House of Representatives
1 May 1957

22nd Parliament · 2nd Session

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.

page 919




– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade a question regarding the suggested further increase of overseas freights. Has the Minister any plan to prevent that increase? Is he taking any step to prevent it? Will he consider the course of action that I suggested to him before - that is, to give the House an opportunity to amend the Australian Industries Preservation Act so as to give to some authority representative of all interests the power to fix freights, thus requiring freights to stay as they are until increased by such authority?

Minister for Trade · MURRAY, VICTORIA · CP

– As the right honorable gentleman knows, I will not answer a question on a prospective issue of policy, but on a question of fact I can give some information. The Government is, of course, seriously conscious of the implications of the high freight rates on Australian trade, both outwards and inwards. The Government would appear to have little authority in respect of freight originating on the other side of the world, but in respect of freight originating in Australia I have no doubt that the Government does possess authority. But it has been the common policy in this country to enable the groups that are directly concerned to negotiate their contracts with the overseas shipowners, and this has been done by virtue of a statutory arrangement. The negotiations are conducted by the Overseas Transport Association, which was established by statute. The present freight rates are the outcome of negotiations between Australian shipper interests and the shipowners. “ Shipper interests “ is a jargon term for the people who actually pay the freight, but who are not necessarily the producers, who, I concede, are vitally interested in this matter. I have had no request to intervene and to determine freight rates from those who are directly or indirectly concerned with carrying the burden of freight

Representations have been made to me concerning the adequacy of the representation of interested parties on the side of the conference table opposite to the shipowners. Those representations are in accordance with my own thinking, but the Government believes, as I believe, that this general concept which has worked pretty satisfactorily for about a quarter of a century is probably, although not necessarily, the best one. Speaking for myself, I believe that the best thing to do - and in due course I will make proposals to the Government after consulting the interested parties - would be to overhaul the character and adequacy of the representation on the side of the table opposite to the shipowners so that there shall be on that side of the table, not merely those who contract to pay the freight, but those who indirectly, as owners of the produce, finally carry the burden of the freight. We need completely adequate representation there. In that regard, there is a heavy responsibility on the producers and those who pay the freights to see that they are well advised at all levels and that they are equipped to argue their case. In that respect, at all times I have said to the Government that I and the Department of Trade are available to be invited to aid in the compilation of facts and in the assembly of valid arguments in defence of the case, and to see that that arrangement is established. If, as an outcome of that, the Government felt, or I felt, that there was exploitation of Australian interests, then I have not the slightest doubt that we would come to the Parliament and propose something constructive with a view to seeing that there was no obstruction. May I say, in conclusion, that the fact that freights are increased is not in itself evidence that they should not have been increased. I remind the House, with particular reference to the Labour-governed State of New South Wales, that rail freights are completely within the control of the State governments. In relation to timber, which is so vital to the cost of home-ownership in this country, the Labour Government of New South Wales has, rightly or wrongly, felt impelled to raise freight rates on governmentowned railways by more than 500 per rent. So there cnn be no singling out of ship-owning interests.

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– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether any discussion has taken place between the Department of Primary Industry and representatives of the wheat industry regarding extension of the present wheat stabilization plan, and, if so, with what result.

Minister for Primary Industry · LOWE, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– The department has already drawn up a time-table, for a new five-year wheat industry stabilization plan and has asked the Australian Wheat Growers Federation whether it is agreeable to commence discussions with the departmental officials. However, the federation has informed us that it has before it for consideration a report on the costing of wheat by Mr. Crawford, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, as it was formerly, and it wants to give the fullest and most careful consideration to his report before it makes its formal representations to the Government. As soon as those representations are made, I shall have pleasure in advising the honorable member.

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– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that a startling decline is expected in the new interim butter fat prices to be announced shortly? Is he also aware that the overseas market for dairy products is now over-supplied? Will the Government, in an endeavour to boost sales of our dairy products within Australia, amend the Dairy Industry Act so that the Australian Dairy Produce Board will be empowered to finance promotion of dairy produce sales in Australia in order to expand home consumption? Failing this, will the Government establish, by act of Parliament, a dairy industry marketing commission to handle and publicize internal sales of dairy products?


– Four questions have been asked by the honorable member, and I shall try to deal with each of them as it comes into my head. As to the last part of the question, several of the associations - that is to say, the Victorian Dairy Farmers Association, the Primary Producers Union in New South Wales and the Queensland Dairymen’s Organization - are now undertaking a promotion campaign for the sale of butter in their own States. Secondly, so far as overseas sales are concerned, as I mentioned in the House yesterday, representatives of the Australian Dairy Produce Board left Australia yesterday to see whether something more could be done to sell Australian butter on the United Kingdom and other markets. They have a comprehensive list of items that they are to look into, and I am confident that the’ dairy industry itself is able to look after these problems. As to the first two points raised by the honorable gentleman, a new five-year dairying industry stabilization plan is now under discussion between leaders of the industry and myself. I am to see the representatives of the council of the dairying industry organization itself on Friday, in Sydney, and I hope to be able to make a statement shortly after I have seen them. As to London prices, it is true that the price of butter on the London market has fluctuated up and down and, a few days ago was, I think about 258s. per cwt., which was a little better than previously. In March it was 248s. per cwt. As to the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question about whether there is to be a substantial reduction in the interim payments, I think the honorable member is probably misinformed. I do not think there will be a substantial reduction; however, I shall obtain accurate information on that matter, and let the honorable gentleman have it.

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– Is the Minister for Trade able to say of what value the long-term meat agreement with the United Kingdom, which he negotiated in 1951, has proved to be to Australian producers of export beef or to the beef cattle industry generally? I ask the question in view of the vigorous opposition and criticism of certain parties when the agreement was signed, and because sufficient time has now elapsed to show whether the agreement has been advantageous, particularly to Queensland beef cattle-raisers, and to indicate the value of the advice of those who complained so vigorously against the agreement.


– At the time when that agreement was made I put little value on the advice of those who complained about its nature, and events have justified my attitude. It is true that the long-term meat agreement whichI negotiated for the Government in 1951 was negotiated only after an overwhelming proportion of the representatives of the meat industry on the Australian Meat Board had supported the concept. It is equally true that, after it was negotiated, there was a good deal of criticism of the agreement from individuals, organizations, vested interests and so on. I well remember one well-known Queensland economist as one of the critics. Subsequent facts have shown that the attitude then adopted by many critics of the agreement that there were important markets alternative to the United Kingdom was - and remains - completely fallacious. We have sold but microscopic quantities of meat over the years in the high-priced North American market; but the meat agreement that was so criticized is working to the tremendous advantage of export beef producers and, indeed, of all beef producers in Australia.

My colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, last year authorized the payment of a bounty totalling £3,250,000. The meat year ends in September, and if this year’s prices run along at about the average that has obtained up to date in England our beef, in the last year and in this year, will have realized its full value from export. In addition, the United Kingdom Government, under the terms of the agreement, will have paid the Australian industry £7,000,000 in cash deficiency - an amount which has gone, by virtue of an act passed by this Parliament, and the administration of my colleague, to the producers concerned. That is a lot of money; but that is by no means the end or, indeed, the major value of the long-term meat agreement, because, under the system which the Parliament authorized, the bounty is paid in such a manner that butchers procuring beef in the export area for local consumption have to compete against the exporters, and the value of beef for local consumption achieves the same added value by virtue of this agreement.In addition, as all breeding herds and all store stock acquire their value in relationto fat stock values there has been a sympathetic increase in the value of all herds of breeding stock and store stock in Australia. To-day,an average carcass for export has an added value, under the long-term meat agreement, of from £7 to £7 10s. That has added to the value of beef killed in the exportproducing areas for local consumption. Recently I have said, and no one has sought to contradict my calculations, that the herds within the export beefproducing areas - they are Queensland, predominantly, the Northern Territory, northern Western Australia and some important areas of New South Wales - have, to-day, a capital value at least £30,000,000 higher than they would have had if it were not for the long-term beef agreement. I thank the honorable member for Maranoa for the constant support which he has always given to this policy, which has proved of immense value to Queensland beef producers.

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– I preface my question to the Acting Prime Minister by stating that a very serious position exists on the coalfields to-day, because more than 600 miners are on strike. I recall that a stoppage occurred in 1914 because of the introduction of a second shift in the coal mines. I took part in that strike, and the miners won the fight to have the second shift abolished. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited now proposes to re-introduce a second shift at Elrington colliery, in my electorate.I am reminded of a song that the miners sing -

There’ll always be a Menzies

While theres a B.H.P.

Did the Acting Prime Minister receive an invitation to attend a convention at Newcastle, called with the object of overcoming the difficulty created by the proposal to introduce the second shift? He sent a telegram saying that he could not go.


– Order! What is the honorable member’s question?


– He sent a telegram, as Acting Prime Minister - the Prime Minister was away - and said he could not go-


– Order! Will the honorable member come to his question?


– Has the Treasurer any explanation to offer for his most discourteous and unco-operative attitude towards this convention, arranged by the miners’ representatives and attended by representatives of the churches, the business community and others? Some of these people support the right honorable gentleman.


– Order! The honorable member will ask his question; otherwise, he will be asked to resume his seat.


– I want to know what explanation the Acting Prime Minister has for not attending that conference called to try to overcome the difficulty, because I know-


– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.


– There will be a general strike.


-I call the honorable member for Corio.

Dr Evatt:

– I rise to order. The honorable member for Hunter had finished the first part of his question and I suggest that that should be answered by the Acting Prime Minister. It may be that the honorable member did give information, but he did ask a question. He asked the Acting Prime Minister to give an explanation of his non-attendance at this convention. The right honorable gentleman should be given an opportunity to answer. Otherwise the whole purpose of questions may be frustrated.


– My explanation for not being at the convention to which the honorable member refers, is that I was absent from it.

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– In view of the fact that the “ Bring out a Briton “ drive is now in operation, could the Minister for Immigration give the latest figures on the percentages of English and European immigrants who have arrived in this country?

Minister for Immigration · DENISON, TASMANIA · LP

– I can only give the honorable member the figures as at the end of 1956. They are the most recent available. Speaking in round numbers, 1,150,000 people had then come to Australia as immigrants. Of these, 550,000, or about 47 per cent, or 48 per cent., were British nationals. About 950,000 had come from northern Europe, including Britain, and of the British nationals approximately 3 per cent, were from Malta and Cyprus.

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– Is the Treasurer aware that many ex-service men and women who are advised by the War Service Homes Division to obtain temporary finance with which to purchase homes while awaiting a loan from the division, are paying up to 12 per cent, interest on such finance? Is this not causing grave hardships to the ex-serviceman and his family? Will the Treasurer give consideration to making available in the next budget sufficient money to permit the War Service Homes Division to meet all existing applications, and thus do away with the long waiting time and put a stop to this disgraceful exploitation of home-hungry ex-service men and women of Australia?


– The honorable member’s question, by its very nature, concerns a matter of policy which will be considered in conjunction with the next budget.

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– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Services been drawn to a pamphlet entitled “ Raising Age Pensions “ which was recently issued by a social service group in Melbourne? Has he examined the five-point programme referred to in the publication, and is he in a position to express an opinion on the merits of these proposals?

Minister for Social Services · RIVERINA, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– I received a copy of the pamphlet “ Raising Age Pensions “ yesterday, and read it with considerable interest. The sponsors are to be congratulated upon the extent of their investigations; but their proposals are no different from those that are currently before the Government. It is not generally known that investigations of this kind are carried out by a great many organizations throughout the Commonwealth, not the least of which is my own department. From time to time the department puts forward proposals of a very similar kind. Also, honorable members, both of this House and of another place, are greatly concerned about this question and have devoted a great deal of time to investigating it. They, too, put forward proposals from time to time. There has never been any shortage of such proposals. The Government is, however, limited by the necessity to adopt a scheme which is within the financial competence of the Australian people, and acceptable to the whole community.

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– Is the Minister for Air aware that last Friday night a giant Bristol Britannia, one of Britain’s most modern aircraft, became bogged at the Cloncurry aerodrome after breaking through the surface of the tarmac? As this aerodrome is under the control of the Commonwealth Government and is vital to the defence of northern Australia - and therefore to the Royal Australian Air Force - has action been initiated to take pressure tests of runways, or to ensure that this and other northern aerodromes vital to our defence are capable of taking aircraft of any size or weight?

Minister for Air · EVANS, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– The aerodrome in question is under the control of my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, who is in the Senate. If the honorable member follows the usual procedure and addresses his question to that honorable gentleman, I have no doubt that in due course he will receive an answer.

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– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the recent statement of the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board discouraging the production of wheat in favour of other forms of primary production, does the Minister consider that markets exist or can be obtained for export wheat at the present level of production?


– The Department of Primary Industry has given careful consideration to the statement made by the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board. I think it is best, first of all, to make it clear that Sir John Teasdale was speaking in his capacity as chairman of the board and was not speaking for the Government. He is, of course, a distinguished marketing authority, and is perfectly entitled to express his views should he wish to do so. So far as sales are concerned, at least up till recently, they were proceeding at a satisfactory rate, and cargoes were being sold freely. Recently, there has been very little business done in overseas wheat markets and, unfortunately, prices also have fallen because of, amongst other things, an alteration to the exchange rate of the Argentine peso to sterling. This has enabled Argentina to undercut Australian sales. These things happen in the commodity markets, and I do not think that we should make up our minds too quickly about what the prospects may be as a result of the changes to which I have referred. I think it is fair to say that we cannot tell at present what seasonal conditions will be and, therefore, what future prospects might be, but the present outlook is that stocks of wheat in Australia could fall to 40,000,000 or 50,000,000 bushels by the end of the season. That would not be a very large carry-over to be held in this country. However, I think it is a little premature to make up our minds now about the prospects. The department is keeping the matter under daily review, and if I think there is any special development that should be mentioned to the House, I shall take the first opportunity to mention it.

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– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, acting on his advice, has reduced the finance available for housing loans to a minimum. Is it a fact, also, that the bank, again acting on the Treasurer’s instructions, will not lend money for the purchase of homes already constructed? If these are facts, will the right honorable gentleman give immediate consideration to a reversal of this policy in order to make available adequate finance for all housing purposes, and in order that the Government may, in some small way, give effect to at least one of its election promises - its undertaking to provide homes for the people?


– The honorable member’s question is not based on fact No instruction in the terms that he indicates has emanated from the Treasury to the Commonwealth Bank. The bank’s record in financing housing is unique, and I shall be happy to supply to the honorable gentleman information that I am sure will convince him of this.

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– I wish to direct a question to the Treasurer. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that sales tax is charged not only on the cost of the article, but also on the air freight for commercial goods transported by air from the mainland to Tasmania? Is sales tax properly levied on the freight component of the price of the goods? If not, will the Treasurer consider the abolition of this practice?


– I shall treat the question as being on the notice-paper. J shall have the matter investigated, and shall supply an answer in due course.

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– I wish to address a question to the Minister for Social Services. In view of the recent increase of the federal basic wage by 10s. a week, and the statement by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that the increase was based on the maximum that industry could afford to pay and not on a needs concept, will the Minister give immediate consideration to alleviating the suffering and hardship of parents with young children, whose needs are ignored by the commission in the assessment of the basic wage? Is the Minister aware that child endowment has not been increased since 1951, when the federal basic wage was less than £6 a week, although, with the addition of the latest increase, the wage is now £13 3s. a week. In view of those facts, will the Minister give sympathetic and favorable consideration to increasing child endowment in an effort to give a measure of social justice to the parents of young children?


– The honorable member for Lang ought to know, of course, that social Services benefits, including child endowment, are determined by this Parliament from. time to time and have little to do with the arbitration commission or the decisions of the commission. The honorable member ought to know, also, that in 1949 the total expenditure on social services was confined within the limits of £80,000,000, including child, endowment. Since then, social service benefits have been increased and expanded until to-day the total expenditure on health and social services exceeds £227,000,000. That is the measure of the Government’s success on the question of social services.

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– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question, in the absence of the

Prime Minister. It has been quoted freely in London circles and in London newspapers that Princess Margaret will represent Her Majesty the Queen at the Malayan independence celebrations in August next. If that is so, will the Treasurer consult with the Prime Minister for the purpose of using his influence to have Princess Margaret extend her visit to Australia, as Australia is keen not only to see her but also to extend to her a royal welcome to this country?


– I shall be pleased to bring the honorable member’s observations to the notice of the Prime Minister.

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– Has the attention of the Treasurer been directed to the statement of the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte, a few days ago to the effect that he was becoming very concerned about the fact that banks were not providing as much money for housing as they could and were, in fact, reducing their advances for this purpose? Will the right honorable gentleman confer with Mr. Bolte on this matter with a view to making a joint approach to the banks in an endeavour to alter this anti-social attitude?


– The banks conduct their own business as free enterprise institutions and make their own decisions on the use they should make ot their funds. The Government will not interfere with the policy of the banks on lending. The trading banks and the central bank have come to a voluntary understanding on credit restrictions and the capacity to lend. It is within the province of the banks themselves to decide how they will use their money, whether for housing or in any other direction

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– Is the Minister for Supply aware of some speculation concerning the visit to England of the Professor of Nuclear Physics at the Australian National University? Will the Minister tell the House whether the visit is connected with the forthcoming British hydrogen bomb test at Christmas Island ? If it is not. can he reveal the purpose of the visit?

Minister for Supply · PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– There have been persistent rumours and reports to the <effect that Professor Titterton has gone to England in connexion with hydrogen bomb tests. I said in the press yesterday, and I repeat, that there is no truth whatever in that story. As the House knows, he is the chairman of the Atomic Weapons Safety Committee, which was set up by the Government to advise it on all aspects of safety connected with atomic tests in Australia. He has gone to England, in the normal and ordinary course of his duties in that connexion, to have discussions with authorities in Great Britain. He has made several of these trips before and, no doubt, will make others in the future while he occupies that post. I do not know where the story about hydrogen bomb tests came from, but, of course, such tests in the Pacific are carried out by the British Government, not the Australian Government.

One other story attributed to me was tha. Professor Titterton had gone abroad exclusively on Australian National Universityaffairs. That is not true either. I did noi say that. In the course of his present visit he will do some work connected with his post at the university, but it is a composite visit and a normal one.

page 925




– I direct a question to the Minister for Works. I ask the honorable gentleman whether his department let the contract to supply and erect the steel for the large hangar now under construction at Richmond Royal Australian Air Force station. Was the contract let to an overseas company without calling for tenders in Australia or overseas? Was this the same company as supplied and erected the steel for the Qantas nangar which has collapsed at Mascot aerodrome? Have certain stresses and deflections taken place in some steel members in the Richmond hangar, and are these members being temporarily supported and having strengthening members inserted in them?

Minister for the Interior · PATERSON, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– With the multitude of jobs being handled by my department I hope the honorable member will not hold me completely accountable for the precision of any information I am able to give him. As I recall it, my department, under requisition from the Department of Air, has contracted for the erection of a hangar at Richmond aerodrome. The contract was let to an overseas company, Electric Power Transmission Proprietary Limited, which was responsible for the design, the supply, the fabrication, and, I think, the erection as well. One of the conditions of the contract, as I recall it, was that the calculations and designs should be submitted by the contractor to my department. They were examined with extreme care. The erection of the building is being followed very carefully, and up to the present i have had no report from my department that there is anything amiss in the construction or that the department is other than satisfied with the general progress of the work.

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– Some weeks ago, I “directed a question to the Minister for Supply concerning a report that new diseases were said to be appearing among Pacific Islands natives, and that these diseases had been caused by eating fish that had been rendered radio-active by American weapons tests in the Pacific. The Minister told me that he believed the story to be without foundation, but promised to have it further examined and to give me a reply. Is the Minister now in a position to answer my question?


– I do remember that the honorable member asked me a question some weeks ago, and I express my regret that I have not given him the detailed answer that I promised. I did at the time throw a good deal of doubt upon the truthfulness of this story. It seemed to me on the face of it to be a most unlikely one. That impression was confirmed by a press report which I had read about the same time, in which some scientific authorities, in Paris, I think, had repudiated or criticized the scientific qualifications of the person making the allegations.

However, I did not neglect the matter. I conferred with Professor Oliphant, who, of course, is a great authority on these matters, and I have his permission to say that in his view this story just will not bear examination.

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– I direct a question to the Treasurer. I desire to know whether the right honorable gentleman has had examined the frequent articles and reports appearing in the newspapers in recent months relating to instances of hardship being experienced by Australian families due to the shortage of housing brought about by inadequate finance. Has the Treasurer taken any steps to have these cases investigated with a view to determining their authenticity? If so, were these reported cases of hardship found to be genuine? If the Treasurer is satisfied that hardship due to these causes exists, what action does he propose to relieve the situation? If he has not had inquiries made to ascertain whether these reports are accurate, can it be accepted that he is not in the slightest degree interested?


– The sting is in the tail of that question. Of course 1 am interested in this matter, and it has been investigated. Of course there are cases of hardship with regard to housing. They exist all over the world, but there is less evidence of hardship in Australia than in any other country in the world. Whatever will be done with regard to housing will be considered, as it has always been considered, in connexion with the financial proposals that will be contained in the budget.

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– In view of the interest and importance to Australia of the progress in Europe towards ‘the proposed customs union and the common market, has the Minister any further information on these matters which he can give to the House?


– I have no further particulars on this matter. There are two things, actual or in prospect, in Europe that interest us very greatly, and which could conceivably concern us. They are the customs union between the six powers, which has already been signed, and the proposal which has not yet eventuated of the so-called common market, to which a greater number of European powers may subscribe. Both the customs union and the possibilities of the common market arc under examination at a meeting on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which is being held at Geneva at the present time. A very senior and experienced officer of the Department of Trade is present at that conference, where he will join with the representatives of other interested nations in eliciting a complete understanding of all that is proposed to be contracted and all that is implicit in these proposals. As soon as I am informed as to what factual matter has been gained from this meeting and from other inquiries I shall be glad to inform the honorable member in the House.

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– I wish to ask the Minister for Social Services a question which is supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Fawkner. Will the Minister give immediate consideration to providing an increase of age pensions without further delay because of the continuing increase in the cost of living? 1 ask the Minister to give special consideration to this subject because of the onset of winter weather and the need to provide warm clothing and protective foods, especially for the aged and infirm.


– I can assure the honorable member for Macquarie that social services benefits are constantly under the consideration of the Government. Wherever it is practicable or possible to take appropriate steps to relieve the circumstances of the people concerned, those steps are taken if it is possible for the Australian people to stand up to the financial responsibility attendant thereto. But the discharge of our responsibility so far as social services are concerned does not begin and end with government action for the provision of supplementary income. There are illimitable fields available to the honorable member for Macquarie and other honorable members to engage in the relief of distress wherever it is to be found, and I commend the work to people who may be interested.

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– I ask that further questions be placed on the noticepaper.

Mr. Bostock having received the call from the Chair.

Mr Ward:

– I rise to order. The Treasurer rose in his place and asked that further questions be placed on the noticepaper. The practice has been that once that request is made no further questions are allowed, and I suggest that no distinction should be made in this case.


– The request of the Treasurer will be acceded to. lt is the end of question time.

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Minister for External Affairs · La Trobe · LP

– by leave - I lay on the table of the House the following paper: -

Hungary - Problem of - Report by Mr. E. Gorman, Q.C

For the convenience of honorable members, I have had a summary of this report prepared which I shall cause to be circulated among honorable members now. I commend the report to the attention and interest of honorable members.

Leader of the Opposition · Barton

– I move -

That the paper be printed.

I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -

That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the National Service Act 1951-1953, and for purposes connected therewith.

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Message recommending appropriation reported.

In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):

Motion (by Mr. Osborne) agreed to -

That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954.

Resolution reported.

Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.

Ordered -

That Mr. Osborne and Mr. Hasluck do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.

Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.

Second Reading

Minister for Air · Evans · LP

.- I move-

That the bill be now read a second time.

Since this is a financial measure and subject to a resolution of the House, it has to be introduced, in the first instance, in this chamber. The bill amends two sections of the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act as further encouragement to an expansion of the use of indigenous materials in the production of sulphuric acid.

In very brief terms, Australia’s present capacity to produce sulphuric acid is about 1,060,000 tons a year, and almost 95 per cent, of this capacity is currently used. Somewhat less than half of the production is from indigenous materials and the remainder from brimstone, imported mainly from America. About 80 per cent, of our acid is used to manufacture superphosphate, approximately 5 per cent, to manufacture ammonium sulphate, which is an important fertilizer for sugar-cane growing, and the balance of 15 per cent, is used in a great number of industrial applications. The demand for acid is expected to increase with the more extensive use of superphosphate in pasture lands and the opening up of marginal country by the use of trace elements supplemented by superphosphate.

At the present time, bounty is restricted to sulphuric acid produced from Australian pyrites and sold for delivery in Australia, or used by the producer in the manufacture of fertilizers. The first amendment which this bill seeks to make will extend the field of bounty to cover all sulphuric acid produced from prescribed materials, irrespective of the use to which the acid may be put in Australia. The second amendment seeks to remove the £600,000 limitation in the amount that can be paid, as bounty, on each year’s production. This should overcome any fears on the industry’s part that increased usage of pyrites will reduce the rate of bounty payments.

Bounty payments on the production in the first year of operation of the act) to June, 1955, were £472,557, and in the second year, to June, 1-956, £446,666. Payments on the production of the halfyear just completed, to December, 1956, amounted to £221,222. The rate of bounty prescribed in the regulations is related to the price of brimstone and rises and falls inversely with fluctuations in the landed cost of imported brimstone. The rate reached its highest peak in the December, 1954, quarter, at £2 12s. 3d. a mono ton, and the lowest level in the December, 1955, quarter, at £1 9s. 6d. a ton. For the December, J 956, quarter, the rate ruling was £1 1 ls. 3d. a ton. Generally speaking, there has been a fall in the price of imported brimstone, but this has been more than offset by the rise in freight.

The Australian raw material prescribed as subject to bounty is pyrites. Early last year, however, the Broken Hill Association Smelters Proprietary Limited commenced the production of sulphuric acid at Port Pirie, in South Australia, from the gases arising from the roasting of lead concentrates produced at Broken Hill. A reference is now before the Tariff Board as to whether such sinter gases should be brought into the bounty field.

Sulphuric acid production for the year ended June, 1956, totalled 904,500 mono tons, of which almost 360,000 tons were made from Australian materials, or less than 40 per cent, of the total. An improvement is expected in the current year, when the total production is estimated at 977,600 tons, including. 474,000 tons from Australian materials. Thus the percentage used should rise towards 50 per cent. This is still below the target set by the Government as the desired level of usage.

Honorable members will, I am sure, appreciate that the bounty is achieving its purpose of removing from the sulphuric acid and complementary industries the uncertainties surrounding the supply of overseas brimstone. There is still a long way to go, however, before it can be said that full advantage is being taken of the raw materials indigenous to Australia. I commend the bill to honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.

page 928



Debate resumed from 30th April (vide page 906), on motion by Mr. McEwen -

That this House approves the trade agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia signed at Canberra on 26th February, 1957.


.- The subject-matter before the House is a statement made by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) concerning a trade agreement between the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government, which will have the effect of replacing the Ottawa Agreement. There can be no doubt that the Minister and the Government are to be congratulated on the terms of the new trade treaty with Great Britain. There is now a general measure of agreement that, howaver welcome the old agreement may have been in the dismal days when it was negotiated, and however valuable some of its principles may have been, for some years it has been a millstone round our necks. Let us be quite frank about it: We are well rid of it. 1 am sure that all honorable members will be interested to know how the New Zealand Government fares now that it is seeking the same kind of revision of its trade relationships with Great Britain as we sought. The Australian negotiators must be given the credit for taking a lead in working out the basis of this entirely new type of Commonwealth agreement. I believe that this is a step forward in the development of greater unity between British peoples and British countries.

The most significant thing about this treaty is that the operative factors in Australian trade are now controlled right here in Australia, where they should be controlled, and not at Whitehall. It is increasingly true, I think, that Great Britain is no longer concerned with our economic circumstances to anything like the degree with which she was concerned with them, say, 25 years ago, when the Ottawa Agreement was signed. Let no one think that this is due to a change of heart or a change of sentiment. I think it is one of the hard facts of life that Great Britain can no longer afford to be vitally concerned with our welfare while she is struggling to find a new level of survival for her own people.

It is interesting to note that informed opinion in London was just as pleased with the revision of the treaty as we were in this country, but for very different reasons. The British comment was that Great Britain herself could no longer afford to have on hand a relatively “ soft “ market area, such as she had in Australia, since that meant the generation of export trading arrangements suitable only for a “ soft “ area. Far better it is for Great Britain to have in Australia an area where, although the export market is competitive, there are special facilities available to her. In other words, we have gained some room for manoeuvre in our trade negotiations with foreign countries, and the British expect us to use that gain to sharpen competition in trading generally.

I should like to remind the House of how the atmosphere has changed even in the short time since this new treaty was negotiated. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Trade opened the talks in London, they did so against a background of falling wool prices and a struggle to keep imports at a reasonable level, while the overseas balances were dwindling away. To-day, wool prices are at a level surpassed only in the record peak periods. Import licensing has been relaxed and our overseas balances are increasing daily. There is generally a relaxed economic atmosphere in this country. However, at the risk of usurping the privilege of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who is usually the forecaster of woe, I wish to comment on the ease with which the pleasant feeling that exists now could be disturbed. Sir John Teasdale has recently directed attention to the serious position facing wheat exports, although, as the Minister has pointed out, the new provisions of the United Kingdom Trade Agreement will provide an underpinning of the wheat trade generally. Even with that, the outlook is disquieting. Our wool prices are considerably influenced at this moment by heavy operations by Japan. Japanese mills arc doing a big business in re-exporting to America, and it may be that the terms of this business do not have the sound base that we might wish for. We have already learned, from bitter recent experience, what a slide in wool incomes means to our balance of payments.

One of the less satisfactory provisions of the United Kingdom agreement is that dealing with sales of subsidized farm products. The fact that the United Kingdom Government declined to enter into any mutual arrangement to deal with subsidized products contains, of course, a clear implication that we may have to fight alone on this issue. The same situation throws into sharp relief the somewhat unsatisfactory position of our own subsidized products - sugar, butter, wine, and, to a less extent, wheat. Besides all of these, of course, there is the possibility of a dry season. Ali of theseare what might be termed internal possibilities, but there are also external possibilities of fairly rapid change. Three things particularly spring to my mind.

First, there is the position of Great Britain in relation to the newly formed European Common Market. Mr. Macmillan. and his Government have decided to stand outside the customs arrangement made by the six central nations of Europe, but the United Kingdom Prime Minister has indicated that he does envisage some arrangement of limited free trade in which the United Kingdom would take part. The announced plan for the common market, which could be of great concern to Australia, provides for a gradual reduction of tariff barriers to a common level, but even Australian exports to Britain could be seriously embarrassed if the. United Kingdom is going to be a full-blooded partner with the free trade area nations, in which the Scandinavian nations are included. It is worth noting, in this connexion, that if the European plan is successful, it is quite likely to be a factor in providing sharpening competition with British manufactured goods in world markets generally.

The second thing that we in Australia cannot ignore is the unresolved Middle East crisis. With our greatest trading partner on the other side of Suez, developments in that area may well have momentous consequences, particularly to a country like Australia which is dependent on satisfactory arrangements with the canal authority for lower transportation costs, to say nothing of the 5 per cent, increase in shipping freights now mooted in some quarters. Thirdly, we must take into account developments in India and Asia. Already Australia is developing a thriving export market in India for wool tops, competing with Bradford on a significant level. Australian businessmen who have visited India recently have all returned convinced that there is a huge potential in that country, growing almost as one watches it. The influence of Japan upon our present wool prices has been noted, and, of course, Japan’s potential must be measured in any attempt to see an Australian market for manufactured goods in SouthEast Asia.

All of these things mean that this is a time for extreme care in formulating our trade policy - care as never before. The shift of so much of the measure of control from Whitehall to Australia as a result of this new agreement means also that we carry a greater responsibility than ever before. The Minister has already referred to the circumstances in which the Department of Trade was formed, and I now urge him, in view of the deepening importance of the Ministry generally, to agree to a further step. This step is the formation of a parliamentary committee on trade. A great many thinking men in both primary and secondary industry, and in financial circles, are frankly perturbed about one aspect of the creation of the Department of Trade. That is, that the department is at once a fact-finding body, and a policy-making body and, in all, a bureaucracy of the greatest magnitude. One of the soundest precautions against error that can be taken is to provide for some measure of separation between these two. More than that, it is vital that there should be, in finance and industry, the complete confidence in the Department of Trade that its most able officers have earned. This confidence would be given with far fewer reservations than at present if the making of policy could be influenced by some more open method than at present. In the last century, the use of parliamentary committees on great social questions of the time was general. To-day, however, in Britain and in most countries that model their administration on hers, the use of such committees has declined; not so in the United States and France, where parliamentary committees have tended to come to the forefront. I believe that the time has come for us in Australia to consider following the United States’s example in some degree - I do not say we should go the full way - and that this problem of keeping the terms of our trade constantly under review is a case in point.

The Minister has made it clear that the operation of the Tariff Board will continue in all cases where there is any doubt whether an individual Australian industry may suffer by a variation in tariff policy; but this board is not empowered to undertake the very general surveys needed to meet public confidence, and, in any case, I do not consider it proper that it should. There is a special circumstance also in which a parliamentary committee on trade could be invaluable. There is nothing in the Minister’s statement to indicate what future policy may be regarding import licensing, save the comment that the balance of payments problem is, in the Ministers’ words, “ more than a passing phase “. But it is well recognized that import licensing has side effects quite apart from the direct influence on the balance of payments, and some industrial development in Australia to-day has, in fact, been fostered under what might be termed the artificial protection of the restrictions. Relaxation of restrictions must, therefore, be checked against tariff policies; otherwise there is a possibility that the market will be divided in too many directions. If this were the case, the costs of manufacture might rise to the point that the export possibilities of manufactured goods would be limited. Again, any one of a number of the external circumstances that 1 have already referred to could bring about again a need for new restrictions, in which case a parliamentary body to work in association with the Administration, but with an independent right of investigation, could be invaluable.

It is almost true to say that over the past ten years the great expansion of secondary industry in Australia has been in spite of the Ottawa Agreement and of the trade policies that were previously dominated by Whitehall. Now, however, this agreement with the United Kingdom changes the picture. Our trade policy is now in our own hands, and we have more flexibility than ever before in our dealings with our partners in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. At the same time, we have to remember that a firm trade policy is the only instrument bv which we can continue our immigration programme, as I believe we should, and, further, to give industry a much-needed opportunity to plan ahead, and still keep our balance of payments and costs structure within bounds.

In matters of such immense importance as these. I believe that there should be some clear channel of parliamentary inquiry quite separated from that inside the Ministry. Only by such a method will there be a wide measure of public confidence that our new responsibilities are being met. After all is said and done, public confidence is really the key to progress. I do not see anything to criticize in the new trade agreement, although Australia has not been able to secure all the benefits originally sought. I believe that the new agreement should be of great benefit to this nation. It will afford a degree of stability in the export of our primary products and, at the same time, it should ensure lower costs to the consumers by reducing the cost of certain essential imports from countries other than Great Britain.

It will be vital that tariff duty should not be reduced where such reduction could be detrimental to any Australian manufacturing industry. The Minister has given assurances that there will be safeguards against this, and that in a doubtful case a Tariff Board inquiry will be held before any action is taken. That is very reassuring to many manufacturers.

There is nothing in the statement about future import licensing policies, but if, as a result of the implementation of the new trade agreement, Australia’s balance of trade improves to such an extent that import restrictions can be greatly eased or eliminated altogether, it will be vital that the import tariff be such as to ensure efficient Australian production levels, adequate to make it possible to manufacture at an economic cost. If the market were divided in too many directions, the cost of manufacturing in Australia could be such as to strictly limit our potential export markets for manufactured goods.

I support the agreement. I believe that it is the most substantial step forward since 1932 that Australia has made in trade agreements with the United Kingdom. I believe that the feeling of the community generally to-day is one of great approbation towards the Minister and the department for the important part they have played in bringing this agreement to fruition. I congratulate the Minister. I trust that he will give serious consideration to setting up a parliamentary committee of trade. A body such as that would help materially in dealing with the matters that I have mentioned and also could exercise some control and ensure that the policy which the Minister has outlined and has endeavoured to bring into operation in this country will be implemented.


.- I suppose that honorable members on both sides of the House are in agreement with the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth). I suppose that honorable members are in agreement, too, with the sentiments expressed by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in his speech, but I think that last night the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) came to the crux of the matter when he showed that this agreement is a document based on wishful thinking and great aspirations, without much definition of what it is hoped to achieve. The honorable member for Isaacs expressed the hope that we would be able to expand our trade in certain overseas areas, to reduce our production costs and to guarantee markets overseas for some of our products, particularly in England. Those are all laudable objectives at which all honorable members would be willing to aim, but when we examine this long agreement, about which there has been such a furore and fuss and so lengthy an explana- tion by the Minister, what strikes us is that there is no guarantee of achieving what is hoped for. The members of the Opposition say that the agreement will in no way guarantee the achievement of our objectives. However, we support it, because we believe in agreements. We are a friendly and cooperative group of people who want to see trade expanded all over the world and existing barriers to trade broken down, but we cannot see how this agreement will guarantee that.

One thing that surprised me, as a comparatively new boy here, was that such an aggressive, anti-socialist, free-trader as the Minister for Trade should have presented to the Parliament this agreement on trade and tariffs. If we read Article 9, we see that he is placing the onus on a government instrumentality to make decisions in certain fields of private industry. How can the Minister justify this proposal in the face of the attitude he adopted twelve months ago when he brought down the bill to dispose of the Australian Whaling Industry Commission assets in Western Australia?

At that time he was very anti-socialist and said that the Government had no right to intrude into such activities. But in this case, apparently, the free trader has broken down. This agreement is a recognition by the Government that its much-vaunted policy of private enterprise and open competition will not work and that, somehow, governments must step into the field and make arrangements to open channels of trade. As is often the case, people who will not accept principles cannot give full expression to them when they are trying to write them into documents. We say that this agreement is simply a statement of a series of laudable ambitions. It certainly contains no guarantee that those ambitions will be realized.

We do not suggest that there are not difficulties facing any person who occupies the position of Minister for Trade in this or any other country. This afternoon, during question time, the Minister answered a question about beef. If I understood his remarks correctly, he said that one result of the agreement on beef was to create greater bidding for beef in Australian markets by local butchers and that this resulted in increasing the local price of beef. If a higher price for beef overseas is to be achieved at the cost of a higher price locally, that achievement will not receive approval from this side of the House. Any proposal that results in increasing the price of food to the workers does not appeal to the Opposition or to the country generally. However, that comment is by the way, and arose out of the Minister’s remarks this afternoon.

Honorable members on this side acknowledge that there must be more agreements between governments and a breaking down of the barriers to free trade and co-operation between nations. I think it was Bernard Baruch who wrote -

If trade doesn’t cross frontiers, armies will.

In this case, of course, we are dealing with Great Britain - with people to whom we are akin - and with the preservation of all the relations, including trade relations, that have been developed between Australia and Great Britain during the last ISO or 160 years. From Australia’s point of view, the markets of Great Britain are to be treasured, and the converse is also true that from Great Britain’s point of view the markets of Australia are to be treasured. It is fair to say that this is a field in which there ought to be almost complete agreement and that great achievements should be made by anybody carrying out trade negotiations. The negotiations listed in the Minister’s speech have gone on for a considerable period.

The fact that the world’s trade position is in a state of change has to be faced. Great production capacity has been developed in countries where, in the past, it has been absent. The Minister for Trade, in his attempts to expand Australian trade overseas, is faced with almost insuperable problems. We claim that this agreement will not solve many of them or give any guarantee that the difficulties which Australian industries, both primary and secondary, are facing will be overcome. We have heard from the Government side references to the balance of trade. It is an unfortunate fact that in the world at large every nation is trying to sell as much as possible to everybody else and to buy as little as possible. That is symptomatic of the whole system. It cannot be remedied in a hurry. It is one of the problems which Australia has to face. We are in a difficult position because of our remoteness from overseas markets and our particular ties with European countries and trading nations. Our refusal to acknowledge the existence of many nations frustrates our attempts to obtain additional satisfactory . overseas markets. There again, Australia has its own problems. Australia produces enough wheat for about 18,000,000 people, but has only 9,000,000 consumers.

The same is true of many other primary products. In a starving world we are producing more food than we can eat. Therefore, we must find ways of selling it. Traditionally, the English market has always been capable of expansion. We could always rely on it, but in the last few years, as a result of changes in world patterns, rising transport costs and Britain’s attempt to get cheaper food for her people, a tragic reduction in our wheat exports to that country has occurred. That is indicative of the difficulties that we face in trying to sell more of our produce overseas.

Honorable members on this side of the chamber admit that those difficulties have no simple solution, but it is part of our creed to assert that it is necessary for governments to intervene. We believe that the capitalist system, the whole system of private enterprise, needs conscious direction. If we can -all agree that this, rather than the mere use of the word “ control “ is necessary, we shall begin to get somewhere. If the Minister’s attempts in recent years to arrive at a mutually advantageous trading agreement with another nation have in fact met with -some success, we are already getting somewhere. Of course, this Government has itself created some of the problems that it now faces. It has refused to acknowledge, or trade with, almost one-fifth of the world’s population. Therefore, it finds difficulty in disposing of the food that Australia produces in plenty. The Government will have to change its attitude in this regard.

The Government will also have to do something about the cost of production in this country. The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) put up a good case for his party, but unfortunately Australia cannot forever live off the sheep’s back. People everywhere must come to realize that secondary industry is just as important to our future development as is primary industry. I have no doubt that in the next one or two decades there will be a great increase in production of crops per acre, particularly of sugar cane and in the carrying capacity of pastoral land. But, generally speaking, our greatest expansion in production will occur in secondary industries. Only by the Government applying itself to the cost difficulties of secondary industry will we finally create satisfactory trade relations. If the Government will not step in and determine cost levels through prices control and similar measures, there will be no solution of our problems, however many agreements may be entered into.

We have seen the revival of Western Germany - a menace to the trade not only of countries such as ours but of longestablished and highly industrialized, superefficient countries like Great Britain. Indeed, Western Germany is giving the United Kingdom a great deal of worry in this regard. That is one of the problems that the Minister for Trade faces, in the few months of office that are left to him, in selling Australian goods abroad. We admit that our own secondary industry must be protected. That has been one of the basic tenets of the Labour movement. We join issue with the honorable member for Fisher in his attempt to have us believe that Australia should rely for her export income upon primary industry. The whole future of primary industry will depend upon the capacity of people in electorates such as the one that I represent to consume the goods that the farmer produces. Those are some of the steps that the Government should take to ensure that agreements of this nature attain the desired aim.

Some industries offer special problems. The poultry farmer, for instance, is facing great difficulties. Last year, the chairman of the Australian Egg Board said that the board expected to continue to make a loss on exported eggs this year, and that there did not seem to be any solution of the problem. Australia can produce eggs, but only at a price that the Australian worker cannot afford. The chairman of the board said that the only way out was for people to eat five eggs for every one eaten now. I should think that a great many families would take up that challenge if they were in a position to do so. Turning now to the agreement itself, the Minister said -

We wanted a new agreement which met our economic circumstances and our policy requirements under to-day’s conditions.

An examination of the agreement shows that it does not meet our economic circumstances and, of course, it is very difficult to say what are our policy requirements if one is to rely on an analysis of what has been said here. The new agreement does not strictly replace the Ottawa Agreement. In many respects, the definite has been surrendered in favour of the indefinite. In the Ottawa Agreement the following appears: - (1.) The Government to undertake that orders shall be made in accordance with . . . (2.) The Government to invite Parliament to pass the legislation …

Of course, when the Government invites such a well-disciplined piece of machinery as this Parliament to do something its advice is usually accepted. In article after article the same sort of thing appears; but in the agreement that is now before us we find that the two governments are to consult each other at the request of either.

Turning now to the matter of wheat, the Minister claimed that the agreement offered four advantages. The first was that we maintained the right of free entry. The second was that the old agreement was to be re-guaranteed in the new one. The third was that the new trade agreement in no way touched our previous rights, and the fourth was that the wheat arrangement would help to protect our export trade. I am glad that the word “arrangement “ was used because the Minister said -

On the immediate trade problems, the important agreement on wheat that was secured assures a market in the United Kingdom over the next live years of at least 750,000 tons f.a.q. wheat or flour equivalent annually.

The agreement, however, reads -

The two Governments agree that if in any year the quantity of Australian wheat and flour imported into the United Kingdom should fall short of 750,000 tons (wheat equivalent) or such smaller quantity as may be offered by the Australian Wheat Board on commercial terms, they will consult together at the request of either government … In the event that such consultation is requested the two governments will for this purpose establish an inter-Governmental Committee to meet in London to consider the reasons for the shortfall and possible solutions. The two Governments further agree that if such consultations should not lead to an outcome satisfactory to both Governments either Government may call for a renegotiation of the terms of this Agreement.

If the Minister has a firm arrangement with the United Kingdom to sell it 750,000 tons of wheat annually, what is the agreement, and why have we not been told about it? The fact is that his speech, and this agreement, do not agree. On the one hand he assures us that this will be so, but on the other he can show us no confirmation of it whatsoever in the agreement. The Labour party is in favour of agreements and international co-operation. Anything that is to the advantage of the British people is, in the long run, toour own advantage also. Therefore, it is in our interest to encourage trade and co-operation with Britain. We say that there is nothing in this agreement to support the Minister’s statement.

Those are some severe criticisms that we have to offer. We say that this agreement is not in fact such an important document as we were led to believe; that it has exchanged the definite for the indefinite; that it contains no concrete examples of the things that the Minister says it will achieve; and that it is not exactly as the Minister says it is in his exposition of the key-note of it. Those are very serious criticisms. After all, we have a very high-powered Department of Trade under a very highpowered Minister who spends a lot of time on negotiations of this kind, and I think that we are entitled to expect concrete results.


– We are unable to get concrete roads, either.


– That is so. There are some aspects of the agreement to which I should like to refer particularly. Article 9 reads in part -

The Australian Government undertake that -

protection by tariffs shall be afforded only to those industries which are reasonably assured of sound opportunities for success;

Surely this Government, in the light of its political philosophy and background, will not interfere with industries or decide which are operating with a reasonable degree of success. Surely it will not step in and deny its political philosophy! What is meant by the term “ reasonable “ in the next portion of the article, which continues -

  1. the Australian Customs Tariff shall be based on the principle that protective duties shall not exceed such a level as will give United Kingdom producers full opportunity of reasonable competition . . .

The Australian Government further undertakes that -

  1. United Kingdom producers shall be entitled to full rights of audience before the Australian Tariff Board . . .

They are very lucky people. They will be able to appear before the board and put their case.

Article 14 is very important. It states -

The United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government recognize that there are other matters, such as transport and communications, the disposal of surpluses and restrictive business practices, not otherwise dealt with in this agreement, which may have a material effect on the level of trade and commerce between the United Kingdom and Australia. The two governments agree to consult together about any such matters at the request of either.

With respect to the matters mentioned there, and particularly transport, it is high time that the two Governments not only agreed to consult each other, but also agreed to act. If there is one thing that is penalizing Australia, and frustrating our chances of exporting by preventing us from entering into world trade as a free-trade nation, and thereby strangling our trade, it is the control of overseas trade by overseas trade- associations, the Australian Oversea Transport Association, or any such organization, by whatever name it is called, that is not responsible to us. Unless this Government takes up the challenge of transport costs and declines any longer to leave it to irresponsible organizations - I mean politically irresponsible - controlled from outside Australia, we shall find no solution to these problems. I regard Article 14 of the agreement as one of the most important in it. This Government should take advantage of the opportunity to consult with the United Kingdom Government and decide upon measures that will break the stranglehold of the transport organizations on our external trade.


.- The thoughtful speech of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) illustrates, I think, the truth of the contention of my friend, the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), that there are a great many features of this agreement on which honorable members on both sides of the House can agree in this important debate. Nevertheless, there are matters on which the Government and the Opposition disagree, and will continue to disagree. In the rapidly changing world that we have to accept to-day, agreements of this kind are continually affected by changing world conditions, and I agree with the honorable member for Isaacs that, in the interests of Australia as a whole, Government supporters and Opposition members alike should endeavour to increase the area of agreement rather than to extend the disagreement between them.

The outstanding feature of the remarks of the honorable member for Wills was his approach to the question of controls - an approach with which we on this side of the House disagree. I found little to quarrel at in the honorable member’s introductory remarks, but I cannot accept his suggestion that if we wish to reduce the production costs of our exports, particularly from secondary industries, we must control prices and other things. Such a suggestion clearly indicates a division between Government and Opposition that is not likely to be narrowed. It has been said before, and I think it should be said again, that consideration of the implications and consequences of an agreement such as this, entered into by a responsible government, must involve careful scrutiny of the background to the agreement. As the honorable member for Wills said, we cannot afford to overlook the changing world conditions that have conspired to produce the circumstances that rendered this new agreement necessary. I do not think that we can afford to disregard the fact that one of the circumstances affecting the pattern of world trade is the paramount need of so many nations for selfsufficiency, or near self-sufficiency, as a result of the unsettled state of the world caused by Communist Russia’s threat to various countries at different times. ‘

We cannot ignore the fact that a principal factor in trade negotiations and agreements between countries is the question of the balance of payments. This is a problem that is not peculiar to Australia, but is common to all countries. We must realize that the dollar is the most highly valued international currency to-day. This is a factor that restricts trade in some ways, and perhaps, in a limited sense, expands trade between some countries. I agree with the honorable member for Isaacs that we cannot afford to ignore the influence of recent events in the Middle East, particularly in relation to the Suez Canal, on world trade, and the possible consequences, not only in the near future, but also, perhaps, in the relatively far distant future. All those factors play some part in trade negotiations, and they must be considered if we wish to get a true picture of the background to this agreement. We must consider also the internal situation in Australia and the reasons for it. It is obvious, of course, that a new trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia, or at least a modification of the previous agreement, has been needed for a long time. It has been made more urgent by the growth of our population, which is still increasing.

The expansion of secondary industry in this country, which has been mentioned generally, is another major factor. It is significant that secondary industry has expanded, the production of manufactured goods, and industrial employment have increased, and the total output of primary products has increased, but fewer people are engaged in primary production to-day than were engaged some years ago. This is of great significance, and it is an important feature of the background to trade agreements such as this, lt is obvious, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we now have a far larger home market than we had five or ten years ago, and that this market will expand considerably in the future at much the same rate as it has done in the last few years. lt was said in my youth, with some truth - and 1 think it still holds true - that the best market for both primary and secondary products is the home market. We must not forget that. It is of the utmost significance that agriculture, the pastoral industry and secondary industry are much more highly mechanized than they were five or ten years ago. It is significant also that, in the process of mechanization, there is a large import content. That is of basic importance, because it affects one of the prime costs in industry - the cost of the machines necessary for the processing of goods. It is on that aspect that we must look at the question of imports. It is a fallacy, or an oversimplification, to say that as Australian industries mount, imports will decrease. That is not necessarily so. History has shown that, as secondary industries increase, the need for imports of machines, tools and raw materials necessary for our manufactures also increases.

The vital factor in these discussions is: To import we must export. It has been said often, and every one accepts it as the truth, that almost all our exports are primary products - wool, wheat, meat and the like. The secondary industries that we have developed are, in the main, consumers of imported goods, which are paid for by the export of primary produce. That is the background that must be faced by any government when it considers trade agreements. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the Government, when they started these long and, I am sure, laborious negotiations, also had limitations imposed upon them by the existence of the Ottawa Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. That was the sort of compelling need that faced them. They were the factors that brought about that which the honorable member for Wills described as a not completely satisfactory document. I ask the honorable member for Wills and those who criticize this agreement: In what way and where in the existing circumstances would they expect that an agreement more satisfactory to Aus tralia could have been obtained? Admittedly, it is the right of the Opposition tocriticize, but it seems to me that, on this discussion at least, little constructive criticism has been offered.

In the agreement, two main factors, in general, are involved. Referring to the export trade, the Minister said -

In developing its constructive approach to the problem of increasing exports, the Government has planned a systematic and comprehensive review of Australia’s trade relationships with other countries. In this programme, trade with the United Kingdom, which is our greatest trading, partner, naturally comes under early review.

Again, one must look at the tangled problem of international trade and ask, “ Where can a start be made? “ That seems to me the logical place to start, and I have not heard that contention challenged. The Minister then went on to outline - and the agreement confirms his outline - that there were two main aspects, speaking in general terms. The first was the advantages to Australia gained in trade with the United Kingdom. The second was the contribution made by the agreement to increased trade, and particularly to increased export trade with other countries. There has been some little argument on those points.

I have not the competence of my friend, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence) to speak on the problem of wheat, but it seems to me that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who led for the Opposition on this matter, missed the main point. In his speech, the facts of which have not been challenged, the Minister said that in pre-war years we exported to England about 1,000,000 tons of wheat a year. In the last three years, the average has fallen to 550,000 tons. Under the present agreement, the figure for the next five years will be at least 750,000 tons a year with provision for high-protein wheat above that figure, if we can export it and if the United Kingdom can buy it. Here is a substantial and practical yardstick of measurement. In 1954, the United Kingdom bought from us only 13,000,000 bushels of wheat. The assurance in this agreement of a market for at least 28,000,000 bushels represents a marked and practical contribution to our problems and a guarantee of security to the basic primary industry, which must be given if the basic primary industry is to be maintained. If we cannot maintain the basic primary industry, we cannot build on that foundation the -secondary industries of which Opposition members have spoken so glibly on occasions. Maybe they are the unpleasant facts of life, but they are still the facts which faced this Government or which would face any other government. 1 wish to refer in brief to one of the points made by the honorable member for “Wills. He spoke of the high level of production costs and, as I understood him, said that the solution was price and other controls. That seems to me to be an absurd argument. All restrictions applied to an expanding trade are a contradiction not only in terms but indeed in practice. As the Minister pointed out, under the agreement we give a minimum preference on producer goods to the United Kingdom. In other words, the minimum preference extended to the United Kingdom for producer goods, which would be made up in this country, has been fairly substantially reduced. As secondary industries must import goods, particularly from the United Kingdom, as part of their process of manufacture, then a reduction in the preference extended to those goods means a really considerable contribution to a reduction in our cost structure. Even if it be not as substantial as some would wish, it is still something that cannot be disregarded. Indeed, I feel that it is in fact appreciated by all honorable members, whether they sit -on the Government side or the Opposition -side.

The Minister mentioned the flexibility that comes to Australia under the agreement to negotiate and bargain with other countries. In all probability, we will gain from the competition that arises between “foreign countries and the United Kingdom. “We will gain further from the practice, which 1 understand is now being considered by the Minister, of reducing duty on foreign goods not produced in this country but essential to the requirements of industry in this country. Again, that is a contribution to our internal economy that is reflected not only in our cost of living, but also in our cost pyramid structure. As every one must agree, that has a beneficial effect on our overseas trade.

So, sir, in looking at this agreement from the general point of view as well as the particular, I think it would be safe and fair ito say that here is a marked contribution for the next five years to the security of many of our primary industries, which are themselves essential to the economy on which secondary production can be built. It is a contribution to that export of primary and secondary goods which is essential if our economy is to remain stable. In the final analysis, it is a sound basis for negotiation, bargaining or agreement with those countries with which we at the present time trade but little. I am assured by those who have had a far wider experience in the actual handling of trade and exports than I have had that there are innumerable items of Australian produce that could be exported to the markets of South-East Asia - our near East - if two conditions could apply. The first is a reduction in costs - even relatively slight - and the second is an assurance to Australian processors and manufacturers of a continuity of government policy for a reasonable period. Probably one of the great contributions that the Government could now make to the stability and progress of Australian industry, on the basis of this proposed five-year agreement, would be to give to the manufacturers a clear, defined and stated policy for the life of this agreement, based on the terms of the agreement, modified perhaps by agreements which will follow with other countries. I am sure that in this world of constant change this is one of the few things to which we may look forward with some confidence. I, as you may have gathered, sir, support the agreement.


.- The Government is seeking parliamentary approval for the terms of an agreement entered into in February of this year between the Governments of Australia and the United Kingdom. In the brief time at my disposal, I propose to offer one or two comments about the agreement itself and the premises upon which the agreement is based, and then to indicate some avenues which we on this side of the House believe the Government should explore very fully in its endeavour to increase Australian trade. The points I want to stress first concern the so-called wheat agreement, secondly, the unbalance of our economy which produces .a trade relationship in which we have all our eggs in one basket, and, thirdly, the decline in our exports of manufactured goods over the last four or. five years.

The Wheat agreement is hailed by the Minister as a successful agreement. He pins great hope and faith on the undertaking, so called, by the United Kingdom to accept 28,000,000 bushels of Australian wheat a year. Australia also has the right not to deliver this amount if Australia can make other arrangements. I have no doubt that the United Kingdom insisted that Australia should, if possible, arrange to dispose of its wheat elsewhere, and that only as a last resort would the United Kingdom consider taking the 28,000,000 bushels under the agreement. As my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) pointed out, there is in fact no agreement. The terms of Article 6 are so hedged about with qualifications that I, as a lawyer, would not like to place any reliance on that written document. At best it is purely and simply an expression of best intention. There is room, I would say, for far greater certainty and reality in that document than the Minister has so far admitted. According to press reports, when the Minister returned to Australia in November last he hailed the so-called wheat guarantee. Insofar as there is in fact no guarantee but only an expression of intentions, I cannot share the Minister’s optimism, and we on this side of the House query the whole basis of the alleged favorable conditions in the agreement.

Mr Turnbull:

– It is the same one as Labour approved.


– It is not. When the honorable member for Lalor was Minister, all the loose ends were tied up a lot better than they are under this agreement, lt is for that reason that I feel the Minister is, with complete justification, very touchy on this point. Naturally, politically he does not wish it to be thought that he has been overseas and returned empty handed.

Concerning the reduction of preferential margins on British exports to this country, one can say that Article 7 does give the Australian Government valuable room in which to move - room in which to negotiate more favorable trade arrangements with our neighbours in our near East or to further explore trade relationships with the Middle East.

The inability of the Minister successfully to negotiate an agreement with the United Kingdom is understandable. It arises, in my view, from a fundamental fallacy or a basic fault in the whole orientation of our trade policy. Any arrangement entered into between the United Kingdom and Australia is essentially a bi-lateral undertaking. If we extend such undertakings we are doing the very thing for which the Minister himself has, with some justification, criticized other nations. I refer particularly to the Soviet bloc where the two-way treaty between Soviet countries and those which they are attempting to influence, is the whole basis of foreign trade. We desire freer trade amongst the nations of the world than is envisaged and practised by the Soviet bloc. However, this inability to negotiate successfully the type of agreement that we would like spotlights the basic fallacy or fundamental difficulty in our trade relationships. First, the big difficulty, as I have said before in this House, lies in the fact that we have all our eggs in one basket. In other words, our trade with the United Kingdom is completely unbalanced.

I have here figures published in the statistical bulletin of the Commonwealth Bank for February last. In the year 1952-53, we exported £347,400,000 worth of goods to Britain out of total exports amounting to £850,700,000. In the next year, we exported £295,900,000 worth of goods to Britain out of our total exports of £814,400,000. In 1954-55, we exported to Britain goods worth £285,500,000 out of our total exports of £760,300,000, and in 1955-56, we exported to Britain £257,300,000 worth of goods out of a total of £773,300,000. So we find that far too great a proportion of our exports goes to Britain. We are dependent on her too much.

Shipping freights between Britain and Australia operate adversely for Australia, and increased freights will increase our trade deficit by £14,000,000. Therefore, any move which will spread the risk more evenly over countries in the Pacific area, instead of our relying so much on Britain, will be of great benefit to our economy.

The second aspect is that there is toomuch dependence on one type of export, namely, primary products. I shall indicate one or two measures whereby we can avoid depending so much on the export of primary products. We must endeavour to increase our exports of manufactured goods rather than rely entirely on our primary products. We have been blessed in that wool prices have not just maintained their levels, but have advanced since last year. -Continued reliance on one kind of export -commodity is the unfavorable feature that plagues our trade relationships. It plagues our whole national economy. It was so in 1 93 1 , and it is so to-day. By relying exclusively on this mono-culture - on our trade in wool and wheat - we could face the same position as we faced in 1931, if any great economic recession were to follow the -relaxation of international tensions. The two unfavorable features of our economy which I have mentioned will enter into any of our trade negotiations with any other nation. Other nations know what we have to sell, and they know that we have to sell it now. Therefore, we are placed at a disadvantage.

The second matter that I desire to mention in regard to our trade difficulties is our internal cost structure. Honorable members on the Government side of the House continually refer to the inflationary effect of rising wages upon our trade relationships with other countries. It is alleged that, because of the increase of wages, we cannot compete with other countries that have low wage costs. That is true to a very limited extent, but in the United States of America alone where wages, both the base wage and margins for skill, are exactly double those in this country, manufacturers can compete with other countries in the export of manufactured goods. Despite the cheap labour available in the countries of the East and the Middle East they cannot compete with the product of the skilled labour of the Western Powers. In Western countries, even though the monetary value of labour is higher than it is in Eastern countries, the output per man-hour has increased. It is on the output per manhour that the whole of our cost structure falls down - not so much on the cost of labour involved. With wage costs that are double those in this country, America can compete with other countries. We could do the same if we had greater managerial efficiency, more highly skilled staff men and improved machinery with which to increase the output per man-hour. The physical output of the workers has increased by about 24 per cent, since the war, and they have gone about as far as they can in that regard. There has to be improved business know-how. Greater managerial efficiency is needed to enable our exports of secondary products to increase.

As far as the figures for our exports are concerned, I am at a loss to understand the optimism of various Government supporters who claim to have some authority. Announcements have been made in the newspapers from time to time that our exports of manufactured goods has increased. On the contrary, ‘ from the figures available from the Government Statistician, it appears that the export of manufactured goods has decreased in the last four or five years. The following are the figures relating to the value of exports of manufactured goods, excluding refined oil:-

These figures reveal a steady decline in the proportion which our manufactured goods exported form of our total export trade. As 1 have said, those figures do not take into consideration the export of refined oil, which has been responsible for any increase in our exports. The Statistician does not include refined oil in the list of manufactured goods. In that picture alone we cannot see any prospect of a bright future for the export of manufactured goods unless certain basic steps are taken by this any future government.

I refer, first, to what is being done in Great Britain. There, the Capital Issues Commission has been granting favorable credit facilities to certain selected basic industries. Greater activity along this line will have to be undertaken by this Government and any future government in regard to the limited capital that is available in this country. Secondly, I think the Government should give increased aid in the export of manufactured goods. Provided adequate precautions are taken in selecting the industries to receive aid, this would ensure that quality goods are produced and that guarantees are carried out. The Government should be able to give greater credit facilities than it has proposed to give under the export credit legislation which was passed through the Parliament last year.

These remarks do not apply only to the export of manufactured goods. We should also encourage the export of services. The Export and. Import Bank of America, from lime to time, has financed the export of American technical know-how in the form of railway projects, irrigation projects and aerial services which have been introduced in Afghanistan. Then there is the ill-fated hydro-electric scheme in Afghanistan, which is now getting under way. The Export and Import Bank of America has supported American private enterprise in going into countries of the Middle East with some government support. This means that the Americans are able to offer more favorable credit terms, including longer credits, so that the recipient nations have fifteen years or twenty years in which to pay America for the services that they receive. I believe that until the export credit system in this country is expanded so as to include the export of services, we shall be debarred from carrying out irrigation works in India and Pakistan, and we shall be debarred also from undertaking schemes, involving the provision of agricultural machinery and the like, such as that which the Indonesian Government wanted to commence six months or eight months ago. It is true that we have sent trade delegations to Japan, India and Ceylon to explore matters of this kind, but unless we have the goods to sell and the means to ensure that the producers of these goods and services in this country can dispose of them with benefit both to themselves and their markets, it is not a bit of good sending missions overseas, because they will have nothing to sell.

Thirdly, the type of tariff protection that we need is one that will provide the fullest protection in the early stages, with a gradual reduction of the tariff to ensure that those commodities which we are most capable of producing are produced efficiently and economically, whilst the commodities which we cannot produce efficiently and economically - that is, the commodities produced by the uneconomic industries - gradually are weeded out. We should concentrate our man-power and our financial resources on those things that we are best able to produce, having regard to the needs of a balanced economy. I do not quibble with the desire eventually to have a freer movement of trade throughout the whole world, but this can only be brought about by a scientific system of tariffs such as I have mentioned.

Lastly, I think that we should take steps to ensure that we meet the representatives of the interested parties and governments in what is to us the near East. We should bring them here - if necessary, pay the cost of their coming here - and discuss with them their needs and the terms upon which we could meet those needs. It would be necessary, having regard to the uncertainties of a number of these markets, for the Australian Government to give adequate assistance to the producers of the goods and services that would be exported to those countries.

Mr. Lawrence

– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.

Mr. WILSON (Sturt) [4.431.- The agreement now before the House is a part of the Government’s plan for an export drive. Twelve months ago, our trade was going heavily against us. Pessimists in this country urged, as a remedy for that situation,, the clamping on of import controls as a permanent feature of our economy. I, for one, have great confidence in the future of this country. I believe that we can produce anything that any other country cart produce, and I believe also that the solution of an adverse trade balance problem is to increase exports and to retain import controls only until the emergency has passed. The Menzies Government, twelve months ago, also had faith in the future of Australia when it told us quite clearly of the difficult situation in which we were, placed and explained that, for some period, our imports had exceeded our exports. The Government pointed out that our London funds had declined to a very low level, and it contended that the solution of this problem lay in increasing our exports. The agreement that is now before the House is one of the measures by which we shall be able to increase our export trade.

Twelve months ago I made the statement that it would not be very long before our trade would so improve that we would be able substantially to relax import controls. The pessimists, who come mainly from the Labour ranks, said that that was impossible and that we had no hope of increasing our exports. That kind of pessimistic talk has just been repeated by the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt), who spoke of the decline in the export of manufactured goods and of too much dependence being placed on the production of one or two commodities. He adopted the completely defeatist attitude that we in Australia can export virtually nothing but wheat and wool. Such statements show profound ignorance of the facts of the position. I should like to give the honorable member for Darebin the up-to-date figures to illustrate what we have done in Australia since this Government embarked on its export drive, and I propose to take the figures concerning our exports for the seven months which ended on 3 1 st January last, those being the latest figures I have been able to obtain, and compare them with the figures for the same seven months in the previous year. For the seven months ended January, 1956, our exports were worth £442,000,000, and for the seven months ended January, 1957, they were worth £549,000,000, so that our export trade increased by £107,000,000. When I refer to these figures I can hear the pessimists say, “ Ah! That is just sheer luck. The price of wool has gone up “. The price of wool has gone up, but that alone does not account for the very substantial increase in our export trade. I want to cite figures showing the manner in which our export trade has increased since the Government and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) announced that strenuous efforts would be made to increase our exports.

The honorable member’ for Darebin referred just now to the decline ‘n t_ne export of manufactured goods. I point out that £47,000,000 of the £ 1 07,000.00? by which our export trade improved in the seven months ended on 31st January last, was accounted for by exports of commodities other than wool. In addition, although the value of our exports of wool during those seven months increased by £60,000.000. a very substantial portion of that increase was due to factors quite apart from the increase of price. When we come to the make-up of that £47,000,000 representing the increased value of exports other than wool, we find that the value of exports of iron and steel products which, after all, are mainly manufactured products, increased in those seven months from £3,000,000 to £13,000,000, and of titanium from £2,000,000 to £5,000,000. I do not think that any one will suggest that vehicles are not a product of secondary industry. The export of vehicles has risen from £2,000,000 in value to £5,000,000. Similar increases are apparent over the whole range of our exports. Since the Government erabarked on its sound policy of encouraging the Australian people to produce more for export, we find that in seven months exports other than wool have improved by £47,000,000 in value. It is utter nonsense for the honorable member for Darebin to say that we are now solely dependent on wool and wheat for our export income. Our exports of sugar, for example, for the seven months ended January of this year, were worth £23,000,000 compared with exports worth £15,000,000 for the same period that ended January last year. During the same period our exports of lead increased in value from £18,000,000 to £23,000,000.

If people have faith and confidence in Australia there is not the slightest doubt that we can overcome our temporary difficulties. Our workmen are equal to any in the world. Our industrialists are highly trained and highly skilled. We are rapidly bringing our industrial plant to the standard that obtains in other progressive countries. I believe that we are capable of exporting sufficient goods to pay for all the imports that we reasonably require. I will not have it that import controls are a permanent feature of our economy. I believe that, on the contrary, they should be of the most temporary nature. They should be used only in case of emergency; and the time is rapidly coming when we will be able to say that the emergency has gone.

Mr Calwell:

– Do you not think it is chronic?


– No, I do not think it is chronic, but ) think that the Opposition’s attitude’ is completely defeatist and pessmistic. It shows a complete lack of faith in the people of Australia and in Australia’s outlook for the future to say that we cannot produce and export enough of our products to enable us to pay for all the imports we reasonably require. The facts are that in the last seven months, while the Minister for Trade has been devoting his energies to increasing our exports, we have proved that an active trade policy can improve our trade tremendously - in those seven months by an increase of £107,000,000 in value. I venture to forecast that, by the end of June this year, our export trade will have improved in value by £250,000,000 in comparison with the value of exports for the year ended 30th June, 1956. It is said to be dangerous to make forecasts. Last December I made a forecast, based on reasonable inquiries, as to what our trade would be up to the present time. My estimates have proved to be correct.

We can produce goods. We can sell them. But one of the reasons why, in the past, our export trade has lagged is that we have had no need to export secondary goods. Our manufacturers have been able to sell all their production within Australia and, from the point of view of ease and comfort, who worries about an export market when he has a market at his doorstep willing to absorb all that he can produce? So, during the last few years, there has never been the stir and the impetus for our manufacturers to produce for export. Since the Minister for Trade and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) have pointed out to manufacturers that unless they export they will not be able to import their requirements, the manufacturers and the businessmen of Australia have turned their minds to exports.’ For example, there is not the slightest doubt that General MotorsHolden’s Limited could export millions of pounds worth of Holdens in excess of its present exports. That company has proved that its product is of a high quality and that its price is such that it can be sold in many other countries. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has proved that it can produce better and cheaper steel than any other country. Would any one suggest that Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited could not export more steel if the whole of its production, or substantially the whole of its production, were not absorbed “by the Australian market? Would anybody suggest that Imperial Chemical Industries

Limited could not export more drugs and other products of that nature? Of course we can export a substantially increased volume of goods compared with our present exports! Now that the need to export exists, we are turning to it and doing the job.

I commend the Minister for Trade for the work he has done generally in promoting our trade throughout the world. He has had a particularly difficult job to do in relation to the trade agreement with the United Kingdom. Those of us who know the British businessman know that he is probably the most efficient businessman in the world. In other respects he is the toughest. It would be wishful thinking for us to imagine that all that is necessary is to get on a ship or an aeroplane and go to Britain and be able to enter into an agreement with Great Britain to promote trade with us, unless that agreement also will assist Great Britain. The Minister has done an excellent job.

I believe that the greatest gain in this agreement is that our hands are now freer for negotiations with countries other than Great Britain. I think that, generally, Great Britain will buy our primary products if we can sell them as cheaply as any other country in the world sells them. If we cannot produce them and sell them cheaply, then I do not think that, in general, the people of Great Britain will be prepared to pay for such products from Australia a substantially higher price than they would have to pay for similar products from any other country. In that respect I am not referring to countries that subsidize their exports, because the British businessman is shrewd enough to know that a temporary advantage might prove to be a long-term disadvantage. Our primary industries must be able to sell their goods in competition with any other country and I believe that, in the main, they are able to do that. We can produce wool, and are producing wool, as cheaply as, or cheaper than, any other country in the world. That also applies to many other products, and I have no fear about the outlook for our .primary exports.

Now that the necessity exists, and now that the Australian market is about satisfied, Australian manufacturers have to look for fresh markets in order to be able to dispose of their production. The trend of the last nine months shows that our exports of manufactured goods have been increasing month by month. I know of many industries which have never before given a thought to exports because they had no need to do so but which are now turning their minds to export markets. For example, at the present time we are exporting large quantities of leather and we could export much more if only we could get sufficient hides. The quality of our leather has been proved to be equal to that of any other country. I could mention one industry after another and point out the possibilities that exist for overseas markets.

I suggest to all honorable members that we should have faith in our country. Let us have faith in our ability to meet these problems as they arise. Merely because we get a temporary unbalance or, at a certain time, we import more than we export and our London funds fall to a low level, do not let us hold up our hands in desperation and say that there is no future, that we must impose import controls and reduce the standard of living of the people and the quality of goods available to them. Let us go forward with confidence and point out to the people that we need a certain volume of exports and, therefore, that we must produce a like volume of goods for export. I am certain that if an appeal is made to the people in the right way, the people will respond to it as they have done since the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade made an appeal twelve months ago.


.- This agreement has been presented to this House as a matter of very great importance to this country. It follows the illfated Ottawa Agreement. The Ottawa Agreement was of no use to Australia except in the early stages of its operation. In the days when it was of some value, our primary industries were in a state of almost chronic impecuniosity. Wheat was being sold at something like ls. 3d. a bushel and wool at between 7d. and lOd. a lb. It was of some value to the Australian primary producer to get a market somewhere in the world to return him something better than he was receiving locally under the existing schemes of marketing in those days. I can remember in the early days of the war everybody thought that the Menzies Government had made a remarkably good deal with the British Government when it sold the whole of the Australian wool clip at 13d. a lb. But when the Curtin Government came into office about two or threeyears after that agreement was made, everybody thought that Australia made a remarkably good deal when the price of wool was lifted from 13d. to 15d. a lb. Whereas in. the early days of the Ottawa Agreement primary goods were being sold for less than the cost of production, 13d. a lb. was the guaranteed price for all the wool that was brought on to the market, and that was considered to be a great thing for Australia. Because that price was above the cost of production some people in the primary industries were encouraged to think that Australia was getting out of the doldrums.

Then came the post-war period and,, thanks to the United Nations organization, Unesco and other organizations associated’ with the parent body, efforts were made toincrease the standard of living of Asian peoples and those in undeveloped countries, generally. As a consequence, the demand for wool grew and also the demand for wheat. These are the two great primary industries from which Australia has alwaysderived a great proportion of its export income, and we were glad when prices for those products rose. Of course, Australia benefited from the Korean War situation also. One man’s meat is another man’spoison, and so when the nations started stock-piling wool against the prospect of a world war, the price of wool rose further. Wool is still selling at very high prices, and! it is the one industry in which the product is sold on the open market. It does not receive government support and it is not sold under any organized marketing schemes. I think the wool producers havebeen well advised to keep the selling of their product on a free and open market.

The Government is claiming certain credit, to which I think it is not entitled, for the good export prices that are obtained. Wool still represents 46 per cent, of Australia’s exports. That is a very big proportion of the total. I should like to believe that a great field is opened for Australia in< respect of secondary production, and that we can sell a lot of steel throughout the world, and motor cars also. I know that at this moment Australian wool is bringing, high prices and that we are increasing our exports of motor cars and steel, but the markets for Australian eggs and meat have practically disappeared. Some honorable members may disagree with that statement but I notice that the meat industry is trying to encourage people to have meat breakfasts again. They think that the chop and the piece of steak should replace the egg and bacon and cereals. People are unable to buy much meat on the home market. The price is so high that it cannot be sold as freely as previously on overseas markets.

It is easy to make out a case for the Government about the great value of Australian exports and to say that export markets have reached stability. I think that yesterday the Premier of Victoria was foolish enough to say, when the basic wage decision was announced, that Victoria had now reached a state of economic stability. I would be happy if I felt that economic stability could be reached in Australia within the next 20 or 30 years. What is happening is that the Australian economy is expanding rapidly. Population is increasing and immigrants who arrive from abroad and children being born to Australian parents are making increasing demands upon the economy. Australia is developing faster than in the years intervening between the two world wars and faster than in any other period, except that of the gold rushes and in the 1870’s and 1880’s, when many immigrants came to this country.

Because of these increased demands we shall be living in a period of inflation for some time to come. I would rather have a calculated plan involving some inflation than not have the economy of this country developed and its industries expanded. To the extent that this Government has helped to develop and expand the Australian economy, it is entitled to credit, but there is another side to the picture, and that is where the Opposition can make a good case against the Government. The Australian economy to-day has reached some sort of stability only because of the imposition of import restrictions and a bank credit policy, both of which are bearing severely on sectors of our economy, and both of which are being resented greatly and increasingly by many people throughout Australia. It is idle to suggest that these measures are only temporary. I think we have all got what Carlisle would have called a preternatural suspicion that they will last much longer than we think and that they will continue to bear very heavily upon great sections of the Australian people for a long time to come. No one can deny that if import restrictions and bank credit restrictions were lifted we would have industrial chaos and mass unemployment, with all the attendant social miseries. No one can allow that to happen, therefore the Government must tackle the problem of inflation by some other means. I believe that the Minister did his best in London, but I also believe that British negotiators are always too tough, too experienced and too selfish towards their Australian opposite numbers.

Mr Duthie:

– Some of them still think that we are colonials!


– The colonial outlook still dominates the minds of some English statesmen. They think that this country should be used to keep their own country going. They even resented our asking for a review of the Ottawa Agreement.

Mr Luchetti:

– The Minister has not the support of even his own colleagues.


– They are supporting him, but they are not so confident that all that he is doing is right. We should have denounced the Ottawa Agreement and started afresh. Although it was advantageous for primary industry in the early days, back around 1932, over the years this advantage has substantially declined. In some instances, of course, protection was not so greatly needed. Certainly, the advantage to the British manufacturers has grown with the passage of the years. In the last few years the benefit to the Australian primary producer under the Ottawa Agreement has amounted to about £8,000,000 annually, but the advantage to the British manufacturer exporting to Australia has been more than £100,000,000 a year.

The Labour party does not believe that the new agreement will alter the present position very much. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) saidin opening the debate for the Opposition,there is too much mention of hope and expectation. On such things one cannot base an agreement upon which, in turn, a policy is founded.It is suggested of course, that if there is disagreement there willbeconferences. They will beheldinLondonno doubt in thenorthernsummer, with some peoplehavingan enjoyable winter cruise from Australia, but I am sure that, as the other side will have the backing of the British Foreign Office, the Board of Trade, the shipping companies and all the forces that the mass wealth of England controls, the result will be to our disadvantage rather than to our advantage. In this matter we do not bargain as between equals, and I feel that we must try to become as tough as the British and point out that it is not to their ultimate advantage to behave as they arc doing at present. We should tell them that they must get their shipping freights down. They should not expect all the advantages.

Geographically, we ought to be extending our trade with Asia, where new markets are available. Some Asian countries are buying wool from us but can sell very little themselves on the Australian market. We must also face the fact that in Europe an economic union is in process of formation. 1 think that will be very good for the countries concerned. It will lower costs, because customs duties are invariably included in the cost to the consumer. It will also reduce the kind of competition which, allied with a fierce nationalism, can bring nations to the verge of war, or even into war. The freer trade between nations of the world is, the greater will be the contribution towards world peace.

Mr Turnbull:

– The honorable member is a great supporter of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.


– I believe in making trade free. That is why I supported the establishment of Gatt by the Chifley Government. The United Kingdom will ultimately be obliged to join the European economic union, and that will be greatly to its advantage. It would be very foolish if it did not do so. It would be missing a market that is now denied to it because of the operation of high tariffs. The Labour party does not believe in high tariffs just for the sake of having high tariffs. We want them only for the purpose of protecting our own industries against unfair competition and to protect nascent industries. I have a suspicion that a number of manufacturers take full advantage of the tariff and charge every penny that they possibly can, right up to the limit permitted by the tariff wall. The Labour party does not believe that that should happen. It is not good for Australia.

Britain has to decide whether it will be part of a great Commonwealth, as well as part of a European economic union. As I see the world to-day, there are only two great powers, and the rest of us have to be on one side or the other - with the United States of America or with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The influence of Europe in international affairs is waning for two reasons. It is waning firstly because America is the greatest power in that European-American area and, secondly, because there is a rising nationalist and economic expansionist policy operating in every Asian country. The only hope that Europe has of recovering its former position is to establish this economic union which will ultimately result in the establishment of a United States of Europe. That may be only an idle dream at the moment but I think that it must come and I think that when it comes it will work for world stability.

We must try to get costs down and increase productivity in this country. We must have greater efficiency in all walks of life, and in all the processes of production, distribution and exchange. However, I fear that if to-morrow we said to our manufacturers and importers, “ You can import anything that you like “, we would have a flood of goods the value of which would be much higher than £775,000,000, which is the Government’s present limit. We would be back where we were in 1952 or thereabouts. We would have more than £1,000,000,000 worth of goods coming in each year. Of course, we have not, at present, the exports with which to pay for such a great influx of goods. In 1952 a great amount of cheap goods came into Australia, which was being used by some countries for the dumping of surpluses. Many of the British goods that were brought in were sold at exorbitant prices. Such is the lack of a spirit of real nationalism amongst our own people that there are still many Australians who will only buy something that has been made in another country because they believe that it must, of necessity, be better than anything that is produced here. I do not think that that is either wise or correct.

I hope that the Government will not be satisfied with what it has done so far. The Opposition will not oppose the approval of the agreement. We have our doubts about it and will certainly have something to say about some of the tariff bills that will be brought down to implement it. It is idle for Government members to indulge in wishful thinking and spread propaganda that suits their case. Every one in this country has faith in the future of Australia. Any one who did not would not be a good Australian. We all know the difficulties that face us. We all know what we would like to do, and what the people who went before us have tried to do. Faith in Australia’s future is not the possession of any one part or section of the Australian people. The Government should not prop up the economy by artificial means - by import restrictions more severe than those brought about by enemy action in the worst days of the war. When the Minister next goes overseas, or has an opportunity to speak to the United Kingdom High Commissioner, he should say that this agreement has had a mixed reception in Australia. We are critical not so much of the Minister as of the people with whom he had to deal. We want a better agreement for the benefit of the Australian people, because all of us benefit from stability. None of us wants to see either of the twin evils, inflation or deflation, abroad in this country again, because both are cumulative in their ill effects.


.- In undertaking the trade negotiations with the United Kingdom, of which the agreement now under discussion is the outcome, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) probably took on one of the most difficult tasks with which the representative of an Australian Government can be confronted. He had to try to restore a balanced flow of traffic over the longest highway in the world - the trade route between Australia and the United Kingdom - the traffic on which is regulated by this trade agreement. Whatever may have been the position when the Ottawa Agreement was entered into, preferential trade between the two countries has now become grossly unfair to Australia. Our preference in the British market is practically useless to us except with respect to one or two commodities, and we are selling most goods at a loss - sometimes a very big one. Great Britain, on the other hand, has been given a preferential market in Australia, which is invaluable to her, and which covers the greater part of her exports to us. But it goes without saying that the Minister has laboured long, earnestly and energetically to rectify the position, and I think that the Parliament and the country are indebted to him, not only for his efforts, but also for his comprehensive statement of the difficulties involved in the negotiations.

However, the Minister had to face insuperable difficulties, and we must recognize that. Successive governments in the United Kingdom have made it clear that, whether we like it or not, they no longer want reciprocal trade agreements. Naturally, they are prepared to accept any concessions that we will make, but on the other hand, they will not make concessions in return in anything like corresponding measure. I have no doubt that they made that decision after careful consideration, and probably unwillingly. Whether or not that attitude is right does not matter now, because it is quite evident and we are unable to change it. The arrangement with the European Free Trade Area recently entered into by the United Kingdom is one significant pointer to its way of thinking. However much they may attempt to gloss over this arrangement, they cannot have the best of both worlds - the old and the new. No one can yet assess the effects of this arrangement on Australia. In spite of the reservations made by the United Kingdom when it decided to join the European bloc, the arrangement involves a turning back on the Empire and on the policy which, for the last 300 years, has made Britain the world’s greatest commercial power. Britain has decided, in a trade sense, to become once more an island off the coast of Europe.

As I see it, the new trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia is a last gesture by Australia in an attempt to preserve the imperial trade policy that has always been the focus of our economic life. It is true that the United Kingdom has made some small concessions in the new agreement as compared with the old one. Some of these concessions are quite important, and I congratulate the Minister on getting as much as he did when it seemed, for a long time, that we should get nothing. But no one could pretend that the concessions made by the United Kingdom and by Australia are in any sense equal. Trade preferences will still be heavily loaded against us. However, the agreement does provide a breathing space for five years. In that time, we must see either a reversion by Britain to true imperial preference, or a change by Australia to a quid-pro-quo arrangement with any nation prepared to make a fair agreement with us. It would, of course, be a fine gesture on our part to Britain, in her undoubted difficulties, to say to her, “ Never mind about giving us anything in return; we shall give you preference anyhow “. But that would not work.

I speak feelingly on this matter, because I have in my electorate one of the largest concentrations of poultry farmers in Australia. For several seasons now, I have watched their produce being sold on the British market at unbearable losses which have been absorbed only by charging higher prices to local consumers. Local prices are now so high that they are seriously damaging the local market. This situation will destroy the industry in time unless it is checked. Butter and several other important products are in the same category. If Britain will not buy these commodities from us at a fair price, we must sooner or later turn to some one who will, and in order to sell to that new customer, we must buy from him, whoever he may be. Our trade with Great Britain has not been very profitable in recent years, because she will take a large proportion of our export commodities only at prices that do not pay our producers. To secure that market, we have had to buy goods from Britain at prices higher than we should have had to pay elsewhere. The final result of low export prices and high import prices can only be disaster. If we are not to sit idly by and sigh for lost markets, we must meet the position by developing other markets and examining every prospect that may lead us to those markets.

In such a new approach to markets, we might well be guided by what has happened in the re-arrangement of our defence policy and strategy. Our remote geographical situation has played a part in this readjustment which has been necessary in order to meet the changing events of the world. There was a time when our thinking in defence was directed to participation in the affairs of Europe and in the shifting scenes of the Middle East. We must now contend with likely developments in the Pacific and South-East Asia. So it is with trade. Our traditional market has been the United Kingdom, and by custom and usage over the years we have developed an attitude that the whole future of this country depends on trade with the United Kingdom. We must realize that recent developments in the closing of the Suez Canal must force us to accept the fact that, with or without trade agreements, we can no longer rely on free use of the canal. The inescapable fact is that the Suez Canal will not be open to us at an economic scale of charges. This will load our exports with an additional burden of shipping freights. At the present time, although we are able to sell a large part of our primary products, the price is now a critical question, and any additional cost burden will squeeze us out of world markets, particularly the United Kingdom market.

Great Britain, in order to survive, must live cheaply, and no one can blame her in the least if she buys in the best and cheapest market. This places the ball back in our own court, and we must find compensating markets. The solution must be a reassessment of our trade position. We must make greater efforts to trade with other countries in our immediate vicinity. We have not very far to look for new markets, because there is a wide field for trade promotion with our neighbours in South-East Asia. We must ask ourselves whether we have made sufficient effort already to develop these opportunities. I believe that, though we have done a great deal in this direction, we have ample scope for greater effort in the future.

At present, our national economy is dangerously dependent on wool, and we are at the mercy of wool prices. Providence has given us a climate and conditions suitable for wool production, but we must be tempting Providence too far when we permit these chancy conditions to continue There is a tendency, however, to devote too much time and legislation to primary production to the neglect of our secondary industries. I admit quite readily that our export income from secondary industries is not high, but the alarming reality is that our exports of true manufactured goods have fallen during the past few years. The last war brought about an expansion of local secondary industries, and we reached a stage at which our industries could compete with outside manufactures, both on the home market and abroad. In recent years, however, our manufacturing industries, with machinery and equipment which is outmoded and incapable of high economical output, have been forced to maintain competitive output. This is not the fault of management, nor is it the fault of the workers at the bench. The causes which have contributed to it are an inadequate depreciation allowance on machinery and buildings and the imposition of harsh import controls, which have prevented the replacement of old, worn-out machinery with modern equipment. If a manufacturing concern is to produce efficiently and economically, its plant must be renewed from time to time. That would prevent machinery maintenance costs from becoming a direct component in production costs.

Time does not permit me to develop this argument, but I recommend to the House and the Government that the time is now opportune to consider carefully the recommendations made in what is known familiarly as the Hulme report, or, more properly, the report of the Commonwealth Committee on Rates of Depreciation, of which the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) was chairman. Two budgets have been presented since that report was submitted to the Government and no action has been taken along the lines it recommended. With the 1957 budget in the offing, some thought should be given to that matter.

If we mean business in exports of manufactured products, the time is also ripe for thought to be given to the injustice of the continuance of the pay-roll tax. This is a cost tax and is added to the cost of production. It is a tax vicious in character and inflationary in practice, which also makes a serious inroad into government revenue. Everything the Government buys for its armed services or for civilian requirements has a pay-roll tax content. The Government consequently pays out substantial sums each year, contributing to its own tax, but the net benefit to the Treasury is small by comparison. If the tax is to remain, it would be more reasonable, if we are searching for export markets for manufactured goods, to have it applied as a finished product tax. As it stands, the payroil tax must be considered as a cost item, and that prevents a manufacturer from shaving quotations in order to compete in overseas trade. If the pay-roll tax were an end product tax, I anticipate that exports would be assisted, as the manufacturer would not be required to meet the tax, as is the situation with sales tax.

The final point 1 wish to make at this stage on assistance to our secondary industries, if they are to take part in an export campaign, is that in its pre-budget considerations I trust the Government will give some thought to the reduction of company tax as an incentive to production. In its “little budget” of March, 1956, the Government contented itself with imposing restrictions and tax on free enterprise, but did not call on its governmental activities to contribute. That is a perfect example of the inconsistency of Government policy which so frequently hobbles free enterprise while allowing public spending free rein. I trust that this situation will be remedied in the next budget.

When I said earlier that we live dangerously in our economy, relying so much on our wool exports, we have only to realize how vulnerable we are when a shot fired in Korea or a rabble-rousing adventurer in Egypt can alter the whole direction of our national welfare overnight. We are dependent on a war-threat economy, as these two instances alone were responsible for a sharp increase in wool prices. This has had a most disturbing effect on our national trading; policy has to be continually changed in accordance with fluctuations in the price of wool. A rise in that price produces greater export income, naturally enough, with consequent higher import demand bringing in its train, as it has, the painful spasms of imports control. As a consequence, we have become an unpredictable trader and as such, from time to time, we must have involved the United Kingdom in losses because manufacturers in that country would be unable to determine our requirements as a fair business risk.

From the beginning of Australian history, wool has been king and we have become indolent and complacent about other markets. We have become indolent because the market was easy and we could buy everything we wanted out of the wool cheque. We have become complacent because we grow the best wool in the world and have no threat of competition. I say that we are living dangerously on our wool exports because wide research has been directed to finding a substitute for wool. One company alone in the United States of America the Du Pont organization, is spending £10,000,000 a year in the search for a wool substitute. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has estimated that the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Italy and Western Germany together are spending approximately £20,000,000 a year in their efforts to find a substitute for wool. By comparison, our own wool research expenditure of £1,750,000, covered in worthy legislation introduced by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), does not give scope for complacency. All this leads to one conclusion: If we are to have an economy with any stability, we cannot rely on one product but must develop other exports.

I refer finally to the Minister’s presentation of his trade report. I say again that the task of trade bargaining is not an easy one, and the Minister has done well to secure the concessions that have been gained under this agreement.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Sitting suspended from 5.40 to 8 p.m.

page 949


Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.

Second Reading

Minister for Labour and National Service · HIGGINS, VICTORIA · LP

– by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

There is nothing very complicated about this measure. Its primary purpose is to give legislative effect to the decisions affecting national service training announced in this House just before Easter by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). In brief, those decisions were, first, to confine national service training in future to the Army; secondly, to reduce the numbers actually trained from 33,000 to 12,000 per annum and, thirdly, to reduce the period of actual training with the Citizen Military Forces to 140 days, and spread it over four years instead of three. Clauses 4, 6, 11 to 14, 16 to 19, and 23 have as their object the translation of these decisions into the act.

It is not necessary, I feel, so soon after the explanation given by the Prime Minister to the House, to recapitulate at any length the reasons for the decisions he announced. The Government did not take the decision to cut back the National Service Scheme without reluctance. It was made only after detailed discussions with our highest service advisers. The Government remains very conscious of the considerable social value of the scheme. Quite apart from its value to the services, the scheme has encouraged a sense of discipline and it has improved the health standards of those who have come within its scope. For their part, the young trainees have responded admirably and the standards of military training attained in their period of service have been a credit both to them and to their instructors. It has been completely successful in meeting the limited objectives it was set.

The fact is, however, that changing patterns of defence needs call for adjustments in the structure of our forces. Whatever may have been the requirements of 1951 - and the justification then for a system of universal national service needs no emphasizing - those of 1957 are vastly different. In fact, we made some adjustments in 1 955 when the total numbers being trained were reduced and the principles of geographic and rural worker deferment were introduced. Now in1957, further adjustments have become desirable. The needs in 1957 of the Navy and the Air Force are for permanent forces continuously available. The value from a service standpoint in continuing national service training would not measure up to the effort that would be required to maintain it and the diversion of resources from other more pressing requirements that would be involved - resources both of capital available to the service and of its skilled regular manpower. On the Army side, several factors predominate. First, the national service scheme has been absorbing more resources of personnel for training and more money than can in future be spared for that work, having regard to the priorities that must be set in respect of the Army’s needs. Secondly, it is essentia] that the regular forces at the Army’s disposal for speedy deployment as necessary should be increased. This need is being met by the withdrawal of personnel from duties connected with the training of national servicemen and a considerable number of trained regular servicemen have been engaged on those duties. Thirdly, the organization and composition of the whole of the military forces must be such as to provide a nucleus of trained and partly trained personnel against the requirements of an emergency, a prime element of which would, we believe, be speed of mobilization and speed of deployment.

As is always the case, in the circumstances confronting us there were several possible alternative approaches. They were exhaustively examined with our service advisers. Broadly, when once it was clear that the continuance of national service training on the previous scale was no longer justifiable and that it should be confined to the Army, there were two principal alternatives. One was to reduce the national service intake into the Army to very small dimensions, but to extend the period of training. The other was to maintain the intake al a sizable level and intensify the training. A great many considerations entered into the taking of the decision to adopt the latter course, not the least being that we believe that it better meets the needs of the future as we have been able to assess them. Either course would produce only partly trained men. The course we have embarked on will produce many more and the new proposals will mean that at any given time we will have more trained men than would be the case under any other practicable alternative.

As the Prime Minister pointed out, there never has been any officially based suggestion that the national service scheme could be dispensed with altogether. Indeed, the whole of our advice, and the conclusion the Government arrived at, was that the continuance of the national service scheme in a modified form was necessary for the maintenance of the Army as an effective force. The Government is confident that the changes now being made will result in an even better trained national service component than we have had hitherto. It is natural, for example, that some teachers are more adept than others. The Army will now be able to be more selective in choosing its national service training staff. Indeed, I understand that the Army is now in the course of revising the details of its national service training programme. To provide the numbers required under the new national service arrangements, which involve the call-up of only 12,000 men a year for the Army in place of 33,000 for the three services in the past, a system of selection by ballot will operate.

Mr Coutts:

– A government-controlled ballot?


– Yes, it will be an official, controlled ballot. After carefully considering all possible methods, the Government has decided on a ballot based on date of birth. This has the great virtues of being simple, fair and easily understood by those affected, and of not lending itself to any manipulation.

Mr Ward:

Mr. Ward interjecting,


– I know the word “ manipulation “ comes readily to the mind of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), but this scheme will not permit of manipulation. No change of method will be needed to provide each year the numbers required, notwithstanding that annually the numbers of young men available will grow. This is quite important. We had to avoid a method of selection that would have to be altered as we went along because of the growth in the numbers of eighteen year olds.

I would like to digress at this point for a moment, because I know there are many people who have studied the national service training scheme, and I find myself in some sympathy with the viewpoint they hold. Those people believe that its value as a social training has been such that, irrespective of its service value, we should endeavour to continue it. Some idea of the magnitude of the operation of trying to train all who are physically eligible and who come within a particular age group can be gained from figures that I shall give to the House. I refer not merely to the magnitude in terms of cost and the use of funds which might be devoted to defence measures of higher priority, but also to the utilization of the limited resources of trained personnel available as instructors and in other categories, which the Army and other services would be able to move to this task. For example, in 1956 the number of young men in Australia in the eighteen-year-old group was about 63,000. We estimate that in 1960 that number will have grown to 73,000 and will be about 16 per cent, greater than it was in 1956. By 1965, such are the movements in our population, the comparable figure will be 104,000, 65 per cent, greater than in 1960.

It is also important that the chances of selection of each individual will be substantially the same under the method I will describe as under any more elaborate system and that the method will make for economic and efficient administration. The system of selection will work like this: Out of the total number of birth dates which can occur for any group to which a ballot is being applied, a certain number of birth dates will be drawn by ballot. I propose to invite some well-known and respected citizen to preside at, and make, each draw.

Mr Turnbull:

– Such as the honorable member for East Sydney.


– It is conceivable that, under another administration, even he might qualify. The number of birth dates to be drawn will be calculated in advance according to the number needed for training in relation to the number potentially available for training. Allowance, based on the department’s experience of previous registrations, will be made for factors that reduce the numbers available for actual call-up, such as medical unfitness and deferments.

Those whose birthdays do not fall on the dates drawn will be granted “ indefinite “ deferment of service and will be notified individually of their deferment. Those notified of their deferment may, if they wish, volunteer to undergo national service training. I shall add a word or two in a moment about this question of volunteering. Those whose birthdays fall on the dates drawn will be regarded as available for service. Present arrangements under which the service is deferred of young men who live at such a distance from a Citizen Military Forces training centre that it is impracticable to train, or who are employed full time on a rural holding, as permanent rural workers engaged in the production of food and raw materials, will continue. So also will the present provisions for deferment on the ground of exceptional hardship and for deferment of students and apprentices where call-up would prejudicially affect their studies. None of these deferments are granted on an “ indefinite “ basis, so that when the circumstances warranting deferment cease to exist, those concerned will be called up or, at least, will be eligible for call-up.

The first ballot, for those already registered and not yet called up, that is, those who were eighteen before 31st December, 1956, will be drawn shortly. Of those who are to be called up as a result of this ballot, most will go into camp in either July or October next but some, mostly students and apprentices, will not enter camp until next January, which is the camp normally reserved for such young men.

A small proportion of those already registered have, regrettably, not carried out the obligations required of them under the National Service Act. It is only a small proportion. The House will receive some indication of how small it is if I tell honorable members that last year 275 prosecutions were launched while the total potential number eligible for registration in that year was 63,000. I refer, by the term “ defaulter “ to those who, without proper reason, did not register when they should, did not notify changes of their addresses, or failed to report for medical examination ov for service and so on and, as a result, were not called up for service in the past at the normal time. For the sake of simplicity, I shall refer to all these people as defaulters. These defaulters will be treated as liable for training regardless of the ballot result.

We do not intend to include in the ballot arrangements I have described that small number of persons who are already registered and who were over the age of 21 as at 31st December last. These are people who for one reason or another have been deferred from time to time. They include men who could be 24 and even more at the time of call-up if left in the ballot. It has been found that the inclusion of these older aged men with eighteen and nineteen year olds makes it harder to create the team spirit of groups under training. In addition, adults frequently have commitments not normally the lot of younger men.

Arrangements for the future will be as follows: All British subjects and new Australians, as in the past, must register when their age groups are called upon to do so. Registrations will continue to be held twice a year and each will cover a six-months period. A ballot of birth dates will be drawn roughly one month after the close of each registration period. Those who fail to register before a ballot is drawn will, unless they can satisfy the registrar that the late registration was quite unavoidable, be treated as liable for call-up regardless of the results of the ballot. In addition, they will render themselves liable to the penalties provided by the National Service Act. Those who do satisfy the registrar, as I have mentioned, will be included in the succeeding ballot. The first registration this year will be in June for those whose eighteenth birthdays occur between 1st January and 30th June. It is anticipated that the registration for those whose eighteenth birthdays occur between 1st July and 31st December will be in August.

I want to emphasize three things. First, all young men must register, as has been the case in the past. Second, those who are to be deferred will be notified individually to that effect. Third, those who are so notified may, if they wish and they live handy enough to a Citizen Military Forces unit to be trained, volunteer for national service. Thus, provided they can be trained, we are continuing the arrangements that have been operating since geographic and rural deferments were introduced in 1955, namely, that those who wish to volunteer will be accepted.

I referred a moment ago to defaulters. One of the many pleasing features of the national service scheme has been the relatively few attempts at dodging. As I have mentioned, the great bulk of our young men have been anxious to do their national service, and have observed their obligations tinder the act. There have, however, been some defaulters. We catch up with them but, regrettably, some magistrates have tended to treat the offence of failing to register for national service altogether too lightly. There are cases of fines of as little as 10s. being imposed. Apart from any other consideration, the cost of tracing the defaulter may have been considerable. So we are providing in clause 21 for a minimum as well as a maximum fine. The minimum will be £10. There can be no room for sympathy with these dodgers - they have neither a proper sense of duty to their country nor a proper respect for their obligations to all those who have.

It may appear to some honorable members, having heard what I have said about the opportunity to volunteer and the fact that defaulters who have not a satisfactory explanation to offer will be called up without recourse to the ballot, thai we could have a national service scheme made up very largely of defaulters and volunteers, and that very few people would be brought in from the remaining body ot eighteenyearolds who are subject to the ballot. 1 think that our past experience suggests that any fear of that sort is not accurately based. In the first place, as 1 have said, the proportion of defaulters has been relatively small. I repeat that there were 275 prosecutions last year out of a total of 63,000 people who were required to register. I suggest it is reasonable to expect that once it becomes known that failure to register will not only make a person liable to the somewhat higher fine proposed by the bill, but that he will automatically bc included in the training without being given the chance of a ballot, there will be very many fewer failures to register, proportionately, than there have been in the pas!. So we may reasonably assume that the figure 1 have mentioned in relation to last year’s experience will be very much reduced in the years ahead. On the other hand, although we include a provision to enable any young man excluded by the ballot, who feels an urge to undertake a course of national service training, to volunteer to do so, experience since we included such a provision in 1955 does not suggest that the numbers likely to offer will be great.

Since that provision was inserted in the legislation in 1955, throughout the whole of Australia there has been a total of 125 volunteers for the three services, of whom 74 were finally taken into the services. It is. perhaps, worthy of passing mention that, of those, undoubtedly some were persons who were seeking engagement in the police force of Western Australia, which requires a period of national service training as one of the qualifications for employment. So it will be seen that there has not been a large number of persons taking advantage of the volunteering provision, and we do not expect that the numbers will be very great in the future. In other words, in this revised scheme the overwhelming majority of those who will be included in the programme of training will be neither defaulters nor volunteers but, very largely, those who have been selected by the ballot process for the training intake.


– There will be a total of only 12,000 throughout the Commonwealth?


– In a particular year.


– Then the Government might as well give the scheme away and go back to the voluntary scheme.


– No. My service colleagues will be able to explain that aspect in more detail as we proceed. If we are to maintain an effective militia force - and this is an essential component of the Army establishment - then it will require the supplement provided by this annual intake of 12,000. I do not want to go into this matter in any detail at this stage, but I can assure the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), and other honorable members opposite who may be sceptical, that the desirability of maintaining a scheme at all with this reduced number has been carefully considered and planned by the Army officers, having relation to what they regard as the requirements of the Militia force which it is proposed to continue on a somewhat reduced scale.


– The Minister does not feel like defending it himself?


– Defending what?


– The silly system you have proposed.


– I do not find occasion either to defend or to resist what is proposed. The scheme that is proposed to this House is based upon the best technical advice that the Government has been able to secure. I do not think that honorable gentlemen opposite will be able to suggest or propose any better technical advice than that of the highest trained service personnel in this country.

Before passing to deal with the other provisions of the bill, I point out that the lesser numbers being called up in future will mean that the Army cannot justify the continuation of some C.M.F. units. This will mostly be the case in country centres. Incidentally, if the national service intake had been cut further, a lot more’ units would have had to be disbanded. This would have been most unfortunate and regretted by many whose association with country units has been long and devoted. The matter is covered by clause 16 of the bill. When any unit is disbanded and the 140 days’ training obligation has not then been completed, the personnel in question will be excused the balance, but, like those who have completed their training in the Army, Navy and Air Force, .they will remain in the Inactive Reserve for the balance of their period of five years, commencing on the date of their first enlistment. Incidentally, the last Navy and Air Force intakes will complete their training in a matter of weeks.

The remainder of the clauses of the bill are formal or tidy up some small deficiencies revealed in the six years of the legislation’s administration; or else they are the essential transitional provisions inseparable from a measure like this. With one exception, about which I will say something later, these provisions really speak for themselves. If any explanation is desired, the committee stage will provide the opportunity.

The one clause to which I direct attention specifically is clause 20. We have heard something already in this House of the problem of apprentices doing national service training. As the act stands, unless the Minister otherwise directs, the period of national service training does not count towards the period of apprenticeship. The rule followed has been that, where a national service trainee has been employed in his trade, that time is allowed towards the apprenticeship period. More recently, the State officials concerned with apprenticeship administration agreed with my department that the rule should be that the time spent in national service training should count towards the apprenticeship period if, at the normal time of completion of apprenticeship, the apprenticeship authorities were satisfied that the young man was entitled to be regarded as a fully trained, tradesman.

With the alteration in the number beingtrained and the shortening of the period’ of training, it was clear that the present’ provisions should be reviewed. In future, the longest period for which apprentices will be called up will be 77 days. It will occur at the beginning of the year and part of that period will be a time when technical colleges and even places of employment are closed. Originally, an apprentice might be doing his national service for as long as 176 days continuously.

In these circumstances, the Government feels that the emphasis of the present provision should be altered so that, unless the Minister otherwise directs, the period of national service training will count towards the apprenticeship. Under the new arrangements, there can really be no question, generally speaking, of an apprentice losing any worthwhile part of his apprenticeship period in national service training.

Mr Curtin:

– A death-bed confession!


– The circumstances are very different, and I think that the honorable gentleman who, I know, has taken a keen interest in problems of apprenticeship, will agree that the provisions have not worked unfairly while the scheme has been in operation. Certainly, the apprenticeship authorities of the States and my own expert technical advisers will agree.

The exception that I have mentioned, however, enabling the Minister to direct otherwise, will permit action to be taken if it should appear that, in cases of any individual trade or profession - and I cannot suggest any particular one offhand - it is necessary to extend the period of apprenticeship to compensate for time lost in national service. With that explanation, Mr. Speaker, and having regard to the detailed comment which can be made at the committee stage, I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.

page 954


Suspension of Standing Orders

Leader of the House · HIGGINS, VICTORIA · LP

– by leave - I move -

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Order of the Day No. 2, General Business, being proceeded with forthwith.

I might explain to the House that this action has been taken so that this measure will not be proceeded with without adequate opportunity for the House to study its provisions. The Government has indicated, not in the House, to the mover of the legislation that it will provide adequate opportunity for this important social measure to be fully considered.

Mr Ward:

– Is the Government supporting the measure?


– The Government has taken the attitude, which it has conveyed to members of the Government parties, that on a social issue such as this it proposes to leave it to the judgment and conscience of every individual member of the Government parties to deck; whether he should accord the measure support. I think the wisdom of that course will be apparent. I certainly would hope that no attempt would be made to treat a bill of this kind along purely partypolitical lines, and I gather that that is noi the intention of honorable gentlemen opposite. The reason for adopting the procedural course I have outlined is to enable the measure to be considered when the House finds it opportune to do so, rather than to leave it in the category of private members’ business, and therefore subject to the infrequency of opportunities for debate that private members’ business normally receives.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 954


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 11th April (vide page 781), on motion by Mr. Joske -

That the bill be now read a second time.


.- The Opposition regarded this bill as of such sociological significance and humanitarian value that it was desired that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) should initiate the Opposition’s contribution to the secondreading debate. I have to express the regret of the Leader of the Opposition that, an hour ago, he had to take to his bed with a cold. He also wished personally to participate in this debate, not least in response to the gracious remarks that the honorable and learned member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) made about him when that honorable member introduced the bill.

The Opposition has so far determined only that, in dealing with this bill, it should move an amendment, which I shall shortly outline to you, Mr. Speaker, and which I shall move at the end of my speech. It is altogether likely that the Opposition will treat this bill, during the secondreading stage, and at its succeeding stages, on a non-party basis. It takes exactly the same attitude towards the bill as the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) has conveyed to the House as the Government’s attitude - that is, that this is a matter in respect of which members should be guided by their own good sense and good conscience.

Before I outline the amendment which the Opposition proposes to move, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that I express the view of every honorable member on this side of the House when I say that the Opposition wants to pay tribute to the work that the honorable member for Balaclava has done in preparing this bill, in collaboration, over many years, with Mr. Justice Toose and Mr. Harry Alderman, Q.C., whose common labours the honorable member also graciously acknowledged. We want to say that we feel that the Parliament is fortunate in having a member of such experience in this subject. But experience alone would not have got the bill to its present stage. It has taken the prestige of the honorable member for Balaclava, and his persistence and persuasiveness, to get the bill to this stage.

We hope that the amendment I shall move will be taken in the same nonpartisan sense in which the Leader of the House has announced the Government intends to treat the bill. We want to thank the Leader of the House for the opportunity he is giving for a proper consideration of the bill at all stages.

Since federation the Australian Parliament has had the power to legislate in regard to divorce and matrimonial causes and, in relation thereto, parental rights and the custody and guardianship of infants. I think I am right in saying that this Parliament has never passed an act dealing with parental rights and the custody and guardianship of infants. I think we have passed only two or three bills dealing with divorce and matrimonial causes. I think one was passed after World War I. - I have not checked on this. It was a temporary measure, at all events. There was a bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition, as Attorney-General, in 1945, and there was a bill introduced by the honorable member for Balaclava in 1955. But, for the first time, the step is now being taken to occupy the field and to see that Australians in this important field are regarded as Australians, and not as citizens of nine different geographical divisions - six States and three Territories. It is the fact that there are large codes, mostly of great antiquity, all with considerable anachronisms and anomalies, dealing with divorce and matrimonial causes, in each of the six States and in the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Now, for the first time, we are dealing with Australian families as members of the one community as, in every social sense, they should be regarded. There may well be different opinions among members of this House and among members of the community as to what the grounds, if any, for securing a divorce should be, and what procedures should be adopted for effectuating those grounds. But, surely, there can be very little doubt that what grounds are agreed on should apply throughout Australia, and that what procedures are agreed on should also apply throughout Australia. At this stage, Mr. Speaker, for your information and the information of honorable members, I shall read the amendment that I propose to move at the end of my speech. It is as follows: -

That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ the Bill be referred to a Joint Select Committee of both Houses of the Parliament because of its great importance, i’s farreaching implications to all sections of the community, and the necessity for the widest possible prior consultation with child welfare and marriage guidance councils, churches, and social institutions vitally interested in the matters covered by the Bill “.

The amendment refers to the great importance of the bill. There can be no doubt of its importance, because it seems a regrettable fact that there is in Australia, each year, almost one decree for the dissolution of marriage for every ten marriages contracted. In the last year for which published figures are available - 1955 - there were 72,172 marriages performed in Australia and 6,724 divorce decrees were made absolute. There were, in addition, 45 decrees for nullity and 13 for judicial separation. As the most prevalent stage of marriage at which persons are divorced is between the fifth and tenth years of marriage, and the next most prevalent between the tenth and fifteenth years of marriage, it would seem that one-tenth of our marriages contracted in former years are now breaking up. It is, therefore, of overwhelming importance to the community as a whole, as well as to the parties to each of these troubled marriages and to the issue of these troubled marriages, that the Australian Parliament should, at the earliest possible moment, do what it can to see that there is proper social preparation for marriage, that proper social assistance is given to married people and that proper welfare steps are taken as regards the children of marriages. Hitherto, this Parliament has done very little in that regard. This bill is a considerable step in many respects.

The amendment which I shall move suggests consultation with various members of the community who are in a favorable position to advise such a committee as this. 1 should think that such consultation would be in line with the course hitherto pursued in the preparation of this bill because as the honorable member for Balaclava has said, it has been in preparation for tcn years. It was framed largely by the honorable member and his distinguished colleagues to whom 1 have referred, then it was considered by all the professional legal bodies of Australia including the Law Council of Australia, which is the federal professional body in Australia. Speaking from recollection, however, as a member of the New South Wales Bar Council until I was translated to this sphere, the grounds of the bill approved by all the professional bodies, including that one last-mentioned, were different from those in this bill. I have not a copy of them before me and I will not trust to my memory, but they did differ in number and extent. I, for one, should think that it would be valuable for a joint committee to have the benefit of the opinions of the honorable member for Balaclava, Mr. Alderman, Mr. Justice Toose and other distinguished practitioners, as well as of members of the community who are experienced in these matters, on such subjects as procedure and grounds. It has taken ten years already to prepare this measure, another ten weeks or even ten months should not be begrudged for its - consideration.

This method of consultation has been adopted extensively in the United Kingdom from whose divorce laws of 100 years ago Australian divorce laws have been derived. Such uniformity as there is between Australian divorce laws derives not from any consultation between the States and Territories but from their common ancestry in the Imperial Parliament. In the last few years this matter has been referred to several committees in the United Kingdom. In 1946, the Attlee Government appointed a committee on procedure in matrimonii causes presided over by Mr. Justice Denning, as he then was, Lord Justice Denning as he now is. That presented three reports. In its first interim report in July, 1946, it made some recommendations as to procedure - in particular, that the period should be reduced from six months to six weeks after which the decree nisi could be made absolute. I notice in the present bill that the uniform period has been made three months in Australia, although in some States it has been six months. !n November. 1946, the Denning committee presented a second interim report which dealt largely with other matters of procedure, whereby County Court Judges should be appointed commissioners for matrimonial causes so as to deal with the great number of divorce suits in the United Kingdom - I think they range from 50,000 to 60,000 a year- at greater speed and with less expense. Both of those recommendations were adopted by the United Kingdom Parliament. in February, 1947, the final report of the committee was made, setting out in detail machinery for reconciliation. For example, it dealt with the marriage welfare service, with giving more dignity to registry office marriages, with child welfare, with alimony and maintenance - making proposals to block up some of the methods of delay and evasion in that regard - and with questions of permissible evidence and court procedure. The Home Secretary then appointed a departmental committee to consider on what lines such marriage guidance could be advantageously developed as a form of social service.

On this side of the House there seems to be unanimous approbation of the innovation which the honorable member for Balaclava has made in providing two clauses dealing with reconciliation which allow considerable latitude to the parties and to the tribunals in effecting reconciliation with a minimum of technicality, expense and delay.

I have outlined the steps that were taken ten years ago in the United Kingdom and which were implemented after due consideration by a skilled committee. More recently, a royal commission on marriage and divorce was appointed by the Churchill Government. It comprised thirteen men and six women. It was presided over by Lord Morton of Henryton, a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. It included among its other members Lord Keith of Avonholm, another Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, Mr. Justice Pearce of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court, Lord Walker, Q.C., and Mr. Geoffrey Lawrence, Q.C., who recently has greatly distinguished himself. Honorable members will be able to appreciate that the personnel of that committee included some of the highest members of the judiciary and men of the greatest distinction in the legal profession. They were willing to take part in the deliberations of that royal commission.

In a very full report, which was presented on 20th March last year, the various opinions of the nineteen members were set out with great frankness after hearing evidence from a great variety of welfare organizations and representatives of the churches - including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and leaders of the free churches, as they are known in the United Kingdom. The committee recommended two grounds which do not appear in the present bill. I merely mention these as examples - wilful refusal to consummate, and artificial insemination by a donor without the husband’s consent. The committee recommended, also, that alterations should be made to two existing grounds which the bill leaves unchanged. One simplifies the ground of cruelty. The other does not insist on an unbroken period of three years’ desertion but permits two periods of desertion, amounting to three years in all, thus removing the present incentive to remain apart for three years rather than risk a return to married life. I note that the honorable member for Balaclava has, in effect, adopted another alteration recommended by the royal commission on conduct amounting to desertion. The royal commission’s report dealt also with other outstanding matters such as property rights, including the vexed question of whether a woman is entitled to retain what she has saved out of her housekeeping allowance, the protection of children, and various matters of reconciliation.

We can still learn a very great deal in social and legal problems from the United Kingdom. The Parliament at Westminster, in 1946-47 and again in 1955-56 saw fit to appoint these committees, and if such distinguished persons who comprised them were willing to participate in the investigations of these important subjects, I do not think that we need to be coy about setting up a similar committee. May I be forgiven for obtruding a personal note? I have had the privilege for some months now of being a member of a joint select committee upon which the honorable member for Balaclava also sits. I am sure that every member of that committee knows very well the contribution that the honorable member can make to the work of such committees. On this subject, to which he has devoted so much of an active and distinguished life, I should imagine that he would be of still more assistance. I do not, nor. I believe,, do members of the Opposition generally, wish at this stage to traverse the various grounds and procedural matters, and any comments that I make on them are not to express a dogmatic opinion - I confess that I would benefit as much as any one from further consideration of this extremely complex but important matter - but merely to indicate subjects which do show that this is important and deserves perhaps still further consideration.

I have dealt with the fact that there has been consultation with other legal bodies. From my recollection, they approved a draft which was significantly different from the bill before us.

My second point is that under this bill two grounds, one in New South Wales and one in Western Australia, which are the most frequently used in those States, will no longer be available.

An honorable member interjecting.


– I do not want to be facetious, but Western Australia is the only State in which adultery is the most popular ground for divorce - perhaps I should say the ground most frequently stated or proved. The two grounds which I have mentioned are, in New South Wales, dissolution for non-compliance with an order for restitution and, in Western Australia, dissolution after separation for more than five years with no reasonable likelihood of resumption of cohabitation It may be that those grounds should not be available in Australia as a whole. It may be that they should no longer be available in the two States to which I have referred. I think that in recent years South Australia has adopted the Western Australian ground, but that very few dissolutions are granted upon it. Whether one should or should not have those grounds in New South Wales and Western Australia, or whether one should or should not have them in Australia as a whole, can be better decided after a committee, royal commission or other body of inquiry has considered the whole matter.

I would like to give honorable members the figures for these grounds in the respective States. The most recent figures available are those for 1955. In New South Wales 1903 divorces, or 66 per cent, of the divorces granted in that State during the year, were granted on the ground of desertion. I cannot cite for that year how many decrees were granted for desertion following on non-compliance with an order for restitution, and how many for desertion for three years. Figures over the years show that nearly as many men as women sue for divorce on the grounds of desertion, and that half as many men sue on the ground of non-compliance with an order for restitution as sue after three years. If one includes petitions by wives, one finds that a quarter of the decrees for dissolution on the ground of desertion in New South Wales are granted on the specific ground that an order for restitution has not been complied with. That is, some 500 a year are so granted. Thus, the rights of 1,000 adults and possibly many hundreds of children will be affected by this bill each year. I know that it is said-

Mr Beale:

– Indeed, a very distinguished judge said it the day before yesterday. He said that in six years only one in each year had been genuine.


– I am closely acquainted with the learned gentleman to whom the Minister refers, and I know that that opinion is very frequently expressed from the bench and from the bar. As the honorable and learned Minister also knows, however, a very thorough investigation of this subject was conducted some years ago by the late Mr. Justice Bonney, a former Judge in Divorce in New South Wales. I should say that his capacity for taking pains has never been surpassed, and rarely equalled, on the bench or at the bar. He conducted the most exhaustive inquiries through the divorce office, and through attorneys practising in that jurisdiction. He came to the conclusion that in between 7 per cent, and 10 per cent, of the cases where the preliminary letter requesting return to cohabitation was sent there was, in fact, a return to cohabitation, and that in another 7 per cent, to 10 per cent, of cases where a petition for restitution of conjugal rights was served, there was in fact a return to cohabitation. Therefore, if that investigation was correctly based, one cannot lightly dismiss a procedure which results in the restoration of between 14 per cent, and 20 per cent, of marriages in which the initial steps are taken. Be that as it may, the fact is that a quarter of the divorces on the ground of desertion in New South Wales are granted in this fashion.

Mr Beale:

– The figure is a quarter of 66 per cent.


– That is so. In Western Australia the other ground, that of separation for more than five years with no reasonable likelihood of resumption of cohabitation, applies. In 1955, there were in that State 479 decrees for dissolution, of which 127 were made on this ground. I appreciate that it is a novel ground. It is one of the few grounds in Australia where fault does not have to be proven on the part of the respondent, but it is surely significant that in 30 per cent, of the divorces granted in Western Australia it is availed of. It surely deserves further consideration.

I have mentioned these figures merely to illustrate some of the problems which arise when one considers the question of grounds of divorce. I have expressly resisted any temptation to express views as to whether divorce should be more liberal or more restricted, or as to whether those grounds should be of universal application, should be cut off forever, or should await the further amendment of this bill.

Let me now, Mr. Speaker, illustrate one question of procedure which occurs to a New South Wales practitioner. For the last ten years, it has been possible in New South Wales, in the interests of speed and saving of expense, to have matrimonial causes in country districts tried by District

Court judges, as for the last ten years it has been possible in the United Kingdom to have them tried by County Court judges.

Mr Beale:

– Does the honorable member refer to the trial of issues of fact by the remission of issues?


– Yes. In uncontested country cases, the whole matter is automatically determined by a District Court judge in New South Wales.

Mr Freeth:

– Is there not still a fair amount of delay?


– Indeed there is, but it varies from country circuit to country circuit. I think that I am correct in saying that there is certainly not nearly as much delay as there is in having such matters tried in Sydney, or on circuit, by justices of the Supreme Court, and there is certainly less expense. I am sure that 1 am correct in saying also that there has never been any public comment or protest - nor, so far as I know, has there been any private comment or protest - at the way in which District Court judges in New South Wales and County Court judges, sitting as commissioners, have dealt with these matters in the United Kingdom. Those procedures will no longer be possible under this measure. Again, sir, in many formal matters, there is the expeditious and cheap procedure before the Divorce Registrar, or his deputies, in New South Wales. I think it is at least doubtful under this measure, after the Boilermakers’ case, whether registrars would be able to carry out those judicial functions.

I raise these matters because every year in Australia they affect many hundreds of litigants among our fellow citizens. 1 should hope that these matters could be dealt with by the joint select committee which I have proposed on behalf of the Opposition. 1 should think that the non-partisan character of this bill would not be impaired in any respect by its being referred to a joint select committee, because all parties and both Houses would be represented on it. It is certain, I should think, that the honorable member for Balaclava would be a member of the committee, and, I should think, would chair it, and there would be greater assurance in all sections of this House and of the other place, as well as in the community as a whole, that the very fullest consideration had been given to this serious sociological and humanitarian problem. 1 have expressed no concluded views, because I want guidance myself. I do not think that any member of this House would say that he would not be the richer for having participated in the work of such a committee, or for having read its report, and I feel that the community itself also would be re-assured.

I make this suggestion in no carping spirit, because I want to return to the note on which I began: We thoroughly applaud and admire the work that the honorable member for Balaclava has done this year, and did two years ago, on this very subject. We think that his bill is a good one, and we join in the tribute that he paid to the Parliamentary Draftsman for the very skilful assistance which was given by him and his staff. Speaking for myself, Mr. Speaker - because, here again, the Opposition takes the same attitude as the Government an,j considers that we should decide as individuals what our attitude towards this bill will be - I think that this measure is a great improvement on every existing matrimonial code in Australia and its territories. I would rather have this bill than any of the existing codes. I think that this measure, for the first time, makes us regard Australian family law from the stand-point of Australians. I say that as an individual, and I am sure that I speak for every member of the Opposition in saying that we feel that this bill, good as it is, would be better still after it had received the consideration of the joint select committee that I have proposed. Therefore, I move -

That all words after * That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ the Bill be referred to a Joint Select Committee of both Houses of the Parliament because of its great importance, its far-reaching implications to all sections of the community, and the necessity for the widest possible prior consultation with child welfare and marriage guidance councils, churches, and social institutions vitally interested in the matters covered by the Bill “.


– Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Duthie:

– I have pleasure in seconding the amendment, and I reserve my right to speak later.


.- I believe that the passage of this bill will constitute a landmark in Australia’s progress along the road to nationhood. I am deeply honoured to have been asked by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) to second the motion that the bill be read a second time. No man is better fitted than he to prepare and introduce this measure. The honorable member is one of Australia’s most distinguished barristers. Indeed, I think that he has been correctly described as the leader of the Australian Bar in matrimonial matters. He has written textbooks from which our law students, solicitors, and barristers have learned their law, and he has had many years of practical experience which have fitted him to form opinions about the weaknesses in many of the existing laws of the States and to prepare and submit to this House a bill designed to remove many of those weaknesses.

As the honorable member for Balaclava has stated, this measure will not make it easier to obtain a divorce. Its purpose is to reconcile the parties to a marriage, or to deal with the matter after the marriage has been broken. In examining this bill, we must first consider whether the Commonwealth Parliament has jurisdiction to pass such a measure and, if it has, whether it should do so. In determining the question of jurisdiction, we should look at the history of the Australian Constitution. From the earliest days, the great thinkers in the Australian colonies had in mind the creation of an Australian nation, but it was not until 1891 that they got together for the purpose of establishing that nation and deciding which powers should be vested in a national parliament and which should be vested in the States. In 1891, a draft bill entitled “ The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia Bill 1891 “ was prepared and submitted to a convention of representatives of all the States. Clause 52, which prescribed the powers of the proposed national parliament, stated -

The Parliament shall, subject to the provisions of this Constitution, have power and authority to make all such laws as it thinks necessary for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth, with respect to all or any of the matters following ….

Placitum (xxi.) dealt with marriage and divorce. Therefore, we can say that the great thinking people of Australia as far back as 1891, when visualizing the formation of an Australian nation and preparing an Australian constitution, had firmly fi ed in their minds the view that matters in re lation to marriage and divorce were universal matters which should be dealt with by the National Parliament and not by the provinces or States. When that clause came before the convention of 1891, it was unanimously accepted without debate that the power over marriage and divorce should be taken from the States and vested in the National Parliament.

Between 1891 and 1897, the people of Australia discussed the draft Constitution. In 1897, a further convention was held. Once again, representatives from all States met to consider the Constitution and. among other things, what powers should be vested in the National Parliament and what powers should be vested in the States. The draft bill that came before the convention in 1897 again included a provision that the Commonwealth should have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth in relation to marriage and divorce. On this occasion, the delegates discussed the wisdom of introducing the questions of marriage and divorce as a power of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Honorable Sir John Downer, the very distinguished father of our distinguished member for Angas, summarized the predominant view of the convention when he said -

What subject is more fitting for general legislation? In what subject do we want a universal law more than that dealing with the most sacred relations that concern not merely the individuals that are parties to the Contract, or whatever you please to call it, but also those who are to come afterwards. Any one who seriously considers the social feelings of pain and grief, and worry and trouble caused by the differentiation of the laws of the Colonies, as between themselves, on this most vital subject, must agree that something ought to be done to prevent the anomaly continuing.

The Honorable R. C. O’Connor, who later became one of the distinguished judges of the High Court, said -

We want to bring about not only a recognition of the status, but a uniformity of the laws in regard to marriage and divorce.

When the Constitution became the law of the land in 1901, clause 51, under “Part V. - Powers of the Parliament”, provided -

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: - (xxi.) Marriage: (xxii.) Divorce and matrimonial causes; and in relation thereto, parental rights, and the custody and guardianship of infants:

Therefore, we can say that, so long as there has been a Constitution, the people of Australia have recognized that marriage and divorce should be uniform and should be dealt with by the Commonwealth or National Parliament and not be left within the jurisdictions of the States.

When we consider the bill which is now before the House, we should ask ourselves. “ Having the power to deal with this subject, should we, as a Parliament, deal with it? “. Were all the distinguished men who attended the convention of 1891 wrong when they said that matters of marriage and divorce should be dealt with by the National Parliament? Were those who attended the convention of 1897 wrong? Were those who attended the convention of 1898 wrong? Were the first members of the Federal Parliament and those who adopted the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution wrong? The only thing that is amazing and difficult to understand is why it has taken 57 years for a bill which has any likelihood of consent to be introduced on this subject.

Let us look as the situation as it is. First of all, on matters of divorce and matrimonial causes, jurisdiction is recognized under international law to rest upon the domicile of the parties concerned. Domicile is most difficult to determine. It is said to be the place where a person resides with the intention of permanently residing there. In England or France, probably no major difficulty is created. A person who lives in England, in the main, intends to live there all his life. The same thing applies with France. But we cannot say that in relation to Australia, when we deal with State domiciles. When a person happens to be born in South Australia, and is, perhaps, educated in Victoria, then works in New South Wales and later in Queensland, then moves to Tasmania and, perhaps, goes to Western Australia, it is difficult for any one to determine where that person intends to reside permanently. He probably do3s not know himself; he has probably never given any serious consideration to the subject. Yet, before any of our State courts have jurisdiction to deal with the matter, the question of domicile has to be determined.

That is one of the greatest advances made in this bill. The question of the State in which a person is domiciled will vanish overnight; an Australian domicile is established. If a person is living in Australia, and it can be assumed that he intends to live in Australia, the State of the Commonwealth in which he happens to live or in which he has been living for some time will not matter. Therefore, the great reform effected by this bill, as I see it, is not the grounds for divorce or anything of that nature but the establishment of an Australian domicile. Courts will no longer have to conduct a most difficult investigation to determine whether they have jurisdiction in relation to a person who has moved from one State to another.

Since this bil] was introduced I have taken the trouble to investigate and read some pleadings in relation to certain applications for divorce in my own State. In one pleading I looked at there were two pages in which the petitioner was endeavouring to put the facts before the court so that the court could make up its mind in which State the petitioner or the respondent was domiciled. Virtually the pleading stated that on such and such a date the parties went to Western Australia, where they remained for so many years, and then they moved to Victoria and remained there for so many years. After evidence was considered on all these facts the unfortunate judge had to try to read the mind of the husband, who was not there, and find out what was really the domicile of the parties concerned.

So I suggest, sir, that this bill will remove what is virtually a lawyer’s nightmare - the need to establish a person’s domicile. It will thus save a tremendous amount of worry, time, and expense. As well as that, we will have a universal divorce law for Australia. We are all Australians, and to have one divorce law in one State and an entirely different one in a State to which one can fly in a matter or hours seems extraordinarily backward for a country such as this.

The honorable member for Balaclava has been most skilful in his preparation of this bill. He has not attempted to foist anything upon the Parliament that the people of Australia have not clearly agreed to. As the honorable member has pointed out, 95 per cent, of the divorces granted in all States are granted either on the ground of adultery or on the ground of desertion, and those two grounds are common to all the States. Further, the honorable member for Balaclava has rightly said that we can assume that the people of Australia have already accepted those two grounds as grounds for divorce. So in the bill before the House there is no change in the grounds which affect 95 per cent, of the divorces in Australia. Probably it is no exaggeration to say that of the remaining 5 per cent, of divorces, 3 per cent, are on grounds that are common to all States. Therefore, the difficulties that have been pointed out by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) relate only to a very small proportion of the total number of cases that will ever come before the courts. The honorable member for Balaclava has rightly said that where a majority of the States have accepted a particular ground, he has incorporated that ground in the bill, and where a majority of the States have not accepted a particular ground, that has not been included. Generally the honorable member has endeavoured to interpret the will of the people of Australia, and I believe he has done so very skilfully and in a manner that makes the bill acceptable to the people of Australia.

I was rather shocked to hear from the honorable member for Werriwa that the Labour party wants further delay in this matter. It is now 57 years since the Commonwealth Parliament was given power to deal with this subject. Fifty-seven years is quite a long time. It is ten years since the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) made up his mind that legislation should be introduced to provide a Commonwealth act to deal with marriage and matrimonial causes, and it is just ten years since the right honorable member for Barton appointed Mr. Toose, Mr. Harry Alderman and Mr. Joske, who is now the honorable member for Balaclava, as a committee to do the very thing that the honorable member for Werriwa now wants another committee to do. These three very distinguished members of the committee appointed ten years ago considered every aspect of the subject. They prepared a draft bill, and that bill went the rounds of the law societies of the six States of the Commonwealth. It was very carefully considered, but, unfortunately, like most matters dealing with these personal relationships, that bill did not see the light of this House.


– Why?


– Because private members’ bills dealing with social legislation seldom reach the House.


– Who was responsible for that?


– Well, the right honorable member for Barton was AttorneyGeneral at the time. Having appointed a committee to do the job, and the job having been completed magnificently by the committee, for some reason, perhaps best known to the right honorable gentleman, the bill was not presented to the House.

Mr Beale:

– I asked questions about this when I was a member of the Opposition. The bill was not brought in.


– What about the eight years since?


– During those eight years this matter has been continually in the minds of a great many people throughout Australia. Generally, we can say there is acceptance of the principles of this bill. First there is acceptance of the principle that this is a matter to be dealt with by the National Parliament and secondly there is acceptance of the approach that was made by the committee in 1947, and of the approach that the honorable member for Balaclava has made in the preparation of this measure. So I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it is just drawing a red herring across the trail to suggest that this matter should be referred to another committee. There is nothing new that we can be told. We were told everything by the committee appointed in 1947 and by the various law societies, law councils and committees which have investigated the matter since. It is extraordinary that the Labour party which professes to believe in unification should try to postpone consideration of this bill which seeks to enable the Commonwealth Parliament, for the first time in 56 years, to exercise powers which clearly are vested in this Parliament. If honorable members opposite sincerely believe that this is a matter which should be decided by each honorable member according to his conscience, why do they not support the motion for the second reading of the bill? Surely, it is in line with Labour’s policy of giving additional powers or functions to the Commonwealth. Therefore, honorable members opposite should support the motion for the second reading.

If Opposition members desire to amend the measure it is perfectly competent for them to put forward amendments at the committee stage. The Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) has already pointed out that every member on this side of the House is free to act and vote according to the dictates of his conscience. Therefore, there is no reason why any member of the Labour party cannot get an amendment adopted if he can convince the House that the amendment is worth while. No good purpose can be served by continuing to put off the matter. This Parliament for 56 years has had power to legislate in respect of this matter, which has been under discussion for ten years. If that is not sufficient time to enable honorable members to make up their minds, all I can say is that they will never make up their minds, if they have any minds to make up. Therefore, I congratulate the honorable member for Balaclava on the skilful manner in which he has drafted this bill. I thank him for the tremendous amount of work and effort that he has put into the bill, and I urge honorable members to give it their wholehearted support, because I believe this bill will be a monument to Australian nationhood.


– I join with the two preceding speakers in congratulating the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) on the step he has taken to introduce into Australia, for the first time, a uniform divorce law. There was not really any need for the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) to devote the first quarter of his speech to telling us what the founders of federation including Sir John Downer and others believed about the need for uniform divorce law. I should like to know the reasons why the many Liberal governments that have held office have not given effect to the views expressed by those founders by introducing a uniform divorce law. It seems that it was not until the Leader of the

Opposition (Dr. Evatt) moved in the matter when he was Attorney-General ten years ago that anything was done by a responsible government to initiate a measure which the founders of federation thought was so important. Unfortunately, for those who favour uniform divorce law, the committee of which the honorable member for Balaclava, Mr. Harry Alderman, Q.C., and Mr. Toose were members was not able to finish its report in time to present its recommendations to the Parliament before a change of government took place. For the last eight years the government of which the honorable member for Balaclava has been a supporter has done absolutely nothing about the recommendations of the committee which was appointed by the Leader of the Opposition to deal with this very important matter.

Mr Wilson:

– Why does the Opposition want to put it off again?


– The honorable member for Sturt asks why we want to put it off again. Let me tell him. During the course of his remarks, the honorable gentleman mentioned that that committee had been appointed and asked why another committee should now be appointed to do what a previous committee had already done. Let me tell the honorable member that the bill now before the House does not seek to give effect to the recommendations of that committee.

Mr Wilson:

– It is competent for the Opposition to move amendments, if it does not like the bill.


– I am explaining to the House that the recommendations of the committee of which the honorable member for Balaclava, Mr. Alderman, and Mr. Toose, who later became a Judge in Divorce, were members, are not included in the bill. That is a very good reason why a select committee should be appointed now.

Mr Beale:

– This is substantially the same bill as that which was recommended by the committee, and the Labour government did nothing about it for two years. The Leader of the Opposition ran away from it for two years.


– I shall examine that statement. First of all, the committee was not appointed until 1947.

Mr Beale:

– And it did its work in less than a month and presented a bill to the Leader of the Opposition.


– It did not. The committee sat for several months before it presented its bill. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) knows perfectly well that the recommendations of the committee would have been given effect to immediately after the 1949 elections had the Labour Government been re-elected.

Mr Beale:

– The Labour government had two years in which to do it.


– But let me tell the Minister what the committee recommended. Having contrasted the recommendations of the committee and the contents of the bill, I think that honorable members will agree that there is every reason why we should now appoint a select committee to find out why there is a discrepancy between the recommendations of this important committee and the provisions contained in the present bill. These are the uniform grounds for divorce which the committee recommended should be contained in any bill brought into this Parliament -

  1. Adultery;
  2. desertion for two years.

That was the original recommendation of the committee. The recommendations continued -

  1. habitual cruelty for one year;
  2. habitual drunkenness for two years;
  3. habitual intoxication for two years from the use of any sedative, narcotic or stimulating drug.

That provision has been left out of the present measure. The next recommendation was -

  1. Sodomy, rape or bestiality.

Rape has been omitted altogether from the bill. There must have been some good reason why the committee recommended the inclusion of rape.

Mr Joske:

– Rape is adultery.


– Yes; but the rape of a man’s wife is not necessarily adultery. That is a condition which applies in some of the other laws of the Commonwealth to-day. The fact that the original committee of which the honorable member for Balaclava was a member recommended specifically the inclusion of the word “ rape “ and it has been omitted from the present measure shows either that the committee erred in including it or that the honorable member is now erring in omitting it. The recommendations went on as follows: - or has -

  1. been imprisoned for the three years imme diately preceding the petition under a commuted sentence for a capital crime or under a sentence of at least seven years;
  2. been convicted during the year immediately preceding the petition of having attempted to murder, or of having assaulted with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm or of having caused grievous bodily harm to the petitioner;
  3. failed for one year immediately preceding the petition to comply with a decree of restitution of conjugal rights;

That provision has been omitted altogether from the bill and I ask, “Why?”. Why has it been omitted, if the committee originally saw fit to include paragraph (i)? Why has the mover of the bill now seen fit to omit that paragraph?

I move now to paragraph (j), which reads - within the five years immediately preceding the petition, been imprisoned in the aggregate for not less than two years since the marriage and has been frequently convicted either before or after the marriage;

  1. been confined for an aggregate of not less than five years out of the six years immediately preceding the petition in an institution or institutions (whether in Australia or elsewhere) where persons may be confined for unsoundness of mind in pursuance of the law in force where the institution is situated, and is of unsound mind, and is unlikely to recover;

    1. habitually and wilfully failed during the three years immediately preceding the petition, to pay maintenance for the respondent ordered by any court to be paid or agreed to be paid under any agreement providing for a separation between the parties; or
  2. been absent from the petitioner for such time and in such circumstances as provide reasonable grounds for presuming that the respondent is dead.

Mr Beale:

– That is in the bill.


– It is not in the bill in those exact terms. Let us see whether that is so or not. What the bill says is this -

  1. . has been absent from the petitioner until such time and under such circumstances as to provide reasonable grounds for presuming that he or she is dead.

I think that almost everybody is in favour of uniform divorce law, but each person is in favour of it according to his or her individual conception of what ought to be the law. And therein lies the difficulty. Everybody has a different conception of what ought to be the law in regard to uniform divorce, and therefore it is a most -important matter indeed to determine whether or not divorces should be attainable on liberal terms or on restricted terms. There are those people who are against divorce in any circumstances whatever. If they had their way they would insist on a uniform divorce law in this country that was parallel with the divorce law of many other countries, particularly some countries of Europe. I am utterly opposed to that. Then there are other people who are in favour of divorce laws being as liberal as possible. These people believe that it is completely sinful for a man and a woman who have grown to detest, hate and loathe each other to be compelled by the law of the land to continue their matrimonial relations. 1 agree with this point of view. In my opinion, people who say that a man and wife who have reached the stage where they detest, hate and loathe each other should be compelled by the law of the land to continue matrimonial relations, are not preaching the Christian point of view, whether they be church leaders or anybody else. I have no hesitation in saying that that is not Christian ethics and would never be accepted by anybody who really understood the Christian doctrine.

This bill seeks to repeal three major grounds for divorce, but before I deal with this matter, let me read from an article on the measure that appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, written by Mr. Trevor Martin, a lawyer practising in divorce in Sydney. He had this to say -

Ils opponents, who have not been vocal, fear it is a step back, making future reforms harder (since agreement will be needed on an Australiawide basis, whereas under decentralised divorce, reform only needs State-wide agreement) and destroying reforms already made in single States only. The latter fear will come true if Mr. Joske’s bill passes unamended through Federal Parliament. He and his friends are reformers of good intentions, but his bill is in its main aspect reactionary.

It is reactionary because it seeks to take away the great reforms in divorce procedure that have been adopted by many of the States, particularly New South Wales. South Australia and Western Australia. That brings me to the point that the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) made when he said that this bill does not foist anything on to the Parliament to which the people have not agreed. I dispute that. The honorable member and every other honorable member from South Australia is in this position: Not one of them has a mandate from the people to take away from the people of South Australia the rights of divorce that they now enjoy. Similarly, not one honorable member from New South Wales, on either side of the House, has a mandate from the people of New South Wales to take away from them the right that they now have to sue for divorce because of failure to comply with an order for restitution of conjugal rights. Not a single honorable member from New South Wales can rise in this Parliament and say that he has a mandate to take away from the people of New South Wales that right which has operated for so many years in that State. Not one honorable member, Liberal or Labour, from Western Australia has the right in this Parliament to vote away from the people of Western Australia the right to obtain a divorce on the ground that the two parties have been living apart for a period of five years.

It is all very well for the honorable member for Sturt to say that nothing is being foisted upon the Parliament to which the people have not agreed. The fact is that the bill is seeking to take away from the people of the various States of Australia rights that they have enjoyed for years, and I say that the Government has no mandate to do that. It is trying to do so simply because it wants to placate and play up to pressure groups which have no right to dictate to this Parliament. The Government should not do these things unless it has a clear mandate. If the Government parties want to alter the divorce laws they should have sufficient courage, before a general election takes place, to tell the people that that is what they intend to do. Having omitted to do that they should not seek to pilot through a measure like this which proposes to take away from the people grounds for divorce that have been accepted for years in the respective States. That is entirely wrong.

This bill proposes to repeal three major grounds for divorce. As I have said, in New South Wales, where 36 per cent, of the total population of Australia resides, the bill seeks to take away from the people the right to institute immediate divorce proceedings when there has been failure to comply with an order for restitution of conjugal rights. It proposes to take away from the people of South Australia the right to institute divorce proceedings in cases where it can be proved that there has been one year’s habitual cruelty, and in South Australia that includes mental cruelty. And what does this bill say about that? It provides that it shall be a ground for divorce if, during a period of one year, the hushand or the wife has repeatedly assaulted and cruelly beaten the petitioner. Under this bill, therefore, before a wife can obtain a divorce from her husband, she has to be able to prove that the husband has repeatedly assaulted her and cruelly beaten her. In England, all that is necessary for a wife to do - and I emphasize “ wife “ because very few husbands would ever have just cause to take action against their wives on the ground that they had been cruelly beaten, although I believe some husbands maintain that that is what happens to them - is to be able to prove that her husband has treated her with cruelty. In South Australia it is sufficient to prove-

Mr Beale:

– Habitual cruelly.


– Which includes mental cruelty, the kind of cruelty that perhaps even the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) would be capable of committing. Cruelty of that kind would include such things as the husband rushing in every night when he came home from work and opening every cupboard door to see whether there was a man hiding there, or looking under the bed every night and accusing his wife of having carried on an illicit relationship with some other person. How would the Minister for Supply like to have his wife doing that to him every night? Would he not think it was cruel, or would he be flattered by it? It all depends on the point of view, perhaps, but I should think that any ordinary, decent, selfrespecting woman would be entitled to feel that she was being cruelly treated by a husband who practised that kind of behaviour.

In South Australia she would have the right. - and a very just right - to seek a divorce, and would have no difficulty in obtaining it. But, under this proposal, the wife has no right until she can prove that she has been cruelly beaten, not once, but habitually. It is not enough for this bill that she has been beaten once. Under the bill she has to be beaten regularly before she can establish a case against her husband for divorce.

Now, 1 turn to Western Australia. NoWest Australian in this Parliament has the right to say here that he has a mandate to take from the Western Australian people a right they have enjoyed for so many years, which is that where a man and a wife have lived apart for five years, and providing there is no guilt on the part of the petitioner, that petitioner has the right to seek an order for divorce.

I believe that a uniform divorce law ought to contain, not the most niggardly, but the most liberal provisions of all the State acts. If we are to have a uniform divorce law it should be as wide as possible. Once a manand a woman can no longer live happily together - and no God-made law ever would compel them to - they should not be compelled by a man-made law to continue to live together and carry on the ordinary matrimonial relationship which is usually accepted as inherent in living together. I. think it is entirely wrong. It. is unchristianlike, and ought to be opposed. I want to say that the general body of the people, and public opinion, are absolutely not opposed to the grounds of divorce that I have indicated.

Now I want to quote from the same letter in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ that I mentioned a moment ago. It says -

Mr. Joske’s solution is to accept the common narrower grounds.

And this is, I think, rather important -

Apparently he values uniformity more than keeping the three major grounds in three States. No doubt he fears opposition to uniformity if headopted the three wider grounds and extended them to all States. He avoids that opposition by repealing the three grounds. It seems he fears less the opposition of supporters of wider grounds.

I have no doubt that is the reason for the fact that the original committee’s recommendations have been so watered down, and why even the recommendations fall far short of what were the provisions in the various State acts. It is entirely wrong that the bill should abolish altogether the provision for judicial separation. It is archaic to try to put the clock back and to take away judicial separation. I quote now from a letter that I have received from a prominent Queen’s Counsel in South Australia. He wrote -

The abolition of proceedings in courts of summary jurisdiction for separate orders is something I cannot possibly approve.

Mr Freeth:

– Who is this?


– If the honorable member listens to it he will know that it is not I who am saying this. I am quoting from a letter written to me from a prominent South Australian Queen’s Counsel. He goes on to say - I think it is very important that his views should be considered by the Parliament -

The abolition of judicial separation means that a woman whose husband is guilty of open and flagrant adultery, perhaps with someone who is very little short of a harlot, has to endure that public dishonor to herself and her children or else get a divorce from him which enables him to marry the woman who has destroyed the wife’s happiness and home. It not only has that result but the effect is also that she puts the husband in a position, because of his wrong-doing, of marrying the other woman (which is, perhaps, what he wants) and producing children by the second marriage who will compete with the innocent wife and her children for a fair share of the husband’s income - with all the leaning on the part of the husband in favour of his new wife and her children.

Then he goes on to say -

Despite my strong leaning in favour of uniform divorce, I am not sure that I would not oppose this Bill by reason of the inclusion of such iniquitous provisions as the abolition of the judicial separation and Clause 25. Of course, if divorce is only to be considered from the male point of view, then it is quite all right, but I happen to be one of those who think that wives also have some rights which emerge from the marriage and which a husband should not be able to throw overboard at his will when his wife attains the age of, say, 45 or 50 years. I have heard of judges criticising wives who “ refuse to free the husbands “ but I personally do not agree with such comment as a general proposition.

I am opposed to the removal from not only the State Courts of summary jurisdiction but also from the Supreme Courts of any power to relieve a wife from her duty to co-habit with a husband with whom life has really become intolerable or dangerous. As long as the husband maintains her she will have no immediate redress if this Bill becomes law.

Under this bill the wife will have to continue to live with a man with whom life has become intolerable and, in some cases, dangerous. It is all very well for a Parliament consisting almost entirely of men to pass laws which entirely favour the male members of the community. What we have to remember is that the female section of the community, if I may use that term, has as much right as the male section in regard to divorce. This Parliament has no right to pass a law so overwhelmingly loaded against women and so overwhelmingly favouring men as this bill is. Under the law as it stands, or as it will apply when this bill goes through, if it is passed unamended, as long as a husband maintains his wife she will have no immediate redress at all. Surely, that is wrong. No one who has any regard for the rights of women in this community can support that. The prominent Queen’s Counsel from whose letter I have been quoting then deals with some confusion which has been caused in his mind by the word “ suit “ in the definition of matrimonial causes, and so on. That is a technical matter.

The Opposition therefore asks, “What is wrong? “. The present position has obtained for 57 years and the Liberal party has never seen fit to bring down a bill to alter it. The Government, and not a private member, should have brought down this bill, and it should have produced it in an annotated form so that we would be able to see what the provisions in the various States are. No such annotated document is before us. For these reasons, and as we have delayed this matter for 57 years, it will not matter if we delay it for another four or five weeks. Is it not better to delay the bill for that short time so that a joint select committee of the Parliament can go into the pros and cons of the original recommendations of the committee, which are vastly different from the bill introduced by the honorable member for Balaclava, and find out why there is this discrepancy between the original committee’s recommendations to the Government in 1947 and the bill now before us. Surely, we should do that if this is such an important matter as the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) pointed out when he quoted what somebody said in 1887. It is so important that, surely to goodness, we ought to make up our minds and be perfectly certain that what we are doing is not something entirely wrong and immoral. Above all, let not this men’s Parliament forget the rights of women in the community.


.- May I, first of all, join with the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) in expressing appreciation and admiration of the work that has been put into this measure by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), of the skilful way in which it was drafted with the assistance of the Parliamentary Draftsman, of the immense amount of thought and care that has been devoted to it, and of the honorable member’s persistence, over a considerable period of time, in arriving at what he believes is the best possible basis for such a measure? The honorable member for Stuart and the honorable member for Werriwa kept this debate on a high plane. I believe that the honorable member for Werriwa approached the matter sincerely and intelligently and that he was sincere in advocating the appointment of a select committee. I believe, however, that such a committee is not necessary and that the statement of the honorable member for Sturt should be accepted - that is, that the committee appointed by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) ten years ago, consisting of the honorable member for Balaclava, Mr. Justice Toose and Mr. Aldermann, Q.C., did the very work that certain honorable members opposite now propose should be done by a joint committee of the two Houses.

I believe that the public reaction to this measure speaks for itself. The other day, a gallup poll taken on this subject showed that more than 80 per cent, of the people of Australia were in favour of the bill as drafted. I say again that I see no occasion whatever for the appointment of a select committee at this stage or at any stage.

The honorable member for Werriwa referred to certain additional grounds for divorce without specifically indicating that he was in favour of liberalizing grounds for divorce. On the other hand, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has shown quite clearly, to my mind, that he is in favour of more liberal grounds being granted. The honorable member for Hindmarsh brought the level of the debate down in a most unfortunate way by making a misstatement in the early part of his speech in regard to the report and recommendations of the committee to which I have referred, the work of which was completed in January, 1947 - in plenty of time for the Labour government of the day to have brought down and implemented a uniform divorce measure had it so intended, lt is unfortunate that the honorable member for Hindmarsh should have made that statement and persisted with it. Even though he was corrected by members on this side of the House who were in the Parliament in 1 947, he repeated the charge that the report had not been presented early enough for the Labour government of the day to do anything about it. I do not think that there was the same degree of sincerity in the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh as there was in those of the honorable member for Werriwa.

I do not think that the honorable member for Hindmarsh would claim to be an authority on matters of matrimonial law. I felt that it was rather an impertinence on his part to indulge in some of the criticisms that he voiced, and, indeed, to cross swords across the chamber with the honorable member for Balaclava himself on one or two points of interpretation. I do not propose to enter the labyrinth of arguments put forward by the honorable member for Hindmarsh in relation to various points contained in the 1947 report compared with the points in the bill now before the House. I should like to make one or two observations, however, on what the honorable member said.

In effect, he has damned the bill because it has not received 100 per cent, approval all round. I feel that all intelligent members of the House will agree that in a highly complex social matter such as this, involving, as is obvious, a vast amount of care, thought and compilation, it would be unique indeed if there were a complete measure of agreement. I think that the Government has adopted a proper attitude by allowing this matter to go forward on a non-party basis, as a private member’s bill, which will allow each honorable member to speak on it and vote on it according to his own conscience and judgment. I believe that many honorable members opposite, if not the honorable member for Hindmarsh, will approach it on that basis and I am confident that the measure will receive the overwhelming support of all honorable members of this Parliament, just as it has clearly received the overwhelming support and endorsement of a great percentage of the people outside, not only in the legal profession but also among the community at large.

The contents of the bill have received wide publicity through the press and it cannot be argued, as a ground for establishing a joint select committee now, that they have not been made sufficiently known publicly. I believe that the people of Australia do not want more liberal grounds for divorce, despite what the honorable member for Hindmarsh has said about mandates.

Let me, for a moment, refer to the question of mandates. It is obvious that there is a standing mandate for this Parliament to legislate on this matter. It has been standing in our favour for 57 years. The fact is that it has not been exercised. I suggest that the honorable member for Hindmarsh is on rather slippery ground when he talks about introducing legislation for which there is no mandate. I refer him to the banking legislation introduced by the Labour Government in 1947 and I ask him whether a mandate was given at the 1946 general elections for that legislation. The circumstances of that measure and this are not comparable in any way. This is a private member’s bill, brought forward on the authority of section 51 of the Commonwealth Constitution, which provides a standing mandate for the Parliament to legislate upon this matter.

It is very clear to students of the Constitution, and I should think generally, that there was an intention on the part of the framers of the Commonwealth Constitution that the Commonwealth Parliament should, in its earlier days, introduce uniform divorce laws. From time to time noted judges have made reference to the need for uniform divorce laws in Australia. The late Mr. Justice Rich, in a case that came before the High Court of Australia in 1942, suggested that the Parliament of the Commonwealth might exercise its constitutional powers and enact uniform divorce laws. I wish to quote from an extract of the judgment in that case which appears in a journal issued by the Law School of Melbourne under the heading “ Res Judicatae - Vol. 7, No. 4”. Mr. Justice Rich said -

It appears to be a matter of some importance that the residents of ‘the six States of the Commonwealth should live under corresponding conditions so far as divorce is concerned.

The article went on to deal with the method of approach to ascertain a uniform set of grounds of divorce. Were they to be narrow grounds, or the widest possible grounds? Or were there to be no grounds at all? Obviously, as none of these could be accepted in a matter of this nature, there must be something in the way of a compromise. The article goes on to support that idea. It says -

Where [here is a particular ground accepted in the majority of the States, it would seem that that ground should be accepted throughout the Commonwealth, even though there be some variations in detail at present existing between the different Slates. Variations of this nature should become the subject of a reasonable compromise.

In drafting this bill, the honorable member for Balaclava has obviously steered what might be described as a middle course. He realized, of course, that some people would be dissatisfied. This bill is not in any way the work of a man who has been subject to the approaches of pressure groups, and I refute very strongly the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) in that respect. I also refute his charge that the bill is loaded against the women of the community. Clearly, he has tried to make a political matter of this, and has not bent his mind to the task of trying to understand the bill, which is complex and therefore probably beyond his comprehension. If he had tried to analyse it in an objective way, as the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) did, and had approached it in an intelligent and constructive manner, he would have made a much more effective speech. He spoke about certain major grounds of divorce being removed from certain States. Does he consider that this Parliament would have a mandate for foisting upon certain States grounds which do not already exist in those States? The honorable member for Balaclava has recognized and accepted the fact that throughout the Commonwealth there are about 30 different grounds for divorce. In steering a middle course, he has adopted those grounds which have found favour and have been accepted by the courts and the people in the States. That is a very fair, practical and sensible approach.

On the question of the appointment of a select committee, may I refer to another major piece of legislation on this subject? It was introduced in the United Kingdom Parliament twenty years ago by another very eminent member, Mr. A. P. Herbert, now Sir Alan Herbert. He went into the House of Commons for the express purpose of bringing up to date the matrimonial laws of England, which were then in a state of chaos and full of anomalies and injustices. No select committee was appointed to examine that measure which was, in its way, perhaps even more complex and farreaching than the bill before us. That speaks for itself on this question of the need to appoint a select committee. I would like to quote from the preamble to Sir Alan Herbert’s Matrimonial Causes Bill of 1937 for I believe that it epitomizes what the honorable member for Balaclava had in mind in approaching this complex task. It reads -

Whereas it is expedient for the true support of marriage, the protection of children, the removal of hardship, the reduction of illicit unions and unseemly litigation, the relief of conscience among the clergy, and the restoration of due respect for the law, that the acts relating to marriage and divorce be amended:

Be it therefore enacted.

I am not suggesting for a moment that a similar preamble should be included in this measure. I merely quote it to illustrate what I believe is the main thought behind the bill. The honorable member for Balaclava, by virtue of his great experience and knowledge of this subject, is better qualified than any one else in this Parliament and indeed almost any one else in this country, to draft such a piece of legislation and to say what should or should not be included. Knowing him as well as we do, we respect his judgment, experience, sincerity and ability. I may say that I have full confidence in his judgment regarding the contents of this bill.

I would like to say something in relation to the proposed grounds for divorce, especially as they affect my own State of Queensland. I would like to have it on record that three additional grounds will be allowed in Queensland under this bill.

Those additional grounds are to be found in paragraphs (c), (e) and (f) of clause 20. The clause reads - (1.) The ground of a petition under this Act for a decree of dissolution of marriage shall be that since the marriage the other party to the marriage -

  1. being the petitioner’s husband, has, during three years and upwards, been an habitual drunkard and either habitually left his wife without the means of support or habitually been guilty of cruelty towards her, or, being the petitioner’s wife, has, during a like period, been an habitual drunkard and habitually neglected her domestic duties or rendered herself unfit to discharge them;
  2. has, during a period of one year, repeatedly. assaulted and cruelly beaten the petitioner;
  3. being the petitioner’s husband, has, within a period of five years, undergone frequent convictions for crime in respect of which he has been sentenced in the aggregate to imprisonment for not less than three years and habitually left his wife without the means of support;

I have read these paragraphs in full because I want to quote something from the report of a royal commission that was appointed in England to consider the whole question of divorce. In case there may be people who will query the need for granting these additional grounds, I shall quote portion of the report that deals with drunkenness as a ground for divorce. May I say in passing that in actual practice the courts pay great attention to proof of drunkenness. If they are satisfied that there is habitual drunkenness they do not, as a rule, require much proof of any other element in the ground. In the case of a woman drunkard, neglect of domestic duties usually follows. The same may be said regarding the absence of support from a male drunkard. The report has this to say on the subject of drunkenness as a ground for divorce -

It seems probable from the evidence given before us that habitual drunkenness produces as much, if not more misery for the sober partner and the children of a marriage, as any other cause in the list of grave causes. Such inebriety carries with it loss of interest in surroundings, loss of self respect, neglect of duty, personal uncleanliness, neglect of children, violence, delusions of suspicion, a tendency to indecent behaviour, and a general state which makes companionship impossible.

This applies to both sexes, but in the case of a drunken husband the physical pain of brute force is often added to the mental and moral injury he inflicts upon his wife; moreover, by neglect of business and wanton expenditure, he has power to reduce himself and those dependent upon him to penury. In the case of a drunken wife neglect of home duties and the care of the children, waste of means, pawning and selling possessions, and many attendant evils, produce a most deplorable state of things. In both cases the ruin of the children can be traced to the evil parental example.

I do not think that any on: in Queensland or in any other State to which this ground for divorce will be extended under this bill would take exception to it after hearing that passage from the report of the Royal Commission on Divorce.

Paragraph (e) of sub-clause (I.) of clause 20 deals with repeated assault? and cruel beatings. May I point out, Mr. Speaker, that this is already a ground for dissolution of marriage in four Sta es. although, as the honorable member for Balaclava pointed out in his very brilliant secondreading speech, the term used in the law of one State was slightly different from that in the laws of the others. Paragraph (f) deals with frequent convictions. May I point out, sir, that at present Queensland is the only State in which that is not a ground for dissolution of marriage.

I have taken the liberty of deal ng with those three grounds at greater length than perhaps I would otherwise have done because they are to be new grounds for dissolution of marriage in Queensland, and because I feel strongly that there is ample justification for extending those three grounds to States where they are not already applicable. The honorable member for Balaclava dealt very fully with the principal points of the bill, and there is no need for me to recapitulate them at this stage. However, I should like to say that 1 am sure that the legal profession will greatly appreciate the clarification of a number of points. One concerns the interpretation of intention and the other ihe question of constructive desertion. As has been pointed out, the bill provides that the conduct of one spouse may justify the other in leaving the matrimonial home, and constructive desertion is to be a ground for dissolution of marriage after a statutory period of three years. That is fully set out in clause 26. Clause 27 also is very important. It clarifies the existing legal position by providing that desertion shall not be deemed to be terminated by insanity if the desertion would probably have continued anyway.

The honorable member for Hindmarsh cited a letter that he had received from a South Australian Queen’s Counsel. As I pointed out earlier, Mr. Speaker, there are no doubt individual members of the le .al profession, just as there are, apparently, individual members of this Parliament, and as there are, no doubt, individuals outside the Parliament, who are not by any means completely in sympathy with the bill as it stands. I believe that it represents the climax of many years’ work and intensive study, and the application of balanced judgment on the part not only of the honorable member for Balaclava, Mr. Justice Toose, and Mr. Alderman, Q.C. but also of the members of the Law Council of Australia and the various law societies throughout Australia. I myself have been in touch with a considerable number of people, both in the legal profession and outside it, in my home city of Brisbane during the recent recess, and without exception the comments made have been favorable. There have been one or two suggestions that perhaps the measure could be improved a little here or there, but I should say that about 98 per cent, of the people to whom I have spoken are fully in agreement with the bill as it stands. I consider that that in itself is a remarkable tribute to the skill with which it has been prepared. It is so complex, and represents such a great innovation in an attempt to provide eight uniform grounds for dissolution of marriage in lieu of a total of more than 30 existing grounds throughout Australia, that it is a major achievement on the part of the honorable member for Balaclava.

Various other matters are of considerable interest, Sir. One of these relates to prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity, which are dealt with in Part X. of the bill. I mention this specifically because it is of particular interest in Queensland where we have on the statute-book legislation that does not appear in some of the other States, at any rate. For example, we have in Queensland the Deceased Wife’s Sister Marriage Act of 1877 - quite an old act - and the Deceased Husband’s Brother Marriage Act of 1931. Each of those enactments legalizes marriages that would otherwise not be valid. This bill will introduce a uniform approach in ail the States to this very important matter of prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity, and many anomalies and variations as between the States will be removed.

After all, Mr. Speaker, one of the main purposes of this bill is to remove anomalies and injustices. As I said earlier, it represents a middle-of-the-road approach. Its purpose is not to make divorce easier or to enable it to be obtained more quickly. Its primary purpose is to obtain Australiawide uniformity and to remove anomalies and injustices in the existing laws. 1 believe that it represents a sensible, proper and balanced approach to the very complex and difficult legal and social problems involved in matrimonial matters, and I am glad to have this opportunity to support the measure to the best of my ability, to congratulate the honorable member for Balaclava, and to voice the wish that the bill will receive in this Parliament the support that it merits.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.

page 972


Commonwealth Shipping Line - Secret Ballot Legislation - Telephone Services - Pensions - Unemployment Benefits

Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.


.- Members of the Australian Labour party have strenuously opposed the operation of the Commonwealth shipping line - the national line as it has come to be called - by a commission of five members as an appendage of private enterprise. I have been intrigued by the reports of the operation of the Commonwealth-owned vessels since the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission was established. Labour members have urged that some of the Commonwealth vessels be specially equipped with refrigeration in order that they may enter the overseas trade. I have personally empha- sized the importance of this proposal many times in this Parliament. The Commonwealth shipping line, independently operated by a shipping commission in the way that Trans-Australia Airlines conducts a national airline, would provide genuine and necessary competition with the overseas shipping, lines, which have a virtual monopoly at the present time. We all know that immediately the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission took over the Commonwealth-owned ships, all possibility of genuine competition, between the Commonwealth vessels and private enterprise was removed. The very terms of the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement Act ensured that there would be no real competition.

Further proof that genuine competition was never the intention of the new commission has come to hand. It was not long after overseas shipping freights were raised, in February before the chairman of the new commission made a statement. The “ Burnie Advocate “ in Tasmania on 15th January headlined the announcement as follows: -

National Line Freighters will enter OverseasTrade.

I thought that this would be a move in the right direction, but then I read what the chairman of the commission, Captain J. T. Williams, said. His comment was -

The decision to use coastal ships overseas wasmade purely in the hope of making profits. We hope–

I underline this section of his statement - to take advantage of the shipping shortage and high overseas freights which resulted from theSuez Canal dispute.

That is startling frankness on the part of the chairman of the National Line. Threeships were sent to India and Ceylon earlier this year and returned at the end of March. To me, this statement lifts the lid right off and reveals the true purpose of the National Line, consisting of 53 Commonwealthowned ships. They have no intention of giving genuine competition to private companies, but merely intend to make profits and to jump on the band-wagon of high freights, thus making capital out of the Suez crisis. That is the level to which our national ships have descended. The “ Bulwarra “ took sulphate of ammonia to Colombo. The “ River Norman “ and the “ River Burnett “ took bulk wheat to Calcutta. The last two ships are of 7.500 tons each. Interestingly enough, three other National Line vessels - the “ River Hunter “, the “ River Mitta “ and the “ River Derwent “ - have also entered the overseas trade to India. Of course, that is to take advantage of the high freights and to make profits; not to give competition, or reduce freights or for any other purpose.

The story does not end there. In a publication, “ All Hands “, which is the journal of the Australian National Line, on page 2 of the March issue, we read -

Three more overseas charter voyages have been arranged for National Line vessels. One ship is destined for Colombo and the others for Japanese ports. The “ River Loddon “ will sail on April 18th with bagged flour for Colombo. Later in April the “ River Burnett “ and “ River Norman “ will load barley for Japan.

All that is very nice indeed. Our vessels are in the overseas trade, but with no intention of reducing freights in order to give real competition to private enterprise. Even sections of the press of Australia have come round to support Labour’s contention that we need competition by the use of Commonwealth ships in our overseas trade. Strongly criticizing the projected freight rises in February, the “ Launceston Examiner”, on 31st December, 1956, included in its leading article the following statement: -

Why has Australia ceased to have the benefit of competition in overseas shipping? The agitation for the use of Commonwealth ships in oversens trade has been strengthened by the latest freights rise announcement. This is not surprising. lt is an idea that cannot be dismissed out of hand, as Australia’s economic future may be bound up in the cost of transporting her goods to overseas markets. The restoration of unrestricted competition would be a most acceptable insurance against exploitation and inefficiency.

That is a strong statement from a newspaper which supports the Liberal party and private enterprise.

When Labour returns to office in this Parliament, we intend to repeal the bill setting up this commission and to introduce legislation to set up a genuine Austraiian shipping commission, on the lines of TransAustralia Airlines, to be run in real competition with private companies on the Australian coast and overseas. But that is not all. Further support for a Commonwealth overseas shipping line comes from the annual conference of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, which opened in Melbourne on Tuesday, 26th March, 1957. In reporting this conference, the “ Launceston Examiner” had the following item -

Delegates said that such an overseas Commonwealth shipping line was the only alternative to a collapse of Australia’s export hopes.

That is strong language. It comes from a powerful organization of primary producers, and entirely supports Labour’s policy regarding our own ships. Mr. T. Vowles of South Australia said -

Present shipping combines are a monopoly thai must be curbed. When shipping combines get to a stage where they can raise shipping rates by 21 per cent., things are getting pretty serious.

He urged the setting up of an overseas line. Mr. D. P. Shehan, of Victoria, supported this view at the conference. Mr. C. T. Chapman, of South Australia, also supported this view and said -

A Federal Minister has already declared thai the overseas shipping monopoly was a racket while shipping firms were saying that unless they were paid what they wanted, they would refuse to continue Australian services.

Evidence is piling up all around us that the only answer to the stranglehold of the shipping monopolies is a Commonwealth overseas shipping service. The Conference Line, comprising fourteen British and seven continental lines, carries 60 per cent, of our imports. It also carries 95 per cent, of our exports to Britain and Europe, such as wool, wheat, butter, meat, fruit and canned goods. The Conference Line calls the tune on freights. It practically decides the freights and the whole 21 lines within the set-up charge the same freights. No one would call this competition. Neither is it private enterprise in the old-fashioned meaning of that term. This sort of thing is monopoly spreading into combines, gobbling up ruthlessly old-fashioned private enterprise, which is going out the back door fast under this Government’s administration. The Conference Line has a power beyond parliaments in the matter of freight charges.

Labour has advanced three counter proposals to help break the stranglehold of the Conference Line on shipping freights. The first proposal is the setting up of a genuine Commonwealth-owned overseas shipping line in competition with private enterprise, as I have outlined to-night, just as Mr. W. M. Hughes did between 1916 and 1922. The second proposal is the setting up of an independent tribunal to fix freight rates, as in South Africa. Mr. Latham Withall, director of Associated Chambers of Manufactures, said recently -

The Commonwealth Government should take a leading part in negotiations on shipping freight rates and should not leave the matter to a body whose interests are not fully representative of Australian interests.

We urge in our third proposal the amendment of the Australian Industries Preservation Act, which should operate in a manner similar to America’s great anti-trust laws. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and I have repeatedly contacted the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) on this matter. In a letter to me of 17th January, the Minister said -

When the Australian Industries Preservation Act was amended in 1930 to enable this procedure to be followed, no basis was established for government participation in negotiations.

We claim that this provision should be amended so that the Government, which is the mouthpiece of the Australian people, could have a direct voice in the assessment of shipping freights. Australia’s imports and exports affect the welfare and security of almost every citizen in this country, but we have no voice when those freights are being worked out and cannot say what their levels should be. I put this case to-night on behalf of the Opposition, and I trust that the Government will give consideration to it because another rise of 5i per cent, is already being mentioned by the shipping companies.


.- I am indebted to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) for a reply, which appeared in “ Hansard “ yesterday, given to me in relation to secret ballots. That reply contains some extremely valuable information. One must be impressed by the number of applications for an officially conducted ballot that have been received by the Registrar. Since the amending legislation was passed in 1951, 131 applications have been received. A large number, and a wide variety, of unions are involved. As we know, this amendment to the Arbitration Act, which was made in 1951, enables unions to apply to the court to officially conduct ballots in respect of their union offices. One hundred and thirty-one unions have applied, and 129 applications have been granted. Those unions cover many thousands of workers in New South Wales, who are now able to vote quite freely without fear of intimidation or coercion. They can now cast their vote in secret, and this gives the rank and file unionist the right of free expression of opinion and some say in who shall conduct his union’s affairs.

It is interesting to note that legislation for clean ballots was first initiated in this Parliament by the Chifley Labour Government, in 1949, after the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), then Leader of the Opposition, had been prevented by the forms of the House from bringing in legislation of this kind. There was such an outcry from the public at the time that subsequently the Labour Government brought in amendments to the arbitration act. I refer particularly to the amendments embodying sections 96a and 96m. Although those amendments did not go sufficiently far to cure the evil, they did show that the Labour Government admitted that there was an evil to be cured in the conducting of union affairs. This fact was undoubtedly recognized. The evil consisted of the irregularities, forgeries and malpractices which characterized the election to office of union officials. Naturally, the amending legislation which this Government subsequently brought in in 1951 raised the ire of the Communists. Their attitude, of course, had been one of opposition to that legislation right from the very beginning. By lying propaganda they have endeavoured to bring the secret ballot legislation into disrepute, and to put it in such a light that the trade union movement will have nothing to do with it. I would like to point out what the Australian Labour party’s central industrial executive said in July, 1953, in its paper, “ The Union Democrat “, in answer to this smear campaign by the Communist party. The central executive said -

The Communist party must smash clean union elections and the legislation that makes them possible or be smashed itself.

Together with the activities of members of the industrial group of the Labour party, this legislation has helped considerably to quell the advance of communism in many powerful unions. Communist control has been lifted from the Federated Ironworkers Association, the New South Wales Branch of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, and the Commonwealth Council of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. This has contributed greatly to the industrial peace that has been the lot of this country over the last few years. However, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) stated on 5th October, 1954, that a small minority group of Labour members, located particularly in Victoria, whom he accused of disloyal and disruptive tactics, had changed the pattern for the time being. But if being disloyal and disruptive is fighting the Communists in the unions of this country, 1 am all for those tactics. Since then, however, the position has greatly changed. The Australian Labour party industrial groups have been outlawed by the party and their members unmercifully expelled. Unity tickets between Communists and Labour party members have become commonplace and have enabled the Communists to regain a considerable proportion of their industrial strength. For example, the Communist J. J. Brown has been elected in the Australian Railways Union in Victoria on a Labour unity ticket. Communists are coming back into prominence in the Amalgamated Engineering Union on unity tickets. If this progress is maintained it will be not only detrimental, but disastrous to the trade union movement.

Our past experience has shown that the Communist aim in controlling the unions is to weaken the economy of this country and to sow discontent, distrust, and unrest amongst rank and file unionists. There is no doubt that this unrest and discontent serves to undermine the welfare of the rank and file members of the union.

The unions generally have accepted the principle of the secret ballot legislation. The Australian Council of Trades Unions has virtually remained neutral on this matter and left the decision to individual unions. 1 believe that the unions do not want this chaotic, crooked, Communist control. The federal Labour conference at Brisbane, however, decided that when Labour was again elected to office, it would abolish all forms of court controlled ballots. This decision is difficult to understand when Labour members supported the Chifley legislation in 1949. This decision was of course hailed with delight by the Communist party, whose policy runs parallel with that of the Labour party on this important matter.

To give an example of the Communist attitude to this matter 1 quote from the “Tribune” of 20th March, 1957-

It is pleasing indeed to witness the highest body of the Australian Labour party joining the fight against ouch attacks on working class democracy.

If working class democracy means depriving the unionist of the right to choose union officials through secret ballots, then the greater proportion of unionists in this, country will themselves give the Labour party their answer at election time. The “ Tribune “ again made reference to this, on 27th March, 1957-

The Brisbane A.L.P. conference decision opposing court ballots means all sections of the Labour movement are now united on this issue.

In other words, the “ Tribune “ has made it quite clear that the Communists are united’ with the Australian Labour party and that the policies of the two parties are as one. We can readily understand the Communists” desire to wreck this legislation, but is this the same fear that is haunting the Labour party to-day? The Labour party is sharply divided on this matter and I believe that several members opposite do not believethat this legislation should be abolished.

There are no secret ballots in the trade unions of Russia. Why then should this once great party seek to destroy this legislation? Apparently it wants a return to the days prior to 1949, and it may be just aswell at this stage to quote the words of Mr. Justice Dunphy.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon John McLeay:

Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.


.- I wish to say a few words to-night about telephone facilities, particularly in relation to my own constituency. Answers given to questionssince this Government came to office show that many people have been waiting for upto ten years for telephones. I think thehonorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) a few weeks ago in this Parliament brought a very striking, case to the attention of the Minister and a telephone was. promptly provided. I congratulate thehonorable member for East Sydney upon-, his success. When all is said and done, ten years is a long time to wait for anything, particularly for telephone facilities. The other day a woman came to me in my electorate and said that she had been waiting: for a telephone for about eight years. Many people have been unable to obtain telephoneservices for years and have been greatly inconvenienced thereby.

These remarks apply not only to telephones being used for private purposes bur also to those required urgently for business purposes. As honorable member know, the absence of a telephone in business makes it practically impossible to give efficient service. In my own constituency, in a section of Marrickville, there has been a great extension of industry. Practically even day I receive numerous complaints frompeople who are unable to obtain telephones to carry on their business. The Government has said that it is doing everything possible to provide telephones. Last year, after the Government had promised to provide telephones for this area within twelve months, I found that no provision had been made in the Estimates for additional works in the area. It would appear that the Government has no special plan. I do not blame the officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I believe that the position is due to lack of planning on the part of the Government. In view of the urgent need for telephone facilities by business and private interests, peo le should be able to get relief in less than two years. Delays of eight years, ten years and longer should not occur.

I do not know what the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) has in mind with respect to these matters, but I point out that in Marrickville and Newtown industrial areas of my constituency tremendous inconvenience is caused by the lack of telephone facilities. No doubt there is a shortage of public telephones also. In many parts of the country new post offices could be erected with advantage both to the public and those who are employed in the present buildings. The Government should be able to build additional exchanges. Plenty of equipment must be available abroad or at home. I think that the Government’s inability to provide telephone facilities immediately is due to lack of planning. The excuse that equipment or cables are not available is not acceptable. It cannot be contended that the present position is an aftermath of the war, because the war ended just under twelve years ago. When this Government got into office one of the promises that it made to the Australian people was that it would relieve shortages. There is still a shortage of telephones and there is still a great demand for them.

I understand from the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) that the

Government is making a very substantial profit in the Postmaster-General’s Department. I am not averse to profits being made by this great socialist enterprise. We can all be proud of that. But some of these profits might well be set aside in order that facilities may be made available to the average person. People who want telephones to-day must want them urgently. They are a luxury because of the increased cost occasioned by this Government’s policy. The needs of the people who are prepared to pay the amount of money necessary for a telephone service must be so great that their cases must be really deserving.

Therefore, I ask the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) to bring to the attention of the Postmaster-General the inadequacy of the facilities available. There is a need to erect additional exchanges. There is a need to see that businesses which employ people have the telephone facilities that are necessary. There is a need to see that those people who have been waiting almost a generation for a telephone can look forward to receiving this little comfort in their lifetime. 1 hope that my voice will not fall on deaf ears. This is a most important and vital matter. I hope that this Government, incompetent as it is, will make a small contribution to the national welfare by providing funds for the provision of telephone services and bring to these people whom i have mentioned some satisfaction, even at this late stage.

East Sydney

.- There are a couple of matters to which I desire to refer, if time will permit. But before doing so, I want to correct the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston), who has suddenly shown concern for the trade union movement of this country. I want to inform the honorable member for Phillip and any other honorable member who has a false impression on this subject that the legislation passed by both the Chifley Government and this Government does not give a secret ballot to every trade unionist. As a matter of fact, a number of trade unions have officers who are appointed for life or for other long periods of time. They do not have regular elections of officers. During the term of office of the Chifley Government some people who suggested that there had been malpractices desired what they termed “ clean ballots “. The Labour party, believing in clean ballots, immediately set out to amend the legislation and provide machinery whereby malpractices could be corrected. Under the Chifley Government legislation any trade unionist in this country who had evidence of malpractice could take it to the Industrial Registrar, who would conduct a preliminary examination. If the Registrar deemed that the matter required further investigation it was then submitted to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for determination. If the court were satisfied that there had been malpractice a ballot was ordered.

This anti-Labour Government, wanting to disorganize the trade union movement and place control of the unions in the hands of a minority, decided that this was not enough, so it provided by legislation that any small minority in a union, without producing any evidence of existing malpractice, could request a secret ballot. As the figures cited by the honorable member for Phillip indicate, the request was granted in practically every instance. This largely disorganized the work of the trade unions and put many of them to considerable expense.

I suggest to the champion of clean ballots from Phillip that the very Cabinet that governs the affairs of this country is not chosen by ballot. It is nominated by the Prime Minister. If the theory that those who are to be governed either in a trade union or a country should determine by secret ballot who is to control their affairs is so valuable, what is wrong with the Cabinet of the country being elected by some form of secret ballot? Cannot the Government trust its caucus? In the Labour party we have a ballot. When Labour is in office every member of the parliamentary party has a say as to who shall occupy a position in the Cabinet. That is not so in the present Government. If a Government supporter gets offside with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) he has no chance of making the Cabinet. This explains how the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) got preferment. He has always been found hanging at the coat tails of the Prime Minister, doing what the Prime Minister wants him to do. and being his office boy so that some day he may succeed him in the senior post.

The honorable member for Phillip mentioned the ballot which ended Communist control of the Ironworkers Union. That was conducted under the Chifley Government legislation, not under the legislation introduced by this Government. The honorable member for Phillip said that the Brisbane Labour conference had declared that all court-controlled ballots were to go. That is just another instance of misrepresentation of what Labour thinks. The Brisbane Labour conference did nothing of the kind. It decided to repeal the iniquitous antiLabour legislation passed by this Government and to revert to the practice that prevailed under the Chifley Labour Government of providing facilities for the correction of malpractices where it was proved that they existed. That is the attitude of the Labour party. We are subjected periodically to these attacks upon the trade unions. I do not know the background of the honorable member for Phillip, but I should imagine that all his knowledge of the trade union movement in this country has been obtained from the journal of which he is evidently a close reader and which the anti-Labour members of this House freely quote when they want to establish a case - none other than the “ Tribune “, the official organ of the Australian Communist party. Therefore, 1 suggest to anybody who wants to be fair about this matter that there is no evidence that the Labour party wants anything other than clean ballots. Why do not the Government parties argue for secret ballots at company meetings and at the meetings of the various lodges in this country? Why select the trade unions for special attention? Are the trade unionists a body of dishonest men? No! They are the men who have built up the industries of this country and made the nation what it is. If there is something sacred about this secret ballot process, let us extend it to all organizations in the community and not select only the trade unions for it.

In the minutes that remain to me, I want to return to the Minister for Labour and National Service. The honorable member for Swan was attacked on a number of occasions in this chamber because it was said that he was deliberately, knowing his statement to be incorrect, attacking the methods employed by the Minister for Labour and National Service, and claiming that they were distorting the actual unemployment situation. In order to clear the matter up, because we have always argued-

Mr Chaney:

– I rise to order. The honorable -member for Swan at no time during this sessional period of the Parliament has been implicated in any way in the manner referred to by the honorable member for East Sydney.


– Order! Did the honorable member for East Sydney refer to the honorable member for Swan?


– I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I meant the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb). In order to clear the matter up, I placed a question on the notice-paper. We claim that the Minister has deliberately reduced the list of people in receipt of unemployment benefit, to create the impression that there is no widespread unemployment in this country. I asked the Minister the following question: -

If the recipient of unemployment benefit, or his wife, obtains a little casual work which takes their income above the permissible figure in any week, is the name of the husband immediately removed from the list of recipients of unemployment benefit?

I ask honorable members to remember the exact terms in which the question was asked. The Minister replied as follows: -

No. A recipient of unemployment benefit does not lose his entitlement to benefit simply because he obtains casual work unless in each of any four consecutive benefit weeks his income, together with any earnings or other income of his wife, equals or exceeds the benefit plus allowable income. It is only after the fourth consecutive week that he would be required to lodge a new claim and serve a fresh waiting period of seven days. Payment of benefit is, of course, not made in respect of any week in which the total income exceeds the allowable limit.

If the income has exceeded the allowable limit and the husband is no lon er the recipient of unemployment benefit, how can it be argued by the Minister that his name is not removed from the list? Those figures have been, in my opinion, deliberately distorted with the idea of creating the impression that the name of the recipient of unemployment benefit is not removed when, in fact, that is exactly what is done and what the honorable member for Stirling charged the Government with doing. He said that the Government was manipulating these figures. If the wife gets casual work, it is quite obvious that there is no unemployment benefit available to the husband, and that the figures do no disclose the actual situation, lt is my impression, and also the impression of the

Labour party, that the Minister has, deliberately distorted these figures with the idea of trying to discount the argument advanced by the honorable member for Stirling.

I turn now to a matter which concerns, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). As honorable members will be aware, by legislation passed by this Parliament sometime ago, an export payments insurancecorporation was to be established. I was interested to learn that the Government had gone overseas to secure an appointee for this important organization, and I madesome inquiries to ascertain whether a suitable man could not be obtained in Australia.


– Order! The honorablemember’s time has expired.


.- I rise to bring before the House a matter that has been raised on many previous occasions, principally by honorable members on thisside of the House. I refer to the plight of age and invalid pensioners.

Government supporters. - Oh!


– Honorable members opposite say “ oh! “ That is just the kind of sentiment that one would expect from those who have no sympathy for theseunfortunate people. I raise this matter not only because of my own interest but also because of a letter I have received from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria. No doubt manyother Victorian members of this Parliament, including the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) have received similar letters. Many of my constituents have signed the letter, which is in the following terms: -

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria in 1955 urged the Federal Government to increase old-age pensions to at least half the basic wage, and in October, 1956, expressed regret that the request had not been met, and in stronger terms repeated the request. As a Presbyterian connected wilh the Yarraville Church, I ask you as the Federal Member for this district to take this worthy and important matter up and endeavour to secure justice for aged people.

At a recent meeting of the Assembly, it was resolved that the Assembly should -

  1. Sustain the overtures.
  2. Express regret to the Federal Government that the request of the 1955 assembly to ‘ increasethe old age pensions to at least half the basic wage ‘, was not met.
  3. Remind the Government that no nation is secure which fails to ‘ draw out its soul to the hungry ‘.
  4. Request the Moderator -

    1. to approach the Federal Government with a view to having pensions increased to a more adequate level; and
    2. To make representations to the Prime Minister concerning the many aged people whose income is even less than the pension by reason of possession of a little capital and urge that, so long as the means test applies, it should be on the basis of income rather than capital.
  5. Call attention of the Federal Government to the extreme destitution of aged and invalid pensioners who own no house, and have no means of support other than the pension, and urgently request immediate action to increase the pension in such cases to at least half the basic wage.
  6. Invite Presbyterians, by pulpit intimation issued by the Clerk, to write to their Federal members of Parliament in an endeavour to secure justice for aged pensioners.

There should not be any “ Ohs “ about this matter. Anybody who has genuine sympathy for the age and invalid pensioners should be on his feet this night to support my remarks. Honorable members opposite should not try to decry people who are only asking for a litle extra to give them some of the decent things of life. After all, it is probable that these pensioners through their efforts in industry helped to put the people who represent big business in the position that they occupy to-day. Yet, when this subject is raised, we hear “ Ohs “ from the other side of the House, to the disgrace of this Parliament. I make this appeal on behalf of humanity and Christianity, and I do so in the knowledge that every decent-minded citizen of Australia will support me.

I appeal to the Government to show greater leniency towards age and invalid pensioners, and to let them see that the future will not be so bleak as the past has been and as the present is. The Government should indicate to them that, in the next budget, pensions will be increased to half the basic wage, as the Assembly has requested. This request, I have no doubt, is supported by every church in Australia, and it is the responsibility of the Government to meet it.


.- I rise to support the plea made by the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. McIvor), and I regret very much that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) is not in his place in the chamber this evening.

Mr Cramer:

– He is here!


– I am pleased to know that the Minister is now in the chamber, because it is important that he should hear the plea which has been made, and which I desire to support, on behalf of the aged and the infirm. I regret that to-day, when I asked the Minister a question suggesting that he might indicate some measure of hope for pensioners and give some thought to increasing pensions, I received nothing from him but a veiled insult. He passed the question over by suggesting that the honorable member for Macquarie and other parliamentarians ought, in their Christian charity, to do something for the pensioners. I rarely speak in the debate on the motion for the adjournment, but I wish to say to-night that I throw that statement back in the teeth of the Minister for Social Services.I ask him to employ his charity in his own electorate in doing something for the pensioners there. I say to him that if it were not for the Christian charity of the people of Australia the plight of the pensioners would be considerably worse than it is now.

In recent times we have discussed many matters here. Among them have been the subjects of trade and the surplus of food produced in this country. While food is available here in great quantity, and we are puzzling ourselves as to how we are going to dispose of it in other markets, then, I suggest that the Minister for Social Services and the Government have a responsibility to see that adequate money is made available to pensioners so that they may be able to procure some of the surplus food produced by Australia. A few pence added to the weekly incomes of pensioners would make a substantial contribution to a solution of the problems of pensioners. This important matter is one that ought to receive the attention of this House. It is not a sectional question. The plight of the aged and infirm affects every member of this Parliament and every person in this country. How often do we hear of honorable members on the Government side, and also on this side, attending various functions and saluting the pioneers of this country, saying how much we owe to them in building up this nation? Honorable members laud the pioneers for their magnificent performance in making this country what it is.

Mr Anderson:

Mr. Anderson interjecting,


– Of course, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) pays tribute to nobody but the financial institutions responsible for sending him here. I should certainly be surprised if he ever stood in his place in this chamber to say a word for the needy and the oppressed. It will be a red-letter day when he says a kind word for those who need a kind word to be said for them. I remind the Government that only recently the federal basic wage has been increased by 10s. a week in conformity with the increased cost of living. If there is need to increase the federal basic wage by 10s. a week because of continuing inflation, surely there is a responsibility on the Government and on the Minister for Social Services, if there is any Christian charity in his make-up, to deal with pensions on the same basis.

From time to time the C series index has proved conclusively how inflation is growing, and we all know that that index does not measure the increases of prices of all of the items required by the people, in particular the aged and the infirm who, as I mentioned to the Minister to-day, need protective foods and warm clothing now that winter is upon us. Action should be taken now. It should not be deferred. It is up to the Minister to take some action. Perhaps, he has changed since the days when he wrote that booklet entitled “ Why Blame the Farmer? “, and cited a certain character in the Riverina as requiring illiterates and certain other unfortunate types of people there to carry on the industry of the Riverina. He has not travelled very far since then, despite the fact that he has transferred himself into the realm of lush and pleasant carpets and the surroundings that he decried so much in those days. I ask him to think of the people now as he thought of them when he wrote that booklet, and when he was prepared to make a plea for some one who had to sleep under a vehicle down in Old Junee. There are many people living in that area nowadays in the way that people lived at the time that the Minister wrote that booklet. So I make this plea to the Minister and the Government to throw off the sham and the humbug and to stop talking about charity from honorable members who give very generously to all appeals in their electorates, and to face up to the responsibilities of government and see that funds are made available to those who urgently need them at present.


.- I rise to support this most vital plea made on behalf of age and invalid pensioners. During the time I have been a member of this Parliament I have listened to many debates on social services and have asked the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) questions about age and invalid pensions. On every occasion the Minister has come ponderously forward to the table and has submitted the argument that the Government has done more than well by the age and invalid pensioners because the amount of money expended on social services during the time the Government has been in office risen from an annual total of £80,000,000 during the Labour regime to an annual total of £227,000,000. The Minister never stops to analyse the effect of inflation during the time that has passed since the Labour government was in office. He never stops to consider - and it seems that he is hardly aware of it - that the money spent in this direction now buys much less than the money spent in 1949 when Labour was in office.

If the Minister had listened closely to and taken into account the submissions made by the Opposition in the Addressinreply debate last year and again in the Address-in-reply debate this year he would have found ample proof that the real value of age and invalid pensions, even measured by the totally inadequate C series index, has fallen by at least 15s. a week since 1949. I say, “ totally inadequate C series index “ because the particular significance of that index to age and invalid pensions is that about 17 per cent, of the weights of the index concerns the rent of four or fiveroomed houses. There is no other type of dwelling space the rent of which is measured in that index. I would say that there is no age and invalid pensioner to-day who is living in a four or five-roomed house. Every age and invalid pensioner is living in accommodation far more inadequate than that, and the experience I find everywhere in the community is that such pensioners are being forced to live in single rooms the rents of which have not been recently controlled. Time and time again every honorable member has cases brought to his notice where the rents of these rooms have been doubled, rising from 30s. or 35s. a week to £3 or £3 10s. a week. There are many pensioners in that position who are therefore left with only 10s. or 15s. a week on which to live. Were it not for the provision of free community meals by some municipalities in the middle of the day many of these pensioners could not survive.

A booklet recently published by the University of Melbourne, and which the Minister said to-day he was aware of, tends to assume that the Government is going to spend £12,000,000 in the coming budget on age and invalid pension increases. I do not know where it obtained such an optimistic assumption. No member of the committee that produced that booklet could possibly have listened to the Minister for Social Services in this House or it would not have accepted such an optimistic assumption that the Government might spend as much at £12,000,000 in increasing age and invalid pensions. In accepting that assumption the committee put forward a proposal that not one penny of that £12,000,000 should be used to increase the money pension of the age and invalid pensioners, but should be spent on what has been called a five-point programme. It is a five-point programme which is very desirable in itself. The points are briefly these -

  1. Pensioners living alone should receive more per head than those who are able to share their household expenses with others.

The committee suggests an increase of 7s. 6d. a week. The second point is -

The pension scheme should be supplemented by a national assistance scheme, for pensioners who have special needs.

That in itself is a desirable thing. The third point is -

A special aspect of the national assistance scheme should be action to ensure that there is minimum-standard housing at costs within the reach of pensioners.

I suggest that that is a most undesirable method, because if a housing allowance is given to pensioners it will very soon find its way into the pockets of the people who own the houses the pensioners are renting. The landlords will take full advantage of the housing allowance. It would be a most undesirable way of paying compensation to pensioners. The fourth point is -

A network of services should be developed to meet special needs of some old people.

That in itself is a most desirable thing. The fifth point is -

As a longer-term programme, we need to know more about the lives, needs and capabilities of old people, to develop for them a wider role in the community, to make it easier for pensioners to have supplementary income, and to encourage individual provision for old age.

That in itself is good. Four of those points are extremely desirable, but what I am afraid of is that this booklet, along with a lot of other things, will become an excuse for the Government not to make an increase of pensions in the coming budget. That would be most undesirable. So that the Minister will not look at the booklet in that way, I refer him to pages 13 and 14, where the writer has this to say -

In discussing our proposals, we shall assume that the Commonwealth Government may be contemplating adding 10s. a week to the general age pension rate - a proposal which would cost about £12.000,000 for the present number of pensioners. We shall suggest other bases for distributing this money, which we believe would concentrate the benefits where they are most needed.

This is the point I want to make clear -

We believe that this is the minimum sum which should be spent. If the Government is willing to spare more from other possible uses of the money, then it may be possible both to meet special needs along the lines we suggest and to raise the basic pension rate.

I can understand their caution. They say, in effect, that if the Government can possibly bring itself to spare a little more than £12,000,000 of the £190,000,000 that it is spending on defence, for example, or from the millions which make up the £1,100,000,000 of the budget, it should, and must, increase the money pension. Therefore, even in the spirit in which this is written - a spirit which has been derided - and despite the poor conditions under which the 500,000 people who are on pensions to-day are forced to live, this committee has been forced by the strict and stringent economic policy of this Government only to try to devise ways to assist those pensioners who are in the most urgent need. That is the atmosphere in which people who seriously think about this question to-day are forced to consider it. A community which is said to be enjoying the prosperity about which we hear so much from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) from time to time, a community which has a national income of £5,000,000,000, but which compels pensioners to live on £4 a week, with the cost of living at the present level, is guilty of a moral crime - nothing less than that. So I say, with all sincerity, that we, as individuals, can never make up what we are failing to do as a government and a community. The obligation rests four-square on this Government to cometo grips with the problem and to put a stop to the ponderous and platitudinous nonsense that is uttered on this question every time it is raised.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at11.25 p.m.

page 982


The following answers to questions were circulated: -


Mr Bryant:

t asked the Minister acting for the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -

  1. How many war pensions of ex-servicemen for each of the wars have been cancelled in each year since the inception of the scheme?
  2. How many dependants were involved in each year?
  3. How many of these pensions have been reinstated?
Mr Townley:

-I am advised as follows by the Minister for Repatriation: -

The figures which the honorable member has requested have been published in each annual report of the Repatriation Commission since 1935-36. Prior to this date, the figures for ex-servicemen of World War I. and dependants are available only as a net figure of cancellations less restorations for each financial year. The figures for the cancellation of pensions of children are always high. This is because the pensions of children cease on their attaining sixteen years of age. Such automatic cancellations account for a very large proportion of all cancellations of pensions. The replies to the question have been tabulated and are as follows: -

Question 3. - Restorations -

World War I.

  1. Up to 30th June, 193S, restorations have been taken into account in the net figure tor cancellations.
  2. From 1935-36 on-

Canberra Service Station Sites

Mr Bryant:

t asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -

  1. What sites have been made available to petrol companies in Canberra since 1st January, 1954?

V’-at prices have been paid for these sites, and upon what terms have they been alienated?

Mr Fairhall:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. Leases of two motor service station sites in O’Connor and Narrabundah and one minor industrial site in Braddon were sold by auction - the successful bidder in each case was an oil company; and one industrial site for a storage depot in Fyshwick has been leased to an oil company.
  2. The City Area Leases Ordinance requires the payment in cash of any amount bid at auction in excess of the reserve value on which lease rental is assessed, and in accordance with this requirement amounts of £29,500, £6,150 and £7,100 were paid to the Commonwealth for the motor service station sites and the minor industrial site respectively. In each case the Crown lease has been granted for 99 years with rentals at 5 per cent, per annum of the unimproved value which is subject to re-appraisement every twenty years.

Japanese Children of Australian Servicemen

Mr Ward:

d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

  1. Are there to-day in Japan some hundreds of illegitimate children of Japanese mothers and former members of the Australian occupation forces?
  2. Are these half-caste children and their mothers being publicly ostracized and are they outcasts in their own country?
  3. As a result, are these mothers finding it difficult to obtain means of livelihood for themselves and their children?
  4. Does the Commonwealth Government regard itself as having some responsibility in this matter?
  5. If so, what plans has it evolved to assist these innocent victims of warfare?
Sir Philip McBride:
Minister for Defence · WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. While there are illegitimate children of Japanese mothers and former members of the Australian forces who served in the Occupation Force in Japan or with the Austraiian component of ihe United Nations forces in Korea, I ara informed it is an exaggeraion to say that these number some hundreds. A report by an army chaplain who had eight years’ service in Japan indicates that the number would not exceed 40.
  2. I am unable to comment.
  3. I am unable to comment other than to say I am informed that a number of private orphanages have been set up since the surrender to care for illegitimate children of foreign servicemen and the children admitted to them arc well cared for. 4 and 5. The matter involves a question of policy which has not been determined by thu Government.

Recruitment of Native Labour

Mr Ward:

d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -

  1. Have native villages in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea been denuded of their ablett lie! mc:-. through 0..r recruitment of labour by the agents of private companies?
  2. If so, has a serious social problem been created?
  3. Does the recruitment of labour in some villages exceed 80 per cent. of the total male population?
  4. Is it a fact that, in accordance with the terms of the Native Labour Ordinance, a medical examination as to a native’s fitness for recruitment should be made by an Administration medical officer?
  5. Has the examination been conducted in some instances by doctors in the employ of the private company recruiting the labour?
  6. If the position is as stated, what corrective action has he taken, or does he propose to take?
Mr Hasluck:
Minister for Territories · CURTIN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · LP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. No.
  2. No.
  3. No. In twenty villages in eight areas of Madang, Central and Western Districts recruitment of numbers up to, but not in excess of, 80 per cent. of the able-bodied adult males - not the total male population - occurred. The details of the occurrences, and of consequent action, are as follows: -

    1. Over-recruitment in eleven villages in the Madang District was first reported in March, 1954, and re-examined until August, 1954, and the villages were closed to further recruitment in October, 1954, until further notice. They are still closed.
    2. Over-recruitment in one village in the Sepik District was reported in May, 1954, and the village was closed in July, 1954, for twelve months.
    3. Over-recruitment in two villages in the Central District was reported in August, 1954, and the villages were closed in December, 1954, for twelve months.
    4. Over-recruitment in three villages in the Western District was reported between March and June of 1955, but they were not closed because of the early repatriation of many labourers. Subsequent reports during 1956 were examined by the Department of Native Affairs in December, 1956, and showed general over-recruitment. After a further examination in January, 1957, almost the entire Balimo sub-district, including the Lower Fly, Aramia and Bamu River basins were closed to further recruitment.
    5. Over-recruitment in three villages in the Central District was reported in September, 1956, and they were closed in December, 1956, for twelve months.
  4. The Native Labour Ordinance provides that an authorized officer shall not sanction an agreement until a medical officer or a medical assistant has certified on the agreement that the native is fit to perform the class of work specified in the agreement. However, section 34 (4) of the ordinance provides that where a medical officer or medical assistant is not available to conduct a medical examination of a native about to execute an agreement, the authorized officer may sanction an agreement, but if he does he shall suitably endorse the agreement and the native executing the agreement must be medically examined at the first visit to the place of employment of a medical officer or a medical assistant who is required to inform the authorized officer of the district of employment of the fact of the examination.
  5. Yes, but such medical examinations are conducted in accordance with the Native Labour Ordinance, section 10A of which provides that the Director of Health may appoint a person registered as a legally qualified medical practitioner under the Medical Ordinance to be a medical officer for the purposes of the Native Labour Ordinance. Two private practitioners hold appointments under section 10A.
  6. No corrective action is required. The details supplied in answer to question No. 3 indicate the vigilance of the Administration and the measures that are taken from time to time to prevent overrecruitment.

Building Materials

Mr Ward:

d asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -

How many companies engaged in (a) brick and tile manufacture, (b) timber milling, (c) manufacture of building appliances and accessories and (d) furniture manufacture have been compelled to cease or reduce production during the past eighteen months on account of slackening demand for their products?

Mr Beale:

– The information desired by the honorable member is not available in the form sought by him. Latest statistics available show that there was some decline in the overall production of most building materials during 1956 compared to the levels of production in 1955.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 May 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.