22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) tookthe chair at 2.30p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question relating to the fighting inthe rebellion within Indonesia. Canthe Minister inform the House whether the fighting is approaching an end and of the extent, if any, of outside intervention by force, Which has been reported fromtime to time?
– The Leaderof the Opposition reflects an anxiety about the Indonesian situation, and I can assure him that he has no monopolyin this connexion. We onthis side of theHouse very definitely share that anxiety. There is no particular information that I can give the right honorablegentleman at this time. In this situation I donot think anyone cansee any further than another throughthe mists of thefuture. The Government’s information comesalmost entirety from itsEmbassy in Djakarta. The Government has no representation in the eastern part of Indonesia, nor, of course, in the Celebes. Sofar as alleged outside interference is concerned, there havebeencharges,of course,but so far as I am aware -andtheGovernment has a good dealof information aboutthis aspect - theyare entirely unfounded. Wheneverthere is acivil war -and the clash in Indonesia is a civil war -there are soldiers of fortune. There has never been acivil war in which soldiers of fortune nave not found their opportunity, and Iexpect that the rebellion in Indonesia is no exceptionto thegeneral rule ofthepast. There is no proofwhatever that any outside country is deliberately taking a hand in the Indonesian internal problem.
Australia’s point of view has been stated bythe Prime Ministerandmyselfon several occasions.It is that Australia takes no handin this tragicdomestic matter,a domestic matter that at oneshort remove could prove of very great concern to Australia. But that does not detract from the fact that at this stage at least - Ido not anticipate any further stage-it is not in Australia’s interests to inject itself into this matter atall. As to the remaining part of the right honorable gentleman’s question, I can give him no information of theprobabledevelopment of thesituation in Indonesia. It is our fervent hope that the Governmentin Indonesia and thedissidents in the northernCelebes will findthemselvesable toresolvetheir problem in aproper, democratic way, and as quickly aspossible.
United StatesStabilization Plan.
-I desire to askthe Minister for Trade a question concerning a reportreceivedby cable last Friday to the effect that Mr. Floyd Blair, president of the American-AustralianAssociation, had told executivemembers of the United States Administration, as well as members of both Houses ofCongress, in Washington, that the United States should becareful not to dissipate the enormousgoodwill ofthe Australian people by adopting unwise trade policies.Has theMinister anyknowledge of that report? Whateffectwouldthe adoption of a domestic mineral stabilization plan or a mine subsidy on lead, zinc, and copper, in the United States, haveon Australia’s export trade in metals? Is there anyconnexionbetween the recent proposal for the mineral stabilization plan or mine subsidy and Mr.Floyd Blair’s recent warning tomembers oftheUnited States Congress?
– I have seen a published report of the statement made bythat eminent American citizen, and verygood friend of Australia, Mr.Floyd Blair, who has spoken, I understand, to the United States Administration and members of Congress in the terms indicated by the honorable member. Mr. Blair was referring, in particular, to proposals whichhave had their origin in arecommendation of the United States Tariff Commission. Halfthe members of that commission have recommended a higher dutyupon lead and zinc, andthe other half have recommended in favour of both a higher duty anda quota on these metals. There is now a further proposal known asthe Seatonproposal, which is designed,I understand, toprovide a support price for themajor non-ferrousmetals producedinthe UnitedStates.
TheAmericanmarket is tremendously important to Australia.I told theHouse a little while ago that not only is our market there for lead and zinc highly important to us in its significance for home production and employment in Australia, but also our exports of those metals are our second biggest export to the United States, and our second biggest dollar earner. So, naturally, on behalf of the Government, I have been making representations to the United States Administration in order to ensure that the Australian viewpoint is clearly understood. Leading members of the Australian industry are themselves proceeding to the United States to discuss the matter with their opposite numbers in the American industry, and to confer with Australian officials, and, to the extent of the opportunities that may be provided, with officials of the Administration and the government service.
I am hopeful that there will be, in the United States, a clear understanding of the serious consequences to Australia if any important obstruction to the entry of Australian non-ferrous metals to the American market is raised. It would be very regrettable indeed if a restriction of the access of foreign metals to the United States market were to produce, concurrently, higher returns to American producers and, through the desire of foreigners, including ourselves, to sell in that market, with consequent cutthroat competition for what was left of the market, lower prices for Australian producers. I am sure that that was what Mr. Floyd Blair had in mind with respect to these metals, and, in a wider context, with respect to commodities generally, when he expressed the hope that the United States Administration would not take any steps that would cause Americans to forgo the enormous goodwill that this country holds towards them.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, and I refer again to the Goulburn wool sales dispute. By way of preface, I point out that the New South Wales and Queensland Woolbuyers Association decided, the other day, to adhere to the boycott of the Goulburn sales, and to apply that boycott this year despite the unanimous recommendation of all the federal bodies engaged in wool marketing. That decision, of course, rendered abortive the conference which was to be held in Melbourne last
Friday. I therefore ask the Minister: First, will he consider recommending the holding of a thorough investigation and inquiry into present wool-buying activities in Australia, with particular reference to the evidence of the tendency towards the growth of a buyers’ monopoly in this country? Will he ensure that the inquiry will take into account the evidence that, of the 818,000 bales of wool sold in Sydney up to 15th March of this year, 562,000 bales were bought by 26 buyers out of a total of 160 members of the association?
– Order! I think the honorable member is giving information.
– I ask the
Minister, secondly, whether he will consider what steps the Commonwealth Government can take in this situation to assist individual buyers who may desire to operate at the Goulburn sales despite the threats made by the New South Wales and Queensland Woolbuyers Association that they will be penalized if they dare to do so.
– It is true that the Australian Woolgrowers Council refused to attend a conference relating to the Goulburn wool selling centre on the ground that the Queensland and New South Wales buyers had boycotted the Goulburn sales. I will give careful consideration to the first question asked by the honorable member, which referred to the possibility of a buyers’ monopoly, because the figures given by him seem to me to need consideration. As to the second question, I think the honorable gentleman will know that already the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales has called a conference. I have discussed the problem with him and I have no doubt that I will have further discussions with him. As soon as 1 can get something concrete from him, I will let the honorable gentleman know.
– I address a question to the Minister for Air. In the past few years, the Royal Australian Air Force has taken part in services held annually to commemorate the sinking of the hospital ship “ Centaur “ off the Queensland coast during World War II. As a service will be held to commemorate this event to-morrow, I ask the Minister whether the Royal Australian Air Force will take part in the ceremonies.
– Yes. An aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force will fly over the spot at which this tragic event occurred during the war and will drop a wreath at the point at which “ Centaur “ sank. It will afterwards fly over Anzac-square in Brisbane at the time when the ceremony of remembrance takes place in that city.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. In view of the very marked drop in the price of our exports, such as wool, dairy products and metals, will the right honorable gentleman make the necessary representations to the overseas shipping combines for an actual reduction in shipping freights?
– There has already been a very substantial reduction in charter rates. Speaking from memory, I think that reduction has been one-third of the peak of a few years ago. In respect of the rates charged by the Conference lines, I am sure that the House is aware of the arrangements which exist, proceeding from legislation of the Parliament. The Australian Overseas Transport Association, on which all the exporting industries of Australia are represented, has regular conferences with the shipping lines. The present freight rates flow from agreements that have been reached between the two parties.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade. As sales of our exported primary products are at the mercy of prices prevailing in world markets - in most cases limited markets with an overabundance of supplies - can the Minister say to what extent this vital problem of prices will be discussed at the Commonwealth trade conference to be held in Canada later this year? As the American “ support “ policy, which results in large surpluses of primary products, has such a great influence on world prices, is it possible by Commonwealth action or in some other way to establish a trade organization for the purpose of stabilizing prices?
– The working agenda for the trade conference will emerge from discussions between senior officials of all the Commonwealth countries. These discussions will commence in London within the next two weeks. I have no doubt that in a conference between the United Kingdom, which is the greatest importer of foodstuffs of all the countries in the world and at least one of the greatest importers of many basic raw materials - if not the greatest - and the Commonwealth exporting countries, an important section of the deliberations will be devoted to the problems and interests of the countries involved. The matter mentioned by the honorable member may be of such great and worldwide importance as to be incapable of settlement at the forthcoming conference. I am not attempting to forecast the trend of events. The honorable member will know that this Government, over the years, has supported proposals and has considered plans designed to produce, either through a new international trade organization or through existing organizations, or through agreement between the respective countries, stability of prices for primary products sold in bulk throughout the world. The policy of the Government remains the same, and the problem mentioned by the honorable member is receiving increasing attention, not only in Australia but also, I allow myself to believe, throughout the world.
– Will the Prime Minister use his influence to arrange that the increase in age and invalid pensions to be announced when the next Budget is brought down will be at least £1 a week and not 12s. 6d., as is freely rumoured at the present time?
– I repeat what has been said previously, that Budget matters will be discussed at the appropriate time by the Cabinet as a whole.
– Can the Minister for Air say whether there is any possibility of a new airliner, which has already been named the C.A.C. Wallaby and is designed to meet outback service requirements and to replace the uneconomic and obsolescent D.C.3, being produced by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation? Can the Minister also say whether there will be any demand for helicopters by the three defence services and civilian organizations, and whether any thought has been given to the building of this kind of aircraft in Australia?
– I am not informed about the development of an Australiandesigned aircraft to replace the D.C.3. I will make inquiries and let the honorable member know the result, ft is true that the use of helicopters is increasing throughout the world, but’ they are expensive aircraft and difficult to maintain. For countries whose capacity to maintain large airfleets is limited, I think they will be less in demand than by some of’ the greater world powers. Some consideration has been given to their manufacture in Australia, but I am not aware of any firm plans to build helicopters in this country.
– Will the Minister for Trade inform the House whether it is a fact that the honorable member for Darling Downs, who is Parliamentary Secretary to the Department of Trade and the Government leader of a recent trade mission to South-East Asia, told the Kuala Lumpur Chamber of Commerce that Australia hoped to import more timber from Malaya and Borneo rather than reduce imports from that source? Does the Minister intend to increase the number of licences that have been currently approved in view of the fact that the level of imports this year from Malaya and Borneo will constitute a record? Will the Minister inform the House when the Tariff Board report on the timber industry generally will be made available for the information of honorable members as well as the Australian timber industry? I ask these questions because of the serious situation that has now developed in the Australian timber industry generally.
– Taking the last part of the honorable member’s questions first, I hope and expect that the Tariff Board’s report on the timber industry will be available to the Parliament before the House adjourns at the end of this sessional period. It is not true to say that there has been a substantial increase in the importation of timber, and I am not prepared to argue the case of importations from- one particular country. I understand that the honorable member’s interest is the protec tion of ‘ the Australian industry. The truth of the matter is that imports df timber into Australia ate less than they were, in quantity and proportionately. I have not yet had an opportunity for a conversation or a business discussion with the honorable member for Darling Downs. I do know that he has done a magnificent job for Australia in leading a highly successful mission with distinction to himself and advantage to the country. The admission of timber into Australia can continue only within the terms of the existing tariff schedule, and there will be no special licensing of timber imports.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration. In view of the increasing shortage of domestic servants in hospitals, public institutions and private homes, particularly where there are young families, will the Minister inform the House whether he has given any consideration to special efforts to recruit domestic workers from overseas?
– I appreciate the interest of the honorable member in this vexed question. Since my appointment as Minister, I have given some thought to these matters because, with my honorable friend, I know that there is a very great shortage of domestic workers in hospitals, public institutions and private homes. The House might be interested to know that that excellent organization - the InterGovernmental Committee for European Migration - has a school in Athens to train Greek girls in domestic work, particularly those wishing to emigrate to Australia, Canada, the United States of America and other so-called migration countries. We, in common with those countries, have been taking a proportion of these girls. The total number of arrivals in the current year is not large, but will be between 100 and 120. I hope very much that, in the next financial year, we shall be able to improve upon this quota quite considerably. I am also taking steps to see whether we can supplement this source of migration from countries such as Germany, Austria and Italy. I remind the honorable member that in this, as in all other matters, it will always be my aim while I hold this portfolio to serve as the housewives’ friend.
Mf. NEESON:- I direct’ a question” tff the Minister’ for Territories. In’ view’ of the Minister’s statement’ of 29th. April to the effect that submissions’ had been made to Cabinet on the Northern Territory crisis’ over political reforms,- and- the; Prime Ministers statement; hr reply– to my’ question of 30th April, that Cabinet-‘ would give close, and quick consideration.- to. the submissions, I ask:. Has. a decision been, made? If so, what is the substance of the decision?’ If a- decision has- not yet been arrived’ at- will the Minister tell the Housewhen a- statement wilt bc made on thesubject?
– Cabinet, has’ considered this matter. I- had’ intended to. ask. for leave of. the House to- make a statement on. the subject, but. as the stater ment is very brief, it may be convenient if I make it now-; in answer to the honorable member for the Northern Territory-:
The Government has a strong, interest, in the development of the. Northern Territory, including its political, development,, and- no government since. Federation has done more- than this Government, has done for the Territory.
The Government endorses the objectives towards which, as Minister for Territories, I- have1 worked- steadily for seven years, namely the eventual creation of the Northern Territory as a north Australian State1 - either in the present boundaries or with a readjustment of boundaries. We hope to see its population grow and its resources develop- so that it will reach in the: shortest possible time full, selfgoverning status.
The Government Kas treated the report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory with proper respect. It has already given it a good deal of thought and will give it more. The so-called period of delay after the receipt of the report was in fact fully occupied by studies of the report, at my request, by the Administrator of the Northern Territory- and by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. I could- not move until, they had done their work. As soon. as< their comments were, received I prepared a submission for Cabinet Any
Government: would have1- been legitimately criticized; if: it: had: either dismissed’, such. a> report on had accepted’ it: without, close examination: and- without! advice; from the Territory;
These, in* the view of the’ Cabinet; are not simple and uncomplicated’ matters. They require close discussion and; in the view of the Cabinet, the people chiefly concerned” should’ be represented’ in the discussion. The Government thinks that any discussions carried’ on at long range are likely to be protracted’ and to lead” to misunderstanding, so I’ have been authorized by Cabinet to invite either, the whole of. the Legislative Council or representatives of it to come to. Canberra to. discuss: the report with me and with other appropriate members of the Government and our advisers: We1 are? ourselves- ready to hold these, discussions at once,, but if is clearly, inadvisable, to- arrange, them while, the: council lacks its full, membership: As> soon as possible rafter: tha by-elections to be held: at the- end of’ lune, an invitation: willi be issued, to tha: council, and the. conference will be. convened” in Canberra. It. is the- hope of the: Government; as- it. has* always been my. own hope,, that these1 discussions^ can take- place in- a friendly and; helpful atmosphere- and produce the best possible results for the Territory.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. The Leader of the Opposition is reported to have said, during a. recent television, interview, that Labour is getting a fairer deal from commercial television stations than from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Can the Minister- inform the Housewhether there is any truth in this assertion, and whether there is any political discrimination on Australian Broadcasting Commission radio or television programmes?
– The allocation of time by a commercial, broadcasting, station, to matters of political, import during non-election periods, and. particularly, during election periods, is laid down in the act. It is specified that if, during: an election, period, a commercial station grants time to one party, it must give a reasonable opportunity to other parties also to broadcast during that period. It is provided that a “ political party “ shall be defined as a party which has had representation in the Parliament concerned prior to the election. Although this provision applies particularly to commercial broadcasting stations, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which has its own authority, is guided in its allocation of time by this same principle. I have had occasion recently to have a look at a few of the examples which have been quoted to me and I am quite satisfied that the commission, in allocating time between the various parties on the basis of the strength of those parties in the Parliament before the election, is carrying out a fair and just allocation of the time available to it.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Will he do whatever he can to speed up a decision regarding the allocation of a new showground for Canberra and its transfer to the Australian Capital Territory Pastoral and Agricultural Association? I point out to the Minister that if such a decision can be given within the next several weeks, the association will be able to proceed with buildings and other preparations to hold its 1959 exhibition on the new ground.
– I will be only too glad to do whatever I can to facilitate the kind of move to which the honorable gentleman has referred. I shall look into the matter and advise him.
– Has the Minister for Health any recent reports on the free milk scheme for school children, and is he satisfied that the supply of milk to children through this scheme has proved to be in the best interests of Australian youth?
– The milk for school children scheme was introduced only a few years ago. I think that an assessment of what it has done for the youth of Australia will not be possible for some years to come. It is as yet too early to say anything very definite about it.
– I would like to ask a question without notice of the Minister for
Immigration. Is it a fact that about 1,250,000 migrants have come to this country since the war. and that included in that number have been about 800,000 non-British migrants? Is the Minister satisfied that only 140,000 non-British migrants-
– Order! The honorable member is giving information instead of seeking it.
– I think I should be allowed to state the figures.
– It will not be in order for the honorable member to continue in that way. He will proceed with the question and not give information.
- Mr. Speaker, I think it is quite unfair, because-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, do you rule that it is out of order for an honorable member to quote figures which can be checked, perhaps, but which are not known to the Minister? Because an honorable member mentions one fact in his question, such as the honorable member for Wilmot has, do you rule that that makes the question out of order? I submit that to rule in that way is contrary to practice and is not supported by the rules. It is not intended to give information but to ask a Minister for an answer on the submitted facts. I ask you to review that ruling, if it is to be a general ruling, as otherwise question time will be made very difficult.
– Order! I suggest that questions are far too long. In addition, many of them give information. Now and again it is advisable to return to the Standing Orders and comply with them. The giving of information when asking a question is out of order. I. ask honorable members to assist me by keeping their questions as short as possible and thereby set an example to the Ministers when giving their replies.
– May not the honorable member for Wilmot reframe his question?
– He will get the next call if he can frame his question in accordance with the Standing Orders, and not give information.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the House of the present position with regard to the conversion and equipment of Sidney House, Toowong, for use by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for radio and television purposes?
– Last year, the Australian Broadcasting Commission secured the property in Toowong referred to by the honorable member. The property comprised two buildings - Sidney House, and another building the name of which I have not readily available to me. The position regarding the development of this site by the commission is that one building is being converted for use as an administrative building for the commission, and also for the use of the programme planning section. The second building, Sidney House, is to be demolished, and in its place there is to be erected a new building as a television studio.
The position regarding the development of that building is that the Department of Works has completed the preparation of preliminary plans, enabling it to call tenders for the erection of the building. I understand that these tenders will be called shortly and that the building itself should be completed by May next year. Tenders have closed for the provision of television equipment and orders will shortly be placed with the successful tenderers. The first equipment should be delivered to the Brisbane site some time in May next year and the final equipment about the middle of the year - June or July. It should be installed by December next year, which is, at present, the target date for the opening of the station. 1 want to point out, for the information of the honorable member and those other Queenslanders who are particularly interested in this building, that the original target date for the opening of the national station in Brisbane was early in 1960, but because of the centenary celebrations which will be taking place towards the end of 1959, every effort is being made by all the authorities concerned - the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Department of Works - to ensure that the work will be completed by the target date of
December, 1959. As things are developing at present, it looks as if that goal will be reached. It may interest the honorable member to know, in view of the fact that I have heard him remark on this particular phase, that the very beautiful stained glass windows in the old Sidney House will be preserved and included in the new television studio building.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration why it is that only one-sixth of the non-British immigrants to Australia have become naturalized. Is the department doing all that it can to encourage naturalization or is the contrary the case?
– Yes; the department, and more importantly, the Government, are most anxious that that large intake of non-British immigrants should, as conveniently and as suitably as possible, assume the full status of Australian citizenship. I assure the honorable member not only that this is our aim but also that the officers of the department are doing everything possible to facilitate its achievement.
The honorable member will realize, however, that certain qualifications and formalities have to be complied with, and I should hope that all members of this House agree that with respect to the residents who have not got the promise of making good and suitable Australian citizens the very least the department should do should be to take a second look at them and perhaps defer, for a reasonable period, the time when they can be naturalized. But my honorable friend need have no fears about the Government’s attitude to this problem.
– In view of the current interest in wool selling methods, can the Minister for Primary Industry tell honorable members whether the scheme introduced recently in South Africa has been successful?
– I have read a recent report about the results of the support price scheme in South Africa. I think, all told, the purchasing commission has bought about 22,000 bales to a value of about £770,000. I understand that this scheme has met with the general approval of the producers and the brokers in South Africa.
The honorablemember doubtless would like to know alsothatthisscheme has operatedas partof a general auction system in the sale of wool anditisnot intended to depart from it. , A somewhat similar scheme is operating in New Zealand aswell.Thebest advicethat Icanget is thatit as a little tooearly, yet, to judge of the success of the schemeinSouthAfrica and the likely implications of the introduction ofa somewhat similar scheme in Australia.
– I wishto ask the Prime Minister a question in connexion withthe consideration by thisHouse of certain legislation. Would he beprepared to table the correspondence between thePremier of South Australia and the Commonwealth in regard ‘to the Murray waters question?
Mr.MENZIES.-Iamnot prepared, offhand,to saythatIwould table that correspondence,becauseone wouldneed tolook at it tosee what matters rare still underdiscussionandwhatmattersmight be regardedasprivate.ButI am proposing, realizingthetremendous interest thatSouth Australiahasin this matter,to speakto-nighton therelevant billand tell theHouse.asmuch asI properly can about those aspectsof the matter.
Mr.FAIRBAIRN.- In explanation of my question,whichI address tothePrime Minister,I wishto state that, six weeks ago,honorable membersreceived a statement that the Government would not allow the internal airlines of Australia to purchase two Caravelle aircraft and four Lockheed Electra aircraft, on the grounds thatthe Governmentconsidered that the “ 800” series Viscount aircraft would be a more suitable and a more economical replacementaircraft forboth airlines. Is there anytruth in the rumour that the Government has now decided to allow four LockheedElectraaircraft to be purchased by Trans-AustraliaAirlines and Ansett- A.N.A., while the French are not tobe allowed to sellus the Caravelle?If so, will the Government give an opportunity to honorable members to debatethis controversial action before anyhard andfast decision is taken?
– Thematterref erred to by the honorablememberhasbeen in the verycompetent hands ofmy colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation,who sitsin another place. Last week, at hisrequest, andafteranexamination ofthis problem, I calledintoconference,in the presence of theMinister, the chairmanof TransAustralia Airlines and the managingdirector of Ansett-A.N.A.Wethen had adiscussion abouttheequipmentof those two airlines inthe lightof the Govemment’sdominantdesire tomaintaininoperation in Australiatwomajor competitiveairlines onthe maintrunk routes. That is, ofcourse, an essential part ofour policy.In the light of that policy, we discussed the problemofequipment. That problem, of course, cannot bedetached fromtheproblem ofthe overalleconomics ofthe industry-theprovision of runways and aerodrome facilities and the maintenance of a position in which thecompetingairlinesare efficient but notextravagant. The honorable memberwill atonce realize howimportantthatisinacountry where the Governmenthas,inevitably, some relations withbothof thecompeting airlines. There are tobefurtherdiscussionsbetweenthecontrollers orthe principalmenof thetwoairlines.I have no doubtthat, afterthose discussions, my colleagueor myself willbeinaposition to say somethingfurtherto the House about this matter.
-I ask the Prime Ministerunderwhose authority it is,or would be, possible tointerceptletters or tap telephones on securitygrounds. When the PrimeMinister was asked questions lastNovember by the honorable member for Hindmarsh and myself, arising out of thereport of a committee of Privy Councillors on the procedure which should be followedin theUnitedKingdom, the Prime Minister saidthat he proposed to have the reportexamined by the Cabinet to see whether there should beastatutory basis for the procedure inAustralia.I do not canvass the right honorable gentleman’s repeated resolve not to discussthe operationsof the security service; I merely ask him,firstly:Who, in Australia, gives or would give the authority to tap telephones or interceptletters which, in the United Kingdom, must be given bythe Home
Secretary; and, secondly, whether the Cabinet has. considered, in the intervening six months, the introduction of legislation onthe subject?
– The first part of the question should go on the notice-paper, because it does not admit of a simple answer, as the honorable member will realize. As to the second part of the question: No, Cabinet has not yet given consideration to this matter, although I have personally given a good deal of attention to it.
-I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Has the honorable gentleman been approached, by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and. Airmen’s Imperial. League of Australia with a request which, I understand, is supported by the Minister of Lands in South Australia, to extend the operation of the war service land settlement scheme in South Australia until 30th June, 1961? In view of the number of approved applicants who will not have received land if the scheme terminates next year, will the Minister give this suggestion his most serious consideration?
– A recommendation has been made by the South Australian branch of the returned servicemen’s league to extend the date for ending approvals for the scheme. I think the date is 30th June, 1961. I should point out to the honorable member that any proposals or any scheme approved up until the proposed date of ending approvals for the scheme will, of course, be completed. I should like also to point out that one of the difficulties associated with war service land settlement in South Australia is the fact that very little land is now regarded as suitable for this purpose. I will give this problem further consideration and advise the honorable member as soon as I am able to do so.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During question time thehonorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) referred to a press statement which is alleged to have reported that I gave some assurance to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Kuala Lumpur that Australia would purchase additional supplies of timber from Malaya. If that is the way the statement appears, it is quite incorrect, becauseI gave no such assurance. It is a fact that I and. others with me had fairly lengthy discussions with the Chinese Chamber ofCommerce in Kuala Lumpur and portion of those discussions related to timber. I will be submitting a full report on these discussions to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) at a later stage.
– Order! The honorable member may not continue beyond that point.
, - I move -
That the bill benow read a second time.
The bill asks Parliament to approve two agreements relating to the Snowy Mountains scheme. The parties to the agreements are the three governments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria.
The principal agreement sets out the basis upon which the scheme will be constructed and describes the arrangements under which the power generated will be purchased by the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Victoria. It also provides for the sharing between. New South Wales and Victoria of the additional irrigation water which will be made available in the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys by the operation of the scheme. The second or supplemental agreement deals with possible damage by flooding due to the scheme in theupper Murray and lower Tumut.
The construction of the scheme has so far proceeded under legislation which was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1949. That legislation was based on the defence power and certain other powers in the Commonwealth Constitution.
One of the principal provisions of the main agreement is an undertaking by the governments of New South Wales and Victoria to bring down legislation giving State legislative authority to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to do those things which are necessary to carry out the provisions of the agreement. The legislation now before the House is, therefore, complementary to legislation which has already been passed by the parliaments of New South Wales and Victoria.
The Snowy Mountains scheme provides for the diversion of the waters of the Snowy River to the Murray and Mumimbidgee valleys where they will bc used for irrigation instead of running uselessly to the sea. In addition, the volume of irrigation water which will be made available to the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys during the irrigation season and during drought periods will be further increased by the control and regulation provided by the scheme’s reservoirs.
The headwaters of the Snowy River are up to 6,000 feet above the level of the Murray, some 25 miles to the westward. There is also a drop of nearly 3,000 feet between the headwaters of various mountain streams and the lower Tumut. As a result, there are opportunities for generating large quantities of hydro-electric power as the water falls to :he level of the plains. Thus, in general terms, the conception of the scheme is a simple one. Tt takes the waters of the streams and rivers that rise on the eastward side of the Great Dividing Range at high elevation, and transfers them by tunnels and shafts to the rivers at low elevation on the western side of the range. The fall of the waters which occurs in the process enables large quantities of electricity to be generated.
Although fundamentally the scheme is simple in concept, it has presented engineering problems of great magnitude, which are due mainly to the difficulties of the terrain. The 3,000 square miles of the Snowy Mountains area, with its range of 40 to 120 inches per annum of rain and snow fall, is one of the roughest and most inaccessible parts of Australia. The nature of the task can perhaps be best illustrated by the simple statement that, up to this stage, it has been necessary to build roads and tracks of access of a total length of 400 mites. The first sod was turned in November, 1949. To date, some £105,000,000 has been invested in the scheme. By the end of this financial year, the total investment will be £110,000,000.
The total cost of the scheme is likely to be of the order of £350,000,000 to £440,000,000. It will be seen from these figures that construction is well advanced. Indeed, the Guthega power station, with its generating capacity of 60,000 kilowatts, produced 180,000,000 kW. hours last year at a cost of 0.9 Id. per kW. hour.
The Snowy scheme will yield considerable benefits during the next few years. The present programme contemplates -
The Snowy Mountains scheme is Australia’s greatest development work and is supported by all political parties in Australia. Of the fruits of the scheme, the first, in order, if not necessarily in importance, is electricity. The total installed capacity of the scheme will be approximately 3,000,000 kilowatts, which is about three-quarters of the present total capacity of all the electricity systems of the Commonwealth. The main agreement provides that after the requirements of the Commonwealth in the Australian Capital Territory and the Snowy Mountains area have been provided for the States will be sold the balance of the power at the cost of production, and that the water will be made available without charge to the States. Thus, the additional cost of providing irrigation water is included in the cost of generating electric power, and is recovered when the power is sold. Even then, the power will be cheaper than if it had been generated at thermal power stations.
The electricity system inherently requires both peak-load and base-load power. Although base-load thermal power stations situated on the coal-fields in New South Wales and Victoria are expected to produce power relatively cheaply, the Snowy scheme can provide for peak loads more cheaply than can thermal power stations, which are less economical under varying peak-load conditions. Even the possibility of cheap nuclear power cannot be seen as a threat to the economy of the Snowy scheme. In fact, nuclear generation, when it comes, will be most efficient as a base-load supplier, and will therefore make an efficient partner to the hydro-electric production from the scheme. There seems little risk that it can compete with the Snowy scheme in the peak-load field.
Posterity may well decide, however, that, valuable as may be the power that is produced, it is not so valuable, nationally, as the water conserved and diverted for irrigation. That, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is a view that I share. The quantity of water available to the Murray and Mumimbidgee valleys will be increased by the direct diversion of the Snowy River and its tributaries, and, further, by the regulation of the Snowy, Tumut, Tooma, Geehi and Murrumbidgee rivers in the reservoirs of the scheme. These reservoirs will ensure that water is stored during periods of high river flow, so that losses are minimized and so that, approximately, the total river flow is available for release at a more uniform rate during both high-flow and drought conditions. The water regulated by the main storages of the scheme will then be reregulated for irrigation purposes by the associated Blowering and Hume reservoirs. The scheme and associated developments will increase the irrigation water available in the Murrumbidgee Valley by about 1,000,000 acre feet per annum, made up of 500,000 acre feet per annum by direct diversion and 500,000 acre feet per annum by regulation. This quantity would increase the total supply at present by no less than 85 per cent. Similarly, the increase in the Murray Valley will be about 800,000 acre feet per annum, made up of 440,000 acre feet per annum resulting from direct diversion and 360,000 acre feet per annum gained from regulation. This will be an increase of approximately 41 per cent, in the present total supply to this area. The additional water will supply about 3,000 farms and will support an increased population of about 150,000.
The Snowy River rises in New South. Wales and runs into the sea in Victoria. The major benefit from the scheme, therefore, will naturally accrue to New South Wales and Victoria. South Australia, however, will also obtain a real gain because improved conservation and storage will mean that there will be a greater volume of water in the Murray River in dry periods. Equally important, the general flow of the river will be so improved that the frequency and duration of periods of restriction because of droughts will be appreciably reduced. Estimates indicate that in a period of drought South Australia will obtain an increase of some 60,000 acre feet of water per annum. As the amount of water used by South Australia for irrigation and town water supplies does not exceed about 200,000 acre feet per annum, this is a significant addition.
There is a further natural advantage which will result from the scheme. This is its strategic value. By producing hydroelectric power, rather than relying entirely on the addition of further coal-burning stations, we gain considerable advantage strategically. When the Adaminaby Reservoir, which is the largest storage of the scheme, is filled to the normal operating level, we shall have in hand a reserve of electrical energy which would be equivalent to that of about 4,000,000 tons of coaL In a national emergency, the power stations which depend on this reservoir could be operated continuously to provide a very large proportion of the present requirements of electricity in both New South Wales and Victoria over a period of nearly two years. Moreover, Mr. Deputy Speaker, mostofthepowerstationswillbedeep undergroundinaremoteandruggedarea, and,therefore,muchlessvulnerableto enemyactionthanconventionalstations builtonthesurfacenearcentresoflarge population.TheexperienceofWorldWar IIhasshownthatitisdifficulttodestroy aconcretedambybombing.Itwouldbe evenmoredifficulttodestroythehuge earthworkdamsoftheSnowyscheme.It wastheseconsiderationswhichledthe governmentofthedaytorelyuponthe SnowyMountainsHydro-electricPower Billof1949.
The bill which is nowbefore theHouse arisesfrom the fact that it is the Commonwealth Government that has taken the lead in developing the scheme. The Commonwealth claims that its constitutional powers areadequatetosupportthe legislation under which thescheme is being carried out. However,State powers are to be used as a second line of defence. The mainCommonwealthStates agreement which is annexed to this billprovides thattheStates willpass legislation whichwill supplement andconfirm existingCommonwealth power to carry out the scheme. As I remarkedearlier, they have already carried outthis obligationandtheirlegislation only requires proclamationto become effective.
The interest of the Commonwealth Government in developing the Snowy Mountains area arose after it became apparent that the efforts ofthetwo States to develop the area should be co-ordinated. In1946, theVictorianPremier, the Honor able J.Cain, M.L.A., wrote to the then PrimeMinister, the RightHonorable J.B. Chifley, suggestingthat the diversionof the Snowy into theMurray would be a national undertaking of very great benefit and could well be undertakenby theCommonwealthGovernment as anational work. Considerationofthese views atPremiers conferences resulted inaseriesof investigationsbyacommitteeof Commonwealth and Stateofficers.Theinvestigating Commonwealt h-State committee reported to ministerialconferenceswhich wereconstitutedbythe Premiersconferences. Asa result, agreementwasreachedinprinciple onthe main features oftheSnowy scheme ata ministerialconferenceheldin 1949,at which thethen CommonwealthMinisterfor Works,theHonorableNelsonLemmon, presided.
Honorablemembersopposite willprobably hasten toremind theHousethatthe initialplanningof theschemetookplace whilea Labourgovernmentwas in office. Letmebethefirstto acknowledgethis.
Mr.Edmonds.- You were not thefirst to attend the opening, though!
Mr.ROBERTON.- I was never invited tothe opening.I will go further. During this early period, the developmentofthe scheme owes a great deal to the personal enthusiasm andvisionof thethenPrime Minister andof the Honorable Nelson Lemmon, who conducted theearlynegotiationswith the States. In the history of theSnowy scheme,these two gentlemen will not beforgotten. It is alsointeresting to notethat thepresent Premiers ofboth NewSouthWalesandVictoria - the HonorableJ.J. Cahill, at presentabroad, and theHonorableH.E. Bolte - were among theMinisters who represented their Statesatthe 1949 conference,although theyhad notat thatstage reached their present high and exaltedoffice.Then followedthechangeintheFederalGovernment in December, 1949.Since then the Right HonorableR.G.Menzies hasbeen PrimeMinister.It has been thisGovernment that has laid downthe organization whichhasdevelopedthescheme and providedthegreatsumsofmoneythat havebeeninvested in it. This Governmenthas alsobeen successful in the difficulttaskof finalizing the agreement between thethreegovernments which is thesubjectofthislegislation. Ministerial credit mustgo tothepresent Ministerfor National Development (Senator Spooner).
I must also mention the part played : by the Commonwealth andStateofficers, under the chairmanship ofDr. Loder,who hadthe imagination and courage torecommendthescheme as weknow it to-day to the threegovernments concerned.Nor should we forget Mr. Olsen, anengineer of the StateElectricityCommission ofVictoria andlateruntilhisretirementin 1955, the FirstChiefInvestigating Engineer of theSnowy MountainsAuthority.Itwas Mr. Olsenwho first pointed out the practicabilityandvalue of thediversionof the SnowyWatersintotheMurrayRiver.
I now come to the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Victoria in relation to the construction of the scheme which is appended to this bill. Because of the diversity of interests of the Commonwealth and the two States and the problems associated with constitutional powers, the agreement is a complex instrument, lt follows a lengthy period of difficult negotiations and its completion after seven years of discussions is an achievement of the greatest importance.
I cannot do more than mention the main features of the agreement. First, the Commonwealth is responsible for the completion of the project, subject only to conditions .which permit postponement or modification of construction under certain special circumstances. On the other hand, the States undertake to pass legislation in support of the authority of the Commonwealth for the construction of the necessary work to give effect to the agreement. As I have said, they have already done so. The agreement also provides in some detail for the sharing of irrigation water. The water made available to the Mumimbidgee River system will be under the control of the State of New South Wales which is required to construct a reservoir at Blowering for the re-regulation of waters for irrigation purposes. The water diverted to the river Murray from the Snowy River catchment will be divided equally between New South Wales and Victoria, whereas the additional water made available to the Murray by regulation in the storages of the scheme and at Hume will be shared under the provisions of the River Murray Agreement to which South Australia and the Commonwealth, as well as New South Wales and Victoria, are parties.
Comprehensive provisions are included in the principal agreement requiring the authority in constructing its works to take proper measures for protection of the catchment areas and the preservation of natural resources. In addition, the supplemental agreement provides that in the design, construction and operation of the scheme, damage by flooding in the Upper Murray and Lower Tumut Rivers will be avoided as far as possible; and that if such damage does occur compensation will be payable. Then there are provisions regarding the sharing of electricity. The Commonwealth is to have first call on power supplies for use in the Australian Capital Territory and for Commonwealth establishments in the Snowy Mountains area. The remaining electricity is to be shared between New South Wales and Victoria in the proportions of two to one respectively.
In respect of the Guthega project, which came into operation in April, 1955, there is a special arrangement whereby the power from Guthega is supplied to New South Wales until such time as the major power projects of the Upper Tumut works, at present being constructed, come into full operation, about 1962, or until an earlier date if the parties agree. The authority is required to notify details of its plans for the construction of works to the States at least five years in advance of the date when power will be produced from these works. This will allow adequate co-ordination in the development of the States’ own power systems. Because of the large amount of money involved in annual power revenues, expected to reach more than £6,000,000 by 1963 and more than £20,000,000 ultimately, the provisions relating to the supply of power, pricing, depreciation and interest charges, and other financial matters, are spelled out in detail in the agreement.
All capital costs will be amortized and included in the cost of production of power. The basis on which the amortization is calculated is that the cost of the original works of the scheme will be written off in a period of 70 years. Naturally many of the scheme’s assets will last very much longer than this and the result is that after 70 years have elapsed the cost of production of power will fall considerably.
Electricity from the scheme is to be sold to the “States at that cost of production. The States are protected by a provision that they will not be required in any one year to pay more for Snowy -power than the cost of an equivalent amount of thermal power. It is unlikely that this will occur. If it does, the Commonwealth should not suffer loss. The amount involved would be held in suspense against the State concerned. When the cost pf Snowy power to that State in future years fell below the cost of an equivalent amount of thermal power, the amount would be recovered,
The Commonwealth has agreed that, until the scheme is about half finished, interest on capital invested in works not yet producing electricity will not be compounded, but simple interest only will be charged. The Commonwealth long-term bond rate of interest has been consistently charged since the inception of the scheme.
For the purpose of advising and reporting to the three governments concerned on a number of matters relating to the development of the scheme and of carrying out certain executive functions - notably that of the responsibility for the operation and maintenance of completed works - a Snowy Mountains Council is set up. The council consists of two members appointed by the Minister to represent the Commonwealth, one as chairman, the other as deputy chairman, two members appointed by each of the States of New South Wales and Victoria, the commissioner of the authority and an associate commissioner or officer of the authority. In all, there are four members representing the Commonwealth interests and four members representing State interests, the presiding member - a Commonwealth representative - having a casting vote as well as a deliberative vote. In the exercise of the council’s advisory functions, however, the associate commissioner or officer of the authority will not vote.
While the council has the full responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the scheme, the generating stations, including the switch-yards, will be manned by officers of the electricity commissions of the States, whereas the remainder of the works will be manned by the authority. This arrangement concedes to the States their desire to participate in the operation of the scheme.
It will be seen that the council will have a most important part in the future of the Snowy scheme. As the various sections of the scheme are completed they will be handed over to the council, which will control their operation from that time forward.
In ascribing credit for the progress which has been made in carrying out the scheme I must first compliment Sir William Hudson, the commissioner of the authority, his associate commissioners, Mr. Lang and Mr. Merigan, and the 5,000 people who work on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Par ticular mention should be made of the fact that more than 60 per cent, of the people working on the scheme are New Australians. It has been the policy of the Government and of the commissioners to have as much of the work as possible done by contract. As a result, we have had contractors from most parts of the world contributing their special skills and knowledge to the work. The Bureau of Reclamation of the United States of America has made a notable contribution to the technical planning of the scheme, and suitable acknowledgment should be made.
Due, perhaps, to efficient planning and to the confidence which the contractors and the work force have had in the Snowy Mountains authority, the various parties which have combined to build the scheme have worked together happily and efficiently. It is noteworthy that despite the size of the work, the difficulties of the task and the fact that the workers are represented by more than twenty industrial unions, industrial disputes and troubles have been virtually unknown.
I appeal to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to stop the senseless chatter that is being indulged in by honorable members on the other side of the table. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is not interested in this most magnificent project he is at perfect liberty to leave the chamber.
I shall now continue my speech. The progress of works has kept at least up to schedule, and in some instances, it has been spectacular. I have been informed to-day that the construction of the Adaminaby Dam has been completed two years ahead of schedule, and that the filling of the reservoir is well advanced. Present indications point to the diversion of the Eucumbene River by the 14-mile EucumbeneTumut tunnel being completed in about eighteen months - about six months ahead of schedule. This will make available annually about 300,000 acre feet of irrigation water for the Mumimbidgee valley, in which, of course, I am greatly interested. The first two units of the T.l power station, each of 80,000 kW. capacity, are expected to come into service during the following twelve months. The programme for the second phase of the upper Tumut works is also being maintained. Tenders have closed for the construction of the Tooma-Tumut diversion. These are at present being examined prior to recommendations being made for the letting of these contracts.
The Snowy scheme is an imaginative, comprehensive project which will greatly assist the development of Australia. It will produce large amounts of electricity and involves heavy capital investment of Commonwealth funds. However, it must be remembered that with the demand for power increasing at some 8 per cent, or 9 per cent, per annum, heavy investment in generating capacity is essential to economic progress, whether this investment is in hydro-electric works or in the thermal generating systems of the States. The scheme will produce peak-load power at a cost which will be lower than the cost of equivalent power from thermal stations. The investment in the scheme is, therefore, sound from the national point of view. In addition to this, large amounts of irrigation will be provided free of any charge. This water is essential for the full development of primary production in the dry country extending along the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys. Irrigation is the hope of the back country.
The Snowy Mountains scheme will do great things for Australia. I must offer my congratulations to and, indeed, express my profound admiration of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who has brought the scheme thus far along the road of poltical progress. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 1606), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of the bill before the House is to extend for five years the assistance that is afforded the Australian cotton industry under the Cotton Bounty Act 1951-1957. Under that act, growers of cotton in Australia are guaranteed an average price of 14d. per lb. for seed cotton until 31st December, 1958. This bill will extend the payment of the guarantee until 31st December, 1963. As this measure will benefit a section of Australian industry, the Opposition supports the bill but wishes to make some comments upon it.
Because a decision of the Tariff Board on the cotton industry permits the free admission of foreign cotton under by-law, the Cotton Marketing Board must sell its cotton to the Australian spinners at import parity. When the payment to the growers is less than 14d. per lb. of seed cotton, the Commonwealth Government makes up the difference by way of bounty. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) was correct when he pointed out in his secondreading speech -
Queensland is the only State in which cotton is at present being grown on a commercial basis. Experimental plantings have recently been made in north-western New South Wales and at Katherine in the Northern Territory with promising indications, and there are distinct possibilities that cotton-growing may be developed within the next few years in areas other than Queensland.
That brings us to the question of whether or not the Commonwealth Government is, in fact, extending to this industry the support that it needs in order to exist. In November, 1955, the Cotton Marketing Board and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock presented a case to the Commonwealth Government requesting it to extend the term of the guarantee for seven years beyond 1958 at a minimum level of 16d. per lb. on seed cotton. The case was well supported, and I rely to the greatest extent now upon the arguments that were submitted on that occasion. I do so because I agree completely with the submissions that were made then. I am not condemning the Government for continuing the bounty, but I suggest to the Minister that perhaps not enough serious consideration was given to the amount of the bounty.
– In the end, all we were asked for was 14d. per lb. for seed cotton. That was the final request put to us.
– I suppose that those who submitted the case thought that half a loaf was better than none. They saw that their argument in support of a bounty of 16d. was falling on deaf ears and they were fearful that the payment of the bounty would not be extended until 1963. They could see that they would not get more than 14d. per lb. It is an extraordinary fact that, although Australia uses a tremendous quantity of cotton, only 4 per cent. of its total cotton requirement is produced in Australia. Examining those facts calmly and dispassionately, one must come to the conclusion that there is some reason for this low production. We know that there have been periods of low prices. In one of its submissions, the Cotton Marketing Board stated that the Commonwealth Government appointed a committee of inquiry, into the cotton industry after a case on its behalf had been presented in 1955. The inquiry covered a period of two years which were the worst in the history of the Australian cotton industry, yet the committee of inquiry was able to report that the future of the cotton industry in Australia was assured provided it had stability.
I am not one who believes that any industry should approach the Commonwealth Government at any time when things go wrong, and demand a. subsidy or a bounty. In the final analysis, such assistance reacts to the disadvantage of the industry and adds to the burdens of the taxpayers. The Government cannot grant bounties willy-nilly; but when an industry is struggling, as is the case with the cotton industry, the Government should give a little more consideration to the amount of the bounty that it grants.
I remember when many sugar farmers in north Queensland, and particularly in the Lower Burdekin Valley, were asked to devote acertain portion of their land to cotton production. It was pointed out that this would be a useful rotation crop. At that time it was almost impossible to obtain labour for the cotton industry. I was an official of a union which endeavoured to get reasonable conditions for those who would be employed in the cotton industry in Queensland. Many employers’ organizations resisted any attempt to provide reasonable working conditions for cotton workers. The result wasthat the employers could not get labour. Since that time, of course, mechanizationhas given promise of a much better future for the cotton industry. The Cotton Marketing Board has gone a long way in that direction. I suppose that we cannot truthfully claim that the automation stage has been reached, but it seems that if a stable price were guaranteed, the Australian cotton industry could be a far greater industry and could produce much more than 4 per cent. of Australia’s requirements of cotton. TheCotton Marketing Board, in arguments presented in 1955, made certain statements which. I think are quite appropriate to the matter before the Houses. The board stated -
In the case presented to the Commonwealth it was emphasized that the permanent establishment and expansion of the cotton growing industry in Queensland would be largely dependent upon a term of price stability of sufficient duration to enable farmers to purchasetheir requirements of machinery to grow cotton efficiently under complete mechanization. Moreover, such stability would enable the Board to plan ahead and modernize its plant and equipment which has been in operation for over thirty years.
Whilst the principle of ginning cotton has not changed over the years there has been a vast improvement in methods of preparing cotton for ginning and in the cleaning of ginned cotton.
Since 1950 the industry has invested over £120,000 in the purchase of mechanical cottonpickers, new buildings, and. plant and equipment necessary to improve the cleaning and ginning processes. However, much expenditure must still be made to bringthe ginning plant upto maximum efficiency to raise thegrades of Queensland cotton. It is estimated that to equip one ginnery completely to obtain the maximum benefit would require approximately £58,000.
That was part of a combined case presented by the Cotton Marketing Board and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock. It shows very clearly that these people are battling with their backs to the wall. I am not complaining about what is proposed to be done by thisbill, but I say that if the Government considers that the Australian cotton industry is not sufficiently important for more to be done, we can be assured that the industry will perish. The board stated, further -
Efforts to obtain an Australian price level for Australian cotton have not had any support. It is realized that there are many implications and difficulties involved in the. establishment of an Australian price. However, it is contended that while the Commonwealth Government supports the import parity basis of selling Queensland raw cotton, the price being subject to factors outside the control of the industry, the Government should accept the responsibility for substantial bounty payments until such time as the industry is producing sufficiently to fully employ and modernize its plant and machinery and so substantially reduce overhead costs. It can be understood that overhead costs are excessive when production amounts to only about 4,000 bales whereas the two ginneries combined have an output of 20,000 bales per annum on a two-shift basis.
It can be seen that the only factor that is keeping the cotton industry in its present unsatisfactory position is the lack of stability within the industry. This is at a time when we have stable prices for many of our primary products. We have a stable price for sugar,a guaranteed price for wheat, and so on. It may be thatI have not a complete understanding of the position, butI cannot understand why the cotton in dustry has not been encouraged. The mere payment, as a bounty, of the difference between the price obtained and 14d. per lb. is not, I believe, a very good effort on the part of a national government to help an industry that is crying out for expansion.
– As I mentioned in my second-reading speech, there are research stations and extension services.
– That is so. Without them,I suppose, there would be no necessity for any bounty, because in all probability there would not be any cotton grown in Australia. The Cotton Marketing Board’s case concluded with these words -
Long-term stability would enable the Board and the Department of Agriculture and Stock to enter into a programme . . .
Anassurance is given that everything will be all right provided there is long-term stability in prices - . . a programme of research intoall aspects of the industry, including the establishment of a laboratory for fibre testing work. Such a programme might embrace contributions by cotton spinners, the Commonwealth and State governments and the cotton-growers.
It is considered that the restoration of growers’ confidence in the industry is essential for its expansion, and firm establishment, and that this establishment can be achieved by a courageous but calculated Commonwealth Government policy of long-term price stability, preferably fortenyears with a series of reviews to be carried out during the period.
I believe that the responsibility lies with the Commonwealth Government. In certain areas wehave landwhich is admirably suited to cotton growing, provided irrigation is used. If this Government had done what it promised to do in relation to the development of the Burdekin valley, the cotton industry couldhave been expanded. Prior to my taking the floor, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) told an enthralling story about a magnificent project - the Snowy Mountains scheme. People who are in a positiontoknowhave said that the Burdekin valley has a greater potential than the Snowy Mountains area and that we have there a marvellous opportunity to provide everything that is to be provided by the
Snowy Mountains scheme. Countless millions of gallons of water run into the sea annually from the Burdekin River; and thousands of acres of beautiful land are lying idle, yet the cotton industry is providing only 4 per cent. of Australia’s total requirements of cotton.
We support the bill, but we ask that more and deeper consideration be given to the broad question of cotton growing in Australia. We would all like to think that this country is developing as rapidly as the Government claims it is developing, but the cotton industry can provide but little of our requirements of cotton. Therefore, I appeal to the Government to give this matter much deeper thought than it has given to it in the past, and to keep in close contact with the Cotton Marketing Board. Now that there is in Queensland a government akin to the Commonwealth Government, such contact should also be possible with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock. Previously, the Commonwealth authorities would not, or could not, approach the Queensland authorities because there was a Labour government in that State. Now, however, it should be possible for the Commonwealth officers to get in touch with the State officers and to find out from them the exact position of the cotton industry in. Queensland. If, subsequently, it is found that portions of New South Wales and the Northern Territory, such as in the Katherine region, prove suitable for the cotton industry; the lessons that have been learnt from experience of the industry in Queensland can be applied to those areas:
I suggest, however, that the Government should not ask anybody to continue to grow cotton while the present price, which has applied for some time, continues to obtain. I repeat that I never have been and never will be one of those who believes that, because an industry gets into difficulties due to factors that are no responsibility of the Government; in all cases the Commonwealth has a bounden duty to give a subsidy or a bounty. Nevertheless, in the case of an industry which could be a great asset to Australia, and which is dying on its feet-
– We have given it what the Cotton Marketing Board asked.
– Then this must be a unique case. If the Minister for Primary Industry gave to people, who came to him and asked for something, everything that they asked for,- that surely must have been unique.
– I did not say, “ everything “. We accepted their proposals on this occasion and in fact did give the Cotton Marketing Board and the Queensland Government what they asked.
– I stick to my point. With respect to the Minister, I do not accept the statement that the Cotton Markeing Board asked for only 14d. per lb. and for an extension only until 1963. I am not in a position to engage in an argument with the Minister on this point, but I have before me the typed case of the Cotton Marketing Board in Queensland, which makes it very clear that in 1955 the board asked for an extension of seven years, and that the price level be 16d. per lb. for seed cotton, not 14d. It is so easy for the Minister to say that the growers have been given all that they requested. My submission is that they did not get all that they asked for, because they got a shorter period of extension of the bounty, and they got 2d. per lb. less than the price for which they asked. Whether I am right in this, or whether the Minister is right, I suppose you cannot tell us, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
In conclusion, I sincerely ask the Minister and the Government to give very much deeper consideration to the future of the cotton growing industry in Queensland before they start worrying about supporting cotton growing in other areas.
– The proposals contained in the bill before trie House will give future stability to the cotton industry in Queensland by extending the guaranteed price of 14d. per lb. to 31st December, 1963. That is something for which the industry has been asking for quite a long time. I do not agree with the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) that this Governhas not considered sufficiently the interests of the industry. I say that it has done so. I have seen the report from which the honorable member read. A copy of it was handed to me, and it was available before the conference was held to decide on a reasonable guarantee price. I know, from meetings of the Queensland cottongrowers that I have attended, that the majority of growers present stated that they would be quite happy with the 14d. per lb. guaranteed price, but that if a higher price were possible they would be happy to have it. Nevertheless, the price of 14d. per lb. was the final recommendation, by general agreement, for the period for which it was proposed to extend the guarantee.
I can speak of this industry from practical experience back in the ‘twenties. There is no doubt that there was a great slump in the industry at that time, due to the low price of cotton and the difficulty in getting labour. The honorable member for Herbert said that cotton pickers were not receiving sufficient remuneration for their labours. At various times, I have heard the honorable member describe how casual workers wandered about the countryside. I have had casual workers working on my property on occasion. They have left me before the work I had for them was finished because they had contracted to take on cotton picking. I have known Victorian workers to work their way through the country because they thought that they could make more money at cotton picking than under the award for which they were working for me. However, I do not intend to enter into a discussion of the details of this matter. I merely wish to point out what my own experience has been and what cotton pickers have told me.
According to the honorable member for Herbert, the Opposition has given this bill its blessing and will support it. I wish to make some remarks about what this Government proposes to do in the future to encourage the further development of the cotton industry. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), in his second-reading speech, stated that the Government proposed to make available greater assistance for research and extension services. Those are vital matters. Associations of cotton-growers in the area that I represent repeatedly have asked for greater assistance for those things. They have asked me on several occasions to make representations to the Government with a view to having the Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial Research Organization establish experimental stations, particularly in the area from which I come, for the purpose of analysing the soil, studying climatic conditions, and examining various other factors which are important in the successful growing of cotton. I am pleased to note that the Minister has been able to get the departments concerned to agree to this proposal.
The Minister also stated that it was intended to establish an experimental station, for the purpose of research, at a place called Inglewood, which is in the southern portion of my electorate. Tobacco is already grown there to a considerable extent. I suggest to the Minister that there is a great future for cotton growing in that area. The soil is suitable, and all that is needed is adequate rainfall at the right time. However, even without adequate rainfall, cotton could be grown by means of irrigation, if the scheme proposed by the present Queensland Government could be carried to a conclusion. Under that scheme, the Government is prepared to advance money, up to 90 per cent, if necessary, for the purpose of constructing weirs on the rivers and creeks. Any one who knows the geography of southern Queensland, particularly of the region in which the Maranoa electorate joins the Gwydir electorate, will appreciate that there are various streams and rivers there. A border rivers scheme has been talked about for many years. The present Queensland Government is trying to encourage private enterprise to construct weirs for the purpose of storing water, not only for tobacco-growing, but also with the object of growing cotton and pastures, and for various other rural purposes.
In my opinion, cotton growing in the southern area of Queensland, particularly at Inglewood and on the border of New South Wales and Queensland, could be extended enormously if this scheme of the Queensland Government to promote research and water conservation could be carried to a successful conclusion. Cotton has been grown in this region in recent years as a rotational crop with tobacco, and a good sample has been produced. It is well known that the cotton crop, in the two years preceding last year, was affected, first, by excessive moisture and, in the following year, by drought conditions. Despite that, many growers in my electorate, although cotton growing is new to the area, achieved profitable results. All that they are asking for in that area is some guarantee for the future so that they can increase their plant, expand their operations and make the industry worth while.
Nobody wants to spend money if he has only a short-time guarantee for the growing of any crop. I have been told, not only by the growers, but also by the financial institutions that money will be advanced under suitable conditions. No one can go into this industry without sufficient financial backing. Many young people are prepared to adopt new techniques which are available to them for cotton-growing, but they need the necessary finance to assist them. Financial institutions are prepared to make advances. I know this because I have interviewed various bankers on the matter and they have said that they will give very sympathetic consideration to requests for assistance because they believe that this industry could make great progress, particularly with the adoption of new methods.
I believe that the Minister has given this matter serious consideration and that under his guidance this measure will not be the final step in encouraging those engaged in cotton-growing. But the growers would be given much greater encouragement with a longer-term guarantee. I agree with the honorable member for Herbert that a term of ten years instead of five would have been more preferable. The position could be reviewed at the end of that time and a further period of guarantee granted. I have no doubt that at the end of this proposed five-year period the position will be reviewed sympathetically and the guarantee extended.
– A Labour government will give it sympathetic consideration.
– If the honorable member reviews the treatment of the cotton-growing industry by Labour governments he will see that they have not given it much sympathy. The present Commonwealth Government has been sympathetic to the industry and has expressed that sympathy in a practical fashion by promoting research and extension services in the industry. I. hope that this bill has a speedy passage. I know that it will give -great satisfaction to growers in my -area.
.- As my friend the honorable member - I might say the honorable gentleman - for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) .has said, the Australian .Labour party is not opposing this bill. I wish to -say a few words to .make my position clear as the representative of a Queensland constituency. According to the secondreading speech of the Minister (Mr. McMahon) ,this bill will apparently affect cotton growers in Queensland .mainly because it is .in Queensland that most of the cotton in Australia is .produced.
The history of -cotton growing in Australia has been rather .checkered. -I am interested in this “bill primarily because an ancestor of mine was .a pioneer of cottongrowing in the Bulimba area, which is part of the constituency that I now have the honour :to represent. -His name has been perpetuated in Coutts-street. Bulimba, and the old home in which he lived still stands in its glory among the pines surrounding it.
Cotton growing in Australia has received its greatest boost in war-time. This happened first during the American Civil War when supplies to Australia were cut off by a blockade by the .Navy of the northern States of America of the Confederate States in the south. The industry blossomed forth again in great glory during the period of the second world war. But immediately hostilities have ceased the industry has somewhat languished.
The principal .cotton-producing nations of the world are the United States of America, Egypt and India. As the Minister said, the United States is the most efficient cotton-producing nation. We know that the industry in that country has had a most romantic background. We have all heard or read stories of the slave labour, such as the horrors of the treatment of the negro slaves by men such as Simon Legree These tales are still associated with the cotton industry in that great democracy. We have heard also some of the glorious songs about the “coal black mammies” singing “ white chillun “ to sleep. Steven Foster has become -famous for songs of this kind and also those telling of the glories of the Mississippi.
In .Egypt, as -a .result of the .influx of -British .capital. and ideas which resulted .in :the damming of .the Nile .River, cotton growing was encouraged and .it now appears that there will be .even greater development of that -industry .in Egypt by a further damming of the .Nile. In India, as a result of irrigation projects carried out over the -course of .many years during the time when that country was part of the British Empire, cotton growing received a great boost.
But there is no .romance about the cottongrowing industry in Australia. It has suffered from booms and depressions. Apparently it is now going through some sort .of depression. However, a challenge is being issued to the producers to do something about pushing this industry to the front and producing more for Australian .requirements.
This industry does not suffer ‘the disadvantages of many -other primary industries. It has an assured market inside the Commonwealth. There is no need to worry about exporting cotton, consequently there will not be the same difficulties in marketing Australian raw cotton as there is in marketing dairy products, dried fruits or the products of other primary industries which are continually being subsidized.
As the honorable member .for .Herbert said, cotton growers, through their organizations, have asked the Government for a longer period of guarantee and a greater subsidy. It seems, however, that very few people get all that they ask for. Only recently the industrial union applied to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for a wage increase, but did not receive as much as they asked for. The same applies to the cotton growers. But the fact remains that a bounty is being paid from Consolidated Revenue, which is contributed to by all the taxpayers and consumers of the Commonwealth, and this calls for action on the part of the cotton growers to rise to the occasion and meet the demands in Australia which are being made by the cotton-manufacturing industry. We import raw cotton to the value of over £6,000,000 each year. A great proportion comes from the -United States of America, involving the expenditure of very valuable dollars. If the farmers who own the rich acres in the Burdekin Valley, in the Burnett area, around Ingelwood and other such places would be prepared to produce more cotton, Australia’s :trade balance, particularly .with .the United States of .America, would be greatly improved. I agree with the honorable member who has interjected to say that cotton-growing is only a sideline with some of these men. The area under cotton in Australia -is well below T7;000 acres, and that -area is -almost entirely in Que6118!3110- ‘But much could be done ‘in the -way .of development if this -Government were -prepared to give financial help ‘to -the Queensland -Government.
Requests have been made on many occasions by Queensland Labour governments for -assistance from ‘the Commonwealth ‘Government for the development of great irrigation schemes -in the northern -State. I -am relia’bly ‘-informed -that -the Treasurer (Sir Arthur ‘Fadden) who represents -a -Queensland constituency, in searching for votes in 1949, ‘when he was in opposition, gave a solemn pledge at Boonah, in ‘Queensland, ‘tha t if the ‘MenziesFadden -parties -were -returned to office in 1949, the Burdekin dam would be built.
– What .is the authority for that .statement?
– My authority is :the tory press i of ‘Queensland. I should imagine that members of -the Australian Country party would not .challenge the Brisbane ‘” CourierMail “. The former leader ..of .the ‘Country party .gave that solemn promise to the people of Queensland, but, of course, it was .broken like so much .pie crust. The people of Queensland are still waiting even for some minor .assistance .to enable .them to commence work .on this worth-while project. I am sure that the Country ,party Government of Queensland will not be interested in .beginning such important undertakings .as the Burdekin .dam, but I have no .doubt that .within a very short space .of .time .the Australian Labour party will be in .office .’in Queensland again .and that then efforts will he made .again to proceed with this very important work. If the “Burdekin River scheme, -the damming of the Dawson River at ‘Nathan gorge and other schemes were carried to fruition, they would ensure an adequate supply of water for irrigating these lands, Which could produce cotton - this has been proved - in abundant quantities. Only Commonwealth Government financial .assistance is needed for -these schemes to be carried into operation.
It is tragic that -only 4 per -cent, of Australia’s .cotton requirements are being -met :by Australian primary .producers. I think that .a .responsibility rests on .the shoulders of .primary producers .who have acres Hying idle .in ;areas proved to be suitable for cotton-growing, .particularly in Queensland, to produce more and more cotton to meet the demands of the .nation. The industryis receiving a guaranteed price of 14d. per lb., and .the .guarantee will continue for another five years. ‘Surely the cottongrowers are not asking to ‘be completely spoon fed. They must be prepared to do something themselves. A call goes out from the city dwellers, who are contributing largely to the cost of the subsidy, asking the primary .producers of Australia, particularly -those in Queensland -and -northern New South Wales, to produce the cotton that this country needs so urgently.
.- I support the bill and compliment the .Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) on having brought it forward. The history of the Australian cotton industry proves that the industry needs some measure of support, hut some action on -their own behalf by the growers is needed also if it is to be the successful industry -that it really ought to ‘be. The “honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), in his statements about the claims of the Cotton Marketing Board, was not correct so far as ‘the application made in recent years in concerned. I have a .letter .from the Cotton Marketing Board to myself, dated 20th February, 1958, asking me ‘to support the claim for a guaranteed price of 14d. per lb. for a period of five years. So the Minister was 100 per sent, correct when he -said that, on this occasion, the Government gave the growers all -that they .had asked for.
I want to -reply to an interjection which the honora’ble member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) made concerning the Labour government. I do not wish -to make this “bill a -party issue, because all parties are supporting it, but I ‘remind him of the fight -that I had, when -sitting -on the ‘Opposition benches, to try -to get a guaranteed -price .of ;9d. per ‘Jb. for cotton. That guarantee was not given, ‘but the ‘then ‘Labour government did -assist the industry -by ^meeting a debt that was owing on a ginnery and ‘plant .of, I think, £63,000. The Chifley .Government wiped that debt off for the industry. ‘That was the only contribution that the Labour Government made to the industry. That Government did not give a guaranteed price to the industry. When Labour was defeated in 1949, the present Government kept its promise immediately it came into office.
The industry has said that it needs a longterm guarantee. I think that we have got to face the facts. The industry received a guaranteed price of 9id. per lb., in the first instance, by virtue of the 1951 legislation. That guarantee was to operate for five years, but this Government did not wait for that five-year period to expire before it took further action. In 1953, it increased the guaranteed price to 14d. per lb., at the request of the industry. In the first years of the period of the guarantee, there was no need for the Government to make any payment, because import prices were so high that cotton produced in Australia could be sold to our own mills at satisfactory prices, but in recent years the Treasury has had to make some payments in accordance with the terms of the guarantee.
The honorable member for Griffith said that the Treasury had been meeting the cost of bounty out of Consolidated Revenue, but I suggest that the consumers, who are helping to pay the bounty, are getting some recompense. The Government has allowed imported cotton to come in duty free, which enables cotton goods to be purchased at lower prices. We are helping the consumer in that way, and we are helping the industry by providing a satisfactory bounty, to the full extent requested by the industry.
I suggest that the essential factor for the success of the industry is confidence. Confidence can be given in more ways than one. The growers have had a bounty, on their own terms in effect, ever since 1951. Their first request was for a guaranteed price of 9-id. per lb. That request was met. The guarantee was subsequently increased to 14d. per lb. as a result of their request at the beginning of this year. This Government has also given assistance in other ways and has helped to provide a measure of security to the industry. It has assisted the growers to import necesary mechanical equipment. All honorable members know that it would be quite uneconomical and totally out of date to attempt to harvest cotton by the old handpicking methods. It would cost far more than the crop was worth to harvest it that way. Mechanical harvesting is essential.
– Is mechanical harvesting, being used?
– Almost all growers in Queensland are now using mechanical harvesting methods. The cost of harvesting cotton any other way would be prohibitive. The Government was persuaded to allow the importation of this much needed mechanical harvesting equipment at a time when import restrictions were very tight. This helped the industry a great deal.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) mentioned the promise by the Minister of further finance for research and extension work, in co-operation with, the Queensland Department of Agriculture. That is essential, though it is not the Commonwealth’s responsibility to assist these agricultural industries. That is always the function of the State departments of agriculture. I do not want to criticize the department in Queensland, or in any other State, on this issue, but if this industry is to progress satisfactorily it is essential for it to have the co-operation of the Commonwealth Government in the way that it is being provided, plus the assistance of the Queensland Department of Agriculture, which I am sure will be forthcoming, and the co-operation of the growers themselves.
I agree with the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) that the Government cannot be expected to grow the cotton. Responsibility rests upon the growers to do their best. Some soils are suitable for growing cotton and other soils are totally unsuitable. The same remark applies to most branches of agriculture. In my experience of growing cotton a clay sub-soil always gave the best results. Also, where rainfall is unsatisfactory, irrigation is essential. With suitable soils, satisfactory rainfall, mechanical equipment, and a guaranteed price, it is up to the growers to play their part.
The market for cotton is unlimited. The extent of our cotton imports indicates that our requirements are very great. Therefore, our local market would be assured. All that is necessary now is for the growers, fortified by the confidence given to them by this guaranteed price and the other assistance provided, to face up to their responsibilities. I am sure they will do that, especially as they have the assistance of the Cotton
Marketing Board, which is doing a good job. The board is constantly trying to encourage growers and to assist the industry. It has -encouraged the manufacture of machinery to process the by-products of cotton so that the growers may get the best possible return from their product. This being so, I am sure that we can look to a brighter and better future for the industry.
I am happy to be associated with the Government in meeting the requests of the industry in the way that it has done.
– I understand that during my unavoidable absence from the chamber while this bill was being debated, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) made certain accusations with regard to a promise that I made. The honorable member said that I had blatantly dishonoured my promise with regard to the Burdekin Dam, which is in an area in Queensland that is very suitable for growing cotton. I wholeheartedly support every assistance, financial and otherwise, that can be given to the cotton industry. It is a very important industry, and it grows in importance as the population of Australia grows, and as the country develops. I have been happily associated with successive governments that have given very practical encouragement to the cotton industry by guaranteed prices and by extension services in co-operation with the State governments.
Dealing with the Burdekin Dam proposal, I am very disappointed that the honorable member for Griffith does not know as much about the recent political history of Queensland as he should. He accused me, as other honorable members opposite have done very frequently, of not honouring a promise. I thought that this matter had been disposed of on the facts long ago. I can do no better than read a statement that I made, dated 1st March, 1954, in connexion with a challenge that Mr. Gair threw out to me about the Burdekin Dam proposal. I want to put the record straight. This is what I said on that occasion - and I repeat it now with emphasis -
Mr. Gair publicly asks me why did I promise fcl my policy speech at Boonah on November 17th, 1948 (he means 1949) that “ we will proceed with the Burdekin Dam immediately and not keep it pigeon-holed as a blue-print for a depression”. I consequently oblige him-
As I oblige the honorable member for Griffith, in order to remove any misunderstanding and to correct unfair misrepresentation in connexion with this matter - with the following answer.
I made such promise on the natural assumption that the then State Premier (Mr. Hanlon) had advised the Queensland Parliament and the public generally that he had a firm undertaking from Mr. Chifley that the Federal Government would finance the Burdekin Dam scheme on a SO-SO basis. Knowing how notoriously difficult it was to get money from the ex-Treasurer, I concluded that the Burdekin scheme had been thoroughly investigated and was agreed upon as being financially sound and economically possible and that, if Mr. Chifley was accordingly satisfied to proceed, we would do likewise in the event of a change of government. That was the basis of my promise at Boonah.
However, upon assuming the Treasuryship of the Menzies Government, I immediately and surprisingly ascertained that the facts were entirely different from those represented by Mr. Hanlon. No evidence whatsoever could be discovered that any undertakings had been given at any time-
Or in any direction - by the Chifley Government to finance the scheme.
A Commonwealth departmental committee consisting of representatives from the Department of Works and Housing, Treasury, Commerce and Agriculture, and Post-war Reconstruction was appointed by the Commonwealth Government and was directed to examine and report upon the Queensland proposals.
I was astonished when given the first opportunity to read the report of the expert committee that the fundamental dependence upon the economic soundness of the proposal included the annual production from 25,000 acres of irrigated land of an estimated 625,000 tons of sugar cane, equal to 100,000 tons of sugar, necessitating additional Queensland milling capacity of at least three average Queensland mills.
Accordingly, before I could interest myself by encouraging the provision of federal finance, and indeed State finance, I required to know what consultations had taken place and what agreements had been reached whereby the sugar industry would countenance an estimated extra annual tonnage of 625,000 tons of sugar cane or 100,000 tons of sugar to come into the general Queensland pool from new land - to the detriment of present growers and prospective farmers with suitable land (assigned and unassigned) adjacent to existing milling capacity and to the milling section of the industry - from a newly created area to be made possible by the Burdekin Dam at an estimated cost of over £29,000,000, which, incidentally, did not provide for the cost-
It did not provide one brass farthing towards it - of requisite sugar mills, rolling-stock, transport facilities, &c, to treat the estimated 625,000 tons of sugar cane.
The Queensland Government has never answered my questions or given any undertaking relative to what’ I consider the; necessary safeguards, fori thesugar. industry but, owing. no. doubt to my attitudein this direction, produced an amended proposal which’ eliminated totally the sugar cane- and sugarproduction aspects- of” the scheme:
Indeed, it increased the estimated’- cost’ from£29,000;000,to £74;000,000. My statement, continues -
The said- report on the Burdekin proposal- was. of a most adverse and critical nature: It said that the-‘ proposals officially submitted-, by - the Queensland ‘Government were characterised by a measure of vagueness so far. as land use was concerned.
Iti further said that this feature was. applicableto i many of the references- to water, soils and pasture crop possibilities and flood mitigation and that- many of the claims made were unsupported by- direct experimental or commercial experience.
With, regard- to flood mitigation, the report on the proposal by the Burdekin River’ Authority, December, 1951, page 10, say&- “Without the dam, floods of the magnitude1 ofthat of- March, 1946, one of’ the- highest recorded in. the Lower’ Burdekin, area,, are estimated to be liable to occur: on > the. average once, in from 25 to: 35 years: The effect of the dam will- be. to reduce the average frequency of occurrence of a flood of similar magnitude to about once in- 200 years; It will, virtually eliminate- the risk- of’ occurrence’ of very, large’ floods, so that with it’ no flood would exceed, the height, of a flood such, as might havebeen liable to occur on the average perhaps once in. 100 years, without the dam-.”
The. comment; with regard te this is’ that the flood mitigation prospects: are weak.
They are weak and unreliable -
The rivers flowing in below the dangerous dam site could’ produce floods themselves. Our flood hazards will’ still be. severe in spite of the major dam. The Don and other large streams could, and do flood as in 1946.
The case may. be argued that, the Burdekin flow would: be moderated by the dam and such, floods would not be. as serious as they would, have been otherwise. This, is a very weak claim to any one who knows the nature of the north Queensland rainfall. The serious swelling of these other streams could easily occur at a time when the Burdekin dam was full, and the river flowing freely below it. in spite of what flood’ mitigation techniques are attempted.
The Menzies Government, as custodian- of the public purse-
And myself, as Treasurer - is not. prepared’, to contribute taxpayers’, money on-, any ill-considered, half-baked scheme. The plans, in. which my- Government will’ interest itself must’ be financially sound; economically, possibleand> must provide collateral, safeguards.
The Burdekin Scheme in its present form and-, on. the basis of. the. proposal submitted by Mr. Hanlon does not comply with these requirements:
Nor does it comply with the requirements of.” the Queensland- sugar industry. My statement goes on -
Trie- object oft the foregoing, observations and my warnings- generally have not been to con demn an. irrigation, scheme: for the- Burdekin but rather to. demonstrate, some, of the. existing shortcomings, and doubts- as. reported’ upon officially by the expert” committee and’ to- draw specific attention, to the detrimental: effect on the economics: of the’ sugar industry and to those established sugars-farmers, who would have been sovitally affected if Mr. Hanlon’s Burdekin Scheme were finally embarked’ upon. . . .
And my intervention on behalf of. the sugar industry of Queensland generally has prevented that; to the advantage of the sugar industry.
That is the position with regard to the Burdekin dam. Having- regard to the facts that have been so’ often- and so frequently ventilated, I” am disappointed and surprised’ that- a Queensland- member, regardless of which side of the House he supports, should accuse me of not honouring a promise that I- had made at Boonah.
– The right honorable gentleman, did- make it!
– I stated that I had made it. But I made it on false premises. I made it because I thought that Mr. Hanlon- had. been truthful - I later found that he had not. been at all truthful - and also because I thought that Mr. Chifley had been thoroughly briefed on the matter. It is a good thing that the Burdekin scheme was not proceeded with, for- the reason - I am sure that in view of this Mr. Chifley would never have associated himself with it - that a basic element of the scheme was the utilization of: 25,000 acres of first-class- sugar land for the production of 625,000’ tons; of sugar cane, which, would: have been- thrown into the general. Queensland pool to the detriment of all’ the other sugar-growers in Queensland.
.- I should not have risen to take part in this, debate had it not been for the remarkable statements made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur- Fadden). I think the consensus isthat his apology should not be accepted. The right honorable gentleman- says, “Yes,. I made, a promise, but I did not. keep it, because it was made on false premises”. The Queensland people will, know just how to judge him on. that.
—Do not. forget the, second- part of it - that the: scheme was- not an economic possibility:
Mr.CALWELL. - I am prepared to discussthat. The Treasurer mentioned the late Mr.Hanlon. I do not think that he meantto be disrespectful to Mr. Hanlon, who, of course, is not here to answer the allegations that have been made. But I, as one who was a member of the government of thetime, knowthat Mr. Chifley did promise afinancialcontribution towards the Burdekin dam and that the MenziesGovernment repudiated the promise when it came to office.
– Not at all!
Mr.CALWELL. - I have : been over : all this before. Mr.Chifley said,in this House, that he had madean agreement.
Mr.McMahon. -Produce it in “ Hansard “.
– The Minister has much less to do thanI have.He can spend his timefindingit.It is onrecord, andthe honorable gentleman, whoclaims to have a good memory, should rememberit.
– I was not a member of thisHouse in those days.
Mr.CALWELL.- You were here.
Mr.SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay). - Order! I ask the honorable member for Melbourne to address the Chair, andI ask theMinister forPrimary Industry to remain silent.
-Ishould not have offended hadI not been provoked, Mr. Speaker. The Minister has been amemberof this House since 1949. It was as Leader oftheOpposition, after the general elections of1949, that Mr. Chifleymade his statement in thisHouse that he had made an agreement about the Burdekin dam.
– Then the honorable member is guilty of misrepresentation.
Mr.CALWELL. - I have misrepresented nothing. The Treasurer repudiated the agreement entered into by Mr. Chifley. That agreement was announced publicly by Mr.Hanlon and Mr.Chifley, in the first place, andre-affirmed in thisHouse byMr. Chifley. I suppose that it does not matter to the members of a party ofrepudiationists what they do,becausetheyhave repudiated everypromise that they made in 1949, includingthepromisetoput valueback into the£1. The Treasurer will find itveryhardtoexplain this to the people ofQueensland.
Mr.Hulme. - No, hewill not.
– I am not talking about the dull-wits whom the honorable gentleman represents.I am talking about the intelligent people of Queensland. The Treasurer will find it hard toimpress the people of Queensland on this issue. Does he show any regard for the interestsof Queensland in particular, and for the interests of Australia generally, when he is prepared to-be a party to the expenditure - justifiableexpenditure, certainly- of Commonwealth money amounting toapproximately£400,000,000 on theSnowyMountains hydro-electric scheme, which benefits only twoStates, andwill not advance moneys required for the Burdekin scheme?
– The Snowy scheme will benefitthree States.
– The Government is repudiatingsome of its obligations to South Australia -and weshallputit to the test on that issue alittle later, too. The Treasurer is prepared to spend money that will benefit part of Australia well belowthe BrisbaneLine” buthe will not spend moneytobenefit a part of Australia 600 or 700 miles north of “ the Brisbane Line “. He oughtto be prepared to spend the money required for theBurdekin scheme, even though some people say that it would be uneconomic. How farcan we take this question of economics? If the land is developed and settled the scheme will be economic in the long term, but if the short measurement is put on it and the view adopted is that the scheme cannot be undertaken now, the northern part of Australia will be left unoccupied and undeveloped - and that is just what this Government has been content to allow for the entire eight years that it has been in office.
.- The AustralianCountry party, of course, supports this bill. It believes that the cotton industry should he assisted. As has been pointed out, Australia produces only a very small percentage of the cotton usedby it. Therefore, the development of the cotton industry would be in thebest interests of theAustralian people, and, forthatreason, members of the Australian Country party wholeheartedly support this measure.
The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) supported the proposal for a bounty on cotton, and said that the dried fruits industry was continually subsidized. Of course, the honorable member for Griffith is not very much in touch with what is happening. If he can point to some subsidy that is paid to the dried fruits industry, I, as the member representing 80 per cent, of the dried fruits industry in Australia, would like to know about it. No subsidy whatever is paid to the dried fruits industry.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) replied to the remarks of the honorable member for Griffith about the Burdekin Dam. Then the storm-trooper came into the House. He had not heard what had been said, but he came into the debate. I refer to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). He said that Mr. Chifley had made the statement that the Burdekin scheme would be assisted financially and said further that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) was a member of the House at that time. The Minister said that he was not a member of the House then, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that it was after 1949. The statement made by the Treasurer was made during the 1949 election campaign and referred to an undertaking that Mr. Chifley had made when in government. What did it matter what Mr. Chifley said after the election?
– He said it before.
– Now the honorable member for Herbert says that Mr. Chifley made the statement before the election.
– He said it in reply to a question that I asked.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has just said that Mr. Chifley said it after the election. Surely the Australian Labour party will make up its minds! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that this happened while the Minister for Primary Industry was a member of the House. Now the honorable member for Herbert says that Mr. Chifley made this statement before the election. I shall not go on speaking about this subject because the Australian Labour party is so confused that it must surely be wrong.
.- I rise to support the bill because I want tosee the cotton industry established in Australia in a sufficiently large way to enable it to maintain itself. We must remember that the important point about the cottonindustry in Australia is that we grow only about 3,000 bales a year but we import 80,000 to 90,000 bales a year. I am quite sure that, when the industry is organized and overcomes its teething troubles, wewill grow more than 80,000 or 90,000 bales a year.
I commend the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), who introduced the bill, for continuing the bounty and for the work he has done in association with the Queensland Government. This illustrates the difference in political outlook between the New South Wales Labour Government and the Queensland Country party Government. In his secondreadingspeech, the Minister said -
The Queensland Department of Agriculturehas recently intensified its research into cottongrowing. Three experiment stations now undertake work on cotton and an additional station in the Mareeba-Tinaroo district is to be included’ shortly. The department also intends to open a further station in the Ingelwood district to complete the climatic coverage for cotton-growing.
That is being done in association with a State government that is predominantly of the same political complexion as the Australian Country party in this House, to which I belong. No development of the cotton industry is taking place in New South Wales. No proposal has been made there to establish experiment stations toencourage cotton-growing, although we know from test crops that have been grown in recent years that we can grow an excellent product in northern New South Wales, particularly in the electorate of Gwydir, which I represent. Last year, a first-class crop was grown in the Moree district at Tycannah East. The lack of interest of the New South Wales Labour Government is shown most clearly by the fact that the crop was harvested with the help of a machine lent by the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board. The machine was sent over the border, well into New South Wales, to harvest a crop of cotton grown near Moree.
I ask the Minister to try to persuade the New South Wales Government to take action similar to that now being taken by the Queensland Government and to establish experiment stations in the northern part of New South Wales to encourage the growing of cotton. I ask the Minister, further, to try to persuade the New South Wales authorities to give a boost to this industry by doing something positive about the waters along the Dumaresq-Barwon valley. A number of years ago the Queensland and New South Wales Governments proposed to dam and weir the border river between those two States. The Queensland Government built some weirs, but so far no action at all has been taken by the New South Wales Government, whose principal task it was to build the Mingoola Dam. If this dam were constructed - I am sure it could be constructed if the New South Wales Government had sufficient determination and will to do it - it would control the waters of the valley and make possible an efficient system of weiring all the way down it. In that way, a big area of country, suitable for cotton and tobacco-growing, on both sides of the border would be opened.
If the State governments find themselves unable to develop the cotton industry as it should be developed, then surely we could do something through Commonwealth instrumentalities such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. This organization has already established a series of experiment stations throughout Australia. Although I do not believe that this is within the province of the C.S.I.R.O., which should devote itself to fundamental research, in an emergency such as this it could turn its energies and its interest towards the growing of cotton on a commercial basis in northern New South Wales by establishing an experiment station and making available the machinery and the ginnery necessary for the development of the cotton industry.
I repeat that New South Wales, as the Minister pointed out, presents great opportunities for the development of this industry. I am sure that there are areas in north-western New South Wales that would be much more suitable for this crop than the Dawson valley in Queensland, because of the soil types and the reliability of the weather, and the further possibility of drawing on water supplies for irrigation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– When we are deciding what industries we should foster in Australia, we should consider particularly those in which we have a natural advantage and those which will find a local market for their products, so that we need not be worried about overseas prices for those products. As honorable members have shown - and I refer particularly to the remarks of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan) - we have in Australia a natural advantage in the growing of cotton. Our natural resources are suited to its production, and at present we import quite a significant quantity of it. In fact, our imports of this commodity must cause the Treasurer a good deal of concern when he considers our overseas balance of payments. If we can produce cotton in Australia we should have no marketing troubles. The cottongrowing industry is a natural for this country. It has been held back in the past, I believe, partly because the cost of cotton growing contained a very high wage content, and it was possible to grow cotton economically only in countries in which a cheap labour force was available. This is no longer true, because the industry has been progressively mechanized over the years. The industry is now suitable for Australian conditions and Australian markets, and skilled Australian workers can be economically employed. The bill deserves every support.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I raise a point of order at the earliest opportunity available to me. On Thursday last, when I was in the Speaker’s chair, the honorable member for Scullin interjected while the Treasurer was addressing the House. As the words used by the honorable member were unparliamentary under Standing Order 78, I called for a withdrawal, and the offending words were withdrawn. On page 1595 of the report, “ Hansard “ records the offending words as “ They are fictitious “. In my opinion, such an expression is not unparliamentary. These were not the offending words that were used. They were either “That is a deliberate distortion” or “They ace. deliberately- distorted’”; I raise the matter- to put* my decision1 as DeputySpeaker in- its correct light’, and P respectfully ask you, Mr-: Speaker, to- have- the matter investigated and1 the record’ corrected’.
– I. will have a. look at the matter.
Debate resumed from 8th May” (vide page 1600); on motion by Mr: Osborne -
That’ the bill, be now read- a second time.
Mi-. CALWELL (Melbourne) [5’.1’8].The Opposition is prepared to accept this measure; but it takes advantage’ of the opportunity presented by the introduction of the bill- to offer a few comments on thematter of the excise duties that are beingimposed by this- Government at present on tobacco in- all’ its forms, and- tobacco products, particularly cigarettes, and on- beer and1 potable spirits. Legislation on- this subject has been clumsy ever since it was first introduced1 at the- time of federation. Succeeding Parliaments over the years should have altered the system, but they did! not see- fit fo> do1 so. Now, after some years- of investigation by the Department of Customs and Excise, a- desirable change is being made in the° system of collecting excise duty from brewers-. The bill deals only with the excise which Parliament requires brewers to pay on beer, but as the Minister said in his second-reading, speech that the effect of the bill is to apply the same principles to beer as are in force with regard to other, excisable goods, I think it is relevant to make a few observations on the question of excise duties and the manner in which’ they are collected:
The speech with- which the Minister for Ain (Mr. Osborne), representing the Minister, for Customs and: Excise (Senator Henty), introduced the bill into this House was notable- for its inadequacies and for the paucity of information that it conveyed. There is a<. growing custom amongst Ministers and their advisers to. give this- Parliament’ very little: information about legisla tion that they- think- the. Parliament should pass. For instance, if. I- may digress fori a. moment,: the speech, made, by- the Minister! who- introduced- the- Navigations Bill- into the Senate- contained so- little material’ that-‘ it took-, only- twelve minutes to- deliver.
– It- has relevance, because the speech- that the Minister made, in. introducing, to this. House the bill under consideration was- equally deficient. It gave us- practically no information.. I- would rather- have: too much- information - such as. we received, on the introduction of the Snowy Mountains. Hydro-electric. Power Bill this: afternoon - than- have practically no information1, as we have, been given, withregard to the: bill- now before us. The Minister said= -
As- honorable members may know-, the excise, duty on beer has been collected, since, its inception, by selling to brewers, beer- duty stamps of appropriate denominations which are subsequently affixed to the vessels- in which the beer is contained, or in the case of bottled beer, to the brewer’s cart-note.
If we are being- asked to- change that system; we should! be- given some more detail- about it. I consulted, officers of the Department of Customs and Excise, and- 1 found; that the brewer affixes the stamps and them cancels, them* with, a: rubber stamp:
– That, was said in my second-reading speech.
– No, it was not said. The brewer affixes a gallonage stamp - that certainly was not- said - showing not the amount which is to be paid! but thegallonage of the vessel. Technically the- brewer pays duty by affixing the proper stamp to the cask or vessel - to use the departmental term1 - or, in the case of bottled beer, to the cart-note which goes to the hotelkeeper. Under- the proposed system the stamps will be abolished; and the- brewer- will pay duty by cheque to the Department of Customs and Excise on the amount’ of beer that he proposes to- deliver. This system obtains- at’ present in respect- of other excisable goods. The Minister told us this in his speech, but he gave- us no details as to what those other1 excisable- goods are. They are tobacco and tobacco- products, gin, brandy, whisky; remand other- potable: spirits, and. petroleum.
Trie- Opposition is somewhat concerned about rumours that the Government is seeking some, system by which the movement of petroleum products can be better controlled than it is under the existing system, but I am’ assured that whatever action is taken in. this connexion will have no relation to beer. If we thought that a new system was to be introduced to benefit the oil companies we would be a bit chary of agreeing to this legislation. However, I accept the assurance to which I have just referred.
– This bill does not deal with oil; it deals with beer.
– Precisely. I have been telling the Minister that I atn sorry that he is: so dull this evening.
– The honorable member does not understand.
– I understand.. The Minister did not. understand, it when he brought it down, although he may have been briefed since.
– You are entirely wrong.
– I hope, for the sake of the- Parliament, that 1 am wrong. Without sacrificing efficiency or endangering the revenue; the Department of Customs and Excise is- said to hold the belief that economies can be effected in controlling the system by which petrol is moved. As I have said, I accept the. assurance that any new system in regard to petrol will have no relationship to beer. I am told that it costs the Commonwealth Government, under the present system, about £9,000 to £10,000 annually to collect its excise revenue. I am also informed by persons who ought to know that the cost to the brewers could be as high as £30,000 a year. To the extent that we prevent that wasteful expenditure in all directions, the bill is to be commended. To the extent that this particular piece of legislation means a saving in expenditure and man-power, it is not to be opposed.
I want to say a few words on excise duties because of a growing feeling of resentment at the manner in which the Government, ever since it came into office, has been increasing excise duties whenever it has been in financial’ difficulties or whenever it wants to impose what the economists regard as measures to syphon off or skim off the public’s- alleged surplus- spending power.
The history of beer excise is most interesting. The rate of duty paid on beer in 1913 - before the first world, war - amounted, to only 3d. a gallon. It was raised in December, 1914, because of the war, to 6d. In 1917, when the war was still in progress, the excise duty on beer was raised to 7d. Before the war ended in 1918, the duty went to ls. Then successively it rose from ls. 3d. to ls. 9d. and then to 2s. a gallon. It was reduced in 1929 to ls. lOd. and was raised in 1930 to 2s. In 1933, it was reduced to ls. 9d. but was put back to 2s. in 1939.
From then on, excise on beer has gone higher and higher. It. has almost reached astronomical heights. The- rise in 1939 was justified by our participation in the second world war. In 1 940, it was raised to 2s. 9d. a gallon and in 1941, when the Japanese entered the war, it was raised again to 3s. In 1942 it went to 4s. 7d. a gallon. It remained there until the Menzies Government raised it m the horror budget of 1951 to 7s. 2d. a gallon. A couple of years ago, because the Government had made a mess of the economy, it raised the excise on beer again, and now the impost is as high as 9s. lOd. a gallon.
The same thing has happened with cigarettes and other goods on which excise is payable. It does not matter much to members of the Liberal party or the Australian Country party that the excise duty on beer and cigarettes should be so high because they generally drink whisky and smoke cigars, but the Australian Labour party is defending the rights of the little people. Excise on beer and total collections from excise duties by this Government, are shown in progressive increases over the recent years as follows: -
If this, country is only half as prosperous as. the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) claims it to be - and as the right honorable gentleman has been saying, recently in his weekly broadcasts - there, ought to be a reduction in excise duties. Some time ago, the Prime Minister said that this nation was enjoying unparalleled prosperity.
– Hear, hear!
– Some honorable members on the Government side are foolish enough to echo that sentiment. If this country is enjoying unparalleled prosperity, why is it necessary to keep excise on beer, tobacco and spirits at the present exceptionally high level? The Prime Minister is making what he calls man-to-man broadcasts weekly. For the benefit of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) I shall tell the House why the Prime Minister is making those broadcasts.
– Why pick me?
– I will tell the honorable member because I think he will tell somebody else. The Prime Minister is making his man-to-man broadcasts because he is afraid to talk to the women.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said in his 1952-53 Budget speech, “We have arrested inflation “. Of course, inflation has never been arrested. The right honorable gentleman’s claim is ridiculous. If inflation was ever arrested, it must have escaped from custody very soon afterwards, because it has never been restrained and costs are as high as they are now because of the Government’s failure to handle inflation.
The Opposition would like to see excise duties reduced. We have voted against the imposition of increased excise duties and higher taxation in other forms, both direct and indirect, in every Budget since this Government was elected to office. Not many years ago, those who are now in government were in opposition. They used to claim that if they got back to power, they would reduce taxes in all directions, but they have never done so. I have an extract from a speech that was made by the present Treasurer as Leader of the Australian Country Party in this House on 20th October, 1948. Addressing the great Treasurer of that day, Mr. J. B. Chifley, the present Treasurer said -
The Treasurer would surely not regard smoking as a luxury. If ever he subscribed to the view that it should be dispensed with, he would have more strikes on his hands than he could manage.
The man who said that is the same Minister who has raised excise duty on tobacco and everything else to the present extraordinarily high levels. The position has become so bad in many homes where husband and wife smoke that the husband has had to tell the wife to stop smoking because the family revenue just cannot stand the strain.
In election year, honorable members are very keen to find out how public opinion feels about all these things that affect the pocket. It was one of Ben Chifley’s homely dictums that the most sensitive part of the human anatomy was the hip pocket nerve. We all like to know just how people are reacting to taxes and other impositions of governments, both Federal and State. I am told that most of those who drink beer and those who smoke cigarettes would most assuredly welcome a reduction of the amounts they have to pay. Any person who buys a bottle of beer pays half the amount in excise duty. That is just too bad for the persons concerned, but it is all right from the Treasurer’s point of view. I suppose that, this being an election year, there will be a give-away Budget, and that the Government will try to buy votes in the next Budget speech. I feel pretty confident that the Government will not reduce the amount of excise on petrol, beer or tobacco, because the men who really rule this nation - Sir Roland Wilson and his very clever group of advisers - will still persuade the Government that if it gives back anything to the people in the way of considerably reduced taxation, inflation will gallop along even faster than before.
We have reached a sorry stage in our affairs when the Government can stop the country from entering into a chronic state of bankruptcy only by the imposition of high taxation, credit restrictions and import restrictions. The people who are imposing this high taxation and these restrictions are the alleged apostles of the freeenterprise system. There is no freedom for the average trader or the average citizen. The difficulties that he has to face and the troubles that he has to encounter prevent him from doing what he ordinarily wants to do, which is to make a reasonable living for himself, to enjoy it with his family, and not have to worry from day to day whether the economy will be stable or bankrupt within a few months.
I tell the Minister again that if in the future, whilst this Government lasts, he wishes to secure a speedy passage for legislation, he must give the Parliament more information than was given on this occasion. I do not blame the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who is at the table, because he represents the Minister in another place.
– It was my speech.
– The Minister did not write that speech. I never knew him to be so uncommunicative before. The speech was not corrected. It might have been censored. Its contents might have been reduced. It gave the House practically no information at all. Yet in spite of that fact, because I have been able to secure the information that I think honorable gentlemen would like to have, I commend the bill to the Parliament and hope that it will have a speedy passage.
.- I can well understand why the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has led for the Opposition in this debate, because I am very mindful of a remark he made to me in this Parliament, to the effect that you should not attempt anything unless you are an expert in it. I assume that he is probably the best expert on that side at quaffing the amber fluid, and so is qualified to get up and speak on it.
I think the bill is extremely commendable in that it follows other moves made by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), since his appointment to that office, in streamlining some of the procedures which people put down to bureaucracy. If the process is carried through the other departments, it will meet with the approval not only of business people but also of the general public.
I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on the need to reduce the excise on beer. Of course, the subject of the bill is just the routine matter of putting stamps on kegs, which the Minister has found to be entirely unnecessary and causing work that can be cut across. Any reduction in excise should be passed on to the person who consumes the product. I think that at present the excise on beer amounts to about 9s. lOd. a gallon. A reduction would have to be in the region of ls. or ls. 6d. a gallon before the person buying the product could be influenced by it.
I am inclined to think that the heavy excise on beer has something to do with the poor type of hotel accommodation that is generally available in this country. Quite recently in my own State, a rather magnificent looking hotel was built at great cost, with accommodation for beer drinking second to none in the whole nation. A beer garden, which would rival anything in existence, was provided, with ample parking space and a magnificent lounge. But the hotel contained twenty bedrooms, not one of which was equipped with even a hand basin. We cannot expect people from overseas to be attracted only by the appearance of a hotel; it must contain those things that one is accustomed to find in hotels overseas. There is a tendency in this country for hotels to be built with one purpose in mind - that is, to satisfy the drinking public, without any consideration for people who reside in them. I do not know the requirements of the licensing acts in other States, but in Western Australia a certain number of bedrooms must be provided before a licence can be granted. With the cost of building so high, and with plumbing such a major item of expenditure, the tendency is to build magnificent hotels, but paying little attention to the comfort of people who reside in them. I think that a reduction in excise, strangely enough, might assist hotelkeepers in their efforts to cater better for the general public, particularly the travelling public.
We in Australia at the present time are missing out badly through failure to attract tourists from other countries. Many nations with less than Australia has to offer in the way of tourist attractions are reaping great benefits from the arrival of tourists, who spend money in their movement around those countries. We in Australia are badly behind in this respect, and I believe that one of the underlying reasons is the lack of first-class hotels throughout areas which are attractive to overseas tourists. In the preparation of the forthcoming Budget - regardless of whether or not this is an election year - some effort should be made to reduce the price of beer by reducing excise to a figure which will allow the reduction to be taken right through to the consumer in the hotel.
– What will you do about it?
Mr.CHANEY. - That is not up to me at thisstage. I do commend thatto the Governmentasone of themeasures it can take toreducethe priceof something in whichso manypeopleareinterested. The littleBudgetwasan anti-inflationary measure designed to cutdown theconsumptionof alcohol,but it didnot achieve that end. In thetimeavailable, I have not been able to securethe figures, but I think the consumptionremained almost steady. Naturally, because of increased charges,the amount collected in exciserose. Idonot thinkthat anyriseinexcise will, in thelong run,cause a reduction in the amountconsumed. People feel an initial shockand turnawayfrombeerdrinking, butafter a while the position levelsout. There is grave dangerinloading beer with excessive excise, for the simple reasonthatthose people who are classed as drinkers turn then to thecheapertypeof spirits. Also, it is possibleto procure, atthecost ofa couple ofbottlesof beer, abottleof cheap wine, whichis positively dangerous tothe person drinkingit. For those two reasons, the Governmentoughtto consider the whole questionof excisealong thelinesI have suggested,so that a reductionmay be carried rightthroughto the consumer.
.- The speech thatIamabout tomake will probably be one of theshortest on record. The main functionsofthe bill havebeen explained in the second-reading speech ofthe MinisterforAir(Mr.Osborne). I think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), usedthe debate merely tomake what might be calledan election year speech, becausehe did not deal with the matters before the House. Irise chiefly to say that I do not agree at all with aremark of the honorable member for Perth (Mr.Chaney). I think that the honorable member said, only as a joke, that the honorable member forMelbourne had more knowledge of quaffing the amber beverage than anybody else in the House. I do not agree with that. It may be that it was said just as a joke, but it could have farreaching effects.I have been in the House for twelve years, and if the honorable member for Melbourne is not a teetotaller, at least nothing that I have seen would lead me to think otherwise. Although the state ment of the honorable member forPerth wasmade -only in jest,people reading “Hansard “ may read into it something which is absolutely incorrect. Onoccasion, Icriticizethe Deputy Leader of the Opposition and other membersof the Opposition in this House, but when the circumstances warrant it, I will support them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Billreada second time, and committed pro ‘forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Incommittee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) agreed to -
That it is expedient thatan appropriation of revenue be made forthepurposes of a bill for an act to amend theBeer Excise Act1901-1957, and for otherpurposes.
Resolutionreported and adopted.
In committee:Consideration resumed.
Mr.CALWELL (Melbourne) [5:48].- I hope that you will permit this intervention at this stage, Mr. Chairman.I know that it is somewhat out of order.I thank the honorablemember for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) for what hesaid afew moments ago. Idid not take the remarks of the honorablemember forPerth (Mr.Chaney) seriously, but he should not have made them. It isnotrightthat people’s habits should be joked about inthis Parliament, particularly when there is no basis forthe allegations.Iam grateful to my verygood friend, the honorablememberfor Mallee.
– I hope that the honorable gentleman understood the reference.
Mr.Freeth. - The honorable member for Perth made some remark about the honorable member for Melbourne being qualified to speak.
– Yes, that is right, but the suggestion was thatI was qualified to speakbecause I was a heavybeer drinker. I do not drink beer at all.
– The honorable member’s remarks would have been made more appropriately as a personal explanation.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.30 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (vide page 1701.)
– I preface what I wish to say on this bill by two general observations. The first is that the electric power requirements of Australia are increasing rapidly, at the rate of about 9 per cent. a year. The second is that Australia is a thirsty land. The capacity to increase our population depends upon our capacity to make the utmost use of the limited waters which are available, and far too many of our rivers rush wastefully into the sea. These two facts - the rapidly increasing rate of power consumption and the essential need to make the utmost use of our limited water supply - are basic in considering any legislation dealing with the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The project will produce 3,000,000 kilowatts of power, equal to at least threequarters of the total production of electric power in Australia to-day. It will also provide, in the Murrumbidgee and Murray valleys, 1,800,000 acre feet of water, sufficient, it is estimated, to support an additional population of 1 50,000 people in those areas.
Immense in its conception, the Snowy Mountains scheme is by far the greatest public work ever undertaken in this country. To begin it was an act of vision and courage and to carry it on, as the present Government has done, has required both faith and persistence of a very high order. At every stage, the planning and execution of this tremendous work have been beset by most extraordinary complexities and difficulties. There have been many times when those responsible for the initiation and carrying on of the work must have felt reason for discouragement. It is of great credit to all the political parties in Australia that this immense national project has been advanced to the stage at which we see it to-day. I suggest that the Australianpeople themselves view the Snowy Mountains project as a monument to the national progress of this country.
In initiating the project, the Chifley Labour Government founded it upon the defence power in the Commonwealth Constitution. There were strong grounds at that time, as there still are, for arguing that the project could rest safely upon the defence power, and I shall refer to one or two of these grounds, I hope, at a later stage in my remarks. But doubt was expressed at the time by some leading constitutional lawyers in this Parliament, notably by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), as to the correctness of resting this project upon the defence power. In the intervening years that doubt has not been resolved.
The present legislation is, therefore, of exceptional importance. This bill asks Parliament to approve of two agreements, one comparatively minor in nature and the other of utmost importance, in which the parties are the governments of the Commonwealth, of New South Wales, and of Victoria. The main agreement sets out the basis upon which the scheme is to be constructed and the arrangements under which power will be purchased from it by these three governments as well as for the sharing in the proportion of 2 : 1. between New South Wales and Victoria, of the irrigation waters which, as I have indicated, will flow from that project in immense quantities.
In accordance with that main agreement, the Victorian and New South Wales Parliaments have already passed legislation authorizing the Snowy Mountains Authority to do the things necessary to carry out that agreement. The effect is, I understand, to set the constitutional authority for the Snowy Mountains project beyond all doubt, which, of course, is a matter of supreme importance.
The second agreement deals with the possible damage by flooding due to the scheme, and from that aspect it is also of importance. The Opposition will support the motion for the second reading of this bill but at the committee stage will propose an amendment to ensure that the rights of the State of South Australia to the waters of the river Murray are in no way adversely affected by this agreement. We are hopeful that that amendment will be accepted by the Government and have the support, particularly, of all South Australian members.
It is perfectly natural that the Opposition should support legislation of this kind. After all, it was the Chifley Labour Government which initiated the Snowy Mountains project at a time when there was very little enthusiasm outside the actual ranks of the Labour party and the Labour government for the scheme.
– That is nonsense.
– My friend, the Minister for Social Services, says that that is nonsense. I did not intend to deal with this aspect at any greater length, but his interjection provokes me to remind him that when the bill for the establishment of this scheme was before the House there was no resounding support for it from any member of the present Liberal or Australian Country parties. Indeed, there was far more criticism than there was praise. Consequently, I remind the Minister who claims that what I have said is nonsense, that at the official opening of the Adaminaby dam in the beginning of November, 1949, as the first part of this great national project, to which every member of the Parliament was invited, the only member of either the Liberal or Country parties who attended was Mr. Bernie Corser, who is no longer a member of this Parliament. I think, therefore, that on reflection the Minister, who was not taking an active part in the matter-
– George Rankin was there.
– If the late General Rankin, from the Senate, was there, I amend my statement. Apart from those two members, the Liberal and Country parties completely boycotted that occasion. I agree that this Government has largely made up for its initial mistaken attitude towards the scheme by the way in which it has since carried it on.
– It has done all the work.
– It has, indeed, done a very fine job in carrying out the Snowy Mountains scheme, but that scheme was initiated and planned, and the work commenced by the Chifley Labour Government. I did not wish to introduce any party political note into this debate but because the Minister for Social Services and several other honorable member chose, by interjection, to cast some doubt on the accuracy of what I said and after I had already paid tribute to the work that this Government has done in connexion with this scheme, I felt that I should reply. Let them, therefore, be quiet from now on.
I am proud that unceasing pressure to use the wasting waters of the Snowy River came from the people in the electorate which I represent, Eden-Monaro, and that the major part of this greatest of all public works is also in that priceless and peerless electoral district of Eden-Monaro. When we look back, we note that people in that area agitated for the use of these waters for fully 50 years before the dream became an actuality. They seemed to be voices crying in the wilderness as they passed their resolutions on the Monaro high plain and sent them down to Sydney and as they sent delegation after delegation to interview the State governments of the time. But they pressed on with unquenchable enthusiasm and determination.
When I came into this Parliament in 1943, it became my duty to lead deputation after deputation to the then Curtin Labour Government, to present resolution after resolution and letter after letter, and to raise this matter in this House on many occasions. The project was sympathetically viewed from the outset by the then Treasurer, Mr. Chifley; by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin; and by the then Minister for Works, Mr. Nelson Lemmon - who deserves immense credit for the determination and persistence which he showed, under the leadership of Mr. Chifley, in finally putting the great scheme into operation.
Sir William Hudson and his associate commissioners also deserve great credit for their work in directing the execution of the project. The 5,000 employees of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority deserve praise and credit at this time for their contribution to this great national effort. It is remarkable and interesting - I think it will be particularly interesting to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) - that 60 per cent, of the workers on the Snowy Mountains scheme have been new Australians. These people, coming from Europe to totally different conditions in this country, have gone up into a rugged and isolated part of Australia, in a mountainous region. Working in hardship and in very bitter weather conditions, they have played a most important part, as citizens of this country and as members of this community, in bringing a vital national work into existence.
The Minister has been generous enough to acknowledge that there has been a minimum of industrial trouble throughout the course of the Snowy Mountains operations. That is true. On the whole, there has been the utmost loyalty and effort by the thousands of workers engaged on the scheme. I think that they deserve, not only the utmost praise, but the utmost consideration and justice. I am very sorry to say that, in some respects, they are not receiving them at present. It is no part of my intention to-night to refer to these matters, except to say that I have already brought to the attention of this House, on two separate occasions with an interval of weeks between them, the exceedingly unjust system of allocation of houses by the Snowy Mountains Authority. Under this system, ordinary men and women - ordinary unskilled workers - no matter what their family needs or how loyal their service to the authority, are, from now on, to be completely deprived of the opportunity of obtaining housing while any salaried officer or skilled craftsman is awaiting a house. That is a most un-Australian and objectionable method of allocation. However, I am relying on the promise given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the matter will be investigated and a prompt reply furnished, so I intend to make no further reference to the subject at this stage.
Several important matters were referred to by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) in his second-reading speech, which I think deserve further mention. One is the question of nuclear power as a competitor with hydro-electric power. Some people wonder whether the development of nuclear power does not out-date hydroelectric power; or, if nuclear power does not already out-date hydro-electric power, whether it will not quickly do so. Apparently, there is no reason whatever for thinking in that way. Authorities do not see nuclear power as a threat of any kind to the economy of the Snowy Mountains project. They explain that electricity systems inherently require both peak load and base load power. Nuclear generation, when it comes, will be a base load supplier, not a peak load supplier. It is not antici pated for a moment that it will be able to compete with the Snowy Mountains scheme in the provision of peak load power. On the other hand, these two forms of power generation should make efficient and co-operating partners for the provision of base load and peak load power.
A second point which I think is not fully understood is that the immense benefits from irrigation which will flow from this project will be provided to the States entirely without cost. Although 1,800,000 acre feet of water will be provided from the Snowy scheme to the States - sufficient to maintain an additional 150,000 families - and although all that water will be provided free, the whole of the capital cost, including a full computation of interest, will be met. There is no question of the Snowy Mountains scheme becoming a cause of heavy loss to the Commonwealth or to the taxpayers. That contingency is fully provided for in the Principal Agreement, which we are now asked to approve by this legislation. All matters relating to pricing, to the supply of power, to the depreciation of the equipment and even, as I have said, to the computation of full interest charges, are spelled out in detail in the agreement which this bill seeks to ratify. In brief, the position is that the States have to pay for electric power from the Snowy Mountains a price which takes into account the full cost of its production. They have to pay the full production cost of the electricity that they receive.
The only provision to protect them against an unfair charge - a perfectly satisfactory provision - is that they will not have to pay more in any year for Snowy Mountains power than they would have to pay at that time for power from thermal stations. However, if the cost of the Snowy power does exceed in any one year the cost of thermal power - it is not expected that it will - the amount in difference will be held in suspense against the State concerned, to be recovered by the Commonwealth in a future year when the cost of Snowy power is once again below the cost of thermal power.
I have referred to the fact that full interest rates are being charged on this project. This seems to be a matter on which the majority of the Australian people would join with me and other members of the Opposition in a strong protest. Final cost of <the scheme is estimated at about £44.0,000,000. Up to :the end .of the present financial year, the .expenditure will have been .about £110,000,000. Every penny of that money has been provided from taxation - -from (the Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth. Not .a penny of money bora-owed at interest has been expended on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Therefore, it seems difficult indeed to understand why the Commonwealth should now seek to load the cost of that scheme with interest at the rate of 5 ,per cent. The interest charge, by the .end of the 70-year amortization period, will amount to well over £1,000,000,000. That interest will be charged on money which was never borrowed, and on which not one penny of interest has been paid by the Commonwealth itself.
If the scheme costs in the vicinity of £450,000,000 at its completion, the interest charged at 5 per cent, per annum will amount to approximately £25,000,000 a year. That will become a heavy and an unnecessary charge on industry and on the general consumers of electricity. It seems to me to be imposed by a government that has a fetish about interest. It has to charge interest on everything, whether there is a reason for it or not.
– What brand of finance is that?
– It is certainly a very luxurious form of finance.
– It is a brand agreed to by the New South Wales Government.
– The Prime Minister says it has been agreed to by the New South Wales Government.
– That is right.
– I do not know what is the force of that interjection. I do not imagine that the New South Wales Government agreed to it with enthusiasm, since that Government has to pay this charge. I cannot imagine for a moment that the New South Wales Government would not agree with great enthusiasm if the Prime Minister, now seeing the light, decided not to charge such an interest rate. I do not think that the right honorable gentleman has anything to gain by asserting that the New South Wales Government has agreed to pay the interest. It had to do so. There is force, however, I think, in ‘the argument that if interest were not charged to the authority, .the power schemes of States other than Victoria and New South Wales would be adversely affected and that it might provoke a movement of industries from those States. That is a reasonable argument. Taxation is provided by the people of all the States. The conductors of electricity enterprises in the other States had to pay interest on the money that they had to borrow in order to establish their schemes. -It -might therefore be a reasonable argument that it would he very unfair to the other States to supply electricity at cost without interest in New South Wales and Victoria, thus greatly reducing the charge at the expense of the electricity undertakings in the other States, and directing industries from those States to New South Wales and Victoria. But surely to put forward that argument and to rest on it is to take a very superficial view of the situation. The main thing is that what the Government is now doing is making the cost of electricity unnecessarily high where it could make it cheap. Surely the proper approach would be to charge interest at bond rates to the Snowy Mountains Authority, and for the Government then perhaps to earmark the amount collected in interest for distribution in the form of a subsidy to reduce the costs of the power generally produced throughout Australia.
– That is frenzied finance if you like!
-The honorable member has a purely orthodox mind on this matter. He is accustomed to interest. He loves interest. He probably lives on the interest he draws and he cannot imagine a state of society in which the users are not charged interest on everything. With him there must be this profit element. It seems to me a perfectly reasonable and elementary approach to the matter not to charge the £25,000,000 as interest but for the Government to treat it as a subsidy and thus reduce the cost of power generally throughout Australia. I would hope that such grants could be made to the States on condition that the moneys provided were applied in reducing charges for electricity in those States. That would not be an amusing proposal, as the Prime Minister suggests, but a way perhaps at last to put back some value into the £1.
Earlier in my remarks I referred to the strong’ reasons why the Snowy project can justifiably be claimed as a legitimate exercise of the defence power of the Commonwealth. The scheme would never have been put into operation if it had been left to the Victorian and New South Wales,, and perhaps the South Australian governments to endeavour to reach agreement on the matter. If the Commonwealth had not had the bold courage to step in and use the defence power, we would not now be discussing this great project, except, perhaps, as a future problem.
– It was initiated by a Labour government.
– It was indeed a Labour government that saw the great crime that continued for years in allowing the Snowy waters to run to waste in the sea, when by diversion, they could be made such a. tremendous source of wealth to the valleys of the Murray and Murrumbidgee, and such a great source of electricity throughout the Commonwealth. Mr. Chifley, the great Treasurer and Prime Minister, saw the necessity for providing and blue-printing schemes of great public works throughout Australia as an effective guarantee of the programme of full employment that the Labour government had initiated. That also was a most important reason why this scheme was instituted, and because the Chifley Labour Government had taken, by legislation, through the Commonwealth Bank, control of Australia’s credit system, we could also be sure that in a time of unemployment there would still be adequate finance available to provide a healthy economy and active employment for many thousands of men in this work. As it has turned out, the use of the Commonwealth’s credit system has not been necessary. On the whole, full employment has prevailed ever since, and the work has been paid for out of taxes. The extraordinary thing is that interest on these amazing final costs is now to be charged. Actually 80 per cent, of the final cost of the electricity that will be sold to the States will represent an interest charge on money that the Commonwealth itself did not borrow for the purpose at all.
I was referring to the use of the defence powers, and I should like to say that, as the Minister has pointed out, when the Adaminaby Dam is filled it will provide a reserve of electric energy equal to 4,000,000 tons of coal. The Adaminaby Dam is the largest storage dam of the scheme. It holds eight times the volume of water in Sydney Harbour. The power stations that depend on the water coming from the Adaminaby Dam would be able in any season to continue to operate for at least two years and to provide in national emergency, when electricity might not be available from other sources, a very large part of the essential requirements of both Victoria and New South Wales, the two largest industrial States of the Commonwealth. Of equal importance from the defence angle, as has already been pointed out, is the fact that most of the power stations will be deep underground in an isolated and difficult area. Therefore, they will be much less exposed to enemy action. I understand that during the second world war it was shown to be extremely difficult to destroy a concrete dam by bombing, and that earthwork dams of the kind used in the Snowy scheme would be even more difficult to destroy by enemy action.
I have already indicated that the Opposition will move an amendment to the bill in the committee stages to place beyond doubt the rights of South Australia to the waters of the river Murray and to ensure that those rights are not adversely affected in any way by this legislation. I would not for a moment presume to be in a position to say - I am not capable of forming a judgment - whether the rights of South Australia are adversely or could be adversely affected by this legislation. But I do say that in this respect a most extraordinary position has arisen in which the Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, seems to have failed utterly in his duty as Premier of that State to take proper action to protect the interests of South Australia. His attitude has been a most curious and extraordinary one throughout the whole proceedings. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister and his fellow Ministers will thoroughly agree with me on this point. It is true, of course, that Sir Thomas Playford has been most vociferous in his protests and in the threats he has made, but he seems never at any stage to have taken the trouble to back them by even one reasoned and proper statement of the grounds of his objections and of the precise nature of the changes in the agreement which he felt to be necessary to protect the interests of his State. In that way I suggest that Sir Thomas Playford has been most remiss in his duty as Premier of an important State and that he has in no way made up for that by bombarding members of this Parliament with telegrams.
– The people of South Australia will not agree with you on that.
– The Minister for Defence says that the people of South Australia will not agree with me. I do not know what the Minister means, but apparently he means that there are serious disadvantages to South Australia in this scheme and that Sir Thomas Playford has done the right thing in pointing them out. Is that what the Minister means?
– That is not worthy of the honorable member.
– That seems to be the exact meaning of the interjection made by the Minister. It is the only meaning that I can attach to it. I am quite prepared to hear any other explanation that he can give. It is so easy to send telegrams to members of Parliament, and surely any Premier has a duty to do more than that if he feels that the rights and interests of his State are adversely affected. Fortunately, this matter has not been left to Sir Thomas Playford. I would say also, in passing, that, up to the time when this measure was introduced in the Senate, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) also seems to have been considerably at fault - perhaps the people of South Australia will agree with me about this - because he seems never to have provided any proper detailed explanation of what was contained in the agreement and how its terms would protect the interests of South Australia.
As I understand it, on the evidence available, South Australia has real cause for concern because of the lag that will occur between the time when the waters of the Tooma River are diverted into the Tumut River, and the time - several years later - when the diversion of the waters of the Snowy River into the Murray River will replace the water lost by the diversion of the Tooma. In that respect, it would seem to me that there is real cause for concern in South Australia, and that concern has been strongly expressed by Mr. O’Halloran, the Leader of the Opposition in the South Australian Parliament, by the South Australian executive of the Australian Labour party, and by various other bodies. The amendment which the Opposition will move is designed to remove all grounds for such concern, and the Government should, therefore, welcome it. I feel that the South Australian members of the House, particularly, have a duty to examine the amendment very carefully, and to support it. lt is a wonderful thing, Mr. Speaker, to have unanimity in this House about the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, and complete support for it from the members of all political parties. I hope that not one voice will be raised in this debate against the Snowy Mountains project or against the determination to press on with it vigorously to its completion - I doubt whether any will be - because the project is an outstanding example of socialism in action in Australia.
– What nonsense!
– Let us examine the matter. Was the Snowy Mountains scheme initiated by free enterprise? Is it in accord with the great principles of free enterprise?
– Who has undertaken it?
– It has been undertaken by the people of Australia. It has been paid for by the people of Australia. No profit motive enters into it. No bondholder will draw rich profits from it.
– There will be no dividends.
– No dividends will be paid. Electric power is to be provided at cost. In what respect, then, is it nonsense to describe this project as an example of practical socialism in action in Australia? I so regard it, and I feel that the majority of honorable members so regard it. I recall the Prime Minister saying that he would favour socialization in certain circumstances. Clearly, this is one of the circumstances in which he favours it, and I give him credit accordingly.
– He said it in South Australia, in August.
– I recall the occasion in South Australia to which the honorable member refers when the Prime Minister made such an utterance.
– That is quite right. I believe in the Post Office, for example.
– The Prime Minister says, “That is quite right”. He renews his affirmation of faith in socialism in certain circumstances.
– The Post Office is an example. We agree. The honorable member must occasionally be right, but, most times, he is hopelessly wrong.
– The right honorable gentleman agrees that the Snowy Mountains project, like the Post Office, is an example of practical socialism in operation in Australia. However, we all are agreed upon the value of the scheme. It is a great work. All of us give the utmost credit to those who initiated it - those who first dreamed of it and kept that dream alive until governments could be interested in it. We give credit to the government which initiated it and carried it through. We give credit to the present Government, which has carried it on. We give credit to the commissioner and the associate commissioners, and to all those who have been associated with them in this great undertaking in the best interests of this country, which we all love.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has made a very entertaining speech. With some of his concluding words, as with some of his earlier words, 1 can heartily agree. This is not a party matter. As I have said more than once, in his presence, on suitable occasions, 1 give great credit to the government which devised the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme and which introduced the original legislation, and I am not unwilling to accept some credit for the Government that has so far had the responsibility of finding most of the money for carrying out the scheme. These things all are elementary, and, therefore, I would have expected that a measure of this kind would have a quick passage.
It will be recalled by many honorable members that when this project was begun queries were raised as to whether it had a sound constitutional foundation. As the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has just reminded us, those doubts have not yet been cleared up. It is one of the purposes of this bill, so far as may be, to remove those doubts so that we may have, if I may use an approximate expression, a pooling of the power of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria, in order to sustain an operation which is no doubt the greatest single public work attempted by the Commonwealth in the history of Australia. Therefore, it is very important that this bill should go through. Legislation to ratify the Snowy Mountains Agreement has passed the Parliament of New South Wales, but has not yet been proclaimed, and similar legislation has passed the Parliament of Victoria, but has not yet been proclaimed. This bill, one hopes, will pass this Parliament by tomorrow, and it is of the essence that it should, because the amount of money being spent on the Snowy Mountains scheme is too great, and the purposes of this enterprise are too nationally important, for the scheme to be left in a state of risk or of legal uncertainty. That, after all, is the central thing about this measure.
Questions have been raised about the State of South Australia - questions on which the honorable member for EdenMonaro has permitted himself what is, if I may venture to say so, for him an uncommon act of hilarity. He has described the Premier of South Australia as having sat back on the job. That has not been my experience, I am bound to say. In my lifetime, nobody has fought the battles of South Australia half so well as Sir Thomas Playford, the present Premier, has done. But putting that on one side, Mr. Speaker, because that is the thing I want to say something about to-night, I do want to emphasize to the House, if it needs emphasis - and I adopt the opening expressions of the speech made by the honorable member for EdenMonaro - that this scheme will produce, and is already producing, power. It will produce power in great quantities, and, that power, being hydro-electric power with a process of the amortization of its costs going on over a term of years, will, in the long run, be very cheap power. That is vastly important for the great industrial communities of New South Wales and Victoria. At the same time, and at the cost of those who will use the electric power, there will be great storages of water and enormous possibilities for irrigation along the valleys of the Murray and the Murrumbidgee rivers.
This is indeed a matter of immense national moment. It is not the kind of enterprise that can go creaking along on an unsound or doubtful constitutional foundation. There is in reality no time to be lost in putting this whole matter beyond question. Of course, Sir, up to that point I think we all agree. I have not heard any quarrel about the amount of money that we are spending. I have heard, not for the first time, because I have been familiar with it for twenty years, the argument about the Commonwealth charging interest when it pays for something out of revenue. That is an interesting argument, because it means that the honorable ‘ gentleman wants to-day’s taxpayers to pay the entire cost of the Snowy scheme so that to-morrow’s users will have it almost for nothing. That is not a principle that appeals to us. We think that, although it may be necessary because of shortages in the loan market to draw from revenue a great sum of money for the carrying out of public works, the people who are to have the benefit of these public works in due course ought to make their own contribution in their own time. That, perhaps, is an issue between us, but I leave it, because it is an old one. It has been thrashed out many times and, in the case of the Snowy scheme, the view that I have just mentioned has been accepted by Victoria and New South Wales in the contract that we are now about to ratify.
But, Sir, what I do want to say a few words about - not too many, but this is a complex matter - is the problem of South Australia and .South Australia’s legitimate interests in the water that passes down the Murray for the benefit of South Australia. Let me begin by saying two things. Victoria and New South Wales have a primary interest in the waters of the Snowy. It is partly a New South Wales river and partly a Victorian river. Therefore, one can understand it when they say, “ If we are to divert the waters of the Snowy - our river - into the Murray or the Murrumbidgee, then we have some right to say on what terms “. South Australia, on the other hand, can say and does say - I agree with it - “ These irrigation waters, the waters of the Murray and of the Murrumbidgee, are of very great value to New South Wales and to Victoria; but the waters of the Murray, as they enter South Australia, are not just of great advantage, they are vital to South Australia “. That is literally true. The great bulk of South Australia’s water supply for a variety .of purposes, such as land settlement and industrial development, depends upon the availability of water from the Murray, and it was because the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria recognized this many years ago that they established the River Murray Commission. They entered into an agreement, to which they gave legislative authority, and provided by it the terms and conditions on which the waters of .the Murray and of its tributaries should be handled, so that in .the end result South Australia should not be deprived of this vital element in its existence. Quite frankly, I have begun all my own consideration of this matter with that single proposition. I, of all people, am the least likely to underestimate the significance of this matter to .the State of South Australia.
Hinder .the River Murray Agreement, South Australia is entitled in normal years to a certain nominated supply of water from ‘the Murray. Lake Victoria is to be filled. I meed not go into the details of it. A schedule sets out the quantity that is to emerge from Lake Victoria month by month. In a normal year, South Australia has received and will receive from the Murray an ample supply of water for her purposes. Nobody in the whole of these discussions has contradicted that. But there is a possibility always that we may have a drought year in which the volume of water in the Murray, or passing into the Murray, will fall so much that what is left for South Australia will be either inadequate in quantity or inferior in quality, because it tends to achieve a higher degree of salinity than might otherwise be desired.
It is interesting to note that, though the River Murray Commission has been in existence for many years, we have not so far had a period of restriction. Therefore, in this matter we are discussing something that may or may not happen five years, ten years or 50 years in the future - something indeed, I am happy to say, much less likely to happen once the waters of the Snowy are diverted, in the main, into the valley of the Murray. Those matters were looked at, and the River Murray Agreement provided that in a period of restriction the water of the Murray at Albury - call it the water at the Hume Dam - was to be divided between New South- Wales, Victoria and South Australia in the proportions, roughly, of five, five and three, so that South Australia would get threethirteenths of the water in the Murray at Albury in a period of restriction.
As I say, that period has never actually occurred. I mention that because it is one of the matters to which the Premier of South Australia has directed his attention with great force. Indeed, he has a writ out at present in respect of it. In effect, what he has said is, “You, in the Snowy Mountains Agreement, have, made a bargain with New South Wales and Victoria under which, when the waters of the Snowy are turned into the Murray, New South Wales and Victoria are to divide the water so added between- themselves, without additional advantage to South Australia”. He has said, “ I will not have that, because, after all, the River Murray Agreement gives me three-thirteenths and, as a proper matter of interpretation, that means threethirteenths of all the water in the Murray at Albury in any time of restriction, wherever it comes from “. That is an argument of law, and it would be tedious and irrelevant to engage in a discussion of it now. There are very mixed opinions about it. All I want to say about that point to the House, and particularly to my South Australian colleagues, is that the rights of South Australia under that heading cannot be affected by the Snowy Mountains Agreement, because South Australia is not a party to the Snowy Mountains Agreement. South. Australia is a party to the River Murray Agreement. Whatever are its rights under the River Murray Agreement, they cannot be taken away by the Snowy Mountains Agreement, to which it is not a party and which is a matter transacted between other governments. Therefore, South Australia is not prejudiced on that matter.
However, as a matter of some comfort to my South Australian friends, who, very properly, have an interest in the end result and who- want to see this vital supply maintained, I do say that under the Snowy Mountains Agreement itself there are, on the upper reaches of the Murray, works of storage and of regulation which in themselves will add to the flow of the Murray in a period of restriction, and which, on anybody’s view, will be the waters of the
Murray. Therefore, the Snowy Mountains Agreement will, in our view, undoubtedly add to whatever supply South Australia would have had in the event of a dry season-.
That is one question that has arisen. I beg to be excused from elaborating it, because time is limited. The second question that has arisen concerns the diversion of the Tooma, which is a tributary of the Murray above Albury - and an important tributary. There is, and there always has been, in the River Murray Waters Agreement, a provision which, perhaps, I should read to the House. Clause 45 of that agreement provides as follows: -
The flow of the River Murray at Albury including the natural or regulated flows of all tributaries of the River Murray above Albury . . . shall be shared equally by New South Wales and Victoria; subject to deduction from either State’s share at Albury of such volumes as that State may by works divert from time to time from streams above Albury.
To put that into normal English, this provision, which has long been in existence and which has nothing to do with the Snowy Mountains Agreement, means that if, for example, New South Wales had decided to divert the Tooma into the Murrumbidgee, nothing in the River Murray Waters Agreement would have prevented it from doing so.. But the point is that New South Wales could not then have had the water twice. If it took water away from the Murray, its share of the water in the Murray would have been reduced accordingly. Sir Thomas Playford says, very naturally, “ That refers to a diversion by a State, and the diversion of the Tooma that is now about to begin is not a diversion by a State, but is a diversion by the Snowy Mountains Authority. Therefore, I may be met by New South Wales saying to me, We did not make this diversion; somebody else did it, and therefore you cannot deduct that water from our share of the Murray water ‘.” That, again, is one of those matters about which the lawyers can argue to their hearts’ content. Looking at it from a practical viewpoint, I have on several occasions advocated the view that the right answer to the problem is to have New South Wales, Victoria and the Commonwealth agree with South Australia that the diversion of the Tooma, or a diversion of any other tributary above Albury, by the
Snowy Mountains Authority should be regarded as a diversion under the River Murray Waters Agreement.
In this connexion there is another matter which might be settled by the lawyers one way or the other, but which, in all common sense, ought to be dealt with. I have myself, with the consent of my colleague, had several discussions with leaders of State governments, including Sir Thomas Playford, on this matter, and I have been able to secure at least one document which is important, and which I shall read to the House. It is signed by me, representing the Commonwealth, by Mr. Heffron, acting Premier of New South Wales, and by Mr. Bolte, the Premier of Victoria. The signatures appear in that order on the document, not in order of merit, but merely in alphabetical order of representation. The document reads as follows: -
The Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Victoria agree that water diverted by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority from the Tooma River to the Adaminaby Storage and to the Tumut River by the works of the Authority or water so diverted from any other tributary of the River Murray above Albury should be treated as water diverted by the States of New South Wales and Victoria. To give effect to this principle an amendment of Clause 45 of the River Murray Waters Agreement will be necessary.
I am sure my honorable friend will agree that that meets the point and states the position fairly. Other questions then arose. There is not the slightest doubt that all four parties are perfectly willing to have clause 45 amended in order to put that argument at rest. But Victoria and New South Wales have raised a supplementary question. They say, “ That is all right, but suppose we can replace the water that we divert from the Tooma with water from some other convenient source; why should we not be at liberty to replace the water by the time it reaches South Australia, so that this mathematical calculation will become unnecessary? “ That is a sensible enough proposition, and in the document that I have just referred to the matter is set out in this way -
Certain other amendments to that Agreement-
That is, the River Murray Waters Agreement, because no amendments to the present agreement are needed - will also be necessary, and in particular amendments to Clauses 46 and 51, in order to make the River Murray Waters Agreement more elastic in its operation, while preserving to the State of South Australia its entitlement to water. This effect can be achieved by permitting the States of New South Wales and Victoria to replace diverted water from any convenient source.
These matters should be examined by the River Murray Commission. For that purpose the Commission should be asked to report on the following question: -
Then the question is suggested. Time will not allow me to read it, but with the concurrence of the House I shall incorporate it in “ Hansard “, so that the whole document will be available to honorable members. lt reads -
What amendments of the River Murray Waters Agreement are necessary to secure conformity with the Snowy Mountains Agreement in relation to the treatment of the diversion of water by the Snowy Mountains Authority, and to permit of the States of New South Wales and Victoria replacing water so diverted from any convenient source.
So far I have mentioned two questions. The first is: What happens in a period of restriction? I hope I have made it clear that nothing in this bill, or this contract, about the Snowy Mountains can or does modify in any way the rights of South Australia in a period of restriction. Secondly, I have dealt with the diversion of the Tooma and have pointed out that the four parties to the River Murray Waters Agreement - assuming that South Australia is in agreement - all agree that there ought to be an amendment to clause 45 so that nobody can, with relation to the diversion of the Tooma, plead the letter of the River Murray Waters Agreement. A third matter that I have mentioned is that concerning the replacement of the water.
– What about the time factor?
– The diversion of the Tooma could have occurred, under the River Murray Waters Agreement, even if there had never been a Snowy Mountains scheme. It is true that the Tooma will be diverted before the Snowy River water is diverted into the Murray. But the Snowy water will come in at a later stage, and the position of South Australia will be immeasurably better than it would have been if there had been no Snowy Mountains scheme and the Tooma had been diverted into the Murrumbidgee, as it might well have been by New South Wales at some time.
– What share of the Snowy water will South Australia get?
– South Australia will get, in every period of time except the period of restriction, enough water to fill Lake Victoria - the normal supply. It does not matter where it comes from. The real question, and the one which would concern me if I were a South Australian - and does concern me because I know how important this is to South Australia - is: What hap- pens in a period of restriction? Each of the three questions - what happens in a period of restriction; what are the sensible amendments to be made to clause 45; and what provisions should be made concerning the diversion of the Tooma - has had our consideration and that of the River Murray Commission, which includes representatives of all four governments, and whose members are technical people and competent engineers. The River Murray Commission met in Melbourne on Monday of last week to discuss these three questions. All I need to tell the House is that while their recommendations do not bind governments - and I am at present trying to organize a conference of heads of governments in order to give effect to the recommendations, the fact remains that the commission has made unanimous recommendations on each of those three points. The representative of each government on the River Murray Commission has made what I believe to be thoroughly sensible recommendations unanimously. Any recommendations that the commission makes must be unanimous. It is very difficult to discuss these matters at present, because there is at present a Victorian election campaign in full swing and there are other problems of a similar nature, but I should be vastly disappointed if, when the representatives of the four governments sit down to look at the recommendations of these experts on what, after all, are matters requiring expert attention, they do not readily agree to them.
– How much of the Snowy River water does South Australia get in times of drought?
– In times of drought, the argument goes on because South Australia says, “ We are entitled to threethirteenths of all the water at Albury “, which would include all the waters of the Snowy River. The view taken on the other side is, “ You are not entitled to threethirteenths of such water as comes from the
Snowy River because that originally belonged to Victoria and New South Wales “. There is a very strong view among practical men that, to divide the water in that fashion in time of drought would be difficult and probably impossible, but that is a matter to which the River Murray Commission has been directing its attention. It has made recommendations in relation to it-
– They are unanimous and I believe them to be eminently satisfactory to the Government of South Australia. They are certainly eminently satisfactory to me as head of the Commonwealth Government, but they cannot be given their appropriate form until you have a meeting of heads of governments, because what is involved is an amendment to the River Murray Agreement.
Let me go back to that point where I began. The solution of all these great problems which are so tremendously significant for South Australia - problems which have been presented strongly by South Australia and by South Australian members in this Parliament - lies within the four corners of the River Murray Agreement. They are problems unaffected by the Snowy Mountains Agreement. So that nobody might think them to be some strange legal freak - that an agreement between three people can bind a fourth person to another agreement who was not a party to the second one, which is a legal impossibility - and so that that might be put beyond all question and honorable members on all sides of the House relieved of some possible embarrassment or misunderstanding, we did introduce into the bill in another place a provision to this effect -
Nothing in this Act shall be taken to affect the rights of the State of South Australia under the agreements copies of which are set out in the Schedules to the River Murray Waters Act 1915-1954.
There is a categorical statement. Nothing in this act - and it includes the schedule - is to be taken as affecting the rights of South Australia. If I thought that the position of South Australia was prejudiced, if I thought it was altered for the worse to the extent of a gallon of water by this legislation, I would not have allowed it to have entered this House.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh)
South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, and the people of South Australia were not in this House when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) was charging the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) with putting it over South Australia, so far as the Snowy Mountains Agreement is concerned, because had they observed the glint in the right honorable gentleman’s eye and the look of smug satisfaction that he was displaying while he was being accused or. putting it over somebody else, they would have realized that the Prime Minister is never happy unless he is putting it over somebody or other. When he runs out of the Petrovs he starts on the Playfords. We have a classic example of the Prime Minister putting it over South Australia in this bill. In a way, it is rather amusing because the Premier of South Australia usually prides himself upon putting it over other people, but this time he has found his match, as the agreement clearly demonstrates.
What is the position under this agreement? The agreement provides that the waters from the Tooma are to be diverted into the Tumut and, ultimately into the Murrumbidgee, and are to be used entirely by New South Wales. In place of the water that is to toe diverted from the Tooma into the Tumut, some 300,000 acre feet of water will be taken from the Snowy River when that part of the scheme is completed and the balance - some 400,000 acre feet - will be carved up equally between New South Wales and Victoria. We in this Parliament, and we on this side of the House in particular, are surely not expected to accept that as a fair proposition to the taxpayers of South Australia who have paid as much per head towards the cost of constructing the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme as have the people of New South Wales and Victoria. We say that we are entitled - as indeed is every other taxpayer in the Commonwealth - to share, if it were physically possible, in the water and the hydro-electric power that is to be generated by the scheme.
South Australia readily admits that it is not physically possible for her to share in the hydro-electric power that is to be generated by the Snowy Mountains scheme. Therefore, she does not put in a claim to a share of the hydro-electric power which is, incidentally, so vital to her industrially. South Australia realizes the practical impos sibility of getting the power to her, but there is no physical impracticability about getting the water that is to be diverted under this great scheme into South Australia so that South Australians can share in it.
The Prime Minister said to-night that New South Wales and Victoria had a prior right to the Snowy water because this water is from a river owned jointly by Victoria and New South Wales. Therefore, according to the right honorable gentleman, it is the property of New South Wales and Victoria and they are the ones to whom it ought legitimately to be given once it is diverted into the Murray.
I remind the Prime Minister, however, that New South Wales and Victoria have lost nothing at all by the diversion of the Snowy River into the river Murray except the dangerous flooding that occurs in the parts of Victoria near Orbost from time to time. By diverting the Snowy River from New South Wales and Victoria into the Murray River, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has, far from taking something from those two States, prevented them from having to suffer the consequences of the floods which now occur at such regular intervals in those two States.
It may be true, as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) has said, in effect, in all the newspapers in his district, that the Premier of South Australia is talking trivialities and that he does not know what he is talking about. The honorable member has suggested that Sir Thomas Playford is trifling with a matter which is unimportant. While this might seem to be unimportant to the honorable member for Barker, it .s not unimportant to the people of South Australia and particularly to Labour senators from South Australia who played such a magnificent part in trying to get the proclamation of this bill delayed until both Houses were satisfied that the rights of South Australia were properly safeguarded.
It will be interesting to note how the Liberal members from South Australia in this House vote when a division is taken shortly on the Labour amendment to provide that this bill will not be proclaimed until this House and the other chamber are satisfied that South Australia’s rights are properly safeguarded. It will be interesting to note how they line up and, in particular, where the honorable member for Sturt (Mr.
Wilson and others stand on this matter. The Opposition will force a division on this bill. It will move an amendment and ask every honorable member to stand up and be counted and not run out of the chamber to avoid casting a vote.
The Prime Minister said that never at any time in the history of the River- Murray Commission have restrictions been necessary. I emphasize that we are not legislating for to-day alone or for the next ten, twenty or 50 years. The decision we are making to-night is a decision which will affect the people of South Australia- for 200 or 300 years. Long after we are dead and gone, the people of South Australia will curse our memory or bless us according to the decision we make to-night. Therefore, it is nonsense for the Prime Minister to say that in a country which is not many years old, we have not yet had occasion to call on the restrictions provided for in the agreement. The time will come when we will have to impose restrictions.
Let me remind honorable members from other States that Adelaide is drinking river Murray water to-day. It is not only vitally necessary to irrigation in South Australia, but the. city of Adelaide also relies on the water from the river Murray for drinking water, and for water for industrial purposes, as do cities and towns as far afield as Woomera and Whyalla. So it is not a simple matter for South Australia.
I would like to put this position to the Prime Minister. He said that the argument, according to the Premier of South Australia, is that this diversion of the Tooma River, because it is carried out by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, may not be regarded as a diversion by New South Wales, and that that State may thus escape its obligations. I put this to the Government: It does not matter whether the river is diverted by the State or by the authority. The important thing is that the taxpayers of South Australia are paying their share per head of the total cost of the diversion, and are justly entitled to their legitimate share of the benefits that accrue from it. Since they can get no benefits in the form of cheap electric power, surely to goodness the people of South Australia are not asking for too much in asking for an amount of water from the Snowy diversion which is equal to the amount taken from the Tooma River plus South Australia’s just share, which is three-thirteenths of the total amount diverted from the Snowy into the HumeDam and finally into the irrigation settlements of South Australia.
The. River Murray Agreement has a proviso to the effect that of the total amount of water released from Lake Victoria and from the Hume Weir, South Australia shall be entitled to three-thirteenths, Victoria to five-thirteenths, and New South Wales to five-thirteenths. But this proviso does not apply except in years of drought, because it is only in years of drought that South Australia is in the position of needing more water. In. the normal years, to which the Prime Minister referred, there is no need to worry about restrictions, and it does not matter two hoots what amount of water is released from the Hume Dam and Lake Victoria, because in those years there is ample water to meet the requirements of all of the States that are likely to be affectedby it.
Under the new proposal, South Australia is to receive three-thirteenths of the 300,000 acre feet from the Snowy River, to make up for the 300,000 acre feet that is diverted from the Tooma River into the Murrumbidgee River and thus becomes the property of the State of New South Wales. That means that South Australia is to get absolutely nothing out of this agreement. All that she gets from the Snowy River is approximately 70,000 acre feet, being the amount which the State of New South Wales takes from the river Murray per medium of the Tooma River. But worse than that is the fact that we are to have that replaced - it is said - by water diverted from other tributaries of the Murray. I remind the House that a snow-fed river or tributary like the Tooma is far more important in years of drought than is a river that relies upon ordinary watershed drainage, such as the Goulburn, Mitta Mitta, Kiewa, and other streams which flow into the river Murray from the opposite direction. Very often in time of drought, when no rain falls in parts of the States that are watered by those other tributaries, the snow fall is very, very heavy. That may seem paradoxical, but it is a fact. Therefore, to South Australia, a snow-fed tributary is far more important in times of drought than are tributaries, normally delivering twice the amount of water, but depending upon rainfall.
I would point out to the House also that not only is South Australia now being forced to be content with the same amount of water as she previously got, but she has to forfeit any right to the difference between the amount of water diverted from the Snowy into the river Murray, to compensate for the amount taken from the Tooma into the Murrumbidgee, and the total amount diverted from the Snowy River, which is altogether 700,000 acre feet. The balance is 400,000 acre feet, which New South Wales and Victoria, with the concurrence of the Commonwealth Government, have now decided to carve up between themselves, ignoring completely the right of South Australia to any share of it. Had South Australia been treated fairly and given three-thirteenths of the Tooma River, plus three-thirteenths of the extra water available as a result of the diversion of the Snowy into the river Murray, her share would have been of the order of 161,000 acre feet. But no! That is to be denied her.
Let us have a look at what New South Wales is to get under the new agreement, remembering all the time that at present New South Wales gets only the amount that flows from the Murrumbidgee River, plus five-thirteenths of the amount that goes through the Hume Dam. Under this proposal, New South Wales will continue to get all the water that flows down the Murrumbidgee River and, in addition, another 300,000 acre feet of the water from the Tooma River, when it is diverted from the Murray into the Murrumbidgee. New South Wales will get all of that and, in addition, another 248,000 acre feet of water being diverted from the Eucumbene River, per medium of the tunnel and the Adaminaby Dam, into the Tumut River, and finally into the Murrumbidgee. I repeat that the taxpayers of South Australia have paid as much per head of the cost of diversion as have the taxpayers of New South Wales. But, in addition, New South Wales will get 200,000 acre feet as her share of the 50-50 carving up of the surplus water diverted from the Snowy River, over and above the compensating amount for the diversion from the Tooma River into the Tumut River. So altogether New South Wales will get a net gain of 748,000 acre feet. I repeat that in addition to the 748,000 acre feet that I have mentioned, New South Wales will continue to get the same amount as she previously got of the water released from the Hume Dam.
Let us have a look at Victoria and see what she gets. Victoria gets a total of 200,000 acre feet from the Snowy, plus the same amount as she now gets from the Hume Weir. In case that is not clear to anybody, I shall explain it in another way. When honorable members get time to analyse the “ Hansard “ report, the force of the argument in support of South Australia will strike them, and I am sure they will support the point of view I am putting. At present New South Wales gets all the water from the Murrumbidgee, plus fivethirteenths of the water released from the Hume Dam. After this agreement comes into force, she will get all of the water from the Murrumbidgee, plus five-thirteenths of the water released from the river Murray, plus five-thirteenths of the Snowy River water that is used to compensate for the water that is taken from the Tooma River and put into the Tumut River. She will get thirteen-thirteenths of the water diverted from the Tooma itself, all of the Eucumbene diversion, and six and a halfthirteenths of the surplus Snowy water over and above the compensating 300,000 acre feet that is to be let into the Hume Dam for calculating purposes to compensate for the diversion of the Tooma River. That is to be her share.
South Australia, as I said, will get nothing extra. All that she will get is the same amount as she is now receiving, in spite of the fact - I repeat, and I cannot stop repeating - that our people are paying the same amount per head towards the cost of this scheme as are the people of Victoria and New South Wales. It was the duty of this Government to protect the people of the smaller State. It is particularly the duty of the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), who is to resign from this Government, to stand and protect the rights of South Australia in this regard. It will be interesting to note how some other honorable members vote in this matter.
Now I turn to another matter. Of the total of the water diverted into the Murray, which is 928,000 acre feet, Victoria is to get 200,000 acre feet, New South Wales 728,000 acre feet, and South Australia nil. That is how good it is! I repeat, that of the total amount of the diversion of 928,000 acre feet, New South Wales is going to grab 728,000 acre feet, while Victoria will get only 200,000 acre feet, and South Australia none at all. Victoria and New South Wales, in addition to the extra water, both get the benefit of a cheaper and more certain supply of hydro-electric current, which South Australia does not get and to which it makes no claim.
The Prime Minister referred to the fact that there will be better storage along the river Murray, at the Geehi River and at the various other points of storage, as though South Australia was the only State that was to share in that improvement. He conveniently overlooked the fact that, whilst it is true that South Australia will share in three-thirteenths of the total extra storage that will be made available, Victoria will get five-thirteenths and New South Wales also five-thirteenths of the additional storage; so that that argument is completely cancelled out by the fact that whatever South Australia gets, New South Wales and Victoria will get an infinitely greater amount.
The Government has brought forward this stupid and useless amendment, pretending that it will protect South Australia’s rights. It states -
Nothing in this Act shall be taken to affect the rights of the State of South Australia under the agreements copies of which are set out in the Schedules to the River Murray Waters Act . . .
– It is meaningless, as the Leader of the Opposition, a former High Court judge, has just said. Of course, it is meaningless, because what are the rights of South Australia under the River Murray Agreement? Do they include rights to all of the water diverted by means of artificial tributaries, such as the one about which we are speaking?
– The honorable member who was at one time a second-rate lecturer at the University of Adelaide, apparently regards himself as a : first-rate lawyer.
– His lectures were very good.
– That was not the opinion of his students. They said that they could not imagine such a man standing for Parliament, but he got here because he stood for a blue-ribbon seat, although with a greatly reduced majority. The people of Barker evidently were more discerning than is the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), who is at the table.
– The honorable member for Barker tried to join the Labour party at one time.
– The honorable member for East Sydney says the honorable member for Barker tried to get into the Australian Labour party. As I have said, the amendment is quite useless because nobody yet knows what South Australia’s rights are. We know that South Australia has rights to the natural tributaries of the river Murray, but has she also rights to the artificial tributaries of the river Murray; or will the Government say, “ No, your rights only concern the tributaries of the Murray that existed at the time of the signing of the agreement “?
– Hear, hear!
– If my friend from Bonython is correct, as I believe him to be, then it will mean that South Australia clearly is receiving no protection from this useless amendment of the Government that has been put forward in an attempt to try to hoodwink the South Australian people.
One of the important aspects of this matter, on which my learned friend from Barker, who seems to be an authority on law as well as philosophy, ought to be able to give some views, is that South Australia, which is not a party to the Snowy Mountains Agreement that we are now in the process of ratifying, has no rights of enforcement. How can she have rights of enforcement in respect of an agreement to which she is not even a partner? That is one of the complaints that the Premier of South Australia is making against this Government. For seven long, weary years this Government carried on secret negotiations without telling the Premier anything about them. It was not until about eighteen months ago that the Premier woke up to the fact that somebody was putting it over him. For nine years, except for the last eighteen months, the Premier of South Australia has done absolutely nothing to protect the rights of South Australia in respect of the River Murray Agreement. Then, after this agreement is signed, sealed and delivered, the Premier wakes up and discovers that he has had something put over him. When there is a fait accompli he comes along and says, “We have been cheated, and we want something done about it “.
Let me put the position of the Labour party in South Australia. The executive of the party has made the position quite clear by public pronouncement, which the Leader of the Opposition wholeheartedly supports. In this regard, the right honorable gentleman has demonstrated his usual statesmanship in protecting the rights of the smaller States as against the greed of the bigger States, an example which the Prime Minister could very well follow. The Leader of the Opposition agrees with the South Australian Labour party that South Australia not only is entitled to three-thirteenths of the water which is diverted from the Tooma, which is rightfully hers under the. existing agreement, but also is entitled to three-thirteenths of the water which is diverted from the Snowy into the Murray. Unless we get it, and until we get it, we shall not be satisfied and will not be prepared to accept this bill. We will move our amendment, to test the sincerity of the Government members, that the proclamation of the whole bill be deferred until such time as this House and the other chamber are satisfied that South Australia’s rights are properly protected.
I havea verygrave suspicion, Sir, in view of theinnuendoes of the Prime Minister, that the Premierof South Australia has already sold outon South Australia, and thathe has accepteda compromise which falls short of the properand legitimate demands of South Australia. I have anasty feeling that the Premier has sold out South Australia andisnow preparedto accept an amount lessthan threethirteenths ofthe Tooma water, plus three- thirteenthsof the total water diverted from the SnowyRiver. Ifthe Premierhas done that, it shows that Senator Toohey properly described himwhen he said that the Premier had been grandstanding on the matter andtrying to make political capital out of it, and that for once in his life he had been hoist with his own petard. I hope, therefore, that the people in this Parliament from South Australia, whether they be Liberal or Labour, will have the interests of South Australia sufficiently at heart to support the amendment which the Opposition will move at the appropriate time.
Now, I have a question which the Minister for Immigration may be able to answer. I should like the honorable gentleman to tell this Parliament why it was that the Prime Minister refused to arrange for the decision of the River Murray Commission, as contained in its report, to be read to the Senate at the time that the debate was in progress there. I have it on very good authority - it has been stated in the daily press in South Australia, under the name of the Premier himself - that Sir Thomas Playford sent a telegram to the Prime Minister in which he asked the Prime Minister to make available to the Senate the report of the River Murray Commission before the debate concluded and before a vote was taken. The report was not read, and I want to know why it was not read. Senator Toohey, from South Australia, has questioned the Minister concerned as to why the request of the Premier of South Australia for the reading of the report and its tabling was not acceded to, and the reply of the Minister was that he would first of allhave hadto consult the other States, that is, Victoria and New South Wales. Any one would think that, in order to consult Victoria and New South Wales, he would have had to get on a camel and ride all the way to Sydney, and then ride all the way back to Melbourne. In actual fact, we know very well thatall thatthe Prime Minister had todo was to pick up , the telephone,asa consequence of which his prioritywould, within seconds,gethim connected toany telephone number inthe wholeof the Commonwealth of Australia, asofcourseit should. If he really wanted to have this report read to the senators before they cast their vote, all he had to do was to consult the two Premiers concerned. If it istrue thatthis was aunanimous decision, I have nodoubt that they would have agreed wholeheartedly to theproposal.
Mr.Downer.-It.is not nearly so simple as that.
– Why is it not so simple?
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that there is an election campaign being conducted in Victoria at the moment.
– There is an election campaign on! Honorable members will now see whatI mean when I say that this is a matter of politics. I knew it all the time. The Prime Minister displays none of the statesmanlike attitude of the Leader of the Opposition, who does not care whether a big State is offended or not, and will defend the small States against the big States if he thinks the small States are right. Instead, the Prime Minister says, “ No, I will not raise the matter now because there is an election on. If I raise it and Victoria has to give way to South Australia, Mr. Bolte might lose a few votes in the elections over there. Therefore, rather than cause Mr. Bolte to lose a few votes, and rather than lose any votes in Victoria myself, I am prepared to let the rights of South Australia go and be completely forgotten.”
I remind the Minister for Immigration that while he himself has a blue ribbon Liberal seat and has nothing to fear, some of his colleagues are in an entirely different position in South Australia. The people of South Australia will adopt a completely different attitude to this matter from that which the Government seems to imagine they are prepared to adopt, because in South Australia the question of the diversion of the Snowy waters and the protectionof the rights of South Australia to a fair share of that water, is a vital and burning question, as it properly should be. The Prime Minister admits that it is a vital question to South Australia and, having made that admission, proceeds merrily on his way to take away from the people of that State the right of this vital water supply.
I want tomake it clear, once and for all, that when this bill reaches the committee stage, the Leader of the Opposition will move an amendment, as the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate did in the following terms:-
That the following clause be inserted:- “ (2.). The Act shall not be proclaimed until after eachHouse of the Parliament shall resolve that in its opinion all rights of the State of
South Australia to waters of the river Murray are not adversely affected by the operation of the Act.”
That will be a complete safeguard for the rights of South Australia. That amendment will provide, in effect, that this act cannot be proclaimed until both Houses of this Parliament, by resolution, agree that South Australia’s rights are properly protected. I see nothing wrong with that at all. Of course it does strike at the ego of the Prime Minister when he compares his own silly little trashy amendment, which means nothing, with the amendment of substance which will be moved by the Leader of the Opposition at the committee stage. The Prime Minister has been forced, once again, as he has been on so many occasions, to admit that the Leader of the Opposition has proved himself to be right on the number of occasions that the Prime Minister has been proved to be so wrong.
.- In this debate the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has had recourse once again to personal abuse, which is the line he always follows when he has no argument. It was his way of answering me when I made a perfectly reasonable interjection in order to elicit some information from him which he so obviously had because he was putting it over in such a confident manner. His reply was a tirade of abuse against me, every tittle and tattle of which was completely untrue.
The Opposition proposes, in committee, to move an amendment to the effect that the bill shall notbe proclaimed until this Parliament is completely satisfied that the rights of South Australia are protected. The honorable member spent half an hour telling us that South Australia’s interests are not protected under this bill; therefore, there is no need whatsoever to introduce an amendment of this sort. If he thinks that South Australia’s interests are not protected he can vote against the bill, as he should if he is a good South Australian. On the contrary, I think that South Australia’s interests are protected and consequently I will vote for the bill.
The honorable member made much of the share that South Australia should receive of the Snowy River waters. He went on with the argument which he had prepared beforehand despite the fact that this evening the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) introduced new information into this debate and made it clear, as only he can, that the Snowy Mountains Agreement did not, in any way, affect South Australia’s rights under the River Murray Agreement. He made it quite clear also that the River Murray Commission recently reported on this among other things, and this agreement was signed unanimously by the representatives of the four States concerned. He knows what the attitude of South Australia is. Does the honorable member think that the representative of South Australia would have signed that agreement if its rights were not protected? The honorable member has followed his usual technique. He ignored completely what the Prime Minister said and went on with his argument as if the information had never been given.
The manner in which Opposition members have approached this bill, not only in this House but also in another place, is of great interest. Opposition members in both Houses have set themselves up as champions of the interests of South Australia - the only champions, according to themselves. They have attempted to make political capital out of an alleged disagreement between myself and my colleagues in this House and in the other House on the one hand and the Government of South Australia on the other hand.
This is not the first time the honorable member for Hindmarsh has spoken on this question. He has spoken on it twice. He began to take an interest in this subject last Thursday for the first time. To-night he accused the Prime Minister of grandstanding. But last Thursday the honorable member himself was grandstanding in South Australia on this very question when he should have been attending to his parliamentary duties here. He actually had the hide to send a telegram, in his capacity as the acting president of the South Australian Branch of the Australian Labour party to Labour senators representing South Australia, congratulating them on their magnificent fight. He said the same thing again to-night.
Magnificent fight, indeed! Their fight was so magnificent that they confined their activities in the interests of South Australia to the debate on the bill. To my knowledge, not one of those senators or any honorable members opposite from South Australia took an interest in this question prior to the time this bill first came into the other House. No attempt was made by any honorable members opposite to approach the Minister concerned or the Prime Minister and press the views of South Australia. All that they have done is to rise, as their colleagues did in the other House, and as the honorable member for Hindmarsh has done to-night and make speeches which are perfect examples of bombast and reveal the fact that they had not even bothered to make themselves familiar with the issues involved. To cap it all the senators ended up by voting, not against the bill, as one would expect if their arguments meant anything, but for both the second reading, and the third reading, after their amendment had been lost.
All I can say is, “ What a fight! “. On the other hand, Liberal senators and members of this House representing South Australia had been working ceaselessly for weeks with the active co-operation of the Prime Minister, before the bill came into the House, to ensure that the interests of South Australia were protected. As a result of those activities we believe that those interests will be protected. The Prime Minister has told the House to-night precisely why that is so.
I leave it to the House to judge whose actions were in the best interests of South Australia - those of honorable members opposite who have done nothing but indulge in bombastic speeches or of honorable members on this side of the House who have worked tirelessly and ceaselessly in a practical manner.
I should like to pay a tribute to the Snowy Mountains scheme. No one who has seen it can fail to be impressed by its sheer grandeur and vastness of scale. To me, it is symbolic of our faith in our future and our confident belief that we can harness the forces of nature to speed our future development. With the electricity that is being generated, and which will be generated, it will provide a vital constituent of our future industrial growth. With the water it will produce, it will provide huge additional quantities of primary produce.
I would like, too, to pay my tribute to Sir William Hudson and the men who work under him. It is impossible to think of the
Snowy Mountains scheme without thinking of Sir William Hudson. To me and, I am sure, to anybody who has met him, he personifies the whole scheme. No one who visits the Snowy Mountains can fail to notice the sense of purpose and the pride in achievement which infuses everybody from the highest executive to the humblest worker. As an exercise in team work, it is an example to the whole nation. Not a little of the credit for this must go to the Commissioner.
I should also like to congratulate the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) on his administration of the scheme, which has been of a very high order indeed. However, on one matter connected with the Minister’s conduct of the scheme I am not so happy, and I shall have something to say about it in a moment. It is because I fervently believe in this great essay in national development that I regret that the unanimous approval which it deserves has been clouded by disagreement between South Australia and the other parties to it. That these clouds have now begun to clear is a source of great satisfaction to me and to my colleagues on the Government side from South Australia.
In order to enable the House to understand the deeper causes of this dispute, I should like, for a moment, to sketch what I understand to be the psychological environment in which it arose. In the first place, the House should understand that although, as the Prime Minister said so well, to Victoria and New South Wales the river Murray is important, to South Australia it is absolutely vital. Not only is it needed to maintain and expand irrigation works in South Australia, as in the other two States, but the whole of the industrialization of South Australia is literally dependent upon it.
It is not often that the water from one river is a limiting factor in the industrialization of a whole State, but in South Australia’s case that is clearly true. Most of Adelaide’s water supply has been pumped from the Murray River this summer. The industrial complex at the head of Spencer’s Gulf has been entirely dependent on Murray water for years. Thus, Murray water is the key to maintaining South Australia’s present industrial growth and the source of South Australia’s expansion in the future.
I do not think, in those circumstances, that we in South Australia can be blamed for having been unduly sensitive to any action which affects, or even appears to affect, the amount of Murray water available to us. If we add to this fact the reaction of the Minister for National Development ever since South Australia began to suspect that some of the works undertaken by the Snowy Mountains Authority might adversely affect the amount of water available to that State, it is not difficult to understand why there is a widespread belief in South Australia that the Commonwealth, Victoria and New South Wales have combined to deprive South Australia of some of the water to which it is entitled.
The House will remember that, some months ago, when it looked as though the agreement which will be ratified by this legislation was about to be signed, after five or six years of negotiation, Sir Thomas Playford asked to see a copy of it. Given the vital importance, as I have pointed out, of Murray water to South Australia, was that an unreasonable request? Of course it was not. Yet, for some reason which I have never been able to understand, the Minister refused to show it to him. Why? That is exactly what the Government of South Australia asked itself. What conclusions would we draw in similar circumstances? I suggest that honorable members’ conclusions would be exactly the same as those drawn by the Government of South Australia - that there was something in the agreement which the three Governments wished to hide from South Australia until it was a fait accompli, that there was something in it which was to the detriment of South Australia’s interests and legal rights.
In this, the suspicions of the South Australian Government were not allayed by some bellicose and ill-judged statements by the Premier of Victoria. What I want to impress on the House is that there was in South Australia a natural and understandable reaction to the events that I have described. The suspicions engendered by, to me, the completely incomprehensible decision of the Minister to hide the agreement from South Australia poisoned all subsequent relations between the parties on the question. One of the first things that
I was told in the Army was that if I wished to receive loyal co-operation and understanding, I must keep people constantly in the picture. That is what should have happened in this case. If South Australia had been kept in the picture, I feel quite certain that the points at issue would have been settled amicably long before this.
– What was the purpose of not telling?
– I do not know. Take the question of the diversion of the Tooma River over which there has been so much controversy. There should have been no difficulty in ensuring that South Australia’s rights to replacement from other sources of the diverted water were protected. After all, Victoria and New South Wales had solemnly bound themselves, under the agreement now before the House, to replace the wafer out of their shares. The only difficulty, then, was that South Australia was not a party to the agreement and, therefore, was not legally protected. This protection could have been obtained by a simple amendment of the River Murray Agreement, Was there any reason whatever why New South Wales and Victoria should npt have agreed to such an amende ment, in the circumstances? Of course there was not.
But by this time deep suspicions had been engendered and the Premiers had been striking postures all over the place. That made it difficult to agree even to something which furthered their own solemnly declared interests and intentions. Such was the absurd position reached by the Minister’s decision not to show the agreement to the South Australian Government. Since then I am happy to say that saner counsels have prevailed. I do not think it is a secret that if the negotiations of the last three weeks had not produced the amendment to the bill and persuaded me and some of my colleagues that in other respects South Australia’s rights were fully protected- the points referred to by the Prime Minister to-night - I and some of my Liberal colleagues would have voted against this legislation. For the information of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who referred ti articles by me in my local newspapers, that is precisely what I wrote in those articles and it shows once again how the honorable member distorts the truth.
I and my colleagues are now convinced that there is no real difference of opinion as to the measures to be taken to protect South Australia’s interests and the necessity for them. I therefore wholeheartedly support the measure before the House. 1 believe that ultimately, because of the additional regulation provided by the scheme, South Australia will benefit enormously. I believe that this regulation will be so effective that the dire effects of a drought year, on which this dispute has largely turned, will become such a remote possibility as to vanish from our calculations.
While I am on that point I should like to refer to the absurd argument of the honorable member for Hindmarsh that this additional regulation will be of no benefit to South Australia because Victoria and New South Wales also will derive some benefit. One might as well say that South Australia’s proportion of the waters of the river Murray in a dry year is of no use because New South Wales and Victoria at present each get five paris to South Australia’s three parts. Of course it will be of use-to the extent of 60,000 acre feet so far as South Australia is concerned, irrespective of what benefit Victoria and New South Wales also get from it.
A moment ago I mentioned the valuable amendment that was incorporated into this bill in another place. That amendment reads* -
Nothing in this Act shall be taken to affect the rights of the State pf South Australia under the agreements, copies of which are set out in the Schedules to the River Murray Waters Act 1915-1954.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) interjected while the honorable member for Hindmarsh was speaking and said that this amendment was completely meaningless. No doubt the right honorable gentleman will give his reasons for that statement when he speaks later in the debates. So far the Opposition has not explained why it believes the amendment to be meaningless - certainly the honorable member for Hindmarsh did not do so. I am not a lawyer. I am just a plain, simple person, but I take this amendment to mean precisely what it says - nothing more and nothing less. It says in effect that we. the Commonwealth Parliament, pass this bill in the belief that it in no way infringes South Australia’s legal rights under the River Murray Waters Act and that should the two acts be found to be in conflict, the River Murray Waters Act to which South Australia is a party will prevail. I regard the amendment as a very valuable additional safeguard indeed, and one that permits the Commonwealth to protect South Australia’s interests.
I have tried to add my compliments to those that have been voiced on all sides of the House to the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority for the scope of its activities and its extreme efficiency. The Snowy Mountains scheme is one of imagination that every Australian does or should support. I have said that I believe that the dispute that has arisen and given the Opposition the occasion for so much synthetic indignation to-night would never have reached its present stage if, some months ago, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) had seen fit to show the Premier of South Australia a copy of the Snowy Mountains Agreement before it was signed and when he asked for it. I believe that the suspicions engendered as a result of the Minister’s action have beggared the relations between all the parties ever since. However, this bill has come into the House at a time when intensive negotiations between the parties, as outlined by the Prime Minister to-night, have made it as certain as anybody can do so that the interests of South Australia shall be fully protected, not only by this legislation and by the agreement, but also by the undertakings that have been given. I support the bill.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) put forward a number of propositions. I did not see much consistency in them. I know the conclusion he reached, but he appears to have reached it on the basis of the Government’s amendment, and I think it can be shown that that does not assist South Australia in any way at all. Indeed, the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) conceded that. What the Prime Minister was attempting to point out was that South Australia’s interests are not protected at present. What he was trying to do and what he has agreed to try to do, is shown by the document that has been incorporated in “Hansard “, part of which the right honorable gentleman read. For instance, the first part of the Prime Minister’s document stated that in order to give effect to this principle, an amendment of clause 45 of the River Murray Agreement will be necessary. That means another agreement, and other statutes passed by four parliamentary authorities - the Commonwealth, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. The honorable member for Barker says that South Australia is perfectly protected, but the Prime Minister says that it is not protected at all. A report has been called for, not only in respect of that matter, but in respect of others also, from the River Murray Commission, and the whole gamut of proposals will have to be gone through again, whereas the position could have been dealt with so simply. For some reason that I do not understand there has been, as the honorable member for Barker admits, some sort of hugger-mugger about these proposals. Why was not the agreement shown to South Australia? The honorable member raised doubts and emphasized suspicions, but said that they all have been allayed. What has allayed them? Nothing has been done to remove them. If there were some intention to withhold the facts from the South Australian Government, that seems to have been successfully carried out. This matter should be looked at, not so much from the South Australian, New South Wales, or Victorian point of view, but from a national point of view.
Honorable members on this side of the House enter into this picture not merely because they comprise the Opposition, but because the Labour Government, led by Mr. Chifley, pursued this scheme noi because it would help New South Wales, Victoria, or South Australia, but because it was intended to help Australia. The Chifley Government carried out its intentions despite the adverse criticism directed at it by the parties that now sit on the Government side of the House. We look at it as something to benefit Australia as a whole, and we do not look at the rights of South Australia just as a separate State. It is very important for the House ‘to understand that
There are in the Australian Constitution provisions dealing with the use of the waters of Australian rivers. Section 100 contains a prohibition against the Commonwealth, in the following terms: -
The Commonwealth shall npt, by .any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of the Slate or of the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation.
That overrides any act of Parliament.
– “ Reasonable use.”
– Yes. It must be reasonable in the circumstances. The Minister is correct. What is reasonable - the phrase in the Constitution - would ultimately be determined by the courts, not by individuals. I am only illustrating that, in connexion with water, and with particular application to South Australia, we are dealing with the matter on the footing that the river Murray really represents the life-blood of the industries - whether primary or secondary - of South Australia and its cities, and, from an Australian standpoint, South Australia is clearly entitled to protection. What should have happened in this case is quite simple, The Premier of South Australia should have been in the conferences from the beginning.
It is obvious that the River Murray Agreement was made at a time when there was no thought of these tremendous engineering works that would turn aside great rivers. The tributaries of the Murray referred to in the original River Murray Agreement were those known at the time. But the courses of some waterways are now to be diverted, and a new approach is needed. We need a new agreement - a new understanding - between all the States concerned. For some reason - I do not know what it was - South Australia was kept out of the conferences on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, and it could not even get a copy of the Snowy Mountains Agreement. As the situation is now, this is a national project - probably one of the greatest governmental projects ever to be undertaken in this country - and the element of exploitation is eliminated from it. This undertaking is of such a magnitude that private enterprise could not be expected to undertake it, although much excellent work has been done by private contractors on the actual construction of various works for this magnificent project. First, and above all else, the Opposition wants the project to be carried through. We do not want to have any excuses for postponing or delaying it.
The honorable member for Barker asked me certain questions, but he has disappeared from the chamber and apparently does not want to hear the answers. The. Opposition proposed its amendment in the Senate in order to ensure that the proclamation of this measure would be deferred until both Houses of the Parliament could be satisfied that the interests of South Australia were satisfactorily protected. That was a perfectly reasonable thing to require. However, the amendment was defeated. The honorable member for Barker asked why the Opposition did not then voteagainst the bill. What an absurd question! What we were trying to do was to improve South Australia’s position. We gave the warning, and, if we could not convince the Senate or this House of the need for our amendment, why should we vote against the major part of the bill which is of vital concern to the Snowy Mountains project? Some of us were members of the Government that initiated this undertaking, which is really one of the great achievements of the Chifley Government. So much for that argument of the honorable member for Barker. He then asked me to explain the technical position with respect to some amendments. I will say something about that before I conclude, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
What is the position to-day? The Minister responsible for the passage of the New South Wales measure through the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, as reported at page 3153 of the New South Wales “ Hansard “ of 27th March last, said -
This bill will not be proclaimed until the Murray River agreement is amended.
So, according to the responsible New South Wales Minister, the River Murray Agreement must be amended. Why should the Commonwealth Parliament pass legislation on the subject on the footing that there is no need to amend that agreement? The new clause inserted by a Government amendment in the Senate states -
Nothing in this Act shall be taken to affect the rights of the State of South Australia under the agreements copies of which are set out in the Schedules to the River Murray Waters Act 1915- 1954.
That brings us to the River Murray Agreement to see what are the rights of South Australia, and to the very things that are insisted upon by my colleague, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), and, I think, by all who have studied the agreement. The position in relation to this great Australian river, the Murray, which is most important of all to South Australia, clearly is that it cannot be turned aside by a national project so as to alter the flow of water or the amount available to South Australia - I prefer to say “ to that portion of Australia “ - without the necessary amendments being made to the River Murray Waters Act. That must be done, because the River Murray Agreement, which is a schedule to that act, does not deal with such diversions, or with works responsible for them. It simply treats the tributaries, and the conditions of water supply to the three States concerned, as they were when it was signed in the 1920’s. That agreement must be brought up to date in order to conform to modern conditions and changes wrought, not by law, but by the facts of the great Snowy Mountains project.
The amendment made in the Senate, with which Government senators from South Australia were content, actually gave them nothing, because there is nothing in the River Murray Waters Act that really meets the requirements. That is proved by the statements made by the Prime Minister to-night. The honorable member for Barker, after hearing those statements, said, in effect, “ Everything is all right. I hated this. I suspected some foul play against South Australia, but the statements made by the Prime Minister this evening have indicated just the opposite “. The first sentence of the document incorporated in “‘Hansard “ by the Prime Minister this evening reads -
The Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Victoria agree that water diverted . . from the Tooma River . . . should be treated as water diverted by the States of New South Wales and Victoria.
In fact, it will not be so diverted. It will be diverted by the Commonwealth, through the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric trie Authority. The document continues -
To give effect to this principle an amendment of Clause 45 of the River Murray Waters Agreement will be necessary.
Certain other amendments to that agreement will also be necessary and in particular amendments to clauses 46 and 51, in order to make the River Murray Waters Agreement more elastic in its operation, while preserving to the State of South Australia its entitlement to water. This effect can be achieved by permitting the States of New South Wales and Victoria to replace diverted water from any convenient source. ls that a reasonable provision? I should have thought that it was fraught with doubt. I am not an expert on this matter, but the speech of the Prime Minister must, in my view, raise a doubt. There is no reason why the agreement should be altered because New South Wales and Victoria want it altered, unless it is just and reasonable to alter it. That calls attention to the need to look at the facts.
The Prime Minister said also that the River Murray Commission should be asked to report on the amendments to the River Murray Agreement that are necessary, and the commission has reported. Yet the Government, without waiting for the consent of this Parliament to an amendment of the River Murray Waters Act, wants to go ahead and complete the job quickly so as not to have the amendment made. Why? What is the point of it? The River Murray Waters Act must be amended. We have the statement by the responsible New South Wales Minister that the New South Wales measure will not be proclaimed until the River Murray Agreement is amended. But the Commonwealth Government, which, as a national trustee, in many ways is most affected, wants to make this measure law without any such provisos. That is why the Opposition moved in the Senate, and will move in this Chamber, to insert the following clause: -
The Act shall not be proclaimed until after each House of the Parliament shall resolve that in its opinion all rights of the State of South Australia to waters of the river Murray are not adversely affected by the operation of the Act.
That brings it back to the Parliament before it can be proclaimed. In other words, we want to put in this bill a provision that will secure the rights of South Australia and the other parties involved. I should say that that is the common-sense approach. The Prime Minister did not deal with any of the difficulties. He referred to certain aspects of the problem, but it did not seem to me that they were related to the necessary amendments. He simply said that the position is very uncertain, that we do not know what the situation is entirely, that the commission has suggested some amendments, but that the question is whether New South Wales will agree to them. Judging by the speech of the Prime Minister, it is not certain that New South Wales will agree. Therefore, this bill is not definitive. In matters of interstate importance, where the Commonwealth and two or three States are affected, this Parliament should introduce the legislation, but it should be in the final form. Anything else is very bad practice and creates uncertainty.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh, despite the rather foolish comments made by the honorable member for Barker, have stated the case for South Australia very clearly. Support is given to the arguments of the honorable members if this matter is looked at from the national point of view. The welfare of South Australia and its access to waters are vital to Australia; after all, South Australia is a part of Australia. We support the Snowy Mountains project. Whatever happens to the amendment that we shall move, we shall continue to support the bill.
– Hear, hear!
– What were you cheering?
– The statement that you support the bill.
– Of course we will. We did so in the Senate. We think this is a great project, and the Government’s desire to rush this measure through would not cause us to take the risk of losing the statutory basis of the project. The authority for the scheme was always disputed before, and it is wonderful to find that the Prime Minister has changed his view on the matter. It is a good precedent.
I want to mention one other matter that is vital from the point of view of administration. The actual expenditure on the scheme, estimated to June, 1958, totals £110,000,000. The whole of the money has been provided from Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue; it does not include any loan funds. Unfortunately, the Government requires the Snowy Mountains Authority to be charged interest at the long-term bond rate on amounts advanced. Let us say that that is 5 per cent. Interest so paid during the construction of the works is added to capital cost and forms a part of the capital amount to be amortized over a period of 70 years. The amortization payments are to be included in the cost of production of electricity in the years in which they are paid. Interest paid by the authority to the Commonwealth is paid into Consolidated Revenue and is used for general purposes.
If the scheme costs in the vicinity of £500,000,000 on completion - that is apparently the estimate - the interest charged at 5 per cent, will amount to £25,000,000 per annum. That, of course, is a tremendous burden on industry and on the general consumer. It was stated in the Senate, I think on behalf ‘of the Government, that the interest charged would represent 85 per cent, of the cost of production of electricity under the scheme. It is important that the House should not let the legislation be passed without giving some attention to that aspect. It is quite the opposite of what the Prime Minister said. He said, when dealing with interest charges, that the Opposition wanted the whole burden placed on the taxpayers of to-day. That is not true. In any properly adjusted scheme, there must be some balance between what is provided out of revenue and what is provided out of loan moneys. Heavy interest, charged on reproductive works of this character is another example of the burden of interest that has to be borne by the community to-day. We have had illustration after illustration of that burden. One was given recently when the House was asked to debate the interest charges on hirepurchase transactions. On a great work such as the Snowy scheme, which, I imagine, could have been financed much more cheaply than it is, the burden of interest is very high. In the end, it will be a limiting factor to the successful operation of the project. However, the most important aspect is that the project has gone on; a great job has been done.
My only regret Ls that the names of Sir William Hudson and others connected with the scheme are not to be honoured in some way. The honorable member for Barker, in complimenting those associated with the scheme, failed to mention the names of two men who played an important part in it. One is Mr. Chifley, who has been referred to this evening, and the other is Mr. Lemmon, who was then the responsible Minister.
.- As one who nine years ago thought, and said in the Parliament - I will say it again to-night - that the Snowy Mountains scheme was the first major defeat for Australian pessimists since the depression, and possibly since federation, I cannot quite understand why the pot should be calling the kettle black to-night. The original agreement, made by the Chifley Labour Government, was made with New South Wales and Victoria, but excluded South Australia. One of the reasons we are in the present situation is that this Government has simply followed that agreement and tried to perfect it. There is no reason why there should be any heat when this matter is debated because we are all in the same kettle of fish.
I have always regarded this scheme as one of the most important ever started in this country. Australia is a dry country and anything that conserves water and enables it to be used in places where rainfall is low is most important. I am sure that the value of the Snowy Mountains scheme will increase as the years go by. When one looks at the pictures and statistics that have been displayed in King’s Hall, one sees that apparently some 2,000,000 acre feet of water will be harnessed each year, and that 3,500,000 acre feet will be impounded behind a wall 380 feet high. It is very pleasing to know that courage at last has really come Australia. Now that we have started on a job such as this, we can go on and harness more of the waters of Australia. It is most important to harness the waters of the Burdekin River. There, a dam 150 feet high can give us 6,500,000 acre feet. The river has a flow of 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 acre feet a year. With the Clarence River, we could conserve about 6,000,000 acre feet with a dam of 260 feet. In 1950, that river had a flow of some 12,000,000 acre feet down its valley, and in each of two months of a flood period it had a flow of more than 2,000,000 acre feet.
It is very good to see that the Snowy Mountains scheme continues to be a success, but I think that we should look at its history. This scheme was talked about for almost 70 years. I remember that, when I was a schoolboy about fifteen years of age, Mr. R. T. McKay spoke to me about the possibilities of the Snowy. I suppose that the full use of the Snowy waters has been discussed for the last 70 years. Continual investigations have been made from every conceivable angle. Numerous reports were compiled, studied and thrust aside, until in 1949 the Commonwealth intervened - presumably believing that it had certain powers. After being asked by Victoria and New South Wales to do something in the matter, the Commonwealth hurriedly initiated the present scheme, and the work was commenced without a full and complete agreement having been arrived at. Now, nine years later, the agreement between the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria can be completed, but South Australia contends that it is not completely satisfied. From what I know of the position, however, I believe that South Australia has very little to worry about, at least during the lifetime of honorable members of this Parliament, because New South Wales will not be able for many years to come to use fully the water that will be diverted into the Murrumbidgee and the Murray. Before it can do so, New South Wales will have to spend about £25,000,000 on drainage, provision of waterways and the construction of the Blowering Dam. I am pretty sure, therefore, that for many years the extra water will go through to South Australia, and that State will have nothing to worry about.
During the last 40 years I have seen the River Murray Commission working. I am sure that the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin), who has also seen the commission working, will agree that during that period there have been no serious disagreements among the four parties to the River Murray Agreement. The members of the commission have agreed unanimously on all kinds of important matters, and I do not believe that they will experience any difficulty in connexion with the matter we are now considering. I am sure that they will deal with the matter in a fair and just way.
We are all impressed, as every one must be, with the extraordinary speed with which Sir William Hudson and his associates, Mr. Lang and Mr. Merigan, have been able to prosecute the scheme during the last eight or nine years. It has been an inspiration to us all. However, we are a little worried concerning the use that will be made of the extra water by the States concerned. It is by no means sure that the water will be handled in as efficient a manner as the scheme itself has been carried out. No one can deny, however, that the work Sir William Hudson and his colleagues have done has been an inspiration to all of us. He has taken advantage of every possible source of assistance, from outside contractors, from men in the employ of the authority, and from various State governments. He is to be highly congratulated on having done such a magnificent job. But, apart from the actual construction, have we handled this scheme in the right way? We started off with a very loose agreement. Now, nine years later, we are still trying to reach complete agreement. I believe that for the carrying out of schemes of this nature we need an organization of the kind that works so well in the Australian Loan Council and the Australian Agricultural Council. We need constant and frequent meetings of the parties concerned, as we all know, in matters connected with government it is this kind of frequent contact that establishes harmony and removes discord between the various parties. Thank God the scheme has proceded as well as it has up to the present time, and let us make certain that what we do in the future will ensure the best results for our country.
There is another point that should be considered. Although we are gratified at the progress made by this huge undertaking, we must be concerned as to the use that will be made of the water and power that is being harnessed. I, for one, will not be satisfied to see the great bulk of the extra power going to the large capital cities, which are growing rapidly at the expense of the rural areas. I contend that a great deal of the extra power that will be made available should be used in local country districts. I am sure that many useful industries could be established in areas that will benefit from the extra water and power to be made available by this scheme. In America, Britain and Canada many industries have been established in areas remote from the large metropolitan centres. Many advantages result from this practice. Industries can be more efficiently run because, first, there is bound to be less labour trouble. If the towns that spring up around these new centres of industry are not of great size, they will not, of course, be so attractive as targets for atomic weapons as the huge cities are at the present” time. For these reasons I believe we should ensure that the extra power will not merely be handed to the large capital cities, so that. they will grow bigger and bigger and destroy our attempts at decentralization. When electricity first came into use it was felt that it would help us to settle the country areas, because it would enable various amenitiesto be provided in. country centres. 1 repeat that it would not be in the best interests of Australia to use the extra power availablefrom the Snowy Mountains scheme in the capital cities.
I believe, also, that in order to avoid national suicide we should look at thewhole question of the provision of water in this dry continent of ours. The Snowy Mountains scheme, after all, was made possible only by a constitutional fluke, and as the Commonwealth was willing to initiate this scheme, it should also be willing tocooperate with the States in carrying out other schemes the benefits of which will be derived only in particular States. All the rivers of Australia have been examined time and time again. Piles of evidence are available to show that it is necessary to conserve our limited water resources. Many reports on the subject have been compiled by competent engineers, but governments have not. acted upon them. Our rivers have no respect for artificial State boundaries. The river Murray itself constitutes a boundary between two States, and one could hardly imagine a less fortunate choice for a boundary. A river such as the Murray should bind the districts on either side of it in a community of interests, and not to be a source of argument between conflicting interests.
I regret that the Constitution, simply because of a few words in a section dealing with navigation, has more or less hamstrung us. However, I do not believe that the matter has been properly tested. I think that if the Comonwealth wished to use the power that may be available to it under the Constitution, no one would challenge it, just as it will not be challenged for having initiated this Snowy Mountains scheme. I sincerely hope that no serious difficulties will be encountered with regard to the scheme and the agreement governing it. Now that it has been brought to its present stage, by the active participation and co-operation of all honorable members in this Parliament and many of our citizens, I hope that we shall not have a division on a matter that is not of immediate importance and cannot at present affect any party injuriously. lt has taken us a number of years to arrive at the measure of agreement that has been achieved with regard to this scheme, and I suggest, therefore, that we need an organization similar to the Australian Loan Council and the Australian Agricultural Council, to ensure proper use of our available water resources. After all, five-sixths of our rainfall occurs in areas north of the 30th parallel, and ninetenths of our underground water is in those northern areas which are very thinly populated. The Commonwealth and the States should co-operate in order to make the best possible use of our water resources, having in mind the problems that are facing us and the threat of atomic war that hangs over us. We must get everybody to realize the potentiality that lies in the development of water and power. We must get the maximum advantage from such development. Compared with other continents, Australia suffers from the fact that much of its water is going hopelessly down the drain. It is important that we make the best use of it. We should get money and experienced men so that we may take advantage of every source of water that we can use.
That is what Sir William Hudson has done in the project that is under discussion; yet while work has been in progress on the Keepit Dam for twenty years and is not yet finished, a dam in the Snowy scheme, which is ten times bigger, is to be finished two years ahead of time. Many dams in other parts of Australia will not be finished because mud is entering them more quickly that the walls are being built and they will never have any water in them.
We must do a real job of work with this project in the Snowy. All the delays that have occurred in building dams in other parts have been due to the flooding of land. I believe that an acre foot of water in the right spot is more valuable than any acre of land in Australia, especially if the water is used for the benefit of as large an area as possible. At Adaminaby, thousands of acres of land and a whole town have been submerged but there has been no outcry because the people can see the extraordinary benefits that will accrue to everybody concerned and the value of the scheme to adjacent land.
Therefore, I heartily support this bill. I think it is nine years late. We should have had a better agreement from the start. The way in which the whole matter was handled during the period when there was no proper foundation for it has shown the agreement to be an extraordinary tribute to Sir William Hudson and his men. I hope that what has been done will be applied generally to what could be done throughout the rest of Australia.
I wish to refer now to the fact that Sir William Hudson’s men have been sent to the United States of America to be trained in the big organizations in the handling of water projects. They are coming back now full of information and knowledge. I hope that when we get them back, we will be able to give them work to keep them here. We have plenty of work for them to do.
.- I believe that the nation and this House are indebted to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) for his clarification of the legal position in connexion with this bill and its relationship to the River Murray Agreement. South Australia will derive intense satisfaction from the fact that the right honorable gentleman has recognized the great need to establish in clear and irrevocable terms the rights of the State to the water with which this legislation is concerned. In South Australia, there are 750,000 people who are absolutely dependent upon this water for domestic as well as industrial needs. There is a growing demand in the State for more water to meet the needs of its expanding economy.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said that our water resources should be applied as widely as possible to the land. In that connexion, I remind the House that the distribution of water resources in South Australia has materially benefited the State and its industries. The waters of the Murray have been taken as far as Whyalla And Port Augusta, but the capacity of South Australia’s reservoirs is inadequate to meet the demand, and the reservoirs cannot be replenished because of recent lack of rain. Therefore, South
Australia has become more dependent upon the water that can be drawn from the river Murray.
That underlines how important it is for the rights of South Australia to the river Murray waters to be fully protected in this legislation or any relevant agreement. We must be absolutely satisfied that the promise implicit in the River Murray Agreement is made fully effective. In that connexion I point out that the Tooma River was originally regarded as a tributary of the river Murray. South Australia expected to share in that water, but with its diversion through 9 miles of tunnel to the Tumut River the water has gone on to areas that are covered by other rivers in this scheme. I want to know how South Australia will fare, in the meantime, before the Snowy River project has been completed. It seems to me that less water will be available until the Snowy River water joins the Murray and swells it. In that sense, South Australia could easily be denied the amount of water that it would receive in normal circumstances. That being so, I feel that South Australia has reason to be apprehensive about her position. This afternoon, I requested that the correspondence that had passed between the Commonwealth Government and the Premier of South Australia be placed upon the table, so that we could become fully conversant with the Commonwealth’s attitude to the requests, if any, that were made by the Premier of South Australia, and with the extent to which the latter was prepared to press his demands for South Australia’s rights.
The people of South Australia will be gratified by the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that an amendment will be moved to help to place beyond all doubt South Australia’s right to a reasonable share of the waters of the river Murray. We in South Australia have certainly made our contribution to the cost of the Snowy Mountains project, and we have a right to a reasonable share in whatever will be its benefits. They do not become the exclusive right of one or two States. The benefits should be enjoyed by the people through whose lands the waters pass. South Australia, being a contributor to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, from which money is provided for this great project, expects that it will receive reasonable consideration.
I agree with other honorable gentlemen that the interest charged to this authority on the public funds that it is using does seem to be excessive. I think that no more should be charged than is necessary to meet managerial or administrative costs. Such a high rate should not be levied upon an authority in charge of a scheme for generating electric power and enabling the use of our lands to greater advantage. I feel that the Government has not shown a reasonable approach to the matter of financing works of this description. I suggest that the House look again at this aspect and seek from the Government a more reasonable approach to the question of the charges to be levied upon the authority which is conducting this great national project and dispensing great benefits to the people of the Commonwealth.
I congratulate the Chifley Government, and particularly Mr. Nelson Lemmon, on the initiation of these works. Labour’s outlook was that Australia should be provided with the power essential for the development of the principal parts of the Commonwealth, and that additional water sohuld be made available for irrigation.
I had the privilege of seeing the Tennessee Valley project in the United States of America. That project was for the utilization of the waters of the Tennessee River for the generation of power. It is to the credit of the late President Roosevelt that he initiated that scheme as a means to alleviate unemployment. He diverted a considerable number of unemployed people to that area for the development of the scheme, whereby 3,000,000 kilowatts of power was ultimately made available. That is exactly the amount of power that we expect from the Snowy Mountains project. The power is to be generated, I understand, by fifteen or sixteen units. I feel some satisfaction in the fact that what is equivalent to a socialist public undertaking is to-day accepted so unanimously by all members of this House, who recognize the great wisdom that was displayed in undertaking the work. They acknowledge that those who initiated the scheme are worthy of public commendation. No longer is this a party matter, but one upon which the whole House can find agreement. That rather lends encouragement to the policies that are expressed by honorable members on this side of the House and proves that honorable gentlemen opposite are unrealistic when they criticize the members of the Labour party for advocating public ownership and freedom from the kind of exploitation that so often occurs when both private individuals and corporations seek to make excessive profits for services rendered to the community.
In the Snowy Mountains scheme we have an undertaking that will serve the interests of the public. In addition, it will further the development of this country, because it will be the means of supplying power that is so essential, at the same time affording the greatest possible use of our waterways. It will mean that areas as yet undeveloped will be able to produce food, not only for the people of Australia, but also for others who may benefit from the wealth of this country and who may be helped to attain a better standard of living.
I express to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) my appreciation of the amendment that he proposes to submit on behalf of the Opposition, because I feel that it will ensure that the interests of South Australia are fully protected. I pay tribute also to the members of the Australian Labour party in another place who put up a valiant fight to protect South Australia’s interests. Despite their effort, they were unable to ensure that South Australia’s rights would be fully conserved. That being so, I earnestly ask this House to consider sympathetically the needs of South Australia and to see that justice is done to a State which has contributed so much to the prosperity of Australia by the rate of its development, in addition to the contribution that it has made to this great national project which, I feel, is worthy of the support of all Australians.
.- The Snowy Mountains scheme is the greatest developmental scheme in Australia. It will provide a tremendous amount of employment for the Australian people and it will increase the production of Australia. It will enable a vast area of country to be developed and thus help us to increase our exports. At the same time, it will raise the standard of living of all the people of Australia. When the scheme is carried to its conclusion, it will benefit every person in the Commonwealth. Water is essential to Australia. Indeed, it is our life blood. At the present time, millions of gallons of water pour from the Snowy River into the sea year after year. We cannot afford to allow all this water to be wasted.
The purpose of the Snowy Mountains scheme is to conserve huge quantities of the water of the Snowy River, so that they may be used for the welfare of the people of Australia. In addition, the scheme will mean that we shall have water from the snow, at very high altitudes, so that there will be latent power available for us. The purpose of the scheme is to tap that power and to utilize the water, as it drops from great heights, by turning it into electrical power for the use of both New South Wales and Victoria. I have no doubt that the Snowy Mountains scheme, when completed, will be beneficial to the whole of Australia, including South Australia.
The river Murray is important to New South Wales and Victoria, but it is vital to South Australia. This year, for instance, every industry and almost every family in South Australia has depended for its existence on Murray water. The new towns of Whyalla and Maralinga, and other northern towns, could not possibly exist if it were not for Murray water. Therefore, South Australia could not afford to take any risk whatever in relation to its share of the waters of the Murray.
I do not believe that there is any difference at all between the approach of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and that of the Premier of South Australia to this matter. The Prime Minister has made it abundantly clear, in this House to-night and also to the Liberal senators and members of the House of Representatives, that he believes that South Austrlaia must in every way be protected to ensure that at all times it will get is share of Murray water. The position of South Australia is governed by the agreement that was made between the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, known as he River Murray Agreement. That is an agreement between four parties. It can be amended or altered only by consent of the four parties.
The agreement now before this House, which we are asked to ratify, is an agreement between three parties. In my opinion, nothing that is done under the agreement now before the House can prejudice, in any way, South Australia’s rights. It seems to me beyond comprehension that anybody could imagine that an agreement made by four parties could, without the consent of one of those parties, be altered by three of them. However, certain doubts have been raised about whether this bill now before the House could prejudice South Australia’s rights. During the last few weeks Liberal senators and members of the House of Representatives made it perfectly clear that they would not be prepared to support the bill unless it was put beyond doubt that nothing in the measure could prejudice South Australia’s rights under the River Murray Agreement.
I was delighted to note how readily the Prime Minister appreciated South Australia’s viewpoint and, although he held the opinion, as I did, that nothing in the Snowy Mountains Agreement could in any circumstances prejudice South Australia’s rights, he agreed that any doubts which existed should be resolved in this legislation. So, at our request, the Prime Minister agreed to amend the bill by including proposed section 5b, which reads -
Nothing in this Act shall be taken to affect the rights of the State of South Australia under the agreements copies of which are set out in the Schedules to the River Murray Waters Act 1915-1954.
There is now not the slightest doubt that South Australia cannot be prejudiced in any way by the passing of the bill. Although I was not prepared to support it earlier, because of the amendment I am now prepared unhesitatingly to give it my support.
Now I wish to examine what may be described as the points in issue. As 1 understand the situation, only two matters are in dispute. The first relates to a proposal to divert the Snowy River into the river Murray. The Snowy rises in New South Wales, passes into Victoria, and then into the sea. lt is proposed that that river shall be diverted into the river Murray. The River Murray Agreement dennes Murray water as being the waters of the Murray, the waters of the tributaries of the Murray east of Albury, and all water which in one form or another goes into the river Murray. I should have thought it was abundantly clear that, once Snowy River “waters go into the Murray, they will become Murray water. If they become Murray water, in a year of drought South Australia becomes entitled to three-thirteenths of that water. In any case, this matter will not arise until the Snowy actually runs into the Murray.
– 1 rise to a point of order. Standing Order 86 refers to an honorable member offending by engaging in tedious repetition either of his own arguments or of the arguments used by other members in debate. The honorable member for Sturt has not used one original argument; he is repeating arguments used by previous speakers. I contend, therefore, that he is offending against the standing order.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honorable member for Sturt is in order.
– The honorable member for East Sydney is seldom in the chamber. He would not know what transpired earlier. As I said a moment ago, once the Snowy water goes into the river Murray it becomes Murray water. Therefore, in a time of drought South Australia is entitled to threethirteenths of that water, and nothing in the Snowy Mountains Agreement can possibly prejudice South Australia’s rights to that share. If doubts are ever raised in that respect, South Australia undoubtedly will have its legal rights.
The next matter in issue is the proposed diversion of the Tooma River, which is a tributary of the Murray east of Albury. As it is a tributary of the Murray east of Albury, it becomes part of the water to threethirteenths of which South Australia is entitled in a drought year. The Snowy Mountains Agreement cannot possibly take away South Australia’s rights to it under the River Murray Agreement. Therefore, nothing in the Snowy Mountains Agreement authorizes, without South Australia’s consent, the diversion of the Tooma River. 1 believe that every honorable member, whether he comes from South Australia or elsewhere, can support the bill without feeling that South Australia’s rights are prejudiced in any way. That, of course, does not resolve the legal action. I hope that action will be resolved by sensible agreement between the three States and the Commonwealth, but if the parties are unable to arrive at a sensible agreement the only alternative will be for the matter to be resolved in the court. I believe that the Prime Minister and the Premier of South Australia are close together in their thinking upon this matter; in fact, I think their ideas are identical. Therefore, I cannot see any reason why the matter cannot be resolved by agreement.
I wish to pay a tribute to Liberal senators from South Australia for the tremendous amount of work they have done in relation to this matter. They have been working for many weeks making it perfectly clear that they were not prepared to agree to anything that would prejudice South Australia’s rights to vital water supplies. As a result of their efforts, the Government has agreed to the amendment, to which I referred earlier, in order to put the matter beyond question - if, in fact, there were doubts in anybody’s mind. The parties to this matter have been brought much closer together than they were. The isues in dispute have been narrowed to a very small compass, and I believe that a final solution will be reached at the conference of the three Premiers and the Prime Minister.
During the last few weeks, the Prime Minister has done everything possible to bring the whole matter to a successful conclusion. Now, every honorable member can wholeheartedly support the bill and feel proud of the fact that Australia’s greatest developmental project can continue to go ahead, the only two matters to be resolved being the Tooma diversion and the ownership of water from the Snowy river when it passes into the river Murray. I repeat that, although I could not have supported the bill in its original form, I can now give it my unqualified support.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chambers) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker, last Thursday evening I-
Motion (by Sir Philip McBride) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Is a division desired? I hear some calls of “ Yes “. Will any honorable member wishing a division stand in his place?
– Mr. Speaker, under what standing order are we obliged to stand?
– Order! Ring the bells.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 29
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.17 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 to 5. Successive Commonwealth governments have assisted South Australia in the development of the extensive deposits of low-grade black coal at the remote locality of Leigh Creek ever since mining commenced in 1941-42. Apart from specific grants totalling £200,000, this assistance has taken the form of a below-standard freight rate on the coal hauled by Commonwealth Railways. To the end of 1955-56 the value of this concession was about £3,750,000, the greater part of which was credited to Commonwealth Railways Revenue in addition to receipts at the concession rate (which to 1955-56 was id. per ton-mile). To ensure the most economic use of this indigenous source of power, South Australia planned to build large power houses at Port Augusta (the nearest practicable point to the coal-field), and to make this plan possible the Commonwealth agreed to build a new standard gauge railway from the field to Port Augusta (157 miles) and to equip this line with rolling-stock sufficient to carry the coal in the quantities required. This project cost £11,000,000, and the new line was ready for coal traffic in mid-1956. Under these changed circumstances the freight rate question was re-opened with the State, which agreed to an increase of approximately 50 per cent, in the rate previously paid. The new rate (lis. 6d. per ton from field to power house) has operated since the start of 1956-57. However, as the new line and new rollingstock have changed the cost to Commonwealth Railways of handling this traffic, determination of a new “ earnings “ rate has been deferred pending accumulation of sufficient experience of the actual cost of carrying the coal. In the meantime I understand that Commonwealth Railways has continued to submit formal claims on the Department of Shipping and Transport in accordance with the old procedure.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
Some time ago I informed the honorable member of the policy adopted with regard to expenditure from the Fisheries Development Trust Account. Briefly, it is that the money available will be used for path-breaking enterprises where private capital is not willing originally to provide investment funds of the magnitude required. As a preliminary step to attaining this objective, investigations and research are being undertaken into the major fisheries which appear to offer prospects of large-scale development, and consideration will be given to the development of those that show commercial promise. The position as regards the investigations being undertaken is as follows: -
Prawns. - A survey is in progress to find new prawning grounds off the coast of northern New South Wales and Queensland. Thirty thousand pounds has been allocated for this purpose. One new commercial ground has been located and is being successfully worked at the present time by prawn trawlers.
Trawling. - It is proposed to develop large- scale trawling on the known grounds in the Great Australian Bight and a company is being formed for this purpose. The memorandum and articles of association have now been finalized and I hope to make an early announcement regarding the formation of the company. The tentative commitment is £260,000.
Pilchards. - A survey designed to prove whether pilchards can be taken in commercial quantities has been conducted off the New South Wales coast and my department is also considering a proposal to develop commercially this fishery in Victoria with the assistance of development funds. The initial expenditure on these projects is anticipated to approximate £35,000.
Tuna. - An economic survey of the tuna industry on the south-east coast of New South Wales has been completed and consideration is now being given to extending the survey to other States with a view to a possible major extension of the industry.
Barracouta. - The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and my department will co-operate in an investigation of this fishery and negotiations for a suitable vessel are taking place. The likely expenditure from the development fund is estimated at £27,500.
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, 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 for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Recruit - £1 10s. a calendar month.
Private - £1 10s. to £9 15s. a calendar month.
Lance-Corporal - £6 10s. to £11 5s. a calendar month.
Corporal - £8 10s. to £14 5s. a calendar month.
Sergeant - £12 to £17 10s. a calendar month.
Staff-Sergeant- £19 5s. to £22 15s. a calendar month.
The monthly rate of pay of native troops varies according to length of service and trade skill. The pay scale also provides for both nonspecialists and specialists. The specialist group is sub-divided into three groups related to trade skill. Staff-Sergeant is the highest rank open to native troops at present. The basic rates of pay of white servicemen based on a 30-day month are as follows: -
Private- £46 15s. to £60 2s. 6d. a month.
Lance-Corporal - £48 5s. to £63 5s. a month.
Corporal - £52 7s. 6d. to £66 7s. 6d. a month.
Sergeant- £68 to £75 15s. a month.
Staff-Sergeant- £72 15s. to £80 7s. 6d. a month.
In addition to the above rates of pay, white servicemen also receive clothing maintenance allowance, marriage and separation or provision allowances, and living-out allowance if appropriate. Native members do not receive any emoluments other than the basic rate of monthly pay; however, when accommodation is available, married native members are provided with accommodation, rations and medical treatment for their families free of charge under the same conditions as apply to members of the native constabulary.
t asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Accidents Involving Diplomatic Cars in Canberra.
m asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The anwers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Delay in Pension Payments.
y asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 May 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580513_reps_22_hor19/>.