22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have to announce to the House that during the Parliamentary recess the deaths occurred of two men who previously held high office in this Parliament. The first of these is the Honorable John Blyth Hayes, a former President of the Senate. He was born at Bridgewater, Tasmania, in 1868, and died on 12th July, 1956, at the age of 88. His parliamentary career was long and varied. He first entered politics in 1913 when he was elected to the Tasmanian House of Assembly as the member for Bass, a constituency which he represented until he resigned in 1923. As a member of the Tasmanian Parliament he was Minister for Lands and Works and Agriculture and Minister controlling the Hydro-Electric Department from . 1916 to 1919. He was Minister for Works from 1919 to 1922, and Premier of Tasmania, Minister for Works and Minister controlling the Hydro-Electric Department from 1922 to 1923. In 1921 he was made a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.
He resigned from the Tasmanian Parliament in 1923 when he was chosen by that Parliament to fill a casual vacancy in the Senate caused by the death of Senator Bakhap. He represented Tasmania continuously in the Senate from that year until he retired from politics in 1947. While a senator he was a member of the Select Committee on the case of J. P. Dunk in 1924, a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts from 1926 to 1931 and Chairman of the Joint Select Committee of Public Accounts in 1932. From 1933 to 1938 he was a Temporary Chairman of Committees, and was President of the Senate from 1938 to 1941. John Hayes served a total of 34 years in the Tasmanian and Commonwealth Parliaments, and his high offices which . I have just enumerated serve to show his worth and his loyalty in the service of the people of Australia. He is survived by a widow.I move -
That this House expresses its deep sympathy at the death of the Honorable John Blyth Hayes, a former President of the Senate of the Parliament and a former Premier of the State of Tasmania, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his widow in her bereavement.
– I second the motion which has just been moved by the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Arthur Fadden). The record of the late Senator Hayes is one of exceptional importance to Tasmania and to the Commonwealth. As the Acting Prime Minister pointed out, he had 34 years in public life in Tasmania and in the Parliament of the Commonwealth. His work in the federal sphere was known and respected not only by his own colleagues but also by his opponents. He was a big man, physically and in every other way, and lived to a great age after having given of his best for the people of this nation. It is right that the motion before the House should be carried, and it has the full support of the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– The second death which it is my duty to announce is that of the Honorable John Norman Lawson, who died at Jerry’s Plains on 14th August, 1956. Although his parliamentary career was brief compared with that of John Hayes, he quickly came to the forefront of parliamentary life. Mr. Lawson was first elected to this House in 1931 as member for the Division of Macquarie. He was appointed a Temporary Chairman of Committees in 1934. and was a member of the Commonwealth delegation to England for the Jubilee of King George V. in 1935. Mr. Lawson was appointed Minister for Trade and Customs in April, 1939, and held this portfolio until February, 1940. He was defeated at the general elections in 1940. At the time of his death, John Lawson was carrying on pastoral pursuits in the Singleton district in
New South Wales. He is survived by a widow and family. I move -
That this House expresses its deep sympathy at the death of the Honorable John Norman Lawson, a former member of this House for the Division of’ Macquarie and a former Minister of the Crown, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service and tenders its profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.
. -I second the motion moved by the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Arthur Fadden), and endorse his remarks. I trust that the carrying of this motion by the House will be of comfort to the relatives of the late Mr. Lawson.
– As one who entered this House at the same time as John Lawson, and as one of the few present members who knew him intimately, I should like to say that my late colleague was a man of great drive and undoubted integrity. Having won the seat of Macquarie in this House, he was defeated in it as the political wheel turned. I believe that both the men who held that seat between 1928 and 1940 were destined for great things. One, the late J. B. Chifley, fulfilled this destiny, and the other, had he been spared to politics, might have emulated him, and would certainly have made his mark. It is significant that John Lawson, having become the owner of Arrowfields, a stud farm, hastened his own end by helping a near neighbour who was in difficulty with the working of his property. The neighbour knew that John Lawson understood the circumstances and could help him. Even after Mr. Lawson had been stricken, he pleaded with the doctor to allow him another quarter of an hour to straighten out matters for his neighbour. But this short period was too much, and he passed away while endeavouring to render service to his neighbour. No greater ideal can be held by any man, and no finer deed can be done. As a contemporary of John Lawson, I tender my sympathy to his wife and family, and assure them that his memory in politics and in the district in which he lived will be treasured by those who knew him.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
Mr. GEORGE LAWSON presented a petition from 6,646 members of the Pensioners’ League of Queensland praying that the Parliament give immediate consideration to increasing pensions to no less than 50 per cent. of the basic wage as the minimum.
Petition received and read.
– I desire to announce formally to theHouse the following ministerial arrangements: -
Consequent upon his appointment to the position of Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, the Honorable J. A. Spicer, Q.C., has resigned from the Ministry and from the Senate. Senator O’Sullivan has been appointed Attorney-General in addition to his duties as Minister for the Navy.
The representational duties in the Senate previously performed by the former Attorney-General have been allocated as under -
Senator O’Sullivan will represent the Minister for External Affairs and Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization;
Senator Spooner will represent the Minister for Labour and National Service;
Senator Cooper will represent the Minister for Territories; and
Senator Paltridge will represent the Minister for Immigration.
As honorable members are no doubt aware, the Minister for Air and Civil Aviation is still precluded from attending to the duties of his office by reason of his illness. I am sure that all honorable members join me in wishing him a speedy recovery. During his absence the Minister for Defence will act as Minister for Air and for Civil Aviation and will represent the Minister for Shipping and Transport in this chamber.
I also wish to announce to the House that His Excellency the Administrator has approved of the following administrative arrangements: -
The Attorney-General will administer the sections of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1906-1956 dealing with -
Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, of the judges of the old Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and of the new Commonwealth Industrial Court;
The Minister for Labour and National Service will be responsible for the administration of the remaining provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and for the administration of the Public Service Arbitration Act and the Stevedoring Industry Act.
-I ask the Acting Prime Minister - no doubt he would have to consult the Minister for External Affairs on one aspect of this - whether he will place before the House the full terms of the proposals carried at the London Conference in relation to the dispute over the Suez Canal. Secondly, will he state, for the information of the House, whether those proposals are primarily a basis of discussion in order to settle the dispute; and thirdly, will he keep the House informed of the progress of the negotiations so that honorable members will not be dependent for their information merely on newspaper reports? The fact is that the actual terms agreed upon in London, as far as I know, have not yet been published in any Australian newspaper.
-I assure the Leader of the Opposition that I will confer as soon as possible with my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, upon his arrival in Canberra. He has arrived in Australia and hopes to be here to-day. I will have a conference with him and see the extent to which and the direction in which . I can comply with the request of the Leaderof the Opposition.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he has seen a statement attributed to the chairman of the Joint Coal Board that a surplus of 8,000 tons of coal is being produced each week and that already the large consumers of coal have in hand reserves that they would ordinarily require to cover their industries over the Christmas holiday period. If the Minister has seen the statement, will he inform the House whether the Government has any plan to deal with the situation? Is anything being done to cater for those employees, who must inevitably be dismissed from the industry, by providing other employment for them? Is any consideration being given to the stabilization of the industry by the introduction of a seven-hour working day and the preservation of the miners’ superannuation entitlements? Are dismissals and unemployment to be the reward that mine workers are to receive for building up large reserves of coal, especially as the Minister a few years ago promised mine workers a continuity of employment in mines for an indefinite period?
– The honorable member for Shortland has asked a number of detailed questions. It will not be practicable to deal with them all precisely in the answer to a question without notice, but 1 shall see what information I can get for him on those points and let him have it as soon as 1 can. I make the general observation, however, that the Commonwealth has had under close consideration for a considerable time the position in the coal industry of New South Wales. The honorable member will be aware that, following a conference at which my colleague, the Minister for National Development, and I were present, a committee of the industry was constituted on which the miners federation, the Joint Coal Board and the mine managements are represented. That committee has been meeting periodically to deal with problems of employment arising in the industry and with some of the larger questions to which the honorable member has made reference. I cannot recall any statement of mine that would have had the significance that appears in the last question put by the honorable member. It is not in my power, of course, to guarantee continuity of employment to any one. What I have put from time to time to members of the miners federation is that, if they wish to assure to themselves continuity of employment, then certain practices in which they have been engaging should be abandoned and work performed more efficiently. The industry is one which, in recent years, has been feeling the consequences of less happy actions of the past. Some of the markets that had been built up in that period had departed from the industry because of a lack of continuity of supply and a lack of assurance of good quality coal. I assure the honorable member that my colleague has been giving a good deal of his attention to this matter and that we are collaborating as best we can with the New South Wales Government, and through the Joint Coal Board, doing what we can to assure efficient performance in the industry, satisfactory production and continuity of employment for those engaged in it.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister give me the latest information on the progress of finalizing the second payment to former prisoners of war of the Japanese? Can he give an expected date of payment to the individual recipients, and is there any indication yet of the amount an eligible person may expect to receive?
– I anticipated that question. Being an old boxer, I anticipate where an attack comes from. It will be remembered that the House requested that the Prime Minister, while in London, make inquiries with the International Red Cross to see if the matter of payment to exprisoners of the Japanese could be expedited. I want to assure the House that this has been done. The international committee of the Red Cross has not yet completed its check of lists submitted by countries which will share in the distribution of moneys under Article 16 of the Japanese Peace Treaty. There are over 200,000 records to be checked, and this is proving a timeconsuming job. Already duplications have been found in lists submitted by some countries, and it will be to Australia’s ultimate benefit that the investigations by the Red Cross are complete and thorough. The position at present is that all countries concerned have submitted lists and ratified the treaty, except Indonesia, which has done neither. It is not expected that this will further delay the distribution. Our latest advice is that the Red Cross will have completed the checking by October this year. Recently, the United Kingdom Government indicated that it did not expect to be in a position to make a distribution to its nationals before the end of the year. The House can be assured that all assistance and co-operation possible is being afforded the international committee of the Red Cross by Australia, and that there will be no avoidable delay as far as we are able to prevent it.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I say by way of explanation that recently the Australian Government made a special grant of £1,050,000 to the Victorian Government. Was any of this money, and if so how much, specifically for the relief of dried vine fruit growers who had suffered loss through rain damage and adverse seasons?
– A special adjustment grant of £1,050,000 was given by way of increased tax reimbursement to the Victorian Government. Of that amount. £750,000 was to anticipate an adjustment in the original formula. The remaining £300,000, making up the £1,050,000, was for the specific purpose of granting relief, at the discretion of the Victorian Government but by way of grant, to the dried fruit industry and the growers affected as a consequence of adverse conditions.
– In view of the frequently repeated statement, since the Suez Canal dispute arose, that it is imperative for Australia that traffic through the canal should continue uninterrupted, will the Acting Prime Minister furnish the following information: ls it a fact that the Suez Canal Company has threatened that if the dispute is not settled by 13th September next, presumably on conditions which it regards as satisfactory to the company, it will withdraw its 900 employees, including key officials and pilots? Is it a fact that such action will result in a cessation of shipping through the canal? Is it also a fact that the Prime Minister of Australia, who is the chairman of a five-nation committee appointed to negotiate a settlement, and who should be expected to act impartially in the matter, was consulted by the company before it made its announcement? Did the Prime Minister act with the approval of the Cabinet, and if so, how does the Government justify support for action that would inevitably lead to a closing of the canal, with disastrous effects upon the Australian economy?
– As the matters that have been raised by the honorable member have a bearing upon what is a very delicate international situation, I ask. him to place his question on the noticepaper.
– The question that I direct to the Acting Prime Minister refers to the catastrophic floods throughout the Murray Valley, particularly in South Australia. Although the Government has most promptly recognized the magnitude of human suffering not only by supplying unstinted military assistance, but also by supporting the South Australian Government with a £ l-for-£ 1 grant for relief of personal hardship, for which those afflicted are very grateful, will the right honorable gentleman give some assurance that the Commonwealth will also contribute very substantially towards the cost of reconstruction and rehabilitation of the devastated areas once the flood waters have subsided? I press the Government to do this because the total flood damage may amount to between £10,000,000 and £20,000,000, a burden which obviously neither the South Australian Government, the settlers, nor the local governing authorities can possibly bear.
– Knowing, of course, the honorable member’s interest in South Australia’s affairs, particularly those in his own electorate, I anticipated his asking such a question. The Australian Government is sympathetic to all those who have suffered in the unprecedented flooding of the Murray Valley, and it recognizes the magnificent prevention work that was done in the State concerned. The Government has repeatedly made available Commonwealth facilities to assist in this work, including men and equipment from the ser vices and from the Department of Works. As far as South Australia is concerned, the Australian Government has responded to the State Government’s request for financial assistance by offering to share with it on a £l-for-£l basis the cost of relief of personal hardship. The Commonwealth has undertaken to consider sympathetically a request for assistance for the restoration of roads and bridges, and of rehabilitation. I make it clear that the Commonwealth will provide assistance for these purposes only where the losses and damage are extremely widespread, and the work of restoration is quite beyond the financial and material resources of the State concerned. This offer to South Australia will be taken further when the South Australian Government is able to indicate the nature and extent of its proposals. The degree to which the Commonwealth can assist will be determined when the full extent of the damage incurred is known.
– Will the Minister for Social Services say whether he has considered the request of the Glebe Pensioners Association for the raising of the present funeral allowance of £10 to £25, in view of the increased cost of funerals? Can the Minister say whether the budget forecast by the press that no increase of age and invalid pensions will be granted is correct? I point out that if it is correct, the Government will itself be responsible for many deaths caused by semi-starvation.
– The honorable member for West Sydney ought to know that all the representations that are made to me are very carefully considered. All the representations made to the Government are very carefully considered and, in the fullness of time, he will learn of the ultimate determination of the Government in relation to the future of the social services benefits to which he has referred.
– I refer the Minister for Primary Industry to a recent decision by the Australian Agricultural Council. The council agreed that credit restrictions should not operate to hamper desirable development of rural industries but that, in the present economic circumstances, the banks needed to exercise reasonable restraint in considering applications for finance, with a view to reducing costs. I ask the Minister whether the restriction of credit will not have the opposite effect of preventing farmers from purchasing modern costsaving machinery. Can the Minister tell honorable members the basis on which the council came to this conclusion, and whether, if that basis is found to be erroneous, adequate finance can be arranged, through every possible channel, for enterprising farmers?
– The honorable member’s question has arisen out of the investigations of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, which recently presented a report to the Australian Agricultural Council drawing attention to the fact that at present it would be unwise to extend credit greatly on a nation-wide scale. But the committee did not go so far as to say that there should be a complete cessation of the granting of credit. I am quite certain that it considered that in selected industries, especially primary industries and where it was desired to purchase equipment, there should be an investigation of the merits of each application in the light of the present financial and economic situation. Nonetheless, I will look into the question asked by the honorable member and refer it to the officers concerned. If 1 can give him a more detailed explanation later I shall be only too happy to do so.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that the known unemployment in Western Australia has reached an approximate figure of 6,000? Has correspondence setting out a claim for special financial assistance in providing work for the unemployed been received from the Premier of that State? If so, has a decision been made regarding the financial assistance that is to be made available? Will the Acting Prime Minister table the correspondence that has been received from the Premier of Western Australia?
– I will not table the correspondence because it is. quite, unusual, and quite opposed to. protocol, to table correspondence on a Premier to Prime
Minister basis. The Premier of Western Australia knows full well his responsibilities in connexion with this matter. I was able to persuade the Australian Loan Council that the Commonwealth Government should give special consideration to the financial circumstances in which Western Australia, through its own fault, now found itself. Those matters are being investigated, but we have not yet had satisfactory replies to the points raised with the Premier of Western Australia. When that requirement is met the matter will be further considered.
– Why not table the correspondence and let the Parliament judge the matter?
– It would certainly not be to Mr. Hawke’s advantage to do that.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether, in view of certain statements that have been made through the United Nations Organization reflecting upon Australia’s administration of Papua and the mandated territory of New Guinea, the great importance of those territories to this country, and the great contribution that Australia is making to their development, he will in his right as Minister for Territories, and quite distinct from the external affairs aspect, make a statement in this House, and thus enable honorable members to canvass fully what Australia is really doing in those territories, and its policy in regard to them.
– I permit myself to comment on the opening remarks of the honorable member for New England. The report of the visiting mission of the United Nations which actually inspected what was being done in the trust Territory of New Guinea was, on the whole, highly commendatory of the Australian Government and, in many points, one of praise for the Administration. The remarks- that were unfavorable to the Australian Government were made by’ the Trusteeship Council where, as honorable members know, political rather than factual influences predominate. Regarding the second part of the question, 1 think that opportunity will arise during, the debate- on the budget and on the Estimates for discussing aspects, of Australian administration and Australia’s record in the Territory. To assist honorable members to take part in that debate, I am preparing, and will circulate to all honorable members, a statement showing the provision in the current year’s Estimates for the Territory, accompanied by a commentary about what has been done in the last few years.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. As many thousands of unskilled workers are unable to find employment, is it the Minister’s intention to persist in bringing more unskilled immigrants to Australia in the near future? If so, can the Government give an assurance to those immigrants that work will be found for them, or are they to be placed on unemployment relief?
– It is not unusual to find Opposition members endeavouring to create an atmosphere of financial panic and depression in this country in order to suit their own political advantage. The fact of the matter is that throughout Australia at this time the total number of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit amounts to one-third of 1 per cent. of the work force - certainly the lowest level of unemployment to be found in any industrial country of the free world. 1 remember the honorable member for Parkes telling us not so many years ago that the Australian Labour party regarded 5 per cent. of unemployment as amounting to full employmentin the real sense of the term.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Parkes. That is on record as being the statement of one of the senior members of the Labour party.
– What about Professor Hytten?
– Yes. This Government, throughout its. term of office, has maintained an employment situation and an opportunity for employment that is unrivalled in any other industrial country of the free world.
– Now answer the question.
– I asked the right honorable gentleman a question.
– And the honorable member is getting the answer.
– If the honorable member doss not like the answer, he need not have it. If he asks a question, he will get the answer in the terms in which I propose to deliver it. I think it is important that the people of Australia, who periodically witness these scare campaigns that are started by honorable gentlemen opposite, should know the facts, and these are the facts. In only one State, that is. Western Australia, where, as my colleague the Acting Prime Minister has already pointedout, the position is receiving special consideration, does the proportion of people in receipt of unemployment benefit amount to more than one-third of 1 per cent. of the total work force. That is at a period of the year which, in all States except Queensland, is rightly regarded as being the slack period. The normal employment pattern is that from SeptemberOctober onwards there is a lift in the demand for labour.
– Now answer the question.
– I shall answer the question now. The Acting Prime Minister will announce this evening in broad terms the immigration policy decided by this Government for the current financial year. The immigration intake for the year has been carefully calculated, on the best expert advice available to the Government and after a thorough analysis by the Department of Labour and National Service of the likely labour requirements of this country. The policy of this Government is to maintain a situation of full employment. Its policy on immigration is to relate the immigration intake, so far as that is practicable, to the plans and programmes for the maintenance of full employment and to tie it in with the works programmes of the States. Our record throughout our term of office justifies us in claiming that we have been singularly successful in relating all those things and in ensuring a continuance of full employment in this country.
– Notwithstanding a previous question asked by the honorable member for Stirling and the comments just made by the Acting Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service, my question relates to Western Australia. It is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. The press in Western Australia and the anti-Liberal State Premier have, in recent weeks, given prominence to a local, temporary unemployment problem. As the figures cited in Western Australia cannot be reconciled with the official figures published by the Department of Labour and National Service, will the Minister comment on the present position in Western Australia and say whether the unfortunate unemployment there is due, in the main, to the maladministration of Western Australian finances, particularly with respect to housing commission operations?
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Swan in order in founding a question upon press reports?
– Order! The question was in order.
– I welcome the question because it provides an opportunity for me to deal with criticism expressed by the federal president, as I understand, of the Australian Labour party. I refer to Mr. Chamberlain, who is a prominent member of the industrial movement of Western Australia. He made an allegation publicly that I had issued misleading figures in relation to the employment situation in that State.
– So you did.
– Will the honorable member allow me to deal with that proposition? Mr. Chamberlain alleged that in the statement that I issued on unemployment in Western Australia I referred to persons in receipt of the unemployment benefit, not to persons seeking employment in that State. If Mr. Chamberlain had taken the trouble to read the full text of the official monthly release, based on information supplied by the Department of Labour and National Service, he would have found that not only did I give full details of the persons in receipt of unemployment benefit in Western Australia, but also that I supplied full details of persons seeking employment and of the work vacancies available. Further, Mr. Chamberlain is a member of the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. He knows that at each quarterly meeting of that council I place before the members - they include six senior representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions - a most thorough and comprehensive survey of the employment situation throughout Australia. Mr. Chamberlain, in his capacity as a member of that council, which had met on the Monday of the week in which he made his statement in the Western Australian press, must have had a full realization of the position if he had chosen to study the documents made available to the members of that council. As I mentioned in my reply to a previous question about the employment situation, the fact of the matter is that Western Australia does have at this time proportionately more people in receipt of unemployment benefit and seeking work than does any other State of the Commonwealth. The total, as at 18th August, the latest date for which I have the figure, was 2,331 people on benefit in that State, or slightly under 1 per cent, of the total work force of Western Australia. In point of fact, in that particular week the number on benefit declined by 25 per cent., which rather suggests that there is not some-
– Twenty-five per cent.!
– I am sorry. I should have said, by 25 from the total that I gave. That was the decline in that week.
– What is the number of those seeking employment, in addition to the 2,000?
– I can give the right honorable gentleman those figures in the course of the day.
– I do not want the exact figure, but only an approximation.
– I think, speaking from memory, that it is around the 6,000 mark.
– That makes a total of more than 8,000.
– No, that figure would include the number I have given. The point is that, for the whole of the Commonwealth at the end of July - I emphasize that date because there is a rapid movement of those seeking and finding jobs - 35,000 persons were seeking employment as against 28,000 work vacancies recorded by the Department of Labour and National Service. The department, of course, does not have a record of all the vacancies available in Australia, but the figure that I have given illustrates the trend. As I said earlier, this is the slack period of the year. I think we shall obtain a clearer picture of the way the employment demand is trending as we move into September and October. If our expectation is confirmed, such availability of labour as exists at the present is likely to be reduced very materially in those months.
– I direct a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that four dieselelectric locomotives were recently shipped from Australia to Indonesia, under the Colombo plan? Is the honorable gentleman aware that, according to reports, shortly after the arrival of the locomotives at Djakarta Indonesian Government officials arrived at the wharf and removed from each of the locomotives the plate inscribed “ A gift from the people of Australia “? Will the Minister have investigations made into the reports of this occurrence?
– I am not aware of the reports mentioned by the honorable gentleman but I shall have inquiries made regarding them and advise him of the result.
– Will the Minister for Social Services examine the procedure that is followed by his department to ascertain, each year, whether any change has occurred in the economic circumstances of pensioners, with a view to simplifying this procedure, especially for pensioners over the age of 70 years?
– May I be permitted to say that the procedures of the Department of Social Services are constantly under review. If there is any appropriate action that the department can take to simplify the inquiries that are necessary from time to time, and to investigations that are made from time to time, that action is taken and appropriate simplifications are made. I shall have the honorable gentleman’s suggestion regarding the questionnaires that are required to be completed by pensioners investigated, and, if I can, I shall take appropriate action to simplify the forms.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. Was the Minister for External Affairs sent abroad, at considerable expense to the Commonwealth, because the Prime Minister could not be trusted to do the right things, overseas, without the expert advice and guidance of that Minister? Has the Minister for External Affairs hurried back to Australia, and deserted the Prime Minister, who is still abroad, at the critical hour, because the Government of Australia cannot be trusted to do the right things in the absence of the Minister for External Affairs?
– As the honorable gentleman’s question is based on stupidity I shall not answer it.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Defence by reminding him that, in reply to a question from a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, a senior official of the Department of Defence said that Australia was not in a state of preparedness for mobilization. Can the honorable gentleman indicate to the House whether any nation in the world is prepared for mobilization within a short space of time? Further, in view of the unfortunate interpretation which has tended to be given to the reply made by this senior defence official, will the right honorable gentleman take the opportunity to make a statement to the House on the matter?
– 1 welcome the honorable gentleman’s question, because some misapprehension was created in the public mind by the answer given, by the official mentioned, to an apparently simple question put to him by a member of the Public Accounts Committee. Mobilization, as understood by the services, is a technical term. The services consider that when a programme for mobilization has been agreed upon,’ in any country, until that programme has been completed that country is not technically ready for mobilization. The simple fact is that in this country we have created services - in the way of men, equipment and training - to a degree never before experienced here in time of peace. It is true to say that no country, not even an aggressor country, is ever technically ready for mobilization. A good illustration of that fact is provided by the last war. Because Hitler was not ready for mobilization on 3rd September, 1939, when Britain declared war on Germany, we had for six months what is known as the “ phoney “ war.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Swan. Is the number of persons receiving unemployment relief, cited by the Minister, intended to suggest that that is the actual number of unemployed? Was the actual unemployment figure on 28th July, in Western Australia, two and a half times the number receiving unemployment relief in that State - namely, 5,299 unemployed as against 2,082 on relief? Is that a normal ratio? Will the Minister, ‘ in future, when asked for figures of unemployment, state the number of registered unemployed, the number of applications for benefit, and the part-time and casual employment figures, as well as the number of actual recipients of benefit?
– T have pointed out in the House, on a number of occasions, that what the Department of Labour and National Service endeavours to do in its monthly survey of the employment situation is to indicate, as precisely as practicable, the employment situation generally throughout Australia, and the trends which develop in relation to employment. I think I am right in saying that this service was instituted for the first time in the life of this Government, and is therefore something quite new in Australian administrative practice. It has served a most useful purpose for Australian industry and the industrial movement generally in Australia. Far from wishing to mislead the House, or to conceal any of the material facts relating to employment, we go to considerable trouble to give the most accurate picture we can. There are several factors which bear on the situation, and they must be considered if we are to get a true picture. I have never claimed that the number of persons receiving unemployment benefit gives a picture of the total number of persons who are seeking work in Australia. On the other hand, it is equally misleading to take the number of persons who are unemployed and seeking work at any given time as an indication of the unemployment situation, because a person seeking work one day might be written off the books the next day, and some new applicant might go on the books. If the honorable gentleman and others interested will examine the statements which record the number of new applicants, and also the number of new vacancies, they will find that, generally speaking, one tends to correspond with the other. It is only when, over a period of months, the number of applicants rises substantially above the number of new vacancies recorded, that it can be said that we are moving into a situation of considerable unemployment. In the last month, if my recollection is correct, the number of new vacancies recorded corresponded very closely with the number of persons registering as new applicants for work. We also take figures periodically in connexion with factory employment. What we have endeavoured to do, therefore, in this and other ways, as set out in the explanatory paper, is to present for the guidance of the Parliament and the nation, as well as of the relevant government departments, a broad picture of what is happening. Our policy throughout our term of office has been to maintain, so far as is humanly practicable, a healthy situation of full employment; not over-full employment with all the pressures of demand and consequent wage spirals that arise from it, nor under-employment with consequent chronic unemployment. It is not easy to maintain a balance on the razor edge between over-employment and under-employment, but I believe that we can claim that no government has carried out that task more skilfully than we have done since we were elected to office in 1949..
– Is the Treasurer aware that .a bill has been introduced into the Parliament of New Zealand for the establishment of the decimal coinage system in New Zealand? In view of the fact that several British Commonwealth countries have considered, or are considering, the introduction of the decimal coinage system, will the Treasurer inform the House what investigations have been made into the establishment of that system in Australia in view of the fact that it would remove much of the horror from the study of arithmetic by boys and girls at school?
– The matter raised by the honorable member is very interesting. I know that the New Zealand Government contemplated introducing the decimal system of coinage and, if my memory serves me correctly, I believe that this matter was investigated some years ago> by the Royal Commission on Banking, which recommended against the introduction, of decimal coinage.
– No, the commission recommended in favour of it.
– The matter is one of great interest, and if other governments in the British Commonwealth of Nations introduce the decimal coinage system, we shall have to examine our own position very seriously.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
What Immigration means to Australia, Report by Minister, 30th August, 1956, and move -
That the paper be printed.
During the recent conference with the State Premiers, I told the Premiers that I would make available for their information a factual and comprehensive statement on the operation of the immigration programme in Australia. That paper has now been forwarded to the Premiers, and I believe that it would be of interest to honorable members generally.
Ordered to be printed.
I have received from His Excellency the Administrator a commission authorizing me to administer to members of the House the oath, or affirmation of allegiance. I now lay the commission on the table.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 17, 1 lay on the table my warrant, nominating Mr. Bowden, Mr. Falkinder, Mr. Freeth, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Lucock and Mr. Timson to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested to do so by the Chairman of Committees. At some later date, it may be convenient for me to nominate further honorable members to act on this panel.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
National Health Bill 1956. Supply (Works and Services) Bill (No. 1) 1956-57.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and
Services) Bill 1954-55. States Grants (Universities) Bill 1956. Tractor Bounty Bill 1956.
States Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long
Service Leave) Bill 1556.
Without requests -
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1956-57. Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1954-55.
Message received from the Senate, intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives in this bill.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Broadcasting and Television Bill 1956. Broadcasting and Television Stations Licence
Fees Bill 1956. Supply Bill (No. 1) 1956-57. Supply (Works and Services) Bill (No. 1)
States Grants (Universities) Bill, .1956. Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Bill 1956. Rayon Yarn Bounty Bill 1956. Tractor Bounty Bill 1956. Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill 1956.
Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement Bill 1956. Housing Agreement Bill 1956. Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1956. Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Bill 1956.
Navigation Bill 1956.
Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Bill 1956.
Evidence Bill 1956.
Judges’ Pensions Bill 1956.
Northern Territory (Administration) Bill 1956.
Public Service Arbitration Bill 1956.
Coal Industry Bill 1956.
Stevedoring Industry Bill 1936.
States Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave) Bill 1956.
National Health Bill 1956.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1954-55.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1954-55.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to-
That leave of absence for three months be given to the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) on the ground of ill-health.
– I have received letters from the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) proposing that definite matters of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion to-day. I have selected the matter proposed by the honorable member for Mallee, namely -
The disastrous effect of the recent and present flooding of the Murray River and its tributaries.
Is the proposal supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
.- I know that all honorable members are in sympathy with the people living in the Murray valley who have suffered great losses from the flooding of the Murray and other rivers. The newspapers have published reports of this disaster, but the whole story about many small places has not been told. There never has been in this House a subject of debate more devoid of party political considerations. We should discuss this matter to-day in a co-operative manner, because I believe that all members of the National Parliament are eager not only to help the victims of the floods to rehabilitate themselves, but also to devise measures to lessen the effects of floods in the future.
We should discuss this matter not from the point of view of electorates or States, but from that of the National Parliament. Each honorable member from the areas concerned will be able to give to the House a report on the effects of the floods in his electorate. I welcome the opportunity to make such a report in respect of my electorate. Before beginning to speak this morning, I ascertained that honorable members who represent other electorates that have been seriously affected by the floods will speak to this motion. Therefore, the Commonwealth Parliament will learn at first hand what has really happened. Several honorable members to whom I have spoken have made first-hand surveys of the affected areas in their electorates, and I shall welcome their contributions to this debate.
I propose to refer to conditions in the Mallee electorate, not because I am trying to push the claims of that electorate to the detriment of others, but because it is the electorate of which I have most knowledge. The Mallee electorate has a frontage to the Murray River of approximately 240 miles. I have personally visited the flooded areas along that frontage and am able to speak with authority this morning of the conditions that exist there. There is no doubt that the Murray River is our greatest national asset. It seems strange, therefore, that it should have brought about one of our greatest national disasters, which is the only way to describe these floods. First, I wish to pay tribute to the volunteers who came to assist the settlers to fight the floods. Some of them came from areas hundreds of miles away. Many of them brought trucks and machinery for use in the fight against the floods, with no thought of payment for their services. It was a great co-operative effort, and it would be a good thing for Australia if there were more such efforts. The fact that helpers came from considerable distances, travelling over extremely bad roads, made even worse by the inclement weather, gave heart to Australians generally and inspired confidence in those who were suffering and who had lost everything.
The Government, for its part, made available the services of the Army, Navy and Air Force. As soon as application was made for the assistance of these services, the matter was considered and the request granted. I speak on behalf of my constituents in tendering thanks to the services for their help in a time of need. I should be remiss if, in referring to voluntary assistance, I did not mention the work of the womenfolk. Night and day, while the men were building levee banks and guarding against break-throughs, the women, whether organized or not, made hot coffee and tea and provided food for the men in the way, we have read, that the pioneer women did in the early days.
Some of those who lost everything - the floods swept away glass houses and other buildings and deprived settlers of their sole means of livelihood - continued to fight the floods with the volunteers. Having lost their all, they tried to help others. I cannot think of any better illustration of the practical application of Adam Lindsay Gordon’s verse -
Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.
The flood brought destruction to the essential things of life. It affected all the things that go to make up the livelihood of the people. It ruined the homes of the people and damaged the roads. In addition, it resulted in unemployment. Local government bodies were called upon at a moment’s notice to spend large sums of money, and they will have to be reimbursed at some time. Some individuals in the area who owned bulldozers operated them without any idea of cost. They, too, will have to be reimbursed.
The problems are threefold. The first concerns the immediate welfare of those rendered homeless. I am glad to say that the former immigrant centre at Mildura has been used in this connexion. The people who are homeless have no means of earning a living and are being paid unemployment relief by the Government. That position is most unsatisfactory. We must enable them to return to employment and production as soon as possible. The second problem concerns the rehabilitation of these people as employees and producers. It involves, too, the need to clean up proper- ties and homes. The unemployed are unable to earn a livelihood, and that being so, their unemployment is increasing the inflationary pressure. Money that is expended by governments in rehabilitating them will have an anti-inflationary effect for the simple reason that an area of country that has become famous for its productivity will be brought back into production. Without the products of this area, our balance of payments position overseas will be aggravated. The expenditure of government money on rehabilitation, therefore, will assist our balance of payments as well as enhance the future welfare of Australia generally.
The third problem, of course, is the need for long-range measures to mitigate future floods. I wish to deal with these problems one at a time. First, I believe that the Federal Government, and the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, must co-operate in dealing with these matters. The immediate problem, of course, concerns those who have been rendered homeless. Many others are virtually homeless because their houses have been ruined. This problem has been overcome only temporarily; the general problem is still before us.
I wish to say something of an organization that has long been putting the case for the Murray valley.I refer to the Murray Valley Development League. The league held a meeting in Melbourne only recently to discuss the problems that are before it on account of this flooding. Its opinion is that the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia should be asked to move urgently to appoint a highlevel technical committee of inquiry such as that which investigated the Snowy Mountains project prior to the setting up of the Snowy Mountains Authority, to investigate and report upon means by which future floods could be minimized, and the instrumentalities which could be so employed. It is proposed that the committee should take evidence from the league, its constituent regional committees and councils, and other organizations and persons, and make an interim report by 31st December, 1956. The league is also of opinion that the Commonwealth, New South Wales. Victoria and South Australia should be asked to give effect to the objective of the league to have a co-ordinating authority for the protection and development of the Murray valley. I support this opinion to the hilt. I have a great appreciation of the work of the Murray Valley Development League. The league’s forecast of a million settlers in the Murray Valley is no idle boast.
How does one overcome these floods? One cannot stop a river like the Murray from flooding. It is the largest river in Australia, and, with its tributaries, it is one of the largest in the world. One cannot stop it from flooding, but the effects of the floods can be minimized. As has been pointed out by Mr. Ulrich Ellis, even the lessening to a small degree of the flow of a flood may overcome the difficulty. Levee banks and other protection alone the
Murray are all right up to a certain stage, but it is the last few inches of a rise in the flood that causes the damage. Places that would have been flooded with a rise of another three or four inches in the flood level have been saved because the levee banks were just a shade higher than the flood reaches. So we must co-operate to minimize these disasters.
How is that to be done? I refer again to the Murray Valley Development League because I believe that this job is one for experts. It is no use my trying to estimate what the cost will be, even in my own electorate. For instance, where the roads are in a deplorable state, and the general damage amounts to millions of pounds. I do not want to make this a State matter, but in Victoria, for example, the amount of money that has been made available for roads is so small that the authorities are unable to build these roads again, and, therefore, Commonwealth aid is necessary for general rehabilitation. The Murray Valley Development League says that the methods of flood mitigation include the elimination of fire from the catchment area, and the elimination of grazing above the 4,750-ft. contour or thereabouts as recommended by the MurrayMurrumbidgee Development Committee. Of course, J cannot go into all the items that they have as a programme because my quarter of an hour has just about expired, but they believe that the existing law should be strictly enforced relating to forest areas adjacent to waterways and in catchment areas and the formulation of community plans for co-operation with settlers to assist in the prevention of siltation and soil erosion. They say that by establishing a central controlling authority-
– What is the honorable member’s plan?
– This is the plan. They advocate establishing a central controlling authority authorized to order the release of water from main structures in advance of expected intakes and so increase the capacity of the structures to delay flood flows. Finally, let me say that my plan is to ask the Commonwealth to send to the area, now, experts who can see what is happening at the present time because only when a flood is occurring can one devise a method of combating a future flood of a like size. I also ask the Commonwealth to take the initiative and call together representatives of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales to decide what money is required at once. 1 believe that the Commonwealth should do this because, as a. precedent, in 1955-56 the Commonwealth paid £2,000,000 to New South Wales as .a tax reimbursement grant to compensate for the State’s flood losses. Since 1950-51 the Commonwealth has granted New South Wales £ 1,398,590 on a £l-for-£l basis for relief in flood emergencies, and £700,000 of that amount was for roads. In that same period, for the same purpose, Victoria received £26,245; Queensland received £7,860; and South Australia did not receive anything. Nevertheless, all these States must be brought together. No member of this House should take the party line on this matter. No member should take the State line. No member should take the electorate line. This is a great national calamity, and the Commonwealth must assist the States with finance in this emergency.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has opened up a subject which makes very great emotional appeal to all those in this House who have had anything to do with areas that have been subject to flooding and, indeed, to the whole of the people of Australia who understand what this sort of tragedy means in the lives of the victims, and how it affects the entire economy of the nation. I think it is reasonable to express at this time the admiration of the Government for those who have been fighting so consistently for so long to protect their homes, their land and, to that extent, the economy of the country in the flood area in the Murray Valley at this time.
The honorable gentleman has divided his speech into two parts - one dealing with immediate relief and rehabilitation of the country which has been subject to flood, and the other dealing with what is to be done by way of prevention or, as he put it, mitigation for the future. He has already given some facts and figures concerning financial help that has been made available to the governments of States affected in the past. Unfortunately, it is not a new road that we have to travel. It has been a long, dreary road which the people of New South Wales and the people of many parts of Queensland and Victoria have trodden before. So we ask ourselves what is to be done immediately. The path in that respect is fairly well marked. 1 think that the honorable gentleman’s appeal to honorable members not to divide on this matter according to the interests of State and State, according to the interests of the States and of the Commonwealth, or according to the interests of their own parties or electorates, is very good. I am sure that we all agree with that proposal. But if we are to face a problem of this magnitude, a problem not confined only to the Murray valley, then we must have some orderly line of approach, and this orderly line of approach must pay some heed to the constitutional division of responsibility as between the States and the Commonwealth.
As I have had occasion to point out in my own electorate, which has been subject to constant flooding since 1949 - and this is not always a popular stand to take - the basic responsibility for the factors which affect floods lies in the field of State governments. Already, the honorable gentleman has raised a couple of matters which might have attention as possible flood mitigating factors. He dealt with the question of fire control and of grazing above certain altitude levels. Those matters, and the control of the river itself, very often in the hands of the Public Works Department in the various States, the control of land use through the Departments of Agriculture are the immediate responsibility of State government departments. Therefore, we cannot get away from the basic fact that the prime factors responsible for flooding lie in the field of State government responsibility.
Having recognized that fact and not being carried away by the emotional appeal of a national catastrophe - and nobody denies the fact that it is, because any catastrophe of this sort affects the economy of the entire nation and none of us are entirely free from its effects - we find that the way is open for co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth to a pattern which has been pretty well laid down in recent years. Since the first move in this matter lies with the States, the Commonwealth, on previous occasions, has awaited and, on this occasion, will await an approach from them. As mentioned by the honorable gentleman, the New South Wales Government, in particular, has had a considerable amount of monetary help in recent years for the immediate relief, and ultimately, for the rehabilitation of flood-damaged areas. Already, the Premier of South Australia has approached the Commonwealth Government for the same sort of assistance. He has been assured that, as on previous occasions, to a precedent well established and appreciated, I am sure, whenever a State government raises a fund for relief, a contribution will be made ona £ l-for-£ 1 basis by the Commonwealth. That will take care, to some extent, however inadequate, of the immediate problem of the relief of those who are grievously injured in this sort of flood catastrophe.
We all know the extent of the physical damage to roads and bridges and utilities which results from floods. Unfortunately we cannot directly assess the restoration costs until some months after the flood. As the flood waters recede - and I hope that they will recede in the near future - I imagine that the governments concerned will be making their assessments of damage to their roads, bridges and services. When those figures are known the State governments will be in a position to make requests to the Australian Government, which will be considered, as on every previous occasion, with the utmost sympathy, and assistance will be offered. As the honorable member for Mallee has pointed out, in 1950 the New South Wales Government received a grant of £200,000 for the restoration of roads, bridges and services. In 1955, following what was perhaps our biggest flood disaster, an amount of about £500,000 was offered to the State governments. Of course considerable Commonwealth help has been given immediately by our service departments when floods have occurred, and when the help was most wanted. The honorable member for Mallee will, I am sure, be aware that the Army has played a very great part in the rescue and relief work in the Murray valley.
– 1 pay tribute to the Army personnel who have assisted.
– Thank you. In the last two months the Army has spent about £150,000 on this work. It has provided large numbers of personnel, and it has also provided sandbags, services and equipment, and messing and accommodation facilities for those who have been forced out of their homes. We should not underestimate the part played by the Navy in these disasters. That service has been responsible for the air transport of fodder for starving stock, and for rescue work of all kinds. The Commonwealth Department of Works was approached, following representations by the State government, for assistance, and whatever man-power, machinery and equipment was available has been taken into the area, and is to-day at work on the early stages of rehabilitation.
When the honorable gentleman posed his second problem, he suggested that we should establish a committee of experts to make a report by 1956. I do not speak with any great authority on this matter, because, as the honorable gentleman himself has recognized, it would require the highest experts in hydrology to give opinions on his problem. I do, however, speak with some experience because, following our disastrous experiences of floods in the Hunter valley, I made it my business to investigate the problem. A number of conferences have been held with the State departments that might be expected to have in their possession technical information on the factors that affect flooding. The melancholy fact emerges that in the whole of Australia there is not available sufficient data about rainfall, run-off, soil absorption, evaporation, river flows, and matters of a like nature, on which adequate schemes of flood mitigation can be developed.
– The honorable member may speak from the great depths of his engineering experience, but I tell him that my advice comes from the Government departments responsible for investigating these matters, and I remind the honorable gentleman that I have available to me the resources of the Meteorological Branch. I repeat that there is not available in this country at the present time sufficient technical information upon which to base plans of flood mitigation. 1 therefore suggest to the honorable member for Mallee that even if we established a committee of the most experienced experts in the world, it would be completely powerless to evolve a plan until we had collected a sufficient body of data on which to base some opinions. None of us will oppose the idea of the development of this kind of organization, but I merely point out that when the honorable gentleman seeks to establish the end of this year as a deadline for the submission of a report, he is asking for something that is impossible.
– The Murray Valley Development League also is asking for it.
– That may be so. There is no question of defeatism in my attitude. The point is that the information is not available, and we must set about obtaining that information before we can deal with the problem.
– Sufficient information is available.
– The honorable gentleman is entitled to his view, and no doubt he will express it in due course to the House. I return to my original contention that, despite the effect of these matters on the national economy, the constitutional responsibility rests with the State governments. The Commonwealth has offered its co-operation and has said quite plainly that if an approach is made by the State government, which carries the basic responsibility, it will be considered fully, sympathetically and quickly by this Government. When I make the answer that I do to the honorable gentleman regarding his flood mitigation proposals, I do not do so in order to disparage his suggestions. I merely take a realistic stand on what is a tremendous national problem in Australia. When we are considering problems of floods of the magnitude of those that we have seen, in the Hunter valley particularly, and now in the Murray valley, it is not simply a matter of sitting down for a week, a month or a year and developing some plan that will prevent flooding. The fact is that if we locate our towns and cities, and carry on our business, in the flood plains of our rivers, then from time to time we must expect such devastation as has occurred. I do not say for a moment that we cannot take reasonable steps to avoid the worst consequences of floods, but I believe that it would be almost criminal to try to convince the unfortunate victims of these disasters that failure on somebody’s part has left them exposed to the possibility of a recurrence of these tragedies.
I can only repeat that the Commonwealth will, as on previous occasions, be prepared to meet requests by State governments for assistance for the relief of the people concerned. After a full assessment has been made of the damage to roads, bridges and services of all kinds, the Government will give the most sympathetic consideration to approaches made by State governments and to making a Commonwealth contribution towards rehabilitation. If, by way of the agency suggested by the honorable member for Mallee or any other kind of machinery, there is established a method of joint consultation between State and Commonwealth governments of steps to be taken towards flood mitigation, thenI assure the honorable member and the people who have been so seriously injured in this recent catastrophe that this Government will co-operate completely and sympathetically with the State governments.
.- Rather a strange situation has arisen regarding the discussion of this matter of urgent public importance. The Opposition is always alert to disasters which occur in this country, and is anxious at all times to do everything that is humanly possible to protect those who suffer thereby, and to try to avoid future such disasters. When the members of the Australian Labour party arrived in Canberra recently, they decided to inform the Speaker of this House that they wished to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance for discussion. That decision was publicized in the press. To-day we find that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has also intimated that he desires to submit a matter of urgent public importance, namely: -
The disastrous effect of the recent and present flooding of the Murray River and its tributaries.
The matter of urgent public importance thatI desired to submit was as follows: -
The disastrous effect of floods in the Murray River areas of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia necessitating immediate relief action, rehabilitation of devastated areas and preventive measures for the future.
Of the two, I suggest that the matter that I submitted was the more comprehensive and objective.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr.
Chambers) is trying to assert that the matter that he submitted is the one that should have been accepted. Mr. Speaker has already ruled on that matter.
– The honorable member for Adelaide may continue.
– I submit, therefore, that the honorable member for Mallee obtained the text of his matter of urgent public importance from press reports regarding the intention of the Opposition, and that he submitted that matter merely to gain the political advantage of having been the first to submit the matter for discussion. We should examine this more closely. I have listened to the comments of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) on this subject, but on the notice-paper there is an order of the day which takes the form of a motion by the honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page)-
– Order! The honorable member had better proceed with his remarks on the subject under discussion.
– What I am about to say is related to the subject. The motion of the honorable member for Cowper was submitted to this House some time before the recent recess. I emphasize the fact that a great tragedy has overtaken the people who live along the Murray River and great loss of life, property and valuable homes has occurred in those areas, causing widespread suffering. It is futile for the Government to say that it knows a regrettable disaster has occurred, and that it will do what it can for those who are now suffering because of the losses they sustained. A great deal of this suffering has been caused by carelessness on the part of responsible people in the Commonwealth Government and in the State of South Australia. The motion which appeared on the notice-paper prior to the recess made quite clear the probability that floods would come down the Murray River, and had the Australian Government or its officers discharged their responsibility a great deal of suffering and tragedy could have been averted. But the Minister says that no one in Australia is competent to predict what these difficulties will be or how they can be dealt with. I do not believe that. Many months ago, laymen in South Australia clearly announced that settlers along the Murray River would have to face a greater flood than had ever come down the Murray River before.
– We are talking about prevention of flooding.
– The flooding could have been prevented had the Australian Government taken into consideration some months ago a problem which would confront the settlers, and built levee banks, which the settlers themselves attempted to build when the flood reached their areas. Had the Government started that work in time much of the devastation and loss of life and property would have been avoided; The Australian Government should do more for those who are now suffering as a result of the floods. It is not enough for the Government to say that it will provide relief on a £l-for-£l basis. The honorable member for Mallee said that in certain areas in the district of Mildura accommodation had. been provided for those who were forced from their homes by the floods at Renmark, Mannura, and other areas down to the mouth of the Murray, but no provision has been made for their accommodation other than by local people on a voluntary basis. It is the responsibility of the Government to provide, immediately, housing for these people in those areas. If the nation went to war to-morrow the Government, in two or three weeks, would build 200 or 300 huts in one particular area, but these flood victims have been forced to depend upon voluntary assistance by people living outside their areas. Workers who have been forced out of employment by the disastrous floods have gone to the cities and country towns seeking employment. A live government would have said immediately, “ We will put you on the payroll and pay you at least the base wage, and we will utilize your services in the flooded districts in an attempt to rehabilitate your homes and farms. We will not put you on the dole.” These are matters which the Government should deal with immediately.
There is a feeling abroad that these tragic floods have occurred because of neglect to take preventive action, and it is now up to the Australian Government to see that such devastation does not occur again. If the flood water could be conserved it would be the salvation of the settlers in time of drought. I remind the House that a Labour government started the Snowy River project, and if there were many similar undertakings throughout the length and breadth of Australia, tragedies caused by flood would not occur. Members of the Opposition are convinced that what is physically possible in Australia is also financially possible. I appeal to the Government to do more than merely give assistance on a £l-for-£l basis.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) put -
That the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) initiated, as I felt was his right, this adjournment debate with a speech which on the one hand was constructive and on the other hand was essentially objective; and quite properly he pleaded throughout for a dispassionate non-party approach to what obviously is a problem which has nothing whatever to do with party politics or divisions of opinion on either side of the House. I was, therefore, all the more surprised, and most highly disappointed, to hear the speech just concluded by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), which seemed to me to depart, right from the start, from the tone of the debate.
I have just come, within the last three days, from these flooded areas in my own State. I have the honour to represent in South Australia practically the whole of the Murray River on both sides, and I can assure honorable members that the thousands of settlers there who are Struggling so magnificently against such terrific and ever-rising odds are not in the least interested in a procedural argument as to whether an adjournment motion, observing the usages of the House to get the discussion on, is moved in the terms of the honorable member for Mallee or the honorable member for Adelaide. Those settlers are concerned with fighting this battle and winning it; and, quite rightly, they are looking to their State Parliament and the Commonwealth Parliament to help them in their immediate problem of relief from hardship, and in the longer and certainly the much graver and more painful problem of rehabilitation and reconstruction; and eventually, as the honorable member for Mallee adumbrated, in the really big problem of how in the future we are to prevent these floods. 1 do not think that anybody can say, so far as this Government is concerned,, that it has been unsympathetic or lacking in the aid it has adduced for these flooded areas. The Acting Prime Minister (Sir Arthur Fadden), some weeks ago, made it perfectly plain that he would support the attitude of the South Australian Government with a £l-for-<£l grant for personal hardship, and the House heard at question time the right honorable member’s reply to my question as to the more ultimate intentions of the Government in respect of the problem of reconstruction and rehabilitation. The South Australian Government, too, has been electrically alive in what it has been doing to mitigate the hardships of these regions. We know, on our own part, that the Army has been playing a noble part, which has been most warmly appreciated by the settlors, in fighting this battle of the floods. All requests for men, materials and equipment have been met most readily by the Commonwealth, as also by the South Australian Government.
In South Australia the children from the flooded schools have been rapidly transferred to others. Alternative transport routes have been prepared, and speedily put into operation, as the ferries across the Murray River were discontinued. The State Government immediately established a relief organization for distressed persons, and for the agistment of dairy cattle. Insurance has been given for the thousands of voluntary flood workers who have so speedily come to the rescue of the people, and the same applies to other branches of government departments. I do hope that as this debate continues we shall hear no more of the partisan line given by the honorable member for Adelaide, because if he is sincere, and the members of the Opposition are sincere, in trying to help those who, at this very moment, are struggling for their properties, their lives, and the preservation of their districts, they will concentrate on the problem of assisting them practically, and preventing these catastrophes from happening in the future rather than dragging this thing down into a miserable, contemptible, party wrangle.
In the time which is left to me 1 want to give from the South Australian viewpoint, for the benefit of honorable members, a brief picture of the great disaster which is occurring. This is, without any exaggeration of language, the greatest flood since the Murray valley was settled by white men. The flooding in South Australia is probably worse than that in Victoria and
New South Wales, because South Australia receives the super-flow from the addition of the waters of the Darling and the Victorian tributaries of the Murray. Unhappily, the story is only now in the process of being unfolded. In South Australia alone, between 300 and 400 houses have been inundated, and probably destroyed, 1,500 acres of orchards and vines have been flooded, more than 9,000 acres of dairy swamps have been submerged, and many thousands of acres of really valuable grassland also have been covered by water.
Renmark is possibly the most grievously affected town in South Australia. There alone 75 houses have been lost, and the hospital, high school and showgrounds are flooded. This town, which, I suppose, could be described as the queen of the Murray in South Australia, is now reduced to a small island, a veritable fortress, in which the valiant residents are struggling for survival in an atmosphere which I found reminiscent of the war years. The position is grievous also in other South Australian towns such as Berri, Cobdogla, Lyrup, Moorook, Kingston and Morgan, and smaller places such as Swan Reach, where half of the buildings are collapsing. At Mannum, not many miles north of Murray Bridge, the scene is reminiscent of Venice. Most of the main street is submerged and has been turned into a large canal. Two hotels are surrounded by water and the flour mill is flooded. Almost half the town is under water. The same story is unfolded all the way down the Murray River as one. of necessity nowadays, travels by boat through the towns.
The flood will be of long duration. With the unleashing of the waters from the Snowy Mountains in the spring, it may very well last into January or February of next year. The result will be thousands of acres of valuable land put out of production, perhaps for two or three years. The income of primary producers will evaporate. There is already a degree of temporary unemployment. The various local-governing authorities have been rendered bankrupt by the colossal cost of fighting the floods. All of this, so far as the irrigation areas in the upper Murray region of South Australia are concerned, is the culmination of two bad seasons, in which, as honorable members may realize, the dried vine fruit growers have been very severely hit. I bring these things to the notice of the Government in the hope that it will take the most generous action possible in the great task of rehabilitation and reconstruction.
.- This is a very important debate which affords us the opportunity to discuss the position of the people in the areas flooded by the Murray River and its tributaries. I think the flooding of the rivers in Australia generally should be brought into this discussion. As the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) pointed out, there has been on the notice-paper for quite a long time a motion by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), which has been shelved by the Government. Had it acted upon that motion, measures such as the Opposition now proposes would probably already be giving benefit to the victims of the floods. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) stated that the present discussion should not be taken as ari opportunity to attack the Government or to adopt a party line. I do not agree with him. Three main issues are involved - the Government’s immediate attitude to the residents of the flooded areas; the immediate assistance that these people should receive and have received, and long-range assistance to which they are entitled in view of the losses they have suffered; and the general obligation, if any, upon the Government to mitigate floods in the future. Those matters should be fully discussed in this debate. Unless they are made the subject of full debate, and action results, we shall completely waste the time of the House in discussing the matter at all.
This discussion has arisen out of a proposal for discussion as a matter of urgency. The honorable member for Angas considers we should express our sympathy for the people affected; but that is not the purpose of the proposal. The flood victims are appreciative of the sympathy they have received, but they would rather have the Government assist them and adopt a constructive policy to ease their present trials and tribulations. In my electorate, which embraces a large part of the far west of New South Wales, the Castlereagh, Barwon, Darling, Macquarie, Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers have flooded, some of them as far back as last February and March, and the surrounding areas are still affected by floods and many roads are impassable. The local residents have sustained considerable losses and suffered much inconvenience. The Government has given them a measure of assistance, but not nearly enough. The Postmaster-General’s Department has been very co-operative in trying to deliver mails and parcels of essential commodities. The Army has made personnel and equipment available for relief work, and the Navy has sent 100 men to the Murray River to assist in the construction or maintenance of levee banks. The victims of the floods much appreciate that assistance. However, the Air Force has been unco-operative and has done little to render assistance.
I have appealed to the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley), to the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), who is at present acting for him, and also to the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Arthur Fadden), on behalf of the residents of the flooded areas, for service aircraft to drop fodder for starving stock in certain isolated areas. If the graziers lose these animals, their incomes will be so greatly reduced as to diminish the Government’s taxation receipts by many hundreds of thousands of pounds. However, only one aircraft has been made available. I have been told that, if flood victims want Air Force aircraft to drop fodder to stock, they will have to pay for the service at the rate of £60 an hour for flying time. It cost one man £ 1,200 to have fodder dropped to his stock for two days. Many graziers cannot afford such expense and would have suffered heavy losses from the starvation of their stock had it not been for the help of friends. I have been told that the Air Force would only make one plane available for this work, but it is not enough to meet the needs of the situation. It has been said that service training will be disrupted if more aircraft are provided. Servicemen could not have better training than they would receive in this work. The cost of providing additional aircraft also has been raised as an objection. But the Air Force pays its men and the cost of maintaining its aircraft all the time whether or not they are engaged on this work. The only additional expenditure would be that upon the petrol used. However, the Air
Force refuses to make the required number of aeroplanes available for flood relief work.
This discussion will be a complete waste of time unless it results in immediate action to assist the victims of the floods. I appeal to the Government to initiate a long-range plan to rehabilitate the people who have suffered losses in the floods. They require something more substantial in the way of relief than the £l-for-£l assistance, because they will need many millions of pounds for their rehabilitation. Only the Commonwealth, which controls the purse strings, can provide the amount needed. It should pay at least £2 for £1 or even more towards assistance in that regard, but it has fallen down on its job. These national disasters should be recognized as such by the National Government which should not get out of its responsibility by blaming State governments or somebody else and saying, “We will contribute on a £l-for-£1 basis “. The Government should accept, as a national responsibility, the rehabilitation of those people.
The Government should develop a longrange plan for the mitigation of floods. As has been pointed out by previous speakers, it is only the few inches extra rise in a river which causes a great flood. If that few inches rise can be kept down then many of our great floods will be prevented. A plan such as this should be put into effect before a flood takes place. In the area opposite Mildura, around Curlwaa and Wentworth, about 35 miles of levee banks, from 2 feet to 16 feet in height, have been built by the people living in that district. They have done that work in the course of about six weeks. That is a very great tribute to the enormous energy that has been put into that work. If those men had not performed that work the whole of the irrigation area valued at many millions of pounds would have been destroyed. As it is, some areas have been destroyed; they are flooded and it will be some months before the water recedes. Trees that are flooded for a period will die and it will take at least six to seven years to rehabilitate those areas. Some lands inside the levee banks will suffer severely. At the present time, because of seepage, the water is a foot or more deep in some orchards, and it will take the owners years before they can establish new orchards which will produce revenue. Those are problems which these people have to face and they are asking the Government to do something to assist them to re-establish themselves.
If honorable members opposite are determined to assist these people, they should put forward something practicable. It is not sufficient for the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) to stand up and say, “ We have done this or that “, and “ We are doing the best we can “. Out of this discussion should come some definite assurance from the Government that it is prepared to give a greater measure of assistance than it has provided in the past. When bush fires occurred throughout this country some years ago the Chifley Labour Administration immediately sprang into the breach and made money available. I represented the Commonwealth Government on a New South Wales committee and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was a member of a similar committee in Victoria. Those committees were appointed to assist people who had suffered because of disastrous bush fires. We dealt with individual, cases and made substantial contributions to those people to help them rehabilitate their homes, replace their furniture and re-establish the properties which were the source of their income. Something should be done to-day in the same proportion as it was done in those times. Unfortunately, there seems to be a complete lack of interest by the Government in what is taking place. I emphasize that the Government must do something.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- During the last few minutes the question has been raised as to whether the Commonwealth Government ought to do more than make a contribution on a £l-for-£l basis towards the amount spent by the State governments on flood relief. Any sensible man will realize that the State governments are in control of the departments which are able to carry out the important functions of assisting in times of disastrous floods. I can speak on behalf of the State of New South Wales, where, because of the intensity ind disastrous nature of floods in the fastrunning coastal rivers such as the Hunter And the Macleay, and also the slower Lachlan, a national emergency service has been established. Admittedly, it was estab lished because of the danger of atomic warfare but it has been dealing with the emergencies caused by serious floods. MajorGeneral Dougherty is at the head of the service, along with other competent officers, and that service moves in at the stage when people have to leave their homes. Food, temporary shelter and everything else that is necessary in connexion with that sort of rescue work, is provided. The work is carried out with the assistance of the police, the Air Force and so on.
The State Government controls the police department, which has a rescue emergency centre. That is something everybody should know. We would not have had the Birchgrove Park disaster if contact had been made with that centre. This centre is able to call upon the Air Force and all other services to help at once people whose lives are in danger. The State administers this national emergency service, which is a very well organized and capable body. Then again, the States control the transport departments. Of course, the Commonwealth is in charge of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and that department has already been praised for the work it has carried out. On the other hand, the States control the public works departments, the local government departments and also the Department of Agriculture, which is deeply involved in this work. Why should we want to duplicate the expensive work of these departments? It would be quite foolish to do anything other than assist them on a £l-for-£l basis. The Commonwealth ought to keep out of the administration of the work of rescuing, rehabilitating and helping people in flooded areas.
– Why did New South Wales get £2,000,000?
– The Commonwealth has’ contributed to the States on a £l-for-£l basis. To bring the matter into proper focus, the procedure following a major national emergency is that a State government establishes a flood relief committee and supplies it with funds to assist sufferers. At this moment, that committee is operating in Sydney, but not many applications for assistance have yet been made by people on the New South Wales side of the Murray, mainly because they cannot yet assess the amount of damage they have suffered. Two applications have come from Deniliquin and eight from Wentworth, but that is all. Every claim that comes in is dealt with the same night as it is received and a cheque is sent immediately to the applicant. In some of the other flood areas in New South Wales - I think 1 ought to say this because it will bring a message of hope to those people who are suffering so desperately - people are getting rid of their old carpets and some of their old furniture, as well as some of their new furniture, and putting in new material.
– The honorable member ought to be ashamed to say that.
– 1 am aware that it is a desperate moment for these people, but I want to say that, up to the present, Government assistance has been of a very high order indeed and quite sufficient and adequate. 1 am sure the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who represents the electorate of Paterson, will bear me out when 1 say that during the disastrous flood that happened in Maitland, where hundreds of thousands of homes were damaged, the Government provided relief and those areas have now been put on a proper footing. 1 made inquiries as to the situation in the town of Dubbo. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ fund and the Lord Mayor’s fund in Sydney provided an amount of between £50,000 and £60,000 to be allocated to the Municipality of Dubbo and surrounding shires. I was in Dubbo two weeks after the flood. At that stage, house-holders had cleaned up their places, their morale was good and they were doing their best to patch up flood damage. But, as far as I know, the Municipality of Dubbo had not then paid out more than a portion of the money that was made available. The people bought the necessary materials, the houses were brought into an excellent state of repair and the town was in good heart.
Even though the position is so desperate for the towns in that part of New South Wales that has been the subject of this debate, and also for parts of South Australia and Victoria, I feel sure that relief will be swift and adequate and that these towns will once again resume their normal life. The position is different so far as the farms are concerned. We cannot yet tell what damage has been done.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Labour party has been talking of the responsibility of the Commonwealth in the matter of flood relief, and the Minister for the Interior has told us that the Government will make an immediate and generous response to any approach from the States. The view of the Labour party is subject to a statement made by Mr. Chifley when he was Prime Minister. His statement was based upon CommonwealthState relations under the Australian Constitution. On 29th June, 1949, Mr. Chifley said -
The honorable members charge that this Government should build dams to protect the Maitland area from floods is quite absurd. The proper authority is the State Government. Other Prime Ministers and Treasurers have pointed out, as I have done on many occasions, that any catastrophe that occurs in only one State can be dealt with in the first place only by the Government of that State. If it considers that some relief should be given by means of a grant from the Commonwealth, they can make an approach to the Australian Government. That has been the practice of all State governments, lt is the proper practice because the Australian Government has no control over the expenditure of any money in the areas that have been affected by the floods, where there are local government bodies which are under the control of the State Government.
I have pointed out that the police, transport bodies, rescue services, local government authorities, public works departments and others are in being and are acting quickly. They are the proper authorities to control these matters, and it is proper and correct for the Australian Government to match the expenditure by a State £1 for £1. That is being done.
An honorable member said that £2,000,000 had been given by the Commonwealth to New South Wales. That honorable member may be interested to know that that amount has been budgeted for by the State government to be dribbled out over five years, though the £2,000,000 has gone into the Treasury. As far as 1 know, it has been paid immediately to the State government. Let me repeat an outline of the procedure. The Commonwealth has been giving very large sums very generously on a £l-for-£l basis over the years that floods have been occurring. That is the same as the practice observed by the Chifley Government, but is on a much more generous scale. How is this money being used? Cash is paid directly to householders in necessitous circumstances. As I said earlier, the money is being paid to many people who had pretty old furniture and to some people who had new furniture, which had been damaged. After a week or two, when those people get over this desperate situation, when they get over the horror and terror of the flood which lowers morale and leaves them in a pretty terrible condition, all the rugged independence that Australians have in these situations, will be exhibited, and they will clean up, repaint, put down new floor coverings and buy new furniture. I have seen that happening. I say so, because people in the Murray area need to be told this by their Federal and State members and by everybody else concerned. When the victims come out of a horror like a flood, they are not able to take a long-term view of the situation. I say “ long-term “ in regard to the next few months, because the money and the comforts are available to them.
That applies only to people in necessitous circumstances. Those who have resources have to draw on them, and it is a pretty severe blow. In most instances, money is made available to farmers in New South Wales at a very low rate of interest and with very easy terms of repayment, so that they can try to get back into production. Many farmers do not want to go into debt. In some cases, where it is a very severe blow for a new farmer, a cash grant has been made. I can assure the House that is being done.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 feel quite sure that the general public and those who are directly, or even indirectly, affected by this disastrous flood position in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia will be gratified to know that spontaneously every party in this Parliament, prior to its meeting, was conscious enough of the distress that is occurring to make substantial and concrete moves to interest the whole Parliament and the people in the necessity for three things. They are as follows: - Immediate relief to deal with the people who are suffering most; steps to rehabilitate as quickly as possible those who are longterm sufferers; and, perhaps more importantly, very early action to see that some structure is created to provide more substantial means than ever before to ensure that the incidence and effect of these disasters will be less than has hitherto been the case in our history.
This situation applies not only to flood disasters; it applies to bush and grass fires and other disasters. It is unfortunate but nevertheless true that the respective State parliaments and the Commonwealth Parliament are not galvanized into activity until the disaster is upon the people and it is too late to take effective preventive measures. I know, and I think everybody will admit, that the governments of the States already concerned have taken some ameliorative action to the extent that the floodwaters will permit them. Some relief has been provided. The Commonwealth has given some substantial aid, but the fact remains that there is no effective coordination of the relief measures. What is needed is an announcement of a nature that will give heart to the people who have suffered. Notwithstanding what Mr. Curtin or Mr. Chifley may have said, that announcement should come from the Commonwealth, and it should give to the sufferers much greater heart and hope than they have yet been given by anybody in authority.
It is quite true that State governments are effective as relief agents as far as material resources are concerned. They have the resources of their public works departments, and the material and administrative resources of their lands departments and forestry departments. In one disastrous bush fire, the Lord Mayor of Melbourne and his administrative officers were made available for the effective and immediate distribution of relief. I do not wish my remarks to be construed as a party attack, but, though I admit the Commonwealth has no constitutional responsibility, I point > out that it has taken administrative action based only upon the actions taken in the past with disasters of this nature. Surely, in view of the magnitude of the disaster and the weakened financial position of the States now compared with their position in past disasters, the relief that is offered by the Commonwealth should be more generous! I make bold to say that because of immigration and of very rapid capital development in this country, the States are much worse off financially than they have been on the occasion of any other national disaster, short of war.
In those circumstances, surely the Commonwealth could be generous enough to say that it is prepared to make available to the States concerned financial assistance, not on a £l-for-£l basis but to the extent of £.2 for £.1 or even £3 for £1. Everybody knows that the States are short of money for essential educational facilities. How, then, can they afford to contribute to the extent that is necessary to give relief to these people without robbing the departments that provide for education, soldier settlement and other developmental works in the States? That is not a party-political statement. It is an appeal to the Minister to realize that, in the circumstances that exist to-day, and with due recognition of the financial change that has taken place in the resources of Commonwealth and State governmental authorities, a subsidy of £ 1 for £ 2 is inadequate to deal with this situation. I advance that suggestion as being worthy of consideration by the Minister and Cabinet. Let me make this further suggestion. On previous occasions - I do not say on all occasions - it has been the practice for the Commonwealth Government to make available a member of a government party to consult with the States in relation to disasters that occur within their borders. 1 remember the bush fire disaster of 1944, when the late Mr. Allan McDonald, a former member for Corangamite, was made a member of the bush fire relief committee in Victoria. It is desirable that a member of a Government party, or for that matter of the Opposition, should be made available in this way so that the Government may become more readily and quickly informed of the needs existing at a particular moment. This disaster will reveal the need for fencing posts, for all sorts of work in the fields, paddocks, and orchards, for all manner of constructional work on all kinds of properties, so that these people may rehabilitate themselves. They will have the assistance of administrative staffs in the States, but over and above that there is need for some representation of the Commonwealth Government whereby recommendations can be made to the Minister or Cabinet for particular assistance at a particular point and at a particular time. I hope that this is an angle which the Minister will take into consideration.
From a long-range point of view, it is quite true that for the future this problem cannot be effectively dealt with unless there is some alteration to the Commonwealth Constitution so that such matters become a national responsibility rather than a State responsibility. It is true that twice in the history of the Commonwealth some effective steps have been taken to deal with great national assets which can be the direct cause either of the accretion of great national wealth or of great national disaster. I refer to the agreement which was drawn up many years ago and was effective in many respects, in regard to the utilization of the waters of the Murray River for navigation and irrigation. I refer also to the effective agreement, which was drawn up between the States through which the Murray River flows, regarding the development of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. It is true that conferences and negotiations were necessary to bring those agreements into effect. No doubt conferences and negotiations will again be necessary to bring into being an authority with the technical and material equipment and labour resources necessary to diminish the effects and hazards of floods. It is quite true that it takes a long time to get all such matters moving. Perhaps on this occasion delay could be obviated if at an early date there were some agreement between the States and the Commonwealth to take some short-cut measure by way of constitutional action. My time runs out, but there is one other point that I want to make. I know that the effects of flood are accentuated by denudation of our forests, by soil erosion, and intensive settlement. I know all those things.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am well aware of the fact that the intrusion of a Minister into a debate of this kind only obstructs the operations of the private members of the House who have a personal interest in a matter of this major importance. But because I, myself, am affected, because the Riverina electorate which I have the honour to represent has been devastated repeatedly by these disastrous floods, it is necessary that I should do whatever lies within my power to commend, first, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) for bringing this matter so rapidly before the House at the beginning of this very important sessional period. The action of the honorable member for Mallee in taking this appropriate step in a way that is characteristic of him, conscious of the grave responsibilities that are reposed in him, not only by the people of the Mallee, but also by the people of the adjacent electorates, of which Riverina is one, was contested by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), who said, inferentially, that the honorable member for Mallee had no right to bring this matter before the House and that it ought to have been left to the representatives of Her Majesty’s Opposition to do so. In the course of his remarks in reply to the honorable member for Mallee, the honorable member for Adelaide said that the policy of the Australian Labour party has always been that that which is physically possible is also financially possible. If that is so, then it is a comparatively new development, because that specific plank in the policy of the Australian Labour party applies only when the Australian Labour party is in opposition. Indeed, when the Australian Labour party is in office, it adopts the opposite attitude. Its members say, “ We will see to it that whatever is financially possible is physically impossible “, and they introduce industrial conditions that make it impossible for us to carry out the normal tasks that come to us in the normal processes of our affairs. If there is any doubt about what I say, let me quote from a speech made by the late Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, when he was Prime Minister, in 1949, and addressing himself to a question exactly the same as this question. He said -
Later, the Premier and I agreed to follow the usual procedure by establishing the special committee and that the Commonwealth would subsidize relief, £1 for £1, with the State Government up to an amount sufficient to allow the committee to assist people who were in destitute circumstances as a result of the floods.
But listen to this, honorable members. I am still quoting from what the late Mr. J. B. Chifley said-
There was certainly no intention to recompense affluent people who own property in the flooded areas and know, very well, the risks associated with such ownership. Commonwealth assistance was also not to be made for the special purpose of subsidizing shire and municipal bodies.
They are the very people who have to bear the first brunt of this onerous burden. Mr. Chifley continued -
It is not the Commonwealth’s business to deal with such bodies, which operate under Slate law. The money expended by those bodies for relief is obtained from the State Government.
That was the attitude of the Australian Labour party in 1949, and 1 suggest that its attitude to-day is precisely the same. Its members, because they imagine that they can gain some sort of spurious political advantage for the time being by adopting a different attitude, adopt that attitude to achieve their own political ends. lt is the prime duty of every selfrespecting nation to undertake the responsibility of controlling its own waterways. That is a duty that has never been undertaken by this nation, and because of that neglect our country is subjected to these disastrous floods from time to time. I know that there are parts of the world where floods of this kind are inevitable. Floods are inseparable from the very high rainfall areas and the topography of those particular countries, but in a country such as ours, where the rainfall is limited and where the topography lends itself to treatment for the mitigation of such disasters, it ought to be possible for us to undertake this primary duty. It is not a scrap of good encouraging people to build houses if the houses are to be flooded, lt is not a scrap of good building villages, towns and cities, if those places are to be devastated year by year and decade by decade, because of neglect to control the waterways of our country. It is not a scrap of good for any man or any woman to engage in the difficult task of bringing land into production if that land is to be ruined by floods. So I say that it is not a question of protecting people or the property of the people; it is a question of protecting the heritage of our nation. It is a question of protecting our soil in the first place. It is a question of protecting our forests in the second place and our agricultural and pastoral areas in the third place, and of controlling our waterways generally in order to maintain our roads, bridges and lines of communication. The problem is comparatively simple in this most favoured country. The problem, particularly in view of what my friend and colleague, the Minister for the Interior and
Minister for Works (Mr. Fairhall) had to say with regard to the western-flowing rivers, is entirely different from the problem as it affects the eastern-flowing or coastal rivers. In the latter rivers, floods take place very, very rapidly. The rivers flow very, very swiftly and the damage that is done is done also very rapidly. But the western-flowing rivers are entirely different. If my geography serves me, the western-flowing rivers of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia begin in Queensland. We are given ample warning, not only of the dimensions of floods that are imminent, but also of the period of time that is likely to elapse before those floods reach the southern and western States. So there is no excuse for us not to take remedial measures which will protect the heritage of our people. In flood mitigation time is the all-important factor. It must be remembered that the Darling River, which flows through, among other places, the Riverina, begins, I think, in the Condamine, in the federal electorate of Mcpherson, and that a great many of the tributaries that ultimately flow into the Murray begin in places just as remote as that and flow from Queensland into New South Wales, through the federal electorates of Gwydir and Calare and through the Riverina into Victoria and South Australia. lt can be calculated from day to day, from week to week, and from month to month when these floods will reach certain localities - not only when they will strike, but also their likely dimensions. Foi example, as soon as the Mumimbidgee comes up at Gundagai, the hour when the flood will probably reach the important city of Wagga Wagga can be estimated, and the height of the river above the mean average level calculated. So also, as the flood peak travels from Wagga Wagga to Narrandera, the people of the municipality of Narrandera are warned of its approach.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr. GRIFFITHS (Shortland) [2.39J. - The remarks of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) in relation to the course of the inland rivers in New South Wales constitute, perhaps, the best argument for the adoption of a national approach to this most important problem. The Minister admitted that the flood waters recently flowed through the southern part of Queensland, then through New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Many millions of tons of fresh water were allowed to flow into the ocean. This waste of water could have been prevented had the various tributaries and creeks been weired at every 40 or 50 miles, with consequential benefit to commerce and industry. I should like to say that it frequently occurs in this House when important subjects are being debated, that Government members endeavour to evade the issues by referring to something that was said by a Labour leader, or other member of the Australian Labour party some ten or twenty years ago. Supporters of the Government seem prepared to live in the past rather than in the present. I believe that this matter should be treated on a national basis; it should not be dragged down to a party level. Only recently, when the north-western areas of New South Wales, particularly the Moree district, were flooded, the Government provided an aircraft for rescue work. It is noteworthy that similar assistance was not provided when the Darling electorate was flooded, which proves that the Government treats flood damage on a party basis.
The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) has implied that many people in the flooded areas removed furniture and furnishings from their homes in the hope that they would be provided with new articles. I do not think that any honorable member could make a more dastardly statement than that. I have witnessed many floods. I have been in all the big cities on the north coast of New South Wales when floods have occurred there. I was in both Maitland and Singleton during the 1955 floods, and I should say that less than .5 of 1 per cent, of the homes in the Singleton area escaped devastation. After the flood waters subsided I visited a certain home in Singleton to assist in cleaning it. However, no fresh water for the purpose was available. Apparently, nobody had taken action to ensure that a supply of water would be available. By the installation of 6-in. or 12-in. galvanized pipes and diesel pumps, water could have been obtained from the adjoining river for the purpose of cleaning the homes in the town and hosing the streets with fire-hoses. Due to the lack of a water supply, the whole place stank within 24 hours of the flood waters subsiding. I took to my home from one house in Singleton a quantity of furnishings and assisted in washing carpet squares, feltex, lounge suites and other items. By working day and night we were able to save many hundreds of pounds worth of valuable furnishings. In many instances in Singleton the furnishings and other effects of families rotted in the streets when the sun came out after the flood waters subsided, because of the unavailability of fresh water for cleaning purposes.
– The miners did a magnificent job in helping to save household effects.
– That i:; so. We heard what the farmers in the Mallee district did, but little was heard about the splendid work that was performed by the miners, many of whom worked day and night up to their waists in water trying to save household goods from being ruined.
– That was not in the Mallee.
– I am referring to what occurred at Singleton, Muswellbrook and other places. Evidently, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) still considers that this matter should be dealt with at the party level. I say that it should be dealt with in the light of what happened during the recent floods at Narrabri, Tamworth, Grafton, Kempsey and other places. During the 1949 flood, I saw 50 homes washed away. The Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works (Mr. Fairhall) will know that probably more than 100 homes were completely demolished in Maitland during the 1955 flood. It is to be regretted that some honorable members have had no experience of floods and cannot, therefore, appreciate the effect of floods on the morale of the residents. If they visited Maitland to-day they would see a number of homes still encased in mud and deserted because the owners could not return to them. The Bulwarra area of Maitland has been flooded this year. They have built levee banks but, inevitably, those levee banks have been destroyed in flood time. River levee banks adjacent to towns and cities are death traps, because the floodwater gradually creeps up them and then may be released all at once. The floodwater would not gradually creep up them at all if the rivers were kept at a correct depth. At Morpeth, one cannot take a rowing boat to-day where once 600-ton boats like the “ Gwydir “, the “ Newcastle “ and the “ Namoi “ loaded produce of the dairying industry.
Eventually this Government must accept responsibility for flood control and a committee to that end should be set up. However, it should not be an expert committee such as the honorable member for Mallee suggests because experts and engineers have caused much of our present trouble. Years ago they built breakwaters without a proper understanding of the currents and the backingup of the tides. Along the Macleay River there is to-day only sand where, 40 or 50 years ago, the water was 30 feet deep. This has been caused by the building of breakwaters and the accumulation of sand in the river bed. From the source of the Hunter to its mouth. 10, 12 or 20 feet of silt may be found in the bed of the river. Great islands of mud, which twenty or 30 years ago did not exist, are to be seen in the middle of all our coastal rivers. Water will not run uphill. There is a fall of only about 11 or 12 feet from Maitland to Newcastle. Maitland is approximately 16 feet above sea level and Newcastle about 4 feet.
– The motion deals with the position on the Murray River.
– I am not concerned with the position there at the moment. Any committee set up to deal with flood mitigation should be national in character. It should be able to deal equally well with the problems of the Murray, the Hunter, the Peel, the Richmond, the Clarence, the Macleay and the Hastings. Eventually this Government will have to set up a commission to investigate the matter, and the Commonwealth will have to find the funds to enable something to be done about the problem. If necessary, a special tax should be levied for that purpose. Some machinery must be set up if we are to deal, once and for all, with the problems of the Australian rivers, lt is noi merely a matter of helping when the Hunter or the Murray is in flood. In time of war we might find ourselves in great trouble. In the past, the whole of our communications in the north of New South Wales have at times been destroyed by floods, and the transportation of goods has been impossible.
During the Singleton floods the greatest waste of foodstuffs that I have ever seen took place. Hundreds of cases of bananas from Queensland were left to rot on the streets. It was said that they were being used to feed the people who were working in the flood-stricken areas. My own nephew took hundreds of gallons of milk into the Singleton military camp to supply civilians and soldiers housed there, but did not receive a penny for it. In Maitland there was great wastage of oranges and other kinds of food.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am very pleased that this matter has been debated upon the motion of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). I congratulate him upon his speech. I was pleased to learn, from the statement of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) that the Labour party expected to move a similar motion. I hope that members of the Opposition will not be deterred from doing so next week because the more this subject is debated the better it will be for the whole of Australia. I would like to congratulate many of those who have spoken upon their very constructive approach to this problem. I have in mind especially the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who dealt with the real nub of the matter.
We, in Australia, cannot afford these terrible, uncontrolled floods. We are losing, in the outflow of the Murray and the Darling, 12,000,000 or 13,000,000 acre feet of water - more than is stored in every dam in Australia. On its way to the sea it is causing extraordinary devastation, and the time has come when every Government in Australia should have a share in the solution of the problem. The American Constitution is more liberal to the federal government than is the Australian Constitution. In that country five major agencies, the Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce and the Federal Power Commission deal with the matter and spend hundreds of millions of dollars upon it annually. A book has been published by them on the correct way to make an economic analysis of river basin problems. This has been thought necessary because of the general effect such problems have on the community as a whole. In New South Wales and in other States the centenary of responsible government has recently been celebrated, but this has only highlighted the fact that practically nothing has been done by the States to solve our flood problems. The only major attempts to do so - I refer to the Snowy Mountains scheme and the agreement on the river Murray waters, including the building of the Wyangala Dam - have been made at the instigation of the Commonwealth Government. A change in the Constitution is inevitable if the Commonwealth is to have power to deal with this problem, but in the meantime we should set up something along the lines of the Australian Loan Council or the Australian Agricultural Council. For five years that Loan Council was on a voluntary basis, but the State and Commonwealth Treasurers got together very successfully. The Australian Agricultural Council has been working satisfactorily for the last 22 years and has done a great deal to unify agricultural policy throughout Australia. Similar action should be taken to cope with the problem of our floodwaters. We cannot afford to lose millions and millions of acre feet of water in this, the driest continent in the world.
We should not allow ourselves to be overcome by the defeatist idea that we have not the facilities to deal with this problem. We have only to consider the existing works along the Murray River. There is no question that the presence of those dams has lessened the effect of the floods this year. As every one knows, it is the last foot or two of water that does all the damage. After the 1893 flood the Queensland Government dealt with the problem on the Brisbane River by damming the Stanley. In that year the floods were so great in Brisbane that warships could be floated onto the Botanical Gardens. A dam was thrown across the Stanley, checking the floodwaters in the area where the heaviest rainfall occurred. An official pamphlet shows that though in 1893 the river rose 19 feet, the same rainfall caused, in 1953, a rise of only 8 feet. Every one knows that there has not been a major flood in Brisbane since the dam was built on the Stanley.
Those who are working out the details of the Clarence River scheme have calculated what would happen if there were a “ five hundred years flood “ - one during which the water level was 10 per cent, higher than the highest level that we have ever known. 1 notice that the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, when speaking about the Murray River flood, said it was a 1,000-year flood, in other words, a flood that is 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, higher than the ordinary flood. It is extraordinary that the experts, in their diagrams, have worked out exactly the result, in flood prevention, of the mere fact of having a dam which, as soon as a flood alarm is given, can be utilized to hold back a certain amount of water. Such a dam can reduce the height of floods in the lower reaches of a river by no less than 40 per cent, or 50 per cent. And the type of dam 1 am speaking of in this connexion is only a water-power dam, not a flood dam! There is no denying the fact that with dualpurpose dams of the type so common in America, China, and everywhere else except Australia, we would be able to deal very satisfactorily with our whole flood position.
I urge, therefore, that we should not leave this matter where it is. We have had 100 years of disastrous floods in this country, and it is time that we did something about preventing them. I am not one of those who look to the past, except for the purpose of learning. I do not want to point morals. It is quite obvious that the State governments, which have the constitutional power to deal with the issue, and the Federal Government, which has no constitutional power to deal with it on a Commonwealthwide basis, but which will ultimately have to supply the initiative and find a great deal of the money required, should get together and tackle the problem in a down-to-earth fashion. I may say, at this point, that I am very glad to see the unanimity in this House on this great matter. 1 think that this is the most heartening debate that I have listened to in this chamber for many years, because -it has shown that there is a recognition on all sides of the Parliament that the time has come when we have to move out of the stage of standing pat, and get on with this great national job on a national basis. I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Mallee for bringing this subject up and dealing with the particular aspect of it that affects him.
I do not wish to take up any more of the time of the House, but I wish simply to stress again that it is time for all the governments of Australia to get together in order to find a solution of this vastly important problem. The State Premiers and appropriate State Ministers, should confer with the Commonwealth on the subject of flood prevention, in a conference specially called for that purpose. This great subject should not be dealt with as merely an item on the agenda of an ordinary conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, because I know that at such conferences in the past, when the agenda has included a large number of items, many of them have not been properly dealt with.
.- Whilst it is quite obvious that not only every member of this Parliament, but also everybody in the community, feels the deepest possible sympathy and has the most profound sorrow for the sufferers from the particular flood disaster that we have been discussing, we have to face, as a Parliament, the fact that the whole problem goes deeper than this one incident. The honorable members for Mallee and Adelaide this morning told a story of the terrible suffering, sorrow, deprivation, chaos and misery that resulted from the recent flood. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) and later the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) also made their contributions to the debate. I agree entirely with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that the debate has proved once and for all that something positive must be done on a national basis to prevent the recurrence of disastrous floods. The Minister for the Interior said that we could not get away from the fact that the most recent flood was a national disaster. It was indeed a national disaster, and if it is to be treated as a national disaster, then, for heaven’s sake, let us have a national outlook on it! What has occurred on this occasion has occurred in many other parts of the Commonwealth on many other occasions. We have heard honorable members from Victoria and New South Wales tell us about floods and bush fires that have occurred in their respective States. I am the first Queenslander to enter the debate, but that does not mean that Queenslanders do not also suffer from the scourge of floods, although, as the Minister for Social Services quite correctly said, much of the water that has caused the damage along the Murray came from Queensland.
Let us debate this whole matter from the stand-point of realism. Let us get right away from suggestions that the present Government did not do this or did do that, and that when we were in office we did this or that, or did more than the present Government has done about flood prevention. Those questions are not important any longer, as the debate has proved. We have to face up to the fact that, whether we like it or not - and we on this side of the House certainly do not like it - the £ l-for-£ 1 subsidy normally given by the Commonwealth for flood relief in the States is completely and utterly inadequate. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) proved quite clearly in his speech that that is so. f shall examine that aspect of the matter as factually as I can. What will be the position if the policy of subsidizing expenditure by the States on flood relief, £1 for £ 1 , is pursued? Honorable members will recall that I have raised this matter on a previous occasion, during the disastrous cyclone and flooding in north Queensland earlier this year. This morning, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) made a passionate appeal to the Government not to continue in its belief that it is providing sufficient relief by subsidizing the States £1 for £1. The subsidy certainly provides some relief, but it does not provide the measure of relief that a national government should be expected to provide. Do not let us talk politics on this question, because we all know the financial position of the States in respect of meeting the ordinary demands made on them for money for services. I do not know what the damage, in money terms, will be as a result of the present disastrous flooding, and 1 do not think that anybody else knows either, because there has not been sufficient time to assess the damage. I do not know either the total amount of damage incurred as a consequence of the cyclone and floods in north Queensland earlier this year, but the last figure that T obtained indicated that it would be approximately £5,000.000. However, to avoid any possibility of exaggeration, let us assume that the total will be £3,000,000. In order to have £3,000,000 for the relief work necessitated by that flood the Queensland Government would have to find £1,500,000 in order to attract a like amount in federal subsidy. I put the question straight to every honorable member: Where on earth is any one of the States to find £ 1,500,000 for this form of relief? None of them can find such a huge amount of money readily, and the result is that we have voluntary organizations appealing to every member of the public for donations for flood-relief work.
I am looking wider than any one particular disaster, because disasters similar to that which occurred in north Queensland have occurred in New South Wales, particularly in the electorates of the honorable members for Shortland and Newcastle, of the Minister for Social Services, of the Minister for the Interior, and of the honorable member for Hunter. There have also been similar disasters in the electorates of members from Victoria and South Australia.
I compliment the right honorable member for Cowper on the speech that he has just concluded. It seems to me to be something of a tragedy that a motion such as the motion that stands in his name on the notice-paper has been left on the paper for so long, and that the Government has apparently no intention of having it debated. It is all right to talk about the hardship, misery and chaos that floods have caused, but for goodness’ sake, let this, as the National Parliament, get down to the business of providing a solution to the problem! If the Government is going to say that it will cost too much money to find a real solution, then let it resIgn, It is just too stupid for any Commonwealth government to say that circumstances in a country like Australia are such that it is not able to find the money to overcome such problems as this. Let us devise in advance a scheme that will provide the means to handle situations of this kind when they arise, ft is far too late to start planning when these disasters occur. We heard the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) speak this morning about the misery that these floods have caused, the numbers of homeless people there are. and matters of that kind.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 92.
Order! As it is now past the time provided for “ Grievance Day “, order of the day No. 1 will not be called on. The Committee of Supply will be set down for a later hour this day.
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Distillation Act 1901-1954.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The principal purpose of this bill to amend the Distillation Act 1901-1954 is to give effect to a request of Australian winemakers to be permitted, when they see fit, to use matured brandy for fortifying wine. As the law now stands, a winemaker cannot use fortifying spirit of a strength less than 30 degrees overproof unless he is prepared to allow the wine to remain for a period of at least two years under the control of customs, and even if he is prepared to leave it under customs control for two years, he must use spirit of not less than 10 degrees overproof.
In many cases potable brandy is matured at a strength approximating proof and it follows that under the present law a winemaker cannot use such matured brandy for fortifying wine of his own manufacture. The wine industry has maintained for a long time that some of the best European fortified wines are made by using matured brandy as a fortifying spirit, and that it should not be limited in its winemaking processes to the extent required by the existing law. The present provisions of the law, to which I have referred, were inserted to prevent the fortification of Australian wine in any way which could result in its quality falling below a certain standard. Winemakers have been able to establish that the quality of their high-class fortified wines would be improved by the use of matured brandy, and I am satisfied that there is substance in their claim. It is the Govern ment’s policy to remove unnecessary restraints from industry, and this bill is introduced for that purpose.
Potable brandy generally contains colouring and flavouring matter within certain limits. In order to allow winemakers to use their own stocks of brandy, the bill will permit the use of matured brandy, coloured or flavoured, within appropriate limits and of a specified minimum strength, lt will also relieve winemakers who use matured brandy for this purpose of the present necessity to keep wine fortified with a spirit of a strength less than 30 degrees overproof under customs control for two years. If the spirit has been stored in wooden vessels for two years before it is added to wine, there will then be no need to hold the fortified wine for maturing purposes.
In addition to the matters mentioned above, I am taking advantage of this opportunity to introduce an administrative change. It will give to Collectors of Customs the power, which they have not at present, to arrange for the disposal of spirits remaining at a distillery if the - premises cease to be licensed. At the present time, if the licence of a distillery should expire or be cancelled no one has authority to deal with spirit on the premises on which duty has not been paid. The proposed amendment will enable the Collectors of Customs to take possession of the spirit, and, if necessary, to sell it, and to account for the proceeds. It is unlikely that a valuable licence such as that of a distillery would be allowed to lapse and I cannot recall a case of one being cancelled, but if such a situation did arise, it would be undesirable that dutiable spirits should remain on unlicensed premises without any one having authority to dispose of them. I present the bill for favour of consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the transfer of the administration of the Observatory at Mount Stromlo in the Australian Capital Territory to the Australian National University and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Commonwealth Observatory at Mount Stromlo, in the Australian Capital Territory, at present operates under the Department of the Interior. At the time of its establishment in 1923 Mount Stromlo was, primarily, a solar observatory. Its functions have been considerably enlarged over the years to include a time service and ionospheric prediction added during the war years, whilst generally, its research work, particularly in the field of astrophysics, has developed considerably.
It was recommended by the former Commonwealth Astronomer, Dr. R. Woolley, now Astronomer Royal, and the Board of Visitors to the observatory, that it was appropriate to transfer control of the observatory to the Australian National University for incorporation in the Research School of Physical Sciences. The Government has accepted that recommendation. It is, therefore, proposed by this bill to transfer the control of the observatory and its equipment to the Australian National University. The transfer will include the time service but not the ionospheric prediction service which was established at the observatory only as a matter of convenience and is not intimately associated with observatory work. It is proposed that this service shall remain with the Department of the Interior.
Because of the existence of the Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund Act 1953, the transfer cannot be made fully effective without legislation by Parliament. The 1953 act established the Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund and set out the provisions relating to receipts into and payments from the fund. It required that moneys in the fund be used for the purposes of the observatory. This bill proposes the repeal of the 1953 act.
The bill provides that, on the repeal of the Commonwealth Observatory Trust Fund Act 1953, moneys which stand to the credit of that fund and investments representing any of those moneys shall be paid or transferred to the university. The bill authorizes the Minister for the Interior, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to provide, by way of grant to the university at a nominal rent, a lease in perpetuity of such land and property as may be required for the purposes of the observatory and to transfer to the university, without charge, equipment or other property owned by the Commonwealth used or required for the purposes of the observatory.
The Minister is authorized to require such undertaking by the university as will ensure the continuation by the university of observatory work, the employment by the university of such persons who are at present employed by the Commonwealth in connexion with the observatory and the use of moneys and investments paid or transferred to the university. The bill finally provides that the rights of officers of the Public Service who are members of the observatory staff will be fully protected on their transfer to the university. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chambers) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16th February (vide page 57), on motion by Sir Philip McBride -
That the following paper be printed: -
Conduct of Prisoners of War - Ministerial Statement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16th February (vide page 96) on motion by Sir Philip McBride -
That the following paper be printed: -
Commonwealth Forces in Korea - Ministerial statement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 19th June (vide page 3346), on motion by Mr. Townley -
That the following paper be printed: -
Kingsford Smith Airport - Expenditure - Ministerial statement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 13th March (vide page 706), on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
That the following paper be printed: -
Northern Territory - Problems of development - Report by the Administrator on visit overseas (October, 1955 to January. 1956).
Mr. NELSON (Northern Territory) 3.16]. - This debate arises out of the presentation last session of a report prepared by the then Administrator of the Northern Territory, the Honorable F. J. S. Wise who, as a result of a visit overseas to inquire into certain aspects of development as they might affect the Territory, drew up a most comprehensive report which was tabled in this House. The debate was then adjourned, and the matter now comes before the House to be discussed. 1 have had a thorough look at this report. I should say that it is a most comprehensive report, entailing quite a lot of work, considerable expense and considerable time. The former Administrator, Mr. Wise, is to bc commended on the report. However, 1 feel that the problems that have been investigated by him are only some of the aspects of a broader issue which goes to make up the pattern of development in the Northern Territory. I think that Mr. Wise himself would be the first to agree that this is so and that the problems that he investigated were incidental problems and not overall developmental problems associated with the development of vast, sparsely populated areas similar to the Northern Territory.
The main problems which I envisage and which should have been investigated at the time Mr. Wise set out to investigate these problems are transportation and communication. I am disappointed that the report does not mention those very important aspects of development. I think we all realize that the working out of all those problems that the Administrator investigated is tied up irrevocably with transport and communication. I should like to say that his investigation of the problems that he has examined has been thorough and 1 ask the Minister who is acting on behalf of the Government in this matter to see that the usual procedure of government, when a report is pigeon-holed and lost for ever, is not followed, but that some action is taken to give effect to the findings of the former Administrator. It has been the practice of most governments in the past, in having a report made on certain aspects of development, to have a lot of work done in its preparation. Then the report has been presented to Parliament and pigeonholed, and no further action has been taken. The classic example of this was the Payne report which was prepared in the early 1930’s. At considerable expenditure of time and money, a very comprehensive report was drawn up. Very little attention was given to it and very little action was taken as a result of the report and findings.
I cannot stress too strongly the importance of transport and communications in any plan of development of the Northern Territory. I think, at this stage, that that will be the keystone of the whole of our problems there. I think that when we talk of the development of such industries as the mining industry, the pastoral industry, or the agricultural industry we must realize that we cannot progress much beyond the present level of development unless, first of all, we tackle this vital problem and find some solution. If we take the item dealing with the pastoral industry which has been in the past, and still is, the basis of the economy of the Northern Territory, we will find that this industry is just this year recovering from a tragic drought that occurred four years ago. The effects of that drought would have been considerably softened had the necessary communications been available and had transport been available to move stock out of the Territory to areas that were not affected, and to return them afterwards. The Territory suffered this drought four years ago. To-day, the cattle population is back to where it was then. Had some action been taken at that time, to put in some form of transportation, either road or rail, the cost would have been partially offset by the value of the stock that would have been saved.
When we are considering the various industries which could be developed in the Northern Territory, we must examine first of all those industries which could bring about a substantial increase in population as well as a substantial increase in revenue. I think it is wrong to foster an industry that will give quite considerable revenue at the expense of an industry or industries which would give both revenue and population. If there is one thing that the Territory needs at the moment more than anything else, it is people. If we consider the implications of the development of the pastoral industry, we shall find that although this development will give us considerable wealth it will not give us a great many more people. At the present state of development, the cattle industry is just about reaching its economic limits unless some further provision is made lor transportation. I think that the Administrator realized that when he dealt with the cattle problem in his report.
If we are to bring about better standards of management in the pastoral industry we shall have to grow better quality meat and, of necessity, the beast must be a much softer beast than it is at the present time. At present, in our geographical position of remoteness from markets, cattle have to be driven on the hoof over many hundreds of miles to their outlets in the southern States and, in some instances, the beasts are driven up to and in excess of 800 miles. We cannot produce -a better quality meat while those beasts have to travel over such distances. We have to find alternative methods of transportation if we are to improve the quality of our meat. The development of a meat industry requires the establishment of central killing or country killing areas and the aerial transportation of meat. It also requires the establishment of meat works on or near the coast, so that we can take advantage of our own production to increase our export trade to the countries north of Australia. As 1 have said, we can increase the capacity of this industry to give us quite a considerable revenue.
The value of production in the pastoral industry this year will be about £5,000,000, and within ten years the figure will probably be doubled. The industry will not be the means of greatly increasing the population of the Territory, and, therefore, we should broaden our efforts on the development of the other industries, principally mining and agriculture. Mining and pastoral pursuits can, without any doubt, succeed in the Northern Territory. Whatever doubts or reservations we may entertain regarding agricultural projects, we have none whatsoever about the possibilities of success in the mining and pastoral industries. Although, however, the mining industry can be the means of substantially increasing population in the north, it cannot be successfully developed without the provision of better communications. The lack of a suitable system of communications will retard the development of every industry in the north. In the mining industry there is a field at Tennant Creek which will produce this year about £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 worth of minerals. Although the production figures for Rum Jungle are confidential and have not been released, 1 think it is safe to assume, from a statement issued recently by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), that the production at that field could be worth £4,000,000 or £5,000,000. It could be worth even more than that. A shipment of uranium ore worth about 1,000,000 dollars was recently sent from the South Alligator field. All this mining activity helps to improve our national economic position by enabling us to obtain large numbers of dollars. This is essential to the economy of Australia as a whole, and also to that of the Northern Territory, if it is to expand and’ its population is to increase.
Mr. Wise went to considerable lengths to investigate the mineral potentialities of the Northern Territory. He listed a few of the minerals that may be commercially mined in the north, including gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, iron, aluminium in the form of bauxite, titanium, uranium, thorium, tin and oil. All those minerals, with the exception of oil, have been proved to be present in substantial quantities, and we now have positive indications of the presence of oil in the Territory. 1 now wish to deal with the possibilities of expansion of these industries. 1 point out that the South Alligator field, which has just supplied a shipment of about 1,000,000 dollars’ worth of uranium, will be strangled unless reasonable access roads can be provided. For four months of the year all supplies and equipment have to be taken in and out of the field by air. For seven or eight months of the year, the roads are open to traffic, but at considerable expense, and at the cost of extensive damage to the vehicles that use them. If this Government provided funds for the improvement of those roads, if only to ensure that they remained open for nine months of the year, it would be making a substantial contribution to the expansion and development of this field, which I believe is capable of producing £5,000,000 to £10,000,000 worth of uranium a year. The provision of funds for this purpose might even result in the establishment of a treatment plant at the site. At present the ore has to be taken considerable distances to treatment plants, and transportation costs absorb quite an unreasonable proportion of the revenue derived from the mines in this area.
Other metals, such as tin, mica and copper, are all present in abundance in the Northern Territory. One American authority recently said that within the boundaries of the Northern Territory exists one of the greatest potential sources of mineral wealth in the world to-day. I believe that future exploration and investigation will prove that statement to be correct. Work will first have to be done to uncover the mineral deposits, and then to make it possible for them to be worked economically. Roads will have to be provided. In Tennant Creek, where the mining industry has a potential of many millions of pounds more than its present production, an adequate water supply will have to be provided for treatment of the ore. It is most necessary to provide an adequate roads system. I know that at present a road is being built in order to allow production to be increased in one area on the field. I have mentioned a couple of fields where these problems exist, but I remind the House that the problems are not being attacked on a comprehensive basis, and until that is done the mining industry will not be developed as it should be.
There is an extensive deposit of silver, lead and zinc on the edge of the Arnhem Land aboriginal reserve. The consulting engineer for a very big mining concern told me that had that deposit been in some other place in Australia it would have been exploited by a large mining company. In the present conditions of isolation and lack of transport facilities it is impossible to work that deposit. The project would have to carry a capital expenditure of many millions of pounds for the construction of roads and port facilities, and unfortunately it is not extensive enough for that. Therefore, the deposit must remain in the bush, unworked and unexploited. In matters such as this I believe that the Commonwealth should assist by the provision of funds, to allow the expansion of our industries in the north and so increase our population. A study of the history of the various States will show that they all received their greatest impetus through mining. In Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia booms occurred because of the discovery and exploitation of mineral wealth. The development of the Northern Territory could be hastened in a similar manner. The expenditure of a few millions of pounds for the provision of communications and assistance to industries in other ways could be the means of setting the Territory on the pathway to prosperity.
His Honour the Administrator also investigated the possibilities of the agricultural industry. He mentioned many crops that can be grown in the Northern Territory. We know of quite a few crops that can be produced there, but we also know that they cannot be produced economically because of our geographical position. We can grow the crops, but we just cannot get them to the markets. The problem in this regard is the same as that which confronts the mining and pastoral industries. That problem is not encountered at Katherine, which is on a railway line, yet we find that the industry there is languishing through lack of positive encouragement. On the Daly River there is a promising and a proved agricultural area, but access to it is possible for only six or seven months of the year. Until an extensive network of good roads is provided, we cannot reap the maximum benefit from the productive capacity of the Territory, which could contribute substantially to our prosperity. A number of crops such as sorghum and cotton can be grown profitably, but apparently the problems of markets associated with them have not yet been solved.
The crop with the greatest potential value in the Northern Territory is rice. The Government has begun to develop rice-growing under an agreement with American and Australian interests. This method of development is probably better than allowing the land to remain idle, but the Australian Government itself could have developed the area for the benefit of the Australian people. The Government, in ils wisdom, has entered into an agreement with American interests for the cultivation of rice on approximately 750,000 acres of land to the east of the north-south road and abutting the Arnhem Land aboriginal reserve. This is a substantial and worthwhile project which could successfully settle many thousands of Australians on ricegrowing lands in the Northern Territory if it is conducted in the right manner. It deserves all the encouragement and help we can give it to make it successful. I am worried about several features of the scheme which the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) may be able to clarify for the
House. They are important matters from the stand-point of the Northern Territory. Under a clause of the agreement with the American interests, the Government is obliged to bring immigrant labour to Australia for the development of the area.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Having been a member of the recent parliamentary delegation to the Northern Territory, I should fail in my duty to the Australian taxpayers if 1 did not speak to this motion, and, having partaken of the hospitality of the residents of the Northern Territory and understanding the circumstances in which they live, I should fail in my duty to them if 1 did not bring to the notice of the House their lack of amenities, and if I did nothing to improve their lot. We have in the Northern Territory an area that is potentially one of the richest in the world. It is a centre of the cattle industry, and carries herds totalling more than 1,000,000 head. In the current season there will be a record turn-off of more than 184,000 beasts worth approximately £5,000,000. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has mentioned the mining industry. The Territory already produces gold, copper, wolfram, mica, tin and manganese, in addition to uranium, and has produced small quantities of limestone, bismuth, tantalite and ochre. The Territory has probably the greatest potential for uranium production in the world. Recently, bauxite, silver-lead and lead-zinc have been found. In the financial year 1954-55, the total mining production, exclusive of uranium, for which figures are not available, was worth approximately £2,000,000. Production is increasing yearly, and, exclusive of uranium, has totalled £7,000,000 over the last six years. There is every reason to suspect that oil will be found in the Territory, and four oil prospecting permits have already been issued.
The parliamentary delegation had the opportunity to inspect a number of mines at Tennant Creek, all of which are fairly rich. The members of the delegation were informed that the prospectors who discovered the ore bodies at two of the mines received £3,000 each. I understand that one mine has already paid in dividends more than £250,000, and that both the prospectors in question are penniless to-day. Probably the £3,000 originally paid was afair payment. I do not criticize the amount. Nor do I suggest that this Government or any other authority should hold itself responsible for the financial well-being of people who, perhaps, are not prepared to make an effort to look after themselves. But I consider that a prospector who discovers a mining field, which may be worth almost anything, should be protected by statutory provision from the temptation to sell his birthright for a mess of pottage. Let him have his £3,000, or whatever amount is agreed on, but let him also be given an entitlement to a royalty on the total production of the mine. I suggest that such a course be given earnest consideration.
The Northern Territory does not at present produce agricultural commodities in great commercial volume, but it has been proved that it will grow citrus fruits and all tropical fruits such as bananas, pineapples, paw-paws and mangoes. Peanuts are already being grown commercially at Katherine and have been exported for some time. Research conducted by the agriculture branch of the Territory administration and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has proved that cotton, tobacco and grain sorghum can be grown commercially. Rice has already been mentioned, and I shall discuss it later. Other assets of the Territory are the pearling and fishing industries. I mention all these crops and industries to indicate that Australia must prove to the world that it has a moral right to so rich a territory. To our immediate north are nations with populations numbered in hundreds of millions. Most of them are seeking means of expansion. There are in the Northern Territory approximately 17,000 white and half-caste people, and about 14,000 full-blood aborigines. The increase of the population is quite good when considered purely in relation to the population before World War II., when it stood for more than a generation at fewer than 5,000 whites and halfcastes. As a result of the impetus of the war, the population increased to more than 10,000 by 1947. To my way of thinking the present population of 17,000 whites and half-castes is far too small. The present
Government has a good record of administration in the Northern Territory. It has built 430 houses since the war, and at present has more than 240 under construction. It has allocated more than £ 1 ,000,000 for the construction of a new wharf at Darwin, and that work is nearly completed. In the past five years, the Government has spent more than £5,000,000 on various buildings and works, and has allocated nearly £750,000 to pastoral development. It has developed the Rum Jungle uranium field, and will spend more than £3,000,000 there in the current financial year.
Much of the agricultural research that I mentioned has been directed to the growing of peanuts, sorghum, cotton and pastures. The parliamentary delegation was afforded the opportunity to inspect the rice-growing project at Humpty Doo. It is planned to put 500,000 acres of coastal plain under rice, with a planting in the current financial year of 5,000 acres. Most of this area will eventually be subdivided and Australian settlers will be afforded the opportunity to farm it. They will receive the benefit of the research work that has been put into this project. The Agriculture Branch has experimented with new pastures in the Northern Territory. Just outside Katherine members of the delegation saw a herd of cattle, half of which was fed on natural pastures and the other half on Townsville lucerne, buffle grass, and other imported grasses. Whilst those on the natural pasture were losing weight at the rate of i lb. a day. those on the Townsville lucerne and so on were gaining at the rate of 2 lb. a day. All this experimental work is conducted at no expense at all to those engaged in the cattle industry.
The Department of Animal Industry has largely eradicated pleuro from the Territory, and that is worth a tremendous amount to the cattle people. The department has been responsible also for the building of bores every fourteen or fifteen miles on the stock route, and this is a record that is unsurpassed anywhere. Government expenditure in the Territory has steadily grown over the past ten years and has increased four-fold. The Government is fortunate to have good officers, good technicians and good administrators in charge of most of their departments.
We cannot afford to rest on past achievements. I want to cite here the words of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). In a statement to this House in March of this year, when tabling the report of the Administrator, he said -
We should bring to the task all scientific and engineering aids and use an imagination stimulated by the present age and not by the past.
I agree entirely with the Minister. For that reason I shall suggest certain revolutionary measures for the future administration of the Territory. I know they are revolutionary and I know they will probably meet with a mixed reception from both sides of the House. As I said earlier, the population of the Territory, viewed in the light of increase, is quite good, but it is not so good that it cannot be improved when consideration is given to the quickly and constantly changing conditions in the world to our immediate north. Ways and means must be found of encouraging more people to move to the Territory and to remain there. We have every reason for optimism, but at the same time we must do something positive.
I found that the main grouch in the Territory was about roads. Since 1950. the present Government has increased the total mileage of roads by 25 per cent., but of a total of 12,000 miles of roads, only 1,300 miles are sealed. Both of those sealed roads came to us as a result of war. I hope it will not need another war for further improvements of that nature to be made, because the value of those two bitumen roads to the Territory could not be estimated in pounds, shillings and pence. We found that, due to the wet and dry seasons, stations had to provide six months” supply of stores at a time. The people brought in supplies twice a year. One station had to feed 270 natives in addition to its own staff. It was subsidized by the Government for a large proportion of this expenditure, but it still had to provide the food. Their complaint was that the graders finished the work of grading shortly before the wet season was due to commence and in many instances they received very little benefit. This, again, is not entirely the fault of the Administration. Though we are suffering from lack of money, more graders are needed and everything should be done to facilitate the building of roads.
There is one other aspect, which is not a criticism of this Government, this Treasury or any other treasury of an Opposition government or any other type. Strict accountancy rules are followed and that means a budget cannot be anticipated. Whilst in this instance permission is given to spend some of next year’s allocation, the ordinary regulations should not apply where special conditions operate. Conditions in the Northern Territory are largely seasonal, and every facility should be provided for the building of roads. I. hope that at some time in the near future the Treasury may see its way clear to indicate to the Department of Territories what its allocation will be for the next twelve months, prior to the issue of the budget, so that the grading of roads can commence immediately the wet season ends and the people in the Territory have a greater use of the roads. Over the past five years, nearly £3,000,000 has been spent on the construction and maintenance of roads in the Territory. Again, that is quite a good effort.
Another amenity lacking in the Territory is water. That is not a matter over which we have a great deal of control, and everything is being done to assist the discovery of water in that area. But there are one or two small aspects that I should like to mention. We found a lady residing on a property in a place 14 miles from her nearest neighbour. During the day her only company was from black gins. She had no means of communication with neighbours and her water supply was carried by black gins from a river 200 yards away up a cliff 60 feet or 70 feet high. That is not a criticism of the owners of the property; provision was not made for females to be there, but she had a son working in that vicinity and wanted to be with him. I mention it only to show that that is the type of country to which we are trying to attract people and if men are to be attracted, then efforts must be made to attract women. Men would not go there without their womenfolk. In Alice Springs, where there is a natural water supply, residents pay £9 10s. for 60,000 gallons of water and then ls. for each 1,000 gallons. At Tennant Creek, where they are not so fortunate, the rate is £3 10s. a 1,000 gallons and £210 for each 60,000 gallons. A suggestion was made that an overall rate be struck for the whole of the Territory so that every one would be on an equal basis.
I referred earlier to the remarks of the Minister for Territories when he said that imagination should be used. I want to suggest something that will be regarded as revolutionary. I feel that there must be a long-term approach to this problem and 1 suggest that a term of fifteen or twenty years would not be too long. My suggestion is that as we must increase the population and development of the Territory rapidly, greater concessions should be allowed. In the district north of the Tropic of Capricorn a public service district allowance of £165 a year is provided for a married man; south of that area it is £80. In addition, public servants receive concessions on travel for leave after two years’ service. All residents receive a concession of £120 a year from their income tax assessments for the top area and only £20 a year for the lower area. Pastoralists and agriculturalists have the additional advantage that any improvements that they make may be written off in one year instead of in five years, which is the period allowed for southern stations. That benefit does not affect civilians. One gentleman in the Territory, who has a wife and three children, told us that it costs him £400 in fares to come to Sydney for a holiday.
My suggestion is that over the next fifteen or twenty years all income tax should be eliminated fro;n the Territory for both large and small people. That will benefit the large companies, but there could be a proviso that 50 per cent, of their promts be used for development. The district allowance for the small man could be cancelled to make up for this, but no one would be at a disadvantage. If any man were to suffer personally as a result of this new scheme, his salary could be made up so that he would be no worse off than he is now. The large firms could be encouraged to settle in the Territory if they were given security of tenure and knew that they would be free of taxation for that time. That would provide employment for quite a number of people and the small man, knowing that he would have concessions in the Territory that he could not get anywhere else, would be willing to settle there. 1 know that the major criticism of my suggestion will be: Can we afford it? But, in the light of the rapidly changing conditions overseas and the rapid growth of population to the north of Australia, and the fact that we must justify our moral right to hold this country, can we afford to do otherwise?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- One finds himself, particularly in this chamber, in the unique position of being able to support a member of his own party and also to support the remarks of a Government member in the person of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox). I concur with the remarks that were made by the honorable member for Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), and I also entirely agree with remarks of the honorable member for Henty. As one of the members of the parliamentary delegation that had the privilege, just recently, of touring the Northern Territory, I desire to convey some of the impressions I gained during the many miles that were covered during that inspection. At the outset I say that any remarks that I make, and, I have no doubt, any remarks that will be made by speakers who follow me and who were members of that delegation, will be made without bias. They will be’ free impressions gained during our trip and spoken with the thought that We can at least try to help those in the Territory who, to all intents and purposes, are finding conditions very difficult. Many times during our travels I heard used the expression that the Territory was “ the last frontier “. With that thought I do not agree, and I hope that it is not the thought that prevails in the minds of those persons who are responsible for monetary allocations to the Territory. In support of the honorable member for Henty, I hasten to say to those who may think along those lines that, in view of the tension outside our shores and the clamour by the people of nearby countries for more space for their teeming millions, the Northern Territory should be rightly termed the front door of Australia and not the last frontier. Firmly fixed in our minds should be the thought that this huge area must be developed expeditiously or we shall stand a very grave chance of some one else developing it for us.
In the Territory we see much wealth in the hands of a few, large areas of land controlled by the meat interests, great potential in mining and agriculture, and, apparently, vast wealth still lying untouched underground. I say with a good deal of feeling that the majority of those persons holding cattle station leases show their obvious disinterest by not allowing the land to fallow and by lack of experimentation with different types of grass in an effort to improve the fertility of the soil. I am also of the opinion that, with a few exceptions, the general amenities for employees could be vastly improved, as an inducement to persons to stay in the Territory and an attraction for others to come. It would appear that the main desire of the cattle men is to take all they can from the land and not put anything back. I give due credit to the Government for the wisdom and planning that was exercised in establishing bores along the cattle routes, and I say without reserve that in my opinion the cattle industry has been well looked after and can now stand on its own feet, and that it should be working along the lines I have indicated, thereby improving the land, making it richer and more productive.
Great credit must also be given to the work that is being conducted in the field of native welfare. Native welfare is a problem to tax the most diligent and persevering persons, and I record my appreciation of the work of those persons who are engaged in native welfare work, not only in the Territory, but also throughout other parts of Australia. On the education side, there is still much to be done. There is a great need for more schools and extensions to schools, and for finishing the work that has already been started at established schools. This matter was referred to the Minister, and I think he knows to what I am referring. At this stage, it would be remiss if mention were not made of the splendid service that is being rendered by the school of the air. Praise must also go to Royal Flying Doctor Service.
The mining development at Tennant Creek is also a great achievement which has been referred to by previous speakers. The further research being conducted by the companies and prospectors, aided by the Bureau of Mineral Resources and aerial geological surveys, can only in the ultimate bring more industrial development and greater wealth to those persons operating in this area and greater wealth to the nation in general. In its train must also come more population. At Rum Jungle one can witness evidence of the same big industrial strides, with promise of further advancement. Much activity in agriculture can be seen along the Katherine River, and there is a very evident need for greater governmental assistance to the settlers engaged in peanutgrowing and other agricultural pursuits. The Humpty Doo rice project is well under way. Time will reveal the success or failure of this project.
In a general summary of matters relating to the Territory, I feel compelled to say that it is a land of great potential in the fields of mining, agriculture and cattle raising. I am also of the opinion that much improvement could be achieved on the pastoral side, with benefits to the operators and to Australia. The two needs most paramount in the Territory are quicker and more direct communication and more population. The construction of a road from Alice Springs to Adelaide is essential. It would undoubtedly bring competition to the Commonwealth railways, but any disadvantages in this regard would be far outweighed by the overall benefits that would accrue to all sections of the community. Another very evident need is for the extension to Townsville of the road from Tennant Creek to Mount lsa. The construction of this road would give a tremendous impetus to the mining industry, not only at Tennant Creek, but also at Mount lsa and Mary Kathleen.
On the debit side, the method of temporary road forming is open to grave criticism. One cannot help but feel appalled at the callous waste of public money and the great damage being done to the country by the erosion resulting from the methods used in grading roads. Before the wet season is due, a grader is used on the unconstructed roads. A survey is not made and no levels are taken, the major effect being that for miles across the tablelands a water channel is cut. When the rains arrive, the track virtually becomes a watercourse and great erosion results. Another track is cut the following year, with further detrimental effects from erosion in the next wet season. It would appear that this bad practice is not the concern of any one in particular, although the sum of £184,900 was spent in the year just ended on roads, repairs, sewerage, &c. While this practice prevails, thousands of pounds of public money are being literally wasted, and tons of good top soil are disappearing also. This is soil that the Territory can ill afford to lose. Greater supervision is needed and roads should be crowned to throw the water off. I feel very strongly about the waste of money being occasioned in this regard and the noticeable lack of supervision. I therefore urge that a separate authority be instituted to govern and supervise road construction and maintenance. This must be done to prevent the shocking waste of public money.
In my previous remarks I referred to more direct communication, and on this note I shall conclude my reference to roads. If the Territory is to be developed quickly, and with advantage to the many, a wellorganized all-weather roads plan must be put into operation. The construction of good arterial and secondary roads is a vital necessity, and the only expeditious way of opening the country for the benefit of the smaller man. Only then can the great pastoral stretches be used to best advantage, and mining and agriculture developed to the maximum degree possible. The need for railway extension is undeniable, but I point out that it will serve only the few. whereas the roads will serve the many. Roads are the Territory’s greatest need, and if provided will do much to solve the Territory’s other great need, population. Quicker and more direct communications will lower costs, and this must be reflected in an improved living standard for the worker. Because of high transport charges, the cost of living in the Territory is much higher than it is in any other State. Another £5 a week in the pay envelope would barely make up the difference.
The Northern Territory can never be developed on budget allowances. Under such a plan it can never be anything but a place of bits and pieces, constantly under budgetary review. The Government must bring down a plan for the Territory similar to the Snowy River scheme, so that work may be planned well ahead, and spread over long periods. The administration of permanent works and road construction should be critically reviewed and a separate authority set up for these purposes.
In conclusion, I want to say that the potential of the Territory is unbelievable, but that any scheme for its future should provide opportunities for all, and not merely for the few, as is the case at present.
.- The report of the recently retired Administrator, which we are debating this afternoon, is, as he says in the preamble, incomplete. It is a most interesting document, and it is a matter for regret that it was not completed before Mr. Wise retired. The recent tour of the Northern Territory by a parliamentary delegation which I had the honour and pleasure of leading, and which has been referred to by previous speakers was, 1 believe, singularly successful. I should like to pay a tribute to the officers of the administration, and the residents of the Northern Territory, for their great assistance and generous hospitality during our tour of that region. Members of the delegation gained from the survey a great deal of valuable knowledge of this sparsely populated but valuable tract of country in the north.
The Territory’s greatest need is for permanent settlement. I say, without a shadow of doubt, that this can be achieved only by the establishment of agriculture, and the development of a rural population. So far, there is no sign of any such progress in the Northern Territory, where, unfortunately, only about 100 people are engaged in agriculture. It is true that, largely as a result of the policies of this Government, there has been a tremendous boom in mining but, as every one knows, mining does not lead to permanent settlement, or a stable population. We have had enough evidence of that in the mining areas of southern Australia which have been worked out in the last 150 years.
I shall refer later to the pastoral industry, but I must mention the really outstanding work that has been performed in the Territory by this Government. The population, which certainly consists very largely of public servants, has about doubled since 1947-48. A great deal of government money has been put into the Territory and, in the main, has been spent very wisely. While our party was in the area we had an opportunity of seeing how some of that money was being spent. A proportion is being spent by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which has had land research teams and geochemists and other minerals experts in the field there for a number of years now. They were all hard at work when we were there a few weeks ago. They had just discovered, around the mining field of Tennant Creek, a new ore body which had been completely unsuspected just as, a few years before, a land research survey team had found something even more valuable - a tract of country suitable for closer settlement, along the coastal estuaries to the east and west of Darwin. The area was recommended for the growing of rice, and a rice project has now been commenced there. That money has been spent wisely and well.
Native administration has been put on a sound footing for the first time and in the last few years roads and town services have been vastly improved. All these things stand to the credit of the Government. Its success in the mining field is the outstanding event in the Territory in recent years. No one can say yet how far this will go. Every one in the Territory is confident that the mineral fields of Tennant Creek, and to the north, will prove to be far more extensive than has been thought. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is conducting aerial surveys of the whole area, and ground parties are carrying out detailed tests, so that private companies may go ahead and sink test drills preparatory to proceeding with mining.
Agriculture is, however, static or even worse. It is going back because the peanut crop, the only crop produced there on a large scale, is falling off. There are several reasons for this. Two-thirds of the Territory is arid during the whole of the year, but the northern part is arid for six or seven months only and it is there that agriculture must be pursued. It has an annual drought. All the rain in the northern part falls in the space of two or three months in the wet season. The soils of that area are tragically deficient in fertility, yet, in spite of that deficiency, the Government has not yet got round to the point of subsidizing the importation of fertilizer into the area. Now, subsidies in one form or another are paid in most countries of the world in respect of fertilizers. In Great Britain there is a very substantial fertilizer subsidy which applies even to the point of its meeting half the cost of spreading the fertilizer on the ground. In America and in the Australian States there are subsidies related to the cost of transporting fertilizer, yet the price of fertilizer in the States is considerably less than the price in the Darwin-Katherine area. At Darwin, the focal point for the agricultural work in the north of the Northern Territory, superphosphate costs £40 a ton and sulphate of ammonia £66 a ton. In spite of the fact that, in the soil of the area, organic manures are very deficient, if not totally absent, there is no blood and bone available at all. That is a severe handicap to agricultural producers in the north. A second handicap, of course, is the lack of a large market for their produce. They have an outlet at Darwin, but that is a very limited market. There is no dairy supplying Darwin. There is no vegetable production. In fact, there is a very limited and primitive agriculture. I believe that agriculture depends on the pastoral industry. If we can develop the pastoral industry then I believe we can also develop agriculture. I shall explain what I mean in a few moments. The pastoral industry in the Northern Territory is also in a primitive stage of development. It has not progressed substantially since the Territory was discovered. The cattle roam the range. Only ten of the 140 properties in the Northern Territory have boundary fences, let alone fences inside their areas. Watering points are few, which means that the pastures around the watering points are eaten out and the good pasture, which might be four or five miles away from the watering points, is not used at all and is therefore, in effect, useless.
In order to market stock from the Northern Territory, except from Alice Springs, which has a railway service, albeit a poor one, to the Adelaide market, the cattle have to travel to the eastern seaboard. That means that they have to be aged before they can start out on a trek. They are unsuitable for export. They do not meet the requirements of our export market, which is Great Britain. They could never compete, in any sense of the word, with Argentine beef, for example, in the British market. Yet the British market is the only market for the cattle from the north. The only outlet from the northern area across from the Victoria River Downs to the west of Darwin is through the Barkly Tableland to the railhead at Dajarra in Queensland, and then over the very poor railway service to the Queensland coast and the meat-works. The alternative to that is a trek right through to the coast.
The lack of a proper and adequate outlet has proved an insurmountable handicap to the cattle industry in the Northern Territory. If the cattle could be fattened in the Territory and shipped out of Darwin, we could sell chillers to Great Britain, and we would have no trouble in disposing of them at an adequate price. I believe that that is the future for the Territory. A way must be found to open a meat-works at Darwin, making Darwin the last port of call for ships carrying chilled meat to Great Britain, and to open up a permanent market overseas for stock produced in the Northern Territory.
The Northern Territory has always been called, because of its handicaps, good breeding country. I think it can be proved that it is also good fattening country if an outlet is provided for the stock. The Government should take some action to provide such an outlet, or at least to make it possible for private enterprise to come into the field and carry out the work.
I was much encouraged on the trip with the parliamentary delegation to see the results of field trials carried out on the experimental station run by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization at Katherine, and established as the result of work done previously by another team of scientists of the organization, the land research team. At the time of the visit of the parliamentary party a few weeks ago, which was in the middle of the dry season, a herd of stock feeding on buffel grass and Townsville lucerne had been putting on weight at the rate of 2 lb. a day on this experimental farm. A check herd living on natural pastures at the same farm had been losing weight at the rate of i lb. a day. There are 500,000 acres of that land in what is called the Tipperary land system, which is lightly timbered. T think that if these trials prove to be a success- and 1 am confident that they will prove so to be - the whole of that area between Katherine and the Daly River basin could be opened up as good fattening country. Katherine is on the railhead, about 200 miles from Darwin, lt is possible to bring stock in from the Victoria River region and from the western Barkly Tableland at least into Katherine along stock routes, and, with meat-works established at Katherine, the stock could be sent out via the new wharf at Darwin, to Great Britain, as chilled meat. The by-products from the meat-works established at Katherine or Darwin would provide fertilizer for the agricultural industry. There would be an opportunity for breeding pigs in the area, lt is already good sorghumgrowing country. The meat-works could also handle the pig production, and 1 am sure there would be a market in the near eastern countries for pig meats.
The key to all this development lies in the pasture trials being conducted at Katherine, and I suggest to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), and to the Government, that the Division of Agricultural Economics be called in to investigate the possibility of setting up either a government meat-works at Katherine or of making it possible for private enterprise to come into that field and establish a meat trade via Darwin.
– No doubt the honorable member knows that there was a previous unsuccessful venture there.
– I am aware of the two failures of meat-works in the north. Vestey’s meat-works at Darwin is now being pulled down. The Vestey interests seriously overestimated the capacity of the Northern Territory at the time it established that meat-works. lt also overestimated the market. The beef trade boomed during World War I., when that meat-works was in production, but the trade slumped until the outbreak of World War II. Vesteys made a bad business guess. That is no reason why a meat-works which was established after due consideration and experimentation should not be successful now. I know of no reason why the Bovril boilingdown works at Katherine should close down, apart from some internal politics of the Bovril organization. I think that it was not intended to use that meat-works for the production of beef carcasses for export, and that, I believe, is the outlet for beef in the area.
Apart from this fattening country in the Tipperary land system, a proportion of the stock could be fattened on the Barkly Tableland itself. There is quite a large area of good feed in the centre of the tableland. The only hurdle in that connexion is the old one of transport. Many people have advocated the construction of a railway across the Barkly Tableland tolink Dajarra and Newcastle Waters or Birdum, but in my opinion a railway would not be justified by the return that could beexpected from the area. A railway such as that would cost approximately £20,000,000. It would be a narrow-gauge track, which would mean that the stock would be bruised, battered and sometimes killed before they reached the Queensland coast. He would be a brave man who said that he had the answer to this problem, but I suggest that the Le Tourneau system of road trains, which has been developed in America and used successfully in Alaska, northern Canada and South America, would find its perfect application in the Northern Territory. The Le Tourneau road train is not the kind of road train which has been used in the Northern Territory and found unsuccessful. This road train has a prime-mover, if it can be so called, which has a diesel-driven generator supplying power to each wheel. Each wheel, is driven by a separate motor located at the hub of the wheel. The wheels are extremely large and are fitted with tubeless tyres of about 8 feet in diameter, with about 3 square feet of bearing surface on the ground.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I was privileged to be a member of a delegation of this Parliament which recently visited the Northern Territory, and I am glad of the opportunity to say something of the impressions gained during the course of that rather extensive and detailed trip. First, I wish to pay tribute to the local departmental officers who acted as guides, philosophers and friends to us in our perambulations through the Territory. They provided us with every courtesy and gave exhaustive information in answer to our many inquiries regarding conditions which, in many respects, seemed strange to us.
The Territory poses a gigantic problem to the rest of Australia. We own it, but if we do not do something positive to develop it, the day may come when we shall not own it. It is an area that is worth while owning. Many misconceptions concerning the Territory exist in the minds of people of the southern States who have never seen it. Many of them think of it as an arid land without potential, with no wealth and unsuitable for white men. That is not so. I say to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), and to the Parliament as a whole, that those honorable members who have not yet seen the Territory should see it at the first available opportunity. Preferably, they should be permitted to see it under conditions similar to those in which the most recent parliamentary delegation saw it, and in that way come to grips with the realities, lt is important that they be given that opportunity, because, after all, the administration of the Northern Territory is the responsibility of this Parliament. The Territory has no municipal government. There is no civic administration there as we know it in the southern States. Every local issue, from the hospital treatment of a mother-to-be to the burial of an ancient aboriginal, is in the hands of this Parliament, acting through the Minister for Territories and the department under his control. Therefore, we in this Parliament have to deal with many details concerning the Territory which normally would be within the ambit of municipal authorities or State parliaments.
The basic problem of the Territory, as I see it, is the need for more population. Unctuous satisfaction should not be taken from the fact that the population has doubled during the last ten years. The total population, including whites, halfcastes and natives, is approximately 30,000, but when we remember that it is spread over an area of about 523,000 square miles, in a most strategically important part of our continent, we cannot derive great satisfaction from that fact. We must accelerate the rate of population of the Territory, and that must be done on a planned basis. An overall scheme, not a haphazard one, is called for. We cannot allow the development of the Territory to drift along.
I know that the Minister for Territories has applied himself to the problems of the
Territory. I am not offering carping criticism, nor do 1 deny that progress has been made during the last five years or so; I say however, that there is ample scope for i greater degree of development on a mon planned basis. I do not see a proper pla in operation, or even in contemplation, a this stage. It seems to me that the difficult’ is that people cannot be attracted to tb Territory in sufficient numbers. As ai individual, I could not reasonably advise ; worker in New South Wales, married ant with a family, to take his wife and children to the Territory in order to take a job there. I could not do that conscientiously, because I know that if he did so he would be placed at a disadvantage in respect of living conditions, wages, hospital treatment, the education of his children, and matters of that kind. I shall deal with this aspect in greater detail later in my remarks.
One of the basic needs of the Territory is a more generous financial policy, a policy of cheap money and more vigorous government activity, using the resources of the Commonwealth, through our banking system, to provide such money. The problem of populating the Territory can be overcome only in that fashion. Doubtless, there are many Australians in the southern States who are ready and willing to go to the north. Those are the people we should encourage above all others to go to the rice-growing area at Humpty Doo, to the cattle areas and, perhaps, most important of all, to engage in mining pursuits. If we persist in a policy of belated and sluggish financial assistance, provided through our normal budgetary channels, and do not provide a fundamental uplift for the working people of the Territory, we shall not encourage an influx of population. Rather, there will be a continuation of the present state of affairs. To-day, the majority of the workers in the Territory are single men who go there to make good money. They are prepared to put up with privations in order to save money, and they return to the southern States when they have done so. That is not the kind of population that is needed there. The Territory needs families who will put their roots into the earth, as it were, and remain there.
I know that figures can be producer! to show that the population has increased during the last ten years, but I ask honorable members opposite to measure that rate of increase with the urgency of the need to develop the Territory and to stimulate population, whether that be done by getting our ovn people to go there, or by encouraging n-.w Australians to go there. At the moment, there is no work that they could pirsue. That is the plain fact.
Reference has been made to the pistoral industry. From our own conception of it, from what we saw of it, and tom our discussion with those who might te called the captains of that industry, it is quite clear that that industry cannot absorb r big number of people. It is impossible far it to do so. The mining industry could. Jo could the agricultural industry headed possibly by rice development. But I shall touch on that subject later. In the first half-century of development, the population of the Northern Territory reached about 3,300. Before the outbreak of war it roughly doubled, and in the past ten years it has jumped to approximately 17,000, with about 15,000 aborigines. The position, therefore, is one of slow development; there has not been any great acceleration behind it. As the Northern Territory is a great national asset and a place of particular importance from its geographical position and many other points of view, we should seek to accelerate its development by various methods.
I think that the Government might well consider the proposition of reviewing the Northern Territory and the north-west of Australia, and possibly the western section of Queensland on the basis of establishing an authority such as the Tennessee Valley Authority in order to approach the entire development of this area, the problems of which are peculiar to itself. There is no point in any of us presuming as southerners that our conception of problems in relation to traffic, distance, road construction, and the amenities of life are identical with those of the people of the north. They are not. The people of the north have different conditions, climatically, geographically and in every other detail. I saw no similarity between their way of life and that of the people of the south. I admired the great courage of the residents of the Territory, who displaying rugged individualism, seek to build a new nation in northern areas. That a new nation will be built is obvious. The question is whether we shall be able to build it in a reasonable period of time.
The kernel of the problem is finance, which needs to be made available on a wide basis. In considering the provision of finance, it is no good asking whether an investment of £1,000,000 will provide a satisfactory monetary return within twelve months. Private enterprise will go into the Territory only when it can see a reasonable return available in a reasonable space of time. That is logical from the stand-point of private enterprise, but it is not the way to develop the Territory. There are many other aspects to the development of this area besides the motive of going in to take what one can out of the country and letting the country go hang.
The planning ahead of works has been referred to by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox), the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) and, I think, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan). The “ stop and go “ that occurs in the machinery of government - the flow of money from the Treasury to the departmental heads - must also be taken in hand very rapidly. We were told quite frankly while we were in the Northern Territory that road construction could not be pursued at certain times of the year because the okay on the expenditure of money had not come through from Canberra. That is an artificial and very absurd condition. The Northern Territory has a wet season and a dry season and it is when the dry season comes in that they work on their roads. They have to go by the calendar and by climatic conditions, and not by the routine system that is quite effective, probably, in relation to most other government budgetary proposals and the detailed control of administration. I feel sure that the Minister is seised of the need for that condition to be completely broken and for the policy of expanding expenditure to be applied religiously and definitely. If the Minister believes that it is being done, I can assure him - and the other members of the delegation can support me - that we found that such is not the case. Some bottleneck apparently is occurring in administration and needs to be removed.
I found that the wages payable to the average man in the Territory were only average wages in every sense of the term. Against that was stacked the terrific cost to the worker of food, clothing and other necessaries of life. Honorable members must realize that everything that goes into the Territory has travelled over many thousands of miles by sea, or by road, or by air, or by a combination of all three means. Simple things such as fruit are brought from Adelaide to the shops of Tennant Creek, about 1,000 miles away, and then may be carried another 1,000 miles to Darwin; or they are shipped in bulk around the east coast of Australia, again involving thousands of miles of transport. The cost of everything from a pair of socks or a pair of shoes to foodstuffs, such as grocery lines, carries, in addition to the price that we pay for our purchases, the cost of this transportation. I made an analysis of the expenses of a number of residents of all strata of social and economic life up there and I was told that the cost of providing a family with their food and necessaries in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, or Darwin, was from 50 per cent, to 75 per cent, greater than the cost of providing them in Brisbane, Adelaide or Melbourne. That means that these people are suffering that disability in relation to their wages. It might be pointed out that under the income tax scheme there is room for a claim for exemption on the first £20 of income in one area of the Territory and for the first £ 120 in another area. That is a mere bagatelle. Translated into terms of money in the pocket for the lady of the home, the housewife of the Northern Territory, it is nothing.
I agree with the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) to an extent. I am pleased that he expounded the tax relief theory and I hope that he will be able to get his government to see eye to eye with him on taxes. The people of the Territory should be given taxfree conditions for the next 25 years - for the next generation. Let it be part of the overall plan for the development of the Territory and the bringing in of people. That would make a very positive and very big contribution. I restrict my approach to this matter to the application of tax-free conditions to those in receipt of wages in the Territory.
Everything that is used in the construction of homes in the Northern Territory comes from the eastern States. Again, high costs prevail. We saw fibro homes there that were nothing better than a little fishing week-ender on the Hawkesbury, but they cost from £4,000 to £5,000. I also saw homes in the old relics of Army hutments in Darwin. A section of the working population is living under sub-standard conditions that are positively disgraceful. They could not be equalled by some of the worst sub-standard conditions in our more populated cities. Those people are in the throes of great difficulties. The hutments were never designed for that purpose. Their occupants are paying a very small rental which, I believe, is 8s. a week, to the department, but the point is that they should be paid to live in them. The hutments are not designed to accommodate these people. Nothing has been done to make them so useful an article, and these people are really experiencing great hardship. Quite a big percentage of the people are living under those conditions. The Government is spending money there. I think £1,000,000 was spent last year on housing. I know that private enterprise has built a number of houses. But I direct the attention of the Administration to the aspect that I am talking about. The Government should have a good look at it, because that condition is serious.
The officials of the Northern Australia Workers Union in conjunction with other union officials whom I met in Darwin say, in effect, that the existing basic wage should be increased by £5. They set that target. Within the realm of industrial law in this country, they are seeking through the Australian Council of Trade Unions to have the approach to the formulation of the basic wage for the Northern Territory altered so that the computation of the figures will be done exclusively in the Northern Territory. At the moment, that is not the case. I have indicated the high cost of every item of food, additional to what would be paid in shops in the southern States. I am sure that any honorable member will concede that a basic wage for this farflung area, this distant place, must be assessed upon the cost of commodities as they are sold in the shops of that place and not as they are sold in the shops of Townsville or in any other part of Australia. That is a fundamental consideration. If the Government will arrange for an early hearing of any claim that is made for a special basic wage in the Northern Territory, it will be making a contribution to justice and better conditions for workers in that area. After all, the workers are the ones who will be mainly responsible for the development of the Territory.
The family man must consider the schooling of his children. The Northern Territory is a place of vast distances. The delegation that visited the Territory recently saw the school of the air in operation. The only way in which many children in the north may receive fundamental education is from their parents, with the assistance of the school of the air, which is a remarkable educational instrument in the great outback. At Victoria River Downs we saw a mother teaching her children, and it is obvious that the parents and the school of the air provide the only means of education for a great number of children in the Territory.
At Alice Springs the medical staff is struggling to provide proper services with an inadequate hospital, which is obviously crowded, and was evidently built before or during the war. The Government could well consider the provision of a substantial amount of money for the improvement of the hospital services at that centre, and at any other place in the Territory where the medical facilities are inadequate.
Another matter with which the family man is concerned is the employment of his children after they complete their education. There are practically no normal avenues of employment available in the Territory for teenage children. If they cannot go on to the cattle stations, there is no opportunity for them to be employed in a factory or a shop, and they must leave the Territory and find employment elsewhere. The Government should investigate the possibility of establishing a cement works, other works associated with the manufacture of fibro-sheeting and other building materials, and tanneries. Those are industries that could be established in the north, but they will not be established unless the Government takes advantage of its control of the purse-strings and does something about it, because I do not believe that it would be profitable for average businessmen to invest in cement works, for instance, in the Territory. The Government must lead the way.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- At the very outset I wish to acknowledge the invaluable services rendered to the Northern Territory by the retired Administrator, Mr. F. J. S. Wise, whose paper, “ Problems of the Development of the Northern Territory “, is now before us, together with the statement of the Minister for Territories, the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck). I make that acknowledgment, believing that the leadership exercised by the Administrator was quite outstanding and most helpful indeed to the Territory. His report, which is before us, is a very commendable one. It is clear and concise. Its recommendations are specific. There are, however, several observations which I think are pertinent, while I am paying this tribute. 1 notice that the Minister concluded his statement with a reference to the fact that the knowledge gained by Mr. Wise as a result of his overseas trip should better equip him for his continued service as Administrator of the Territory. Then Mr. Wise, in writing his report, and realizing the limitations of any written report, himself expressed the conviction that additional information would be made available by him as time passed, and as the various officers of the departments of the Northern Territory Administration might require his comments. It is, therefore, pertinent, I think, to direct attention to the fact that this officer found it necessary to relinquish his appointment only a few months after his return from overseas and the compilation of the report which we now consider. That makes it necessary to emphasize that the incomplete aspects of his report should receive attention, if possible, by the Department of Territories, and that the specific recommendations made by Mr. Wise might also bc given early sympathetic attention.
I, too, was a privileged member of the recent Parliamentary delegation to this vast area known as the Northern Territory, and I should like to express my appreciation of my membership of that delegation and of the opportunity to travel with those who have, for the most part, already spoken in this debate. Our trip was both informative and stimulating. It was particularly stimulating for any man who had a sound conception of the progress that has been made in this area since the war. In 1945-46 I had a period of Army duty in Central Australia. My administrative duties brought me in touch with a number of areas that 1 saw again in recent weeks. I feel that it is right to pay a tribute to the present Government for what has been accomplished in the ten years since the war, particularly in the last five or six years. This Government is doing more than any previous Government has done in the history of the Territory to provide services and capital works and to stimulate industry. 1 regret that I cannot agree entirely with some of the views expressed this afternoon by the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney). I had felt that all the other members of the delegation would have been more or less unanimous in their expressions of opinion and in their recommendations, and that it would not be necessary to disagree with the honorable member for Cunningham, as I now do. If we, however, allowed some of his statements to go uncontradicated, surely we would frighten away from this vast territory, with its great potential, the very people whom we are anxious should settle there. The Northern Territory to-day, without doubt, offers to the worker much more than it has done at any previous time. If we inquire from people who have recently gone to the Territory whether they are eager to return to the southern States, we learn that they are fast becoming Territorians. It is my opinion that the educational possibilities in the Territory to-day are sound. Housing is extremely good, particularly the kind of housing that is now becoming available to various workers. The potential of the area is tremendous. For the man with a pioneering spirit and a Wish to make a career, the north is the place to go. I personally have been prepared in recent weeks, even if the honorable member for Cunningham has not, to commend personal friends to go north.
Tt is interesting to study the population trend in the Northern Territory over past years. Before the war the population of the Territory was under 5,000. In 1947, it was 10,868. In 1955, it had increased to 17,563. In 1946, there were only 43 permanent and temporary officers in the Northern Territory Administration, and last year there were 337.
It is apparent from Mr. Wise’s report and it was re-emphasized by the Minister in his statement, that research work for such a vast area is a vital necessity. Both the Northern Territory Administration and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization are carrying out detailed research projects. The members of the delegation were delighted to see the results achieved, and the vigour displayed by the officers of the two organizations in their research work. I wish to stress the importance of this detailed research, and 1 shall refer to a new project to indicate its value. We have high hopes of developing a ricegrowing industry in the Northern Territory. We all should be agreed that such an enterprise should be embarked upon only if research indicates that it will succeed, and that its future will be secure. World marketing problems should be thoroughly investigated to ensure that, if the Northern Territory can grow rice, we shall have no difficulty in marketing it and shall not eventually find ourselves in the position of other countries which have surplus stocks of rice.
Unfortunately, although I am vitally interested in the Northern Territory and visited it ten years ago, and have just returned from a second visit as a member of a parliamentary delegation, my remarks to-day must be limited to voicing only a few impressions. I should like particularly to discuss the pastoral industry, which is based on beef cattle and is still the main industry in the Northern Territory. The development of stock routes has been mentioned. During the last five years, this Government has approved the expenditure of £680,000 on stock routes, and those associated with the cattle industry in the north pay high tribute to the Government for its foresight. The Animal Industry Branch of the Northern Territory administration has accomplished much in the prevention of diseases through its own research facilities and experiments, which will further promote the development of the cattle industry. It is expected that, within ten years, the production of beef will be double the 1949 level. To me, whether or not to any one else, that hope indicates tremendous progress in the main industry of the north.
The improvement of herds has received specific attention only in isolated instances, but the Animal Industry Branch is encouraging better cattle breeding. Mr. Wise’s report discusses in detail cattle breeding successes in South Africa. At pages 28 and 29, Mr. Wise, among other recommendations, specifically recommends that Colonel Rose, the officer in charge of the Animal Industry Branch, be sent to South Africa to see for himself the work done there, and to gain personal knowledge and experience of it, and with the ultimate object of adopting in the Northern Territory, as far as practicable, the measures taken in South Africa. I trust that this recommendation will receive earnest and sympathetic consideration. Mr. Wise’s report refers also to the replacement of the buffalo industry in the Northern Territory by a well-planned cattle fattening project which, as we have been told, would have tremendous potential Value. 1 hasten now to mention aboriginal welfare. The members of the parliamentary delegation found that vision and drive were most apparent in the administration of the Native Welfare Branch. If there be any critics of the expenditure of approximately £534,000 in the interests of the aborigines in the Northern Territory last financial year, I wish to affirm very definitely that this expenditure should more than ease a social conscience which many individuals in this country have felt to be disturbed. I claim, with my feet firmly on the ground, that the operation of the Native Welfare Branch in this vast Territory have shown practical results. Success so often depends upon leadership. The Minister for Territories and the officers of the Department of Territories deserve praise for the employment of dynamic men whose vision and drive have already brought success in this field. I am sure that, in the future, very sound foundations will be laid in the development of their departmental responsibilities. The members of the parliamentary delegation personally saw evidence of the expenditure of approximately £534,000 on native welfare in the experiment farms and new structures, particularly school buildings, on station properties. These are real evidence of a progressive plan. I am well aware that, not many years ago, Australia was criticized by other countries, I believe quite rightly, for its attitude to the aborigines. Our treatment of them was termed one of the stenches of the universe. It is good that we, as members of the National Parliament, can say that, in more recent years, we have given practical assistance and encouragement to the native race.
The mining industry in the Northern Territory has a wonderful potential for at least 25 years, a period in which the economy of the north will be relatively secure and in which agriculture may be developed. Other honorable members have mentioned the large deposits of uranium, bauxite and copper in the Territory. It is pleasing to note that overseas capital is being attracted there. Company activities, which the delegation saw in a number of places, are on a very high plane. The honorable member for Cunningham referred to the worker and his rights. The mining companies in the Northern Territory are providing splendid houses and good living conditions near the mines. They are required by the Minister and his officers to do so.
I wish now to discuss roads, which have been mentioned by other speakers. The mining areas need roads. Wherever the delegation went, those whom we interviewed asked for good roads above all things. The main highways, which 1 saw ten years ago, require major work. In the intervening time, they have been given no attention except for the occasional repair of a pothole. In the near future, heavy expenditure will be incurred on the highways alone. Station owners are poorly served by original dirt tracks. Surveyed and crowned roads are essential, because even the expenditure of thousands of pounds on these poor, unsurveyed roads does not prevent them from becoming unusable for months in the wet season. There would be merit in the establishment in the Northern Territory of a works branch under the guidance and control of the Northern Territory administration rather than under the control of the Commonwealth Department of Works, which has its head-quarters in Canberra, and also in the institution of a main roads commission, with head-quarters in Darwin and responsible to the Territory administration for the maintenance and development of roads. Such a scheme would surely improve communications and achieve better results than have been registered in the past.
A previous speaker mentioned the problem of finance, which is at present provided by the Government on votes approved by the Parliament from year to year. It is suggested that budgeting over a period of three to five years is essential, and also a controlled system of anticipating budget approval be instituted so that work required to be done during May, June, July and August of each year, preparatory to the onset of the wet season, could be undertaken in accordance with a planned programme. 1 also consider that a Stop-and-go programme of road construction and maintenance is far from satisfactory. The parliamentary delegation found evidence to support this contention wherever it went in the Territory.
I wish to say, finally, that, in the Northern Territory, there is a distinct need for education in the advantages of local government. The democratic Australian way of life stems from the acceptance of the local-governing responsibility. 1 suggest that, if the people in such northern- towns as Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Darwin do not want the responsibility of local government, they should be encouraged to see its advantages. If they accept that responsibility; they willdevelop a healthy respect for what can be done in their interests by government from Canberra or anywhere else. The Northern Territory, then, has started to move. Its potential to Australia is recognized as never before. It has been given practical assistance by- this Government. It has every justification to anticipate a continuance of this type of sympathetic thought. I, therefore, express the conviction that the Northern Territory developmental problems will be overcome and in the foreseeable future the Northern Territory will become selfsupporting and will be given the status of an independent State.
.- The value of parliamentary delegations has been amply proved by the splendid speeches delivered this afternoon. I congratulate those who participated in the debate for the points of view expressed, and for the deep interest shown in this vast area so often forgotten by people in the southern and eastern States and even neglected and left unwanted by this Parliament.
We are considering to-day a report furnished to the Minister and to Parliament by the former Administrator, Mr. Wise. Mr. Wise was an able and competent Administrator and it is a source of very great regret to me personally, as I feel it must be to Parliament and to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), that Mr. Wise has relinquished his duties as the Administrator of this important part of our country. The reason given for his retire- ment has been that of ill health. I am inclined to suspect that it is not merely a matter of ill health but that, in addition to ill health, there has been that fell disease or malady of frustration and exasperation that grips many people in the Northern Territory when they find that their aims and aspirations are thwarted by people who are not in tune with them and by a government that seems to regard the Northern Territory as something less than a Colombo plan country, lt is a regrettable state of affairs that Mr. Wise has found it necessary to give up this important work. I believe that one of the most important appointments made by the Menzies-Fadden Administration was that of Mr. Wise as Administrator of the Northern Territory.
To-day we have heard the points of view of honorable members. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has spoken incessantly, pleading with Parliament, with the Minister and with Cabinet to apportion sufficient funds for the development of north Australia. It is heartening to know that this campaign has been stimulated by the Minister, who has permitted delegations to go to the Territory, and by the kindness and hospitality of the people of the north, and to hear such excellent reports here this afternoon. Whilst all that is good, we must face the fact that this problem cannot be dealt with unless we deal with the malady.
I believe that the first thing to be put right is the question of the government of the Territory. First and foremost, the whole of the administration of the Northera Territory should be placed in the hands of a Minister for the Northern Territory. It should not be dissipated and spread out over a number of Ministers, such as the Minister for the Interior, the Minister for something else and so on. The question of the development of the Northern Territory is one for the Minister for Territories. It is unfortunate that in Darwin, the capital of the Territory, the Legislative Council is dominated by Government nominees and subject to the veto of the Minister and of Cabinet. Whatever decision is reached, it rests finally with the Government to accept or reject that view. I put forward the old axiom that the people best fitted to determine these matters are those on the spot.
I am particularly concerned when officers of the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works in Canberra have an overriding influence on the people of the Northern Territory. If the present form of government is to continue, the Administrator and the Legislative Council should be the first to consider what is right in the Northern Territory. It is certainly not in the best interests of the development of that area to find that, for every penny piece required, the Administrator must come cap in hand to Canberra seeking votes of money. That is all to the bad and it cannot mean anything in the development of the area.
I am not trying to anticipate a budget or anything that might be contained in a budget speech, but in the future substantial sums of money should be made available to develop the north. If past budgets can be taken as a guide, whatever sum is made available will be pitifully inadequate and nothing near what is required to meet the challenge. If it is good enough to vote £35.000,000 to Colombo Plan countries - and I am not here to deny the need for developing friendship with our northern neighbours - I submit that a substantial sum of money, something akin at least to that amount, is necessary for the development of the north of Australia. We should be prepared to do that for this country.
The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) pin-pointed and highlighted this problem when he referred to the millions of people to the north of our country with whom we are called upon to enter into arrangements through Seato and other organizations and other people whom we have been asked to consider as potential opponents and enemies. Those teeming millions to the north of Australia have a different outlook and a different culture, and they have no approach such as we have to the Christian and democratic way of life. We must look at their problem and look at this land that has been mentioned this afternoon. It contains the greatest riches of the world. It has mineral wealth, precious gems, great uranium resources, gold and pastoral and rural possibilities. When all those aspects are considered, then I say that the paltry few pounds being spent on the development of the Northern Territory is approaching very near to a treasonable act.
In the Northern Territory, 17,000 people inhabit 520,000 square miles, which is bigger than New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania together, and I should like to feel that those people will view Canberra in a better light than they do at present. I should like to feel that the people of the Northern Territory regard us as the custodians of their welfare, anxious to succour them and to develop the area to the utmost in our lifetime.
I am not here to criticize any development that has occurred, but I feel that honorable members will agree that most of the progress that has been made in the Northern Territory has been due mainly to the development of our uranium deposits in that area. We cannot hope for any other form of progress unless we proceed with something worth while in regard to transportation. Better access must be provided to the great mineral resources in the hinterland and the necessary roads must be built so that people can go out and prospect the land and develop the mines. Unless that is done, mining cannot develop in the way that it should nor be able to play its part in the development of this country. Good roads are essential, but what is the present position? According to information supplied to me by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, in the Northern Territory there are 1,258 miles of bituminous roads, 170 miles of macadam roads, 8,817 miles of roads which are only formed, and 1,620 miles of roads which have been only cleared and have natural surfaces. That is not good enough, and it is not of much use to Warne any State for those conditions. The responsibility for the scandalous failure to provide access to present and potential areas of development in the north lies on this Parliament, and it is up to the Parliament to accept the challenge and to proceed with a plan which will extend roads to outlying parts of the country. We cannot expect any rapid development of rural industries unless we have better transportation. With better transportation, great expanses of country in the north with approximately only 200 holdings could have their population multiplied not tenfold, but one hundredfold, and all of these persons could be settled on the land. If we proceeded with essential road development, and introduced immediately a rail construction programme such as that which was envisaged in the Clapp report, by constructing a standard gauge rail link between the Northern Territory and Dajarra, with an extension to the coast in the region of Townsville, the resources of Queensland would be readily available to the Northern Territory, and vice versa. We could link the resources of Mary Kathleen, Cloncurry and Mount Isa with those of the Northern Territory, including Rum Jungle, and we could promote great industrial development and attract a great population. I hope that we shall have that spectacular development of the north. The construction of such a railway as I have described has been supported in the past by honorable members. If a standard gauge line were extended to Darwin, every 50 miles or so there would be a railway station that would be the centre of a community, with a station master, a night officer, fettlers, a storekeeper, and the other persons who comprise such communities. Unless we are prepared to adopt this course, all of the brave words we have spoken will get no further than the pages of “ Hansard “. They will have no practical effect. That is not enough. I am sure that it is not enough for the Minister. I know that it is not enough for the honorable member for the Northern Territory, nor for those honorable members who recently visited the Territory and who believe that something dramatic and worthwhile ought to be done in the development of the northern parts of this country which are so essential to the survival of our people.
I have referred to the need for better transportation, which includes better shipping. Only recently, in Cairns, I noted how one small act in regard to shipping had helped to develop the north. A small steamer plies between Cairns and Cooktown, conveying cattle from the north, and saving a trip overland of hundreds and hundreds of miles which the cattle would otherwise have had to make to markets and meat-works.
– It takes them to New Guinea, also.
– As the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has rightly interjected, this boat was able also take cattle to New Guinea and other places. Boats are essential. I am pleased that transport by road, rail and sea has received so much attention from speakers to-day. Progress will never be made unless we proceed with the development of transport facilities. It is to the discredit of this Government, which must accept the responsibility, that not one mile of railway has been laid by it in this area during the post-war period. The Government has not laid one inch of the lines that were recommended for construction in the Clapp report. If the Government is to develop this land now, railways must be built. If we are to concern ourselves with defence, surely the aspect of defence through development must engage the attention of honorable members. Surely the end-all in defence is not merely the undergoing by men of national service training and the conducting of atomic tests at Maralinga and elsewhere. Surely those are not the only measures necessary for the survival and security of this country. I stress that the best means of defending the country is through development. We need a greater population in the north. It is true that the north is the frontier of Australia. In the future we must never regard Darwin as the back door to Australia, nor our northern neighbours as inhabiting the Far East. We must regard their countries as our near north, for they are the people with whom we are obliged to live.
If the Parliament proceeds from the consideration it has given this subject this afternoon to translating the words so eloquently spoken by various speakers into legislative enactments, some worthwhile progress can be made. I do not say that the Minister is not deeply concerned with these matters. I believe that he is concerned, but I want Cabinet and the Parliament to be concerned also. I want to see support given in this place to measures which will mean the development of these areas. I deplore the words that flow occasionally from some honorable members, but more often from some of the great organs of publicity outside this chamber, to . the effect that we should curtail our immigration and developmental plans. Those who speak or write in that fashion shrink from the strains and stresses incidental to developing a nation. Surely therein lies a challenge for us. Surely a population of 10,000,000 people is not adequate. Surely we are not going without very much, and those persons who are in need may, as a result of wise legislation and social reform, be treated much better than they are being treated to-day. We can care for them as they should rightfully be cared for.
This is a challenge to the people of Australia. The fact that only 17,000 persons occupy 520,000 square miles of country surely constitutes a vote of no confidence in this Parliament for permitting such conditions to exist. The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) quite rightly asked, “ Where are the jobs? “ There is opportunity, great wealth and great richness of land. Proof of it lies in the fact that through the years cattle have roamed the mountains, hills and plains, buffalo have multiplied, wild horses have run in tens of thousands and bird-life has existed in abundance. This indicates that the country is not barren. It is a rich land. If we are prepared to test it we shall find that it is fabulously rich. I can only hope that opportunities will be given to persons to go there, that jobs will await them, and that those who wish to take up land will be able to get information from the Minister and his department that blocks of land are available for them. Some friends of mine applied for blocks of land in the Territory and they were most disappointed with the replies they received. They knew that vast tracts of land are held by persons who have done precious little for the development of this country. We remember Lord Vestey’s shocking failure in regard to the meatworks at Darwin, and the other venture at Katherine which was started, half completed, left neglected and unwanted, and finally dismantled and removed. This neglect on the part of the land-owning monopolists of the Northern Territory makes it evident that the sooner we improve transport facilities and place more small men on the land the better it will he for Australia. I should have liked to refer to other matters but time does not permit. I congratulate those native affairs officers who are responsible for improving the living standards of the primitive people of this country. T only hope that in doing so they will not insist that the natives be detribalized.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I hope that I am not giving any secrets away when J say that the Whip invited me to say a few words at this juncture. My approach to the Northern Territory is perhaps rather different from that of honorable members who have spoken during this debate, inasmuch as all of them, 1 think, have visited the area as members of a delegation. My knowledge has been derived partly from the study of official reports and partly from a visit, in the winter of 1.955, when I travelled by motor cycle across the Barkly Tableland. I have already, in this House, made extensive references to the Payne-Fletcher report and to the fact that Mr. Fletcher, in addressing the Summer School of the Australian Institute of Political Science, has, within the last two years, repeated the criticisms of the Northern Territory pastoral industry that were made in that report in 1936. Apparently he regards them as still valid. I find that there are some references in the Wise report tabled a few months ago which bear out what Mr. Fletcher has said.
I travelled through that country across the rather arid and stony stretch between Mount lsa and Camooweal, and over the rolling black soil downs of the Barkly Tableland, where one may look to the horizon and not see so much as a single tree. From time to time along the excellent stock route from Elliot to the Rankine River one came across a windmill and a “ turkey’s nest “, where a water point had been supplied by the Administration.
Fair tribute has been paid by other honorable members in this debate to the Government and the Administration for the development of such stock routes, to the great advantage of the cattle industry. In my journey across the tableland I saw mobs of cattle and even a Sydney slicker like myself could tell that they were pretty poor beasts. The activity of the mickey bulls was evident. One could also see some of the eaten-out areas to which reference is made in the Payne-Fletcher report. In traversing the tableland, a distance of some hundreds of miles, I camped out at night, and therefore am not influenced in my judgment by a sense of gratitude or deference to the people there. I did not partake of any hospitality and therefore my criticism is fair and is not mitigated by feelings that sometimes cause one to speak in more modified terms than one should. Having traversed the tableland, I was then at Darwin and I- had an opportunity to go to
Glenroy and see what was being done there. I went, subsequently, to the Alice Springs district also.
I should like now to quote from the Wise report. Time will not .permit me to do more than deal with the beef cattle industry, though various other matters are doubtless just as important. At page 18 of the report Mr. Wise refers to what is being done at King Ranch in southern Texas. He tells us that .large sums are spent there annually in pasture research. I may say that, though wealthy pastoral companies have been carrying on their activities in the Northern Territory for many years, they have not, so far as I know, spent one penny on research as the King Ranch has done.
– But in Texas there are 600 oil wells.
– 1 should be surprised to know that the King Ranch has 600 oil wells or any oil wells at all. I merely suggest that many wealthy companies have been operating in the Northern Territory but they have not seen fit to spend the sums on research that have been spent, not by oil barons but by a private pastoral concern. Mr. Wise goes on to say -
It may. ‘be said that . . . almost all pastoral properties in the Northern Territory . . . have some over-grazed parts where the more nutritious types of grasses have long since disappeared . . .
Some pastoralists are showing such indifference to this national matter that areas where water is provided - especially water provided by nature or by the Government - are constantly overstocked and over-grazed ….
Education in the realm of better land use plus a review of the legislative control now designed to be effective could do much to avoid the continuance of the dangerous practice of overstocking .. .
There mm , malor defects in the existing laws for the control of stocking and a consideration of drafting a Pastoral Lands Act has much merit.
I .hope that the Minister is doing something about that. Mr. Wise adds -
This is .not ‘a case of interfering with the freedom of the individual but it is a matter of not allowing the individual to have a continuing licence to abuse and permanently injure the national estate and to promote great national loss.
He recommends that the Administrator be empowered to take definite measures for the proper disposition of stock, the provision of new waters and an insistence upon the non-use of some areas and the fencing of others. In travelling across the Barkly Tableland one saw very few fences. Very little has been done to segregate cattle though, I am told, good quality beef cannot be produced in any other way. If we are to export beef, to Great Britain .especially, its .quality must be better than .it .has been in the past. Mr. Wise goes on to speak about the need to introduce better strains of cattle, and .refers to the Santa Gertrudis breed and .the good impression he formed of the cattle bred by Professor Bonsma, .of South Africa. At page 22 he describes the standard of animal husbandry .in these words -
It is only in comparatively recent years .that new blood has been introduced into some .of these herds, paddocks to segregate cattle have been built and -water provided where natural surface waters do not exist. In all the years since the first great treks and the early occupation of .the ,1880’s not very much was done in new blood or in segregation of cattle or in the provision of new waters over the vast areas from the western coastline to the .Cape York Peninsula until the 1930’s.
Since that time, and more particularly in very recent years, there have been sporadic attempts to bring in new blood, some of which has been turned loose in the open .range to compete with the vigorous “ micky “ bulls in the vast unfenced areas.
It may be said, of course, that what was done between the wars was due to low prices and the difficulties of the industry. But what does Mr. Wise go on to say? He says -
Low prices and high costs have been stated as the reasons for inability to do better in a general way. There are many examples, however, where much better might have been done and where a great disservice has been rendered the nation in the abuse of land and mismanagement of herds over vast unfenced leases held under generous terms from the Crown.
I -believe that we cannot expect a great improvement in the pastoral industry - and I speak only of the part I know, and about which I have read very authoritative reports - until something is done about transport and .closer settlement, if it may be called such, on the Barkly Tableland. I do not know about other areas in the Northern Territory. I understand that it is impossible to achieve any policy of closer settlement on the Barkly Tableland without the prerequisite of better transport, and proposals have been advanced time and time again in respect of the improvement of railway facilities in that region.
In advocating the improvement of transport in our northern areas I am not advancing any grandiose schemes for running a railway from Burke in New South Wales to Dajarra in Western Queensland and across to Newcastle Waters, and perhaps even to Wyndham or a rail from Alice Springs to Darwin. I am advocating merely the extension of the Queensland narrow rail gauge from Dajarra or, perhaps better, from Mount Isa to Camooweal or perhaps to Rankine River. It is not a great distance. It is a distance that can be covered in a motor car or on a motor cycle in a little more than half a day. Frequently cattle are walked from the headwaters of the Victoria River by the Muranji track across the Barkly Tableland to Rankine. Those cattle travel on well-watered stock routes provided by the Government at the expense of the taxpayers, and after that they face a trip over a barren and stony area from Camooweal which does great damage to them, before they reach the railhead at Dajarra. It would not be expensive as public works go, to run a railway from Mount Isa or Dajarra to Rankine River or to Camooweal, and so complete a job that has already been started. If that were done it would be possible to do something about closer settlement on the Barkly Tableland.
I imagine that the people who hold vast areas of anything up to 15,000 square miles of Crown leases on the Barkly Tableland would not press for such a railway, because they know that the coming of the railway would mean the subdivision of the vast tracts that they hold. I do not think we shall get fencing, and the bores without which the area of pasture cannot be extended, until we get closer settlement, and we shall not get closer settlement on the Barkly Tableland until we get railway facilities.
I agree with the honorable member who has just resumed his seat that the extension of transport facilities there is vitally important.
Besides the railway suggested, something must definitely be done about roads in the north. I believe that there should be an intensive study of means whereby it might be possible to provide cheap, all-weather roads. I have already put before the Minister for Shipping and Transport a proposal advanced by a substantial industrial group in Great Britain, which has devised a means of sealing all-weather roads, particularly where clay soil exists, as on the Barkly Tableland. I shall again bring that matter before the Government in the hope that such a system may be adopted, and may prove to be effective and cheap. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour to-day.
Leave granted, debate adjourned.
– It is with deep regret that I inform the House that the American Ambasador to Australia, Mr. Douglas Maxwell Moffat, died in Sydney to-day, after a brief illness. Mr. Moffat has been in Australia only a short time - since March of this year - but those of us who have been privileged to meet him in that time have learned to regard him as a worthy representative of his country. Our ties with America go very deep indeed, and the death of the Ambassador in our country touches us all personally. I, therefore, express to the members of the late Ambassador’s family the sorrowful feeling of this House on his death, and our appreciation of the work that he has already done to consolidate the friendship between our two countries. 1 move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of Mr. Douglas Maxwell Moffat, the American Ambassador in this country, and tenders its sincere sympathy io his wife and family in their bereavement.
– Deeply regretting the occasion, I second the motion submitted by the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Arthur Fadden). During his very short stay here, Mr. Moffat made many friends and, at his own wish, he had already undertaken a rather strenuous tour - a visit to New Guinea. He took ill, his last illness as it turned out, on returning from that visit. He has been a great figure in his own country, a great lawyer, prominent among those concerned with the international policies of the United States.
To-day we mourn his death. I wish especially to refer, as the Acting Prime Minister did, to the tremendous loss suffered by Mrs. Moffat as a result of the death of her distinguished husband so far from his home and bis loved ones in the United States.
– I rise to express my deep sense of grief at the passing of a beloved and trusted representative of the United States in the person of His Excellency, Ambassador Douglas M. Moffat. Although he had been but the briefest time with us, he had already gained the affectionate regard of the people of this country. That was the experience, also, of his predecessors. He had expected, with rich feelings of satisfaction, to learn even more of our life and ideals. The late ambassador came to this country with high potentials, not the least of them that of being a good and trustworthy friend. He loved the robust and what seemed to him to be the rugged characteristics of Australianism. He had come to know us, and to appreciate greatly the people of this country, and their great qualities as pioneers, because the pioneering days of this country were so like those of his own country.
Whoever instituted diplomatic missions between nations conferred, I feel, a great benefaction on the world, for such missions are the best means of cultivating underStanding and enduring friendship among nations. It was those qualities which were singularly manifested in the character and life of the late ambassador. My own experience in a similar distinguished office, as Australian Ambassador to the United States, permits me to understand the more the nearness and warmth of the people whom the late Mr. Moffat was privileged to represent. I tender my sincere condolences to the American nation and, particularly, to the surviving relatives.
– I rise to associate myself with the expressions of great regret and condolence that have fallen from the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the very sad occasion of the death of Mr. Douglas Moffat, the Ambassador of the United States of America. I am more than sad that the first official task to fall to my lot on returning from overseas should be an event of this kind. Mr. Douglas Moffat had a long and distinguished law career in his own country. He was extremely well known. Towards the end of his long career he came to this country to represent the United States. He had not been here long enough for all of us to get to know him at all well personally, but our early contacts with him gave us every cause to respect him as a man and as the representative of his great country. His untimely death, I am sure, is a great blow to all of us here, to the Government of the United States and, of course, to his own family. I associate myself with the Acting Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in extending condolence and great sympathy to Mrs. Moffat and the other members of his family and also, of course, to the Government of the United States.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
Sitting suspended from 5.47 to 8 p.m.
Messages from the Administrator reported transmitting Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1957, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed, and referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
– I desire to lay before the Committee of Supply to-night estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year 1956-57. I shall also explain some financial proposals associated with these estimates and discuss certain broad considerations of national interest which have a bearing on immediate financial policy of the Government.
On a number of occasions in recent times, both the Prime Minister and I have discussed the economic situation in statements to the House and to the public. Our object has been to promote understanding of the economic problems which confront Australia and to show what has to be done by governments and by all sections of the community if these problems are to be solved. We have emphasized time and again that the rate of growth Australia has sustained in recent years and the state of high prosperity we have enjoyed are both endangered by certain tendencies current in our economy. In part, these tendencies have originated abroad but, in the main, they are due to pressures created by our own efforts not only to expand rapidly and in many directions but at the same time to achieve higher and higher consumption standards.
To meet these problems, so far as they are capable of being met by governmental action, the Government has developed policy measures designed, on the one hand, to restrain demand and so mitigate pressures on resources and, on the other hand, to promote higher levels of production and exports. In broader terms, our aim has been to strike a balance between the longterm objectives of development and population growth and the more immediate requirements of preserving the prosperity and stability of the growing community.
In 1955-56 national income, in money terms, is estimated to- have been £4,312,000,000. This was a rise of £265,000,000, or 6.5 per cent., as compared with 1954-55. There was a rise- of £209,000,000, or 9 per cent., in total wages and salaries, a rise of £27,000,000, or 5 per cent., in company income and a rise of £35,000,000, or 7 per cent., in incomes of other forms of business and the professions. Farm income, on the other hand, fell by £26,000,000, or 6 per cent. During the year, personal consumption expenditure rose by £243,000,000, or 8 per cent., gross private expenditure on capital equipment by £71,000,000, or 8.4 per cent., and total public authority expenditure by £88,000,000, or 9.8 per cent. These figures show that, except in the case of farm income, all the main aggregates of income and expenditure rose considerably during last financial year. Indeed, some of them rose even more than they did in 1954-55.
Nevertheless, there was a marked levelling off in income and expenditure trends during the second half of the financial year. It showed up in statistics of retail sales, revenue collections, hire purchase dealings and so on. It also appeared in the employment field for, although the number of persons in civilian employment, excluding rural and. domestic employees, increased during 1955-56 as a whole by 46,000, most of that increase took place in the first half, of the financial year. In the last quarter of the year employment in. some occupations fell slightly although, employment in other occupations rose.
A number of reasons can readily be found for the tapering off in income and expenditure which has occurred in recent months. The restraint on bank lending and the various measures taken by the Government, including particularly the tax increases brought down in March, have undoubtedly acted to moderate excess demand, as of course they were intended to do. The fall in farm income has had the same kind of effect and it also seems probable that the rise in costs, which has become sharper during recent months, will exert a sobering influence on some investment plans.
Yet the general level of. industrial activity, construction and business turnover, obviously remains very high. Major industrial projects are going ahead,, apparently without much hesitation. There is a great deal of. factory, office and hotel building in progress. Housing commencements have fallen to some extent but are still, at a high level. The labour situation has eased, overtime working has diminished and the rate of labour turnover has fallen; but, except in Western Australia where special local factors have caused some slackness, very little, unemployment has appeared anywhere and the demand for many types of labour continues strong. During recent months, output has fallen in certain industries, particularly in some of those producing consumption goods, but in the majority of industries it has been well sustained. In iron and steel and some of the other basic industries production has continued to rise fairly strongly.
In general it appears that, while some relief has been obtained from the pressures which have afflicted our economy during the past two years, we have still not reached a fully balanced situation. That applies particularly to the external side of our economic affairs, of which I shall say more presently: but it holds also to a degree for our domestic situation. Although demand has been reduced, it still seems to be running ahead of supply in some directions. This shows up in the fact that there is still very great pressure to obtain import licences for overseas goods of most kinds.
In 1955-56 our exports were £773,000,000 and our imports £819,000,000. The adverse trade balance was therefore £46,000,000 and, after bringing freight payments and other net invisible transactions into account, we had a current account deficiency of £221,000,000. From loans and capital transactions and various movements of funds on private account, we gained a net amount of £148,000,000. The net result of all our overseas transactions for the year was that our international reserves fell by £73,000,000. At 30th June last they stood at £355,000,000.
Although this figure is somewhat higher than at one stage of the year seemed likely, it still represents an uncomfortably low level of reserves. Our external trade being, as it is, liable to wide fluctuations we need always to have a good reserve of overseas funds to meet contingencies. More than that, we should have room to manoeuvre in the sense that if, at any time, we need to spend rather more than usual on imports we should be able to draw upon reserves to do so instead of having to depend wholly on current year-to-year receipts.
This, however, is only one aspect of the present unsatisfactory position of our balance of payments. With the rate of imports now falling and some prospect of better export returns in the current year, we can perhaps look forward to a considerable improvement in trade figures. But on top of the bill for imports we must add a very large amount for freight and other outward payments, including dividend remittances, interest, travel expenditure and so on. In total, the net amount of these items last year was £175,000,000, and it is hardly likely to be much less in the current year. This means that even when imports have fallen to the planned level, and even if export earnings this year prove to be appreciably greater than last year, we will still be dependent upon a considerable amount of capital inflow if we are to avoid a further fall in our international reserves. The rate of such capital inflow in recent limes has been encouraging, but in the past it has tended to be a highly variable item and to be dependent upon it is not at all a secure position.
More unsatisfactory still is the thought that a balance in our external trade and payments seems possible at this stage only on the basis of severely restricted imports. In the light of our trade position and the state of our reserves, the Government had no choice but to curtail imports; but it would be the last to claim that the present state of things is satisfactory or even tolerable. If continued for long, import restrictions at the present degree of severity must be damaging to our economy and yet, unless there is a major improvement in our export earnings or unless capital inflow is much larger than in recent times, it is difficult to see the position being much alleviated in the immediate future.
The fact is that we cannot afford a reasonably satisfactory flow of imports unless and until our export earnings rise much higher. We need- an export income more like £ 1,000,000,000 a year than £800,000,000. We also need a steady flow of capital on both public and private account.
However, although our immediate balance of payments problem is difficult, I do not think that, on a rather longer view, we need despair of a solution; and 1 certainly do not join with those who say that, unless we reduce our rate of economic growth, we must resign ourselves to chronic shortages of foreign exchange and perpetual import restrictions.
Obviously, of course, a solution depends upon the satisfaction of certain basic conditions and of these some, admittedly, are more or less beyond our own control. For example, our export earnings must depend largely upon world prices for .our products and also upon the accessibility of markets - as to which much, in turn, depends upon the trading policies of other .nations. On the other hand, quantity of export production also counts, and no one can doubt the physical capacity of this country to yield more and more commodities to meet the world’s most basic needs. Even now, it can be said that recent achievements in raising the volume of export production, especially rural production, have been highly encouraging. Equally encouraging has been the recent proof that some of .our manufacturing industries are capable of entering more largely into the export field and are extremely keen to do so.
More than this, one need be no great optimist to believe that, locked away in this vast land of ours, are resources capable of enlarging out export potential and diminishing our need for imports. Indeed, scarcely a recent year has passed without something of the kind coming to light. Perhaps as notable an example as any is the growing confirmation of large and rich mineral deposits in Queensland and the Northern Territory. 1 have been assured that, given adequate development of known fields, new mineral production is capable of adding very substantially to our export earnings within a few years. I may mention here that the Commonwealth Government is now actively exploring with the Government of Queensland the need for improved railway facilities to permit early full-scale development of some of these projects.
Instances of this kind seem to make folly of the idea that active pursuit of development is necessarily incompatible with a sound balance of payments position. It can probably be agreed that some developmental activity could have taken more fruitful directions in the past. Granted this, however, can it be supposed that our balance of payments problem will be solved by cutting down development?
There are other conditions to be fulfilled. One has been the theme of much the Government has said, and the object of much the Government has done, in recent times - that is. to prevent the occurrence of inflationary demand conditions which lead to excessive importing and a running down of our international reserves.
A further condition is the preservation in this country of such sound and stable economic conditions as will encourage the investment of more overseas capital, on both public and private account - encourage it not only to come here but to stay here and leave its earnings for investment here. It would be impossible for me to canvass this subject in any detail now but to underline its importance I should perhaps point out that, had we not received within the last two years a quite substantial amount of overseas investment, we would certainly be in much greater balance of payments difficulties to-day.
Yet another primary condition is that we must bring our cost and price situation under control. Its implications for the balance of payments problem are obvious. It affects export prospects, import demand and the flow of overseas investment, each in the most direct and vital way and both immediately and in the longer term.
We have no full and exact measure of cost and price changes over the whole field of the economy, but it is common ground that costs and prices have been tending to rise for the past couple of years and that latterly the rate of increase has become more rapid. The movement has reached a stage at which it is beginning to affect seriously the relative economic position of people and classes of people and to disturb the competitive position of firms and industries. lt is also at the spiralling stage in which a cost or price increase affecting one commodity sets in train a series of cumulative cost and price increases, multiplying the original increase.
Very many factors have contributed to the rise in costs and prices which has occurred. Higher import prices and shipping freights have had some influence though, in the sum of things, probably not a large one. Most of the factors have been local and a host of particular increases in wages and salaries, profits, rents, freights and fares and similar elements have combined and inter-acted to produce a trend, gradually strengthening and spreading, until it now affects wide sectors of the economy. Under the conditions of easy demand which have prevailed until lately and, to a degree, still prevail, it has been easy to pass cost increases on in prices.
There are, however, always some who cannot pass cost and price increases on - people on fixed incomes, firms who sell in highly competitive markets, exporters whose prices are determined by overseas conditions - and upon these groups the full brunt of the movement falls.
This is no piece of abstract theory; it is a strict account of what has happened in Australia and is happening to-day. Costs and prices have been rising in a cumulative fashion and have now become a crucial problem for many branches of industry As usual, the movement is tending to weigh with concentrated force on export pro ducers, some of whom have already been hil by falls in world prices for their product; and most of whom face the fact that work trade is becoming more and mon competitive.
Since many elements have had a part ii the rise of costs and prices it is clearly no a problem that can be settled at a stroke
Overseas influences apart, the movement has its origins in the gradually developing unbalance in the state of our own economy during the past two or three years. Excess demand gave rise to competitive bidding for resources, tending to force costs up. Demand conditions made cost and price increases possible. Cost and price increases could readily be passed on and so the spiralling process started. What we are experiencing to-day is partly the effect - the delayed effect - of the great rise in spending which began more than two years ago and which only in the last few months has begun to taper off. Local production increased, imports increased but still the rate of expenditure ran ahead of both.
Recognition of this fact was the basis for the successive measures which the Government and its associated authorities have applied to moderate demand and relieve the pressure both on local resources and on imports. Restraint on bank lending, close control of public works expenditure, taxation designed to restrain both consumption’ and investment expenditure - all these have been employed for this purpose. Necessarily they require time to produce their full effects but it does now seem that these objects are being realized to an appreciable and increasing extent. Competition for resources does not now seem to be nearly as severe as it was up to the end of 1955 or even later.
Once a general price and cost increase gains momentum, however, it is apt to keep going and even to gather strength, simply through the action of one increase upon another. Something like that seems to be happening now; for even though economic pressures have weakened the cost and price spiral has lately become more rapid. As I have said, it is partly the delayed result of earlier pressures but it is certainly being accentuated by factors such as the automatic adjustment of wage rates under some State wage-fixing systems. lt was to eliminate that factor, which is having widespread harmful effects - not least on the interests of wage-earners themselves - that the Government proposed to the States concerned that they should abandon the system, this as the first step to achieving a more orderly and rational system of wage adjustment throughout Australia.
Some have argued that these automatic adjustments are only a minor element in the problem. Let me quote some facts, lt is calculated that the automatic adjustments made to State basic wages since 1953 are adding £30,000,000 per year to the wage bill and this is only the direct addition to costs. It takes no account of the multiplied indirect effects. Every shilling increase in the Slate basic wages of the five States concerned directly adds a further £3,000,000. These facts should be enough to show that it is really a major element in the problem and that is why the Government has attached importance to it.
The Government has not proposed any freezing of wages. It does not believe in freezing wages or prices or profits or anything else. On all past experience that approach solves nothing and it can do very great harm to the economy. As to wages, its fundamental belief is that they should be determined by independent tribunals, which are the proper bodies to assess the issues, weigh the facts and apply consistent principles of justice as between wage-earners and employers. It also believes that there is much to be gained from a substantial uniformity throughout Commonwealth and State jurisdictions in the principles and practices of wage determination.
Underlying our whole economic problem has been the conflict between our efforts to enlarge our economy for the future and our effort to achieve higher levels of consumption in the present. At all stages the Government has been keenly conscious that this is the central economic problem of the day and it has shaped its economic policy to meet it. Development and population growth there have to be but it is perfectly clear that the rate of development has to be kept within reasonable bounds. Hence, we have endeavoured to keep a firm ceiling on public works, which are the branch of development most directly under governmental control, and we have regulated the intake of migrants.
Some maintain, however, that the levels of both public works and migration have been and still are too high and much debate has turned upon this question. Certainly those who are directly responsible for providing public facilities - power supplies, water and sewerage, roads, railways, telephones, airfields and the like - do not think the volume of works is too high. They protest on the contrary that they are barely keeping up with the basic requirements of the community. There are also the considerations I have stated about the positive contribution which well-calculated development can make to the increase of production and of exports.
On the other hand, it is argued that if we were not trying to expand so fast and, in particular, if the flow of immigrants were smaller we would need fewer public works - and not only fewer public works but fewer of many other things which make a call on our resources. This is no doubt true, though it could equally be said of various other things we are trying to do, some of them not perhaps so urgent nationally as the building up of population and basic facilities in this country. As I have remarked earlier, the immigration issue is not to be judged on economic grounds alone. Indeed, I think there would be almost universal agreement that, on strategic and political grounds, we should give high priority to the enlargement of our population. The problem is to decide just how many migrants we can take without putting too great a strain upon our resources at any given time. Generally the view of the Government is that we should keep the migration target as high as we reasonably can. Furthermore, we are convinced that there are very great advantages to all concerned in following a steady programme, which means that the intake of migrants should not in any one year either be allowed to rise steeply or be cutback drastically.
During 1955-56 the gross total of permanent arrivals in Australia was 133,000 and the net total was 95,000. These numbers are considerably smaller than those of the peak year 1949-50 when the gross intake of immigrants was 185,000. That undoubtedly was an excessive number. On. the other hand it can be maintained that, since our economy has grown considerably during the intervening years and since we have overcome some of the critical bottlenecks and shortages which hampered production and development in that earlier period; we ought now to be in a better position to absorb without undue difficulty the much smaller intake of recent times.
After reviewing the position carefully from every stand-point the Government has decided that the gross intake of migrants in the current year will be limited to 1 1 5,000, which is approximately 18,000 fewer than in 1955-56. It has also considered the question: of a forward programme and. has decided that, for general planning purposes, a figure for net immigration equivalent to 1 per cent. of population per year should be our aim. This figure will, be reviewed each year in the light of existing economic conditions.
With some variations of emphasis the basic problem of financial policy has been the same for several years past. In an economy dominated by strong pressures on its resources it has. been a clear obligation of the central government, as indeed it is of all public authorities, to keep their demands upon resources under the firmest control. It has equally been an obligation to ensure that the Government’s financial operations added nothing to the total monetary purchasing power of the community. This means taking care that total receipts should at least suffice to cover total outlays, thereby avoiding recourse to bank credit.
The Government has made these the guiding aims of its overall financial policy. It has been no light task. Despite all practicable restraints, there has had to be some increase in expenditure to meet rising costs, the obligations of the Government to pensioners and others dependent upon it and the manifold needs of a growing community. Difficulties in raising loan money and redemptions of maturing debt have added to the calls upon cash resources. Its was to ensure that the financial operations of the Commonwealth could be kept on a sound basis and exert a general counterinflationary influence that the Government brought down in March measures to raise additional taxation revenues.
All in all, no valid reason can be found for departing in any significant degree from that policy now. Whilst tension in the economy may have relaxed in some measure, there are signs enough that the pressures we have endeavoured to subdue could quickly revive and reassert themselves if restraint weakened. It may well be, indeed, that we are only now reaching the most difficult stage of the long struggle to control inflation. Certainly the recent behaviour of costs and prices suggests that strongly.
Revenue from taxation in 1956-57 is estimated to be nearly £98,000,000 greater than actual revenue in 1955-56. Taxation revenue last year was, of course, some £15,000,000 to £20,000,000 greater than it would have been had not taxation been increased in the last quarter.
When the taxation measures were introduced in March it was estimated that, on the basis of prevailing trends in employment, incomes and sales, they would yield approximately £115.000,000 in a full year and slightly less in 1956-57. Since then there has been some falling-away in sales of articles subject to sales tax, customs and excise and, while it is expected that there will be a recovery in these items as the year goes on, it has been necessary to allow in the estimates for somewhat, lower revenue collections in the meantime.
In estimating revenue from income tax on individuals this year it is possible to allow for some further rise in earnings and this will benefit collections of payasyouearn instalments. The increase from this source will probably not be as large as in 1955-56.
Business and professional incomes earned in 1955-56, and subject to assessment this year, were higher than in the previous year and this will be reflected in tax collections this year. Primary producers’ incomes, however, fell again last year. Not only were wool receipts lower but floods, strikes and rising costs all combined to reduce net incomes.
Company income last year is estimated to have been slightly higher than in the previous year and revenue from company taxation will of course gain from the increase in rates of tax.
Collections of arrears of income tax on both individuals and companies are, however expected to be considerably smaller than in 1955-56.
The proposed income tax- concessions which I will explain later are estimated to involve a loss of £250,000 in revenue during this financial year.
After taking account of these various factors, income tax collections are estimated to increase this year by £14,600,000 in respect of individuals and by £23,100,000 in respect of companies.
Customs revenue is expected to be £7,500,000 less this year, partly because of import restrictions and partly because a further increase in local petrol refining will probably involve a reduction in imports of refined petrol subject to customs duty.
Collections of excise, on the other hand, are expected to increase this year by about £44,000,000. In the main this is attributable to the higher rates of duty on beer, cigarettes, tobacco and petrol. Increased local output of refined petrol, on which excise is collected, is also expected to contribute.
Revenue from sales tax is estimated to be £20,000,000 greater than in 1955-56. Sales of most classes of goods subject to tax are expected to show some increase but allowance has been made in the estimates for a somewhat lower average of motor car sales. The additional revenue, therefore, is expected to arise mainly from the higher rates of tax imposed last March.
A further increase in the total wages and salaries bill is expected to increase the yield of pay-roll tax by some £2,700.000.
Miscellaneous revenue is expected to be £11,500,000 less than last year. Last year various repayments and transfers from trust balances added substantially to this item. This year little revenue from those sources, can be foreseen.
The increase of £11,359.000 in estimated Post’ Office revenue includes £5,500,000 of additional revenue expected from increases in postal, telegraph and telephone charges which will be proposed. Similarly, extra revenue from a proposed increase in broadcast listeners’ licence* accounts for £1,100.000’ of the estimated increase in broadcasting revenue.
Gross revenue from the Commonwealth Railways is expected to rise from £4.583,000 in 1955-56 to £4.709.000 in 1956-57. The 1955-56 revenue figure included a subsidy payment of £591,000 on the carriage of coal from Leigh Creek for the State Electricity Trust of South Australia. Recently a new rate for the carriage of this coal has been agreed between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments and the 1956-57 revenue includes no subsidy provision.
Total revenue from all sources in 1956-57 is estimated to be £1,230,153,000, an increase on last year’s revenue of almost £99,500,000.
Further details of both the revenue and the expenditure estimates for 1956-57 are given in Statement No. 2 attached to this speech and details of the financial results for 1955-56 are set out in Statement No. 1.
With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall have these and other statements referred to in my speech incorporated in “ Hansard “.
Last financial year, the Government provided £190,000,000 for defence. The actual expenditure for the year was £190,716,000.
After careful consideration by the Government of the international outlook and other factors which bear on the problem, a vote of £ 190,000,000 is again being provided for the current financial year. This amount includes a substantial element to meet commitments incurred in previous years, in addition to current expenditure.
Provision has been made for the maintenance of the Forces and for their material requirements of munitions, aircraft and other equipment, including the establishment of additional production capacity such as the new filling factory at St. Mary’s. Substantial amounts have been allotted for the naval shipbuilding programme and the defence works programme.
In the field of defence research and development, the major item of expenditure is the joint United Kingdom-Australia Long Range Weapons Project.
Provision has also been made for commitments in respect of the Australian contingent of the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve in Malaya and the remaining forces in Korea and Japan.
The growth in the numbers of war and service pensioners, the payment for a full year of the higher rates of pension granted in the 1955-56 budget, the higher cost of medical treatment for ex-servicemen and miscellaneous financial assistance to settlers under the war service land settlement scheme will add about £5,000,000 to expenditure on War and Repatriation Services in 1956-57.
On the other hand, interest and sinking fund payments on war debt will be £1,103,000 less than in 1955-56 and net recoveries of expenditure on supplies provided in the Far East and elsewhere to the United Kingdom Government are expected to be £2,184,000 higher in 1956-57. I should mention also that redemptions of war savings certificates, which amounted to £3,250,000 in 1955-56, are not provided for under this vote in 1956-57. it is proposed to increase the rates of education allowances payable under the soldiers’ children’s education scheme by weekly amounts ranging from 5s. for children aged 12 to 14 years living at home to £1 7s. 6d. for students undertaking professional training and living away from home, and to increase the amounts of income which may be received without affecting the rates of allowances payable. The new rates and conditions will come into operation on 1st January. 1957. lt is also proposed to increase the allowances payable to trainees undergoing ful:.lime vocational training under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, the Korea and Malaya training scheme and the disabled members and widows training scheme. The weekly increases proposed are 12s. for a single trainee, 15s. for a married trainee and 16s. for a married trainee with one or more children.
Certain minor alterations are also proposed in the means test governing the payment of service pensions. The necessary legislation will be introduced shortly.
Altogether these proposals are estimated to cost £221,000 in a full year and £116,000 in 1956-57.
On the basis of existing legislation, expenditure from the National Welfare Fund in 1956-57 is estimated to be £226,044,000 which is £11,178,000 higher than in 1955-56. The greater part of this increase is on age and invalid pensions which, after allowing for the full year effect of the increases in age and invalid pensions which operated from October. 1955, and for an increase in the number of pensioners, are estimated to cost an additional £10,075,000 this year.
The Government proposes to pay higher pensions to widows and invalids who are receiving means-test pensions and who have dependent children.
Widow pensioners with one or more children under sixteen years may at present receive pensions of £4 5s. a week, lt is proposed to increase their pensions by 10s. a week for each child after the first. Thus a widow with three children under sixteen may receive an increase of £1 a week, bringing the pension up to £5 5s. a week. Under the means test she may have, in addition, other income of £5 a week (exclusive of income from property) and she may own her home, without limit as to value, and have other assets up to £ 1 ,750.
A similar increase in invalid pensions is proposed. The pension, which is generally £4 a week, will be increased, subject to the means test, by 10s. a week in respect of each child after the first. Already an allowance of I ls. 6d. a week is paid in respect of the first child in such cases.
It is also proposed to ensure that a widow who loses her entitlement to a pension when she is between the ages of 45 and 50 years, because her youngest (or only) child attains the age of sixteen years, will immediately become eligible for a widow’s pension of £3 7s. 6d a week, subject to the appropriate means test, instead of having to wait until she reaches 50 years of age.
These proposals will come into effect on the first pension pay-day after the necessary amending legislation is passed.
The Government also proposes to consult with the States with a view to introducing in 1956-57 a scheme for subsidizing, on a £l-for-£l basis with the States, voluntary organizations conducting home nursing services.
The proposals which I have just outlined are estimated to cost £778,000 in a full year and £576,000 in this financial year. Taking the latter amount into account, and allowing for the cost of social service and health benefits as provided under existing legislation, the total outlay from the
National Welfare Fund this year is expected to reach £226,620,000, which is £1 1,754,000 more than actual expenditure in 1955-56. Details of the National Welfare Fund Estimates are contained in Statement No. 4.
Payments to the States.
Total payments to the States in the present year are estimated at £243,770,000 or £23,228,000 more than last year.
The tax reimbursement grant payable to the States in 1956-57 under the formula embodied in existing legislation is estimated at £153,600,000. As already announced, however, the Commonwealth has agreed to provide a special financial assistance grant sufficient to bring the total payment under this head to £174,050,000 or £17,124,000 more than last year. This involves a special financial assistance grant of approximately £20,450,000. Of this grant an amount of £19,400,000 is to be distributed among the States in the same way as the formula grant and the remaining £1,050,000 will be paid to Victoria in view of certain special financial difficulties being experienced by that State in the current year. Legislation authorizing the payment of this grant will be introduced shortly.
Following the recommendation by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, an amount of £18,500,000 has been included in the estimates for special grants to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania for 1956-57. A bill to authorize the payment of the special grants will be introduced when copies of the commission’s report become available.
Payments under the Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation are expected to reach £32,500,000 this year or £5,031,000 more than in 1955-56. This substantial increase in the roads grants is due largely to the increased allocations from petrol tax for roads purposes announced in the Prime Minister’s Statement on Economic Measures last March.
Ordinary Post Office expenditure is estimated to increase from £85,627,000 in 1955-56 to £90,932,000 in this financial year. The increase is largely due to increases in wages, salaries and allowances, the greater cost of supplies and services and the need for additional staff to cope with the growing volume of Post Office business. I shall refer to the financial position of the Past Office at a later stage.
The operating cost of broadcasting and television services is estimated to rise from £5,590,000 in 1955-56 to £6,802,000 in 1956-57. Most of this increase is due to increased expenditure on television, which is scheduled to commence during 1956-57.
Expenditure by Commonwealth Railways is expected to be £4,348,000 this year, which is £627,000 higher than in 1955-56. The increase is due mainly to the higher level of .operations necessary to cater for increasing traffic and to higher wages.
Estimated expenditure in 1956-57 on Ordinary Services in the Territories is £16,248,000, compared with actual expenditure of £14,604,000 in 1955-56. Provision has been made for an increase of £755,000 in expenditure on Papua and New Guinea, where health, education and other services continue to expand.
The estimates for Capital Works and Services this year amount to £109,738,000, compared with an appropriation last year of £104,000,000 and actual expenditure of £101,900,000.
The provision for expenditure this year on the Snowy Mountains scheme is £18,000,000, which is £2,854,000 more than last year’s expenditure of £ 15,146,000. The increase is due mainly to increased contractual commitments in respect of the projects comprising the upper Tumut section of the scheme. The production of electricity from this section, the construction of which is well under way, is expected to commence by the end of 1958.
Total expenditure on post office works and equipment is estimated at £30,727,000. as compared with actual expenditure of £28,970,000 in 1955-56. Estimated expenditure on buildings and equipment for the national television stations is estimated at £ 1,830,000, which represents an increase of almost £1,500,000 over last year’s expenditure.
An amount of £30,000,000 is being provided again this year for war service homes. This will bring the total amount allocated for this purpose by the present Government over the last seven years to £ 1 97,000,000. During the preceding 32 years of the war service homes scheme, the total amount provided was less than £53,000,000.
Capital expenditure by the Atomic Energy Commission last year was £1,478,000. This year’s estimate is £2,436,000. The increase of almost £1,000,000 relates to expenditure on the research reactor project at Lucas Heights.
The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner proposes to spend £1,925,000 on diesel-electric locomotives, other rolling stock and improvements to permanent way and works. Expenditure last year was £748,000. The additional rolling stock is required to meet increasing traffic.
The amount provided in the Estimates for new ship construction in Australia in 1956-57 is £4,650,000 as compared with an expenditure of £3,979,000 last year. There is, however, to be an increase in recoveries from £777,000 last year to £3,300,000 this year so that the provision under this vote is estimated to fall from £3,202,000 to £1,350,000. Recoveries in 1955-56 consisted entirely of payments made on ships being constructed for the Western Australian Government and private shipowners. The figure of £3,300,000 for recoveries this year includes, in addition to recoveries on vessels being built other than for the Commonwealth, an amount of £1,400,000 provided as subsidy under Miscellaneous Services and payments to be financed by the new Australian Coastal Shipping Commission from its own resources.
Departmental expenditure for 1956-57 is estimated at £56,040,000, which is an increase of £3,361,000 over last year. This increase reflects rising costs and increased wage and salary payments as a result of the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to increase the basic wage by 10s. a week. Departmental expenditure in 1956-57 also includes an amount of approximately £700.000 to meet the cost of certain Post Office services which were previously provided to departments without charge.
Estimated expenditure of £14,850,000 on bounties and subsidies in 1956-57 is £2,543,000 less than last year’s actual expenditure of £17,393,000. Last year’s expenditure included £1,733,000 for the tea subsidy, for which no provision is required this year. The provision of £13,500,000 for dairy products bounty is £1,000,000 less than expenditure last year. A new bounty on cellulose acetate flake is expected this year to require £170,000.
As I have already mentioned, the migration figure this year will be lower .than last year and expenditure under this head is expected to fall by £243,000.
The amount provided for International Development and Relief in 1956-57 is £5,200,000 compared with actual expenditure in 1955-56 of £5,285,000. Expenditure under the Colombo Plan is expected to be £4,700,000 compared with actual expenditure in 1955-56 of £4,675,000. The provision for contributions to the United Nations agencies is somewhat lower than in 1955-56.
Other Miscellaneous expenditure in 1956-57 includes amounts of £1,000,000 for Australia’s subscription to the International Finance Corporation and £500,000 for working capital of the newly established Export Payments Insurance Corporation.
Total expenditure from Consolidated Revenue this year is estimated to be £1,121,431,000 which is £52,349,000 greater than the comparable total for 1955-56. Of this increase £23,228,000 is for additional payments to the States, £11,754,000 for increased expenditure from the National Welfare Fund, £7,838,000 for capital works and services and £7,144,000 for business undertakings.
Apart from the expenditure items just described which are ordinarily charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, there are certain prospective items of Commonwealth expenditure for which loan finance will .be required. One is war service land settlement, on which expenditure this year is estimated to be £8,500,000. Another is the redemption of war savings certificates which are expected to amount to £3,000,000.
The Loan Council this year approved a total borrowing programme for State public works and Commonwealth-State housing in 1956-57 of £210,000,000. The Commonwealth, for its part, said that it would be prepared to make advances to the States during the first half of the financial year on the basis of an annual programme of £190,000,000. This undertaking is to be reviewed early in 1957. Further details are given in Statement No. 3.
There is also this year the probability that redemptions of maturing loans will have to be made on a fairly large scale. Besides the £70,000,000 of 3 per cent, and 34 per cent, securities for which conversion has lately been sought, further loans totalling £189,000,000 will fall due at intervals during the remainder of 1956-57. Although the response to the £ 70,000,000 conversion offer was moderately satisfactory, a sizeable amount of cash had to be found to pay off non-converters. What the prospects for the remaining maturities may be is most difficult to say in advance. Whilst a fair proportion of the securities maturing this year is held by official institutions, a large part is held by private institutions and the investing public.
Besides these loans falling due locally, a loan of £7,000,000 sterling matures in London during December and a $17,000,000 loan matures in New York next June.
The Government will of course make every possible effort to convert or refinance these various maturities. In view, however, of the many uncertainties which beset loan operations these days I think it is only prudent that we should provide against the contingency of having to pay off a large amount of debt on maturity. For this purpose, a substantial amount will be available in the National Debt Sinking Fund but it may well happen that we will have to call on other resources as well.
I should perhaps mention at this point that the Government of Western Australia has made representations to the Commonwealth as to the special financial difficulties which Western Australia is facing in the current financial year. The matter was discussed at the Loan Council meeting and the Premiers of the other States expressed their readiness to approve the making of arrangements by which the Commonwealth would give some additional assistance to Western Australia. The matter has since been under discussion with the Western Australian Government.
With these various commitments and contingencies in prospect the Government has to consider what resources may be available to meet them.
On the loan side the possibilities of raising money from local public loans are, as usual at this time of the year, highly debatable. Last year we succeeded in raising from the local market approximately £93,400,000 of new money and there were State domestic raisings of approximately £5,400,000. The position is more than usually complicated this year by the very large loan conversion programme, and we have to bear in mind also that semi-governmental and local authorities will be seeking to borrow up to the total of £80,250,000 approved by the Loan Council. Some of the semi-governmental authorities will also be seeking conversion of fairly large amounts arising from past loans.
As to the prospects of obtaining loan money from overseas I may point out that this year we will receive only small further amounts from our past International Bank loans. In some recent years we have obtained from this source amounts up to £20,000,000. We have had exploratory discussions with the bank as to the possibility of further borrowing for developmental purposes in Australia. We have also been exploring very actively the prospects of borrowing in various overseas markets and we have good hopes of being able to raise some loan money perhaps in more than one quarter. However, I certainly would not care to put a figure on the amount and I think I ought to say, in the light of statements that are made from time to time, that the raising of money overseas for development in Australia is not the simple and easy business that some people seem to think it is. The amount of money available abroad for this kind of investment is severely limited and for what money may be offering competition is very keen indeed. Our credit stands very high but that does not mean that we have merely to ask to obtain whatever funds we want.
The position then is, on the one hand, that we have outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund certain Commonwealth expenditures to meet, commitments of uncertain, but undoubtedly large, magnitude to assist the Loan Council programmes and the prospect of having to meet debt redemptions, perhaps on a fairly large scale. On the other hand, the amount of borrowing we will be able to do, both locally and overseas, must be limited by rather difficult circumstances. Clearly enough, if we are to avoid central bank finance, as we are determined to do, we can only provide for our prospective cash requirements by applying funds from Consolidated Revenue. How much we will require is more than ever a matter of judgment, since there are so many uncertainties about the position; but on the best assessment we can make of the prospect the amount is very likely to be in excess of £100,000,000.
However, before I go on to state what we propose in figure terms, I wish to deal with the subject of taxation.
Our assessment of the economic situation is such that we do not think it opportune at this time to make tax reductions of a general character which would have the effect of adding to demand. Nor, from a financial stand-point and having regard particularly to the potentially large commitments which confront us, do we consider the position to warrant any major reduction in our available sources of finance.
At the same time, the Government has thought it desirable to make a number of adjustments of a relatively minor character in the income tax field, which, however, involve no very large loss of revenue this year. On the other hand it proposes some increases in post office charges and, for a special reason, to impose a customs and excise duty on cathode ray tubes.
At present the maximum allowance is £200 for life insurance premiums, contributions to superannuation funds, subscriptions to hospital and medical benefits funds and similar payments.
It is proposed, as from 1st July, 1956, to raise the maximum from £200 to £300 in respect of life insurance premiums, contributions to superannuation funds and similar payments and to allow subscriptions to hospital and medical benefits funds as a separate deduction.
It is proposed to exempt the income derived by hospital and medical benefits funds which are registered organizations under the National Health Act 1953-1955. The exemption will commence to apply to income of the year 1951-52, which is the first year in which any of these organizations was registered for the purposes of the national health scheme.
The cost to revenue of these various proposals is estimated to be £540,000 in a full year and £15,000 in 1956-57.
At present, residents of remote areas of Australia are granted special deductions as a recognition of the disadvantages to which they are subject through uncongenial climatic conditions, isolation and high cost of living in those areas as compared with other parts of Australia. In the case of Zone A, which broadly covers the area north of the Tropic of Capricorn, the present deduction is £120 per annum and in the case of Zone B is £20 per annum.
It is proposed to increase as from 1st July, 1956, the present deductions to £180 and £30 respectively. At the same time, the area of Zone A will be extended to include that part of Western Australia north of the 26th parallel of latitude, the whole of the Northern Territory and that part of western Queensland west of the 141st meridian which is now in Zone B.
The cost to revenue is estimated at £515,000 in a full year and £215,000 in 1956-57.
In 1952 the Government introduced a concessional allowance for expenditure incurred by a taxpayer in the education of children under the age of 21 years. At first a limit of £50 was placed upon the deduction in respect of each child.
In 1953 the maximum deduction was raised to £75 and the scope of the concession was widened to include expenditure of the kind necessarily and especially incurred in connexion with the child’s fulltime education.
It has now been decided that the maximum deduction will be raised from £75 to £100.
The increased allowance will apply as from 1st July, 1956, at an additional annual cost to revenue of £550,000. The additional cost to revenue in 1956-57 is estimated to be £20,000.
It is proposed to extend the deductions for gifts of £1 and upwards to the following: -
It is estimated that the deduction of these gifts will cost revenue £25,000 in a full year, but there will be no cost in 1956-57.
It is proposed to allow deductions for the costs of construction work, such as roads and bridges, giving access to timber stands. This deduction will be based on the estimated life of the timber stand or 25 years, whichever is the less.
At the same time, certain limitations in the present income tax allowances relating to the felling of timber will be removed.
The annual cost to revenue is estimated at £280,000, but there will be no cost in 1956-57.
Another proposal concerns the basis of assessment of insurance recovered in consequence of the destruction of planted forests by fire. At present these insurance recoveries are assessable income of the year in which the insurances are received. It is proposed that the taxpayers concerned shall be granted an option to spread the insurances over five income years.
It is proposed to provide for the deduction of expenditure incurred on the development or purchase of a patent, registered design or copyright, and’ on the purchase of a licence to use a patent, registered design or copyright. This expenditure will, as a general rule, be deducted over the life of the asset or the period of the licence.
In addition, it is proposed to introduce a provision which will enable taxpayers to deduct expenditure incurred on registration fees and attorney’s fees in obtaining the grant or renewal of a patent, registered design or copyright. This deduction will be allowed in the year of income in which the expenditure is incurred.
The annual cost to revenue is estimated at £75.000, but there will be no. cost in 1956-57.
Payments of Debts by Discharged Bankrupts.
At present any taxpayer who has become bankrupt or has been released from his debts by the operation of the Bankruptcy Act is not entitled to the deduction of business losses incurred by him prior to bankruptcy or release from the payment of debts.
In some cases, taxpayers have voluntarily undertaken the payment of debts from which they have been released.
In these cases, it is proposed that the taxpayer should be allowed to deduct the payments to the extent that he can establish that the debts repaid relate to business losses incurred by him within seven years prior to the year of repayment.
The new provision will apply as from 1st July, 1956, at an annual cost to revenue of about £10,000.
Grants made under the United States Educational, Foundation in Australia.
It is proposed formally to give legislative effect to the agreement made between the United States and Australia, generally known as the Fulbright Agreement, under which grants to students and research workers shall be exempt from income tax. This exemption will not involve any revenue cost.
Certain conditions are attached to the exemption of dividends paid by private companies out of funds on which undistributed income tax has been paid at shareholders’ graduated rates.
The conditions to which I refer are: -
It is proposed to remove these conditions which have operated unevenly and caused considerable inconvenience to private companies and their shareholders. In any event, the conditions belong to a system of private company taxation which was replaced some years ago by the present system. It is not expected that there will be any significant cost to revenue.
As a complement to the annual allowances for depreciation, the present income tax law provides a system of balancing adjustments where depreciable assets are disposed of, lost or destroyed. Under these provisions; where the consideration receivable exceeds the written-down value of the asset, the excess, to the extent of the depreciation previously allowed, is included in the assessable income of the year in which the consideration is received. The object of the provision is to recoup to revenue the tax lost by the allowance of excess depreciation deductions.
During the 1939-45 war; special provisions were introduced which had the effect of modifying the balancing adjustment in relation to insurance and other recoveries on assets lost or destroyed during the war.
Broadly, those provisions permitted the taxpayer, instead of being assessed on the recoupment of depreciation in the year of loss, to set off the recoupment against the cost of replacement or against the value of any other assets subject to depreciation.
It is proposed to adapt these special provisions for application to future insurance recoveries in respect of the loss or destruction of depreciable assets, commencing with the income year 1956-57.
The annual cost to revenue of this provision will, of course, depend on the amount of insurance recoveries in each year, but there will be no cost in 1956-57.
The estimated cost to revenue of the taxation concessions I have outlined may be summarized as follows: -
The general rates for postal, telephone and telegraph services have not. been altered’ since July, 1951, despite the fact that since then inescapable costs resulting from rises in wages and prices, have added greatly to expenditure. For instance, the recent basic wage increase of 10s. added £2,000,000 to labour costs and the marginal adjustments awarded by the Arbitration Court involved another £4,000,000 per year. Previous salary and wage adjustments and higher costs of materials, freight and services generally, have added millions more to the expenses incurred in maintaining the ser- vices for which the department is responsible. The result is that the current level of charges made by the Post Office is far below that justified in the light of working costs.
It is relevant to point out, too, that, included in the budget this year, are amounts totalling £30,727,000 for capital expenditure by the Post Office, mainly to provide additional telephone services and, of course, the exchanges, trunk lines and other equipment which extension of the system requires.
In the light of this position the Government has decided to increase charges. These increases will include an extra id. on letters, commercial papers and printed matter, excluding registered newspapers, periodicals, and books for which the rates will remain unaltered. This increase is expected to yield £2,100,000 this year and about £2,750,000 in a full year.
It is also proposed to charge a service connexion fee of £ 10 for each new telephone service provided. The average cost incurred by the department in providing equipment and line work for a new telephone service is more than £250 and new subscribers make no direct contribution to this capital outlay. The Government has decided that in future subscribers should make a contribution to the cost of installing or removing a. telephone line to another address.
Annual telephone rentals in the State capitals and Newcastle will be increased by £1 per annum. Rentals in country areas will not be altered, but the charge for each local call in the country will rise from 2½d. to 3d. A new schedule of trunk line charges is to be introduced. This schedule will provide for an overall increase of about 1 0 per cent. All told, these new telephone charges are estimated to yield £4,200,000 in a full year and £3,150,000 in 1956-57.
The Government has also decided that the basic charge for telegrams (up to twelve words) will rise by 6d. and that the rate for each additional word over twelve will be increased by1d. The estimated increase in revenue: from these new rates is £250,000 in 1956-57 and £300,000 in a full year.
These increases in postal, telegraph and telephone revenue and certain other adjustments of a minor nature are estimated to bring in £5,500,000 in 1956-57 and £7,250,000 in a full year. Legislative effect will shortly be given to these changes.
The operating cost of sound broadcasting services is estimated to rise from £5,470,000 in 1955-56 to £5,766,000 in 1956-57. This increase is entirely due to rises in salaries and wages. Total revenue from sound broadcasting is estimated at only £4,045,000 this year. With existing fees there is therefore the prospect of an operating deficit of about £1,721,000.
The Government has decided to introduce legislation to increase the listener’s licencefee from £2 to £2 15s. per annum. The present concessional fee of 10s. per annum for licences issued to pensioners will not be altered and the fee of 28s. in areas distant from a national broadcasting station will also remain as at present. Free licences will continue to be issued to the blind and to schools. The estimated additional revenue is £1,100,000 in 1956-57 and £1,500,000 in a full year.
Customs and Excise Duty on Cathode Ray Tubes.
Expenditure on planning programmes and training technicians for the national television service was £120,000 in 1955-56. This year with the two stations in Sydney and Melbourne coming on the air before Christmas, operating costs are estimated at £1,036,000. In addition, capital expenditure is estimated at £1,830,000 as compared with £342,000 last year. The viewer’s licence-fee of £5 is estimated to yield only £150,000 in 1956-57.
In order to reduce the call on the budget for the national television service, the Government has decided to impose a customs and excise duty of £7 on each cathode ray tube to be used in a television set. Tubes used for this purpose will be exempt from sales tax. The estimated revenue from this excise and customs duty this year is £210,000.
The effects on revenue of the proposed tax concessions and of the increases in postal, telegraph and telephone charges have been allowed for in the estimates of revenue I have already given. The estimate of total revenue from all sources in 1956-57 therefore stands at £1,230,153,000. Total expenditure on items ordinarily charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund is estimated at £1,121,431,000, so that, on this basis, there would be an excess of revenue over expenditure amounting to £108,722,000.
However, after reviewing the various commitments and contingencies outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund which the Government will or may have to meet and for which cash will be required, the Government has decided to apply £108,500,000 from Consolidated Revenue to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve which was established by legislation last year. There it will be available either to assist in redemption of maturing debt or for investment in loans to assist the Loan Council programmes or to meet other Commonwealth requirements for loan finance. A nominal balance of £222,000 will then remain in the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
As I have said on other occasions, inflation cannot be remedied by government action alone. The kind of measures we have taken are designed to restore a state of general balance in the economy and 1 think they have had a degree of success in that direction. But inflation is a pervasive thing. It draws upon many sources and is helped along by a multitude of actions on the part of individuals and of groups. This has to be more widely recognized and there must be a common will to resist inflation and do the things necessary to avert it - to produce more, to save more, to look for ways of reducing costs and of economizing in resources whatever the line of activity may be. Given such an effort by the whole community, I have no doubt that inflation can be mastered and our economic and social life freed from the dislocations and injustices it entails.
When the 1955-56 budget was introduced, provision was made in the Consolidated Revenue Fund estimates for the appropriation to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve of an amount of £48,500,000 to assist in meeting various commitments outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Subsequently, it became apparent that increased taxation would be necessary if the Commonwealth were to meet all its obligations without running into substantial cash deficit in both 1955-56 and 1956-57. For this and other reasons, the economic measures announced in March, 1956, included various increases in taxation.
Following these increases, the excess of revenue in 1955-56 over expenditure normally charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund amounted to £61,613,000. This amount was transferred to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve from which an investment was made in a special loan to assist the Commonwealth in meeting its commitment in relation to the Loan Council borrowing programme for 1955-56.
The Loan Council borrowing programme for State works and housing in 1955-56 was £190,000,000. Cash subscriptions to public loans floated by the Commonwealth in Australia during the year totalled £93,433,000 (excluding £7,000,000 of counterpart funds of International Bank loans invested in the loan issued in November, 1955). State domestic raisings provided £5,375,000 whilst overseas loan raisings during 1955-56 amounted to £27,066,000. A further amount of £64,126,000 was provided by the Commonwealth from its own resources in accordance with its undertaking at a Loan Council meeting in February, 1956, and this completed the £190,000,000 programme.
Finance also had to be found outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund for War Service Land Settlement (£7,622,000) and Emergency Wheat Storage £3,182,000).
After meeting all its commitments, the Commonwealth had an overall cash deficiency of £3,236,000. This result may be explained as follows: -
During 1955-56 there was a net increase of £5,000,000 in the Treasury Bill issue. Against this, however, the Commonwealth’s cash balances increased by £1,764,000.
Notes on Revenue and Expenditure, 1955-56:
Total revenue in 1955-56 amounted to £1,130,695,000 or £15,920,000 more than the Budget estimate. Taxation revenue exceeded the Budget estimate by £8,683,000 while other revenue exceeded the estimate by £7,237,000.
In the later months of the financial year, additional Customs, Excise and Sales Tax revenue was obtained through the taxation measures announced in March, 1956. Excise collections exceeded the Budget estimate by £9,264,000 and Sales Tax revenue exceeded the estimate by £4,001,000.
These increases were offset to some extent by a short-fall in Income Tax revenue. Although an increase in income tax rates on company income was announced in March, 1956, Income Tax collections will not be affected until 1956-57. The actual Income Tax collections of £573,988,000 are therefore directly comparable with the Budget estimate of £577,000,000. Collections from Payroll Tax and certain other taxes also fell short of ihe Budget estimates by minor amounts.
Miscellaneous Revenue exceeded the Budget estimate by £6,310.000. Repayments of advances made in earlier years to the Joint Coal Board, the
Tea Importation Board and similar bodies were about £3,000,000 more than had been expected and £1,980,000 was repaid to Consolidated Revenue from certain Trust Account balances which, during the year, were found to be in excess of the needs for which those Accounts were established.
Excluding the transfer to the Loan Consolidation mid Investment Reserve, total expenditure exceeded the estimate by £2,977,000 or 0.3 per cent.
Defence expenditure for the year amounted to £190,716,000 which was slightly in excess of the Budget estimate of £190,000,000. Certain other items such as Payments to the States, Bounties and Subsidies, and Miscellaneous Expenditure showed only slight variations from the Budget estimates.
Expenditure on War and Repatriation Services exceeded the Budget estimate by £3,777,000. The major part of this increase was accounted for by the redemption of Savings Certificates totalling £3.250,000 from Consolidated Revenue instead o. from Loan Fund.
Payments from the National Welfare Fund were £3.538,000 below the estimate, thus reducing correspondingly the payment to the Fund from Consolidated Revenue. Expenditure on Age and
Invalid Pensions was £1,705,000 less than the estimate mainly because the increase in the number of pensioners was less than expected. Child Endowment cost £619,000 less than expected largely because of an overestimate of the number of children in respect of which endowment would bc payable. Expenditure on National Health Services fell short of the- Budget estimate by £1,035,000.
Departmental expenditure exceeded the estimate by £2,147,000, primarily because of marginal adjustments to Public Service salaries during the year.
Wage and salary increases were also largely responsible for the excess of Post Office and Broadcasting, expenditure over the estimates. To the extent of £661,000, however, the increase in Post Office expenditure resulted from higher charges by railways for the carriage of mails. Commonwealth Railways expenditure fell below the estimate to the extent of £273,000; because of the- adoption of more efficient methods of operation on some lines and lack of labour to cope with all planned maintenance.
Expenditure on Capital Works and Services was £21 100.000’ less than’ the Budget estimate of ^.104,000,000: The- main reductions were in respect of Business. Undertakings.
As already mentioned, the appropriation to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve was £61.613.000’ instead of £48,500,000 as provided in the Budget:
LOAN TRANSACTIONS AND PUBLIC DEBT, 1955-56.
Loan Commitments, 1955-56.
At a meeting in June, 1955, the Loan Council approved a governmental borrowing- programme of £190,000,000 for State works and housing in 1955-56. At that meeting the Commonwealth did not underwrite or guarantee the governmental borrowing programme but agreed to make monthly advances to the States at an annual rate of £190,000,000 for the first six months of the financial year.
At a meeting on 1st February, 1956, the Loan Council reviewed the borrowing programme for 1955-56 and decided not to vary it. The Commonwealth undertook to continue monthly advances at the annual rate of £190,000,000 and’ to provide, in addition to the proceeds of overseas loans already floated, special assistance of £67;000,000 from its own- resources; this- assistance to be reduced by the- amount of any subsequent loans floated overseas during the remainder of the- financial year. A cash and conversion loan arranged in New York in June, 1956; reduced the amount of other special! assistance which the Commonwealth had to provide. The Commonwealth finally provided: an amount of £64,126,000 from its own. resources, and this, together with the amount of £125,874,000 available from other loan raisings in Australia and overseas, was sufficient to complete the 1955-56 borrowing programme for State works and housing.
In addition, finance was required to meet Commonwealth commitments relating to Emergency Wheat Storage (£3,182,000) and to War Service Land Settlement (£7,622,000).
Loan Raisings, 1955-56.
The Commonwealth approached the loan market in Australia three times during the year, issuing three cash loans and making one conversion offer. The first two cash loans and the conversion loan offered 3 per cent, securities maturing in one year at issue price £99 15s., and. 4f per cent, securities maturing in ten and fifteen years issued at par. The third cash loan offered’ 3) per cent, securities maturing in fifteen months at issue price £99 10s., and 5 per cent, securities maturing in seven years at issue price £99 10s.
In the cash loans, a total amount of £95,000,000 was sought. Subscriptions totalled £100,659,000 (face value) and, after allowing for discounts on applications for securities (£226,000), the net cash proceeds available for the Loan Council programme amounted to £100,433,000. This amount, however, included, a subscription of £7,000,000 representing the investment of portion of the Australian currency proceeds which accrued during the year from International Bank loans: The funds which became available from Australian sources through public loans during the year therefore amounted to £93,433,000. State domestic raisings contributed a further £5,375,000, thus bringing the total raisings from local sources to £98,808,000.
Maturing securities amounting to £129,488,000 were offered for conversion in public loans of which £113,701,000 were converted, £15,689,000 were redeemed from the National: Debt Sinking Fund and £98,000 were outstanding at 30th June.
Details of public loan raisings in Australia in 1955-56 are shown, in the following table: -
The funds which became available for the Loan Council borrowing programme from overseas loan raising in 1955-56 amounted to £27,066,000. Of this amount, the Australian currency proceedings accruing from Commonwealth borrowings from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development amounted to £17,746,000 while a further amount of £6,373,000 was available from the Commonwealth loan floated in Canada during the year. New money to the extent of £2,947,000 was also obtained from a cash and conversion loan which was floated on behalf of both the Commonwealth and the States in New York in June, 1956.
The total loan moneys which became available from ordinary loan raisings in Australia and over seas in 1955-56 therefore amounted to £125,874,000, made up as follows: -
The manner in which the State works and housing programmes were financed in 1955-56 and in the four preceding years is shown in the following table:-
The assistance given by the Commonwealth to the Loan Council programme for 1955-56 was provided through a special loan which was floated in June, 1956. The opportunity was taken to invest Lt this loan the proceeds of the Commonwealth loan in Canada together with that portion of the Australian currency proceeds from International Bank loans which had not already been made available for the Loan Council borrowing programme.
Subscriptions to the special loan included subscriptions from the Commonwealth’s own resources to provide finance for Emergency Wheat Storage and War Service Land Settlement. Provision was also made in this loan for the conversion of maturing securities amounting to £6,795,000 which were held by the Commonwealth Bank. The special loan was issued on the same terms as the preceding public loan which was floated in May, 1956, although, on this occasion, the proportion of short-term securities was higher than in the public loans floated earlier in the year. Subscriptions to the special loan were as follows: -
Loan Redemptions and the Public Debt.
As mentioned above, securities offered for conversion in public loans during 1955-56 amounted to £129,488,000, of which £15,689,000 were redeemed by the National Debt Sinking Fund. Other securities were redeemed through the normal operations of the Sinking Fund and the total reduction of Commonwealth and State debt through Sinking Fund operations in 1955-56 was £39,954,000. In addition, an amount of £27,962,000 was provided for redemption of Commonwealth debt from the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve and a total of £30,021,000 securities (face value) was redeemed with these funds. Savings Certificates of £3,250,000 were redeemed from Consolidated Revenue. These transactions were responsible for the reduction in the Commonwealth Public Debt (other than Treasury Bills) during 1955-56:
The public debt of Australia (Commonwealth and State) at 30th June, 1956, is compared below with the public debt at 30th June, 1955 -
As explained earlier in this Statement, the Commonwealth completed the year with an overall cash deficiency of £3,236,000 and it was necessary to increase the Treasury Bill issue by £5,000,000. Against this, however, the Commonwealth’s cash balances increased by £1,764,000.
Notes on Revenue Estimates.
On the basis of existing legislation, total revenue in 1956-57 is estimated at £1,223,593,000 or £92,898,000 more than actual receipts in 1955-56.
The various revenue proposals set out in the budget speech, however, are expected to result in a net increase in revenue in 1956-57 of £6,560;000 thus bringing estimated total revenue in 1956-57 to £1,230,153,000 or £99,458,000 more than last year. The effects of these proposals on .revenue in 1956-57 and in a full year are shown below: -
The revenue estimates for 1956-:57 reflect also the effect on revenue in 1956-57 of the increases in taxation which were introduced in March, 1956. Briefly, these increases comprised: -
The increases in Customs, Excise and Sales Tax took effect as from 15th March, 1956, and were therefore- reflected to some extent in revenues from those taxes in 1955-56. The increase in Income Tax on companies will affect collections for the first time in 1956-57 although the full-year effect will not be reflected fully in collections until 1957-58.
Customs Revenue in 1956-37 is estimated at £80,000,000 or £7,508,000 less than in 1955-56. This prospective fall in Customs Revenue is due primarily to the intensification of import restrictions.
Another factor which can be expected to lead to a reduction in Customs revenue in 1956-57 is a fall in petrol imports due to continued expansion in local oil refining. The fall in Customs revenue from petrol, however, is expected to be less than £1,000,000 as the decline in petrol imports should be largely offset by the increase in duty of 3d. per gallon in March last.
Excise collections are estimated at £212,210,000 or £43,946,000 more than in 1955-56. For the most part, this increase is due to the increased Excise duties imposed in March, 1956 on petrol, beer, tobacco and cigarettes and spirits.
Excise revenue from petrol is expected to increase by nearly £12,000,000 in 1956-57. This increase is due partly to the recent increase of 3d. per gallon in Excise duty and partly to the increase in local refining. The net increase in Customs and Excise collections from petrol in 1956-57 is estimated to be of the order of £11,000,000.
As a result of the increased duty imposed last March, Excise revenue from beer is expected to rise by £21,685,000 in 1956-57. The estimate is based on the assumption that beer consumption in 1956-57 will be about the same as last year. Revenue from spirits is estimated at £8,000,000 or £675,000 more than last year.
As a result of the increased rate of duty and an expected increase in the local production of cigarettes Excise revenue from tobacco and cigarettesis estimated at £61,000,000 as compared with £51,365,000 in 1955-56.
Other items subject to Excise Duty are expected to yield much the same revenue as in 1955-56. Allowance has been made in the estimate however for collections amounting to £210,000 which are epected in 1956-57 from the imposition of ExciseDuty on cathode ray tubes used in television sets.
Sales Tax revenue is estimated at £130,000,000 or £20,000,000 more than in 1955-56. Moderate increases are expected in sales of most categories of goods subject to Sales Tax but allowance has been made in the estimate for some decline in the sales of motor cars below the high level reached last year. The additional Sales Tax revenue ‘expected in 1956-57 can therefore be attributed, in the main, to the full-year effects of the higher rates of Sales Tax imposed on certain classes of goods last March.
Lastyear, Income Tax collections from individuals amounted to £387,130,000 or £25,705,000 more than in 1954-55. The increase was due mainly to a rise in pay-as-you-earn collections and in part to a rise in cash collections from current assessments. This latter increase was achieved despite the tax reductions granted in the 1954- 55 Budget and the further decline in farm incomes in 1954-55. These increases were, however, offset to some extent by lower collections from arrears.
On the basis of existing legislation, Income Tax collections from indivduals in1956-57are estimated at £402,000,000, a rise of £14,870,000 over collections in 1955-56. A furtherrise is expected in 1956-57 in pay-as-you-earn collections although the increase may not be as great as in 1955- 56. Collections in 1956-57 should be assisted also by the increase which occurred in business and professional incomes in 1955-56. On the other hand, collections this year will be affected adversely by the further decline in farm incomes in 1955-56. Furthermore, the reduction in recent years in the lag in issuing assessments and in collecting tax has reduced the pool of arrears available and collections from this source in 1956-57 are expected to be lowerthanlast year.
After allowing for the Income Tax concessions outlined in the Budget Speech (which are estimated to cost £250,000 in 1956-57 and £1,995,000 in a full year), Income Tax collections from individualsin 1956-57 are estimated at £401,750,000.
Income Tax collections from companies in any year are derived largely from assessments based on company incomes in the previous year. Company incomes as a whole were probably higher in 1955-56 than in 1954-55, although there is reason to believe that the increase was considerably smaller than in the previous year. The estimated increase of £23,142,000 in Income Tax collections from companies arises, therefore, mainly from the increase of1s. in the £1 in company tax rates which was announced last March. These new rates will apply for the first time to assessments issued in 1956-57 on 1955-56 incomes. Collections in 1956-57 would have been somewhat higher but for the further reduction which is expected in collection from arrears.
Item No. 5. - Pay-roll Tax.
Pay-roll tax collections are estimated at £48,250,000 or £2,707,000 more than in 1955-56. The estimate is based on the assumption that a further increase can be expected in the total wages and salaries bill in 1956-57. This increase, however, is expected to be somewhat lower than in 1955-56.
Revenue from other taxes in 1956-57 isestimated at £12,950,000, an increase of £1,010,000 on 1955-56 collections. The estimate allows for a further rise in the number andvalue of estates and of gifts.
Defence - Disposals, Rents, &c. - The estimated fall of £829,000 in revenue under this head is due to the continued fall in receipts from disposals of surplus defence equipment.
Profit from Note Issue. - The estimated rise of £ 1,234,000 in the profit of the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank reflects the higher interest returns on the investments of that department.
Interest - War Service Homes. - This item represents interest received on loans made under the War Service Homes Scheme. Receipts under this head are increasing steadily each year with the increase in the total amount of loans outstanding.
Interest - General Trust Fund. - The estimated fall of £1,543,000 in interest received from investments of the General Trust Fund is due primarily to the fact that, under the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Act 1955, the balance of £126,422,000 in the Debt Redemption Reserve was transferred to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. Under that Act, interest derived from investments of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve are credited to the Reserve.
Other Interest. - Other interest receipts are derived mainly from advances made to the Joint Coal Board, War Service Land Settlement Loans, and Agriculture Re-establishment Loans.
Repayments - Joint Coal Board. - Receipts under this head in 1955-56 related mainly to the sale of surplus plant and equipment. No further surplus items are available for sale and in 1956-57 receipts are expected to fall by £1,938,000.
Repayments - Tea Importation Board. - The amount of £2.000,000 received in 1955-56 represented the final repayment of advances made to the Board.
Nitrogenous Fertilizer - Sale of Stocks. - The Commonwealth has withdrawn from marketing arrangements in respect of nitrogenous fertilizer.
Jute - Sale of Stocks. - The Commonwealth’s activities in this field have virtually ceased. Revenue in 1955-56 included some residual receipts from the disposal of stocks.
Australian Shipping Board. - The amount of £3,000,000 transferred to Consolidated Revenue in 1955-56 represented an accumulated surplus of cash resulting from the operations of the Australian Shipping Board. This transfer was a nonrecurring item.
Australian Whaling Commission. - Revenue under this head represents mainly a further progress payment in 1956-57 of principal and interest by the Nor’West Whaling Company Limited under the arrangements made with that Company for the purchase of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission.
Balances of Trust Accounts. - In 1955-56 Trust Account balances totalling £1,980,000, which had been appropriated from revenue in previous years and which were found to be in excess of the requirements of those accounts, were transferred to Revenue.
Other Miscellaneous Revenue. - Included under this head are repayments of sundry advances, fees, fines, sales of property, disposals, &c.
Railway revenue is expected to rise by £ 126,000 to £4,709,000 because of a general increase in traffic on all lines. The improvement in revenue would have been substantially greater if the subsidy previously paid in respect of the carriage of Leigh Creek coal, which amounted to £591,000 in 1955-56, had not been discontinued.
Post Office receipts are estimated at £90,700,000 in 1956-57, or £11,359,000 more than last year. Of this increase, some £5,500,000 is due to the increased postal, telephone and telegraph charges now proposed while additional revenue will be received in respect of meteorological telegrams and electoral matter which were previously handled free by the Post Office. The balance of the estimated increase in revenue reflects the increased traffic in most branches of Post Office activities.
Broadcasting and television receipts are estimated at £5,288,000 in 1956-57, an increase of £1,391,000 as compared with 1955-56. The increase is due mainly to the increase now proposed in the broadcast listeners’ licence fee (estimated to yield an additional £1,100,000 in 1956-57) and to the introduction during 1955-56 of a TV viewer’s licence fee which is expected to yield £150,000 in the current financial year.
Estimated revenue from Territories in 1956-57 amounts to £2,397,000 or £148,000 more than actual revenue in 1955-56. The increase is due almost entirely to an estimated rise in receipts in the Northern Territory where an expansion of services to meet the growth of population and of mining and pastoral activities will result in increased revenue from those services. Revenue from services provided at Cocos (Keeling) Islands is reflected in the Estimates for the first time in 1956-57.
The total provision for Defence Services in 1956-57 is £190,000,000. Actual expenditure last year was £190,716,000. Included in the total vote for this year is the sum of £13,000,000 for the new munitions filling factory at St. Mary’s,
New South Wales, provision for continued participation in the Joint Australian-United Kingdom Guided Weapons Projects and for expenditure associated with the Australian Navy, Army and
Air Force components of the British Commonwealth Strategic Reserve, Malaya. Provision is also made for the financing through State Housing
Commissions of the erection of a number of houses for married personnel of the three services.
Interest and Sinking Fund. - The provision of £55,460,000 for Interest and Sinking Fund relates only to Commonwealth war debt. (Total debt charges on Commonwealth war and civil debt are estimated at £68,155,000 in1956-57 as compared with £68,610,000 in 1955-56).
War and Service Pensions. - Expenditure on war and service pensions is expected to rise by £2,976,000 in 1956-57, mainly because of an increase in the number of pensioners, and the fullyear effect of the higher rates of pension which applied from October, 1955. Allowance is also made in the estimate for 1956-57 for certain minor alterations to the means test governing the payment of service pensions, which are estimated to cost £17,000 in 1956-57.
Repatriation Benefits. - The increases now proposed in allowances payable under the Soldiers’ Children’s Education. Scheme are estimated to cost £95,000 in 1956-57. The remainder of the estimated increase in expenditure of £786,000 is largely due to the higher cost of maintaining repatriation hospitals and of providing medical treatment for ex-servicemen.
War Service Homes - Administrative. - The cumulative increase in the number of houses financed under the War Service Homes Scheme involves a steady growth in the volume of transactions and some increase in total administrative costs is therefore expected in 1956-57.
Reconstruction and Rehabilitation. - Of the estimated increase of £1,083,000 in this item, £1,032,000 is in respect of War Service Land Settlement. The Commonwealth contribution to wards writing-down the excess cost of holdings developed under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme is expected to increase by £739,000, largely through the settlement of certain outstanding claims, principally from Victoria. Increases in expenditure under the scheme are also expected on remission of interest and rent, living allowances and Commonwealth contribution to writing-off losses on advances to settlers.
Redemption of Savings Certificates. - In 1956-57 it is not proposed to charge this item, which is estimated at £3,000,000, to Consolidated Revenue.
Credits - Other Administration. - This item shows the excess of recoveries over expenditure on transactions which relate mainly to supplies provided in the Far East and elsewhere overseas to the United Kingdom Government Recoveries in 1956-57 are expected to exceed expenditure by £3,450,000.
Item No. 12. - Payments to National Welfare Fund.
The National Welfare Fund Act 1952 provides that the payment from Consolidated Revenue to the National Welfare Fund each year should be equal to the actual expenditure from the Fund in that year. Expenditure from the Fund was £214,866,000 in 1955-56 and is estimated at £226,620,000 in 1956-57- an increase of £11,754,000. An explanation of the estimated increase in expenditure from the Fund in 1956-57 is given in Statement No. 4. - National Welfare Fund Estimates 1956-57.
Departmental expenditure in 1956-57 is estimated at £56,040,000 or £3,361,000 more than last year.
The main factors accounting for this increase are -
Details of some of the more important factors affecting the expenditure of particular departments are given below: -
Interior. - Payments for aerial photography and mapping activities, estimated to have cost £260,000 in 1955-56, will be provided in 1956-57 under the Department of National Development. On the other hand, expenditure on postal services previously provided free of charge by the Post Office will cost £464,000 this year. Expen diture on rent of buildings is also estimated at £184,000 higher than in 1955-56.
Works. - Expenditure in 1956-57 is estimated to be lower because a larger proportion of works administrative expenditure will be recovered from other administrations. This factor will be partly offset by an estimated increase of £165,000 in expenditure on repairs and maintenance.
Civil Aviation. - Expenditure on the maintenance and operation of civil aviation facilities,including aerodromes, is estimated to increase by £380,000. The proportion of expenditure on meteorological services borne by theDepartment is estimated to increase by £235,000 partly because of the charge now being made formeteorological telegrams.
Health. - The increase reflects the continued expansion in health services.
Trade. - Expenditure in 1956-57 is expected to be substantially higher because of the transfer of staff and functions from other departments and because of expansion of the commercial intelligence service. In 1955-56 expenditure on certain functions was provided under this vote for part of the year only.
Social Services. - Some increase in staff and general expenses is required in view of the increasing number of social service payments.
National Development. - Expenditure on national mapping will be met under this head in 1956-57 instead of under Interior as previously.
Atomic Energy Commission. - The increase is due mainly to an increase in activities as a result of expansion of the research programme.
Cotton Bounty. - Under the Cotton Bounty Act 1951-55 a bounty is payable on seed cotton delivered by growers to processors up to 31st December, 1958. The rate of bounty is designed to give growers an average return of 14d. per lb. It is estimated that bounty payments in 1956-57 will amount to £90,000, an increase of about £23,000 on payments in 1955-56.
Tractor Bounty. - The Tractor Bounty Act 1956 extended for a further three years from 24th October, 1955, the bounty payable on wheel-type tractors produced in Australia and widened the scheme to cover tractors exported to Australiancontrolled territories. The bounty rates vary from £80 to £240 per tractor according to horse-power and the proportion of Australian materials used. Expenditure of £55,000 in 1955-56 was in respect of bounty up to 23rd October, 1955, and it is estimated that £140,000 will be required in 1956-57 for the normal year’s bounty plus back-payments to 24th October, 1955.
Sulphuric Acid Bounty. - The Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954 and regulations thereunder provide for payment of a bounty on sulphuric acid produced in Australia from indigenous pyrites during a period of five years from 1st July, 1954. The rate of bounty is £2 per ton of acid when the landed cost of imported brimstone is £20 10s. per ton, and rises or falls by ls. 9d. for each 5s. by which the landed cost of brimstone is below or above £20 10s. per ton. It is estimated that because of higher costs of imported brimstone, expenditure on the bounty in 1956-57 will be £450,000. which is £62,000 less than actual expenditure in 1955-56.
Gold-Mining Industry Assistance. - Under the Gold-mining Industry Assistance Act 1954- 56, a subsidy is payable under certain conditions on gold produced during the five years ended 30th June, 1959. Small producers (those with an annual output of less than 500 ounces) receive a flat rate subsidy of £1 10s. per ounce. Large producers are paid at a rale equal to three-quarters of the amount by which their cost of production exceeds £13 10s. per ounce, with a subsidy limit of £2 per ounce. The estimated expenditure for 1956-57 is £400,000 which is about the same as for 1955-56.
Flax Fibre Bounty. - A bounty on the production of flax fibre for two years from 1st November, 1954, was authorized by the Flax Fibre Bounty Act 1954. The rate of bounty is £35 per ton and rises or falls inversely with movements in the landed cost of imported “ B “ grade flax fibre. The question of continuing assistance to the industry beyond 30th October, 1956, is at present before the Tariff Board. It is estimated that bounty under the present Act will cost £50,000 in 1956-57 compared with about £58,000 in the previous year.
Rayon Yarn Bounty. - The Rayon Yarn Bounty Act 1954-56 provides for payment of a bounty of 6d. per lb. on continuous filament acetate rayon yarn produced and sold in Australia up to 30th June, 1959. Estimated expenditure in 1956-57 of £50,000 is £12,000 higher than actual expenditure in 1955-56, because of an expected increase in production.
Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty. - The Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act 1956 authorises payment of a bounty of lOd per lb. on cellulose acetate flake produced in Australia and sold for local use during the three years commencing from 1st July, 1955. The retrospective operation of the bounty to 1st July, 1955, will involve payments in 1956-57 on production for almost two years and an amount of £170,000 is estimated to be required for this purpose.
Dairy Products Bounty. - Under the Dairying Industry Act 1952, dairy-farmers are guaranteed a minimum return in respect of butter and cheese based on the cost of efficient production. The guaranteed minimum return applies to the quantities of butter and cheese consumed in Australia plus 20 per . cent. The provision of £13,500,000 for 1956-57 is less than expenditure in 1955-56 because the ex-factory prices of butter and cheese were increased in July, 1956.
Tea Subsidy and Coal Subsidy. - Both of these subsidies have been discontinued.
Prime Minister’s Department. - Expenditure in 1956-57 is estimated at £413,000 less than in 1955-56. The major part of the Commonwealth contribution to the Olympic Games was made in 1955-56 while the provision in the estimates for outstanding commitments in connexion with floods is substantially lower than actual expenditure last year. On the other hand, the running expenses of the Australian National University are estimated to increase by £88,000.
Department of External Affairs. - Expenditure under this item relates mainly to Australia’s contributions to and representation on the United Nations and ils specialized agencies. lt also includes expenditure on the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition, which this year is estimated at £73,000 higher than in 1955-56.
International Development and Relief. - An amount of £4.700,000 has been provided this year for expenditure under the Colombo Plan. (Expenditure last year amounted to £4,675,000.) Of this amount £3,600,000 is in respect of economic development and £1,100,000 is for technical assistance. Provision has been made for Australia’s contributions to United Nations Technical Assistance and United Nations International Children’s Fund (£395,000), United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (£50,000), United Nations Refugees’ Emergency Fund (£50,000), and the International Red Cross (£5,000).
Department of the Treasury. - Expenditure under this head is estimated at £349,000 as compared with £926,000 in 1955-56. The amount set aside for refunds and remissions of taxes is £544,000 less than last year.
Department of Health. - Expenditure on cattle tick eradication in New South Wales is estimated at £123,000 higher than in 1955-56.
Department of Primary Industry. - The main items of expenditure under this head are the dairy industry extension grant and the grant for expansion of food production advisory services. Expenditure on each of these items in 1956-57 is estimated to be a little higher than last year.
Department of Social Services. - The estimated increase of £310,000 in expenditure this year is almost wholly in respect of assistance to approved organizations for the building of homes for the aged. Provision for this purpose this year is £700,000.
Department of Shipping and Transport. - Expenditure this year is estimated to be £7,000 higher than last year. Substantial reductions have been made in the provision to cover loss on the emergency transport of overseas coal (a final payment of £23,000 this year compared with £827,000 last year). No amount has been included for the carriage of Leigh Creek coal by Commonwealth Railways as the subsidy is being discontinued (£591,000 was provided last year). Subsidy on the Tasmanian shipping service is also estimated to be £242,000 lower this year as nonrecurring charges of some £350,000 for the survey of “ Taroona “ were met by the Commonwealth in 1955-56. As against these reductions, new provisions have been included in the estimates this year - £1,400,000 for a merchant ship construction subsidy (formerly provided under Capital Works and Services) and £205,000 for a payment to the Overseas Telecommunications Commission towards the cost of the coastal radio service (formerly provided under Post Office).
Department of Immigration. - Provision this year is £243,000 less than actual expenditure in 1955-56. Expenditure on assisted migration is estimated at £200,000 less, the main reduction being in payments to the Inter-Governmental
Committee for European Migration including contributions and loans for operational purposes. Contribution to the maintenance of migrant families is estimated to be slightly lower than in 1955-56 while expenditure on education of nonBritish migrants in the English language is expected to rise.
International Finance Corporation. - Australia’s subscription of £ 1,000,000 to the International Finance Corporation is payable in August, 1956. The purpose of the Corporation is to further economic development by encouraging the growth of productive private enterprise in member countries, particularly in the less developed areas, thus supplementing the activities of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Export Payments Insurance Corporation. - A sum of £500,000 is being appropriated in 1956-57 to provide working capital for the newly establish Export Payments Insurance Corporation.
Public Debt Charges. - Included under this item are all debt charges other than those on Commonwealth war debt and on works debt in respect of Business Undertakings and Territories. Debt charges on the International Bank loans are estimated at £4,990,000 or £707,000 higher than in 1955-56. Drawings under the loans totalled 247,000,000 dollars as at 30th June, 1956 and only 11,500,000 dollars remains to be drawn. Provision is also made in the estimates for debr charges estimated at £486,000 on loans raised in Switzerland and £271,000 on the loan raised in. Canada.
Other Expenditure. - The main variations are a> reduction of £252,000 in estimated expenditureby the Department of the Interior in 1956-57 (expenditure was incurred last year on the Commonwealth elections) while expenditure by the Department of Trade is expected to be £151,000 higher this year as a result of increased expenditure overseas on trade publicity.
Railways. - Of the estimated increase in expenditure of £627,000, a larger wages bill resulting from the recent 10s. rise in the Federal basic wage and the employment of more labour to handle a greater volume of traffic in 1956-57 is expected to account for £252.000. Expenditure on fuel and other supplies will also be increased as a result of the additional traffic.
Post Office. - Total expenditure is expected to increase by £5,305,000 in 1956-57. Wages and salaries are expected to cost £3,763,000 more than last year, because of wage increases and additional staff to handle extra traffic. Higher prices and increased quantities are expected to increase the cost of stores and materials by £530,000. Provision for general expenses has been increased by £1,249,000 mainly because of more vehicles and units of plant to be maintained,, higher travelling allowances and increased provision for superannuation pensions and printing of directories. The provision for debt charges is- £289,000 below last years expenditure becausesome loans have been redeemed.
Broadcasting and Television. - A large part of the estimated increase of £1,212,000 is due to increased expenditure on television which is. scheduled to commence during 1956-57. An amount of £1,036,000 is included for expenditure on television in 1956-57. The cost of servicing, additional broadcasting stations in country areas, salary increases and expansion of Radio Australia, will also contribute to the higher expenditure.
Northern Territory. - The estimated increase of £540,000 in expenditure in the Northern Territory includes an additional £104,000 for aboriginal welfare and a further £107,000 for salaries and wages. Increased expenditure is also envisaged in 1956-57 on assistance to mining and other primary production and repairs and maintenance.
Australian Capital Territory. - Expenditure under this head will rise in 1956-57 by £331,000 mainly because of increased expenditure on repairs and maintenance and on health and educational services.
Papua and New Guinea. - Practically the whole of this expenditure takes the form of a grant by the Commonwealth to the Administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea to meet the deficiency between local revenue and expenditure in the Territory. Expenditure in 1956-57 is expected to exceed that in 1955-56 by £755,000, mainly because of increased expenditure on health and educational services and native affairs.
Tax Reimbursement Grant Determined under Formula. - Under the States Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Act 1946-1948 the tax reimbursement grants were fixed at a total of £40,000,000 in 1946-47 and £45,000,000 in 1947-48, while in respect of subsequent years the Act provides for t he aggregate grant of £45,000,000 to be varied in accordance with a formula which takes account of-
The grant is distributed among the States partly in proportion to the distribution in 1947-48 and partly in proportion to the States’ populations as adjusted for numbers of school children and for relative sparsity of population. Each yearthe proportion of the grant distributed on anadjuste d population basis increases. In 1956-57, 10per cent. of the grant is to be distributed accordingto the 1947-48 distribution and 90 per cent.in accordance with the States’ adjusted populations. In 1957-58, and thereafter, the whole of the tax reimbursement grant will be distributed in proportion to the States’ adjusted populations.
The amount payable to the States in 1955-56 in accordance with the formula was £141,652,000 while it is estimated that the amount payable under the formula in 1956-57 will be £153,600,000. The estimated grants payable to individual States in 1956-57 and the grants paid in the six previous years are compared below: -
The tax reimbursement grant payable to each Suite in each year is reduced by the amount of arrears of Slate income taxation which may be received in that year by ihe State. In 1955-56 these arrears amounted to £74,219.
Special Financial Assistance Grant. - In 1949-501 and each subsequent year, payments have been made by the Commonwealth to supplement the grants determined under the tax reimbursement formula. Payments in each of the last six yearsare set out below together with the estimated payments for 1956-57-
At a Premiers’ Conference held in June, 1956, the Commonwealth agreed to make available a special financial assistance grant sufficient to bring ihe total payment for 1956-57 to £173,000,000. In view of special financial difficulties confronti 11K Victoria in 1956-57 - including a need to provide some relief to the dried vine fruits industry in ihat State - the Commonwealth decided to make available a further amount of £1,050,000 to Victoria. Thus the total tax reimbursement and special financial assistance grants for 1956-57 will amount to £174,050,000. As the amount payable under the tax reimbursement formula in> 1956-57 is estimated at £153,600,000, this involves a supplementary grant of approximately £20,450,000.
Of the supplementary grant of approximately £20,450,000, an amount of £1,050,000 is provided for Victoria and the balance is to be distributed among the States in the same way as the tax reimbursement grant payable in 1956-57. Details of the total payments to individual States are shown in the table below -
Special Grants. - Special grants have been paid annually by the Commonwealth to Western Australia since 1910, to Tasmania since 1912 and to South Australia since 1929. Since the establishment of the Commonwealth Grants Commission in 1933, the special grants paid each year to these
States have been the subject of recommendation.-, by the Commission.
The special grants paid to the States during the last six years and the grants recommended by the Grants Commission for payment in 1956-S7 re shown in the following table: -
Payments under * Financial Agreement. - Under the Financial Agreement, which was entered into by the Commonwealth and the States in 1927, the Commonwealth agreed to contribute certain amounts towards meeting the interest and sinking fund payments in respect of the States’ debts.
The Agreement provides that the Commonwealth will in each year during the period of 58 years commencing on 1st July, 1927, contribute a fixed amount of £7,584,912 towards the interest payable on the States’ debts.
The sinking fund contributions made by the Commonwealth in respect of the States’ debts vary according to the nature of the borrowings. The Commonwealth contributions in respect of sinking fund on States’ debts are paid direct to the National Debt Sinking Fund. In 1955-56 these contributions amounted to £4,310,000 while the contributions in 1956-57 are estimated at £4,681,000.
Commonwealth Aid Roads. - Payments under the Commonwealth Aid Roads scheme are governed by the provisions of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1954-1956.
The 1954 legislation, which replaced the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1950, increased the allocations from Petrol Tax for roads purposes from 6d. a gallon on imported petrol and 3$d. a gallon on locally refined petrol to 7d. a gallon on both imported and locally refined petrol (excluding aviation spirit). The legislation also provided for an increase from 35 per cent, to 40 per cent, in the minimum proportion of the grants required to he spent on rural roads and an increase from £500,000 to £800,000 per annum in the amount set aside for strategic roads and roads of access to Commonwealth property.
The legislation was amended on two occasions during 1955-56. The first of these amendments provided for the amount set aside from the total roads allocations for road safety purposes to be increased from £I00;000 to £150,000 per annum. A second amendment, passed in June, 1956, increased, the allocations from Petrol Tax for roads purposes to 8d. a gallon on both imported and locally refined petrol (excluding aviation spirit). This amendment took effect as from 1st April, 1956.
In 1955-56, £27,469,000 was set aside from Petrol Tax for roads purposes under the new Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation. This was £10,412,000 more than the amount set aside for roads in 1953-54, which was the last year of operation of the previous legislation. As a result of the recent increase from 7d. to 8d. per gallon in the amount of Petrol Tax allocated for roads and of the continued rise in petrol consumption, it is estimated that in 1956-57 the amount provided for roads will increase by a further £5,031,000 to £32,500,000. The estimated allocations for Commonwealth Aid Roads purposes in 1956-57, compared with actual allocations in 1955-56, are as follows: -
The Commonwealth Aid Roads grants received by each of the States in recent years are compared on the next page with the estimated grant for 1956-57. These figures exclude the amounts set aside each year for strategic roads and road safety.
Western Australian Waterworks Grant. - Under the Western Australia Grant (Water Supply) Act 1948- 1955 the Commonwealth is providing financial assistance to the Western Australian Government in respect of a scheme for the reticulation of water to agricultural areas in the north-eastern portion of the State’s mixed wheat and sheep belt, and also for the provision of domestic water supplies to certain towns along the Great Southern Railway. Up to 30th June, 1956, payments to Western Australia under this legislation amounted to £2,150,000 and the provision for 1956-57 is £462,000.
Encouragement of Meat Production. - As a means of stimulating pastoral development, the provision of new and improved facilities for the movement of cattle both by road and stock route is proceeding in the Northern Territory, in the channel country of south-west Queensland and in the area serving the meatworks at Wyndham, Western Australia. The Governments of Queensland and Western Australia are responsible for the constructional work within their respective States, and Commonwealth financial assistance is being afforded them in accordance with the States Grants (Encouragement of Meat Production) Act 1949- 1954. Payments under the Act are estimated at £211,000 in 1956-57 as compared with £303.000 in 1955-56.
Mental Institutions - Contributions to Capital Expenditure. - In 1955 the Commonwealth agreed to provide financial assistance of up to £10,000,000 towards capital expenditure incurred by the States on mental institutions. The Commonwealth offered to pay £1 for every £2 spent by the States. Commonwealth expenditure in 1955-56, the first year of operation of this scheme, amounted to £773,000. It is estimated that in 1956-57 the expenditure by the Commonwealth on this scheme will rise by £477,000 to £1,250,000.
Tuberculosis Hospitals - Reimbursement of Capital Expenditure. - Under the Tuberculosis Act 1948 the Commonwealth undertook to reimburse the States for capital expenditure on buildings, furnishings, equipment and plant for the diagnosis, treatment and control of tuberculosis. In 1956-57 expenditure is expected to total £1,925,000 being the amount the States are likely to claim during the year in reimbursement of their expenditure on approved capital items. Expenditure in 1955-56 was £1,758,000 or £167,000 less than is expected this year.
Coal Mining Industry - Long Service Leave. - In the States where coalminers have been awarded long service leave by industrial tribunals the State Governments agreed to reimburse employers the costs they incur in granting this leave. The Commonwealth in turn agreed to reimburse the States the amounts paid and the administrative costs incurred by the States in giving effect to these arrangements. To provide the funds required for these purposes an excise was imposed on coal under the Coal Excise Act 1949. An amount equivalent to the proceeds of the excise is appropriated to a Trust Account under the Stales Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave) Act 1949-1956. The appropriation is estimated at £584,000 in 1956-57 compared with actual expenditure of £565,000 in 1955-56.
Imported Houses. - Under the States Grants (Imported Houses) Act 1950 the Commonwealth provided for the payment to the Stales of a subsidy on imported prefabricated houses of up to £300 a house. Expenditure in 1955-56 amounted to £300 and it is estimated that the provision of £1,500 in 1956-57 will complete the scheme.
Financial Assistance for Universities. - The States Grants (Universities) Act 1956 authorizes maximum Commonwealth grants to the Stales for university purposes totalling £2,000,000 for the calendar year 1956. The estimate of £2,000,000 under this head for the financial year 1956-57 is based on the assumption that the grant for the calendar year 1957 will be continued at the same maximum level as for 1956. Expenditure in 1955-56 under the States Grants (Universities) Act 1955 and States Grants (Universities) Act 1956 was £1,651,000.
Port Pirie Railway. - Under the Port Augusta to Port Pirie Railway Act 1935-1950 the Commonwealth agreed to pay £20,000 per annum for twenty years as a contribution towards the expenses incurred by the South Australian Government in building the railway from Port Augusta to Port Pirie. The agreement is to terminate at the end of 1956-57.
Items showing major variations from expenditure in 1955-56 are -
National University. - The reduction of £269,000 is due to a smaller provision for expenditure by the National University on building in 1956-57.
Attorney-General’s. - The increase of £321,000 is due almost entirely to expenditure on the construction of the new Arbitration Court Building in Melbourne.
Interior. - An increase in the provision for buildings for Commonwealth offices in Melbourne and Canberra is mainly responsible for the rise of £634.000 in expenditure.
Australian Aluminium Production Commission. -With the payment of £205,000 to the Commission in 1955-56, the Commonwealth completed its undertaking to contribute £9,000,000 to the Commission’s total capital of £10,500,000. No provision is necessary in 1956-57.
Civil Aviation.- The expected rise of £249,000 in expenditure on technical equipment, &c, is largely due to delays in delivery of certain items which were to have been delivered and paid for in 1955-56 but which will now be paid for in 1956-57. An amount of £1,500,000 is being provided in 1956-57 for a further contribution to the capital of Qantas Empire Airways Limited to enable construction to proceed on building projects.
Social Services. - Increased expenditure on the Mount Wilga Rehabilitation Centre is mainly responsible for the £113,000 rise in expenditure.
Construction of Merchant Ships. - Since the inception of the Australian Shipbuilding Board, the ship construction vote has provided funds to cover the gross cost of all merchant ships constructed in Australian shipyards. From 1948-49 onwards the expenditure has been reduced by credits arising from (ships sold to or ordered on behalf of owners other than the Commonwealth under the shipbuilding subsidy scheme, the net charge to the vote therefore representing the full cost of ships ordered on Commonwealth account (for operation by the Australian Shipping Board) plus the unrecovered cost (or subsidy) on ships for other owners. Thus in 1955-56 net expenditure of £3,202,000 was arrived at after crediting recoveries of £777,000 against gross expenditure of £3,979,000.
This year the provision for gross expenditure (£4,650,000) is on a similar basis, but recoveries credited against this amount are affected by two significant changes. Ships currently on order for the Commonwealth are to be purchased by the new Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, which will make progress payments in the same manner as other purchasers, and provision has been made for £1,500,000 to be received from the Commission during 1956-57. The second change is that subsidy on all ships (including those for the Commission) is now appropriated separately under Miscellaneous Services, the provision for 1956-57 being £1,400,000. For 1956-57 the net amount provided for expenditure is therefore £1,350,000. This comprises £400,000 carried over from 1955-56, plus the net cost between 1st July, 1956, and the date of establishment of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission of those ships for which the Commission will accept financial responsibility from its inception.
Purchase of Ships Overseas. - The last of four merchant ships being constructed in the United Kingdom for the Commonwealth was delivered in 1955-56. No provision is necessary in 1956-57.
Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. - The. estimated increase in the Authority’s expenditure this year is due mainly to increased contractual commitments in respect of the projects comprising the Upper Tumut section of the Snowy Mountains Scheme. The production of electricity from this section, the construction of which is well advanced, is expected to commence by the end of 1958.
Atomic Energy Commission. - Expenditure in 1956-57 is estimated at £2.436,000 compared with actual expenditure of £1,478,000 in 1955-56. The increase in expenditure relates wholly to the research reactor project at Lucas Heights but expenditure includes also the cost of addition to capital equipment at Rum Jungle and the cost of plant for use in the search for uranium.
Railways. - The increase of £751,000 arises from further modernization and the purchase of additional rolling stock to cater for increased traffic. This includes another five mainline dieselelectric locomotives, costing £620,000.
Post Office.- Expenditure of £28,970,000 in 1955- 56 included £200,000 to expand the services provided by the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. No comparable payment to the Commission is included in the 1956-57 estimate of £30,727,000. Expenditure on equipment is expected to rise by £1,604,000 mainly to enable the provision of trunk-line channels to be increased and to allow for some increase in prices of materials. A rise of £353,000 is expected in expenditure on sites and buildings.
Broadcasting and Television. - The increase in expenditure under this head is attributable almost wholly to the establishment of national television in Australia, scheduled to commence in November, 1956. The amount provided for television transmitting and studio equipment is £1,300,000 compared with expenditure in 1955-56 of £139,000. Expenditure on buildings for television is expected to be £327,000 more than in 1955-56. The estimated increase of £169,000 in expenditure on sound broadcasting is due mainly to the erection of modern studios in Sydney.
Territories. - An additional amount of £505,000 provided for capita] works in the Northern Territory in 1956-57 is associated mainly with the development programme and health services. Expenditure in the Australian Capital Territory in 1956- 57 is estimated at £5,330,000 compared with £5,181,000 in 1955-56. The amount of £33,000 provided for expenditure in Papua and New Guinea is for lighthouse services, the cost of capital works in the Territory being met in the main from Territorial revenue and from the Commonwealth grant to the Administration. The provision for works expenditure in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, appearing in the estimates for the first time, is mainly for the establishment of administrative buildings.
In 1955-56 an amount of £61,613,000 was transferred from Consolidated Revenue to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve and an investment of £61,690,000 made from that Reserve in a special loan. The proceeds of that loan were used to assist in financing the State works and housing programmes and to finance Commonwealth commitments in relation to Emergency Wheat Storage and War Service Land Settlement.
It will be necessary to make provision again this year to meet certain commitments outside the Consolidated Revenue Fund and, for this purpose, it is proposed to apply an amount of £108,500,000 from Consolidated Revenue to the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve.
At a meeting in June, 1956, the Loan Council approved a total governmental borrowing programme of £210,000,000 for 1956-57. The Loan Council also approved total borrowing programmes for 1956-57 of £80,250,000 for Semigovernmental and Local Authorities.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 August 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560830_reps_22_hor12/>.