22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Last week the Minister for External Affairs answered a question in the House concerning what is called, I understand, the “ fail-safe “ system employed in strategic bombing operations, or proposed operations. The Minister made certain comments on the matter, with which I agreed. I understand, however, that further information has come to hand. Will the right honorable gentleman give the House any further information he has on the system on the discussions which, apparently, are i iking place in connexion with it in the United Nations organization?
– The right honorable gentleman asked me a question without notice last week on this subject, to which I gave a reply. The next day I made a public statement in which I said that I believed there was some slight degree of misunderstanding in the mind of the right honorable gentleman on this matter.
– And in your own mind.
– And, to an extent, in my own mind. We now, of course, have the full story in considerable detail from American official sources. My reference to a misunderstanding on the part of the right honorable gentleman was based on the fact that Mr. Bartholemew’s article showed that even if an error were made by failing to recall Strategic Air Command bombers reacting to an unconfirmed alert, those aircraft still would not proceed beyond a given safety point without confirmatory orders to go beyond that point. In other words, if they did not receive a radio message telling them to proceed, or if they did not receive any radio message at all, when they reached a certain predetermined and not very far distant point, they would not proceed but would return to base. The article further went on to show that orders to proceed beyond that safety point could be given only on the authority of the President of the United States. Thus it was incorrect to say, as the right honorable gentleman said, that “ through error the mission was abortive “. In fact, the mission would be abortive because positive orders to proceed in the name of the President had not been given. It is, therefore, not a fact that the mere chance of receiving a recall signal prevented the dropping of nuclear bombs, or prevented the nuclear bomb carrying aircraft from proceeding on their mission. The bombers returned to base not because a signal was received, but because a signal was not received.
The question of the Leader of the Opposition incorrectly represented the Bartholomew article on another point. 1 refer to the right honorable gentleman’s reference - although he did not make it in very positive terms - to 500 bombers. 1 would like to make it clear that 1 do not in any way contest the accuracy of the Bartholemew article, which has been checked by the United States defence authorities. All I have said is that parts of the article, taken out of context, may give a misleading impression. As the right honorable gentleman and the House know, this matter is currently before the United Nations Security Council, at the instance of Soviet Russia, and I do not believe that any more elaborate comment on this general subject would be in the public interest.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any further comment to make on allegations, published in the press during the week-end, by a former Australian official of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, to the effect that certain equipment supplied by Australia to Pakistan under the Colombo plan was inappropriate and was either inadequate for use, or not utilized at all? Can he say whether the alleged facts are true, in whole or in part, and whether the policy under which such mistakes can occur - if indeed they did occur - remains unaltered?
– Mr. Cunningham, the gentleman referred to, has made certain comments in the press during the last few days, and I was given to understand this morning that he proposed making further comments on the same subject in a certain newspaper this afternoon. Until I have seen these further comments I think it best to defer any comprehensive statement on the subject, but I hope to make such a statement late to-day. I may say that Mr. Cunningham’s comments on this matter arc not new to myself, or to my department. He made them in substantially the same form as long ago as January of this year.
– And no action was taken?
– Action was indeed taken. We immediately transmitted the charges to Major-General Sir Walter Cawthorn, our very distinguished High Commissioner in Pakistan, and received detailed comments upon them. I do not know whether any further charges have been made, but later to-day I propose to make an objective comment on those made so far. I think that when honorable members hear my statement on the matter they will be under no misapprehension as to the worth of the Colombo plan as it affects Asia in general, or Pakistan in particular.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that officers of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority at Port Kembla are engaging in provocative activity which threatens to result in a serious industrial waterfront dispute in that important port, which serves major steel and allied industries? Has the Minister received a full report or, indeed, any report whatever, from the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to the effect that its Port Kembla officials have, during the past month, persisted in using a tape recorder to provide an official record of evidence submitted during hearings of charges and disputes involving waterside workers in the course of their employment? Is it a fact that, because of this practice, the members of the Waterside Workers Federation at Port Kembla have not, by unanimous decision, given oral evidence at any inquiry conducted during the last month? Is it not a fact, also, that Australian courts have ruled that wire, or tape, recordings are not, of themselves, fully acceptable-
– Order! The honorable member will ask his question.
– Have not such recordings been ruled unacceptable as a medium for submitting reliable evidence? Will the Minister, if he is unaware of these matters, cause urgent action to be taken to ban the use of the tape recorder for the purpose described, and thereby make a positive contribution to ensuring fair play for returned soldiers and others who earn their living as the work force on the Port Kembla waterfront?
– I have not been made aware of the circumstances to which the honorable member refers. I would ask him if he would be so good as to give me the details and I shall make suitable inquiries myself through the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. In the absence of specific details, I am not prepared to assume that an officer of the authority - apparently relatively senior - has acted in any way improperly in relation to these matters. I assure the honorable member that I will examine promptly and thoroughly whatever is put before me.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service give the House any further information on the present dispute on the Melbourne waterfront concerning the size of gangs, the splitting of gangs for certain special jobs and the future of the press and radio pick-up system?
– I do not think it would be appropriate to attempt to canvass the merits of the matters in dispute, not only as they affect the Melbourne waterfront but also as they run right through relations between the Waterside Workers Federation and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. However, I do take the opportunity to make this general comment that the authority was established by the legislation of this Parliament. It comprises three members. The chairman had formerly been chairman of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. He is a man who, I think, enjoyed the confidence of honorable members on both sides of the House. He was appointed by a government made up of representatives of honorable gentlemen opposite, or at least he had association with them in earlier times. Of the other two representatives, Mr. Fred Gibson was a very well-known and respected figure on the employer side of the industry, having been an officer of the Employers Federation. The other member, Mr. Jim Shortell, was a former president of the Labour Council of New South Wales.
I think it will be generally agreed that they comprise a representative body of men well equipped to deal with the kind of problem on the waterfront which this Parliament has entrusted to them to determine. After very careful consideration, they have given an order relating to gang sizes. That might not please the employers entirely. I gather that it does not. It obviously does not please the Waterside Workers Federation entirely; but in the situation in which the waterside workers operate under legislation of this Parliament, they are given a specially privileged position, in a sense, as a result of that legislation, and the authority has been set up to determine matters which arise in conflict between those two sections of industry. Therefore, I say that this Government and, indeed, this Parliament, should be prepared to give its full backing to decisions which come from the authority in matters in dispute between the two parties.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the committee which was set up to inquire into the operations of the aircraft industry in Australia has yet presented a report to the Government? If not, can the right honorable gentleman indicate when a report will be presented?
– So far as I am aware, that committee has not yet presented a report. As the honorable member knows, my colleague who is concerned with this matter is abroad at present. I shall ascertain the facts as soon as I can.
– Is the Minister for Trade aware that the United States of America has just signed an agreement with nationalist China for the sale to that country of 12,000,000 dollars worth of surplus farm products and that the United States of America is prepared to accept Taiwan currency for the goods? The agreement covers the sale of 7,500,000 bushels of wheat, among other products. Does the Minister believe that nationalist China is one of Australia’s natural markets? Is the agreement likely to interfere with some of our natural trade in that market? If that is so, will the Minister express to the United States Government Australia’s growing con cern, amounting almost to disgust, at the continued practice of the United States, while professing friendship with us, of engaging in unfair commercial practices which could well undermine our economy?
– I shall answer the latter part of the honorable member’s question first. I have on a number of occasions ensured that the United States Administration understood the viewpoint of the Australian Government and of Australian industry with respect to the sale of products on non-commercial terms. During the Review Session of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Conference in 1954, I had quite protracted discussions with the United States representatives. I later visited Washington and was able to achieve an understanding with the United States Government that where that country proposed to make a sale on non-commercial terms of a product which this country sells and in a market which is normally a market for this country, the United States Government would first consult Australia to ascertain whether our interests were likely to be impaired, in our judgment, and to hear our point of view. That arrangement is operating; and in respect of the transaction to which the honorable member for Moore has referred, the United States Government did carry out this arrangement and did consult the Australian Government. This year, we have not a surplus of wheat for sale or such a surplus that results in our chasing markets, and nationalist China has not been a regular or substantial market for Australian wheat. I am glad to assure the honorable member that the Government has in mind all that he envisages in safeguarding our interests, and that our experience is that our arrangement with the United States is on a workable and, for the most part, satisfactory basis.
– By way of a supplementary question, I desire to ask the right honorable gentleman whether we are to infer from his answer that, in relation to the particular transaction, the Australian Government concurred in the arrangement referred to by both the Minister and the honorable member for Moore.
– What I wish to convey quite clearly is that the Australian Government - in this particular sense it was the Department of Trade - intimated that a sale of wheat of this dimension to nationalist China on terms of payment in the currency of the receiving country would not at this moment impair our trading opportunities.
– My question, is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. Will he inform me whether books for educational purposes aire exempt from duty, and whether some books for the same purpose are not available from the United States of America because of a lack of dollars?
– Educational books, indeed books in general, are admitted to Australia duty free. There are, I believe, some qualifications about books containing advertising matter, but as a general principle books are imported duty free. I understand that dollars have been available for the purchase of books for a considerable time - of course, this does not concern the department I represent in this case - but the “ no quota “ basis as far as import licensing is concerned has operated for some time.
– Will the Prime Minister advise me whether he has been informed of a decision reached at the north Queensland conference of the returned servicemen’s league, held at Townsville on Saturday, 5th April, that the establishment of a national disaster fund is an urgent requirement, long overdue, and that this decision has the unanimous support of the Ayr Chamber of Commerce? Both these bodies have mentioned that, and have expressed the view that many parts of Australia are susceptible to seasonal calamities such as cyclones, droughts, floods, and bush fires, involving enormous losses and expense to civic authorities and, in effect, involving the whole economy of the nation. I have mentioned those two bodies in particular, but I am sure that the right honorable gentleman will agree that the concern about these matters is universal, and it is generally felt that the method of dealing with the effects of disasters is unsatisfactory, and that a national scheme for relief should be considered by the Government.
– I have not received the representations referred to, so far as I know, but I will find out whether they have arrived in the last day or two during my absence from Canberra. The matter referred to by the honorable member is a* very complex one. We have on more than one occasion given consideration to proposals for the establishment of some fund’,, but up to the present time we have not been able to discover any effective and fair system on which it could be worked out. However, if representations of a particular kind are made I will be very glad to look at them.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry noted the announcement from Victoria of a desire to bring dried nonfat milk powder under an equalization scheme? Does he think that it would benefit producers if sales were brought under the control of the Australian Dairy Produce Board7
– I did notice a cartoon in the journal of the Victorian Dairyfarmers Association a couple of weeks ago, suggesting that a stabilization scheme was being prepared and the cartoon showed it being gently placed in my lap. I do not think it mentioned equalization, but rather stabilization. If it were intended to have a stabilization scheme or an equalization scheme, it would be necessary to get the States and processors in the States to agree, and then to consult the Australian Dairy Produce Board. I presume that the people who are active in the matter will know the steps that have to be taken, but if they do not the department will be only too happy to advise them.
– Having regard to a question on aircraft production put to me by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who has a very natural interest in this matter, may I just interpose that I am now told that the committee on the aircraft industry will submit its report, it is thought, some time next week, so that as soon as may be thereafter it will be considered.
– Will the Prime Minister say how many of the 522 Soviet spies and agents whom he stated some time ago had been identified by Vladimir
Petrov and his wife are still at liberty? How many were subsequently apprehended and sentenced to death or terms of imprisonment following- their conviction on charges nf espionage?
– That does not sound, if I may say so, entirely like a question without notice. If my friend will put it on the notice-paper, I shall hope to make myself as well informed on the matter as perhaps he is.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any information on the reported construction, by the Soviet Union or with its assistance, of a naval base at Mocha, on the Red Sea, in the territory of Yemen? Is it true, as reported, that the whole of the Indian Ocean would be within range of such a naval base?
– Of recent months we have had information about alleged Soviet activity on the coast of Yemen on the east side of the Red Sea. We have information, or at least reports, also about the provision of both economic and - in the broad sense - military aid by the Soviet Union to Yemen. If these are facts, as we believe them to be, they would be consistent with the policy that the Soviet Union has adopted generally towards the countries of South and South-East Asia. I can say no more than that at this moment.
– In view of the serious situation that has again developed in the Tasmanian timber industry, will the Minister for Trade examine the question of timber imports from overseas, chiefly from Malaya and Borneo, which have risen from 13,300,000 superficial feet in 1955 to 25,500.000 superficial feet during the last six months? I further ask the Minister whether he will make available to the Parliament the Tariff Board’s report on its inquiry into the industry, which, at the request of the Minister, was undertaken by the board in May, 1957, and completed in July of the same year.
– The Tariff Board has not yet made its report on the timber industry, and I regret that I am not in a position to state when the report will be available. I have every reason to believe that the Tariff Board appreciates the urgency of this matter, and I hope it will not be long before the report is available. When the report is received, there will be no avoidable delay in presenting it to the Parliament. The reply to the first question asked by the honorable member is “ Yes “.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. I understand that Royal Australian Air Force units in Malaya, together with such units as are to go there presently, will be located at Butterworth, under an Australian commander. Will the Minister inform me of the relationships which, in that event, would exist between the Australian commander at Butterworth, the Royal Australian Air Force authorities in Australia and the Royal Air Force in Malaya in relation to both operations and administration, particularly with regard to the discipline of Australian airmen?
– The three operational squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force and the ancillary units which go with them - the base squadron, the maintenance squadron and the head-quarters unit - will be, for administration purposes, under the command of an Australian air commodore at Butterworth. The Butterworth base will be known as Royal Australian Air Force Base, Butterworth. This is being done with the very ready cooperation of the Royal Air Force. I think it represents a graceful acknowledgment by the Royal Air Force of the very considerable part that the Royal Australian Air Force has played, through its airfield construction unit, in the building of the Butterworth base and of the part that it will play in the defence of South-East Asia through its operational squadrons. It follows from this that the Australian servicemen at Butterworth will be, for administrative purposes, under the command of an Australian officer, who, in accordance with the ordinary arrangements for the Commonwealth forces serving together, will come under the ultimate control and supervision of the Commander-in-Chief, Far East Air Force.
The question the honorable member has asked deals with complex matters of discipline and organization, but I can say thai the Australian servicemen will be com- .pletely under Australian Air Force law, which will be administered by their own Australian commanding officers, subject to the supervision of the Commander-in-Chief. The Australian Air Board will be kept informed of and in close touch with the circumstances from time to time of service in that area. It happens that at present the officer under whom these units will come for operational purposes - the Air Officer Commanding Malaya - is Air Vice-Marshal Hancock, a Royal Australian Air Force officer seconded for the time being to the Royal Air Force and occupying a Royal Air Force post. This again is a demonstration of the important part that the Royal Australian Air Force is playing in the defence of our own part of the world.
Costs in New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. In the light of the alleged shortage of funds available to State governments, especially the Government of New South Wales - which was referred to as recently as last night - for the discharge of their exclusive sovereign responsibility for the building, staffing and upkeep of schools, has the Premier of New South Wales, or the Premier of any other State, applied to the Commonwealth Government for a specific grant of funds to help finance primary or secondary schools?
– The short answer to the honorable member’s question is, “ No “. No such request has been received from any State Premier.
– What is the use of any Premier asking for funds? You say “ No “ to every request.
– I hardly ever satisfy myself by saying “ No “ to the honorable member for East Sydney. I usually make a few flourishes in addition to the “ No “. On this occasion, encouraged by him, I shall add a flourish or two to the answer because the question involves the consideration as to whether the State of New South Wales is being badly treated. I noticed as recently as last night a particularly silly’ statement in an article in a newspaper called, I believe, the Sydney “ Sun “. The silly statement, which even mentioned the honorable member for Mitchell, was this -
Mr. Wheeler may not know, but Mr. Menzies does, that New South Wales has ninety times as many children in government schools as the A.C.T. has-
Which is near enough to right - yet it is only able to spend three times as much money on them.
Perhaps it is unfair to examine the words of a newspaper of this kind, but if honorable members do examine them they will see the suggestion is that in the Australian Capital Territory we spend 30 times as much per child as New South Wales does. As that observation was so lunatic, I thought it should be looked at and the correct facts ascertained.
– Who wrote the article?
– The article was written by some irresponsible and inaccurate creature. Honorable members will understand just how irresponsible and inaccurate is that creature when I tell them that the enrolments-
– The article may have been written by the editor.
– I shall never reach the stage of writing leading articles for the Sydney “ Sun “. One must maintain one’s standards. The enrolment of school children in New South Wales totals 534,000, whereas in the Australian Capital Territory the figure is 6,000. The enrolments in New South Wales are near enough to 90 times the Australian Capital Territory figure, so we need not argue ‘ about that. The running costs in New South Wales, on the most comparable basis that the Office of Education can discover, total £33,000,000, which, on the basis of the statement in the Sydney “ Sun “, would make the running costs in the Australian Capital Territory £11,000,000, but I am astonished to find that we spend £446,000. So that the figures are £33,000,000 for New South Wales and £446,000 for the Territory.
– They should go back to school!
– If they were ever there. Capital expenditure budgeted for in New South Wales in the current financial year is £7,400,000. There has been a very rapid increase in the school population of
Canberra, for a variety of reasons that we well know, and therefore capital expenditure budgeted for in the Territory is £700,000 - an uncommonly high figure. So the figures are £7,400,000 for New South Wales and £700,000 for the Territory. The figure for the Territory in the previous financial year was about £450,000. If anybody can work out from those figures the proposition that we are spending in the Territory one-third as much on one-ninetieth as many children as in New South Wales, I think I will give a prize to the gossip column of this newspaper.
– I address to the Minister for Primary Industry a question concerning the export of Australian flour. Flour mills in South Australia are working on very short time. Since surplus wheat is not now available for the large volume of wheat exports normally made by New South Wales, will the Minister take up with the Australian Wheat Board the question of increasing flour exports as much as possible in lieu of exports of wheat in order that employment may be provided and flour mills kept working in South Australia, Western Australia, and places where surplus wheat is available for export?
– AH the Australian wheat available for export can be sold overseas this year. I should inform the honorable member that, so far as wheat-surplus States are concerned, there has been no restriction on the disposal of wheat for sale as flour overseas. This applies at least until the end of April and probably will apply for the full export year. I think that that is still the position. I will check the facts and let the honorable gentleman know the result.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service further considered the matter of forced levies on unionists for political purposes?
– The answer is “ Yes “ . As I intimated to the House some time ago, I hope to be in a position soon to bring before the notice of the Cabinet a paper which will set out the legislative position in the various parts of Australia, and in other parts of the English-speaking world. It will also relate this information to some views which I hope to put to the Cabinet. But I am not yet in a position to submit the matter to the Cabinet.
– Why does the Minister not cover political parties generally and deal, at the same time, with contributions made to the Liberal party of Australia by the banks and the insurance companies?
– As I intimated earlier, any proposal which may be considered would, I hope, extend not merely to the trade unions, but also to other bodies registered with the Commonwealth Industrial Court. However, that is a matter of policy which has yet to be considered and determined by the Government. All I can say directly in reply to the question is that the matter is being actively considered.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that, in New South Wales, a delay of from three to five months occurs between the payment of the first year’s rental and the installation fee and the connexion of a new telephone service? Why is it necessary for the first year’s rental and the installation fee to be paid so far in advance of the estimated date of connexion of the service? What action has been taken, or is proposed, to reduce this excessive delay, especially in view of the large surplus shown by the Postmaster-General’s Department last financial year? Finally, until the delay has been reduced to a minimum, will the Minister consider paying interest at bank overdraft rates to prospective subscribers for the short term loans that they advance to the department?
– The practice is that applicants for telephone services are not required to pay the first year’s rental and other fees until the department knows that it has the equipment and plant available for the installation. This practice was developed some years ago in order to replace the practice of requiring the first year’s rental to be paid on application. Under the old practice, the department held a considerable sum of money over an extended period. Now the department tries to provide the installation as quickly as possible after the rental is paid. In cases where the installations cover a certain area, the department must communicate with all applicants in the area and tie up all the business details of the proposals before it commences the work- If that work extends over a fairly large area, say, over a whole suburb, obviously some time will elapse before the whole work is completed. Therefore, those applicants in that particular group whose services are installed last may have to wait for several months after paying their installation fee before the installation is effected. I assure the honorable member that the department realizes that it is not desirable to hold the money of intending subscribers for an undue period, and it plans accordingly. The reply to the last part of the question is, “ No “.
” COUNTRY HOUR JOURNAL “.
– 1 ask the PostmasterGeneral the following questions: What was the reason for the suspension of the publication known as the “ Country Hour Journal”, which had a wide circulation in country areas and which was doing an excellent job in keeping farmers abreast of the latest agricultural techniques? Was it suspended because of lack of finance? If that was the reason, were there not less important avenues of expense which could have been reduced? Will publication be recommenced as soon as finance permits?
– I am sorry that I have to inform the honorable member that I do not know why publication of the journal was suspended. I should think, however, that if the journal were serving some purpose, its publication would have been suspended only on economic grounds. I shall ascertain exactly what the reason was, and whether there is any possibility of the journal being published again.
– Has the Minister for the Interior read the speech that I made during the adjournment debate on Wednesday last when I made a strong plea for the honouring of the late King O’Malley and suggested that a new Canberra suburb be named after him? I am wondering whether the Minister has brought himself up to date in regard to the history of the late King O’Malley, who was member for the Darwin division in Tasmania from 1901 to 1917 and federal Minister for Home Affairs from 1910 to 1913, and who did more than any other man to get Canberra established. Will the Minister do all he can to have this great pioneer honoured and remembered in some such way as I have suggested?
– It would be rather difficult to avoid becoming aware of the honorable member’s speech the other night in regard to King O’Malley. 1 can only say that I shall give some consideration to the matter. However, having regard to the long list of people who perhaps have similar qualifications for being remembered in the way suggested, it might be rather difficult to single out King O’Malley.
– Can the Minister for Trade say whether the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, which was formed last year, has been successful in promoting Australian exports?
– I think it can be said that the Export Payments Insurance Corporation has been widely availed of and to that extent is contributing in a very important way to an increase of export trade. 1 cannot speak with precision on this point, but the corporation went into business about last September. The latest figures that I have seen show that already it had underwritten approximately £10,000,000 worth of export business.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, 1 bring up the report relating to the following work: -
Erection of a steam power station at Darwin, Northern Territory.
In presenting this report, I feel that 1 should refer, very briefly, to a few of the more important aspects of the proposed power house for Darwin. The committee had two major decisions to make - the type of power station and the site on which it should be placed.
Dealing with the type first, I have to state that several alternative methods of power generation were considered. These included additional diesels, gas turbines, free power gasifiers, hydro-electric power, coal-fired steam plant, oil-fired steam plant and nuclear power. With the rapidly expanding use of nuclear power, intensive study was made of the advisability of recommending this type of power for Darwin, where isolation makes all kinds of fuel expensive. The attitude of the committee can, I believe, best be shown by quoting paragraph 30 of the report, which states -
The opinion was expressed that, as development of atomic fuel production overseas has resulted in tremendous reduction in costs, it might well be expected that atomic power might be economic in about ten years, even in Darwin. The use of nuclear power, from the point of view of costs as well as several other problems involved, is therefore unattractive at present, but provision should be made for the future use of this method of power generation, in case it should develop into an economical proposition.
The type recommended for Darwin is an oil-fired steam plant, but provision for the use of alternative fuels in the later stages of development will permit the ultimate use of nuclear energy if it is an economical proposition.
The other major problem, the site, was given extensive study by the committee, particularly as a result of evidence of one witness who said that it was a stupid site. This witness, however, said that he had no technical evidence on which to base that remark. In view of that statement, additional evidence was sought from the Department of Defence. The evidence obtained was confidential and was taken in camera. It indicated that there was no defence objection in siting the proposed station at the Stokes Hill site. I seriously recommend to honorable members the perusal of paragraphs 38 to 44 of the report. They will then understand why the members of the committee were unanimous in recommending the Stokes Hill site. The committee is satisfied that the basis adopted in estimating the future electrical power load for Darwin was reasonable, and that the need for the proposed power station has been adequately sustained.
The committee is grateful to all the many witnesses called and extends its congratulations to the departmental officers for the excellent presentation of their evidence, which covered all the alternatives so fully.
Ordered to be printed.
– I claim to have been misrepresented in the House last Thursday.
– Does the honorable member seek leave to make a personal explanation?
– I do. On Thursday last, 17th April, the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) said in this House that I had made certain statements about the Hungarian revolt. His quotation of the alleged statements appears on page 985 of “ Hansard “. I was absent from the House at the time and I saw the statements for the first time this morning. The statements are completely incorrect and I desire to say that at no time have I ever made the statements which appear on that page of “ Hansard “.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. 1 should like to say that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) kindly informed me that he would make this statement in the House this afternoon. Since then, I have started proceedings to find out the authenticity of the statement which I quoted. Ii was a quotation from a report of a speech made by the honorable member for Yarra in Melbourne some fifteen months ago When I receive the report on the authenticity, I shall make a further statement te the House.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).I have received a letter from the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The crisis arising out of the resignation from the Northern Territory Legislative Council of all six elected members including the people’s demand for a greater share in the government of the Northern Territory through the Legislative Council and through the representation of the Northern Territory within the Senate and the House of Representatives.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
– The resignation of all six elected members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory has brought to a head discontent that has been manifest in the Northern Territory for very many years. That discontent arises from the treatment and lack of consideration given to demands for greater political rights and a fuller share in the self-government of the area. The lack of consideration of a report submitted by a select committee of the council has been the straw that has broken the camel’s back. The repeated requests of the elected members for. information as to the fate that has overtaken this report have met with stony silence from the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), although the report has been in his hands since November last.
The select committee’s report contains moderate and reasonable recommendations which, in broad terms are, first, a greater share in the government of the Northern Territory through amendments to the constitution of the Legislative Council, and, secondly, full voting rights for the elected member in the House of Representatives and representation in the Senate. Nobody can say that those demands are unreasonable or extravagant, but the reactions of the Minister for Territories are typical of the attitude that he and the Government have adopted on these urgent matters over a long period. In Darwin recently, according to a report in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 21st April, he said-
We can work together to bring reform to the Northern Territory without losing our tempers or sense of proportion.
He said further -
I know no reason, except the Darwin climate, for being hot on the subject.
There are varying opinions about the propriety of what has been done.
The people of the Northern Territory have been urging and demanding these reforms for over 30 years, and it is time that they started to lose their tempers. It is inevitable that they will, and the Minister’s comment that he knows of no reason other than the Darwin climate for being hot on the subject is totally uncalled for and displays an attitude of mind that is unwarranted and unreasonable, lt might be in the interests of Australia if the Minister were to sample the Darwin climate more often. If he did so he might appreciate the problems of the people of the Territory and their attitude towards these issues. He later said -
It, however, had to be recognized that as long as the Federal Parliament was providing most of the money spent there - about £12,000,000 this year - it was not likely to give up its responsibility on how the money should be spent.
I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that the Minister mentions only the expenditure that has been incurred in the Northern Territory. He makes no mention of revenues collected from the Northern Territory. If the revenues from the sources available to the Administration were added to the profits that accrue to the Commonwealth from its operation of the Rum Jungle uranium field, the Northern Territory at the present time would be paying its way. Much of the £12,000,000 that has been mentioned is spent on such items as civil aviation, transport, native welfare and defence, items that are not justifiable charges against the expenses of running the Territory.
Two leading daily newspapers have commented on the Minister’s statement. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ made some very caustic remarks about the Minister’s attitude to the Northern Territory, as did the Melbourne “ Age “. Those papers support the contention that the demands of the Northern Territory were reasonable, and that the Government should do something to accede to them. But even if we accept this concept on the basis that the people who pay the piper should call the tune, it is a poor look-out for democracy when governments only recognize claims of individual rights on the basis of wealth produced and numbers involved. The Government should recognize the fact that the people of the Northern Territory contribute towards the expense of running the country by paying taxes in the same way and at the same rate as do people elsewhere in Australia. That being so, they are entitled to the same privileges and rights as other taxpayers, regardless of where they live or what they do. The people of the Territory are subject to conscription, and contribute towards the defence of this country. They accept all the laws and obligations of the Commonwealth, and receive no favours that would set them up as a race apart, or justify their being discriminated against.
The Government’s attitude to the Northern Territory to-day is in sharp contrast to the attitude its supporters adopted in 1946 when legislation to set up the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory was first introduced as a not wholly satisfactory, but still worthwhile experiment. The Legislative Council was set up only twelve months after the cessation of hostilities, and after virtually every resident of the north had been evacuated from his home to the southern States. We realize that, in the circumstances, some time had to elapse before the community could settle down. When the legislation was before this House in 1946, my predecessor, Mr. Blain, moved an amendment to provide for ten elected members of the Legislative Council instead of six. It is amazing to note who voted in favour of that amendment! If the amendment had been carried the Legislative Council would now have a majority of elected members instead of a minority. Let me read out the names of those who voted in favour of the amendment - Abbott, Adermann, Anthony, Bowden, Cameron. Davidson, Fadden, Falkinder, Francis, Hamilton, Harrison, Holt, Howse, Hughes, Lyons, McBride, McEwen, Menzies, Rankin, Ryan, Turnbull, and White. Some of those are still in the Parliament, and are supporters of this Government, but in 1946 they were in the Opposition. Either those supporters of the present Government were dishonest in supporting that amendment, or the Government is dishonest in opposing the reforms that are now proposed. The proposition that the qualification of eligibilty for greater political rights in the Commonwealth Parliament is dependent on the number of electors involved and the amount of Commonwealth funds expended in the area is still novel. I remind the House that South Australia had no hesitation in granting full political rights to residents of the Territory when it had control. The Northern Territory was then represented by two fullvoting members in the Legislative Assembly of South Australia. There was no restriction in any shape or form placed on their rights as members; yet when the Commonwealth took over from South Australia in 1910, the position altered, and we went back to the horse and buggy days. The Territory is now 50 years behind where we started from in 1910. We now have a minority of elected members in its Legislative Council, and a member in this House without a vote, in place of the privileges and rights that we enjoyed under the government of South Australia.
When Tasmania joined the federation, the highest number of votes recorded by the leading candidate at its first elections was 4,700. The lowest number of votes of a successful elected candidate on that occasion was 1,400. The late King O’Malley, on that occasion, was elected to this Parliament as a representative of Tasmania with only 3,940 votes. The Commonwealth on that occasion did not insist on numbers when it allowed Tasmania to become part of the Federation.
The Minister for Territories would like to preserve for Canberra the powers it now has over the Northern Territory. It is time this practice was discarded, as it should have been years ago. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is not so sure on this point, because at Terrigal, New South Wales, only a few days ago, when addressing some Asian students, he said -
It is not good government for Australia if everything has to go to Canberra for a decision.
The Prime Minister stated that so long as the powers of government were divided between the Commonwealth and the States, there would be no threat of tyranny in Australia. He said -
By dividing powers you give yourselves protection. Concentration of power in the one authority could lead to Communism, Fascism or any other ism and could include dictatorship for Australia.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister sits idly by while the Minister for Territories retains his powers and looks for more. The Minister has had much to say about Commonwealth funds being expended on the Northern Territory, but I should like to point out that Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia all draw heavily on Commonwealth funds for their development. Last year, Western Australia received fi 0,000,000 from the Commonwealthmoney that is contributed by every taxpayer in the country. These things annoy the people of the Northern Territory when year after year their representations are unheeded.
I support the proposition contained in the report of the Legislative Council that the council should have a greater share in the government of the Northern Territory. I support the proposition, based on the arguments which I have just outlined, for full representation in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In that respect, no constitutional barrier is involved; such representation could be brought about by legislative action. At this juncture, I demand - for the time has passed when I, as the representative of a proud and independent people, should humble myself merely to ask or request - that this Parliament appoint an all-party select committee to investigate the need for political reforms in the Northern Territory and to report back to this Parliament with firm recommendations.
The crisis at this moment demonstrates the need for urgent action. That the action that has been taken has not been that of irresponsible persons is indicated by the support given to it at a public meeting held last night in Darwin. That action has been supported by all sections of the community - by the employer organizations as well as labour and trade union organizations. A telegram was received from the New England New State Movement, in New South Wales, supporting all the moves that were being made. I have come to the conclusion that there is only one way in which this Government can be forced to take action. If my demand for the appointment of a select committee is refused; and if, this debate having been adjourned to give the Minister an opportunity to make a statement on his return from Darwin, that statement is not satisfactory to the interests that t represent, both in this place and in the Northern Territory, I shall seek an expression of the views of the people of the Northern Territory on the one clear-cut issue, whether they support the principles involved in the protest and the action taken, [f the undertaking given by the Government is unsatisfactory, I intend to tender my resignation in order to force the Govern ment to hold a by-election, with the object of ascertaining the views of the people on a federal electorate basis.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The House is clearly at a disadvantage in attempting to discuss thoroughly the matter which the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has brought forward. It is undoubtedly an important matter, but the very circumstances which have prompted him to raise this issue as a matter of urgency caused the appropriate Minister, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), to proceed immediately to Darwin so that he can examine on the spot the developments which have occurred there. When it came to my notice earlier to-day that the honorable member for the Northern Territory proposed to adopt this procedure, I recommended to him that he defer it until the Minister had returned and could give a complete answer on behalf of the Government.
– When will the Minister be back?
– I understand that he will be back at the end of the week. This was pointed out to the honorable member for the Northern Territory, but he preferred to go ahead. I can understand his desire, as the member for the area, to go quickly on record with his views on the matter, but, speaking for the Government and, I believe, for other honorable members on this side of the House, we do not propose to discuss the matter further at this stage because, on the Minister’s return, I believe that he will promote a discussion which can be conducted in a very much more fruitful fashion.
So, Sir, I do not intend to go into the matter in any detail. However, I make two points. Honorable gentlemen opposite apparently have sought to make this some kind of a party occasion. They rose unanimously to support the honorable member for the Northern Territory when he got to his feet. Then, when he mentioned that one of the requests being made was for a full vote in this Parliament by the member for the Northern Territory, there were loud cheers from honorable gentlemen opposite, as if that were something they had always supported or stood for. Do they stand for it now? Their cheers would suggest that they do; but I point out, Mr. Speaker, if it needs pointing out, that both principal groups of parties in this Parliament have followed substantially the same course. It was a government comprised of honorable gentlemen opposite which maintained the situation in which, under legislation of this Parliament, the member for the Northern Territory had a limited vote. When, as a result of some major changes made by the Labour government in parliamentary representation, a member for the Australian Capital Territory was added, he, too was given only a limited right to vote.
– The population has trebled since then.
– But the principle has not changed. The honorable gentleman surely will not argue that the numbers in either the Northern Territory or the Australian Capital Territory in any way approximate those which are required for a full vote in this Parliament. Certainly, the government of which he was a member had every opportunity to bring that particular reform forward, if it chose to do so. That statement applies, too, to the larger, or remaining, issues.
The arrangements which operate in the Northern Territory at the present time operate under legislation of this Parliament, and I think it is well that we should bear that in mind. The Government has not adopted an unsympathetic attitude to the very natural aspirations for constitutional change which are to be found in the Northern Territory. I remind the House that a select committee of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory was constituted by resolution of the council itself on 12th April, 1956, to inquire into the necessity, or otherwise, for constitutional reform in the Northern Territory. That committee presented its report to the Administrator on 4th November, 1957. A few weeks later, on 22nd November, the Administrator transmitted the report to the Minister, who examined it and then referred it back for some further information, which was transmitted to him by the Administrator on 18th February last. So that it will be seen that there has not been any great delay, so far at any rate, in dealing with the report of the select committee of the council itself. I am informed that there are wide issues involved in these recommendations and that they need careful examination in the light of their constitutional, legal and administrative implications. That examination is proceeding in the Department of Territories and I have no doubt that, as soon as it is completed, my colleague will bring the matter promptly before the Cabinet for its consideration, and that Government policy wil. then be declared. But it is not my purpose to do more than state this very brief outline of the procedures which have been followed and the stage which they have reached.
Clearly, it is highly desirable, if we in this Parliament are to debate this subject adequately, that we have with us the appropriate Minister who, at this very time, is in Darwin to investigate the matter. After his return, we shall all be very much better informed about what has developed and the proposals that the Minister may have in mind to bring to the Cabinet, or at least the time-table that he foresees for Government consideration. Therefore, believing that it will be far more profitable for the Parliament to discuss the matter at that point rather than now, I move -
That the business of the day be called on.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 16
– The Standing Orders do not allow it.
– There is no justice.
– It is a matter for the pleasure of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 17th April (vide page 1056), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a relatively small measure according to the words which have been employed, but this afternoon I want to suggest that it represents a distinct achievement and is of great potential value to Western Australia. For some years past, the Western Australian Government has virtually restricted its expenditure in this particular area of the north-west to maintenance items. Therefore, the sum of £2,500,000 provided in this bill for specific new projects in the area should result in the commencement of developmental work for which the north has been truly starved.
I propose to summarize the intentions of the measure by a quick reference to the second-reading speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). The first point 1 emphasize is that this sum is being provided to assist in promoting development of the area of the State of Western Australia north of the twentieth parallel of latitude. Secondly, the Commonwealth Government had before it, said the Treasurer, not only the views of the State Government but also of an allparty delegation from the Western Australian Parliament. In addition it had the views expressed in the Senate and in this chamber by Western Australian members. These representations, he said, drew attention to the special difficulties involved in the development of the area and, in particular, to the financial programmes involved for the Government of Western Australia. Thirdly, the Commonwealth Government concluded that if the development of this particular area of the north was to proceed at a faster rate, it would require some direct Commonwealth assistance. Fourthly, I stress the fact that the developmental projects are to be submitted by the State to the Commonwealth and will be approved, provided the Treasurer recognizes that they are new projects which cannot reasonably be expected to be carried out during the five-year period set down in the bill without special assistance by the Commonwealth. The last point from the Treasurer’s speech which I stress is that it is made quite clear that the primary responsibility for tho development of the area should continue to rest with the State Government. That means, of course, that it will be the State’s function to attend to the planning and execution of the developmental projects which are approved.
I think it would be wise, for the guidance of honorable members, if I made clear the definition of the area to which this grant will apply. The bill defines it as the area of Western Australia north of the twentieth parallel of south latitude. I am interested to establish that that area is approximately 190,000 square miles, or, in other terms, twice the size of the State of Victoria. I am aware, too, that some critics may claim that the area to be benefited should be extended southwards. I have in mind also that some people, with good intention, have recommended a tax-free provision for the north-west. Their ideas would involve an area much further south than the twentieth parallel. This area also includes the present ports of Broome, Derby and Wyndham. It embraces the towns of Hall’s Creek and Fitzroy Crossing. The rivers flowing through it are the Margaret, the Ord and the Fitzroy. To most people, the area is generally described as the Kimberley area. This afternoon. I am suggesting that this is the area of need - of apparent neglect - which the Commonwealth Government is now recognizing in the bill under consideration.
Twice last week, the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) expressed certain views about Western Australia and the grants which have been made available. Dealing first with the States Grants (Additional Assistance) Bill, the honorable member for Stirling criticized the formula which protects Western Australia against the insistent claims of more populous States such as Victoria and New South Wales. I hope that rather than be critical, he will now recognize that he should be one of the strongest advocates of the retention of the formula, for, if the formula is amended later this year, when the Commonwealth aid roads legislation is reviewed, it will be to our distinct disadvantage.
The same honorable member complained that last year Western Australia was granted £2,000,000 by way of special help for the relief of unemployment. Because no special grant is forthcoming this year, he suggests that the present system is inequitable. I ask him whether the Western Australian Government ever used effectively the special grant of £2,000,000 to justify the making of other grants of that nature. Dealing with the north-west, the honorable member for Stirling stated that the Commonwealth Government had merely brushed aside the requests of the allparty committee representing Western Australia. I now ask him what about the £2,500,000 approved and made available to that State partly in consequence of the representations made by that all-party committee? I am sure that he overlooks the significance of the grant to which I refer.
I am sure he fails to appreciate that it has been made available without any tag other than that approved projects should be the basis for the employment of the funds.
– And at the rate of £500,000 a year.
– lt is a grant of £2,500,000 spread over five years. The grant each year will not necessarily be restricted to £500,000. This grant, I find, is contrary to normal Commonwealth policy, and I suggest that the honorable member for Stirling and other critics should be reasonable enough to acknowledge this.
The honorable member has spoken of damming the Ord River, but I stress the fact that his Labour colleagues in Western Australia definitely favour granting a higher priority to other works. I am well aware that there has been a good deal of general talk, not only in this House, but in Western Australia, about the north-western area of the State and about the need for funds for developmental projects. One could search the records of the Western Australian Government for some years past without finding more than fleeting reference to specific developmental projects. I am suggesting that it is easy for most of us to generalize; it is easy for us to say that the north-west has been a neglected area; but, unless we have in mind specific projects, unless we have in mind schemes which have been the subject of thorough research and consideration, and about which suitable plans have been prepared, there is not much merit in calling for substantial funds.
Expenditure by the Western Australian Government from loan funds upon capital works in the north-west has been mainly on the shipping services. Let me give the approximate figures for the last three years. In 1953-54, expenditure from loan funds upon capital works was £338,000, of which £253,000 was expended upon shipping services. In 1954-55, the expenditure upon capital works from loan funds was £854,000 in this area, but £740,000 of that sum was absorbed by the shipping services. For the last year for which figures are available - 1955-56 - the expenditure from loan funds upon capital works was £713,000, of which £500,000 was absorbed by the shipping services. I do concede that there is some increase in the expenditure for capital works of a non-shipping nature, but in my opinion it by no means represents a substantial contribution by the Western Australian Government to the development of this area.
In 1954, the present Leader of the Opposition in the Western Australian Parliament spoke on one of the items which has been occupying attention for this area. He referred to the development of a deep-sea port of Derby. He said on that occasion -
The whole matter hinges on whether the government of the day sees fit to proceed with the recommendations and construct a deep-sea port at a point in King Sound known as Point Torment, or Black Rocks.
During the time when I was Minister for Works a good deal was done in the preparation of plans for this proposed harbour. Colonel Tydeman was asked to report on the project and his report was favourable. He went to some pains to point out the difficulties involved because of the very sharp tide - something like 30 feet - at King Sound. However, Colonel Tydeman said he would recommend the construction of such a port. On the decision of the Government in this matter depends the shifting of the meat works from Broome to Derby and perhaps the gradual transferring of the township, too, and the building of the new hotel on the site chosen.
Another speaker in the. Western Australian Parliament spoke at the same time about the value of constructing a dam across the Margaret River. He estimated the cost of that project to be approximately £250,000. He also stated that in his opinion the damming of the Ord River would be more costly than the construction of a dam across the Fitzroy River. I suggest that the important and significant feature of his remarks was the statement that the total area capable of irrigation would represent only a very small part of the whole of the north-western area.
That leads me to suggest that in all our thinking on developmental projects in the North-West, we should not lose sight of the fact that the search for minerals must be stimulated. Here, I think it appropriate to pay tribute to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and to the work of his Bureau of Mineral Resources. In my opinion, the soundest long-range plan for the development of this area will probably depend upon the production of minerals. Other products may play a part in its development, but in the long run the project which will give us the greatest promise of continued success will be the production of minerals.
Tribute is also due to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and its officers for the research work they have carried out in this area at the Kimberley Research Station, to which I shall refer later. The recent discussions between the Western Australian Government and the Commonwealth, and the proposals submitted by the Western Australian Government cover four matters with which I should like to deal. The first is the Black Rocks proposal near the present port of Derby. This proposal involves the development of an entirely new deep-sea port, the cost of which was estimated in 1955 to be £1,600,000. The proposal was that this cost should be spread over a period of, say, six years.
Black Rocks and Derby are both located on King Sound, a very large undeveloped harbour of strategic importance. King Sound is roughly 50 miles long by 30 miles wide and is about 2,000 miles from Singapore. The proposal has a number of merits. The existing port of Derby is a tidal port and can be approached only during certain tides and by specially designed small ships. Black Rocks is the most suitable site in this region for a deep water port to serve the pastoral, mining, oil exploration, and other activities of the area. At present, there is no port for overseas vessels on the west coast between Wyndham and Geraldton, a distance of about 1,500 miles. A deep-sea port is necessary to enable beef from the west Kimberley area to be exported direct to overseas markets. It is worthy of note that, at the present time, transhipment for that purpose at Fremantle is necessary.
A decision to build the port at Black Rocks would also facilitate consideration of a number of other matters such as the transfer of the abattoirs from Broome, thus shortening the distance which cattle at present travel. It would also facilitate consideration of the siting of extensions to the township of Derby and its ancillary services. I understand that it may be a very timely move in relation to the current proposals by Air Beef Limited to establish a meal works at Derby. It would obviate delays in shipping schedules caused by the tidal nature of the existing port. It would enable overseas vessels at present travelling between Fremantle and Singapore to serve this area and this might make it possible for the State Shipping Service to go no further north than Port Hedland.
The second project which has been under consideration is the Ord River dam and irrigation project of which we have heard quite a lot, here and elsewhere, in recent years. This proposal involves the construction of a dam on the Ord River and the development of an irrigation scheme. The capital outlay was roughly estimated by the State of Western Australia, a little time ago, to be about £11,000,000, including £400,000 for improvements to the jetty at Wyndham. Some little time ago in this House, I spoke on the research station in the Kimberley area. This has been presented, from time to time, as another project that is necessary for the north.
I am glad to remind the House, this afternoon, that, for the past ten years, the Commonwealth and the State of Western Australia have jointly operated the Kimberley Research Station on the Ord River. This station was established primarily to carry out research into the agricultural possibilities of the soils in the Ord River area. Following a cabinet decision which was taken last year, the Commonwealth and the State have entered into a further partnership to support this research programme for a further period of five years from 1st July, 1956, at a cost not exceeding £50,000 per annum. Here we have evidence - only in a small way, but concrete evidence - of the Commonwealth’s co-operation with the States for research work in the area.
The research carried out at the station has dealt solely with the technical agricultural possibilities of particular crops under certain conditions such as those relating to soil, climate and insect life. It has shown that satisfactory yields of sugar cane could be obtained in the area. Promising results have been obtained with rice and cotton. Perhaps the time is ripe for some investigation to be commenced of the whole economics of the Ord River dam proposal and the problems of marketing crops that could be grown in the area. In a moment I shall deal with, the importance of planning markets for any such crops and for making sure that the research programme has been completed and detailed plans prepared.
The last of the proposals with which I want to deal is the Wyndham jetty. The Commonwealth was requested to provide financial assistance towards the cost of extensions to the existing port facilities at Wyndham, the port of the east Kimberleys. The cost of the work was estimated to be approximately £400,000. The facilities would be required if the irrigation development on the Ord River were to be proceeded with. The proposed extension would avoid the interruptions that at present occur in the loading of beef.
Only last Wednesday, the Premier of Western Australia announced, for the first time, details of proposed expenditure of the grant of £2,500,000 which is covered by the bill now before us. To me, and, I am sure, to many others, it is pleasant to note that the recommendations, in the main, are based upon the most recent proposals, to which I have referred. Therefore, I would express the hope that the Commonwealth will agree with these proposals. The first recommendation which has come, in these recent days, from the Premier of Western Australia concerns the deep water port at Black Rocks. I understand that the Premier pointed out in his statement that it is hoped to build a two-berth jetty and approaches, and to provide navigational aids, cattle yards, a goods yard, a jetty railway and housing for port workers. He said that this new port was essential because the Blue Funnel Line did not intend to build any more ships designed to sit on the bottom at low tide.
The extensions to the Wyndham jetty have been listed by the State of Western Australia as second in its current proposals. There, a second berth is necessary, it is claimed, to facilitate the loading of beef during the killing season. It is interesting to note that the Premier expressed the opinion that this is necessary, also, as a prerequisite to attempting the construction of the Ord River dam.
A new proposal, relatively speaking, was introduced in the submission of last week when the request was made that part of the money should be employed on improving communications in the Napier-Broome Bay area. This is quite a new project to the north west of Wyndham. Access to the ports of Wyndham and Derby is difficult, not only to vehicles, but for stock on the hoof. This new project would open up a new area, much of which shows a lot of promise for the future.
I take the opportunity to express concern that the Western Australian Government may not be very far advanced with detailed plans for this north-western developmental work. Apparently, the Western Australian Government is ill-prepared - or has been until very recently - for although the Prime Minister announced the intention to make these funds available in November of last year, only in recent days have any proposals been received from the Western Australian Government.
– It was only to apply from next July.
– -Surely the plans could have been submitted earlier so that arrangements could have been made for the work to have been put in hand at the earliest opportunity. Months have elapsed since the Prime Minister announced that an amount of money would be available and these definite proposals have only just now been submitted to the Treasurer for consideration. In my opinion, the. Commonwealth Government has been impressed by the case presented in the interests of this north-western area. This grant is a special one for new and sound development and, within the scope of the approved projects, the application of the moneys will be the responsibility of the State.
This leads me to express the sincere hope that the planning and execution of the proposed project will be of such a standard that the Commonwealth Government will be so impressed that other moneys will be made available in the near future. I think it is necessary for us, in this debate, to be quite open-minded and to recognize that, here, normal Commonwealth policy has not been followed. The need has been recognized and these moneys have been made available for application by the State of Western Australia to projects which merely need to be approved by the Commonwealth Government. But with the Ord River dam not commenced, and with no assistance of any kind in the minerals production field, it should be apparent to all that this grant must be recognized as only the beginning. It should be the forerunner of a continuing grant, which I would assess at no less than £2,000,000 annually over a minimum period of five years. In my opinion this is essential if we are to see permanent and effective development take place in the far distant north.
I make no apology for expressing this opinion. Other honorable members have mentioned the extent of Western Australia’s area. I remind the House that although Western Australia’s population is only about 690,000 that State has the responsibility of administering one-third of the area of this continent. There are 9,000,000 people in the remaining two-thirds of the continent. Other speakers have referred to the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric scheme as the greatest project that Australia has ever undertaken. Western Australia has raised no protest about the expenditure of millions of pounds by the Commonwealth on this very worthy project; but Western Australia does make the legitimate claim that she is entitled to longrange, generous help in order to make the north-west area of the State not only selfsupporting but also an asset to Australia as a whole.
So I have much pleasure in supporting the bill. I can do no other. I am delighted with the recognition that the Commonwealth has given to the representations made to it by so many honorable members and other people. However, I stress the fact that it is no good to talk about the Ord River scheme until research on that proposal has been completed and until markets have been established so that the production from the country irrigated under such a scheme can be profitably sold.
The north-west of Western Australia has been neglected, and more funds should be made available for its development. This measure represents an important step by the Commonwealth in the interests of Western Australia, and I express my thanks for it. I also express again the hope that the Western Australian Government, so often guilty of the misapplication of finances and responsible for deficits on projects which have not been successful, will, in this important matter, see that the funds provided are so wisely applied that the Commonwealth will very shortly be glad to make available more substantial amounts for developmental work in the north-west.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr.
Cleaver), in approaching this matter in the initial part of his speech, fell, I think, into an error that many members of this Parliament have fallen into over the years - that is, the error of discussing this matter from the angle that he does not happen to like the State Labour Government but does happen to like the Federal Liberal Government. Those of us who have been in the Parliament long enough will remember that Sir Ross McLarty made exactly the same requests to the Chifley Government as the Hawke Government is now making to the Menzies Government and met with very much the same indifference. So we can forget party politics about this, for a few minutes. Let us take a look at the real situation, which is that in Western Australia there is a group of surveyors, civil servants, and agriculture experts who understand the immense potentialities of the Kimberleys, and that there is advising the Commonwealth Government a group of similar people who have no understanding of the immense potentialities of the Kimberleys but who have a fixed attention, necessarily so by constitutional duty, upon the Northern Territory.
Let us suppose for a few minutes that, as well as South Australia ceding the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth, Western Australia had ceded the north of the State to the Commonwealth, so that an enlarged Northern Territory had been brought into being, its southern boundary reaching right across to the Indian Ocean. Had that been the situation, and had the Commonwealth been responsible for the whole area, there is no question but that what is now called the Northern Territory would have been regarded as a subsidiary area for development, and that what we call the Kimberleys would have been regarded as a primary area for development, because it is better country with greater potentialities. It is also extremely unlikely that Darwin would have been the administrative capital of that larger Northern Territory.
We have a situation in which the Commonwealth Government, which has the money, is constitutionally responsible for an area a very large part of which is comparatively arid and, by the application of this money, maintains in the Northern Territory a population of about 18,000, just as, for its administrative convenience, and somewhat more artificially, it maintains here in the Australian Capital Territory a population of 35,000 people who would not be here on the basis of the ordinary economic resources of this capital territory.
So the situation which exists is that the Commonwealth is constantly, by constitutional duty, applying heavy expenditure to the Northern Territory; yet, in terms of national development, it has no constitutional responsibility for an area that is a more desirable area to develop. Consequently, the Kimberleys region has not been developed. That is not to denounce any political party. It is just another example of how the constitutional division of responsibility militates against a rational programme for the development of this country. That is the tragedy of the Kimberleys area, because it is quite apparent from debates that have taken place here, over many years, that members of this House have very little recognition of exactly what the Kimberleys region is and what its resources are.
I define the coastal part Of the Kimberleys region as extending from Roebuck Bay, near Broome, to where the border of the Northern Territory meets Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, and one might say that it is roughly bounded on the south by the Fitzroy River - perhaps the Kimberleys proper may extend somewhat south of that - and on the east by the border of the Northern Territory or, geographically, by the course of the Ord River. It has a rainfall of from 40 inches down to 20 inches, and its stability of rainfall is comparable to that of south-east Victoria. It is true that the rate of evaporation is greater than in south-east Victoria. In this area there are approximately 40,000,000 acres of good land - a heritage which, Brazil omitted, is the greatest uninhabited area of high potential that exists anywhere on earth.
The whole region is intersected with major river systems. It is easy to talk in this House about the Fitzroy and the Ord; but honorable members should understand that the Fitzroy has a flood output equal to that of the Nile, and that the Ord also has a flood output equal to that of the Nile. So when we speak of these rivers we are not speaking of insignificant streams. There are deep gorges on those rivers which provide ideal sites for dams, for irrigation and power projects. At the moment the cattle industry is the most important in the area. It is, of course, quite unreasonable for the honorable member for Swan to criticize the Western Australia Government because the major part of its appropriations for this area has been for ships. Such industries as there are in the area are ultimately export industries. The district has a very small population. If there are no ships to carry the beef from the area, there is no beef industry. The basic consideration, therefore, apart from the mere necessity to have the cattle there, is to have some means of shifting the meat to the market. If there is no such means, we cannot have a cattle industry.
In this regard, I draw an analogy with the situation in another Commonwealth Territory, which has been wickedly treated by every Commonwealth Government during the last 35 years. I refer to Norfolk Island. The Commonwealth discontinued the provision of assistance for ships coming from Norfolk Island to Australia, thus destroying with one blow the entire fruit industry of that island. Obviously fruit can still be grown on the island; but just as obviously it is useless to grow the fruit if it cannot be shifted to a market.
The funds of the Western Australian Government are barely sufficient for it to provide minimal services for the area in question, and I believe it is completely justified in using its loan funds to maintain the shipping service that is so necessary for the area. This shipping service involves a colossal expenditure of money - as the honorable member has said, it is run at a complete loss - which would not need to be incurred if there were a deep-water port at which ships of the Blue Funnel line could call on their journeys between Fremantle and Singapore. The Western Australian Labour Government would like to have a deep-water port in the area. It does not want to continue losing money on these special ships that have been adapted for use in harbours where the tide rises up to 38 feet, and where ships have to spend a good deal of their time sitting on the mud. The second basic proposition put up by the Western Australian Government of to-day, which is similar to that put up by Sir Ross McLarty, concerning a deep-water port in King Sound, at Point Torment, is really a recommendation of the Royal Australian
Navy, which made a survey of this area, using the frigate “ Lachlan “, in 1946. The Navy recommended Point Torment, or Black Rocks, on a peninsular that juts out into the immense expanse of water of King Sound, i There is not much doubt that the Navy had equally in mind the great potential of the site as a naval base and its value as an outlet for the products of the Kimberley area.
There are some sheep stations in this area. It is not solely a cattle-producing district. These wool-producing properties include Noonkanbah, Liveringa and Quanbun, the former of which is one of the largest stations in Western Australia. It is known, too, that within the area cotton and rice can be successfully produced. The mineral wealth of the Kimberleys has not been fully explored, but geologists of the Western Australian Government consider that certain areas in the West Kimberley region are likely places for oil prospecting. The establishment of a new port at Point Torment, only 14 miles north of Derby, would not involve any very expensive transference of population. The people would not have to be moved very far, and the town of Derby itself does not represent a very large movement problem.
The Ord River, which the honorable member was discussing, has a catchment area of 16,000 square miles. Where the river runs through the Carr Boyd Range there is a deep gorge 12 miles long, which is considered an excellent site for a dam. With a wall 160 feet high, such a dam would give storage of at least 2,000,000 acre feet. Some people believe that the storage capacity would be even greater. The cattle industry of the Kimberleys would be completely transformed if an assurance of adequate water supply could be given by the provision of such a dam. The scheme would also make available a minimum of 200,000 acres of irrigable land.
This is a welcome measure. I do not want to put myself in the position of saying that whatever grant the Commonwealth makes is not enough and should be greater. We can make that kind of statement indefinitely. 1 remind the House, however, that the amount of £2,500,000 represents only £500,000 a year, despite what the honorable member said by way of counter to my interjection. The Western Australian Government cannot spend £2,500,000 immediately, and then have nothing for the next four years. In practice, of course, the government must accumulate a staff to do a particular job. and these employees must have some assurance of a future. If we are to look at the matter realistically, having in mind the kind of cost-of-living allowance that we would have to offer, £500,000 a year would allow us to employ not more than about 400 men. Let me also remind honorable members that the estimate of £11,000,000 for the construction of the Ord River dam was made some years ago, when the basic wage was somewhat lower than it is to-day.
What the Commonwealth must consider is not whether it likes the Western Australia Government or not, but rather whether the area in question should have priority in development because it will yield a return. This consideration is completely apart from all the arguments as to whether the Commonwealth Government should meet the cost of projects such as these. I frankly believe that the Commonwealth should certainly underwrite the Ord River project. I think it should underwrite the new deep-water harbour, especially having in mind considerations of defence. I think it should underwrite a good deal of the experimental work that is being done in the field of agriculture. But when all is said and done, we do not want to establish another area in which population is induced artificially by Commonwealth expenditure. That is why I feel that the present measure provides for the most intelligent form of Commonwealth expenditure. Once the money is spent on capital projects, we will have a viable area, which will not need further Commonwealth expenditure year after year. The area would have its own natural, self-supporting economy.
The initial attraction of population could be catered for without a farthing of Commonwealth direct expenditure if the Commonwealth were prepared to do what is done in Canada. I understand that the Commonwealth Government believes there are great mineral potentialities in this area. Canada adopts a very simple approach to the problem of prospecting for minerals. The Canadian Government recognizes that exploration for minerals is a complete gamble, and that many persons may spend large amounts of money and get absolutely no return. It also recognizes that if it levies heavy taxes on the lucky person who has been successful in his exploration for minerals it is simply adopting the attitude, “ Tails you lose, heads we win “. For this reason the Canadian Government has decided to encourage mineral exploration by providing that if a person finds minerals, his enterprise shall, for the first three years, be completely tax-free. It does not give a concession north of the 20th parallel, or something of the kind; it recognizes the risks inherent in mineral search, and it encourages the investment of risk capital by providing a total exemption from tax for those who are lucky, realizing that many will be unlucky and will lose heavily. I believe that the Australian Government should adopt a bold approach and provide, in a similar way, a tax-free concession for a period of three years for those who find minerals in the area we have been discussing. There may be other activities, such as the pioneering of the rice industry, which should be treated in a similar fashion. I place the emphasis on minerals merely because I can refer to the Canadian precedent. I believe that the adoption of this suggestion would greatly assist in the development of this area.
I do say to the Commonwealth Government, and especially to the public servants who, in regard to these technical questions, are, in effect, the Commonwealth Government, however we may masquerade in the front of the stage, that this is an area of immense potential. It is much more valuable than some areas that are included in our constitutional responsibility, on which we are spending large amounts of money, and which never seem to be approaching viability. Here is an area which should be developed. A rainfall of from 20 inches to 40 inches a year is rare in this Australian Commonwealth. It is also rare to find in this country two rivers each with a flood output equal to that of the Nile. Here is a great heritage. If the issue is to be decided on the question whether we like the political complexion of the government that happens to be in office at a particular time, it will be a tragedy for an area that should be receiving priority in development.
.- The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) made a valiant attempt to divorce the problems raised in the development of the north-west of Western Australia from party politics. With that general principle I agree, but I cannot go the whole way with him, because he attempted to belittle the arguments of my friend, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), and he embarked upon a rather fanciful hypothesis concerning what would happen in the northwest if it had been a direct Commonwealth responsibility. In the first place, that type of argument assumes that the State government has no money at all or, if it has, no choice as to where it will spend it.
The second matter on which I join issue with him is the question of the knowledge of State civil servants - surveyors and the like - and his reference to the apparent ignorance of Commonwealth civil servants in the same field. I remind him that the Commonwealth has done a tremendous amount, of its own initiative, in that area. I need only refer to the activities of the Bureau of Mineral Resources in assisting exploration for oil, in mapping, and in carrying out a good deal of exploration itself. The honorable member partly destroyed his own argument by admitting that the Black Rocks jetty project was the suggestion, not of these so-called experts in Western Australia, but of the Royal Australian Navy. Therefore, one cannot help feeling that his rush to defend any government in Western Australia against any government in the Commonwealth sphere might have been tinged with a little sympathy for the present Western Australian Government because it is a Labour government, and the Commonwealth is not. However, I accept his broad generalization that this is not a matter for party politics.
This subject of Commonwealth and State financial relations has posed a tremendous problem for the Commonwealth and the States, particularly Western Australia, since federation. The grant in question is, of course, made under section 96 of the Commonwealth Constitution. That is, in itself, a very interesting section. It states that, for a period of ten years from the establishment of the Commonwealth, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament shall have power to make grants for the assistance of the States. When the Constitution was being drafted - and we must remember that in those days the vast financial resources now at the command of the Commonwealth were never contemplated - it was felt that it should not be necessary for any federal government to come to the assistance of the States in a matter of this kind. The report of the debates at the third session of the Federal Convention in 1898 reveals that the proposal that the Commonwealth should have power to grant any assistance to the States was negatived. That was done in spite of very strong protests from Sir John Forrest, who stressed that there would then be no advantage to Western Australia in becoming a member of the Commonwealth. The reason given was one concerning which honorable members of this Parliament complained to-day - the financial relationships between States and Commonwealth. People like Sir George Turner and Mr. O’Connor, as he then was, believed that it would lead to a constant struggle on the part of the States to get money on better terms. We can see just how accurate those forecasts were. It was not until 1899, when the Premiers had a final conference in Melbourne on this very subject, that it was agreed to insert this very limited right - limited in point of time - in the Constitution.
In the last few weeks we have heard from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) references to the danger of centralization in Canberra but, in fact, over the years the Commonwealth has assumed ever greater responsibility for developmental problems. My colleague, the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) the other day attributed all the blame for this state of affairs to the system of uniform taxation. I do not think the situation would be at all different if we had not that system at all. 1 think it arises from the existence of section 96 of the Commonwealth Constitution. So long as the Commonwealth has the power to make special grants to the States it is likely that the States will ask it to exercise that power in their favour. As I have pointed out, the real requirement is to distinguish between the neediest States and the greediest States; to distinguish between real cases of need and cases of either inefficiency or simple greed. That is of vast importance, not to a particular State or a particular political party, or to the constitutional arrangements of the Commonwealth, but to the future of this whole nation. That is why I make no excuse for trying to arrive at some solution of the problem on this particular issue of a grant for the northwest of Western Australia.
The Commonwealth Government has recently announced its intention to make a special grant to the Australian universities. It has stated specifically that the university problem is one of urgency and that, therefore, it desires to make that grant. It has made a grant to the State of Victoria for the purpose of constructing a standard gauge railway. Again, it has taken the national view that this is something which has to be done because it is of importance to Australia rather than to the State of Victoria. I take it that the reason for the grant to Western Australia is that the development of the Kimberleys is of national importance rather than merely of importance to the State of Western Australia. We are arriving at a stage where it is no longer an answer to a request by a State government for assistance to say that it is the constitutional function of the State to handle it. We still do that in matters in which the Commonwealth has decided that it will not interfere. The constitutional functions of the State are only, as it were, an initial onus which the State must get over. If I might embark on one further illustration of that - quite recently Western Australia made another request to the Commonwealth for special funds, but it was refused. It was for almost the same amount of money - about £2,000,000 - and concerned the development of pasture lands in the dairying districts of that State. The intention of the Government of Western Australia was to bring existing dairy farms up to a required standard of production. That request was refused. This request for the north-west of Western Australia has been granted.
I am very happy about that, but I point out that about two years ago the Western Australian Government was given an additional special grant of £2,000,000 by way of loan funds without any strings attachedThe interesting point is this: Let us assume that the Western Australian Government had been given £4,000,000. Would it have applied any of that money to either the north-west or the south-west of the State, because the development of both those areas is a function of the State Government? It appears from past experience that the State Government did not apply any of the £2,000,000 it obtained to the development of those areas. Apparently, while it is good enough for the Western Australian Government to make demands for general funds and nol to spend them in those areas, it can still come back and ask the Commonwealth for more funds on the special plea that it must have money to develop some particular area.
The decision as to where the money will be spent is left with the Commonwealth Government. We cannot escape that obligation because, as I have said, section 96 of the Constitution gives us that power. However, I should like to see some authority set up by the Commonwealth Government so that the use of this section of the Constitution for the purposes of party politics would be avoided. Is there any way in which we can curb this increasing tendency on the part of the States to blame the Commonwealth on merely party political grounds when they are short of funds and when the Commonwealth makes finance available to them to say that they are not getting enough? Can the Parliament limit its own powers, or would it be willing to limit them, to confine the application of section 96 to developmental projects of national importance? Can the Parliament set up some sort of development commission? That is the sort of question we must face up to in the near future.
I think there is merit in the idea that some new statutory body should be set up, or that the functions of the present Commonwealth Grants Commission should be widened. The commission at present operates to equalize, in some way, between the less developed States and those that are more developed; but it does not tend to correct the lopsided development that has taken place in the Commonwealth. It would be very desirable if we had some body which could advise this Parliament on new development work. It should be an independent body representative of all the States and on which various areas should be directly represented. We could then have before us concrete plans to correct, over a period of years, the lopsided development that has taken place in Australia, for it must be confessed that whilst the Commonwealth Government makes decisions on individual projects submitted to it by the States, it has no long-term plan itself for the correction of the lack of development in some parts.
One possible alternative to that suggestion would be the creation of special regional development committees on which the Commonwealth and State Governments and departments would be equally represented. I commend that scheme to the Government for consideration. For the purpose of working out long-term development plans for special areas in Western Australia, regional committees were created. One of which I have most knowledge - the regional development committee for Albany - did formulate some plans which were carried out and had a tremendous effect on the development of the Albany area. It resulted in works which had been planned being commenced and carried to finality in a way that might not have been achieved ordinarily.
If neither of these ideas commends itself to the Commonwealth Government, I feel that some onus should be placed on the State governments to determine a degree of priority of public works so that some of the party political use that is made of applications to the Commonwealth for assistance might be removed. I have already referred to the fact that the Western Australian Government has not applied a sufficient degree of priority to the funds that are available to it. I agree that such funds are limited and that the State Government is inhibited from carrying out a great volume of development work; but the State Government itself does not accord a great degree of priority to either the north-west or the south-west of Western Australia.
I make that accusation because this year, the Western Australian Government has placed above those projects the creation of a metropolitan transport trust for the sole purpose of taking over all the private bus operators in the metropolitan area, and paying them out of loan funds eventually, to carry on a public service which would have been carried on by private bus operators at no cost to the taxpayers if the Western Australian Government had not been socialistically minded. Obviously, the Western Australian Government gives that project, for which it will have to pay about £4.000,000, a higher priority than the development of the north-west or the dairying areas in the south-west. If the State Government had some responsibility to declare itself in advance on what it considered the primary use that should be made of loan funds, many of the political battles that are fought over relations between that State and the Commonwealth would be resolved.
I turn from that general analysis of the situation to raise the question: What sort of government spending should take place to assist the development of those areas? I agree entirely with the honorable member for Fremantle that means of communication form the first and most important approach to this problem. We should have wharfs, harbours, railways, roads and means of transport generally. Again I direct attention to the fact that, although many will say this amount of £2,500,000 is inadequate to complete a communications system for the north-west, the Commonwealth Government has been subsidizing transport through the north-western area to a great extent over a number of years. It has subsidized aerodromes and constructed aerodromes. It has subsidized the air services and, in particular, the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Without those subsidies, the existing lines of communication in the north-west would not have continued.
The Commonwealth Government is interested also in the air transport of beef. It has assisted tremendously in pioneering this method of the quick transport of freshly killed meat from that area. As I have said, these matters should be handled by expert committees with a knowledge of local conditions, which can look at the problems on the spot. It is quite useless to engage in all sorts of public works of potential value if there is no reasonable prospect of people going to the area immediately to use them. I have in mind the sort of danger that can arise as a result of any government embarking enthusiastically on projects such as the Ord River dam. The undertaking of such projects must go side by side with a known and certain demand for them. It is not wise for the Government to embark on an expenditure of £20,000,000 to develop those areas unless it is reasonably certain that people will go there and grow rice and vegetables under irrigation. The Government must also be certain that markets will be available for the produce of the areas.
As the necessary public works are completed, we must think of other ways and means of attracting more people to the area. It has to be an artificial attraction at the moment, because the climate in other parts of the largely undeveloped State of Western Australia is more congenial. Consequently, the north-west is, as it were, a marginal area for development. Until all the opportunities that exist to the south have been availed of, I think that the north-west will remain an undeveloped area.
That leads me to the interesting thought that perhaps there should be a greater acceleration of development in other parts of the State. Then, as these other opportunities are taken up, there would be an accelerated development of the northwest. That would be an approach to the problem from a natural economic point of view - the sort of natural rate of growth which the honorable member for Fremantle suggested. But I believe the situation is more urgent than that. I believe that our overall spread of population in Western Australia is bad, inasmuch as there is a concentration of population in a small portion of the State and relatively little elsewhere.
I commend to the Government the suggestion that there should be substantial taxation concessions applicable to residents of the north-west in order to encourage people to go to that part of the State. It was suggested years ago - I think about 1951 - that throughout Australia north of a certain line all wage and salary earners should be exempt from taxation and an exemption should apply in respect of all income re-invested in the area. Doubtless such concessions would induce people to invest in the area and to settle there. I do not know whether that scheme would possess all the advantages that the honorable member for Stirling s-aid that it would. I do not think that a wage-earner would be attracted by an extra £100 a year to go and live in an area lacking so many amenities, but such a concession would attract capital to the area and encourage employers to offer higher wages.
The honorable member for Fremantle suggested that substantial concessions should be given in particular directions. I think that such an approach would be even more helpful than granting total exemption from taxation. In this matter I think that the Government has been, to say, the least, a little inconsistent, because it does not impose taxes on profits that are made in New Guinea, as an inducement to development, yet it does impose income tax in places like the north-west of Western Australia. It is not an answer to say that tax concessions that now operate in those areas are insufficient to attract people to them, and that, consequently, the idea of tax concessions will not work. It is quite obvious that the tax concessions now applied to the area are insufficient. I find that I am supported in my opinion in this matter by the honorable member for Stirling, although he himself was guilty of some inconsistency when he said that the people in New Guinea ought to be taxed, but that the people in the north-west of Western Australia should not be taxed.
– But he went on to say that families in New Guinea should be subsidized.
– There was some strange inconsistency in his remarks, because he said that he thought the people in the northwest of Western Australia should be tax free. I think that it would be far better for this Government, in order to be consistent, to free both areas from taxation in the interests of rapid development.
As I said earlier, public works and pri.vate enterprise go hand in hand, and it must not be forgotten that the northwest of Western Australia is not a congenial area for people to live in. If the development of the north-west is a national responsibility - and this Government believes that it is - much more encouragement should be offered to private enterprise to go into that area. I maintain that an area cannot be developed and populated merely by the carrying out of public works there. I therefore ask the Government to give some thought to the suggestions that I have made.
The bill before the House is- evidence of this Government’s acceptance of the view that the development of the north-west is a national responsibility. Therefore, the
Government should undertake large-scale, long-term planning for the development of the area and adopt a long-term plan of assistance to the State. I emphasize that the Commonwealth cannot escape its responsibility by saying that this matter is the responsibility of the State Government. It is a function of the Commonwealth by virtue of section 96 of the Constitution. We should endeavour to avoid political pitfalls by refraining from indulging in party arguments as to whether the development of the north-west is the responsibility of the Commonwealth or of the State of Western Australia itself. I hope that the Constitution Review Committee will consider this matter and clarify the use that should be made of section 96 in future years.
– I rise to take part in this debate because of my association with Western Australia, which borders the Territory that I have the honour to represent. I have some knowledge of the north-west of Western Australia, the problems concerning which are much the same as the problems of the Northern Territory. I must confess that I do not share the doubts of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) concerning the capacity of the north-west to attract people to it to engage in agricultural, mining and other pursuits. I think we have reached the stage where we must make up our minds that the north-west will be developed. While an area of hundreds of thousands of square miles of country in the north-west remains undeveloped, it is a threat to the Australian community. To see what can be done with the tropical areas of Australia, we need only consider the sugar industry and other thriving industries that have been established in north Queensland. They have greatly assisted the economy. I feel that the amount of the proposed grant is not adequate, although I know that criticism can be levelled against me for going to the Commonwealth cow for every sup of milk that I can possibly get. I think that in respect of the north of Western Australia the same mistake will be made as has been made in regard to the Northern Territory. A few hundred pounds will be made available here, and a few thousand pounds there, and in the final analysis £250,000 will be wasted instead of being part of a continuing contribution to the development of that area. I agree that it is beyond the resources of a State government to develop the region fully. Therefore, short of setting up a new State, the problem resolves itself into one of cooperation between the Commonwealth and the State and a combined effort by both.
The region is not easy to develop. It is rugged in natural features, and does not lend itself easily to the construction of railways, roads and bridges. It presents engineering problems which are not found in other areas. We have to make up our minds that we cannot afford to sit by and tell a State to develop such an area as this in the order of priority that the State might have for its evolutionary development. It is certain that under such a policy the major development will take place in the favorable areas, with very little in remote and unfavorable areas. lt cannot be said that the region is not fertile or has not a good rainfall. It is in the tropical belt. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said, it has huge rivers disgorging quite a lot of water. These rivers could be dammed and their potential exploited. I know something of the Ord River, which I have visited. One has only to see the Ord River valley to appreciate the development that could take place as a result of the construction of a dam. Every member of this Parliament should go to that area and see for himself the possibilities that really exist there. I know that some honorable members seem to regard those parts as a foreign land. Facilities should be made available to members to visit these areas and to see the magnificent possibilities that exist. In the Ord River valley any tropical produce could be grown, but not in competition with southern markets. Production would have to be based on export commodities. There is a potential for the growing of produce that could be profitably sold on overseas markets. I think that rice could be grown, as well as cotton, tobacco, and peanuts, all of which are profitable and in keen demand on world markets. Nothing more is needed than the will to do it, and the making available of finance.
In addition, there is a problem of communication with the south. I do not know what Government was responsible for developing the shipping service to the north of Western Australia. Whoever instituted the system of subsidies that is now in exist- ence did a mighty service to the people there- I know the freight rates that apply respectively between Fremantle and Wyndham, and between Fremantle and Darwin. It costs more to ship goods by the State shipping line from Wyndham to Darwin, a matter of 200 miles, than from Fremantle to Wyndham, over 1,000 miles. So the State Government is doing something in that regard, but it cannot meet the capital costs of the huge projects that are required for long-term development.
The mineral possibilities are unexplored and virtually untouched. We know that the existence of oil is a possibility. The Bureau of Mineral Resources has explored the field and issued some very favorable reports. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission has commented favorably on the prospects of finding deposits of uranium there. If the governments concerned are unwilling to meet the capital cost of constructing dams and other big works, they should really set to work on encouraging the mining industry. I have no doubt at all that people will go to these places if they are encouraged to do so, and if amenities, air services, and roads are provided.
I agree with the honorable member for Forrest and my colleague, the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), that the only way we can possibly bring such a scheme to fruition is by forgetting about making money out of the region. We have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that revenues cannot be derived from areas that are in the process of development. When there was agitation for exemption from taxation in the north of Western Australia, it was conceded here that the total amount involved was only about £2,000,000. That amount takes quite a lot of collecting. It is small but its effect in retarding development is immense. With the co-operation of the State, the Commonwealth should adopt a long-term policy extending over at least fifteen years. Taxation concessions should be made, a plan of development prepared, and finance made available at a predetermined rate per annum.
– The consent of the State Government would have to be obtained first.
– I think that it would co-operate on that basis; it would be foolish if it did not. Any State government would be only too eager to embrace such a scheme. It has been demonstrated time after time that State governments cannot develop remote and difficult regions. The difficulties would not be insuperable if the Commonwealth and the State each provided experts to hammer out a scheme that had some prospect of success, with the Commonwealth providing a fixed amount of finance per annum for fifteen years. The Commonwealth could grant taxation concessions to residents and industries to let them go ahead, and forget about the meagre revenue that we now derive from that region. If the Commonwealth Government faced up to such a scheme, I think there would be greater development than exists at the present time. If the State did not co-operate, the alternative would be to form that area into a separate State. That is a proposal that is put forward time and again. Another proposal is that the region should be tacked on to the Northern Territory. For the sake of the residents of the region, I hope that that never happens. In the last day or two we have had an illustration of what happens to people in a territory under Commonwealth control.
That is the picture. We must forget about making profits from such regions and set our minds to formulating a policy- We have to make funds available. The benefit to be derived will be not only for the State; dividends will be paid in the protection of Australia, because unless some action is taken, some day somebody will walk in and take possession of that region.
.- I heartily support the measure before the House. I hope that this will be a turning point in discussions between the Commonwealth and the State, irrespective of the political colour of the government in either place, in contrast with the attitude of the past, with one government blaming the other and rushing to the press with its complaints. Very often in this House such matters have been approached with a parochial rather than a national outlook. If my memory serves me correctly, it was on 3rd January, 1952, that the Cabinet of the McLarty Government decided to embark upon the construction of a deep water port at Point Torment or at Black Rocks, not far from Derby, as well as extensions to the port at Wyndham and some works in connexion with the Ord River. At that time it was estimated that the cost of the new port would be something like £1,000,000, spread over five or six years, with both the State and the Federal governments contributing on, I think, a £l-for-£l basis. That proposal was accepted heartily in Western Australia. Then, very shortly afterwards, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company put forward its proposal to establish an oil refinery at Kwinana. After the signing of the agreement for that project, Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited came forward with the idea of building a rolling mill, also at Kwinana. It then seemed that Western Australia was in for a period of advancement.
Just imagine the thoughts that ran through the minds of the people eager for the development of the north-west of the State when they opened their newspapers one morning and read of the hostility that had been expressed to the proposal of the new port by some of the people in that area. If my memory serves me correctly, some of the members of the Cabinet of the present Western Australian Government were not very far behind those people in expressing their hostility also. I remember clearly that the people living round Derby, which is quite close to the Black Rocks area, were bitterly opposed to the idea of their town being shifted a distance of, I think the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said, 14 miles. The tragedy was that instead of this development going ahead and costing only £1,000,000, as was envisaged then, the whole idea was dropped. If the work had gone on, we should have a deep water port at Point Torment to-day. Unquestionably more work would have been done on the harbour at Wyndham and some work would have been done on the Ord River. Since then, unfortunately, there has been a great deal of bickering. One government has criticized the other, and individuals have been talking about Western Australia having been completely ignored and so forth.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) talked about services. Speaking as a Western Australian, I am always sorry to recall that a Western Australian government refused to allow
Trans-Australia Airlines to move into the State. At present, flights by T.AA terminate at Perth and there are but few air services for the north-west of the State. If honorable members will look for a moment at a map of Queensland, a State which allowed T.A.A. to move in and then gave similar permission to Australian National Airways, its competitor, they will see that the map is covered by lines indicating a network of air service. When a State encourages the development of services in that way, people are encouraged to invest money in projects there. I believe it was tragic that in the late 1940’s the Western Australia Government refused to give T.A.A. permission to move into the States.
But be that as it may. We have now reached the stage when this Government is making available to the Western Australia Government £2,500,000 over a period of five years for expenditure on certain projects in the north-west of the State. I learn from the Western Australia press that the projects are those that were suggested in 1952. I hope that now we shall have no more of the bickering that has gone on. I recall that on one occasion - I think it was in 1952 - the present Premier of Western Australia went on record as saying that the achievements of the State government then in office were based on plans prepared by its predecessor, a Labour government. This plan was one put forward by the predecessor of the present State Labour Government.
It was said that, after the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) had introduced this legislation and had said that it was the prerogative of the States to do works of this kind - undoubtedly he was thinking of the federal system - the State Premier rushed into print with a query about how many times the Treasurer had been to the north-west of Western Australia. The same question could be asked of the Premier. How many times has he visited that part of the State? I recall, and no doubt so do many other honorable members, particularly the honorable member for the Northern Territory, that not very long ago the Western Australia Government held up the development of the air-beef scheme at Glenroy by refusing to pay a subsidy, although it knew full well that any Commonwealth subsidy depended upon a subsidy from the State. Therefore, it is illogical for the State Government to condemn the Commonwealth for not making money available to the State immediately.
Last week the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) raised the question of roads in the north-west of Western Australia. Admittedly there are not so many roads in the north-west as there are in the southern part of the State, but I remind the honorable member for Stirling, and other honorable members opposite, that in the days of the Chifley Government the then Minister for Works, Mr. Nelson Lemmon, a Western Australian, had quite a job to get some money appropriated for the opening up of roads in the north-west of Western Australia to help the cattle industry. At that time I asked about the air-beef scheme, but the Minister tried to prove that the scheme would not be a success. As the honorable member for the Northern Territory said, for a period of years this Government has paid subsidies on shipping to help the development of the Northern Territory. I am glad to be able to say that very shortly a radio-telephone service to Derby will be opened to help the people of that area.
The north-west of Western Australia is an area with a great potentiality - how great I do not think anybody really knows. One of the jobs that the Commonwealth is doing at present is making a survey, in conjunction with the Lands Department of Western Australia, of the whole of the area. Recently I received a letter from the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) in which he said that -
Surveys of the Wyndham area, which extend into the Kimberleys, have been carried out by the Royal Australian Survey Corps. The work, which will continue this year, meets an Army requirement as well as a priority need of the Bureau of Mineral Resources for base maps of the area. . . As the survey forms part of the routine programme of mapping now being undertaken throughout Australia and New Guinea by the Survey Corps, detailed costs are not available. . . On completion of the survey, the Lands Department will be supplied with complete details of the survey work carried out by the Survey Corps for incorporation on Lands Department plans.
I think it will be found from this survey that this is an area with a very great potential, but do not let us delude ourselves that it can be brought into production immediately merely by the stroke of a pen. One of the difficulties, particularly in the Fitzroy basin - I join issue here with the honorable member for Fremantle - is that there are not many gorges that are capable of being dammed. That is one of the unfortunate features of the topography of the country. Admittedly there is a gorge of that kind on the Ord River, and I hope that the construction of a dam there will be commenced in the very near future.
The development of the north-west of Western Australia poses a very big problem. I have a personal friend who went to that area doing a job for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, a man accustomed to dealing with all the pests imaginable associated with agriculture, but he intimated to me that he knew of no comparable area in which so many problems had to be faced. He informed me that the experimental crops sown there were not only wire-netted around their perimeter, but also covered on top to keep out the flying pests that inhabit the area.
In conjunction with any agricultural pursuits that may be followed there, mining and cattle will be the main industries for a long period.
– What is mined mainly in that area?
– We do not really know what minerals are there because we have not had a completely satisfactory survey of the whole area. One meets prospectors who say, “ We have everything here that the world wants “. I do not know whether there is bauxite, but there are tantalite, manganese, iron, gold, and various other kinds of minerals. Many of the old prospectors say, “ I can take you to the spot “, but they never seem to get a grubstake, as they call it, to return to that spot. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful country and I support the suggestion of the honorable member for the Northern Territory that those who have not seen the district should visit it.
The move now made by the Commonwealth Government is the first step in assisting the development of the area which is of immense defence value to this country. To-day, I addressed a question to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) concerning the reported establishment of a naval base in the Red Sea area, supposedly supported by Soviet Russia, either in the building, or assisting in the building, of the base. It is reported that the whole of the Indian Ocean can be watched from that base.
I have stated many times that we have more than 100,000,000 tons of better than 60 per cent, of iron ore at Yampi Sound above high-water mark. Apart from the development of the north-west of Western Australia, which could be a great area for the production of foodstuffs - quite rightly the honorable member for the Northern Territory stated that in the early stages an export market would be necessary - some protection must be afforded the producers in the area to encourage them to export their goods, particularly should a state of emergency arise. Along with the task of developing this area, thought must be given to the establishment of a naval base on the western seaboard. Unfortunately, we have not very many deep-water ports there. A distance of 4,350 miles separates Wyndham from Eucla, and I am not one who says that an establishment should be here or there, because to do so immediately weakens one’s argument. The people of Australia, however, should give attention to the question of providing a naval base on the west coast. I am not suggesting an establishment of the size of Cockatoo Dock in Sydney, Singapore, Trincomalee, or other large bases throughout the world. A similar establishment may ultimately be necessary, but in the first instance some docking facilities that could be associated with our present trade, as well as catering for the extra trade that will follow, should be available. The managers of the Blue Funnel line have stated that they will bring their ships into the ports that we propose to develop. The question of the development of the coastline in this way must be considered side by side with the question of the development of the whole area.
We in Western Australia must face up to the problem of developing one-third of the Commonwealth with a particularly low population. I have always held the view - and I still subscribe to it - that if a proper federal system is to operate in the future, there is ample room for the north-west of Western Australia to be classified as a new State. If that proposal were considered, there is no time like the present to hold a plebiscite of the residents with a view to ascertaining whether they prefer to remain under the control of the Western Australian Government or to come under the wing of the Commonwealth Government. If they decide to take the latter course, it would then become the bounden responsibility of every taxpayer in the Commonwealth to make some contribution towards the development of the north-west of Western Australia. However, if the people in that part of the State elect to remain under the control of the State Government, constitutional arguments will continue to arise as to whether the Commonwealth should meet the cost of projects emanating from residents in that part of the continent. As the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) stated, any such arguments can be overcome by the application of section 96 of the Constitution. One of the greatest factors in the discussions that have taken place on this subject - I do not blame any government for using these arguments - is that when people in the particular area start to argue among themselves as to the merits or demerits of any proposed project, the Commonwealth Government says that no money will be made available until the arguments are resolved.
If the people, as a result of the plebiscite, decide to remain under the control of the Western Australian Government, that Government will then be responsible for the establishment of an administration in the area in the vicinity of Derby or Broome. However, to administer an area some 1,600 miles distant and to wait for mails to travel backwards and forwards from the capital, disheartens people to the extent that they do not care whether they continue with the job or not.
Turning to the question of taxation, suggestions have been made repeatedly that the Commonwealth should declare a taxfree area for the north-west of Western Australia. I am not opposed to that suggestion if it is practicable, but I should hate to be a party to some temporary expedient and then find, when the State gets on its feet and its development is proceeding satisfactorily, that the action taken has been ultra vires the Constitution and that taxes, perhaps, applied retrospectively, have to be paid. The suggestion even has been made that the zone allowance to persons in specified areas is constitutionally doubtful. The sooner the relevant legislation is challenged - I do not know by whom it will be challenged - and put on a proper footing, the better it will be, not only for the residents of those areas but also for the Commonwealth Government.
As stated by the honorable member for Fremantle, the Kimberley area has been the victim of tragic neglect since the end of the war as a result of the alleged problems posed by the Constitution. The issue has been dodged by successive governments. I hope this legislation is the forerunner of further legislation which will make additional sums available for the development of the north-west of Western Australia. I hope the State Government - irrespective of its political affiliations - and the Commonwealth Government will cease this bickering, get down to tin tacks and tackle the job as it should be tackled.
Several ways of doing that are available. Under section 96 of the Constitution the Commonwealth may make money available. If the people of that area decide by plebiscite to remain under the control of the Western Australian Government, an administrative centre should be set up in the northwest so that the residents of that area may feel that they have some close association with the people who run their public affairs.
Exploration for oil has been mentioned in this debate. I only hope that oil is found in the north-west of Western Australia. The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) said that many more holes should be drilled in exploring for oil than the few already drilled - I think the number he mentioned was twenty, but I do not wish any honorable member to hold me to the exact figure. It is very easy to say those things, Mr. Speaker, but it is very difficult to put such utterances into effect, because it costs a great deal of money to drill for oil. My information is that West Australian Petroleum Proprietary Limited, in association with the Caltex company, has spent about £13,000,000 in the area already. Perhaps one of the tragedies is that oil was struck with the first hole. I know that many people who hold oil leases in the area cannot undertake the job of drilling for oil at such high cost. I have been told that some will not bother to prospect for oil in that area under the law as amended in 1954 and 1955.
If we intend just to sit back and wait for oil to gush forth from the ground, we may have to wait for a very long time indeed. If we want oil, we must explore for it, but who will do the job? This Government has supported private oil surveys made in the search for oil, and has had the Bureau of Mineral Resources undertake all kinds of surveys in the north-west of Western Australia. At one stage, it even helped in the provision of some machinery, and I understand that it now proposes to subsidize oil exploration to a degree. We cannot afford to sit back and do nothing but criticize because more rapid progress is not being made. I do not think that, with a population of only 9,000,000, we can rush ahead madly in the search for oil, as some other countries have been able to do, much as I should like oil to be discovered, particularly in Western Australia.
I support the bill, Mr. Speaker, and repeat that I hope this is the beginning of the end of all the bickering that has gone on between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments. I trust that this measure will be the forerunner of further assistance provided by the Commonwealth under section 96 of the Australian Constitution in order to promote the development of Western Australia, and of the north-west, if the people there wish the region to remain part of the State.
.- I think it was Toby Barton who gave to the Australian people the unifying call, “ One people, one flag, one destiny “. Because I believe that the progress and development of Australia are indissolubly bound up with the need for all Australians to march together united to their destiny of nationhood, I rise to support this bill, and to make a few comments upon it. The matter with which this measure deals goes beyond State boundaries. It is a question for every Australian, and all patriotic Australians will acclaim any proposal to develop our sparsely populated areas. Here is a challenge to the people of Australia, to governments, and especially to everybody interested in the expansion of Australia’s economy, and in our country’s security. We shall not solve these problems merely by saying that we should have a new State here or a new State there. That sort of expression of views will not solve our problems. First, we must develop Australia. We must give full play to worthwhile creative forces in order to bring people into our sparsely populated areas so that we may be able to progress in a way that will be worthy of the grand example set by our pioneers.
When I think of the development that has taken place in this country in 170 years - and especially the development of the first 100 years of our history - I sometimes wonder whether, with all our resources, our expanding economy, and all the advantages that we have to-day, we are doing all that we ought to be doing to meet the challenge presented by the problem of the development of Australia. Unfortunately, here and there, we hear expressed a fear that we want to do too much. My complaint is that we are not doing enough. We are not facing our responsibilities as realistically as we should face them, and the proposal embodied in this measure to provide £2,500,000 over five years for the development of the north-west of Western Australia is hardly likely to achieve all the things that people with broad vision would expect to see achieved in these times. When one thinks of the Commonwealth Budget, the national income, the total resources of the nation, and the new means of development being provided in these modern times, the expenditure of £2,500,000 over five years does not seem likely to do what the idealists would expect to be done. Nevertheless, I welcome the measure, because it will help to promote the development of Australia generally.
May I, at this stage, make this observation: The Commonwealth has responsibility for the development of the Northern Territory, and development of the north-west of Western Australia must be undertaken in order to maintain harmony with the development that should occur in the Northern Territory. I can hardly believe that we shall be able to develop the Northern Territory as it should be developed unless adequate ports are provided in the north-west of Western Australia. All these challenging problems come before the Parliament at this time, and I suggest that the mere granting of £2,500,000 over five years will not even bring us to grips with the real problem. We should go far beyond that. I have no fault to find with the granting of specific aid to Western Australia, under section 96 of the Australian Constitution, for development in that State, but I think that we ought to adopt the principle applied to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, in this country, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, in the United States of America. We should decide on a project, finance it completely, and get on with the job in a realistic manner, as has been done with respect to the Snowy Mountains scheme. If we did this, we should take up our responsibilities in a worth-while way.
The kind of development best suited to a particular -area will need close examination, but it is beyond doubt that the first need in the north-west of Australia is for better transport by both road and sea, and especially, wherever possible, for adequate railways. Ports should be provided on the harbours, and there should be adequate facilities for the movement of capital goods from other parts of Australia to the northwest in order to develop it. The suggestion that a new state in the area would accomplish all that is required is not worthy of consideration at the present time. Criticism has been expressed on the ground that AirBeef Proprietary Limited has not been given sufficient financial help by the Western Australian Government, but that Government faces very great problems in administering a State with vast sparsely populated areas, and in developing such areas properly. I agree with the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) that we should be able to keep a debate on a national issue such as this free from the expression of petty party anti-State views, and concentrate on particular principles of national planning. Due consideration should be given to the fact that the Western Australian Government faces a considerable problem in maintaining the Wyndham meatworks, which is vital to the cattle industry of the northwest. Unfortunately, only too often in debates such as this, those who participate are more concerned about scoring party political points than about discharging their responsibility to consider these issues from the national stand-point.
The question of affording relief from taxation to people in the north-west of
Western Australia should be seriously considered by all honorable members. I agree with the views of those honorable members who have said that, if it is right for the people of Papua and New Guinea to be tax-free, it is only reasonable that the residents of the north-west of Western Australia should be treated similarly. The fact that this legislation has flowed from an examination of the area concerned by an all-party committee makes it worthy of the consideration of the whole House. The question of taxation is important. Various views may be advanced in relation to the granting of taxation relief. Although I do not believe that the granting of such relief is the complete answer to the problem, it may assist by providing an incentive to people to go to the north-west of Australia to develop it. 1 am of the opinion that, after we get on with the essential task of providing means of communication, the best means of developing this area consists in the expansion of mining activities. Throughout Australia, the greatest development in the past has flowed from the finding of rich mineral deposits. If support were given to the pioneering kind of prospector who is prepared to carry pick, billy-can and swag, I believe that rich mineral deposits would be discovered. The great development that has occurred in the Mount Isa and Mary Kathleen areas of Queensland is typical of the development that could follow rich mineral strikes elsewhere. That is what happened at Broken Hill and in the gold mining areas of Victoria and in my own electorate. Populous communities were developed, and other forms of industry were established when mining ceased.
We should go out of our way to encourage to the fullest possible extent the development of mining in the north-west of Western Australia. By assisting the pioneering kind of person who is prepared to go to that region, we are honouring our obligation to the pioneers who are already there and in turn are assisting the people of the Northern Territory, because the greater the development of those parts of Australia the greater will be the liaison, co-operation and team work of the people who live there.
As we increase our population in those parts, it will be necessary to establish the kind of self-government that has been so vigorously espoused in this chamber by honorable members and which was referred to earlier to-day by the honorable member for Canning and more directly by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who referred pertinently to the question of local self-government. 1 agree with the statement of the honorable member for the Northern Territory that, if we are to accept events in the Northern Territory in recent days as being an indication of the kind of self-government that will be extended to the people in the north-west of Australia, the future of those people is blighted before it really begins. I appeal to the Government to extend the most generous measure of local self-government to the people of Australia instead of making statements, through the Prime Minister, about the great dangers of the centralization of power in Canberra. Precisely what form that self-government should take would have to be worked out carefully, but the people of Australia deserve the greatest encouragement to carry on with the challenging task of developing this country to make it secure for the future.
I support the bill and commend it to honorable members. My criticism of it is that, first, it does not go far enough. The provision of £2,500,000 over a period of five years is not likely to do what ought to be done in the development of Australia. Furthermore, some specific work ought to be undertaken. As I said before, something like the Snowy Mountains project ought to be undertaken. Money ought to be provided for projects on rivers like the Ord and Fitzroy rivers, and means of communication between the Northern Territory and the north-west of Western Australia ought to be established in order to develop this area in such a way that its future will be assured. Having made what I hope are constructive suggestions, I am very pleased to support the bill. I hope that it is the forerunner of similar measures.
.- Let me say how delightfully refreshing it has been this afternoon to hear an honorable member from an eastern State of this continent speak in support of a measure that concerns Western Australia and which is peculiar to the requirements of that State.
– He would make a good Treasurer.
Mr. LESLIE__ The honorable member for Mallee says that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), who is the honorable member to whom I referred, would make a good Treasurer. I can only hope that if, in the distant future, he occupies that important portfolio, he will show the same generosity that he has shown to-day as a member of the Opposition - a status that he is likely to retain for a very long time.
– That was really my point.
– I repeat that it was delightful to hear an honorable member from an eastern State speak in favour of something that concerns the people of Western Australia, and to note the tone of his remarks when he said that the development of the north-west of Western Australia was a challenge to the people of Australia as a whole. This is the first time that we have heard such a remark from other than honorable members who represent Western Australia in this Parliament, members of the Western Australian Parliament, or other Western Australians. Usually we hear a different story and are left to paddle our own canoe as much as possible.
The honorable member for Macquarie used a call that I have heard frequently in this chamber and in other places - one people, one destiny. That is an admirable approach; indeed, it is the one principle upon which this nation is supposed to be founded. We frequently hear the phrase used by Victorians and New South Welshmen; but the Victorians say, in effect, “ We are the people and the destiny before us is your destiny, too, whether you like it or not “. And the New South Welshmen say the same. But when we humble Western Australians, who are in the minority in this place, rise and advocate what we think should be the real national outlook of members of this Parliament and of people on the eastern seaboard, we hear the cry, “ Be national in your outlook “. We from Western Australia, like the honorable member for Macquarie, suggest that being one people we should have one destiny, and that we should not limit our outlook to that part of the continent which we represent.
I compliment the honorable member for having taken the bit between his teeth on this occasion. I do not know whether he will have to account to the electors of Macquarie for what he has said, but, if he has to do so, I am prepared to go with him and, whether he is a good or a bad fellow, say that at least on this rare occasion he has done the right thing.
– Is not the honorable member a secessionist?
– The honorable member mentions secession. The Commonwealth went to some trouble to kill the move for secession when it was made previously, but I am not so sure that it would meet with the same success if the question were raised now. The people of Western Australia have not forgotten about secession such a move would be very good for us. If Western Australia re-introduced this question - and it would likely be successful, as it nearly was before - I have no doubt that the whole of the resources of the Commonwealth, be they financial or legal, would again be thrown against the State, with its comparatively small population, to compel it to remain a member of the federation. We are constantly reminded that we must be national in our outlook, although people on the eastern side of the continent refuse to be national in their outlook.
The honorable member for Macquarie said that he felt that the grant made in this bill would be disappointing to the idealist, when considering what is required for the development of the North-West. I agree with him, but I am not so much concerned with the view of the idealist on this occasion; in common with other Western Australian members of the Parliament, I bring my view down to the practical level. We say that the grant of £2,500,000, spread over five years, is an attempt to meet some of the existing practical demands. I hope that ultimately further grants will be made so that the wishes of the idealist may be met. Naturally, the idealist is disappointed when he sees that only part of his objectives will be met. He is satisfied only when he sees that all his objectives have been reached.
I want to refer to a comment made by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), who told us about the discussions that took place at the time of federation when section 96 of the Constitution was being drafted. The question then being considered was whether the Commonwealth would be empowered to make grants to the States, and the honorable member told us about the objections raised by the States. However, he omitted to say that the States objected because they did not visualize that the Commonwealth would have the control of financial resources that it has to-day and that the responsibility of the States would be limited - or extended, if that expression is preferred - only to the spending of the money. I am certain that if the present position had been visualized when the Constitution was being framed, the States would have been willing to give the Commonwealth most sweeping powers to make grants to the States, so that, as the Commonwealth would be responsible for finding the money and the States responsible only for spending it, each State would be left to obtain as much as it could from the Commonwealth. At the time the Constitution was drafted, the States anticipated that the most important of the sovereign powers - the raising of money - would rest in thenhands. That is the only reason they were not willing to accept, readily anyhow, the suggestion that the Commonwealth should have the power given to it by section 96 of the Constitution.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension for dinner, 1 referred to the remarks made by some speakers earlier in this debate, and I think that some of the points that were raised by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) have been dealt with.
I should like now to try to put the record straight with reference to the granting of money by this Government for the development of the northern part of Western Australia. The Government has granted to Western Australia £2,500,000, over a period of five years, for developmental undertakings in the north-west of that State connected with projects that have been, or will be, submitted to this Government for approval. In introducing this measure, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said that the Government had before it the views of an all-party delegation from the Western Australian Parliament, and of Western Australian members and senators in this Parliament. The Treasurer said that these representatives directed attention to the special difficulties involved in the northern area of Western Australia, and particularly to the financial problems involved.
Although representations have been made over the years to Commonwealth governments of various political shades regarding the development of the north-west of Western Australia, it was not until representations were submitted by the all-party delegation that this grant was made. That all-party delegation, in my view, played a major part in causing this Government to make history by providing a straight-out grant for Western Australia. It is well, perhaps, that the activities of that all-party committee should be recorded and made known. A good many of its members, who came from the southern and south-western parts of the State, visited the north-west and investigated at first-hand, as far as they could, the problems associated with the development of that area. The members of the delegation who brought back much valuable material were Australian Country party members of the Western Australian Parliament. Mr. J. H. Ackland, the honorable member for Moore in the Western Australian Parliament, suggested that an all-party committee from both Houses should prepare and present a case to the Commonwealth Government for assistance to develop the north-west of Western Australia. Mr. Ackland represents a State electorate in my division which has the good fortune to bear the same name as my division - the electorate of Moore. He is an enterprising man, as is the federal representative for Moore.
– Do not introduce party politics into a non-party matter.
– I am not introducing party politics. The honorable member himself cannot discuss any question without allowing politics to influence him. He can be excused in this case, because he was not in the chamber when I said that I wanted to place on record the sequence of events that led up to this historic grant from the Commonwealth.
The motion submitted by Mr. Ackland was debated at length. It found criticism in patches and support in patches, as do all questions submitted in parliament. It received the blessing of the State government and, after being amended in certain particulars, it was sent to the Legislative Council, where it was supported. As a consequence, a case was prepared and submitted to the Commonwealth Government.
– When was that done?
– Not very long ago. I believe that it was the first time that concrete proposals were submitted to the Commonwealth Government for the development of the north-western sector of Western Australia. Many people, as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) pointed out, are inclined to talk in generalities, not only in connexion with this area, but in connexion with other areas. They have nebulous ideas of what should be done to develop many districts. In this case firm and definite proposals were submitted to alleviate Western Australia’s dire position. In addition, the representations of the State Parliament were supported by members of the development committee for this northern area, the chairman of which happens to bear the same name as myself. The members of that committee have worked hard to secure financial assistance from the Commonwealth to develop the north-west of the State. The request of this well-led and representative committee, based on definite and specific proposals, achieved the success that I have always suggested they could and would achieve if they were presented to a sympathetic government in a specific and definite form. The Government has responded, after considering very carefully - perhaps at some length - the requests and submissions that were made. I am not going to join in the argument as to whether or not the Government has provided enough. This is neither the time nor the place for that. I think the honorable member for Fremantle said this afternoon that at no time is sufficient ever provided when one is seeking something. One can always ask for more, like Oliver Twist. The important thing is that there should be sufficient with which to make a start, so that the work may go ahead.
It is now up to the State to show how wisely it can use this money, to inspire confidence in its capacity to gain the maximum benefit from its expenditure. If the money is wisely expended on sound projects, not necessarily those that will give an immediate commercial return - and I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle that that should not be the criterion in this case - I have no doubt that this grant will prove to be merely the first instalment of a substantial amount to be made available by this Government, which will remain in office a very long time. Therefore, we in the West are greatly encouraged to go ahead with our plans and proposals for the development of our vast State.
– What do you do with all the money we give you?
– If the honorable member cares to visit Western Australia he will appreciate the vastness of that State. I suggest that he consider the needs of that huge part of the continent and compare them with those of the postage stamp electorate in Sydney which he represents. I daresay that he could walk around his electorate in half a day. If he compares the requirements of such a small area with those of a vast State like Western Australia, I am certain he will be wholeheartedly with me next time I rise in this place to ask for assistance from the Government.
Let me say this to the Government and to honorable members, particularly those from the Eastern States: The people of Western Australia believe that Australia to-day stands on the threshold of the greatest period of progressive development in its history. We think that that progress has only just commenced. Western Australian representatives in this Parliament continually press for consideration of the particular requirements of the State from which they come because they are ever mindful of the years when Western Australia wandered in the wilderness, as it were, so far as the Commonwealth was concerned. We are anxious to take part in the rapid, sound, progressive development which is undoubtedly ahead of most parts of Australia. It is up to the Commonwealth Government, which holds the purse strings, to ensure that we shall have such a share in the opportunities that are available now and which may not occur again as readily as they do to-day. There is tremendous confidence in this nation at the present time, and the people of Western Australia want to benefit from that confidence. They want to get in on the ground floor. It may be true that those of us who represent Western Australia in this place have been rather clamorous in respect of Western Australia’s needs, but that has not been due to a purely parochial outlook. It has to be borne in mind that Western Australia is represented in this Parliament by a very small minority.
– What more does the honorable member want?
– I remind the honorable member that Western Australia has advanced to the stage that it has now reached in spite of the fact that it has federated with the other States, not because of it. We Western Australians are numerically weak, but the State covers a huge area. Despite its size, Western Australia enjoys do greater parliamentary representation in the federal sphere than do some of the suburbs of the two huge cities on this side of the continent.
I remind honorable members that history shows that it has been the small, clamorous minority which ultimately has won through. I can see that happening here, too. If there are in this place honorable members who think that I am looking too far ahead, and who cannot see Western Australia playing an important part in the industrial development of the Commonwealth, then I say that their failure to see the picture in its true perspective is due, not to their distance from it, but to their lack of mental capacity.
– Western Australia still has grasshoppers!
– Yes, and I suggest that the honorable member, galah that he is, might do well to come across to the west and feed on the grasshoppers. There is food for him there in abundance.
In conclusion, I want to say “Thank you “ to the Government for what it has done. I congratulate it on having established a precedent and on having been responsible for an historic event for which it will be remembered. I hope that this grant will be merely the beginning of big things for which this Government will go down in history. It has tackled a problem which has been neglected by so many governments, of various political colours, in the past. At last, Western Australians are being encouraged by the knowledge that the central Government, the Commonwealth Government, the Government that holds the purse strings and which has so much power and exercises so much control, recognizes that it has a responsibility in regard to the development of a portion of a State which il is beyond the financial capacity of that State to develop. Small though this assistance is, we accept it with gratitude and hold’ out our hands for more. We believe with confidence that, as a result of what we shall do with this money, we shall become entitled to receive more in the not-far-distant future.
.- I always enjoy following the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie). I do not know whether 1 can explain why that is so, but perhaps it is because he is an honorable member who usually has demands to make for his State, demands which are sometimes quite fantastic and at other times quite reasonable. Whatever we may think about him, we must give him credit for fighting for his State. In fact, he does that to ‘such a degree that at times I am convinced that in his own heart he is a secessionist. We have often taunted him with that, by way of interjection, and he has “ come in “ every time. I feel that to-night in this Parliament we have witnessed the conversion of a secessionist. But it took £2,500,000 to convert him. This is the first occasion on which I have heard him speak in a national strain. Generally, he starts his remarks with Western Australia and finishes them with Western Australia, but to-night, to his everlasting credit, he even spoke of the need for a national outlook. As I have said, however, it took £2,500,000 to bring him to that point.
The honorable member for Moore really is a State-righter, but he is a pleasant State-righter. He has a pleasant personality. Some State-righters are very hard to get on with and to talk with, but not the honorable member for Moore. After 57 years of the Commonwealth, I do not think we should be State-righters We must fight for our States, of course, but not to the degree that it blinds our eyes or limits our thoughts in regard to the development of Australia as a nation. We had enough of State-righters up to 1901. The honorable member for Moore has always seemed to me to be a typical, old-time State-righter.
– The honorable member never mentions Tasmania, does he?
– I have not mentioned it yet, but I am about to do so now. As a Tasmanian, living 2,000 miles away from the north-western part of Australia, I wish to join forces with all those who say that this bill is a good one, that it is necessary, and that the finance it proposes to provide is absolutely vital to Western Australia. If some such assistance were not provided, Western Australia might drop out of the federation entirely. Therefore, we rejoice with the honorable members from the west in thinking that, at last, their demands have been met, although perhaps not to the degree that they wish to see. The provision of £2,500,000, spread over five years, is the best straight-out gift that has ever been given, to my knowledge, to any individual State.
There are, of course, certain qualifications, which I want to enumerate, attached to this gift. After reading the conditions laid down by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) when introducing this bill, I wonder, sometimes, just how the Western Australian Government will get round them. They are somewhat formidable as they are stated. The Treasurer said that the bill provides for the payment to Western Australia of £2,500,000 over a period of five years commencing on 1st July, 1958, in relation to approved developmental projects in the north-west corner of that vast State. The timing of individual payments will be determined by the Treasurer. He will not stay out of the picture completely. I remind the honorable member for Moore that the Treasurer will still be grimly there, situated at Canberra. He will say what payments shall be made. These payments will be determined by him on the basis of certificates by the State Auditor-General as to expenditure by the State in connexion with approved projects. The Treasurer said -
Approved developmental projects for the purposes of the scheme as defined in the bill are projects, submitted by the State to the Commonwealth, which the Treasurer is satisfied will contribute to the development of the northern area of Western Australia and could not reasonably be expected to be carried out during the five-year period without the grant of special financial assistance by the Commonwealth.
The Treasurer further stated -
The Commonwealth’s role will be restricted to ensuring that the assistance provided under the scheme results in new and additional development and mark this statement - and not merely in a substitution of Commonwealth for State expenditure on projects which the State would have undertaken in the normal course of events.
Therefore, there is a condition attached to this grant. I hope that the Treasurer - particularly the new Treasurer, who will have most of the work to do because the present Treasurer is retiring from office with an unbeaten record as, no doubt, he will claim - will carry out the purpose of this measure. All States will welcome this bill and support it. Anything that is done on a national level in any State to benefit Australia as a whole will receive their approval. We should all fight for our own State development as a means of developing a strong Commonwealth. Any benefit to one State is eventually a benefit to all. We feel that the development of Australia has to be done piecemeal, State by State, especially this concentrated type of development.
This bill will promote a concentrated attack on the problem of development in this vast area north of the twentieth parallel. It will be pinpointed on an isolated part of the State about which most of us would know only the history of Marble Bar, the hottest place in Australia. No doubt, many of us have read that during the summer months Marble Bar has a temperature of about 120 degrees in the shade.
Various honorable members from Western Australia have pointed out the value of spending some of this grant on the development of mining, the development of the Ord River valley, irrigation, the production of new crops of a tropical nature such as cotton and rice in the agricultural development of this area, and in other directions. This grant is to be spent at an average yearly rate of £500,000 for five years. The area under consideration will thus be brought right into the sphere of the Federal Parliament for the first time in the 57 years of federation. That is a good thing for those people living away out there in an isolated part, far away from the benefits of civilization as we southerners know them.
I emphasize that finance is the life blood of a nation. However much we may talk about the development of any State, it is obvious that unless finance is available there will be no development. We can talk about a scheme and blue-print it, but the life-blood of finance must be available to carry it out and, as it were, put flesh on the dry bones. The proposal in this bill illustrates that fact. The sum of £2,500,000 is a lot of money to be spent on one small area of Australia, but this inflow of capital is necessary; otherwise that area in another 50 years will remain as it is to-day. Without finance nothing will move towards progress anywhere, in any nation; without finance little can be done, but with it vast projects can be undertaken.
Who would have thought a few years ago that in the highlands of southern New South Wales a £200,000,000 project, one of the largest in the world, would be well under way to-day? I refer to the great Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, that mighty undertaking for the conversion of water to power. A few years ago it seemed as if such a scheme was not even thought of, but to-day it is an actuality on which £80,000,000 has already been spent. Finance has been used to transform that area of wilderness and mountains, and to harness for the benefit of mankind streams which previously were running to waste.
– Thanks to a Labour government.
– Yes, thanks to a Labour government. Many honorable members on the Government side who are now present, boycotted the inauguration of that great scheme.
– Only two of them attended.
– That is so; they were the late Senator George Rankin when he was a member of this House and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). Honorable members opposite who were then in Opposition were invited to the opening of that great scheme but they refused to attend. To-day as Government supporters, they talk about what this Government has done in promoting the Snowy Mountains project.
– What about defence?
– The next advantage which this grant will provide is a means of establishing defence posts on the northwestern coast. The Western Australian coast is a blind area so far as defence is concerned. When the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) was speaking this afternoon, he pointed out the need for defence along the Western Australian coastline. 1 feel that great advantages would accrue from this. If an enemy were to attack Australia he would probably come from the north.
The honorable member for Fremantle referred also to the value of encouraging the development of mining. Honorable members agree with the statement of the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) this afternoon that there must be minerals in the north-west of Western Australia not yet discovered. If prospectors can be assisted by finance under this scheme, they will probably achieve valuable results. It has been said that about five minerals are being mined in Western Australia at the present time, all economically. They are copper, gold, iron, lead and tin. When this scheme gets under way and part of the grant is applied to mining five more important minerals may be found in this area.
The Canadian Government’s plan to boost mining is the best I know of in the world - certainly the best that I have read about. This afternoon the honorable member for Fremantle pointed out that in Canada a prospector or a mining company finding a mineral and working it is exempt from income tax for the first three years of development of the mine. There could scarcely be a simpler or more effective way in which a government could assist mining. Imagine the impetus that would be given to mining throughout Australia if the Commonwealth Government generously exempted all mining companies or individual miners from tax for the first three years after they had discovered and commenced to work a mineral deposit.
– What about doing that for Mount Isa?
– The mineral deposits at Mount Isa were discovered a long time ago and the industry there has been developing ever since. It plays a vital part in our country’s economy at the moment. T am speaking now of new discoveries and their future development. I commend the Canadian scheme to the Government. Should the Government be defeated at the next election - which all honorable mem.bers on this side sincerely hope will be the case - the Labour government would give serious consideration to a scheme, such as the Canadian scheme, for the encouragement of mining throughout Australia. It would represent practical politics to the prospectors and the mining companies if they were granted tax concessions for three years. This would be a practical form of help to the great mining industry. One honorable member raised a new point. He referred to the creation of a new State in this part of Western Australia. Let me say frankly now that I am not a believer in any more new States in the Commonwealth.
– I am strongly opposed to the creation of new States for the simple reason that this country is already grossly overburdened with politicians. I am certain that the cost of government per capita is as great in Australia as it is in any country in the world. To my way of thinking, to talk of establishing new States with all their machinery of government, no matter how good these schemes may look in blue-print form, is to advocate overburdening Australia with costs of government.
After all, what need is there for a new State in this part of Western Australia when the Commonwealth Government in Canberra makes a special interest-free grant of £2,500,000 for the development of the area? To make the area a new State would not be as beneficial as that.
Reference has been made to the representations put forward for help for this part of Western Australia. Let me outline how the scheme developed. The honorable member for Moore has mentioned it already. This grant is the result of representations made by representatives of areas of Western Australia to the government concerned, and I commend the Western Australians for the manner in which they conducted their campaign. The representations were submitted by what I suppose would be the biggest pressure group ever seen in Canberra, if it was in Canberra that the delegates met the Prime Minister. When referring to circumstances, the Treasurer said -
In considering this matter, the Government had before it the views of the State Government and an all-party delegation from the Western Australian Parliament and all Western Australian members and senators in this Parliament.
A group consisting of such elements would be one of the most powerful pressure groups one could expect to find in any country. I favour that type of campaign. It was an all-party delegation. Party politics were completely disregarded when this group came to see the Government in connexion with this very important issue. The Liberal party, the Australian Country party and the Labour party fought together for the one objective - a grant from this Government to help an isolated part of Western Australia. I commend the members of the delegation most heartily upon achieving success far beyond their wildest hopes, especially when dealing with a Treasurer who generally replies only “ Yes “ or “ No “ when asked questions in this Parliament. The success of that delegation was an example of how democratic pressure can triumph.
Every member of this Parliament is subjected to pressure from time to time. Representations are made to us by all sorts of groups - businessmen, unionists, housewives, exporters, importers, representatives of chambers of commerce, and bankers. All these people bring pressure to bear upon members of Parliament in connexion with all kinds of subjects. Of course, we are here for that. Do not let any Df us ever refuse to meet such people; do not let any of us ever refuse to lead such delegations. We are elected to parliament for the express purpose of helping the representatives of groups in our electorates to bring their plans and projects before Parliament and the Government. In the case under review, pressure was exercised by Western Australian members of Parliament, State and Federal, with amazing success.
Let me quote one other instance of how successful this type of representation can be. We Tasmanians have often discarded all thoughts of party politics when fighting for anything big for Tasmania. One thing for which we fought hard for three years was a vehicular ferry from Melbourne to Tasmania. We all decided that something must be done about making a start with the construction of the ferry. We induced the Government to make its first vote towards the project. That money was used for the construction of the hull of a new modern ferry at Newcastle. All Tasmanian members of both Houses of Parliament, irrespective of party, met the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) in the Cabinet room in Canberra. We sat round the table, and we had the Treasurer, complete with his cigar, cornered, with the Minister for Shipping and Transport alongside him. Every one of us spoke of the need for this ferry. Every point of view was mentioned. The Treasurer was so impressed with our representations that three days later the Minister for Shipping and Transport announced that during that financial year a start would be made on the construction of the ferry. That was the climax of three years of pressure by members of Parliament from Tasmania. We won through finally because all parties made a combined approach to the Treasurer and the Minister for Shipping and Transport. That ferry will be running between Tasmania and the mainland, across the bumpy Bass Strait, by the end of 1959. That illustration, and the present legislation, provide adequate proof of how an approach by all members from a State, on a non-party basis, will often win a battle where party political prejudices lead to defeat.
I have great pleasure in supporting the measure. I should like the Government to cast its eyes round other States, and make adequate finance available for the development of various areas. Tasmania needs money, as do New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. All have problems resulting from lack of finance. For instance, we in Tasmania are spending £12,000,000 a year out of loan funds upon the development of a hydro-electric project. We have never had a grant similar to the one being made to Western Australia. This Commonwealth Government has set the pattern and whatever government may follow in the federal sphere should continue this policy, because it is what Australia needs if she is to jump right ahead of the other nations in carrying out development works.
.- I congratulate the Government and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) upon the new departure in Commonwealth legislation and the new development in CommonwealthState co-operation as exhibited in this measure.
The bill contains two important new points. At least, they are two new points to me. When I first saw the bill, I rang the Treasury and inquired whether a bill of this nature had ever been presented before. I was told that this bill is the first of its kind ever to be brought before this Parliament.
The first important point in the measure is the proposal to spread the grant over five years. This is the more important part of the bill, in my opinion, because the period mentioned will enable the project to be completed. At the moment, no matter through what State we travel, we find projects half finished or one quarter finished. Projects have been started and then, because of the need for annual State budgets, or because of change of government, those works have not been completed. In my view, this has been a real curse to Australia. I am certain that it has led to an enormous waste of time, money, energy and enthusiasm. The measure under discussion is a wonderful step forward. By spreading the grant over five years, we are ensuring that the project will be completed because, under this provision, everyone will know where he stands.
I had a very interesting experience when I became Treasurer in 1923. During the war, because of the fact that neither money nor staff was available, the Postal Department had retrogressed badly. Sir Harry Brown, whom we consulted and ultimately made the head of the Postal Department, said that if we could give him £25,000,000, spread over five years, he would be able to put the department on its feet. He said that in the first year he would spend £3,000,000 in getting material and staff; in the next year he would spend £8,000,000, and then diminishing figures in subsequent years until the whole £25,000,000 had been spent. People in the Postal Department tell me now that the foundation that was laid by Sir Harry Brown in making certain that any major project that was started was also finished is the basis of the whole structure at the present time. One invaluable feature of this bill is that it gives this element of security.
I think that the second point is very important because it introduces quite a new principle into Commonwealth legislation. It is that the Commonwealth Treasurer will approve projects only if he is satisfied that they will contribute to development and could not reasonably be expected to be carried out during the prescribed period by the State itself. It seems to me that that is a most important step forward. The making available of the whole of this money for long-term development which will take at least five years means that we shall get somewhere in future. Under this bill we shall achieve something that I have been trying to establish for nearly 40 years. We shall achieve a system of priorities in respect of projects. The Federal Treasurer will be in a position to state, concerning a project, that he approves of it because it is developmental and, also, that it cannot be carried out without Commonwealth assistance. There will be a system of priority which will ensure that worthwhile undertakings will be pursued to their conclusion. They will then be ready to do their job of work and money will not be wasted on them. Money will not be spent on all sorts of side issues, as is the case at the present time.
As the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has just said, the desire to obtain money from the Commonwealth under these conditions will spread among all the States. There is no question about that. This is an arrangement which should be taken up by all States because every State has unfinished projects. The first thing that we need to do, now that we have started on this road, is to devise uniform machinery that will enable us to handle these arrangements in a satisfactory way. We need to be able to make certain that priorities are determined not merely at the whim of the Commonwealth Treasurer or of a State government, but by the unanimous agreement, if it can be obtained, of the whole of the States and of the Commonwealth.
I am sure that the passing of this legislation will be a step towards the implementation of the proposition that I put to the Parliament a month or so ago with regard to a development and defence council which would enable us to deal with these projects. The only way in which we can defend this country is by developing it. We must get the necessary population in the right places. We must make certain that we shall be able to combat disasters of flood, fire or drought. We must be able to do all the things that are necessary, not only to meet immediate disaster, but to prevent disaster from happening so that human misery and great financial loss may be obviated.
– You are always talking. You never do anything.
– I have done a great deal. I shall tell the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) exactly what I have done to bring about cooperation in the Commonwealth-State sphere. These things are still in operation. Some of them were endorsed by the people of Australia by a majority of four to one in six States despite the fact that they were opposed by the State governments of the time. Other proposals of mine have been adopted repeatedly by other governments, both of my own and other political persuasions.
Take the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. What happened? The then Leader of the Labour Opposition and some of his friends opposed my proposal. Fortunately, country Labour members did not support their leader because they knew that road construction and maintenance would make a lot of work available in country areas, and so they helped to put the measure through. Members of the Opposition may laugh now, but there were some agonized faces on the Opposition benches when the Leader of the Opposition to whom I have referred found his supporters deserting him. The Federal aid roads legislation has been reenacted time and time again. Originally the agreements were for a period of ten years, which is twice the length of time proposed in respect of the grant in the bill before the House. The only time that the period for the aid roads grants was reduced was when the Chifley Government made it three years instead of ten. I hope that the period will be restored to ten years because such a period gives some assurance of continuity for major works.
I say that the Government is to be commended on this piece of legislation. This is the way we have to undertake development in this country. Some years ago, money was given to Western Australia to help with a big water scheme. Because the amount was not sufficient and because costs went up, the construction of the scheme was delayed. If there had been a special provision to ensure its completion many thousands of pounds would have been saved. Fortunately, it is well on the way to completion at the present time.
I think it is worthwhile to-night endeavouring to ascertain what sort of organization we should have. A great many co-operative organizations have been established in the last forty years by this Parliament, each one of which is doing quite good work in its own line. It appears that in order to make a scheme succeed it is necessary to have some organization to deal with the special problems that have to be faced. By means of the Australian Loan Council we have made it possible for all States to borrow money at the same rate of interest. Before the establishment of the Loan Council one State may have been borrowing at 4 per cent, interest while another was paying 8 per cent, for its money. To-day, all States are treated alike because they borrow in the Commonwealth’s name and on the Commonwealth’s credit. We brought the Australian Agricultural Council into being for a similar purpose. Despite constitutional difficulties in regard to internal marketing and production we have achieved a central, unified policy for agriculture in relation to both home production and exports. Operating under the Agricultural Council we have a standing committee consisting of the heads of the departments of agriculture in the various States, and of the Commonwealth, as well as representatives of such organizations as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
Let us take the case of rice. It was desired that rice should be grown in three States. It was obvious that if the three of them grew rice, the price that they would get would be hopeless because the world price was poor. We induced the States to come to a gentleman’s agreement under which rice has been grown in the Mumimbidgee irrigation area and nowhere else in Australia. The same thing has happened with regard to sugar and other commodities. It has been possible to get agreements because representatives of the various governments and organizations are constantly meeting. We must have arrangements of that sort in order to get important national work done.
I ask honorable members to consider also the unification of railway gauges - another much needed reform. On this matter, the Commonwealth called a conference of all the States and found that the only States that would co-operate were New South Wales and Queensland. So the Commonwealth agreed to find the money needed to standardize the rail gauge between Sydney and Brisbane. The present Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) and his Labour predecessors can testify to the part that that standard gauge played in our war effort by enabling rapid movement north of munitions and men.
Another example is the immigration and development agreement reached between the States and the Commonwealth on the one hand and Great Britain on the other. Great Britain agreed to find £34,000,000 to lend to Australia. The Commonwealth was to find only one-third of the interest, Great Britain was to find one-half and the States one-sixth. As a result of that agreement we were able to complete the Wyangala Dam, the Dawson Valley works and all sorts of jobs, simply because we had cooperation in a specialized body dealing with priorities. The important thing about that organization, which is an important thing in any organization dealing with development generally, was the co-operation between Federal and State officials. When the Commonwealth’s emissaries went to the States to discuss the formation of the organization they found that the heads of the various State departments did not know the corresponding departmental heads in other States, because they had never met them. These men were brought together in that organization and got along famously with each other and with the Commonwealth representatives. That is what happens when we can get the various authorities together, especially if we can put all the facts on the table, at a private meeting if necessary.
T think the time has come when we should really get on with the job of development, work out exactly the class of organization we want, and make sure that we get it at the earliest possible moment, because we have already wasted many hundreds of millions of pounds through not having plans already drawn up. Now that we are spurred on by our urgent defence position, with millions of potential enemies to our north, now that we have just passed through tremendous droughts and other difficulties, now that the world prices for our primary products are falling, now, when peoples’ minds are agog with the idea of development - now is the time to make certain of getting the job done. We should take time by the hand, we should take advantage of this sympathetic attitude among the people towards development.
I heartily welcome the bill as a contribution by the Commonwealth Government to meet the needs of one of the States. Back in the 1920’s, the Bruce-Page Government made an offer to the Western Australian Government to take over the whole of Western Australia lying north of the 26th parallel, to spend £5,000,000 a year on it for five years and to guarantee that the area would become a State of the Commonwealth at the end of that period. Had Western Australia accepted that offer there would now be twenty Western Australian senators in this Parliament, and that State could have been the tail that wagged the dog in the Commonwealth Parliament. Unfortunately, acceptance of the offer was defeated by one vote in the Western Australian Upper House, although the Labour Premier, Mr. Collier, was one of the great protagonists fighting for it. Now we have another opportunity to help the States. All that is necessary is for the governments concerned to get together and work out simple and practical methods of doing the job. I hope that the present measures will be the forerunner of other measures which will put the development of Australia on a basis which will ensure that the job will be done quickly, permanently, and in such a manner that our people will be safe, and also in such a manner as to reflect credit on the whole of this Parliament.
.- The Opposition does not oppose the bill. To judge from the speeches made from this side of the House we all agree that the Government’s action in submitting this measure to us is good. The development of Australia’s north presents some really great problems. I suppose the most difficult area of all for development is the north-west of Western Australia, which several honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), have said is a most fertile area.
It is a tropical area enjoying an excellent rainfall ranging from 40 inches down to 20 inches a year. But it would appear that the area is more or less divorced from the rest of Australia in relation to transport. This fact presents enormous difficulties, which are almost insurmountable when we think of the development of the area. Those engaged in primary industry there have no opportunity of associating with the rest of Australia and taking advantage of the markets which are available in the southern part of our continent. They must look to the low-standard countries of South-East Asia for their markets, and these markets present some very great difficulties. So there is more in the development of northwestern Australia than building roads and harbours and making funds available. However, we must make a start somewhere, and I think that the bill is a very worthwhile step in the right direction.
I pay particular credit to members of the Labour party who represent Western Australian seats in this House for their persistent advocacy of the granting of the assistance now being given. I should like to make particular mention of the honorable members for Stirling (Mr. Webb) and Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) who, as loyal Western Australians, have been most vocal in seeking assistance for the development of the north-west of Western Australia, an area which is of no direct concern to them, since they represent metropolitan seats in the Perth district. I would be very disloyal if I did not also mention the advocacy of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson), in whose electorate the north-western area of Western Australia is situated. For many years the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has been trying to get Commonwealth assistance for the development of that area. I have frequently heard him in this House pleading for assistance in- the mining field, the pastoral field and the general developmental field in this very worth-while area.
The area which is to be assisted under the measure is very fertile, according to honorable members who know it. It covers about 40,000,000 acres and has a good rainfall, as I have mentioned. It is true that the rainfall is not spread’ over the whole year, bat the climate is somewhat akin to that of northern Queensland, where one of Australia’s most prolific industries - the sugar industry - nourishes. If such an industry as the sugar industry, which is worth about £56,000,000 a year to Australia, can be developed in a tropical area in the eastern part of Australia, I feel sure that, with the assistance and guidance of the Commonwealth and State Governments, a similar area in Western Australia can also be developed for the benefit of the whole nation. Honorable members from Western Australia have been at pains to say that Western Australia covers 900,000 square miles, which is about a third of the total area of the Commonwealth, and should be granted more liberal assistance. In fact, I think the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) boasted that he is always asking for more. Perhaps he is, but I think he Is a little unjust in persisting in asking for more simply because of the size of Western Australia. It is true that the area of Western Australia is 900,000 square , miles, but half of it is desert which could never be developed and would never grow anything. It would be a scandal to spend public money on those desert wastes.
It is all very well to say that if water were provided in the desert east of Kalgoorlie, somewhere about the South Australian border, much would grow. Of course we know that the wild flowers grow when the rains come, about once in every five years, but of what economic value is that to the nation? I suggest, therefore, that we must not take public money, raised in the various States by means of the petrol tax, by the excise on beer and by the host of indirect taxes that this Government has imposed on the people of Australia, and simply waste it on schemes that will produce no good result. In the field of development, this Government has a responsibility to the States - if not a constitutional one, then at least a moral one. It is the only government in Australia that can raise money, by means of taxation, for developmental purposes. Consequently the States look to it to provide funds for developmental purposes.
As I have said, one-half of Western Australia is desert and incapable of development. The same cannot be said, however, of the State of Queensland, of which I am a native and a portion of which I represent in this place. I believe that the need for government assistance for the development of our tropical areas is just as great in Queensland as it is in Western Australia.
I wish to associate myself with other honorable members in expressing the opinion that the Government has started something worthwhile in making this grant for the development of the northern part of Western Australia. We have been told that there is an area of about 40,000,000 acres of fertile land in the Kimberleys, capable of development for agricultural purposes. It is true that much of this land is held by pastoralists, but it is still available for mining development and exploitation if mineral deposits are found. Other parts of Australia, particularly northern Queensland, have developed their mining and pastoral resources without any Commonwealth Government assistance. In making that statement, however, I am not in any way decrying the measure that the Government has brought before us. I merely say that what is being done for Western Australia should be done for other States too.
I listened very carefully to the speeches made by honorable members, particularly those who come from Western Australia. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) made certain observations on how this money should be spent. It is not a very great sum, Mr. Speaker. The amount of £2,500,000 is to be spread over a period of five years, and represents an average annual expenditure of £500,000. I agree with the honorable member for Forrest that perhaps the best way in which to spend the money is on communications. However, the question of State rights is deeply involved in this matter. It is true that the bill provides for the money to be available, with the Treasurer’s consent, for propositions that could not ordinarily be financed from State resources. From the point of view of the State-righters, I suppose, that could cover practically any undertaking. But I agree with the honorable member for Forrest that we must develop communications in order to provide an opportunity for private enterprise, for the “ squattocracy “ and for mining companies to develop this area. I also suggest that Western Australia should study closely the developmental programmes that have been undertaken by other States under similar conditions.
The Western Australian Government has financed and very liberally subsidized the shipping services operating between Fremantle and ports in north-western Australia, thereby giving valuable assistance to those producers who can bring their products to the ports. I understand, however, that very little has been done to improve communications in the inland areas. 1 hope that a good deal of this money which is being made available from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and which has been contributed by taxpayers in all parts of Australia, will be used to develop communications.
It appears to me that during the last few years this Government has adopted the attitude that the Commonwealth of Australia comprises the southern part of New South Wales, the whole of Victoria, Tasmania and the eastern part of South Australia. Nothing has been granted for developmental purposes in Queensland; a limited amount has been made available for the Northern Territory; and, until this time, as is evident from the bill - which I hope will ultimately become law - nothing has been given to Western Australia for the development of its northern area. I hope that we may regard this bill as a precedent, and that as money is being granted from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the development of a part of Western Australia, similar assistance will be given to Queensland for the development of an area which, like the northern section of Western Australia, is tropically situated. In that part of northern Queensland adjacent to the Northern Territory border the population has been steadily decreasing. Assistance is needed to enable communications to be improved and to promote development of the area, which has a rainfall similar to that of the part of Western Australia with which the legislation before us is concerned.
I have no desire, however, to be parochial on this matter, Mr. Speaker, and I feel that I may be imposing on your good nature by speaking along these lines. I want to be regarded as an Australian who considers the development of this country to be the responsibility of every member of the Parliament. Consequently, with other members of the Opposition, I associate myself completely with the principles involved in the bill. I wish to make one plea, however, before concluding my brief remarks on this legislation. Although this Government can do nothing in the legislative sense with regard to the matter I am about to mention, it may be able to do something by negotiating with the Western Australian Government. This measure provides £2,500,000 for developmental purposes. 1 hope that the rights of the original inhabitants of Australia will not be completely overlooked, and that the scandalous record of the United States of America and of the State of Tasmania in their dealings with their aboriginal populations will not be repeated in Western Australia. We have heard some horrible stories from Western Australian members of the treatment of natives, especially in drought periods. I want to make the plea: If this El Dorado - I use the word after listening to so many Western Australians speak on the bill - is to be developed, the rights of the native people will be preserved so that they, too, will benefit from the expenditure of so much public money in the area. I hope that no longer will an aboriginal child be brought from a mission or cattle station to present a bouquet to the Queen Mother and then have to return to a hovel and live under shocking conditions - such as occurred recently in the case of the little girl from Hall’s Creek.
Australia has an opportunity to develop an area that will become an absolute paradise in the agricultural sense and, I hope, ultimately in the industrial sense also. A very small sum is being set aside under this bill for developmental work, but at least it is a start. I hope that, from time to time, we shall be asked to pass amending legislation authorizing further expenditure on development. Other States are similarly situated. I have in mind Queensland, especially the northern part. That State is just as entitled to assistance as is the State of Western Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I want briefly to refer to clause 4, which might be described - for want of a better term - as the consultative machinery under which this grant will be administered. It has been rather interesting to-night to hear the suggestion that this grant represents a great and new principle in the history of federal grants. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) went on to suggest that here, with fatal simplicity, was a new method by which we could hope in the future to deal with this very vexed problem of Commonwealth-State financial relations. I would suggest that the grant merely indicates the hunger of the States, which will swallow any sum advanced to them without questioning in any way the principles underlying the grant.
Clause 4 is broken up into two parts. Subclause (1.) is a recognition of the need for further national development - in this case in the State of Western Australia. However, as has been suggested, the principle could apply equally to other States.
Sub-clause (2.) recognizes that certain necessary projects, though a State administrative responsibility, cannot be undertaken without financial assistance from the Commonwealth, To me this appears to be, not a new principle, but a new kind of patch on the very old problem of CommonwealthState financial relations. I should have hoped that if this had been regarded as an historic move - a new kind of grant - more consideration would have been given to the consultative machinery for working out how the new type of development would be encompassed. Primarily, the State is still responsible for that aspect. In clause 4 (1.) the following appears: -
The State may request the Commonwealth to approve, for the purpose of this Act, a project in relation to the development of the northern part of the State, and the Treasurer may, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, approve the project on behalf of the Commonwealth.
In other words, the State has still to cast round and say, “ This type of project should be undertaken “. Then it has to put up a proposal to the Commonwealth and prove that it is necessary but impossible of achievement without special financial assistance of this kind. That seems to me to perpetuate the old evil of CommonwealthState financial relations - that you can draw a definite line between administrative responsibility on the one hand and financial responsibility on the other, having a separate adjudication on the financial side.
Last week we heard from honorable members suggestions that some States were not competent to administer even the grants which the Commonwealth gives them at the moment. Now it is suggested that we can have here some new kind of financial arrangement which the Commonwealth can police. The West Australians should mark that word “ police “. It is the Commonwealth which ultimately - through the Treasurer alone - will say whether a certain project is, as the right honorable member for Cowper puts it, worthy of the highest priority. The priority is still not to be determined in any rational way- The decision as to priority will rest ultimately in the hand of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, as hitherto. Honorable members are being lulled into a false hopefulness if they believe that this bill contains something latent or nascent that will solve the ills attendant upon the great national problem - still the most besetting problem so far as the continuation of the Commonwealth is concerned - how the States and the Commonwealth are to move in partnership and co-operation instead of perpetuating the stemming off process that this machinery seems to envisage. Apparently the State is to be asked to look round and say, “ Here is a necessary project which cannot be undertaken without special grant “ prove its case to the Commonwealth, and then receive the grant. The machinery should provide for co-operation at an earlier stage, instead of at the final stage - at which the Treasurer can, if he wishes, veto the whole project.
– Usually, I can follow the arguments of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) clearly even though I may not agree with his conclusions, but I must confess that in his criticism of clause 4, I found it exceedingly difficult to discern the basis of his thought. It appears to me he implied that because this was a specific grant for the development of a great undeveloped portion of Australia, all other States are entitled to similar assistance.
– No. This has been hailed as a pilot plan of what might be a future directive.
– I want to clear up that point. After all, the principle that is clearly implicit in this measure is that the Commonwealth Government, the great financial partner of the federation, having control of funds which come from the more populous and more developed portions of Australia, should do what was done in our past history by the great partner we had then and should make money available for the purpose of assisting in the development of our least developed areas. Just as Great Britain originally provided the money to found the Australian colonies, so, in the natural process of events, this Parliament, having taken the position originally occupied by the Imperial Parliament, has a responsibility to provide funds from areas which are more developed to assist in the overall development of Australia.
The second point which I feel the honorable member perhaps did not make clear is the respective responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the States in relation to work of this kind and the expenditure of funds provided to finance it. The point was covered very clearly in the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) when he said that it - is regarded by the Commonwealth Government as being of fundamental importance, that the prime responsibility for the area should continue to rest with the State Government. It will still be the State’s function to attend to the planning and execution of developmental projects in the area. The Commonwealth’s role will be restricted to ensuring that assistance provided under the scheme results in new and additional development and not merely in a substitution of Commonwealth for State expenditure . . .
That laid down the very principle to which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) referred this evening. Perhaps the honorable member for Melbourne Ports was a little unfair to the right honorable gentleman or misunderstood him in this respect. What the right honorable gentleman said was the principle of State and Commonwealth co-operation should be vested in a council which would consist of Commonwealth and State representatives and would decide priorities. He did not say that we had reached that stage of co-operation, but implied that that was the ideal state of affairs. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports foresaw that, in the final analysis, the States might go to a great deal of trouble and have their proposals vetoed by the Treasurer. I would say that as a matter of practical procedure, any Premier with experienced officers, having conceived what was the essential project, would sound out the Commonwealth before he proceeded too far. Whilst it was quite in order for the honorable member to raise that possible objection, I do not think it has really much validity. Once this money is voted, the major responsibility is to ensure that its expenditure will really speed the development of the particular territory.
With regard to a reference made by an honorable member representing a Queensland electorate, it is a great pity we cannot provide the sum of £25,000,000 for certain projects in the Northern Territory and the northern part of Queensland. However, it is useless to take the view that because we cannot implement a counsel of perfection in this respect, we should not recognize the merit of this proposal for Commonwealth and State co-operation. The ideal, so far as I am concerned, is achieved when the major partner who finds the money is satisfied as to the soundness of the scheme and gives to the State the responsibility for carrying it out. If that attitude was more in evidence in the conduct of our affairs, the result would be a partnership in which the Commonwealth would move nearer to the ideal of being the great financial and planning authority and the States would actually carry out the work which the partnership agreed should be done. I believe that this measure moves in that direction, and for that reason I support it wholeheartedly.
.- As I understood the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), he sought to point out that although it is claimed as a virtue of this proposed grant that it is being made on somewhat wider terms than those on which other Commonwealth grants have been made, in fact the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has the final say, and therefore we cannot claim any greater merit for it. I point out to the honorable member that this proposal does give the State Government a somewhat wider choice than any other corresponding grant hitherto made by the Commonwealth under section ?6 of the Constitution has done. In other words, whilst the Commonwealth still has some responsibility in the matter, it has indicated its goodwill towards Western Australia by saying, in effect, “ You say what you want to do” with the money. Unless we think it offends some basic principle, we are prepared to let you spend it in that way “. It is an extension of the use that has been made of section 96 in the past.
The Commonwealth has been very cautious, as I pointed out earlier, in its use of section 96, for the simple reason that it realizes that once the gate is thrown open there will be a flood of applications from the States for special assistance. For that reason, I go a long way with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports when he says that the consultative machinery between the Commonwealth and the States must be improved. I believe that section 96 is wide open to amendment to limit the limitless powers which the Commonwealth now possesses to grant assistance to the States. The amendment should be along lines which would call for recommendations from some consultative body composed of representatives of the Commonwealth and the States and of the various areas calling out for development. The section itself contemplated that eventually the Parliament would provide such limits. I have risen only to make that point.
This bill does give Western Australia a somewhat wider choice than previous grants have given to the State. State grants for the universities, for example, were dependent on the States expending a certain amount of money in that direction. Other grants have been made, and the manner of their expenditure was predetermined in detail. This grant allows a much wider choice to the State. In order to protect not the Commonwealth and the States from the political arguments that will arise, but to protect us as a nation and to make sure that we want to avoid being led into party conflict in determining our needs for development, there should be some machinery to remove this matter from party conflict, say, in a State with a Labour government when there is a Liberal government in office in the Commonwealth. There should be some machinery which renders baseless the argument that the grants are tainted with party politics at any stage of the proceedings. I simply make that point in relation to the argument that was advanced by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16th April (vide page 910), on motion by Mr. Davidson -
That the bill be now read a second time. [Quorum formed.]
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Opposition opposes this bill as it opposed the original bill that was introduced in 1956, which gave the Australian Broadcasting Control Board the power, the authority and the responsibility to issue licences for television stations to the Government’s friends in the newspaper world. The Labour party believes in the nationalization of television.
– Does every member of the Labour party believe in it?
– Every member of the Australian Labour party is bound by the party’s platform. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), on the occasion of the last legislation, moved a long amendment to the motion that the bill be now read a second time. I shall read it -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ owing to the fact that all existing television licences in two States have been granted by the Government to corporations constituting in effect combines of newspaper, radio broadcasting and associated interests which already monopolize to a large extent mass communication of information to the people of Australia, and owing to the danger to the public interest and true freedom of expression being caused by newspaper concerns further extending their control over mass communication including radio broadcasting and television - the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted so as to include -
specific provisions to effect the following purposes: -
Television as guardian of the public interest in those two vital fields;
We pressed our amendment to a division and we were defeated. We opposed the motion for the second reading of the bill and we were defeated.
– You were opposing private enterprise.
– We are not opposed to private enterprise but we believe that a national monopoly is better than a private enterprise monopoly. We believe that a national monopoly serves the interests of the people, whereas these so-called private enterprise monopolies only make the monopolists greedier and more wealthy with the passing of the days. This Government believes in monolithic monopoly. Honorable members opposite talk about free enterprise. If that term means anything, it means a pluralistic society. There is nothing pluralistic about the set-up in regard to television. The two stations that are operating in Sydney are owned by newspaper companies. The two stations that are operating in Melbourne are owned by newspaper companies. There are to be two stations ultimately in Canberra; they will be owned and operated by newspaper combines. If the Constitution of Australia provided the same powers as the American Constitution provides in regard to trade and commerce, we would have the equivalent of the American Sherman anti-trust law on the Australian statute book, and it would not be possible for newspapers to own the newspaper medium, the radio-telegraphic medium, and the television communications medium. In the United States, that situation could not exist. The Supreme Court of the United States, only last year, told the du Pont empire that it could not control the General Motors organization, because that was something which it had no right to monopolize. A year or two before, in California, a Federal Court said that in the moving picture industry there must be one section for those who produce films, another section for those who distribute films, and another section for those who exhibit films. But in this country one group can control the whole of the movie industry!
As we have seen under this Government, despite what its own royal commission recommended, virtual monopolies have been granted in the field of television to the great newspaper interests in Sydney and Melbourne. That was the royal commission which the Government appointed. The chairman of it, Sir George Paton, said that it was not a royal commission at all but only a committee of inquiry. It recommended that no licence be granted for more than three years. Broadcasting licences are granted for only one year. This Government, disregarding what its own royal commission recommended, and yielding to the pressure of financial interests, made the tenure of the television licence five years, instead of three years.
We of the Labour party are no more disposed to vote for this measure, which after all is a draftsman’s work to set right the errors in draftsmanship which were perpetrated when the 1956 legislation was enacted. But as this is a bill to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1956, the House is afforded an opportunity of examining just how well television has worked in the last two years and how well the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which is also a hand-picked body, has operated in the public interest.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission are serving the Australian people very badly. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board consists of three full-time members and two part-time members. In order that the Government might blanket these people onto the Government payroll and make sure that in the event of a Labour government, these functionaries, these bureaucrats, would decide everything, they were given appointments for seven years. Members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission have terms of three years only and they are subject to reappointment. The present Government thought, “ We will plan for the day when we will be out of office; we will leave a few time bombs so that, if a Labour government wishes to do something fair and reasonable by the Australian people, at least there will be something to explode under its feet and prevent it from doing what the public interest demands should be done”. That is how this Government works.
The people whom it appointed, of course, went to work to do precisely what the Government wanted done. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ secured one station in Sydney and the “ Daily Telegraph “ secured another. I heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) this afternoon mildly rebuking the editor of the Sydney “ Sun “. I thought he might have let his head go a little bit and said something really con demnatory of that newspaper and of its parent organization. But he said sufficient at any rate to indicate that the “ Sydney Morning Herald” and the Sydney “Sun” and their associates are people who really should not be entrusted with the control of a television station.
No democratic organization can secure a commercial licence for a television station while this present board exists. I read its last report and I found that it has a provisional plan for the assignment of channels for Australian television services. There are to be 42 channels in New South Wales; there are to be two in the national capital; there are to be 26 in Victoria; there are to be 20 in Queensland; there are to be ten in South Australia; there are to be twelve in Western Australia; and there are to be eight in Tasmania. There are to be four in each capital city. At the present time there are two in Sydney and two in Melbourne. If this Broadcasting Control Board has the allocation of the licences when television becomes operable all over Australia, newspaper interests and other interests favorable to the Government will monopolize the lot.
– The farmers and graziers.
– I know what happened to the farmers and graziers. There was a crowd from New Zealand called the Macarthur interests about which certain legislation had to be passed in the New South Wales Parliament because that group was about to seize the control of an insurance company in New South Wales. This group had the control of a broadcasting station licence at Orange. The licence was ultimately cancelled and the government of the day gave it to the Australian Country party. That sort of thing, of course, will continue whenever the opportunity is offered. But the half of the Australian people who want to vote for the Australian Labour party can look in vain to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the grant of a television licence. There will be none available for them.
We are opposed to the whole of the present situation. I think I know what wilt happen in regard to the licences in Canberra. There will be a combination of Sydney and Melbourne newspaper interests, which will grab the two. When the allocation of licences is made in Brisbane, after the forms are gone through - holding hearings and all the rest - what was already decided beforehand in Canberra will be given effect to and the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “ and associates will get one station and the “ Brisbane Telegraph “ and associates will get another. In South Australia the Adelaide “ Advertiser “ and its associates will get one and the Adelaide “ News “ and its associates will get another, and so it will go likewise in Perth and Hobart. I do not think that Ezra Norton and “ Truth “ will ever get a licence from this Broadcasting Control Board. Nor do I think that anybody outside those other newspaper interests will ever get a licence, particularly if he has trade union affiliations. I put it sincerely to this House that it is a bad thing in the public interest to allow newspaper interests, radio interests, and television interests, to be all tied up under one control, even in one State capital city.
What is the use of saying that the members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board shall have no interest in any broadcasting or television station? What ought to be guaranteed is that if there is to be a commercial television system, different, divergent, and diverse interests shall have the opportunity of competing in the television field. In the radio and broadcasting field there are about 120 commercial licences, and I think that there is something in the way of effective competition there, except that the newspaper companies that have broadcasting licences have a great advantage over those that have not.
– You do not believe in that. You believe in nationalized monopoly.
– I believe in a nationalized system. I do not believe that we preserve democracy by handing practically every medium of mass communication over to a few people who, by and large, in spite of what they may say about the Government between elections will always rally to the Government once an election campaign starts. A Government supporter says that he hopes that I am right. Of course I am right. I have lived a long time in the atmosphere of politics - eighteen years in this House and many more years outside the Parliament. I remember how we used to say in Victoria of the Melbourne “Age” that it supported the Australian Labour party between elections. There are quite a lot of people who will support the Labour party between elections and who will support it if they think it is going to win, but if they think it is not going to win they will desert it and, indeed, attack it. There are some aspects of the work of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that I think merit some attention. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board is charged with the responsibility of seeing that a certain percentage of time is given to Australian productions. This Government recently amended the legislation to provide that 5 per cent., as against 2i per cent., of all broadcasting time shall be devoted to purely Australian productions. But what do we find? The ninth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, for the year ended 30th June last, shows that 49 stations had not reached the prescribed quota. That is a large number. The board said, in explanation, that 21 stations had reached between 4.5 per cent, and 5 per cent., fourteen between 4 per cent, and 4.5 per cent., fourteen below 4 per cent, and that the complete figures were not available for seven stations when the report was being prepared. Then, as is usual in reports such as this, the board added -
Appropriate action has been taken to ensure that all these stations observe the statutory requirements during the current year.
That is only a pious hope. After all the years that have passed since the Gibson committee presented its report in 1942, we ought to be able to ensure that 10 per cent, of the time occupied by musical presentation of our broadcasting system is devoted to the work of Australian artists.
– What is the standard of Australian musical programmes?
– I have listened to the American hill-billy stuff. I do not care how low the Australian standard is; it could not be worse than those American programmes. Probably 50 per cent, of the programmes of the Australian commercial broadcasting system consists of imported stuff. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) has had a long experience and is very knowledgeable on this question. I think it is our duty as Australians to encourage Australian art, no matter how poor it may seem, in the same way as the Americans ensure that aD the: productions broadcast over their radio stations are of native origin.
– Some of it is frightful.
– I agree with the honorable member. I hope that when I come to speak about the programmes of television stations he will continue to agree with me. I think ‘the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is just a body of functionaries. I do not think that it really devotes itself to its statutory responsibilities. I do not think that it discharges the mandate given to it by the Parliament. I think that it has fallen down on the job and ought to be replaced. Even though eight years ago the Government discarded the practice, which is still embedded in an act of Parliament, of having a parliamentary committee to examine broadcasting, I think it should now reinstitute that committee. The honorable member for Franklin was a member of it.
– Did not your Government abandon that committee?
– No. It was the former Postmaster-General, the late Mr. Anthony, who decided that we had too many bodies dealing with broadcasting - the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and so on - and that we should get rid of the parliamentary set-up. I hope that we will restore the parliamentary committee because I believe it would do a much better job than the Australian Broadcasting Control Board does. It would keep the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the commercial stations federation and various other bodies up to the mark in regard to their duties and obligations.
I receive a number of letters from various people criticizing broadcasts. I suppose these people are self-interested when they address their letters to me and I do not deny that perhaps they appeal to me because they are being hurt. Every innovation hurts some people. Television has naturally affected broadcasting, the film industry, and the live theatre, and it may be that it also has affected some live sports. Because takings fall in theatres run by various interests, there is naturally a complaint. Although the people are accepting television as a novelty, 1 think that ultimately a settlement will be reached in regard to the public interest in these matters.
However, in the meantime we are entitled to ask whether the whole television system is working in the public interest. Television is supposed to be elevating; it is supposed not to pander to the worst that is in human nature but to cater for the best the people want to have. From information that has been supplied to me, I find that the national stations, as well as the commercial stations, are falling down on the job. The present television programmes - I have only seen a couple of them myself - are certainly not the sort of things that should be provided for the pleasure of growing children. As I have said, I have only seen a couple of television broadcasts - I do not own a television set and I do not intend to get one - but I think the public is entitled to protest about a number of the programmes that are offering. If Australian people could not produce something better than the cheap, outdated and outmoded “ westerns “ that are being displayed, there is no ingenuity or ability in our race. I believe the Australian people could provide much better entertainment than is being provided by the commercial stations in Sydney and Melbourne.
I have some information which has come into my hand as the result of a survey that was made of television programmes in Sydney. A group of Sydney citizens viewed all television programmes shown by Sydney’s three television stations on and from Monday, 9th September, until Thursday, 12th September inclusive, and noted the acts of violence and crime televised during that period of four days. On the national station A.B.N., Channel 2, there were nine stabbings, three stranglings, one attempted murder, one wounding, one suicide, three murders discussed and one murder demonstrated.
– It sounds like a Labour party conference.
– The honorable gentleman is wrong. We have our difficulties and our differences, but we do not commercialize strangling, we do not commercialize murder and we do not discuss suicide. I can well understand the honorable gentleman,, having been in this Parliament now for thirteen years and having had his remarkable qualities ignored by the
Prime Minister, wanting to strangle somebody himself, to commit suicide, or even to discuss murder. In regard to station A.T.N., Channel 7 - a commercial station - the position was even worse than that on the national station. There were six bashings, one maiming, eight brawls, one blinding, one armed robbery, eleven murders, two woundings, two killings, eighteen corpses shown and one scene where a child describes how both his parents were murdered. On station T.C.N. , a commercial station, Channel 9, there were two bashings, three brawls, four murders, one maiming, one armed robbery, one assault, two stranglings, one wounding, two attempts to murder a child, a dope fiend showing his dope needle marks, and four murders discussed. The acts of violence to which I have referred took place in a total transmission time of ten hours, the maximum length of time during which any one of the three Sydney television stations refrained from snowing an act of violence being 2li minutes.
– That happened six months ago.
– The honorable member says that happened six months ago, but the position is just as bad to-day.
– How does the honorable member know that? He does not look at television.
– Quite recently I waited to see a famous Australian statesman televised. I had to sit and suffer one of these commercial broadcasts called “ Smokescreen “ which lasted half an hour. During that period two murders and about half a dozen other acts of violence took place. The position therefore was as bad a fortnight ago as it was six months ago. I do not think the programmes being televised at present are of any benefit to the children of this nation. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has completely failed in its responsibility for seeing that clean, wholesome programmes are televised. In view of all this, the sooner the parliamentary committee is set up again to ensure that suitable programmes are televised, the better it will be for the parents and children of this country. That is the worst criticism I have to offer, but I have other criticisms that are equally legitimate and vital.
– Does the honorable member intend to refer to “Dr. Evatt Meets the Press”?
– The Leader of the Opposition met the press in Melbourne and did a very good job for his party and for himself. In this instance it was a case of “Dr. Evatt Beats the Press”, not “Dr. Evatt Meets the Press “.
A week or two before my Leader’s appearance, I had the honour of appearing on a television programme in Melbourne. I might mention that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and I are the only two members of this Parliament who have starred twice on Melbourne television programmes.
– I have appeared on three occasions.
– I am very glad to know that the honorable member has appeared three times. That encourages me to hope for further favours. I do not want to give myself a free plug, but I shall be appearing in Sydney with Mr. Malcolm Muggeridge between 4 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. next Sunday afternoon. I am open to further offers.
A very good friend of mine who is interested in the film industry has written me a letter with great feeling. It is in these terms -
We will all rue the day that the newspaper combine obtained a monopoly of television from the Menzies Government for it now has a stranglehold upon the three media of communications - radio, press and TV.
There is a concerted attempt by the newspapers to damage the motion picture industry in its own vested interest. The press publishes a tremendous amount of propaganda to bolster up its own TV programmes, unfairly criticizes films exhibited by the theatres and gives tremendous prominence to minor troubles in the motion picture industry such as saying a studio has closed down when temporary closures are not unusual at varying times of the year, particularly when a backlog has been created in production.
In addition, savage lying attacks are consistently made upon the motion picture industry. Deliberate lies are published as if they were facts, and halftruths twisted to the disadvantage of the theatre business. All this is supposed to be in the public interest.
The letter, which was written on 26th March last, continues -
Last week in Sydney a television receiver exploded in the home of its owner. It caused substantial damage to the building and the receiver was catapulted through the sitting room window where it ended up a charred mess. The vacuum tube had exploded.
This news was of vital importance to not only the 200,000 owners of television receivers in Australia, but to the many more who view the programmes and to those who may be ultimately interested in acquiring a receiver.
But this news was censored, suppressed by the newspapers because it could affect television in which it has a vested interest. Had an equivalent explosion been resultant upon a fault in the supply of gas by a public utility or had it occurred in a theatre, it would have made the front pages of the so-called “ press “.
This story only made one edition of the Brisbane “ Telegraph “ and I enclose a photostat copy of it.
That incident happened in Sydney, but only one newspaper - a Brisbane one - mentioned it, and then only in one edition. That shows the risks that exist in permitting the present control to continue.
On the question of Australian performers, I have received a letter from Planet Records (Australia), which is interested in recording Australian productions and in having them broadcast and used in television organizations. The company states -
Planet Records have recorded over 700 titles in three years. Incidentally these include the only records that refer to the songs sung in the First World War and the Second World War, which are available to ex-servicemen for Anzac reunions, etc., and also major events such as “ Massed Bands of the Olympic Games”, “Trooping of the Colour “ at Duntroon for the Queen Mother, and a record of which we are very proud, and which cost us over £4,000 to produce.
The company has found that its records are not being used on television stations, and so the company is suffering as a consequence of what it regards as clear discrimination. Again, if a parliamentary committee were in existence perhaps something could be done about these matters.
At the present time the Department of Audio- Visual Aids of the University of Melbourne is making a serious study of the psychological effects of the old western films of the United States of America that are being used by television stations. The survey is being conducted by Dr. F. E. Emery, B.Sc, Ph.D., senior research officer, Department of Audio- Visual Aids, and Mr. David Martin, formerly research assistant, Department of Audio-Visual Aids. A real psychological problem is involved in television viewing and it is as well that the survey should be made. Deep in the hearts of all of us is a destructive instinct and it is right that that instinct should not be developed and encouraged by anything done by either the national or commercial television stations. Mr. Newman Rosenthal, director of the Department of Audio- Visual Aids, University of Melbourne, has written a preface to the first report of the studies in mass communication. The document is most interesting and informative and should be studied by the departmental advisers to the Postmaster-General. I am not asking that all sorts of stupid censorships and all sorts of interferences with the rights of the people to see in television programmes what they can see in the picture theatres should be imposed, and I am sure that the Minister, to the greatest extent possible, will ensure that only the best is shown, but there is more intimacy in television viewing in the home because it takes place at all hours of the day and night and the Commonwealth censor cannot operate to the same extent as he can in labelling motion pictures for general exhibition and for viewing by children only. I mention now that the labels placed on motion pictures are not always properly observed because State governments have not passed the necessary protective legislation to see that Commonwealth censorship is as real as it ought to be.
The introductory note by Mr. Newman Rosenthal is in these terms -
In every country of the world communications have become a problem of major importance, on the one hand to the State endeavouring to convey to its citizens an understanding of issues of national significance, and on the other hand to industrial organizations anxious to convince potential customers of the quality of their products. Never before has there been so urgent a need for some reliable guarantee that what we say will be undersood by those to whom we say it.
Is there any justification for the apprehension aroused by the advent of television? Will television lead to materialism, to the passive acceptance of everything we see, to the vulgarization of art, to the deterioration of cultural standards; or will it become a powerful civilizing influence, entertaining but stimulating, creating, awakening a sense of greater social responsibility? There is, as yet, no answer to either of these questions. Must we wait until the issue is already decided? Must we be satisfied with a post-mortem survey, or, in these early days of groping and experimentation, can we not help in devising programmes that will produce certain reactions and avoid others?
I think that those are very pertinent questions based on right sentiments, and that every member of this House would like to see the right solutions to our problems arrived at. But we shall never get the right solutions while we allow the people who make money out of television programmes to decide what is good for us all. I remember Mr. W. J. Cleary, a former chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, saying, some fifteen years ago, that the national broadcasting stations tried to give the people what they ought to have and the commercial stations gave the people what they wanted. There is something very wrong with the present set-up in the television world. After two years of experimentation, we are in a bad way, and if we extend the commercial system further on the present lines, we shall do as much harm to the Australian people as is being done in the United States of America, and possibly in Britain and elsewhere. I read, the other day, a report of a psychological Study in which some eminent American authority said that, on the average, in every fifteen minutes, one person in the United States was the victim of a violent act. I think that television programmes as we know them to-day conduce to that sort of thing, and 1 hope that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) will do something about it.
What is happening, of course, is that high-pressure salesmen are trying to unload television sets on the people. One can buy a television set without a deposit, although sets cost £200 or more. Yet many healthy, decent young Australian couples cannot get houses without paying very big deposits, and, very often, they have to wait a very long time for them! The boom in the sale of television sets is over in Victoria and New South Wales. I am told that, at the end of 1957, there were 23 manufacturers of television sets in those States, and that by the end of this year, only about seven will be left. The market is over-supplied, and people are pledging their futures in order to get such sets. If the community is to get the benefit of this new medium of mass communication, we ought to make sure that the programmes relayed to the people’s homes are decent and clean. The programmes now broadcast are not always as decent and clean as they should be. We should make sure, ultimately, that monopoly control will no longer be tolerated or permitted.
Finally, I suggest to the Minister, now that this new medium is a reality, and not just a novelty, the parliamentary committee on broadcasting should be revived, and should report to this Parliament, as the Public Works Committee reports on works undertaken on the authority of the Parliament, and as the Public Accounts Committee reports on the expenditure of funds voted by the Parliament. No harm could come of it, and I think that a great deal of good must ensue.
– I am very glad to follow the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in this debate, because the point of what I want to say to the House arises not so much from what the honorable member has said this evening as from what he did when he was in office as a Minister, and from what the Labour government did. It would not be fair to say that the point I wish to make does not, to some extent, proceed from the remarks made this evening by the honorable member, because those remarks also underline my point.
The honorable member was very specious. He wanted to ensure that the truth was told over the radio and on television. He wanted fairness. He wanted no monopoly. But what did he do when he was in office? I think it would be fair for me to refer to what happened in 1944, when, under the National Security Regulations, the honorable member had power to stop the publication of newspapers. Under that power, he endeavoured to muzzle the Australian press because it dared to criticize him and the government of which he was a member.
– Not at all.
– It is a matter of the viewpoint, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, is it not? The honorable member wants the power to monopolize. He wants the power to censor. He wants the power to stop publication of newspapers. I think it was Lewis Carroll who wrote - “ I’ll be judge, I’ll be jury “, said cunning old Fury. “ I’ll try the whole cause, and condemn you to death “.
That is the attitude the honorable member for Melbourne takes when he has power. How different it is from the specious pleading that we hear from him at the table when he is impotent because the people of Australia, very wisely, will not vote him into office again!
Under the National Security Regulations, which have expired since the end of World War II., the Commonwealth Government had power to stop the publication of newspapers and strangle the press, and that power was used quite unscrupulously by the Labour government in order to stop criticism of itself and to obtain a monopoly of the dissemination of information to the Australian people. This is, unfortunately, a fact. Those powers under the regulations have evaporated, because the regulations expired with the end of the war, but, as it happens, the power to control radio and television is inherent in the Federal Government, and if, by any evil chance, a Labour government should come in at some far distant time, it would not scruple to use that power to develop a permanent totalitarian monopoly of the sources of information. Labour has tried to do that before. We know by the acts of Labour supporters that they want to do it, and the honorable member for Melbourne told us, only a few moments ago, that if he had the power to do it he would try to do it again.
– Labour is pledged to do it.
– Of course it is pledged to do it.
– It is in its platform.
– It is in its platform, and the honorable member for Melbourne boasted of it and said that he would do it if he had the power - but I do not think that he will ever get the power. If he had the power, he would endeavour to establish a monopoly of information in the television and radio field. This kind of monopoly - the state monopoly, the totalitarian monopoly, the socialist monopoly, the kind of monopoly that Opposition members espouse and Government supporters abhor - is the kind of thing that is our danger. It is the kind of thing against which we must be on our guard - and we have been put on our guard by the words uttered by the honorable member for Melbourne a few minutes ago.
Let us not underestimate this danger. Let us not kid ourselves that it cannot happen here. This is the way that the socialist - and the Communist who lurks behind every socialist’s shoulder - goes about things. It is the way that the Labour Government tried to go about things when it was in office. It is the way that the honorable member for Melbourne boasted, a few minutes ago, Labour would go about things if it had the power. So, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I think it is desirable that, in looking at this bill, and the principal act, we should consider the possibility of a Labour government getting into office at some future distant time and endeavouring to do the things which are inherent in Labour’s philosophy, which are evidenced by its practices, and which were boasted about a few minutes ago by the honorable member for Melbourne. I thank the honorable member very much for rising in this chamber and giving point to what I shall endeavour to say on this matter.
As I said, the Commonwealth has power in relation to radio and television. It has the power, in some ways, to impose a state monopoly if it should be so misguided as to want to do so. We who believe in the freedom of the press and of information and who do not want this state monopoly should be taking advantage of this opportunity to protect ourselves and the country against the kind of thing which the Labour party apparently has in mind.
Let us examine the ways and means by which we should try to protect Australia from this kind of socialist monopoly that is espoused by honorable members of the Opposition. One of the things that we must fear is that a government which perhaps is only temporarily in office and is trying to make its marble good by creating a state of depression, as every socialist and Communist government tries to do, and which has obtained, by the accident of an election, a little power for a time by deceiving the people about its real policy and ends, may endeavour to make its position permanent, as every socialist and Communist government tries to do, by monopolizing the sources of information and making the electoral position irreversible.
If a Labour administration could pose to every radio and television station the threat that it would have its licence taken away unless it came to heel and did what the government wanted, that administration would have a very powerful and terrible weapon to use in the traditional socialist way. We must try to do what we can to take that weapon out of Labour’s hands. If honorable members opposite object to our endeavouring to protect Australia against this kind of thing, they stand self-convicted by their own objection, and the voicing of their objection shows their inner consciousness of guilt and of what they themselves propose cheatingly to do.
Sections 86 and 87 of the principal act give some protection to the holders of radio and television licences against the kind of governmental pressure which honorable members opposite would like to employ if only they had the accident of power. Those sections, which I shall come back to in detail in a moment, provide, in effect, that a licence shall not be revoked until the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has conducted an inquiry and made a report to the Minister. The relevant section, with which honorable members will be familiar, is section 87. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the important thing is first to preserve the integrity of the Broadcasting Control Board.
Section 13 (1.) reads -
The Governor-General may terminate the appointment of a member for inability, inefficiency or misbehaviour.
That is well and good. No one believes that a person who is incapable of discharging his functions or who misbehaves should be retained as a member of the board. But what we fear is that cunning old Fury should be the sole judge of whether members of the board are inefficient or have misbehaved. It should be a matter for determination by some judicial authority.
I have taken legal advice on this matter. As the section is drawn, it is competent for the Minister to dismiss the whole board out of hand by alleging inefficiency. There would be no right of appeal against that decision - no appeal which would enable any member of the board to be reinstated. The Minister could wipe out the board by a stroke of the pen. It is true that members of the board individually might have some action for damages against the Government, but even if they won those actions they would not be reinstated on the board. A socialist government would not care about losing the actions if it could get rid of the board and have a free hand to revoke, without appeal, any broadcasting or television licence.
– Did Labour misuse that power when it was in office?
– The honorable member is quite right. He is saying that the section should have been amended sooner.
– I asked whether Labour misused that power when it was in office.
– I propose that it be amended now. If honorable members will listen for a moment, they will see the implication of what I am saying. I suggest that in place of the present section 13 (1.) there should be a provision to the following effect: -
A member shall hold office subject to capacity and good behaviour.
At first glance, that seems to be the same as the provision that I have suggested should be excised, but in point of fact it is not, because the provision I have suggested would give right of appeal to the court. I repeat that no one wants to retain in office a member who has misbehaved, but what one wants to ensure is that no member of the board shall be dismissed out of hand by a corrupt socialist government for alleged misbehaviour when he has not misbehaved. What we want to ensure is that any one who is dismissed has an effective right of appeal to the court and the possibility of reinstatement. The redrafting of the section as I have suggested would effectively prevent the improper dismissal of any member of the board but would not prevent any member from being properly dismissed.
If honorable members opposite have any honesty in this matter, they will support the amendment that I have suggested. It does not take away in the slightest degree the power to dismiss if the dismissal is proper. All it takes away is the power to make an improper dismissal. If honorable members opposite oppose the the amendment, I can only say that they stand convicted, by their own action, of improper motives and of contemplating victimization of members of the Broadcasting Control Board.
I suggest, too, that proposed section 37 should be amended to provide -
A commissioner shall hold office subject to capacity and good behaviour.
Perhaps the draftsman will think of a better form, but the intention is clear. The intention is simply that anybody who is dismissed will have the right of effective appeal to a court. Surely those who have been talking about the onus of proof with such eloquence do not object to the implications of that. Or do they?
– Would a person be appointed if he did not have capacity?
– There is a possibility that a man with capacity may be appointed, but, by the accidents of health, he make break down. Many of us break down in health. That happens even to members of the Opposition; it might happen to supporters of the Government. Incapacity may be acquired during the tenure of office. I hope that I have answered the honorable member’s objection.
Let me come to the other matters that seem to follow from the point that 1 have tried to make. They relate to sections 86 and 87 of the principal act. Honorable members are no doubt familiar with these sections. They provide that, in certain circumstances, the licence of a radio or television station may be suspended or revoked. I believe it is right that there should be some sanction; that if a station management does in point of fact misbehave, there should be provision for suspension or revocation of the licence. All I am saying is that the question of misbehaviour should not be one for the unilateral decision of a government in power which may have its own political motives for trying to force this policy or that policy upon the radio or television stations of Australia. What I am suggesting is that we take out of the Government’s hands the whip that can bring the radio and television industry to heel.
Sub-sections (3) and (4) of section 86 provide for the suspension of a licence. I suggest that no licence should be suspended more than once in any twelve months; that is, the device of repeated suspension should not be used. Although the power to act with reasonable promptitude should be vested in the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the authorities, a licence should not be suspended more than once in twelve months. Of course, that is without prejudice to the right of revocation of the licence if the station has deserved that revocation. All I am saying is that revocation should not be exercised capriciously or for a political purpose, and that repeated suspension should not be used as a substitute for capricious revocation.
If we look at section 87, we find rather a peculiar thing. The section says -
The Minister shall not revoke a licence . . . unless he has first received a report from the Board, upon an inquiry by the Board under this section, in relation to that ground.
That looks pretty fair and reasonable. It means that the Minister cannot act without the advice of the board, but, in order to strengthen the section, we should add words which are implied but not explicit in the act as it stands. The words I suggest that we should add are, “ and such report recommends such revocation “. I think that the intention of the draftsman was that a licence should not be revoked unless the board recommended it. I believe that that is the sense of the section. There is apparently a drafting loophole in the section which should be cleared up by the addition of those few words that I have suggested - “ and such report recommends such revocation “.
I do not intend to press these points in detail. I know that technical matters of drafting are involved, and it may be that there has been no opportunity yet to consider these technical matters. But at present there is a loophole in the act. That loophole can be very easily covered up by the very simple amendments that I have suggested. It may be that, in drafting, the draftsman will think of a better way of doing it. I am not certain of that, but I am certain that something should be done.
We must achieve two objectives. First, we must ensure that no government can dismiss the Australian Broadcasting Control Board out of hand, but that there shall be some right of appeal to a court against any arbitrary government decision. Secondly, it should not be possible for a government to revoke the licence of a broadcasting and television station unless the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has made a recommendation to that effect.
I say these things against the background that the Labour party stands almost selfconvicted in this matter. It is convicted first by its platform; it is a nationalizing, monopolizing, socialistic party. It believes in the totalitarian State. That is what its platform states. Secondly, it stands convicted by its history. When last it was in power, when it had the extraordinary powers under the national emergency regulations, it tried to do something like this in circumstances that were nearly indefensible. I remember receiving a personal summons because I had merely written a letter to the press for publication suggesting that the freedom of the press was something that should be upheld. For that, under the dictates of the Labour Government, I found myself personally haled into court. That shows how far these totalitarians will go if they have the power in their hands. I do not think that the Australian people are likely to put power into their hands in the foreseeable future, but these things should not be left on the statute-book. . The time to clear them up is now, and without delay.
In the last analysis, and in the third place, the Labour party stands convicted by the speech that has been made on its behalf by the honorable member for Melbourne, who preceded me in this debate and who announced that if Labour got in it would make a clean sweep. It is not right that an incoming government should have the power to stifle press, radio, or television criticism.
Debate (on motion by Mr. J. R. Fraser) adjourned.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable gentleman claim that he has been misrepresented?
– Oh, grossly misrepresented by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) who got up to his usual tricks. The honorable gentleman accused me of having suppressed newspapers when I was Minister for Information because the then Government desired to establish a censorship over them. The truth is that the newspapers at that time - the war was still on - -defied the censor and I backed the censor even to the point of preventing the publication of newspapers.
The censor said that, in his view, what the newspapers were determined to publish was material that could endanger the lives of Australian servicemen and Australians held in prisoner-of-war camps. He said that the newspaper proprietors must not publish that material. They went ahead and published it, and the Government - I was the responsible Minister - suppressed the newspapers. For that I offer no apology. There was no attempt to suppress any newspaper during the whole period of the war if it obeyed the decisions of the censor. Mr. Curtin, the Prime Minister at the time, said, “ Either back the censor, or sack him. Never allow yourself to be a court of appeal from the censor. We have appointed the censors and we will support them”.
The Chief Censor at that time was a former editor of the Melbourne “ Argus “ and in those days the “ Argus “ was a very conservative newspaper. Therefore, the charge of the honorable member for Mackellar is foolish and absurd, and his final remarks are equally and entirely misleading. In my speech I did not indicate that Labour desired to establish a press censorship, a broadcasting censorship, or a television censorship. We believe in the principle of government ownership of instrumentalities, but there was no question of censorship involved.
– Mr. Speaker, the honorable member has, by evasion, grossly misrepresented what I said.
-Order! The honorable member for Mackellar is out of order unless he wishes to correct something said by the honorable member for Melbourne. Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Does the honorable member wish to correct the misrepresentation of which he complains?
– The honorable member may proceed.
– The honorable member for Melbourne has, by evasion, grossly misrepresented the import of what I said. The honorable member tried to make the point that the suppression of newspapers in the time of the Labour government was in the interests of the war effort and was due purely to an evasion of censorship. I pointed out to the House, and I reiterate, that purely for the so-called offence of writing to a newspaper, for publication, a letter that had nothing to do with the war effort but which simply asserted the freedom of the press, I found myself summoned into court at the behest of the Labour government then in power.
House adjourned at 10.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Commonwealth Serum Laboratories.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
son asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Why is sales tax charged on the paper used in paper towels and not on the dispenser which holds this article?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
There is no provision in the sales tax law which would authorize exemption from sales tax in respect of paper towels. Nor is there any specific provision in the law for exemption of paper towel dispensers as such. However, item 84 (2) in the First Schedule to the Sales Tax Exemptions and Classifications Act exempts builders’ hardware, being goods of a kind used in the construction or repair of, and wrought into or attached to, so as to form part of, buildings. Any articles, including paper towel dispensers, which conform to the terms of this provision are exempt from sales tax.
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
What reply was received by the Government to its request to the South African Government that the progeny of Australian merino rams be retained for the purposes of research and experimentation, or, alternatively, that any surplus animals be so treated before disposal as to prevent their being used for commercial breeding?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
In response to the representations of the Australian Government the South African Minister for Agriculture has forwarded to me through the High Commissioner of the Union of South Africa, a note giving assurances that progeny sired by the imported Australian merino rams will not be made available to commercial breeders.
Imports of Butter into the United Kingdom.
y asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The following are the details by countries of origin of imports of butter into the United Kingdom during the five years ended 1957:-
r asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– As the above questions concern the administration of my department, the Minister for Social Services has referred them to me for attention. It is a fact that all persons in receipt of age and invalid pensions on 31st October, 1955, were and still are eligible for the benefits of the Pensioner Medical Service. Persons granted pensions after that date are also eligible for the Pensioner Medical Service unless their income from other sources would have made them ineligible under the income means test in force at 31st December, 1953, for pensions at the maximum rate. The criterion adopted was the pensioner’s ability to qualify under that income means test for the maximum rate of pension. The then Minister for Health stated this in his second-reading speech of 26th October, 1955. This principle was incorporated in the National Health Act in October, 1955, and since then has been strictly adhered to.
t asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following replies: -
British Overseas Airways Corporation.
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upoi notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has replied as follows: -
Under the Australia-United Kingdom Air Transport Agreement which was signed in February the United Kingdom airline was given the right to operate its Kangaroo service into Australia via Perth. The question of whether B.O.A.C. will operate services through Perth is a matter for decision by B.O.A.C. in consultation with its partner airline Qantas. I understand that the partner airlines are at present actively examining the question of B.O.A.C. operations through Perth but to my knowledge no decision has yet been made.
a asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
What is the number of wives’ allowances paid in Australia at the present date?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 April 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580422_reps_22_hor19/>.