party of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, which was in the area, to inspect a deposit of copper over which he had a title and which he thought could be uranium bearing. On Coronation Day the party accompanied by Mr. Callinan went to the deposit and as a result of an inspection of the area was able to determine that uranium did exist in fairly substantial quantities; at least that was indicated on the geiger counter.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to deal first of all with bauxite deposits and this matter of rewards that has been raised by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). I feel some reluctance about embarking upon a discussion of this subject for the obvious reason, as I indicated to the honorable member by way of interjection, that it is the subject of discussion and negotiations between solicitors, and I do not think that it should be discussed in this chamber at the moment. However, since it has been raised I want only to say that the attitude taken by the Crown Law authorities is that no legal obligation exists to pay a reward in this case.
– What about a moral obligation?
– One thing at a time; I am speaking about the legal obligation. Therefore, an ex gratia payment was offered. If that is wrong then the lawyers can deal with the matter. Litigation can bc instituted oil behalf of Captain Wells and the other man which can determine the position. On the question of moral right to compensation quite different considerations arise. It is true that substantial quantities of bauxite were discovered on Marchinbar Island in the Wessel Islands group. If the honorable member’s presentation of the matter is Correct - my recollection is not infallible and I do not remember the -details - the disc:every was promoted by some people - it may be the people for whom he speaks - who saw what looked like bauxite deposits in that area. As a result of this first report, officers of the Bureau of Mineral Resources took the matter up, went to the island and made examinations. It seemed promising enough for them to bring the matter to the attention of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, which at that time, back in 1950 or 1951, was anxious to secure supplies indigenous to Australia. As a result the commission of the day decided itself to conduct a survey. A survey was conducted, which, by the way, cost something like £130,000, and it resulted, after extensive drilling and other activities, in proving the existence of an iron body of substantial dimensions. The steps I am taking the committee through are these : A member of the public observes surface indications which look like bauxite. He reports the matter to government geologists, who in due course have a look at the deposit and make their own investigation which is much more extensive but still not conclusive. Then. a. full-scale survey is made involving extensive drilling and other activities which, as I have said, cost £130,000. As a result the deposit was proved. It is a bit far-fetched to suggest that a man who first sees something on the surface which causes somebody else to do something, as a result of which government geologists do something, as a result of which in turn a full-scale survey is made, is in the same position as a man who, having discovered a likely area himself, does his own research and developmental work and takes out a licence, then a lease and finally turns out the lode in the ore body.
– The Government paid J Jack White £25,000 on the same basis !
– Wc did pay it, but not on the same basis. We made a public offer to Australians generally. We said that we wanted to find uranium, and that we would pay a reward for its discovery. Jack White, as the honorable member for the Northern Territory knows full well, lived a primitive sort of life prospecting in the bush for many months, and eventually found what i3 now known as White’s mine. At that period Australia was trying desperately to promote a uranium industry. That is why this special reward was offered. Australia had, of course, significant defence reasons for making the offer. The uranium proposition was altogether different from the bauxite proposition. But I do not propose to close the door on any one. The matter is still being negotiated. I merely point out to honorable members that it was not a case of the Government showing negligence or heartlessness. Quite different factors operate as between uranium and bauxite.
I have not before me the papers regarding Mr. Callinan’s claim, but speaking from memory - so that I will not have to rise again on this matter - that gentleman was not responsible for the discovery of the deposit. The discovery of the field - I think it was the Coronation Hill find - was made by an officer in the government service, a Mr. Walpole. As he is an officer in the Bureau of Mineral Resources he is debarred from any reward. Later, he was accompanied by Mr. Callinan on a. return visit to the area. That is the first ground on which Mr. Callinan is shown to have no claim to a reward. The second is the fact that Mr. Callinan was by this time on the payroll of the Bureau of Mineral Resources.
– For how long?
– I do not know. However, in case that be described as taking a technical point, I shall rely on the first ground - that the discovery was made by a permanent officer of the Bureau of Mineral Resources. The claim, was not brushed aside; it was closely examined. The Atomic Energy Commission accepts the advice of the Bureau of Mineral Resources in these matters. The bureau examined the claim very carefully on two or three occasions and advised against the granting of a reward on the ground that the claimant was not responsible for the discovery.
I should like to pas3 now to the subject of the guided weapons programme of the Department of Supply, which was referred to by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) last week. I am sorry the honorable member is not present. He raised a number of questions, to which, as he is not here to take note of the answers, I shall not reply in detail. The effect of his remarks was that, from his analysis of the Estimates, there had been a downward trend in expenditure for work in this field. In 1948 the Chifley Government, he said, had embarked upon a five-year programme, involving the expenditure of something like £33,000,000, at the rate of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 a year, upon research and development. As the present Estimates forecast an expenditure of about £6,800,000 on research and development this year, he suggested that the Government was really doing no more than Labour had done in this field. Indeed, he said, if one had regard for the lower value of money, this Government was really doing less. I suggest that he misled himself by quoting wrong figures. I direct the attention of the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) also to this matter because I read in Hansard an observation of his during another debate to the effect that the guided weapons project had really been begun by the previous Administration, and that the present Government had since only “ coasted along “.
– That is quite true.
– It is quite true that the honorable member for St. George said that, but the allegations are not true. In 1947-48 the Chifley Government spent £1,300,000 on the project. I am not complaining about that because it was only just getting under way. In addition there was the cost of the buildings brought from Salisbury and contributed to the project. In 1948-49 the expenditure was £4,400,000 - it was stepping up a little. In 1949-50, when this Government cameinto office, the expenditure was- £5,300,000. By 1950-51 it had become £6,000,000 and in 1951-52 it wa? £6,025,000. In 1952-53 it was £6,216,000. In 1953-54 it was £6,700,000 and in 1954-55 it was £8,089,000. This year’s estimate is £8,551,000. If those figures indicate that the work was really all done by Labour, and that we are just coastingalong, I am afraid that figures no longer have any meaning in this world. I givefull credit to the Chifley Government for embarking, with the British Government.. upon this joint long-range weapons undertaking. However, of the £54,000,000- which has been spent upon the guided! weapons project, nearly all has been spent by this Government. I mention these things because it is just as well to get them in perspective.
The Government wishes the people to understand that Australia has made a great and increasing contribution to the fulfilment of this magnificent conception. Secondly, the Government believes that the people should know what Australia is doing in this vital field. I hope in a moment to be able to show that what we are doing is a very important contribution to the welfare of the free world. It is all the more meritorious when one remembers that Australia’s interests are indirect rather than direct. It began in 1947-48 as a long-range weapons establishment. I am speaking now of the partnership between Great Britain and Australia for the development amd testing of missiles of various kinds, and especially guided missiles. The original idea was that the establishment’s attention should be devoted to the development of missiles travelling many hundreds of miles. Woomera was chosen because it provided 1,400 miles of land recovery and perhaps another 1,000 miles of sea, if, ultimately, extensions of the range became necessary. That was why Woomera was chosen, and it is why Woomera is the outstanding range of its kind in the world. Nowhere else is there a range with 1,400 miles of land recovery, or with atmospheric conditions that are as equable as those of Woomera all the year round. Therefore, this range is of great importance to the western world. Until recently, for various reasons, the range has been a short range rather than a long range. There were strategic reasons for that and, also, one has to walk before one can run, so that we have been using the range for short and intermediate distances.
On the strategic side, it is obvious that the United Kingdom has a very great need of the defensive guided missile of a short-range character. I do not want to get into trouble with experts such as airmen in speaking on this subject, but certainly the view is widely held that, if a third world war should break out some years hence, the role of the fighter air craft as a defensive weapon against bomber attack will be much diminished. I am talking now, not about cold wars, but about a full-scale world war. World thinking is tending to regard the ground-launched or aircraft-launched guided missile which, travelling at great speed, homes on its target, which also may be travelling at great speed, as the basic type of defence in years to come. Thinking in the United Kingdom has naturally been turning to that type of weapon, and much progress has been made. Australians should be proud that we are able to make such an important contribution to the development of that kind of defensive guided missile.
We are also moving into the development of the longer range of weapons as time goes on. Some day - without being specific about times - we shall use this range for longer distance work and for offensive long-range weapons which span great distances. It is not beyond reasonable imagination to consider that, by helping in the development of long-range and offensive weapons, Australia may be playing a quite vital part in the prevention of a third world war. As Sir Winston Churchill and others have said, the fact that a country which another nation may wish to attack has, itself, the means of counter-attacking and decimating its attacker, however violent the first attack might have been, may be the real deterrent to a third world war. If Australia can make a contribution, even to that form of stalemate, it will be doing a merciful service to humanity.
This sort of work, of course, requires immense money and effort, vast buildings, power stations, air-fields, air services, and electronic devices beyond the understanding of most honorable members in this chamber and of most of the community. We have a courier service running between England and Australia, shuttling to and fro every week or so, bringing scientists and equipment to this country and taking equipment back to the United Kingdom. That goes on all the time. It is a part of the mechanism of this establishment. We are also training thousands of scientists and other personnel.
We have a full-scale township at Woomera with all the modern amenities including housing, schools, and hospitals. We have high-speed cameras, recorders, and telemetry equipment which records messages that are sent through the air by an instrument in a missile many miles up the range. In this way, we are gathering information about the behaviour and aerodynamic qualities of the missile or test vehicle. That information is recorded and collated, and we learn something from it. Consequently, the next missile that goes up is an improvement on the previous one. We are seeking to do, in n few yea rs, what took a hundred years to do from the Napoleonic wars to World War I. If I remember my history and my romantic reading, in the Napoleonic wars, great muzzle-loading cannons, built by the Carron Company and half a dozen other great iron founders of England and Scotland, fired round ball propelled by a charge of powder in the breach. From that stage to the modern 15-in. high-speed projectile, with a range of perhaps 15 or 20 miles, and destroying an enemy who never sees its attacker, represents 100 years of painful development. Under modern conditions, we have not time for that long, hard, hit-and-miss, trial and error, approach, and we are trying to cram the work into a few years. That is the role of the guided missiles range. Australia, by playing its part, is making a vital contribution to the defence of the United Kingdom and, in the long run, of ourselves.
Some measure of the importance which is attached to all this work may be gathered from the effort that is going into this sort of work in the United Kingdom. In Australia, we are on the receiving end of this work. Weapons which are conceived, initiated and partly developed in England come to Australia for testing- But that position is tending to change. We are doing more and more work in Australia. Some of the great firms which are building these weapons in England have established branches at Salisbury, and we have given them factory space where the old filling factory used to be. But, by and large, the weapons are initiated in England aud partly developed there. They come to us for further testing, up to the final prototype stage, and afterwards they are placed in mass production in England, or, perhaps in this country.
While I was in England - and this is one reason why I went abroad - I was able to find out what sort of effort was going into this work. Australia had put between £40,000,000 and £50,000,000 into a great range. To that extent, it had given hostages to fortune. Would this continue to be worth while? We had always thought, and we had always been assured, that it was worth while. We felt that it was time for the Government to find out to what extent this work would continue. Let no one be under any misunderstanding about this. The eagerness and the enthusiasm for this work in England and the conviction of the Government of the United Kingdom that this work has a No. 1 priority puts it beyond any doubt that the work that weare doing in Australia will continue to be of immense importance to the Government of the United Kingdom; I went to six or eight of the great aircraft and engineering firms in England. There, one after the other, one can see in various stages one or other of these missiles being developed - some ground to air some air to air, and some ship to air and so forth. Some of them are beam riders ; some are radar homing. I was there the day after one of them had scored its first hit. Some impression of the difficulties and intricaciesof this work can be gauged from the fact that this weapon, which had scored a hit at some vast distance in the sky and brought down its target, took nearly five years to perfect to the stage when the scientists and engineers could rub their hands and say, “ Well, we have done what we set out to do years ago “. Components of that weapon have been sent to and from this country to be tested on our range. There are about 10,000 to 20,000 people, as well as others employed in subsidiary industries in England, all engaged on the development of weapons of this sort, and many tens of millionsof pounds are sunk in capital equipment.. I got an impression not only of theNo. 1 importance of guided weapons, but also of the deep appreciation of the British Government and the British people for the contribution which Australia is making towards the British’ defence. But I emphasize again all this is very important for Australians also, because quite obviously if, in any great conflict, Great Britain went under, we should be in deadly danger. There is also a further benefit to Australia. I refer to the immense range of know-how which is coming to this country. There is a new field for the young scientist, the young engineer, the electronic and the radar expert in the great industries that are being built up in Australia, and which would not have been developed for a long time if we had not taken on this work; so that on the technical and technological side, Australia will, in due course, reap a rich harvest from the work that is being carried out at the long range weapons establishment in South Australia. Nor does the benefit to us end there. A weapon of this kind which is effective in defending the British Isles, could also be effective in defending our own country, if the circumstances were similar. When we talk about the defence of this country I want to tell the committee that defence is not confined to the activities of our Navy, our Army and our Air Force - immensely important as they are - but includes also defence science, in particular this special field of defence science, because modern war cannot be waged without this type of scientist. I. have spoken because I want Australians to know what is going on, so that they will feel that the proposed vote - which is undoubtedly a lot of money - will be well spent in the interests of Australia and the free world.
I wish, finally, to deal with the subject of atomic power, which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) mentioned. He spoke partly in relation to atomic energy for military purposes, and partly about atomic energy for civilian purposes. I do not intend to deal with the question of civilian atomic power, because I discussed that aspect in the House recently. But I want to say that on the military side - here again under the heading of defence - Australia has made, and is making, valuable contributions towards the defence of the Western world, and of Great Britain in particular. In the Monte Bello tests two or three years ago, we co-operated in the testing of the first British atomic bomb on Australian territory. Our financial contribution was not a very great one compared with the contribution of Great Britain, which alone developed the bomb. A year or two later, the British Government asked us whether we would consent to the testing of another weapon on the mainland. Emu Fields, four or five hundred miles west of Woomera - not, I emphasize, a part of the Woomera project at all - was chosen for the holding of a series of tests, which produced splendid results.
– What sort of weapon was used at Emu Fields?
– Atomic weapons were tested both at Monte Bello islands and at Emu Fields. More recently, we were asked whether we would co-operate in a series of atomic tests on ground set up for periodic tests. To that, also, we have agreed. The tests will take place at Maralinga, also far in the Australian desert, a long way from Emu Fields. It was chosen as being more suitable because of terrain conditions, water supply and so forth. There again, the tests will be held from time to time. The Australian Government and, I am quite sure, the vast majority of the Australian people, are happy to participate in this vital aspect of British and Australian defence.
– Do not be too sure of that!
– They only ask one thing. I myself would regard it as contemptible if Australia ignored the very great need of Great Britain and declined to assist that country in. this way. We only make one stipulation, and that is that there should be complete safety to our citizens and their property - complete safety in the opinion of Australians themselves. Therefore we have stipulated that before any tests take place, conditions of complete safety - in the opinion of a panel of eminent scientists - shall be provided.
– Complete safety can never be guaranteed.
– This is very interesting to me. Apparently, the Leader of the Opposition wants to have it two ways. Does he want to say that he is against Australia participating in atomic tests?
If lie does, lie has not been game to say so; so far, that has been left mostly to the Communists to do. If he wants to do that, let him get up and say so. What we say is that so long as conditions of complete safety are provided, this is a proper contribution for us to make towards the defence of Great Britain.
– Is the honorable gentleman afraid of peace breaking out?
– On all these aspects of national defence of which I have spoken, we consider that our contributions are very good and very valuable, and redound to the very great credit and self respect of this country.
– I want to offer my thanks to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) for giving us such a lengthy lecture, and to thank him for finally sitting down. I wish to deal with one of several matters to which the Minister did not refer. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Lemmon) has pointed out reasons why the building of a filling factory at St. Mary’s was an unwise and badly located proposition, and that under the cost-plus system it would prove very profitable to private firms. I did not suppose that that assertion would be denied. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) very loudly and emphatically denied this, and if anything could be proved by the loudness with which the allegation is made and not by reason or logic, then his denial could be regarded as proved. I am opposed to the expenditure of £23,000,000 on the establishment of a munitions filling factory at St. Mary’s, and I shall refer to certain arguments that were advanced in his usual smooth but not in a very logical way by the deputy leader of the Communist party.
– What party did the honorable member say?
– I refer to the Anti-Communist Labour party - or the anti-Labour party, although I did not say that. The members of the AntiCommunist Labour party have stated that the Australian Labour party has not made any provision for effective defence. I deny quite flatly what the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) suggested in that connexion. We have a very effective defence policy, and as the long lecture by the Minister for Supply has deprived me of sufficient time to state it, I should like to incorporate it in Hansard. Honorable members who support the Government would then have an opportunity to read and digest it.
The federal conference of the Australian Labour party in Hobart reached very clear decisions on steps that should be taken for the safety of Australia. The declarations made by that conference are a complete answer to the charges that have been made by the honorable member for Yarra. Referring to the development of atomic weapons, the Hobart conference of the Australian Labour party made the following declaration: -
The development of atomic weapons has reached such dimensions that the peoples of the world are now faced with the stark and terrifying spectacle of a possible atomic world war, causing a danger to the very fabric of the earth, its atmosphere and all its inhabitants which is so real that distinguished scientists refer to the prospect with a sense of “ desperation “. This desperation is partly due to the vacillation and delay in arranging high level political talks aiming at the effective prevention of the use of atomic and hydrogen bombs by any nation, whether for purposes of war or experimental purposes.
I remind honorable members that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was a member of the Atomic Energy Commission and later President of the United Nations conference sei up to consider nuclear weapons. That committee made a declaration providing for proper control and inspection of atomic energy and atomic weapons. That was made clear by the Leader of the Opposition when he made a statement on the need for a dynamic and definite policy on foreign affairs to ensure survival in the Pacific. Under the heading of “ Nuclear destruction “, the right honorable member at the Hobart conference stated -
In addition to calling the Australian people to a more direct and greater acceptance of responsibility for the raising of living standards, the eradication of illiteracy and disease among the Asian peoples, the Labour Movement insists that all this will be as naught if the policy of massive retaliation through nuclear weapons is retained as the corner-stone of our democratic foreign policy. 1 agree entirely with that statement of the Leader of the Opposition who, in his declaration on behalf of the Labour party, added -
We adhere to Sir Winston Churchill’s proposals, now almost forgotten, for high level talks which have become more urgent in the face of the dire warnings of world atomic scientists as to the catastrophic consequences of an atomic war. We insist that the present situation has developed because of the twoyearold failure to press on with the demand that these talks be held. Our federal government has shown a complete indifference to a pursuance of these highly desirable and practical ends while accepting the old myth of deterrent war provisions. The Labour party will engage in a nation-wide campaign to mobilize public opinion in support of effective international control of nuclear weapons.
That is a very definite declaration of the principles for which the Australian Labour party stands. The allegations made by honorable members in various parts of the chamber that the Labour party does not stand for the defence of Australia are entirely false. I refute the statements by the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the Labour party has no defence policy. Probably the right honorable gentleman has not read it, but he knows that the Labour party has a defence policy, and that it was effectively applied when the Labour Government was in office. In fact, the people would prefer the Labour party’s policy.
I have been astonished by the attitude of honorable members who were once members of the Australian Labour party, and who have stated that the Labour party did not make proper provision for the effective defence of Australia. I have been associated with the Labour party for as long as I can remember, and it has always had a defence policy. “When the Labour Government took office in the early years of “World War II., it found that Australia’s defences had been woefully neglected. I repeat that the Labour party has always had a defence policy, and if it were properly applied now, it would be far better for the people of Australia and, possibly, for the rest of the world. I support the motion for the reduction of the proposed vote by £1.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the
Department of Supply, the Department of Defence Production and Other Services, has expired.
Question put -
That the vote proposed to be reduced (Mr. Lemmon’s amendment) be so reduced.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.8 to 8 p.m.
Proposed vote, £25,803,000.
Refunds of Revenue
Proposed vote, £22,000,000.
Advance to the Treasurer.
Proposed vote, £16,000,000.
Bounties and Subsidies
Proposed vote, £16,070,000.
War and Repatriation Services
Proposed vote, £15,977,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– Order! I call the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer).
– I have raised the question of the state of the committee. [Quorum formed.)
.- I want to say a few words in connexion with the proposed vote for Miscellaneous Services, as it affects the Department of National Development, which impinges upon the proposed vote for Advance to the Treasurer, and to refer particularly to the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. I am very concerned that no finality in relation to the financial aspects of this scheme has been reached by the States and the Commonwealth. We all know that the Snowy Mountains scheme is one of the most ambitious projects of national development ever undertaken in this country, and that it can be of great benefit to Australia. It was hailed by the States when it was decided upon by the Chifley Government, which deserves great credit for having initiated the scheme. It was a magnificent conception, although at the time that this Government took office, not even the preliminary plans had been fully prepared.
The Snowy Mountains scheme will not benefit the Australian Government alone. Indeed, there is nothing of a particularly federal nature about it. It is something on which we propose to spend many millions of pounds, and at the present time, it is being financed and controlled by the Commonwealth, although it will be of particular service to New South Wales and Victoria. Already, a total of £59,000,000 has been expended on the scheme, whilst this year, we have approved, so far, appropriations of a further £14,600,000, which means that £73,600,000 will have been spent on the scheme when this year is completed. That is big money in anybody’s language.
This is essentially an electric powerproducing scheme. When it is completed, the volume of power produced by it will add considerably to the rate of decentralization of industry in Australia. One portion of the scheme, the Guthega section, has been completed already. At the opening ceremony of the Guthega section, the Premier of New South Wales was present and made a speech, as he should on such an occasion. He eulogized the scheme and announced, for the information of the people of Australia, that agreement had been reached between the Premiers and the Federal Governmentregarding consumption of the power produced by the project, and he stated that he expected that that agreement would be signed within a month or two of that date. It is now six months since he made that statement, the opening of the Guthega section having taken place in April last. No agreement has yet been entered into by the States and Commonwealth concerning the use of the power from the Guthega section, and. I think that that is a very serious matter for this Government. Indeed, it may well impinge on the large sum of money that is to be appropriated under the advance to the Treasurer.
By no stretch of the imagination can it be said that the Snowy Mountains scheme will benefit any federal activity. It will benefit only Victoria and New South Wales. As I have said, it is essentially a power-producing scheme, and it will bring untold wealth to New South Wales and Victoria–
– Not so much for Victoria.
– In connexion with soil erosion and irrigation, about which the honorable member for Mallee (Mr.
Turnbull) knows muck more than I do, its value will be immense. It is a national scheme–
– And it has a very important defence aspect.
– I agree. I am not decrying the scheme in the slightest degree. All I am saying is that this is a great scheme which is costing the taxpayers of Australia enormous sums of money. Already it has cost every man, woman and child in Australia £8 a head. From that point of view, it is most important that an agreement should be signed so that we shall know what the commitments are, what the revenue is to he, and where we are going in this matter. Notwithstanding the promise of the Premier of New South Wales, and although six months have elapsed since he made the statement to which I have referred, an agreement has not yet been signed.
It is obvious to every sensible man and woman that there is a nigger in the woodpile. I believe, having been associated for some years with electrical development in New South Wales, that the Electricity Commission in that State may be involved in this matter. I have no direct evidence that it is involved, and that it is holding up the finance of the scheme, but I feel that that may be so. As most honorable members know, the Electricity Commission of New South Wales, which will be the party in that State using the power produced by this great scheme and, no doubt, the party that will pay for it, is in charge of the whole field of power generation in New South Wales. All reticulating authorities in that State are obliged, by legislation passed by the New South Wales Parliament, to purchase electricity from the Electricity Commission. In that respect, the commission has a complete monopoly over electricity supplies in New South Wales. Therefore, if the prospective consumers of power from the Guthega scheme, and the other schemes to be completed by the Snowy Mountains Authority, were directed not to take electricity from that source, the Australian Government, despite the millions of pounds that it had expended on the scheme, would find that there were no customers unless it was prepared to submit to the pressure being applied in relation to the cost of the power. This is not a scheme that can be undertaken by any one government. I do not speak of the position in Victoria, because I do not know it. However, I do know the position in New South Wales, and I appeal to the New South Wales Government to ensure that the agreement is sign’ed without delay, and not to be miserable about it. It is not only by an increase of electric power that New South Wales will benefit. The other aspects of the scheme, on a smaller scale, are akin to features of the Tennessee Valley scheme in the United States of America. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity of seeing something of that undertaking which has other features that are beneficial to the development of the United States. Inasmuch as it relates to irrigation, soil erosion and, principally, power, it is similar to the Snowy Mountains scheme. It is of vital importance that the final agreement between Victoria, New South Wales, and the Commonwealth be signed immediately. It cannot: be said truthfully that the increase of electric power will be the only benefit gained by the two States from the scheme, which, as we know, will decentralize the generation of power and improve the prospects of decentralization of industries throughout New South Wales and, no doubt, throughout Victoria also. We all know that both States have suffered considerably from a deficiency of power. We are aware also of the great need for the development of industries in both States. The power made available by the Snowy Mountains scheme will be invaluable for that purpose. We know, too, that although the initial capital cost of hydro-electric schemes is very great, in the long run the people can look forward to obtaining cheap electric power from them.
Both Victoria and New South Wales must take a long-range view of this matter, and I sincerely hope that the bodies in charge of the distribution of electricity in both States will not stand in the way of the signing of a proper agreement with the Commonwealth. Knowing the position in New South Wales as 1 do, .1. am satisfied that that i3 what is happening. Mr. Conde, who is the chairman of the New South Wales Electricity Commission, presides at secret meetings of the commission, all the members of which are government-appointed The proceedings of those meetings never see the light of day, and there is no discussion about which the people can hear. The commission is not an elective body answerable to the people. In this public forum, honorable members may tell the people of Australia what is happening, but that freedom is not allowed by the New South Wales Electricity Commission to its members. Consequently, we do not know exactly who the nigger in the woodpile is, but I suspect that the attitude of the New South Wales Electricity Commission is one of the reasons why the agreement has not been signed already. Therefore, I urge Mr. Cahill, who eulogized the Snowy Mountains scheme and who announced that agreement with the Commonwealth had been reached and that the formal document would be signed at an early date, to override any objection by the New South Wales Electricity Commission or its chairman, who I believe and fear may be standing in the way of the signing of the agreement.
We know that some very great errors have been made in New South Wales in relation to the cost of electricity. Perhaps there is to be an effort to balance the budget in that State by forcing an agreement with the Commonwealth on a basis that will unfairly benefit New South Wales. That would be detrimental, not only to the Australian Government, but also to the Australian taxpayers, who find the money for the great Snowy Mountains scheme. I do not know what will be the final cost of the scheme. It is only in its initial stages, and its ultimate cost will amount to many millions of pounds. We must now ensure that the necessary financial agreements between Victoria, New South Wales, and the Commonwealth are completed so that this great scheme may proceed to completion for the benefit of the people of Australia and for the development of the country.
– -I am pleased to have the opportunity this evening, during the consideration of the Estimates for Miscellaneous Services. to direct attention to services that the Government has not provided in the electorate of West Sydney. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has told us much about the Sydney County Council, which he says operates behind closed doors. I was a member of .the county council with the honorable member before I entered the Parliament, and I remind him that he used to exclude the press from council meetings simply because he had something to hide. If a referendum were taken in New South Wales to-morrow to decide between the statements that the honorable member has made this evening and the facts in relation to the Sydney City Council and the Sydney County Council, not two persons would support the honorable member. His greatest service was rendered to the Liberal party: Whenever a by-election was held, he blacked out Sydney. Indeed, he did it so frequently that the people were glad when the county council was rid of him. Business people and householders in Sydney now obtain electricity at much cheaper rates than prevailed while the honorable member exercised an important influence over the county council.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask the honorable member to discuss the group of Estimates now under consideration.
– I wish to refer now to the failure of the Government to provide certain services at Lord Howe Island, which is a part of my electorate. I have mentioned this matter many times in this chamber and have discussed it with Ministers. Lord Howe Island is of importance to Australia’s defence. On it the Government has built and maintains a radar station, at which a staff of about, twenty persons is employed. However, it has refused at all times to provide a shipping service for the island. It maintains that a service should be provided by the New South Wales Government, which is, in effect, only the caretaker of the island and receives not one penny in revenue from it. About six months ago the New South Wales Government allowed residents of the island to take a leasehold tenure of land that their families had occupied for 100 years. The
Commonwealth taxes those people just as it taxes the residents of other parts of Australia. “What do the people of Lord Howe Island receive in the way of services for the taxes that they pay ? Even a shipping service is denied to them. There are approximately 200 residents on the island. About 30 of the islanders enlisted during World War II. The residents try to make a living by conducting residentials, boarding houses and the like. The Commonwealth denies them any service and will not even listen to their pleas for the provision of the services that they require. Several of the islanders came to Canberra last year to make representations, and are still waiting for a reply from the Minister concerned.
I pass on to other anomalies that exist in the West Sydney electorate, with particular reference to the Department of the Interior. That department acquires property in every town in Australia for postal and other purposes. From the time the Commonwealth acquires property it ignores all council health regulations and refuses, for example, to put a satisfactory roof on a house or to provide the usual amenities and facilities in a building. When the matter is reported to the local council, which normally is able to force other landlords to comply with health regulations, the council replies that it has no jurisdiction over the Commonwealth. As a consequence, much delay is entailed and many letters must be written before anything is done by the Commonwealth. I hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) will take heed of these matters and ensure that appropriate action is taken.
Another matter which concerns me greatly is the delay of five or six years in the provision of telephones in Sydney. We have recently been told that these delays will become longer. The Government is building television stations costing millions of pounds, while ex-soldiers starting in business have to wait six or seven years before they are provided with telephones with which to carry on those businesses.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN. The Postmaster General’s Department appears in the next group of Estimates to be debated. To what is the honorable member referring in the group before the committee ?
– I may not get the call when the next group is being debated. I want to bring this matter to the notice of the House.
– The honorable member must discuss the proposed votes listed.
– Then I will pass over that matter, leaving the ex-soldiers to wait for their telephones. I can give them a reply. I pass now to the matter of war service homes. Surely, this Government cannot blame a State government for its neglect in failing to provide war service homes. During the last couple of weeks I have been interviewed by four or five different people, all of them with families, about the delay in the granting to them of assistance to obtain a home. We have been told that the Government is trying to curb inflation. The Government says that there is too much money, yet it refuses to make advances for homes to the ex-servicemen who went abroad to fight for the homes of every one in Australia. The Government should ensure that these people are granted the necessary financial assistance to obtain homes.
I wish now to refer to the Government’s neglect in failing to build homes for the people. The New South Wales AttorneyGeneral returned the other day from a tour of Ireland, England, Scotland and other parts of the world, and he told the people of Australia that the best homebuilding project in the world is in Ireland. I hope and trust that the Government will heed my remarks, because two and a half years ago I spoke on this subject and suggested that we should initiate a scheme similar to that operating in Ireland for the benefit of young people who wish to marry, obtain a home and populate the country.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! Housing does not come under the proposed votes now before the committee.
– Then I shall pass on to a matter that does. I refer to the Government’s general inactivity and neglect. I say to the people of Australia that, when the forthcoming elections are held, they should not be concerned about communism, or about the Petrov case, but they should realize that the greatest enemies of the people of this country are the members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties.
– That comes under the heading of “ Miscellaneous Services “.
– That is miscellaneous, right enough!
– Order !
– So long as those two parties are in power, blaming the State governments for their own failures, and trying to defend themselves by implying that the Labour party is attached to one or another group of people, there will be no homes for the people, and no constant employment for the people. I hope and trust that after the next elections the Labour party, under the leadership of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), will return triumphantly to take over the reins of government. It will then grant to the pensioners, home owners and others the justice that is their due.
.- I shall address my remarks to the items “Miscellaneous Services” and “Advance to the Treasurer “. I thank the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) for raising the matter of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The Snowy Mountains scheme is the most gigantic undertaking of its kind that has ever been contemplated or attempted in Australia. The progress that has been made, since this Government, has been in office, in the effective development of that scheme is a source of pride for every member of this House. In the last few years the Government has spent £59,000.000 on this project, and another £14,000,000 has been made available for it on the Estimates that are now being discussed. That means that no less than £73,000,000 will have been spent, in the comparatively short time of seven years, in the prosecution of this gigantic irrigation and electricity scheme. Unfortunately, because of our constitutional limitations, a scheme of this description requires that an agreement shall be entered into between the Australian Government and the governments of Victoria and New South “Wales. Innumerable conferences have been held over the years, and on every occasion the States have manifested in a variety of ways their willingness to sign an agreement, but up to the present time no agreement has been signed. Only a few months ago, at the opening of the first completed phase of the scheme, the Guthega Dam and the Munyang power station, the Premier of New South “Wales, before a vast audience in that very place publicly stated that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) had no cause for worry or anxiety, because he and his Government were anxious and willing to sign the necessary agreement. He said that it would be signed during the following few days. That was six months ago, but the Government of New South “Wales has not yet signed any agreement. This project will have cost the people of Australia £73,000,000 by the end of the current financial year. The Australian Government, having done all the preliminary investigation, is doing all the work and is exciting the admiration of the rest of the world for the progress that has been made, but it is impossible to bring the Premier of New South “Wales to terms in regard to the signing of an agreement.
This great scheme provides for the damming of the only snow-fed rivers that this country has.
– “What about Tasmania?
– It also provides for the diversion of the water from those rivers into the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers.
– “What about the Kiewa River?
– I am speaking of the mainland, and if I am wrong I stand corrected. If there are snow-fed rivers in Tasmania, it is to be presumed that they will be used in the same way.
– “What about the Goulburn, Mitta Mitta and Kiewa rivers?
– I am subject to correction. In New South “Wales, the only snow-fed rivers are those in the
Snowy Mountains area. This scheme provides not only for the damming of those rivers, but for the diversion of their waters into the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers for use in primary production. In the process, and, in my humble opinion, incidentally to the general scheme, there is a plan for the generation and reticulation of electricity. But the main purpose, so far as our production is concerned, is to divert the water from these snow-fed rivers to places where it is urgently required for the everlasting good of our country as a whole. The Commonwealth is doing that. Indeed, in part, it has done so, but no attempt has been made by the New South “Wales Government to arrive at an arrangement that will utilize these waters either for production or any other purposes. The matter is urgent. Indeed, it is the most urgent question before the Committee of Supply to-day.
For weeks now, we have been appalled at the dissipation of the favorable trade balance that this country has enjoyed for years because of the physical volume of our primary production and because of its relative worth on the markets of the world. There has been a comparative recession in the value of that primary production, and although there has been, to some degree, a compensating rise in the volume of production, our favorable trade balance is being dissipated. Here is an opportunity immediately available to the people of this country to increase our export commodities grown in the Murrumbidgee area, which “ stacks up “, if I may use that term, no less than £8,000,000 worth of primary products every year.
Because the Murrumbidgee irrigation area is limited by the volume of water that is flowing through the Murrumbidgee, there is no possible prospect of even that comparatively large total being increased. But immediately the snowfed rivers are diverted into the Murrumbidgee, the potential of the Murrumbidgee area will be increased. That diversion will allow the area to spread both south and west until it reaches the Victorian and South Australian borders, and there, in that vast stretch of the most fertile country in the world, are illimitable possibilities for increasing our production and our export income. Yet, although the Commonwealth has dammed those rivers and is diverting the waters into the Murray and Murrumbidgee, no attempt has ever been made to sign the agreement that is necessary for the effective utilization, of that vast source of water supply. In all the preliminary negotiations, provision was made, on the insistence of the New South Wales Government, that the Blowering Dam should be built by the New South Wales Government. That government said that this work was its responsibility, that it wanted to do the job, and that it would do the job. The Blowering Dam is vital to the effective occupation of the land, and the utilization of those waters. Yet the New South Wales Government has done nothing whatever about constructing that dam. It has only served to obstruct the Commonwealth’s efforts in connexion with the work. Time after time the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and every knowledgeable member of this Parliament said to the New South Wales Government, in effect, “ If you cannot construct the Blowering Dam, if you do not want to construct the Blowering Dam, then the Commonwealth will do it for you”. But not for a moment will the New South Wales Government surrender its right to construct the Blowering Dam, nor will it strike a single blow towards its construction. The State Government throws up this spurious excuse that the Commonwealth will not give it adequate moneys, but every intelligent person knows that every State government is getting more money than any State government ever believed or dreamt could be financially possible. It does not need any money to get a few pencils and a ruler and do drawings, and the preliminary work necessary for the construction of the Blowering Dam. But not a single stroke has been drawn, not a single thought has been given to this vital part of this gigantic scheme.
This is a matter that affects every person in our country. These waters are being dammed, they are being diverted, but nothing is being done to improve the situation which must arise because of the incidence of erosion. The Commonwealth is anxious to solve that problem .; but, because no agreement bas been signed, it is utterly impossible for the Commonwealth even to look at the matter. Common knowledge and all our understanding of schemes of this kind require that as soon as rivers are dammed, as soon as rivers are diverted, it is necessary not only to protect the territory from erosion but also to engage in all sorts of reafforestation schemes to protect our heritage. Because this agreement will not be signed by the New South “Wales Government, not one tree can ever be planted in that area, and nothing can be done about reafforestation to protect our heritage against the inevitable consequences of damming and diverting rivers.
The next problem is the distribution of water. To-day water is pouring into the Murrumbidgee. In the course of the next few months, the volume will be multiplied considerably. Water will be pouring into the Murray River in greater volume than ever flowed into it before, but nothing is being done by either of the State governments concerned to utilize that water. Of what earthly use is it for this or any other government to spend £73,000,000 in the damming and diversion of these rivers unless the waters are used for production purposes?
There is more than a single generation of irrigation farmers eagerly waiting from day to day for the land that must become available to them. They are people who were born and bred in the irrigation areas of this country. There are young men - indeed, there are young women, too - who are skilled in the problems of and incidental to irrigation farming, waiting for land. The water is there, the land is there, the scheme is being prosecuted vigorously from day to day, but because the wretched socialist Government of New South Wales will not stand up to its promises relating to this agreement, nothing can be done to make either the land or the water available to these people.
The only hope that this country has at present of extricating itself from economic difficulties that are due entirely to the comparative recession that has been visited upon our export industries is to increase those industries which are profitable both to the people engaged in them and to thecountry as a whole. There are illimitablepossibilities for expanding irrigation in a< variety of ways. There is no limit to thequantity of wool that can be produced by this country under irrigation. There isno limit to the fat mutton and lambs that: can be produced under irrigation. Thereis no limit to the wheat that can be pro~duced under irrigation schemes of this” description. There are other avenues open to us. For instance, I have not touched upon cereals, pasture improvement or any of the industries that arewide open to the valiant young men and women who are most eager to engage in them but who, because the New South Wales Government will not enter into this agreement, are denied that opportunity. Consequently, the work is being seriously impeded.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s timehas expired.
.- I rise to take part in the discussion of the proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s Department under the Estimates for Miscellaneous Services, but before touching upon that matter, I should like to address some brief comments to th& honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton). If what he has just said were true, it would be very interesting indeed, but most of it was utter nonsense. I am pleased to know that at last some honorable members on the Government side are interested in the Snowy Mountains scheme. We all remember that when that project was opened, it was completely boycotted by honorable members on that side of the chamber. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), and Senator George Rankin were the only two members of the Government parties in attendance. So far as the Blowering Dam is concerned, the Government is starving the States for finance, and the New South Wales Government has asked the Commonwealth, not once, but on a number of occasions, to take over the construction of its section of the dam.
– That is not true.
– It is perfectly true, and honorable members know it. The New South Wales Government has asked the Australian Government to give some form of financial assistance so that it may continue the work at a pace which the honorable member for Riverina and honorable members on this side of the chamber would be very eager to see. The responsibility is on the Australian Government, and I ask the honorable member for Riverina to devote his activities and energies to ensuring that the New South Wales Government is assisted in this respect.
I rose to speak on this miserable amount of £5,000 which is to be made available for the surf life-saving clubs of Australia. This is not the first occasion on which this matter has been raised by me and by a number of other honorable members on this side of the chamber. It is disgraceful that this paltry sum has not been increased since 1950. Apart from ou’r fighting men in both world wars and in .Korea, no body of Australians has won greater acclaim or fame throughout the world than those men who patrol the beaches of this country. It is shameful that only this small sum has been made available to the 190 clubs which function in Australia. Australian surf life-saving techniques are in operation to-day in far-flung places. Men from the Bondi club established similar organizations in England. The association of American and Australian servicemen in the Pacific Islands has led to the establishment in the United States of America of a number of surf life-saving clubs which use Australian methods. In South Africa, Ceylon, New Zealand, and Hawaii, the same position exists. The Government should give the greatest encouragement to life-savers who, in conjunction with our glorious beaches, are used throughout the world as an advertisement for our country and an inducement to immigrants. Currently at Australia House, London, an immigration poster depicts life-savers against a background of rolling surf and golden beaches. They are worth millions to us in publicity, and tourists flock to our beaches. The tourist trade has become a most profitable source of income, and it is about time the Government faced the position fairly and squarely. Every one was pleased when it made available £5,000 in 1950, following upon agitation from both sides of the chamber, but to-day a much greater amount is needed. Our glorious beaches are the great heritage of all Australians. Over 5,000 rescues are made each year by this great body of voluntary workers who, at their own expense, save’ Australian lives. It is the proud boast of the Surf Life Saving Association that no lives were lost during the last two or three years while patrols of the 190 clubs were on duty. That is a most laudable effort. In 1949, prior to my election to the Parliament, I campaigned with members of the life saving movement for a federal subsidy. On entering the Parliament, I discussed the matter with Sir Thomas White, who is now Australian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, but who was then a Minister of this Government and president of the Royal Life Saving Association. This organization is separate and distinct from the Surf Life Saving Association. The former is concerned with life-saving in still water, and the latter with life-saving from surfing beaches. Our efforts, together with those of other honorable members on both sides of the chamber, led to the grant of £5,000. To-day that sum is quite out of proportion with requirements, but despite frequent representations to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), he has not been prepared to increase this amount. I wrote to the Treasurer in June, 1955, saying -
Further to our talk in the House, I would be most appreciative if you would keep before your officers preparing “ the next budget the need for an increase in the Commonwealth subsidy paid to the Surf Life Saving Association. I can assure you, Sir Arthur, that the Association is indeed grateful for the original grunt, but increased costs have considerably minimized its value since 1050. There are 170 surf life saving clubs in Australia and, with the present cost of equipment required for club work, the government subsidy of £5,000 does not go very far. A surf boat costs £500, a reel, complete with line and belt, £(iO. A double ski, which is an item of equipment and much used by clubs, especially those clubs that cannot afford a surf boat, costs about £50. It is therefore very easy to realize the need for an increased subsidy. I can assure you this is not a matter of party politics. My request has the endorsement, not only of representatives of seaside areas, but of every member of Parliament, for no body of men has brought greater fame and publicity throughout the world than the members of our surf life saving organizations, who patrol our beaches and make safe surf bathing for many hundreds of thousands of people. I would be most grateful for your assistance in this matter.
I have stated that there are 190 clubs in Australia. ‘ Of these, 34 operate in Sydney, and 104 in New South “Wales, the balance being spread over the other States. I was surprised to receive a reply from the Treasurer, dated the 16th June, 1955, in these terms -
I refer to your letter of 8th June requesting an increase in the Commonwealth subsidy to the Surf Live Saving Association.
The Association is, of course, only one of a number of bodies performing valuable work on a national basis and any increase in the Commonwealth grant to the Association could not be considered without regard to its impact on the level of financial assistance to other such bodies. The accounts of the National Council of the Association for the year ended 30th June, 1954 show a total income of £7,545 of which the Commonwealth Government contributed £5,000 or over 00 per cent. For that year the accounts also show a profit of £1,134 added to the accumulated funds of the Council. The claims of the Association will not be overlooked in the preparation of the Budget but at this stage I am unable to promise any increase in the Commonwealth grant.
No increase was forthcoming, but whoever prepared the material on which the Treasurer’s reply was based was working on a false premise. I have received a communication from the honorary secretary of the National Council of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia, wherein he says -
Reference is made in this letter from the Federal Treasurer to the fact that our accounts for last year showed a profit of £1,134. which was added to accumulated funds. Now this, as you well know, is ridiculous. The fact of the matter is that we have no accumulated funds and furthermore there was no profit of £1,134 resulting from the £5,000 grant by the Federal Government.
It was for this reason that a special article was printed in our Annual Report which clearly slates that our Association at that time was iri fact insolvent, and it appears o” page seventeen.
Had it not been for the credit amounting to £1,500 given by my Company as Master Printers, in the publication of the Handbook then our National Council could not possibly have met its commitments.
And so the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia goes on and on, begging day after day for funds to carry on its work. Interested people are asked to help, and many of them do so. Sir Edward Hallstrom has given numerous donations to the clubs for the purchase of surfboats. Men like Bill Wright, in my own electorate, have also made numerous donations for surfboats. Those people have not only helped the clubs to save lives, but they have helped the nation at large. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was a guest at the annual meeting of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia at the end of 1952-53. He heard a balance-sheet read out for that year which showed a deficiency of £300. Mr. Walkley, the managing director of Ampol Petroleum Limited, was also at the meeting, and when he heard of the deficiency he immediately wrote out a cheque for £300 to cover it. So much for all this talk of surplus. In this country, there are 190 clubs which provide a wonderful service to all Australians who use our beaches. They save numerous lives and, in general, may be said to make our beaches safe for surfers. If the Government increases its help to this organization it will be able to extend its services, and bring further benefits to all the people.
Last year, the Government spoke of its £70,000,000 surplus, and this year it expects to have a surplus of about £40,000.000. Surely it is not too much to ask the Government to assist these clubs. I therefore sincerely ask the Government to double its subsidy to the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia. If it should do that it will help not only the surf clubs themselves, but also all the people who use the beaches.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to say a few words about war and repatriation services, which are provided for in Division 213 of the Estimates. The war service land settlement scheme was magnificent in conception, and in the planning and standards laid down it should have had every prospect of success. I regret to say, however, that in my own State of Western Australia it has fallen down in many respects, and I shall direct the attention of honorable member? to some of the serious difficulties that now face ex-servicemen settlers in that State. It has been said that when governments try to run things they run them inefficiently, but when we find the Federal and the State governments both trying to run the same thing, inefficiency is doubled.
The dual control seems to be the main difficulty in the administration of war service land settlement in “Western Australia. The Commonwealth supplies the money for the scheme, and agrees with the State government on a policy for the administration of the farms. The detailed administration is left to the States, and the Commonwealth has a liaison with the States to ensure that its policy is carried out. Some time ago, I directed the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) to the tragic position of the tobacco farmers of Western Australia. He assured me that the position was well under control, that the settlers would be cared for, that their farms would be brought up to standard and that they would not suffer hardship. Some time later, he realized that the State Government had pulled the wool over the eyes of the Australian Government about what was happening on the Western Australian tobacco farms.
Three or fours years ago, there were 57 war service land settlers on tobacco farms’ in that State, but to-day there are only nineteen left, and at the end of this year there will be fewer. Most of the men who have gone were good men. They battled along under adverse conditions, frequently on land that would not even grow tobacco. Finally, they walked off the land, heart-broken, leaving tremendous debts behind them. It is all very well for the Commonwealth and the States to be frightened of giving too much to these men, but they have a tremendous obligation to them. I know that even now efforts are being made to ensure some prospect of success for the few settlers who are left, but they are niggardly efforts and are not being made in a generous spirit. The men who remain are staying on in a spirit of desperation because they have nowhere else to go.
There may be some excuses in regard to tobacco-farming, because there may have been an error of judgment in selecting unsuitable land for tobacco-growing, and the tobacco market is uncertain. However, we find a similar state of affairs in the dairying industry. In the beginning, a high standard for dairy farms was laid down. A farm had to be capable of carrying 40 milking cows, but in actual fact relatively few dairy farms in. Western Australia are at present up to that standard. From time to time, the Minister has laid down programmes which must be carried out to bring the farms up to standard, but some men have been on their properties for eight years and their farms are still not up to standard. For example, there is not sufficient land cleared to carry the cattle, and pastures have not grown as they should have grown.
The Government has tried to treat the settlers fairly by limiting their commitments to enable them to carry on, but that has not been sufficient. These men have been battling on year in and year out, hoping that some day they would be able to see daylight. At present, they are not anywhere near doing so. Last year, a clearing programme was laid down. A certain acreage had to be thoroughly cleaned up and put down to pasture, but somewhere along the line the administration broke down, and instead of the State Government doing a certain amount of clearing on each man’s farm to bring it up to the required standard, bulldozers were sent in, and the time for which they operated was rationed. Each man’s property was given only a certain number of hours. The bulldozers went in, made a terrific mess and after their time had expired they went out again. Not only that, but instead of clearing the country that should have been cleared, poor pasture country was cleared, and the better class of country was left uncleared. I could continue to enumerate similar incidents for hours. These cases add up to the fact that there is some inefficiency in the administration of war service land settlement. It is up to the Government to see that the matter is straightened out, and that these settlers are given a fair go.
– Has the Minister been to these places?
– I am doing the job that honorable members opposite should be doing. I am criticizing the Government, when I would prefer to deal with the merits of the scheme, of which there are many.
– Has the honorable member taken the Minister over to see things for himself?
– He has not been there yet, but I hope he will go there eventually. It is not only that these men are working hard on their properties. They are doing that, but they cannot earn sufficient income on their farms, and so they are forced to seek work elsewhere in order to make a living. That is a bad principle. It is admitted that these properties are capable of further development, and while that is so, the settlers should be encouraged to develop them to the utmost. When I brought this matter before the Minister some time ago, he assured me that in the area mentioned only seven or eight men had accepted work off their farms. There were 27 settlers in that area, of whom more than thirteen sought work off their properties in order to supplement their incomes. In addition, a large percentage of men have walked off dairy farms. I regret to say that, in many instances, they were induced to do so by officers of the War Service Lands Settlement Department in Western Australia. I have had men come to me and say, “ It was suggested by Mr. so-and-so that we were not likely to do any good on our properties, and that we might as well get off and forget our debts”. In such cases I told the men that they would do well to get the officer concerned to put his advice in writing. He never did so, but the fact remains that in many instances where men have walked off their holdings, the properties have been taken over and put in a good state of development, and other men have been settled on them. At one stage, the department in Western Australia hoped that settlers who were experiencing difficulty in bringing their properties up to standard, would get off, so that it would be able to put other men on them - men whom the department would help to make good on their holdings. Although numbers of farms have been sold, there are not many buyers for dairy farms, and where they have been sold, I suspect that they have been sold at grievous losses, or at figures below those on which the settlers were paying commitments.
– These are serious charges.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister to supply figures showing the prices at which farms were sold, but the information was not forthcoming. The Minister said that it was a private matter between the vendors and the purchasers, and. that to save them embarrassment he would not disclose the figures. It is remarkable, however, that when the Government purchases land for war service land settlement purposes, it has no inhibitions about disclosing the purchase price. It is general knowledge that such and such a property has been sold at such and such a figure.
I shall give some facts regarding sheep properties in the Rocky Gully area. The holdings are in various stages of development. Because sheep are at present a slightly better paying proposition, this area shows better prospects of success. The figures that I shall give have been supplied by the settlers themselves, and they apply in many cases. Some farms are able to carry about 900 sheep, of which 600 are ewes, and 300 are dry sheep. The settlers are expected to pay. over and above their own working expenses and living costs, £1,368 a year to the War Service Land Settlement Department. I do not know what their expenses amount to, but when I went to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture here in Canberra I was told that the department had a short time earlier conducted a sample survey throughout that area, and was able to give me precise figures. The figures that I shall now cite apply to 900 sheep. I shall deal first with merinos, and then with crossbreds with fat lambs. The department estimates that the gross income would be £3,030 from a farm of that size. Cash costs, including depreciation but nothing else, amount to £2,025 leaving a net income of £1,005. The only common element in those costs which would be included in the commitments, would be depreciation. Out of that net income of £1,005. the settler is expected to pay £1,368 to the department. When we look at the estimated returns for this year, the figures are even worse. The gross income for merino sheep is estimated at £2,726 and the costs at £2,025, leaving a net income of £707. Yet the commitments remain the same - £1,368. The position is absurd.
For settlers who own crossbred sheep with fat lambs the position is slightly better. The net return for last year was estimated at £1,006, or £1 more than the net return from merinos. This year the estimate is £76S, but the settler is still expected to meet commitments amounting to £1,368. I know that the Government does not want to act the part of a fairy godmother, and ex-servicemen do not want it to do so. I say that the war service land settlement scheme was a grand conception, but it is a great pity to see these men year after year - and some of them have been there for many years - battling along, and struggling with fluctuating markets and undeveloped properties, and also with government officials, in order to bring their properties up to the required standard. It is time that the war service land settlement machinery was overhauled to give a fair go to men who have proved worthy of government assistance.
.- In Division 189- Office of Education - a sum of £500 is provided for “ Australian Ensigns - Presentation to schools “. I am pleased to see this attempt to make known on a wider scale the fact that we have a national flag, and that the attention of school children is being directed to it, but the fact that the amount provided is only £500 show’s that the efforts being made are not very substantial. There is an appalling lack of knowledge of our national flag throughout Australia. On national holidays I have been surprised to see on public buildings, such as town halls in Melbourne and elsewhere, an incorrect Australian flag being flown. On a number of occasions I have drawn the attention of the authorities to the error, and generally have received the reply, “We did not know that the wrong flag was flown, but in any case, we do not possess the correct flag”. Honorable members may recall that this Parliament in 1953 passed the
Flags Act, which gave statutory recognition to an emblem as Australia’s national flag. The occasion upon which that act was passed was quite historic, not merely because the Australian national flag was then declared in statutory form for the first time, but also because this act, No. 1 of 1954, which had been passed by the National Parliament just before the Christmas recess at the end of 1953, was reserved for Her Majesty’s pleasure and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth gave her assent to it during her visit to the National Capital in the early part of 1954. It was quite fitting that this important act should have received the personal assent of Her Majesty during her visit to Australia.
I propose to direct the attention of honorable members to the provisions of the act in order to try to spread some knowledge of it, because there seems to be an appalling ignorance of it in the community. We need a greater spirit of national self-consciousness. After all, we have a wonderful country, and we should be proud of it and love it. We need only to speak to people who have lived in war ravaged Europe and in other parts of the world to know what they think about this wonderful country of ours. They emphasize that we are not sufficiently conscious of it, or proud of it, and that we have not enough national self-awareness and self-consciousness. As a step towards removing those deficiencies, I think we should be prouder of our flag. We should know more about it, and we should see that it is given greater prominence. Section 3 of the Flags Act provides, in that curious, involved, and obscure legal terminology of which we see so much in this place, and by which very simple ideas seem to become very complicated, as follows: -
The flag described in the First Schedule to this Act, being the flag a reproduction of which is set out in Part I. of the Second Schedule to this Act, is declared to be the Australian National Flag.
Again in an effort to publicize the provisions of this little-known act, I shall read the first schedule, which, in that same peculiar legal form, describes the Australian national flag. It states -
The Australian National Flag is the British Blue Ensign, consisting of a blue flag with the Union Jack occupying the upper quarter next the staff, differenced by large white star (representing the six States of Australia and the Territories of the Commonwealth) in the centre of the lower quarter next the staff and pointing direct to the centre of the St. George’s Cross in the Union Jack and five white stars, representing the Southern Cross, in the fly, or half of the flag further from the staff.-
Also contained in the act is a coloured reproduction of the flag. It will be noted that the Australian national flag is the flag popularly known as the Blue Ensign, and that the Red Ensign - the flag with the red background - is the proper flag for merchant ships registered in Australia. That being so, it is wrong for public authorities and firms to fly the Red Ensign on public and commercial buildings.
In order to spread some knowledge of the flag and to make the people of Australia more conscious of the fact that we have a national flag, it seems to me eminently desirable that the Government should issue a handbook setting out details of the procedure for flying the flag, and other general instructions. As a matter of fact, I remember that, when the bill was being debated in 1953, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that such a manual was in the course of preparation by his department and that when it was completed, it would be issued to schools and to the public generally. So far, nothing seems to have been done about that matter. I think it is desirable that the publication of that manual should be expedited, and that it should be widely publicized in this country.
I should also like to refer to Division 193 - Department of the Interior - in which provision is made for a sum of £250,000 for Commonwealth elections and referenda. The provision of that sum as the estimated cost of Commonwealth elections during this financial year reminds us of the fact that a Commonwealth election is expected within the next twelve months. A Senate election at least will be held. Such a matter is of great moment to the people of Australia, and I think it is high time that the Prime Minister made an announcement so that the people may know what the Government proposes to do. As a result of a curious little anomaly in the
Constitution, following the double dissolution of 1951 the elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives unfortunately fell out of line. The Senate election is now held about twelve months after the election for the House of Representatives. It is most desirable that that state of affairs should be brought to an end, and that the elections for the two houses should be again synchronized. With two houses of parliament in most of the States and with two houses of parliament in the federal sphere, it is most undesirable that there should be four separate elections at different times, as is the case in Victoria. The people are becoming confused by this multiplicity of elections. Quite apart from that fact, if governments are constantly faced with an election for one house or the other, they are not given a chance to concentrate on policy and to work out a long-range policy in the interests of the economy.
It is high time that we gave consideration to extending the term of the National Parliament from three years to five years. It seems to me that, if a government is to’ carry out the task for which it has been elected, it should have a term of five years after its policy has been endorsed by the people in which to give effect to that policy. Because of the difficult economic problems with which we are faced, such a policy must be a longterm policy if it is to achieve results.
– The royal commission of 1 920 recommended a period of four years.
– A period of four years would be a reasonable compromise, but I think we should follow the example of the British Parliament and make it five years.
– -Four years would be better than three years.
– Yes. There seems to be general agreement that the term should be made longer so that governments of all political complexions may be given an opportunity to give effect to their policies. But a remarkable state of affairs has developed, because of an anomaly in our Constitution. We had an election for the House of Representatives in May of last year. I think the House met in August for the first time after that election. Under the Constitution, which now provides for a threeyear term for the House of Representatives, we should not normally have an election for the House of Representatives until August, 1957. But an election for the Senate must be held by June of next year. So we have this uncertainty whether only the election for the Senate will be held next year or whether the Government will cut short the term of the House of Representatives and hold elections for both Houses of the Parliament.
I think all reasonable people will agree that there is a strong case for cutting short by twelve months or so the term of the House of Representatives and holding elections for both Houses of the Parliament before the middle of next year, so that the elections for the two Houses can be synchronized again. But that would take us only one step further towards a solution of the problem. The present difficulty arose after the election following the double dissolution of 1951. It is conceivable that, after the next election, whenever it is held, the same difficulty will arise again. It would be possible for a party to be returned with an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives but to be in a minority in the Senate. If that happened, this trouble would recur. It seems to me that, although the Government would be justified in arranging for the elections for both Houses to be held together, the problem should be solved on a permanent basis, so that the possibility of the elections for both Housing falling out of step again will be obviated.
The only way to do that is to get the people to agree to alter the Constitution so that in future the elections for both Houses of the Parliament will have to take place at the same time. I think it is a pity that the Prime Minister has not yet given effect to the promise that he made during the last general election, to which reference has been made during this sessional period. The right honorable gentleman promised to call together an all-party committee to consider this matter and see whether it would be possible to put before the people, at a referendum, a proposal that had the support of all the parties in the Parliament. If the proposal had the support of all parties, there would be a reasonable chance of the referendum being carried. In any event, I think the Government has a clear responsibility to make an announcement to the people so that the uncertainty which prevails about the date of the election can be cleared up.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– It was singularly appropriate that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) referred to alterations of the Constitution, because I wish to address my remarks to an item in the Estimates which has a considerable bearing upon the subject matter of his remarks. I refer to Division No. 187. - Prime Minister’s Department, item 35, “ Sir Henry Parkes National Memorial Appeal - Contribution, £1,000 “.
As the chairman of the executive of that appeal, I should like to express my thanks to the Commonwealth for having contributed that sum and for having recognized the importance of the work to which a committee sets its hand on the 24th October, 1953, I think. On that day, a very distinguished gathering met in the town of Tenterfield in New South Wales. There, after listening to a recorded speech by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), it was decided that one of the gathering, a former Chief Justice of Australia, Sir John Latham, should launch an appeal to the people of Australia to preserve a building which, although not architecturally grand, was nevertheless a building in which the most remarkable speech in the history of Australia was made.
On the 24th October, 1889, I think, Sir Henry Parkes made a speech which the then Governor of New South Wales said had stirred Australia. In that speech, Sir Henry appealed from the governments of Australia to the people of Australia and urged that, in the interests of the colonies, as they -were then, there should be a federation of the people. Through the long years of his public life, Sir Henry Parkes, as a practical statesman, devoted himself, as opportunity arose, to the task of bringing before the people the idea that there should be one people, one flag, and one destiny. He was not destined to see that idea put into effect. He handed his mantle to Sir Edmund Barton, who became the first Prime Minister of Australia. I have heard Sir Robert Garran, that remarkable figure and grand public servant of Australia, State publicly that, in his opinion, if the title Father of Federation should be given to any man, it should be given to Sir Henry Parkes. I have read the record of the speech, quoted by Reynolds in his Life of Barton, in which Sir Edmund Barton - who was, I suppose, the greatest authority on the subject - gave to Sir Henry Parkes the title Father of Federation, notwithstanding that Sir Edmund was the man who had carried the work forward to completion.
I suppose that in the history of peoples the opportunity is not given to many nations to say, “ On this spot was made the speech that fused into a national consciousness the feelings of six colonies scattered throughout a vast continent”. Yet it is such a place that we appeal to the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales to assist us to save for posterity, so that people from far and wide will be able to stand in that place and say, “ Here was made the speech which, in the final analysis, led to the federation of Australia “. I do not wish for one moment to detract from the grand work of Mr. Alfred Deakin and others who laboured with him, but there is always in the history of a people a moment when something is said or done by some man which leads to the carrying out of some great work. We have beard to-night about the Snowy Mountains scheme, and we have heard the credit for the scheme given, as it should be given, to the Government which cut through all entanglements and said, “ This work must be clone “.
The federation of Australia was the greatest work of all in this country. The Parliament in which I speak to-night is a fulfilment of the vision of a man who caine to this country with no formal education, except that which he received for two years of his life. He left school at the age of eight years. He came to Australia when it was suffering from a terrific depression. We who speak of the high cost of living now should rememberthat when this man arrived here with hiswife and children, bread cost 2s. 6d. for a 4-lb. loaf, and the prices of otherthings were at a comparable level. How many of us who sit in this chamber could have fought their way up from such a start in life, triumphing over all the disabilities presented by the poverty and class-consciousness that were rife in an economy such as that of New South Wales? How many of us could haverisen supreme above these things, and above that bitterness which so often destroys the soul of man and prevents him from helping others. Thisman could hit, and hit hard, but he never allowed the broad human strain in bini to be submerged. He rosesupreme above it, and urged that whenever the opportunity came these six scattered colonies and New Zealand should’ become a federation of Australasia. To-night, I express my regret at the poor response of the Australian people generally to the appeal that was made for & memorial to this great man. This Government and the New South WalesGovernment are each giving £1,000 in response to the appeal, but the Australian people themselves have given less than- £3,000, which has come from a wide variety of donors. I pay a tribute to the banks, commercial institutions and individuals who contributed to the fund, and also to some of the trades unions,, including the New South Wales Teachers Federation, the Waterside Workers Federation and the Federated Ironworkers Association which assisted, and thereby put to shame many who could’ have, and ought to have, given to thismagnificient appeal. Had the donation by the Commonwealth been greater than £1,000, the New South Wales Government might have been inspired to givesomething more, so I trust that the Government will, in the end, increase itscontribution. The committee in chargeof the appeal intends to do what it oan,, in association with the people of Tenterfield, to see that the memory of Sir Henry Parkes will be preserved for all timeamong the people of Australia.
Let me say in passing that there issomething singularly significant about Tenterfield. It was the home of the first
Premier in Australia, Stuart Alexander Donaldson. The Tenterfield station wa3 his property. Tenterfield is also associated with one of the bards of Australia, Banjo Paterson, who was married in a church there. A former administrator of New Guinea also came from the Tenterfield district. I think that this appeal should receive more support from the people of Australia than they have given it so far, particularly because of its historical associations, and I hope that the gift by the Commonwealth, and the Government’s goodwill towards the appeal, will encourage people to put their hands in their pockets and do something more to help.
The proposed vote for the Department of National Development includes an item, “ Prospecting, research and other expenditure, £85,000 “. I was surprised to hear the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) say a short time ago in answer to a question that it was proposed to consider the establishment of a hydroelectric plant in New Guinea in order to make possible the utilization of certain of the bauxite deposits of northern Australia for the purpose of making aluminium. I have no objection to the development of New Guinea: in fact I have many reasons to favour its development. But New Guinea has been shown to be vulnerable in time of war, and it could again be vulnerable in a war. Are there no other deposits which could be prospected, no other resources which could he used for the making of aluminium? I shall answer my own question by saying that there most decidedly are. In the apex of a triangle between Inverell, which is not in my electorate, and Emmaville, which is in my electorate, there is a great quantity of bauxite, and if I am not mistaken the new aerodrome at Inverell stands on rich deposits of bauxite. This is known to the New South “Wales Department of Mines. Great power is needed for the making of aluminium. In the Clarence Valley, as the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has been stating for years, there is a mighty source of hydro-electric power. “With the backing of some of the finest technical knowledge, not only of this country, but in the world, he has shown that there is a potential there of 1,000,000 horse-power, and another potential of not less than 750,000 horse-power in the adjoining valley of the Macleay. It may be said that there are no snow-clad mountains to give the necessary flow of water. I agree. But do not forget that the major precipitation in that area occurs in those months in which it does not occur in the snow-clad regions, because it is subject to the mon.soonal influences. Tremendous bodies of water sweep down the Clarence destroying whole towns and immense wealth. It is known that it does not matter how much snow-fed water we have at our dis posal, we must also have thermal power supply to enable the continuance of peak power production. In the Ashford district, near Inverell, there is a coal-field which Professor Sir Edgeworth David says is a continuation of the Greta coal seam. That seam, which is within 9 miles of Inverell, was worked in a small way 35 years ago. There is a power station being erected there by the North and North-west County Council, which does not come directly under the control of the New South “Wales Electricity Authority except in respect of general policy. So, in that area we have bauxite and water power on one side, and coal potential for developing electrical power on the other side. I should say that it would be wiser for Australia to prospect the possibility of developing these great national resources where they can be most, easily defended, rather than to take the risk of erecting plant in New Guinea which would be a plum for the first invader.
It has been said that the Government has starved the States financially. That is not true. In its last year of office, the Chifley Government made available to the States a little more than £6,000,000 for roads. This year we are giving the States £25,000,000 under the same heading. In the last year of office of the Chifley Government payments to the States under the uniform income tax reimbursement, formula were £53,700,000. This Government, under the same formula, is paying to the States £140,800,000, and the total amount being made available to them is £220,000,000.
.- There is a significant item on page 94 of the printed copy of the Estimates, under Miscellaneous Services for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, item 6 in Division 196, “ Trade Publicity- United Kingdom, £133,000”. Last year the actual expenditure was £23,573. What is the explanation for this sudden increase of about £110,000? I remind the committee that last May a series of startling articles appeared in the Melbourne Argus, which is the only newspaper in this country prepared to take a crack at the Government, about the lack of trade publicity in the United Kingdom. These articles were written by the newspaper’s own roving reporters in the United Kingdom who interviewed the people who really count - the housewives - about whether they had heard of certain Australian products. ‘ The articles were the basis of questions to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture which I and some of my colleagues asked in this Parliament. We kept asking the Minister for a week whether he was satisfied with our trade publicity in the United Kingdom and with the quality of the packaging of our goods sent to the United Kingdom and their reception by the housewives of the United Kingdom. He was evasive throughout, and concluded by saying that the Government was doing all that it could to publicize our primary products in the’ United Kingdom. That meant exactly nothing. The Minister did not answer the charges levelled at the Government in this series of articles in the daily press, which were all authenticated.
However, ‘honorable members were amazed one morning during the recent recess to read in the press that the Government had suddenly decided to spend not £33,000 or £110,000, but £250,000 this year in the United Kingdom in a great new drive to interest the English housewife in Australian primary products. Is this a sign of repentance on the part of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture? After the Opposition raised this matter in May, did he investigate the matter fully and make inquiries through his officers overseas? What happened to induce the members of this case-hardened Government to effect such a great change of policy? I welcome the news most heartily, as does every primary producer in Australia, that at last the Government has shaken itself out of its lethargy, and is prepared to enter into competition in England by means of publicity because Australia is being starved of its oversea* markets. It is all very well to say that we are being priced out of them - that is tragically true - but we are guilty alsoof not giving adequate publicity to our products in the United Kingdom. That is a serious matter to every primary producer in Australia who is supplying the export market.
There has been a lack of publicity especially in England, particularly in provincial cities and country towns. The Minister also had to admit that the goods were badly packed, and that there was buyer resistance to Australian goods. Some of our well-known products, which we thought were selling well on the overseas markets, were moving slowly because the people were ignorant of them. That is a grave situation, for which this Government is responsible. The Minister’s scepticism was apparent when he was tackled about the press articles, but now we find, sneaking into the Estimates, an enormous increase in the amount of money for publicity in the United Kingdom.
This new drive in England has been in operation for about a month, but Australia is confronted with powerful competitors. South Africa is sending businessmen to England to sell its products, and Denmark is a strong opponent in the British market. For too long, we have thought that Australian goods will sell automatically on the British market because we are related to the home folk, but that is an illusion. English people will buy the best, and in some cases the cheapest, and will certainly buy the goods that are presented to them in the most attractive form. I do not know what was the origin of the inspiration, but the Australian Government is using pretty Australian girls in the United Kingdom in this publicity drive. I am convinced it was not a Liberal politician who was responsible, but some neutral person who suggested that these girlsshould be used throughout the provinces of the United Kingdom to sell Australian. products. I hope, for the sake of the primary producers, that they meet with great success. One of my Tasmanian colleagues recently returned from overseas, and substantiated everything that had appeared in the articles in the Melbourne newspapers. In the provincial cities and villages of England, many people had never heard of some of the well-known Australian brands of products. The right honorable member for “Wentworth (Sir Eric Harrison) shakes his head, but when he was in England he moved only in a certain exclusive circle. Our publicity agents and salesmen must visit every part of England to expand our markets, and that is being done in this new drive.
– The honorable member is not suggesting that I was responsible for the pretty girls, is he?
– No. The Minister could not possibly be responsible for that. Holland is exporting butter to India, a much greater distance than from Australia to India. How has Holland captured the Indian market? Recently, a prominent Indian Army officer visited Tasmania and said that Holland was sending butter to India in small cubes, wrapped attractively and with the language of the country printed on the wrapper. The price of the small quantities suits the pockets of the Indian people. They have the money to buy a cube of butter, but not half a pound. Australian butter goes to England in 56-lb. lots and has to be carved into pound lots when it reaches there. Why cannot we use some imagination and adopt similar methods in preparing our primary products for export to India, Pakistan and even England? Cheese is exported from Holland in a similar manner. We are losing overseas markets because little imagination has been used and insufficient money spent on publicity. An expenditure of £250,000 on publicity would be worth while if it increased the sales of our primary products by thousands of pounds or even £1,000,000. Australian primary products should be sent to Eastern countries in attractive packages of small size so that the people could conveniently buy them.
I now wish to deal with publicity for berry fruits, on which the Government proposes to spend £8,000 this year. That is in accordance with an agreement with the berry producers in Tasmania, who grow 85 per cent, of Australia’s berry fruit crop. Unfortunately, during the past three or four years, they have been stricken with a drought and their overseas market has been faced with strong competition from South Africa. Tasmania also has to meet high production costs in the industry. The South African growers are selling berry fruits on the English market at £85 a ton, where as the Tasmanian product is being offered at £110 a ton. At last, this Government has been shaken out of its attitude, of indifference and has come to realize the need for publicity. There is strong competition in the overseas markets, and the Government must rouse itself from its long, Rip van Winkle sleep. The Government seems to forget that the war is over. For many years, the basis of overseas trade was that of government to government, and there was no need for concern about publicity. The English market took our goods irrespective of how they were packed for size or display. Now. trade is between trader and trader, which is a different proposition. Australia has to meet highly organized competition from traders of other countries.
I notice in the Estimates that the Tasmanian shipping service is to receive a subsidy of £360,000. The Government will spend that sum this year to keep a ship running between Melbourne and Launceston. This subsidy is creeping up year by year. Whatever government is in office it will have to provide adequate shipping. But for how much longer can we go on without taking over the shipping services ourselves and running them as we would our Commonwealth ships? At the moment money is being paid to private enterprise to run Taroona which for a good part of the year has been in dock undergoing repairs. Moonta at the moment is taking its place. It is a very good ship that can take 32 cars and 126 passengers. But last tourist season 220 applications were made for car transport to Tasmania but had to be refused for lack of shipping space. Pre-war there were two ships trading between the mainland and Tasmania as well as one from Sydney to Hobart direct.
But there are 1,000,000 more motor cars on the road since then. Yet we have only one ship to handle the traffic between Tasmania and the mainland, and it i3 out of date by world standards. The position is just fantastic.
The suggestion has been made that a Bass Strait ferry service should be put into operation similar to services being run between mainlands and islands overseas, such as those used in the tourist trade between Dover and Calais and between Dover and Boulogne. A similar service is provided between the Canadian mainland and Prince Edward Island by an ice breaker which cost 4,000,000 dollars. It can carry 120 cars and 1,000 passengers, and also a 19-carriage railway train. The train breaks in halves and runs on to the ship. After a 9 miles run to Prince Edward Island it is connected up again and the passengers resume their journey. The same sort of thing exists on the ferry over the St. Lawrence River between Quebec and Levis. These are marvellous vessels. Trucks laden with produce drive straight ou to the boat, travel across the river and continue their journey on the other side. Prom Vancouver to Vancouver Island, a distance of 85 miles, and from the Japanese main islands to many of the smaller Japanese islands a similar system is in operation. The train runs on to the ship ferry vessel and on being unloaded on the other side continues on its journey.
An interesting ship is being run by the British Railways. It is their latest and largest ferry, built in 1951, and it started in service between Boulogne and Dover in June, 1952. It can take 120 cars and 1,000 passengers. It is fitted with radar and has a service speed of 20 knots fully loaded. Its length is 361 feet 6 inches and its gross tonnage is 3,333 tons. I believe that the Australian Government should build ships similar to these, put them into service and run the services themselves.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish, first, to speak about radio concessions to war pensioners. At present, the first class totally and permanently incapaci tated pensioner enjoys the same concession as an ordinary pensioner. Should the pensioner die his unfortunate widow is obliged to pay the full licence-fee. She no longer is able to enjoy the concession that she enjoyed while her pensioner husband was alive. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) who is very forward in support of war pensioners reminds me that out of her reduced income she has to meet greater expenditure and she is then asked by the Postal Department to pay the full licence-fee. Whereas, formerly, she had a greater income she now is faced with greater expenditure, and the department increases her licence-fee from 10s. to £1. This anomaly has been raised many times by both Opposition members and Government supporters, but very little attention has been paid to it by the Government. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to the matter. I have personal knowledge of many of these cases. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) is most sympathetic, being a returned man himself, but he is forced as a matter of government policy to deny the war widows this concession to which they are fully entitled. As I have said, this is something that has been raised on many occasions and it is time the Government gave serious consideration to aiding this deserving section of the community in the way I have indicated.
I now turn to immigration. I am afraid that there is a tendency on the part of many responsible people to adopt the attitude that because of the present economic situation we must immediately reduce our immigration programme. Nothing could be more fatal to this country, because an immigration programme is something which cannot be turned on and off like a tap. If we were to adopt such a policy we would find that our sources of immigrants would soon dry up. Immigration is a “must” for Australia from a defence point of view alone. At present, we are increasing our naval forces by 1,000 men to be drawn from Great Britain. The best way to strengthen our defence is to increase the flow of immigrants who will acquire interests in this country and will be prepared to defend it.
How can we possibly justify holding Australia unless we increase our population? We cannot justify our doing nothing in this matter. We cannot afford to have wide open spaces which are the envy of other countries. Those days are gone. We must go ahead and fill our empty spaces. In 1954-55, 32 per cent, of the total number of immigrants were skilled workers. That is very interesting when we consider that 16 per cent, of the total workers in Australia are skilled workers. It means that a very large percentage of skilled workers are coming into this country. An examination of the overall immigration programme for that year discloses that 71 per cent, of immigrants were skilled or semi-skilled workers. Those workers are playing an extremely important part in the development of this country.
It has been said that immigration has an inflationary effect. If we merely accept that view as an excuse to discontinue our immigration programme we shall not hold Australia for very long. America has set us a very good example by taking in a great number of immigrants; and it did not use selective methods such as we are using to-day. America has become a great nation in a short number of years, and for that fact we should be very thankful. When it commenced its immigration policy there were only about 8,000,000 people in America, whereas to-day its population is 160,000,000. Australia’s population during the same period has reached only 9,000,000. America’s example has shown that if a country is prepared to go forward and progress it must open its gates and bring in immigrants, particularly skilled and semi-skilled workers. The present seems to be a very propitious time for us to set our immigration standards higher. It is the first time in history that Australia has been placed in the number one position as an immigration country.
After World War II., for various reasons, Dutch migrants went to Canada in large numbers. Canadian troops were the first to liberate the people of Holland, Canada was closer than Australia, and had had an immigration scheme with the Dutch before the war. However, the position has changed and more Dutch people now wish to emigrate to Australia than to any other country. In 1954-55 our target was 115,000 immigrants. We managed to exceed that figure by about 9,000. Our target for 1955-56 is 125,000 and all the indications are that the Government will try to keep within that figure. I repeat, it would be fatal to cut the immigration programme. The Government has done a wonderful job. It has risked the economic consequences because it feels that we are greatly in need of immigrants. It would be a great pity if Australia were to limit the numbers of its immigrants to 125,000 this year.
I should like to see more British immigrants coming to this country, because they could be assimilated more easily. Australia is, after all, primarily a British country. Of course, I imagine that if we could provide more shipping and better facilities we could bring more British immigrants to this country.
– We would first need more homes.
– I agree that there is a great need for more homes and that it would be foolish to bring people here unless we had adequate housing. The Government realizes this and is tackling the job with vigour. By turning off the flow of immigration Australia would lose confidence in its ability to absorb immigrants, and other, nations would lose their respect for this country once they had been asked to send immigrants and then been told that they could not do so because we had cut down our quota. We should be thinking not in terms of reduced immigration, but rather increased immigration. We should be thinking in terms of absorbing the greatest possible population within a given period. We should be planning ahead, and should be determined to carry out our programme whatever difficulty may assail us from time to time. This might involve taking economic risks but it would benefit Australia in the long run.
A great deal has been said on the subject of immigration, and I do not intend to add very much to it. Australia must not forget that its prestige is very high at the moment, and that migrants wish to come to this country. We are in a position to get. more migrants from the countries that we favour, such as Great
Britain, Germany, Austria and Holland. “We must not miss this opportunity, for time is against us. If we are to hold this country we must populate it as soon as possible, despite inconvenience and economic risk. Finally, I ask the Government kindly to take some note of a few of the things that honorable members have to say in this chamber. I should like it to give an assurance that it does not intend to cut the immigration programme; that it intends to take not only 125,000 migrants this year, but an increased number.
– I wish to refer briefly to the vote for War and Repatriation Services, and especially to the work of the War Service Homes Division. The total vote of £120,710,000 includes the following:Special Appropriations, £104,733,000; Repatriation Department £15,445,000 ; War Service Homes Division, £1,020,000 ; Miscellaneous credits £3,300,000 and so on. I believe that those credits are derived, in part, from the sale of war service homes. Under the heading “ Repatriation Benefits”, one sees that £4,178,000 is. to be set aside for medical treatment, £5,242,000 for maintenance of departmental institutions, and £2,382,000 for living allowances. It makes one wonder whether there should be more accurate accounting of such huge expenditure. Many returned servicemen are deprived of repatriation benefits because they arc unable to satisfy the Repatriation Commission that they have an ailment or sickness.
At the outset I want to make it plain that I have no quarrel with the administrative officers of the War Service Homes Division. Mr. Smale, his deputy, and his other officers, give every possible assistance and courtesy to those seeking help. I am convinced .that Government policy is to blame for much of the trouble experienced by returned servicemen in regard to wai- service homes and repatriation benefits. Recently I had before me a case in which a war widow was occupying a war service home that had been built just after World War I. at a total cost of approximately £750. One of her daughters was an invalid and the other a semi-invalid. The family had been given notice to quit because they could not purchase the dwelling. A war widow’s pension and an invalid pension had not proved sufficient, so the occupants were under threat of eviction.
– Order ! A general discussion of war service homes may not take place at this stage. The item of £1,020,000 relates to administration only. The matter that the honorable member wishes to discuss may be brought up later.
– There is no other vote under which it may be discussed.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The matter to which the honorable member is referring has reference to works and services. The item of £1,020,000 obviously relates to administrative costs only.
– In deference to your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I will not discuss the matter further. The expenditure with respect to war service homes administration is out of all proportion to what is done for people who require the services of the Repatriation Commission.
– That is a ridiculous statement.
– The honorable member for Lilley says that that is a ridiculous statement. I want to say to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that it is impossible for war pensioners, war widows or other people who require services under the repatriation legislation to get those services. But as you rule that this matter will come under another division - Works and Services - and that it cannot be discussed under the heading of Miscellaneous Services, I shall refer to another matter concerning the same war widow, who has been unable to obtain satisfaction from the Repatriation Department. She now has to keep two invalid daughters, one of whom is twenty years of age, because of the fact that the administrative officers of the Repatriation Commission have not given advice which they should have given in relation to children who are pensionersunder the act when they reach the age of sixteen years. At present, the Repatriation Act prescribes that when a child who is a pensioner turns sixteen years oi age, it automatically ceases to receive u pension. I believe that the act should be amended in order to provide that a child who is unable to earn its own living when it reaches sixteen years of age, which is the age at which the act prescribes that the pension shall cease, should automatically continue to receive the pension. .Section 39 (4.) of the Repatriation Act provides -
Subject to the next succeeding subsection, where a person was. being a eli i Id, granted a pension under this Division and is, in the opinion of the Commission, unable to earn a livelihood at the time at which the pension is terminated, that person may be granted a pension at such rate as is assessed by the Commission
Section 39 (5.) provides -
A pension shall not bc payable under the last preceding sub-section unless application therefor is made within twelve months after the termination of the pension first granted.
It is impossible for the majority of war widows even to know what the act provides. In view of the fact that they have no husband to advise them, I believe that it should be the responsibility of the Repatriation Commission to see that they are tendered the correct advice when their children reach the age at which their pension ceases. In this case, a woman with an invalid daughter and another one who is not eligible to be considered an invalid-
– Order ! I think that the honorable member is continuing to discuss the matter which the Chair has informed him comes under another division.
– I think that my speech is related to the proposed vote before the committee. This child was a war pensioner within the meaning of the act. Now, the Department of Social Services will not recognize her claim for a pension because she is not, So per cent, incapacitated. The Repatriation Commission has dumped her on to the street like nobody’s business in order that it may get out of paying a miserable pension, to which I believe that the girl is entitled. In view of the fact that children who are sixteen years of age are refused a continuance of their pension because they are not aware of the provisions of the act, it is undoubtedly the responsibility of the Repatriation Commission to see that they are informed of their rights. For two years, I endeavoured to obtain a pension for a person aged 21 years, but neither the Repatriation Department nor the Department of Social Services is prepared to accept the responsibility. What has the Government in mind for such persons? Are they to be turned out into the streets? Those honorable members who are laughing appear to believe that such a fate should befall such persons. But these unfortunate people have no income and must be kept with the miserable pension that their mothers receive. I believe that the act should be amended so as to compel the Repatriation Department to continue to pay pensions to young people who are unable to look after themselves when they reach sixteen years of age.
I shall refer to another ease, that of a soldier whose accepted disabilities are war neurosis, asthma, chronic bronchitis, bilateral deafness, malaria and bronchiectasis.
– What is that?
– The honorable member should ask the doctors on the other side of the chamber. I can tell him that it is a serious ailment which causes a person to expectorate blood, and persons who suffer from it cannot work ; but apparently the Repatriation Department expects them to work. This soldier receives a 100 per cent, war pension. He has worked for only four weeks in the last ten months, and for only a few weeks in the past three or four years. The wife of the soldier wrote to me and said that she believed that he was getting a very raw den! from the Repatriation Commission. She said that her husband had worked for only four weeks in the last ten months. In that time he had been in bed at home. He was admitted to Concord hospital on the 2nd February, 1955, and was discharged on the 4th May, 1955. When I wrote to the Repatriation Commission and asked why this exserviceman had not been paid the full totally and permanently incapacitated rate during the period that he was in hospital, a deputy commissioner wrote to me as follows: -
Investigation lias shown that the exserviceman was admitted to the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, on 21st March, 1955, and discharged on 4th May, 1955, and he was paid medical sustenance at the Special Rate in respect of the period, and also for a further period from 22nd June, 1.955, to 15th July, 1955. inclusive, the amount per fortnight in both cases being £9 10s. The question of obtaining suitable employment for
Sir. Richards has received consideration by this Department and the Commonwealth Employment Office. At the present time, this aspect has been placed in the hands of the Officer-in-Charge, Newcastle Branch of the Repatriation Department, and he has been requested to extend to Mr. Richards any assistance and advice in regard to employment.
This ex-serviceman has been told that he can do only light work. He cannot go into dusty places, or where there is wind or cold. It reminds me of a previous case in which a doctor from a repatriation hospital told me that another constituent of mine could do light work but only work of a character which would not call into play general muscular activity, walking or standing for long periods, bending, squatting, pushing, lifting, throwing, climbing or balancing. The letter that I received stated -
As you can see, this limits member’s field of employment considerably and probably suggests light process work . . .
I want to know where these men will get this employment. They are unable to sleep at night, and can get their rest only in the day time. This man wrote to me recently in regard to the statement of the Deputy Commissioner, as follows : -
They made no mention of the time my wife complained of. If. they consult their records again they will find I entered hospital on the second day of February. It took them from that date till the 21st of March to determine my complaint was due to war service. In that period I was not paid special rate sustenance. When I was informed on the 17th of March they would operate, I asked for leave to fix my affairs at home as I was told it was a dangerous operation and they discharged me for the four days. My contention was that 1 should have been paid special rate from when I entered hospital on the 2nd of February.
Of course, the department itself has virtually robbed this man of the totally and permanently incapacitated rate for six or seven weeks. He has a wife and two children. He has had to take the eldest boy, who is only fourteen years of age, away from school in order that he may supplement the family income of a 100 per cent, war pension. It is a disgrace that the Repatriation Commission should not even know that a man who is suffering from the disabilities that I have mentioned was admitted to Concord hospital. Apparently, the records of the commission are not being attended to correctly. Otherwise, they would know just what the member was entitled to. I believe that safeguards could be introduced in relation to many of these matters. Many of these ex-servicemen could be admitted to hospitals in the districts in which they live. I am sure that if they were admitted to the Newcastle General Hospital or the Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Newcastle or any other big hospital in the Newcastle district, they would receive better treatment and the cost to the department would be reduced.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I consider that the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) addressed himself to the Repatriation Bill 1955, which is now before this chamber. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), in his second-reading speech in another place, dealt with, some of the aspects of the matter to which the honorable member has referred.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Repatriation Bill is not yet before this chamber.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) referred to war service land settlement in Western Australia. In the main, his criticism should have been levelled largely against the Western Australian Government. Having some knowledge of the areas to which the honorable member referred, I consider that there might be some slight justification for the attitude of the Western Australian Government in this matter because of the difficulties that exist in that State.
I wish now to deal with the subject of tobacco-growing in Western Australia. The Commonwealth’s policy has been to encourage the growth of tobacco leaf in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. A proposition was placed before the Commonwealth by the Western Australian Government some years ago, and work was commenced to develop a number of farms in order to prepare them for the growing of tobacco leaf. Unfortunately, the Western Australian Government experienced considerable difficulty in obtaining a person with sufficient knowledge to be able to advise the farmers in relation to the growing of tobacco leaf. I have recently been very busy in connexion with this matter, making inquiries of tobacco interests in Victoria in an endeavour to ascertain just what was wrong with the tobacco leaf produced in Western Australia. Considerable research will have to be undertaken before this matter can be brought to a successful conclusion. I have no doubt that if Western Australia can secure the services of a person capable of advising the farmers in relation to the growing of tobacco leaf, they will be able to surmount their present difficulties. About eighteen months ago the Commonwealth, in an endeavour to play its part, decided to give extra areas to the tobacco growers. Unfortunately, not because of an administrative breakdown, as the honorable member for .Forrest stated, but because of seasonal conditions, a lot of work which should have been completed earlier this year was not undertaken. Floods in Western Australia, although minor by comparison with those which occurred in New South Wales, hindered the State authority. As honorable members are aware, when, in a downfall of short duration, eleven inches of rain falls on an area, it is impossible to operate bulldozers to clear land or open it up for irrigation.
Mr. Freeth interjecting,
– If the honorable member for Forrest wants to engage in interjection, I remind him that as I have had considerable experience in this field, whatever he brings forward shall not upset me. It is proposed to give to each of the nineteen settlers who are engaged in tobacco growing in Western Australia an area of sixteen acres suitable for tobacco growing, to enable them to get away from the karri portion of their property, and provide irrigation so that they can get their tobacco crops growing within a few months, because if the crops are not kept growing they develop boardiness and the leaf is not suitable to Australian requirements. The bulk of the leaf to-day is made into cigarettes; it is not used for pipe tobacco, as it was in former years.
I shall now deal with the aspects of the dairying industry to which the honorable member for Forrest also directed his remarks. I should not like him to think that I am trying to debunk him in any way; my purpose is to acquaint honorable members of the Commonwealth’s achievements in this field. Unfortunately for Western Australia, as is shown quite clearly by reports that have been issued by the State authorities, the dairying industry in that State has been in the doldrums for a long time. There has never been a really sound approach to its problems. Honorable members will recall that when the War Service Land Settlement Scheme was introduced, it was criticized by the present Minister for Lands in Western Australia, who was then sitting in Opposition in the Western Australian Parliament. The Commonwealth has insisted on providing exservicemen settlers with farms from which they could produce 10,000 lb. of butter fat with 40 or 50 cows, and giving them reasonably cleared areas and sown pastures. However, the dairying industry got into difficulties, as every honorable member knows, as a result of the movement from bulk trading to trader-to-trader arrangements, under which the dairymen have to make their own arrangements. The Minister for Lands in Western Australia now grandiosely tells the dairy-farmers that, under a plan he has propounded, they would have made available to them areas similar to those provided under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme, conditionally on the Commonwealth finding one-half of the money and bearing three-fifths of the losses. In the karri areas of Western Australia-
– I rise to order ! Is the honorable member for Canning in order in developing his present theme in connexion with the proposed vote for War and Repatriation Services, when the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill is on the notice-paper ?
– War service land settlement is covered by the proposed vote.
– Under Division 213, the proposed vote of £1,750,000 for war service la.nd settlement will benefit exservicemen settlers in Western Australia. I was about to say that a colossal amount of work is involved in developing the karri country of Western Australia. Even in the red gum country and country on which associated timbers grow, it is not possible to establish a dairy-farm within a few years. Realizing that fact, the Government has decided to progress with the plan in phases. In the first phase every settler is to be given 160 acres of pasture land, a minimum of 40 acres of which shall be in a mowable state. This arrangement was made from 18 to 21 months ago, but unfortunately again this year seasonal conditions have prevented the necessary work from being carried out.
The honorable member for Forrest stated rather cynically that dairy-farmers are accepting work away from their properties in order to earn additional money with which to keep going. We do not object to that practice during slack periods. In the early stages, when a dairy-farmer is increasing his herd from 25 cows to 40 cow3, he has a fair amount of slack time. They are not permitted to go off the properties if the farm is being neglected. If the men want to take a job during a slack period, no objection is offered so long as the farm is not neglected. Some rumours have been circulated to the effect that the State authorities have told men who have taken other jobs to get off their properties. That is not the whole story. Objection was not taken in every case to men going off the properties. I have been around these areas and have spoken to many of the settlers. State authorities were told that if it was possible to find work for the settler, he should be employed on his own property. These matters became confused as the stories spread from one to another. During my fortnight’s tour in the winter months, living in rubber boots, I met the settlers on their properties and spoke to them, and I can say that there are not so many complaints as some would suggest.
I wish to refer now to the settlement at Rocky Gully. The honorable member for Forrest mentioned the case of a man who might have 900 sheep, made up of 600 ewes and 300 dry sheep. He said the settlers’ commitments to the authority would be £1,368. He estimated gross income at about £3,030. Taking his total operating cost as £2,025, the honorable member for Forrest said that the settler would be left with a net income of £1,005 to meet his authority commitment totalling £1,368. That is not the true position. I visited the area recently. An arrangement has been made for an assessment of the properties from year to year as the farms were developed to the standard required. We find that in the fifth year the commitments of a man are in the vicinity of £900. In that fifth year, when the settler has 800 sheep, plus rams, cows and a bull for the raising of fat stock, we have found that he has an income of £4,737. . That would be his total gross income.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) has misrepresented the position?
– He has obtained the figures from settlers who do not know the position, or there has been some confusion somewhere. My figures were drawn up by two practical men in Western Australia who came out of retirement to work, one for the Western Australian Government and one for the Commonwealth Government, with a view to assisting ex-servicemen to get settled on the land. Those men could snap their fingers at both governments to-morrow, if they desired, and could go back into retirement to enjoy the evening of their lives. Both are successful retired men, and have committed themselves to finish their task by June, 1959. I have asked colleagues of mine, good men scattered from Queensland to Western Australia, what they think of the various assessments. We have had advice that certain economic arrangements were based on the sale of wool at 64d. The same figure has been mentioned in this chamber. I have taken the trouble to work out the figures on the sale of wool at 54d., and I find that the difference in the income would be £342 9s. 2d. I have asked my colleagues to check the figures with lambs selling at 70s. each, culled-for-age ewes at 30s. and culled-for-age wethers at 40s. Even the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will admit that those are very conservative figures. I have found that for 800 sheep, 100 wethers, sixteen rams, 10 cows and one bull, the total income is £4,737. Allowing for replacements costing £1,120, the income would be £3.617. Take from that amount operating expenses totalling £2,119, which includes the basic wage as a living allowance, and the settler would be left with a net income of £1,498.
Mr. Freeth interjecting,
– Legal brains will not defeat practical brains when one is working out returns from a farm. I have found that commitments on SOO sheep would be £900. That amount would include £250 for purchase of plant and stock. No man in a war service land settlement in an agent State has been pressed to meet commitments that he could not meet because of seasonal or other circumstances over which he had no control. All have been given every consideration. With the consent of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), I have had the pleasure, over the past few months, of interviewing the settlers, and we have told them that if they play the game they have nothing to fear from this Government. I now wish to direct my attention to the man who has 900 sheep. The .figures I have in this connexion have come from the same source, and have been checked by my colleagues, all men who have been farming for years.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The committee has discussed many subjects, from immigration to the produc- tivity of farms. I wish to relate my remarks to Division 194 - Department of Trade and Customs, and item. 5 under that heading, “ Consultative Committee on Import Policy”. In my opinion, the work of this committee might be expanded to cover the effect of some points of export policy upon various basic Australian industries.
The industry to which I wish to refer produces a very humble article in common use in all Australian households - the ordinary match. I believe that a great injustice is being done by the Australian Government to the Australian match industry. The match manufacturers of Australia are engaged in an industry involving considerable capitalization. Various items produced in Australia are combined to form a household article in common use. Anything that raises the price of that article does not confer a benefit upon the domestic budget of Australian housewives, and doe3 a disservice to the industry itself. A match factory is established in the Melbourne suburb where I live. That is the factory of Bryant and May Proprietary Limited. The company employs thousands of Australians under conditions that compare more than favorably with those in any other Australian industry. For years, Bryant and May Proprietary Limited have set a standard of employment in industry, but they now find that the future of the industry is being threatened by the import policy of this Government. The item to which I have referred is related to the work of the Consultative Committee on Import Policy, which might very well be expanded to consider the effects of some aspects of the present import policy upon this Australian industry in particular. From the 25th May, 1932, to the 21st November, 1940, the excise duty on matches was one half penny a dozen boxes. From the 21st November, 1940, to the 29th October, 194.1, it was 2d. a dozen; from the 30th October, 1941, to the 2nd September, 1942, it increased to 4d. a dozen; from the 3rd September, 1942, to the 30th June, 1948, it had increased still further to Sd. a dozen; from the 1st July, 1948, to the 30th June, 1950, it decreased to 7-Jd. a dozen, and from the 1st July, 1950, to date it has remained unchanged at 6£d. a dozen. In other words, on every box of matches that the Australian housewife buys there is an excise duty nf one halfpenny. The rate to-day is 6d. more than was the pre-war rate of duty. The Government to-day collects £1,000,000 by way of excise duty on matches alone. Therefore, the Consultative Committee on Import Policy might well consider the desirability of reducing or abolishing excise duty on matches, because a very formidable competitor has come into the field, and its presence is being felt. in 1953, sales tax on matches was removed, bur. the excessive excise duty was left undisturbed. A contrary position is noticed in regard to sales tax on cigarette lighters, which are the direct competitors of Australian matches. Until 1952, cigarette lighters were subject to sales tax at the rate of 663- per cent. The 1952 budget reduced that rate of sales tax to 50 per cent., and the 1953 budget reduced it still further to I65- per cent., so that, during those three years, the tax was reduced by 75 per cent.
– Order ! To which item is the honorable gentleman addressing himself?
– I am relating my remarks to Division 194 of the proposed, votes for “ Miscellaneous Services,” and I am comparing the position in relation to sales tax on cigarette lighters with that of excise duty on matches. The Consultative Committee on Import Policy might well consider the effect of this policy on the importation of cigarette lighters into Australia.
For the three months which ended on the 31st March, 194S, 19,259 cigarette lighters were imported. During the three months which ended on the 31st December, 1954, that number had swollen to 505,788, and for the twelve months which ended on the 31st March last, it had increased still further to 1,376,943. In other words, during those seven years, the increase in the number of cigarette lighters imported had a detrimental effect on the Australian match industry.
– That is, while this Government has been in office.
– Exactly. The Australian match industry uses Australian materials and packaging, and employs Australian workmen in excellent industrial conditions. The continued importation of cigarette lighters enables them to compete against the humble Australian match and is thereby doing a great disservice to the match industry. It is also doing a disservice to the Australian housewife, who is subjected to an impost of a halfpenny on each box of matches she buys. These are matters that should be considered by the consultative committee. It is all very well to say that this committee does not deal with policy. Provision is made, under this particular item in “ Miscellaneous Services “, for a committee to investigate import policy. I have tried to prove that the import policy of the Government, in encouraging, directly or indirectly, the importation of cigarette lighters, is affecting the capacity of the Australian match industry to continue to flourish.
The importation of cigarette lighters, and the unfair incidence of excessive excise duty on Australian matches, is adversely affecting the match industry, in which a large amount of capital has been invested, and it also means that, the housewife must pay an additional halfpenny on each box of matches. The operations of this committee to which I have referred are estimated to cost only the small sum of £450 for the current financial year. Perhaps its members could expend their energies and concentrate their efforts on embarking on a further investigation, not only of the match industry, but also of other Australian industries that are being affected by excessive importations. I think every honorable member on this side of the committee could give many examples to show that the import policy of the Government is grievously affecting the “made in Australia” slogan thai should be a characteristic of any true Australian Government. This committee might consider the possibility of recommending that the importation of cigarette lighters, should, at least, be severely curtailed.
House adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Aluminium Rolling Mill.
d asked the Prime Minister. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. No.
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice - -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions: -
Lecorche Freres & Schroth contract upon the receipt of components of the houses into Australia. The Queensland Housing Commission undertook, by letter dated 20th November, 1951, that “should there be for any cause an over-payment of the subsidy on any claim, the Commission agrees to adjust the matter immediately such overpayment becomes apparent “. The Commonwealth has deferred payment of a claim by the Queensland authorities for subsidy amounting to £10,800 on 3(1 houses of French origin pending the final inspection of the project by Commonwealth officers.
4;Webb asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
k asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 October 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19551004_reps_21_hor8/>.