23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. G. J. Bowden) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade a question in relation to the freights that the overseas shipping companies charge and, perhaps, propose to charge. First, will the Minister tell the House what procedure is to be adopted by the Government in relation to the present visit to Australia of representatives of these companies for the purpose of discussing freights? What bodies, other than the Government and the shipping companies, will be represented at the discussions? Secondly, and more importantly, will the Minister have prepared for the information of the House a statement showing both the estimated profits and the changes in the capitalization of these companies over a substantial period, so that the House and country can see whether there is any justification whatever for the maintenance even of the present charges?
– I shall be glad to answer the right honorable gentleman on this matter as directly as possible. The honorable member for Franklin intimated to me, as I walked into the House, that he proposed to ask me an almost identical question. My answer to the right honorable gentleman, and to the honorable member for Franklin, is that I have been informed that a conference will commence in Sydney on 1 1th October under the auspices of the Australian Overseas Transport Association, which constitutes the machinery for negotiation in these matters. The object of this conference will be to agree on the terms of a formula to determine what is a reasonable rate of return on capital for the shipowners in the AustraliaUnited Kingdom-Continent Shipping Conference lines, and then, having made that basic decision, to proceed to negotiate the freights to be levied on particular products, in the light of the application of the formula to the owners’ operating accounts. There will be present at this conference, so I am informed, five of the top level representatives of the overseas shipowners’ interests. For Australian producers and exporters, there will be representatives of the Federal Exporters’ Overseas Transport Committee, which represents the major producing and exporting groups. In addition there will be advising accountants from London on both sides. The Government, as such, will not be present.
– Or the producers?
– I have said that the producers will be present. This procedure results from a long-standing statutory provision which contemplates the determination of rates after negotiation between the Australian shipper interests - that is, the actual exporters - and the shipping companies that are parties to the conference. During the time that this procedure has been in operation it has come to be realized that the shippers - the exporters - do not necessarily have the same interests as the Australian producers of the bulk products that are carried. The woolgrowers of this country do not export wool. They do not pay the freight on it. Wool is sold at auction. Provision has therefore been made - and it has been strengthened during the life of the present Government - to give what the exporters believe is an effective voice to the producers, to add to the voice of the actual shippers.
Prior to the arrangement which I have just referred to, the interested parties on occasions reached a deadlock and invited the Government to come in and help resolve their difficulties. I think the House will know that on more than one occasion I, as the Minister concerned, did intervene upon invitation. I secured, on two occasions, substantial reductions in the proposed rates. In, I think, 1956, the Australian exporters and shippers - principally the producers - decided that they wanted to act as principals right through the piece. They went to London, and they negotiated a formula arrangement which still is in existence, and which is a variant of the formula arrangement which is the subject of our discussion here. The Government recognizes clearly the Australian public interest in this whole matter. If a satisfactory or acceptable conclusion is not reached, the Government will stand ready to intervene as before; or, if there should be a serious failure, the Government will consider that situation.
– What about profits? I asked the Minister about profits.
– The right honorable gentleman has reminded me that he has asked me about profits.
– I asked about a report on profits.
– I will ascertain whether it is possible to follow the right honorable gentleman’s suggestion, because the accounts of these companies are in London, not in Australia.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-
General. Is the information that I have received correct, to the effect that under the new charges it is quicker and cheaper to send parcels weighing between 2 lb. and 1 1 lb. by air freight than by parcel post?
– To give an immediate answer. 1 would say, “ Yes, I think it is “. But I will obtain definite information for the honorable member and supply it to him.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Does he recognize the value of agricultural show societies and the practical financial difficulties that they face in rendering their valuable service to the community? In view of the national value of the work of these societies, and of their financial difficulties, is it possible to grant them the concession of bulk postage rates on such items as their annual show schedules?
– This is a question that has arisen on several occasions during the time in which I have held this portfolio. It also arose periodically for very many years before then. The position is that publications like show societies’ schedules are not eligible for bulk postage concessions because they infringe some of the provisions laid down in the regulations made under the Post and Telegraph Act governing the granting of these concessions. First, they are not sold to the same extent as the publications that do enjoy the concession, and, secondly, they contain a considerable amount of advertising matter. On those two counts they are ineligible. I feel, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that as this question has been considered many times, and usthe value of show societies is properly recognized and has been taken into account previously, there is little possibility of the present arrangements being altered.
– My question is also directed to the. Postmaster-General. A few weeks ago 1 asked the Minister whether his department would consider publishing an up-to-date version of the booklet containing Melbourne street names and their appropriate postal district numbers. In view of the fact that the current alterations in Melbourne telephone numbers will entail typesetting changes in future issues of the Melbourne telephone directory, I ask the Minister whether he will consider the inclusion of postal district numbers in future issues of the directory.I direct his attention to the fact that the London telephone directory, which is many times the size of the Melbourne telephone directory, contains the appropriate postal district numbers of telephone subscribers.
– I remember the honorable member for Henty asking a question somewhat along these lines some little time ago but, if I remember aright, the question concerned a publication, issued some years ago, containing the postal district numbers, which has not been kept up to date. At that time, in replying to him I told him that this matter was being investigated by the department with the idea of either bringing the old publication up to date - incidentally, I should say that it is still available at post offices for examination - or adopting some other method of achieving what the honorable member seeks to achieve. So I shall inform the honorable member in these terms: As there is a further review going on at present of the form of the new directory the proposal he has made will be further considered in the final determination of the form of the directory.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. I desire to know whether it is a fact that as late as the year 1951 he and the former Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, declared themselves as being irrevocably opposed to the issue of treasury-bills as a means of financing Government expenditure. If so, will the Prime Minister state when, and for what reason, he changed from his attitude of irrevocable opposition to such a policy?
– As is not uncommon in this House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the assumption in the question is completely false.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. When a family breadwinner in an overseas country is granted a permit to come to Australia as an intending settler, is a check made at that stage to see whether his wife and family are likely, on medical or other grounds, to fulfil the requirements for admission to this country when, in due season, the breadwinner establishes himself here and wishes them to join him?
– Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the practice of the Department of Immigration for some time now has been to examine not only an intending migrant in his country of origin, but also his wife and dependants, so that if his dependants care to follow him to this land at some subsequent time their capacity to do so may be satisfactorily established.
– Has the acting Treasurer seen the statement recently issued in the journal of the Victorian Co-operative Housing Societies to the effect that as money under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was made available to the co-operative societies, money previously made available to them by private banking institutions diminished in proportion to the increase in Commonwealth Government finance? Will the acting Treasurer make representations to those bodies that have withdrawn their financial suport of the cooperative societies and urge them to restore their previous allocations?
– I have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable mem ber, but I will certainly have a look at it. I recognize his interest in the housing problem. I am sure that he will share my own pleasure at the knowledge that in the financial year just ended 10,000 more houses and flats were built in Australia than in the previous financial year. Indeed, the number of houses and flats built was an all-time record in the history of Australia.
– The number is still inadequate.
– Of course it is!
– I am sure that everything the Government does is inadequate from the point of view of the honorable member for Lalor and, indeed, from the point of view of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, but they will go on complaining about the Government’s inadequacy for many years to come. In the meantime, I will have a look at the report mentioned by the honorable member for Batman and give attention to it.
” A.B.C. WEEKLY.”
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. Is it a fact that publication of the “A.B.C. Weekly” is to be discontinued? If so, what arrangements will be made to publicize Australian Broadcasting Commission programmes?
– It is intended to discontinue publication of the journal known as the “ A.B.C. Weekly “, which has been published in Sydney and Brisbane for some considerable time. As honorable members no doubt are aware, this journal, although it supplies very valuable information to people who are constant radio listeners, has been losing money for some time. Some little while ago the Australian Broadcasting Commission established a new journal entitled “T.V. News-Times”. That journal has been increasing its circulation and is now doing quite well. The intention is to amalgamate the two journals and to provide in the new journal the information that was previously provided in the “ A.B.C. Weekly “.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Tn view of the many occasions on which the industrial dispute so well known as the Tasmanian Hursey case has been mentioned in this House, and in view of the recent High Court decision on the matter, is the Minister yet in a position to indicate whether any decision has been made on the important question of compensating those waterside workers who lost time in that dispute? In addition, having in mind the possible strong political content in the High Court decision, will the Minister make copies of the decision available to honorable members who may desire to peruse them?
– The answer to the first question is “ No.” The answer to the second question is that I have asked my department to obtain a resume of the decision so that it can be distributed. It has not been practicable to do that as yet. As to getting copies of the full judgment, I will have discussions with my department to-day and see whether I can obtain several copies and give them to the Leader of the Opposition.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. I refer to his recent statement that he intends to move that the proposal to build a new Customs House in Melbourne be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. Will the honorable gentleman say when he intends to do that?
– When a motion is submitted to refer a matter of this kind to the Public Works Committee it is necessary at the same time to table detailed plans of the proposed work. The Department of Works is engaged at present in preparing those plans to enable the Public Works Committee to consider the proposals. As soon as they come to hand, I expect to be able to refer the matter to the committee.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister in his capacity as acting Treasurer. Is it a fact that banking interests have approached members of the Government parties requesting an increase in interest rates? In view of the increased cost burden that this would place on primary producers and commercial in terests, with its accompanying inflation, what action does the Government propose to take?
– I am unaware of any such approach.
– My question is also addressed to the Prime Minister as acting Treasurer. In view of the honour done to Australia by the recent meeting of governors of the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation, in inviting the Treasurer of Australia to become chairman of the board of governors this year, will the Government have a survey made of appropriate hotel accommodation in Australia, particularly in the region of the Gold Coast, with a view to seeing whether an invitation can be issued to these bodies to hold their annual meeting in 1961 in Australia?
– I will take the honorable member’s engaging suggestion into account.
– Has the Minister for the Interior made inquiries into the matter of a contract that has been let by tender for the sealing with hot bitumen of roads and airstrips at Woomera, to which I referred during the recent debate on the estimates for the Department of Works? Will the Minister inform me why the work was not allotted to the firm which submitted the lowest tender, which was nearly £2,000 below that of the firm which received the contract?
– I had a letter to the honorable member in course of preparation. Since he has raised the matter in the House and as it is of some interest, I shall inform him now that the lowest tender was not accepted although, as the honorable member stated when he mentioned this matter previously, the man who submitted the lowest tender was engaged in work for the Government of South Australia. However, in the opinion of the officers of the department, he was unlikely to be able to complete the work in the time specified. He had already asked for extensions of time to complete another contract on which he was currently engaged. His tender price was, I think from memory, £74,600, and the tender price of the contractor who was finally allotted the work was £76,000.
– I said that the difference was nearly £2,000.
– The difference is £1,400, if the honorable member’s mathematics are any good.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Services and, in doing so, refer with appreciation to the growing concern amongst churches and other organizations to provide factories for physically handicapped people to supplement the encouragement that they receive from the Department of Social Services. Does the Minister exercise any authority in the matter of approving capital grants for such schemes? If not, will he investigate the proposal?
– I exercise no jurisdiction over organizations to which the honorable member has referred. These matters are confined to the State authorities and to a variety of voluntary organizations which are engaged in this kind of work.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Is it a fact that the order in which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is to hear applications for country television licences is to be Canberra, NewcastleHunter River, Illawarra, Richmond-Tweed Heads and Central Tablelands? If so, does that mean that Canberra will have television services in advance of the NewcastleHunter River area? Will the Minister explain why priority is being given to Canberra, which has only a fraction of the population and viewing public of Newcastle, when he already knows that thousands of people in Newcastle and fringe areas who own television sets are unable to receive satisfactory reception because of interference caused by faulty electric razors, drills, motor vehicles, &c? Will the Minister take action to see that the people who already have television sets installed in their homes are not kept waiting any longer than is necessary before they receive full value from the service for which they are now paying but are not obtaining?
– The order of hearing of applications by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, as quoted by the honorable member, is correct. As was announced in a press statement within the last day or so, applications from Canberra will be the first to be heard and those from Newcastle will be next. The board will then proceed to hear the remainder of the applications in the order stated. But that does not mean that people in, say, Newcastle, will have to wait for quite a while after people in Canberra have a television service available to them before they can view programmes. It is the board’s intention to hear all applications and make a final and complete report to the Government for its decision. On present plans it is almost certain that when the Government makes its decision it will announce simultaneously what licences are to be granted. It will then be up to the various successful applicants in the different districts to see how quickly they can get going. The honorable member makes a point in his question of the fact that there are viewers-
– Thousands of them.
– The honorable member has said that there are viewers in Newcastle and other cities who are not receiving a completely clear picture. The position, surely, is this, that before any one spends £200 or so on a television set, he should at least see that it will give him satisfactory reception. There have been test patterns of programmes emanating from Sydney for the last two years or more, and if Newcastle viewers are not getting a clear picture, surely that cannot be regarded as something against the Government.
– High pressure salesmen are putting in these sets.
– Before a person buys a set he has the opportunity to see what type of reception it gives and if, having seen that, he purchases the set, surely that is his own affair.
– I ask the Prime Minis ter: Has the Government considered a request by the West Australian Government for a financial grant to assist Western Australia in conducting the Empire Games in 1962? If the Government has done so, will the right honorable gentleman indicate when the Western Australian Premier will be advised of the decision?
– I would rather like notice of this question. I think that some time ago we made an offer in this sphere. I am not aware of any subsequent requests, but I will have a look and find out.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Health a question which is supplementary to a question asked earlier this session by the honorable member for Balaclava in relation to a meeting by the president of the Pharmaceutical Guild with the Minister. Has this meeting taken place? If not, has the Minister any date in mind for meeting the president of the guild to discuss the proposed legislation?
-I think that when the honorable member for Balaclava asked me about meeting the Pharmaceutical Guild I pointed out that, within a few days of the Treasurer’s announcement during the Budget speech, I met the president of the Pharmaceutical Guild and a few days after that - it may have been a week or ten days - I met the executive of the Pharmaceutical Guild. I am shortly to have another meeting with the president of the guild.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is true that, in order to improve the efficiency, intelligence and ability of Cabinet, the Government parties have decided to have a total spill of the present Cabinet and have a re-election by the democratic process of rank and file ballot, thus breaking the Prime Minister’s dangerous dictatorship which is causing wholesale dissension in Government ranks, particularly amongst the backbenchers.
– I hate to spoil the electoral prospects of the honorable member for Banks. I have a very soft spot for the honorable member. Therefore I regret to tell him that he has been grievously illinformed because it turns out that the overwhelming opinion in the Government parties favours the present method of choosing a cabinet. And why not, when you compare the present Cabinet with those of previous governments?
– Will the PostmasterGeneral exert all such influence as he possesses to encourage television stations to rationalize their programmes so that the alternative to westerns, particularly on Sunday evenings, is not ancient United States films which, while interesting in showing what James Stewart looked like 25 years ago, are no longer satisfactory entertainment?
– I am sure that the honorable member for Bruce will know that while the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, acting on behalf of the Government, lays down certain programme standards which have been discussed with television licensees and adopted by them, the board has no general direction over the type of film that is shown. Of course, films that are introduced from overseas for viewing have also to pass the Commonwealth Censor and conform to the standards that the censor lays down. Apart from that, we do not direct or control the programmes that are put on.If some of the programmes are not up to the standard required by the general viewing public, the station concerned will lose its advertising value and be forced to bring its programme up to the standard required. Therefore, while I appreciate the very great interest of the honorable member for Bruce in this matter, I have to say that it is something which lies largely in the hands of licensees. I believe that they are sincerely trying to put on foodprogrammes and the wider the scone of television in Australia the more will they be able to improve their programmes.
-I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question in his capacity as acting Treasurer. Will the Government consider allowing as tax deductions monetary gifts or donations made by citizens to their churches for the purpose of providing new churches, Sunday schools and youth clubs on church property, as well as for the purpose of altering or enlarging existing buildings? I ask this question because at present no such tax concession is allowed in Australia, and because it is felt that such a concession would greatly stimulate the work of the Christian churches in the community and assist them in their activities among our young people.
– This suggestion is quite obviously a matter that has to be discussed in relation to the Budget. I will have a note taken of what the honorable member has said about this, and it will be considered at the appropriate time.
Allegations against Member.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Can the right honorable gentleman indicate whether he has received from a Mr. Somerville Smith a lettergram which contains a very serious allegation against the honorable member for East Sydney concerning import licences and lobbying in this Parliament for £100 a question? In explanation, may T state that I have a copy of a lettergram received by post which was marked “ For information “, and which it is claimed was sent to the Minister. My purpose in asking this question is to ascertain whether, if the allegations contained in this lettergram are considered, by the honorable member against whom they are directed, to be ill founded and unwarranted - which I can well imagine would be the case - the Minister feels that the honorable member for East Sydney could now. with justification, express regret for the embarrassment which he inflicted upon my colleague, the honorable member for Capricornia, when, acting upon information from this same source, he so caustically and consistently criticized the actions and motives of the honorable member for Capricornia.
– I call the Minister for Trade in reply and remind the honorable member for Corio that this is question time.
– I have received a lengthy telegram signed by a Mr. Somerville Smith. It makes certain allegations in respect of a member of this House. I take the attitude, as I have always done both inside and outside the House, that any allegation which is unsupported by prima facie evidence does not warrant consideration or investigation by me or by the Department of Trade. I do not give any publicity to the telegram that I have received, because, frankly, my personal view is that it would be outrageous to damage the reputation of any member of the Parliament by publicizing a reckless communication addressed to a Minister. I think that is a proper standard to observe. I think it is a standard that might well be observed by private members on both sides of the House.
– I ask the Prime Minister, as acting Treasurer: Is he in a position to indicate whether early action will be taken to introduce legislation to give effect to changes in the Commonwealth superannuation scheme notified by the Treasurer in his Budget speech?
– I cannot answer that question offhand. I know that the legislation is in course of preparation, and I will convey the honorable member’s interest to those responsible. No doubt, the legislation will be produced as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. The right honorable gentleman will remember that, in answer to a question about the rayon industry that I asked last Thursday, he said that the Government was seriously considering the whole matter. Is the Minister able to give me any further information now?
– I did inform the honorable member, whose electorate is concerned, and who asked me a question on this subject last Thursday, that I had received a communication from the Rayon and Cotton Weavers Association of Australia - I think that is the name of the body - asking that certain steps, which it had suggested, should be taken to protect the rayon industry in Australia. I have regarded that as a matter warranting serious consideration and necessitating very prompt consideration. During the week, acting for the Government, I have been giving serious consideration to what may be done in regard to this request. I am not in a position to make any statement at present, but 1 hope and expect to be able to make a statement within a day or two - I would hope before the House adjourns. This industry had the benefit of a panel which permitted it to be in full possession of the general statistical facts in regard, not only to current imports of rayon but also to impending imports of rayon, through knowledge gained of licences taken out. I point out that a statistical total is supplied, and that no information is given to the industry about individual licences. In my view, the industry has failed to give advice to me and to the Government as promptly as the information available to it would have warranted. Although I make that statement, I add that the industry will not be allowed to suffer.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In a reply to a question that I asked him recently, the right honorable gentleman said that the Government’s Budget proposals in respect of superannuation adjustments did not include any proposal to increase the value of superannuation units. I now ask him: Is it a fact that the superannuation fund has a credit balance of about £62,000,000? Is he aware of widespread bitter disappointment because, despite a rumour that there would be a 2s. 6d. increase in the value of units, no such proposal was included in the Budget? Finally, will he give further sympathetic - I stress “ sympathetic “ - consideration to making some such adjustment in order to compensate superannuation recipients for loss in the value of their payments because of inflation since the last adjustments were made?
– I cannot undertake to have any further consideration given to this matter at this time. However, if the honorable member, in order to support his argument, desires any further facts that are now available in relation to the fund, I will be very happy to have them provided for him quite soon. If he will just let me know from time to time what facts he needs, I will see that he gets them.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Is it a fact that the tone of the butter market in London has been described as extremely strong? Are the stocks held in store at a record low level? . Are prices very firm and, as a result, is consumption diminishing in any way?
– The prices of butter on the London market are certainly firm at present. Australian butter is in short supply. About a week ago, we had only about 11,000 tons on the London market. However, as a consequence of the British consumer having to pay 4s. stg. per lb. or more for butter, consumption has decreased somewhat. I regret this very much. It would have been better had we been able to keep up our supplies and meet the demand in full.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Defence, concerns the munitions filling plant at St. Mary’s. Have expensive tests been carried out with projectiles of all calibres, either filled or produced at the St. Mary’s plant? Have these tests shown that the projectiles have reached the required standards, or is it a fact that a high proportion of the stocks of ammunition now available in Australia will have to be regarded as unserviceable?
– I think the honorable member should have addressed his question to my colleague, the Minister for Supply, under whose administration the St. Mary’s factory comes. For that reason, I cannot give him a precise answer to his question. We all know that ammunition deteriorates as time goes on, and that all the Services regularly make checks of the strength of their ammunition. No doubt at times, some ammunition is found to be below standard and is rejected. The Maribyrnong factory has processes for recovering the brass and so on from rejected ammunition. I will get the honorable member an answer to his question.
– The honorable member for East Sydney asks for leave to make a short statement. There being no dissentient voice, leave is granted.
– by leave - I want to make some reference to the matter introduced by question by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) and replied to by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), concerning a document which was not sent directly to me, but of which 1 secured a copy from a gentleman to whom it was sent. I assure the House at the outset that if, as the result of repeating anything said by the gentleman responsible for the document, I reflected on the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), I withdraw it. I regret that I have caused him any embarrassment because, knowing a little more about this gentleman now, I would not hang a dog on his word.
The document I saw was not signed. It is a printed document, with a printed name, and it does not bear a signature. I thought it was so fantastic that it could emanate only from somebody who had a deranged mind. I think that it is a most serious thing to have a person of this character running around, making unsubstantiated allegations against members of the Parliament. I am of the opinion that this matter should not be allowed to rest as it is, with the Minister saying that he is not going to take any heed of allegations made in this form. I would welcome the closest investigation by the Government of any allegation by Mr. Somerville Smith or by anybody else in regard to these matters.
It is difficult to decide what is the best way to handle the situation, because Mr. Somerville Smith is an undischarged bankrupt. This makes it very difficult to take him into court, because you would be wasting good shot on somebody who was not worth it, and probably would involve yourself in considerable legal expense. I am not certain that the matter could be handled by the Privileges Committee of the Parliament. We had a previous instance of a matter of this kind being referred to that committee. The committee, in its findings, merely said that there was no breach of privilege, but it did not have the opportunity to examine the allegations. I think Mr. Somerville Smith is a fit case to be confined to a criminal lunatic asylum.
– Is this the man you relied on last year?
– I have already explained that I did not entirely rely on this gentleman. But I say that if 1 reflected on anybody by making a statement based on his evidence alone, I regret it, because I believe that he is a fit case for a criminal lunatic asylum. I think the law is wrong in some way if men making allegations such as these can remain at large, without any opportunity existing for the matter to be satisfactorily cleared up from the point of view of the Parliament and anybody directly concerned.
I have my own ideas on why this attack, or this attempt to smear me, has been made. It is well known that Mr. Somerville Smith, although an undischarged bankrupt, has access to considerable funds. I understand that he runs around in a modern car, conducts his business from an office and lives rather well. He entertains rather well, too, according to the reports submitted to me. I am of the opinion that there should be some thorough investigation made. In sworn evidence in the Bankruptcy Court, Mr. Somerville Smith claimed to have a considerable quantity of import licences. As an undischarged bankrupt he is certainly not legally entitled to trade in his own name. I think that matter ought to be examined and cleared up by the Minister. I believe that Mr. Somerville Smith is acting for a particular type of person importing goods into this country-
– Order! I think the honorable member is going beyond a personal explanation.
– I asked leave to make a statement, not a personal explanation.
– That does not mean that you may smear every one else.
– I am not attempting to do so. I merely say that in my opinion this gentleman is acting on behalf of a group of importers who fear a thorough and proper investigation of the import licensing system. I believe that this campaign was designed to try to intimidate me so that I would cease to press for such an investigation. This is not merely a question of clearing one member of this Parliament of unsubstantiated charges. I think the time has arrived when the Government ought to appoint a royal commission to investigate import licensing. If it wants to do so, the Government can include in the terms of reference an investigation of the particular allegations made against me, because these allegations imply that I have in some way profited as a result of the issue of import licences. I hope the Government will view the matter in a much more serious light, because there is a genuine demand in the community for some proper investigation. T invite the Government to appoint a royal commission to examine completely, and in its entirety, the administration of import licensing, and I invite it to ask such a royal commission to investigate the allegations made against me personally.
– by leave - I address myself to the subject-matter about which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has just been speaking. His statement, made by leave, is one of the most incredible statements I have heard in this Parliament. He has suggested that a gentleman who has made certain allegations against him is so obviously bereft of all sanity, and has behaved so outrageously in making charges against the honorable member that he ought to be confined, without trial, to a criminal lunatic asylum. He had previously claimed that certain observations made by the same gentleman against the Government, without any supporting evidence, should be accepted as sufficient to justify the appointment of a royal commission. How incredible it is! Then, to give an air of sincerity to this fantastic suggestion, the honorable member for East Sydney adds that the proposed royal commission, may, if it so desires, investigate charges that he himself has made in this House.
– And others!
– Let me deal with that suggestion. The honorable member for East Sydney has made charges of improper conduct. He has not purported to support those with any evidence whatever. I, myself, suffered the ignominy of seeing a headline on the front page of a Sydney paper the other day to the effect that Mr. Ward had declared Mr. McEwen corupt. I have consulted “ Hansard “, however, and can find no record of such a statement by the honorable member. I am told that what happened was that while I was speaking the honorable member for East Sydney made an interjection, sotto voce, to the effect, “ The Minister is corrupt “. Of course, it is all right for him to do that, but Mr. Somerville Smith, impugning the honour of the honorable member for East Sydney, who has such strict ethical principles, should be confined to a criminal lunatic asylum!
Let me .turn finally to this incredible suggestion that a royal commission should be appointed. I have been here long enough to have seen one or two royal commissions appointed. Of course the most fantastic royal commission in the history of the Commonwealth was one appointed by a Labour Prime Minister to investigate allegations concerning the honorable member for East Sydney, who was at that time one of his Ministers.
– And how did it result?
– It resulted in the honorable member for East Sydney refusing to give evidence. He claimed that because his allegations had been made in the House of Representatives they were privileged and therefore there could be no inquiry into his honour or his ethical conduct.
The honorable member for East Sydney has had to apologize to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). I ask no more than that he should learn the lesson that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If he wants people outside this Parliament to conduct themselves decently, perhaps the best thing he could do would be to set the example of decent conduct inside the House.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I ask for leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted.
– Leave is granted? I said “ No “.
– I move -
That the Leader of the Opposition be now heard.
– There is no need for that motion. The House has already given leave. The question was not negatived.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I just want to return to the point-
– If a debate is wanted, Sir, we will have one. Otherwise, let me point out that we have heard a speech from each side of the House. Leave is refused.
-I will resubmit the question. The Leader of the Opposition asks for leave to make a statement. Is leave granted?
– Leave is refused.
– I now move -
That the Leader of the Opposition be now heard.
– The honorable member is out of order. There is no provision in the Standing Orders for such a motion after the House has given its decision.
– Is the proposal of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory not in order?
– No. It is not provided for in the Standing Orders.
– May I make that motion?
– No. The Standing Orders do not provide for it. The next item of business is ministerial statements by leave. Are there any ministerial statements?
– Mr. Deputy Speaker,I would like to make a statement.
– On what subject?
– On the subject that has just been discussed.
– Order! The honorable member for Wills will resume his seat.
– Is there no right of free speech in this place?
Motion (by Mr. J. R. Fraser) put -
That so much of the Standing Ordersbe suspended as would prevent the Leader ofthe Opposition (Dr. Evatt) making a statement. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 6th October (vide page 1817).
Department of the Navy.
Department of the Army.
Proposed Vote, £2,229,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I am gravely concerned, Sir, about the position of this nation’s defences, but mostly over the grave deterioration in the Army. Although this Government has spent £2,000,000,000 on Australia’s defences since it came into office ten years ago we find that our defences have, in fact, deteriorated to such a degree that we are virtually defenceless. Our defences are gravely out of balance. The thinking of the Government and of our defence authorities is away back in the bygone horse and buggy age instead of being in the nuclear age.
Let me turn first to the proposed vote for the Department of the Army. I should like to point out to you, Sir, and to the committee in general, the real state of imbalance in the Army. Every honorable member has been issued with a statement on the Army estimates, printed at the behest of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). A study of the document gives one cause for grave concern. We find that, according to the schedule to the Estimates, we have a Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. My mind goes back three or four years to the time when the then Chief of Staff was retired owing to his age, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) immediately put a bill through this Parliament, appointing that officer to the chairmanship of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, from which he had been retired on account of age. He was appointed to a higher position at a salary £500 a year higher than the salary he had received as Chief of Staff. He is now receiving a salary of £5,500 a year although he is over the retiring age.
The schedule also shows that we have a Chief of the General Staff who receives a salary of £5,250 a year; three lieutenantgenerals, ten major-generals, 21 brigadiers, 40 colonels, 196 lieutenant-colonels and 2,631 majors, captains, lieutenants and second lieutenants. We have 2,348 warrant officers. Last year, we only had 2.324. We have 738 staff sergeants, 2,600 sergeants and 4,179 corporals. We find that there are something like 12,000 officers above the rank of corporal, but there are 13,233 lance-corporals, privates, gunners, sappers and drivers. That is our army, a total of about 26,000. We have the comical position of having more than 12,000 officers and more than 13,000 lancecorporals, privates and the like - one officer to each soldier.
We must remember that Australia has 12,000 miles of coastline. Our acting Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) breathes fire to the rest of the world, challenging all and sundry to fight. He is mighty in law, but very puny in politics. We have a ratio of one soldier to one mile of our coastline. So we can sleep peacefully at night knowing that we are well defended!
Now let me deal with our civilian services. The estimated expenditure under this item is £6,433,000. That covers salaries, wages and overtime paid to all civilian employees of the department. The average number of permanent and temporary civilians employed during 1958-59 was 6,302. For 1959-60 provision has been made for an average civilian employment, permanent and temporary, of 5,875 persons. Those persons are made up of 1,980 employed in the administrative, typing and clerical staffs of Army Command Head-quarters. We have 970 persons employed in depot workshops and other units. They are the people who do all the work, of course. They are the artisans. Technical, store-house, general duty, depot workshop and other staffs total 2,095. Instructional and general duty staffs at schools and other training installations number 330. Reference is made to civilians employed in soldier vacancies. What on earth does that mean! Perhaps the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) can tell us what that means. So, we have 1,980 persons employed on the administrative staff and 3,895 on the general staff. We have one boss to two employees. It is really remarkable how these positions are set up for the top brass who strut their stuff in all sorts of uniforms of all sorts of colours with all sorts of medals. They strut around the town doing nothing at all, but they are employed by our Army.
– Where does the honorable member think they got their medals?
– Some of the people that I see at the airport and at other places could quite easily have bought their medals at Woolworths.
– Where did the honorable member get his medals?
– The honorable member has asked the question; I have answered it.
One matter that concerns me keenly is the Army’s action in retaining various properties around the city of Sydney. I am particularly concerned about the Long Bay rifle range, where thousands of acres of land are retained by the Army. I refer not only to land on the rifle range, but also to land on the headlands around the Sydney coastline extending south to La Perouse. Residents of my electorate and aldermen of the Randwick Municipal Council are gravely concerned about this matter. I utter an emphatic protest at the stubborn attitude of the Minister for the Army and the Army authorities in retaining hundreds of acres of land worth about £2,000,000. This is very valuable land and I think that Army installations should be moved to the vicinity of Army camps at Liverpool or Holdsworthy. Those installations should not be retained on valuable building land that is badly needed for homes. I make an appeal to members of the exservicemen’s committee of the Government parties to do something for their former comrades in arms. Those honorable members fight very stubbornly and enthusiastically for the rights of ex-servicemen, until the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) holds up his hand. That is the finish and the honorable members then forget their old comrades who are in urgent need of land in order to build homes in which to rear their families.
If any honorable member opposite cares to visit my electorate I will show him some of this very valuable building land that should be subdivided and balloted for by ex-servicemen, who have been promised the world by this Government. The exservicemen need this land in order to provide shelter for their wives and families. Members of the Government parties’ exservicemen’s committee are well aware that many ex-servicemen, both in my electorate and in their own electorates, are living in tents, garages, caravans and rooms open to the weather, but those honorable members do not have the courage to stand up to the Prime Minister and press for the release of Army land in order that their former comrades in arms may have an opportunity to settle down to a happy married life and rear families in decent conditions.
While the Minister for the Army is in the chamber I should like to refer to the Army’s action in making advances to the States under the Commonwealth and States housing agreement. It has been stated that the expenditure of £398,000 for this purpose will be under the control of the Department of National Development. Under the housing agreement of 1956 each State is required to set aside annually for the erection of dwellings for serving members of the services a proportion of the amount advanced to them. The amount included under this division represents half the cost of the houses to be built. That means that out of its huge vote, the Army can only afford half the cost of the houses built for it by the State housing commissions, and the States, out of their meagre allocation, must endeavour to take up the lag of 40,000 to 50,000 homes that are required and must pay the other half of the cost of houses built for the Army. But worse still, we find that the Minister and the Army authorities insist on one condition being imposed. When a member of the permanent Army is allocated a home he is told that he cannot buy it but must take it on a rental basis. The Army has said that it is disappointed at the response to its drive for recruits. If the Army were genuine in its attempts to gain more recruits, would you not think that the Army would make it possible for a member of the permanent forces, in most cases a father with three or four children, to buy the home that has been allocated to him? But no! The Army uses its authority over the members of the forces as a kind of blackmail to retain them.
If a member of the Army is unfortunate enough to become ill and has to retire from the Army, he is retired also from the home in which he is living. In effect, his security is bound up in the Army. If he fails to live up to the specifications that have been laid down by the Army, he is unable to remain in the home that it has provided.
I appeal to the Minister to giveour soldiers some feeling of security. I have many members of the forces in my electorate who fear the day when something may happen to them or their families which will require them to retire from the Army or ask for leave for some reason or other.I appeal to the Minister to amend the act in such a way that a soldier will be able to pay a deposit on his home and pay the remainder of the cost by instalments. That will give him security and peace of mind.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Every time we discuss the defence estimates with the Opposition joining in the debate, I feel extremely nervous to think that we are listening to the proposals of an alternative government. It is extraordinary that each time we engage in these debates the Opposition makes some trumpery kind of attack on the Government. Honorable members opposite have talked about this Government not having a policy of defence. The Opposition has an old-fashioned system of snide debating which is unhealthy when the national defence of this country is being discussed. Defence should be a bi-partisan matter.
Motion (by Mr. Ward) put -
That the honorable member be not further heard.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
The last speaker on the Opposition side, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), spoke in the same highly dishonest way. He quoted figures which implied that there were 12,000 officers and 13,000 other ranks in the Australian Army. That was a gross misrepresentation. There are fewer than 3,000 officers and there are 23,000 other ranks. Evidently the honorable member does not know that a sergeant is another rank. He does not understand the distribution of the army; he has not the vaguest idea of what he is talking about.
A further example of the dishonest approach by members of the Opposition, in which the respectable members are sometimes included, is to suggest that £1,700,000,000 has been spent on defence, and then to ask “What have you to show for it? “ It is easy for them to say things like that. They do not point out that nearly 70 per cent, of that sum has been used in pay and maintenance but it is a fact that £1,200,000,000 was paid out in this way. They do not know that, included in that figure is the sum of £35,000,000 for the war in Korea. They do everything to try and deceive on a subject which should be a matter of bi-partisan policy.
A curious feature of the speeches from the Opposition side is that member after member alleges that the Government has done nothing for defence, but during the last election campaign the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was consistently recommending a reduction in the defence vote. When speaking in debates on international affairs member after member of the Opposition has questioned the value of Seato - the one hope on which Australia can depend for survival. They say that Seato should be used for the purposes of conciliation but not as a means of military help. These are the men who represent the alternative government.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) usually gives a reasoned speech but yesterday he disappointed me. He talked about all the things that Australia did not possess, such as nuclear submarines and vessels to be used purely for launching guided missiles. It would be marvellous to have all these things if we could afford them, but surely a nation of our size has to cut its coat according to the cloth. It is not possible to have these things. A nuclear submarine would cost many million pounds. We have to cover the whole gamut of military fighting if we do not want to fight in Australia. Our planning is based on fighting overseas so as to prevent the conflagration from coming to our shores.
Our naval programme is satisfactory, including as it does landing-craft and convoy vessels. There are aircraft to enable the quick movement of troops. There is a plan behind our defence policy. The curious thing is that members on this side of the chamber include a goodly number whose military background and training enable them to make a reasoned appproach on strategy, policy and planning. The fact that one happens to be a senior officer in the forces does not necessarily mean that he is a qualified planner, but at least he has some background. I ask members of the Opposition, in the most kindly spirit, to look at their ranks and try to discover their authority for making statements which are critical of the Government’s defence policy. Because their members lack military background they would have to rely, if they were in office, on the same advisers as those on whom the Government relies. The regrettable feature about their remarks is that instead of being constructive, they are highly destructive.
My personal opinion is that the money allocated by the Government for defence has been spent wisely and well. My only difference with the Government is that I do not think enough money has been spent on defence. But the Government has to decide whether the economy can stand a greater expenditure. Every one has .1 desire to promote his own interest, whether it be defence or housing or land. If I am interested in defence I want more money to be spent on defence. The Government has to decide the apportionment of funds.
I have heard the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), who is the senior military adviser to the Opposition, criticize the national service training scheme. The honorable member has devoted a great deal of his time to the civilian military forces and for that I respect him, because after all, he is one of those who has volunteered to go overseas-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr.Turnbull) proposed -
That the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) be granted an extension of time.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
I should like the national service training scheme to go a little further. I believe that it would be in the interest of this country if national servicemen were kept in camp for up to seven months. They would then be fully trained. In addition, the financial attraction should be such that national servicemen would transfer to the Citizen Military Force and so be available for use in Australia’s defence. I believe that it would be quite possible to do this without a great increase in the defence vote.
I am not alone in thinking along these lines. In to-day’s press it is stated that man-power is the basis of red war strategy. Although in the last ten years, a tremendous improvement in nuclear defence has taken place and greatly improved techniques of destruction have been devised, Russia still maintains enormous and costly conventional forces. That is a very good reason why we should realize the importance of those forces.
We hope that Australian forces will never have to be used in Australia. We feel fairly certain that, if they are used, they will be used in limited wars on the Asiatic continent in order to carry out treaty obligations and preserve the freedom of those nations in which we are interested. [Quorum formed.] These are the nations which have maintained their freedom against Communist aggression.
We cannot think for a moment of trying to provide ourselves with nuclear weapons, but if they are to be provided by our great allies, the U.S.A. or Great Britain, and based in Australia, we should be able to provide the man-power to protect them. The Malkara anti-tank weapon is very useful and, in certain circumstances, could make tank warfare very difficult. But the Malkara has to be maintained by ground troops just as squadrons of the air force must be protected by ground troops. Where are these ti oops to come from? The movement of troops from the U.S.A. which has the only big reservoir from which troops could come to our aid, would be a tremendous logistic problem. But if Australia could provide ground troops and our rich allies could provide the nuclear weapons and the trained technicians I believe that our value as an ally would be greatly enhanced.
If my suggestion in relation to national service training were adopted, even if the annual intake of trainees did not increase, the present number of trainees, 12,000 a year, would receive training for seven months and, with suitable financial inducement, perhaps 8,000 men - half a division - would transfer to the C.M.F. each year. In two years there would be the equivalent of a trained division. The figures given in the Estimates indicate that there are sufficient officers for the training of these men. In four years we would establish two trained divisions. Already we have a tremendous back-log of trained man-power. In my opinion, this is the best way in which to spend money. I believe that the expenditure on the Woomera range, the Navy, the Army and the Air Force is basically sound, but I would be much more content if we had more conventional troops because I feel that it is in a conventional war that Australia will run its greatest risks, and it is in such a war that Australia can play its greatest part as a member of Seato and other alliances.
– I shall devote my time to that section of the Estimates dealing with the Navy. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) attempted to belittle the argument that nuclear weapons represented an advance on conventional weapons. He seemed to deprecate the idea that perhaps nuclear warfare would be the determining factor in any future war and said that conventional arms would be, in the main, the factor that would determine the outcome. When I dispute the matter with a gentle man of so distinguished a background, I am somewhat at a disadvantage. But before I finish I shall quote the opinions of authorities with equally distinguished backgrounds who seriously dispute the honorable member’s point of view.
In discussing the estimates for the Department of the Navy, Mr. Temporary Chairman, it is, I think, appropriate to mention that, for the first time in the history of the Australian federation, the Naval Board has run up its flag in Canberra. The board’s flag was run up in Canberra this morning for the first time in order to indicate that the board has made Canberra its head-quarters.
On looking at these estimates, I find that the Government proposes to spend on the Navy, in the current financial year, £1,443,140 less than was voted last financial year. In the current financial year, the Navy proposes to spend on ordnance, torpedo stores and ammunition £698,551 more than was spent last financial year, and on oil fuel, £413,624 less. In discussing these items, I again emphasize the point that I have made before in debates of this kind concerning the immediate information supplied to members of the Parliament. The Department of Air and the Department of the Navy would do well to follow the example of the Department of the Army, which, for the first time, has supplied honorable members with a kind of brochure containing a wealth of information that is not provided in the estimates for that department. In the absence of information such as this, one is at a loss to go further than a mere comment in respect of many matters.
I find that, this financial year, the allocation for naval construction is £597,000 less than was the vote last financial year. It is interesting, I think, to note that whereas £458,131 was spent on the purchase of aircraft and aero engines by the Department of the Navy last financial year, no expenditure on this item is proposed this financial year. In view of the importance of aircraft and aero engines and the developments taking place in the field of aviation, I feel that the committee should be informed why the department does not propose to spend anything under this heading in the current financial year. “ Hansard “ of the House of Representatives, of Thursday, 1st October, at page 1742, contains some interesting information which was given by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) in reply to questions on notice asked by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) and the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). The number of persons called up for national service training since the inception of the scheme is set out. We find that, in the year 1957-58 and the year 1958-59, there was no national service intake in the Navy or in the Air Force. In those two years, the intake into the Army totalled 27,348 men. Expenditure on the national service training scheme amounted to £10,800,000 in 1957-58 and £10,600,000 in 1958-59. In other words, in those two years £21,400,000 was spent on the training of 27,348 men under the national service scheme, that training being confined exclusively to the Army. I should imagine that the Army does not really take such precedence over the other defence forces, and, therefore, I say quite definitely that the requirements of the Navy in this field are being very seriously neglected. We are a merchantile nation, and I have no doubt in my own mind that we are tending to over-emphasize the importance of the Army in this respect. We seem to be completely forgetting the other defence forces - the Air Force and the Navy.
To any persons who have other ideas about the importance of the sea, not only to this nation, but also to the future course of events throughout the world, perhaps I may quote the views of some authorities. The first is Marshal Zhukov, who, when Soviet Minister for Defence, spoke of the future and said -
In a future war the struggle at sea will be of greater importance than it was in the Second World War.
The United States of America appreciates the importance of the sea and of having a navy that it can rely upon. Admiral Burke, who is a high-ranking United States naval officer, pointed out the intentions of the Russians, in these words -
Their clear intent is to isolate the U.S.A. from our Allies and prevent us from projecting our power overseas. They can win by denying us control of the* seas near Europe and Asia.
So that, whatever happens in the future, the sea will be of the highest importance, notwithstanding the views of the honorable member for Hume.
Information about what is happening in the navies of the world would perhaps be of value to the Australian Government in developing a policy for the Australian Navy. We find that this Government has adopted a policy that is contrary to all the trends in other parts of the world. In this respect, I should like to mention, first, the views expressed by Mr. Khrushchev. Speaking in San Francisco, on 21st September, 1959, he said -
The Soviet Navy is going to concentrate on sub* marines. We are scrapping 90% of our cruisers.
The importance of submarines is quite apparent to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, even if it is not seen by the Australian Government. To anybody who may have doubts about the opinions expressed by Mr. Khrushchev, I should like to mention the view expressed by Lord Mountbatten, who is Chief of the United Kingdom Defence Staff. He has stated that submarines are the capital ships of the future.
T think it was about two years ago that nuclear-powered submarines first made their impact on the world. The advent of the first of these submarines was regarded as being equivalent to the appearance of the “ Dreadnought “ - the first capital ship of its kind - 50 years ago. Nuclear-powered submarines have completely revolutionized every aspect of naval activity. But what do we find happening in Australia in respect to submarines? At the end of this month, the submarine “Telemachus “, which we have had on loan from the Royal Navy for some time, is to be replaced by another submarine - “ Anchorite “. This is one of the A class submarines of the United Kingdom, which are regarded there as being out of date. The United Kingdom is either selling or scrapping its submarines of this class. But I understand that the Royal Australian Navy proposes to purchase more submarines of this type under the three-year defence plan in order to build up our naval defences.
– That is not correct, of course.
– If the Australian Navy does not intend to purchase more of them, it is certainly going to allow “ Anchorite “, which is a submarine of the A class, to replace “ Telemachus “. The A class submarines were designed during the Second World War for use in the Pacific. This type of submarine, which we are now to get in Australia, is not of the most modern design being built in the United Kingdom to-day. I understand that the British Government has two types of submarines that are far superior to the one we are getting here now, and, in addition, hopes to have its first nuclear-powered submarine by the end of 1960. It seems to be quite fashionable, for some reason or other, for us to get discarded or outofdate vessels from the United Kingdom, just as we get outmoded aircraft from the United States of America.
Let me refer now to our aircraft carriers. Very large amounts of money have been spent on them, and to-day they are in mothballs. It is up to the Government to try to gain a real appreciation of what is happening in naval affairs in other parts of the world, where other nations are at least facing the reality of the situation. I have already quoted authorities that suggest that the nuclear-powered submarine will be the capital ship of the future. This being so, the Government should do something to harness the potential that is available in this country, so as to provide adequately against emergencies. Our skilled craftsmen have demonstrated, down the years, their capabilities and their potentialities. When speaking of the building of the submarine “Nautilus” in the United States of America, Admiral Rickover, who was in charge of that project, said that it was 90 per cent, an engineering problem. We have the potential in this country. In the past, work has been turned out at Cockatoo Dock and at Williamstown that has been equal to that done in other parts of the world. This being so, the Government should at least try to engage in a programme of naval development along modern lines.
An honorable member who spoke before me suggested that a nuclear-powered submarine costs £60,000,000. The fact is that it costs £30,000,000. The honorable member exaggerated somewhat. I believe that the experience gained in the building of such a vessel would be invaluable to
Australia. In other parts of the world nations are realizing the efficiency of nuclear-powered submarines and the important part they will play in the future. The figures I am about to give are taken from “ lanes’ Fighting Ships “ of 1958-59. The United Kingdom has 48 submarines, and its first nuclear-powered submarine will be launched, I believe, in 1960. The United States of America has 200 submarines, and by 1967 will have 75 nuclearpowered submarines. France has fifteen submarines, and has commenced construction of a nuclear-powered submarine. The Soviet Union has a fleet of 500 submarines, but there is no information as to how many are nuclear-powered. This Government should learn a lesson from the way in which other countries are spending money on their naval forces, and we should not always be in the position of having to buy overseas.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As honorable members will know, we are now in the third year of a three-year defence programme. The defence programme policy is kept under continual scrutiny by the Government and its professional advisers, on the basis of the world situation, the latest intelligence reports and modern developments. Clearly, if we are in the third year of a three-year programme, our eyes are turning to the next three-year programme, and the Government and its advisers are at present investigating this matter. As soon as the Government has made up its mind on the form of the next three-year programme, I will make a statement concerning it to this House. The purpose of my remarks this afternoon is to analyse the defence estimates for this year and also to give some attention to expenditure over recent years.
The proposed expenditure on defence this year is £192,800,000. Last year the estimate was for £190,000,000. The extra £2,800,000 this year is to cover the basic wage increase recently granted. Incidentally, actual expenditure last year was £189,300,000. Provision is made this year for the maintenance of the forces generally and for their material requirements of munitions, equipment such as aircraft and ships, and the various other items necessary to our services programme. In accordance with the approved objectives of defence policy, the development of highly trained mobile forces will be continued to meet the requirements of the strategic situation and to enable Australia to make a prompt and effective contribution in support of her treaty arrangements. Provision has been made for units of the Navy, Army and Air Force to continue serving with United Kingdom and New Zealand forces in the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve in Malaya. In the field of defence research and development, we will again continue our partnership with the United Kingdom at Salisbury and Woomera.
From 1950-51 to the end of the last financial year, the expenditure on defence has amounted to £1,575,000,000. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) said that expenditure on defence had totalled £2,000,000,000. He made a slight error of £425,000,000, which, however, was nothing like some of the other errors he made in the course of his speech. We heard from him to-day, as we have heard from others at various times, the odd criticism which poses the question, “The Government has spent all this money on defence, what have we to show for it? “ Well, I think the easiest and simplest way to reply to such silly criticism is merely to state the facts. Incidentally, I have circulated statistics which will enable honorable members to ascertain where every penny of the expenditure over the last nine years, and also of the proposed expenditure for the current year, has been or will be spent.
What has been achieved with the £1,575,000,000 that has been spent? Since 1950-51 the expenditure required for maintenance - and I hope honorable members know what that means - has been £1,116,000,000. A further £316,000,000, representing roughly 20 per cent, of the total, has been devoted to the provision of ships, aircraft, weapons, vehicles and other capital equipment. A total of £131,000,000, or 8 per cent, of the full amount expended, has been applied to capital buildings and works, including the joint United Kingdom-Australia guided weapons project at Woomera. The regular and citizen forces have been built up from 57,000 when this Government took over to a present total of 111,000. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith spoke about 12,000 officers and 13,000 troops. This was just another of his fantastic errors. The maintenance figure of £1,116,000,000 includes £606,000,000 for service pay and allowances, food, clothing, and other general expenses of the Services. Does any one suggest we should not pay our servicemen an adequate rate, or feed, clothe and house them properly? Of course not! Incidentally, the great bulk of defence expenditure is in Australia. It therefore goes back into our own economy. The meat we give them, the eggs, the butter, the bread - everything that is fed to them - and the clothes that the men wear, are all paid for with money spent in this country, which goes back into our economy. If we build barracks for the troops, if we build them houses - and we have built them very many houses - we give employment to the building industry. That applies right along the line. Similarly, a substantial part of our expenditure goes to Australian factories and shipyards through the naval shipbuilding, repair and refit programme, the manufacture and repair of aircraft, and filling the demand for motor vehicles, tractors and other equipment, steel for munitions, chemicals for explosives, machine tools and so on. Also, on completion of their engagements, many service personnel, because of the high standard of technical and apprenticeship training they receive in the services, are fitted to take their places in industry, thereby contributing to the development of Australia’s growing technical and industrial strength.
Now I turn to the expenditure on the various services - Navy, Army and Air Force. Since June, 1950, the Navy has spent £94,400,000 on capital equipment. Some of the main items are - an aircraft carrier; 250 new aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm; construction of three Daring class ships; a fleet tanker and a boom working vessel; conversion of four “ Q “ class destroyers to anti-submarine frigates which are equal to any others in the world of their particular class; the modernization of two Tribal class destroyers and eleven ocean mine sweepers. Two of the four new-type anti-submarine frigates have been launched, and work on the other two is proceeding in Australian shipyards. When those four frigates go to the Navy they will be four of the most modern anti-submarine vessels in the world.
All the new naval construction, modernization and conversion, except the aircraft carrier and the fleet tanker, have been carried out in Australian shipyards. The total expenditure since June, 1950, has been £59,700,000 and a further £5,600,000 is being provided this year. The aircraft have cost £23,400,000 and £11,300,000 has been spent on other capital equipment and stores. An extensive naval capital works programme has been carried out involving an expenditure of £11,500,000 since 1950. For the current year a further £1,300,000 is being provided.
The ships in seagoing commission this year will be one aircraft carrier, three Daring class destroyers, two Battle class destroyers, three “ Q “ class frigates, two training frigates, one training sloop, four surveying ships, and a number of smaller ships and craft. A member of the Opposition spoke of one of our aircraft carriers as being “ mothballed “. The reason it is mothballed is that we are not at war. Does he suggest we start a war so that we can use the ships we have in mothballs?
The estimated average personnel strength of the permanent naval forces during the current year is 10,950. In addition, there are the reserves of approximately 10,000. From June, 1950, to the end of last financial year, the total expenditure on the Navy has been £373,000,000. The estimate for the current financial year is £42,600,000.
Now I turn to the Army. The provision of modern equipment for the Army has been an important feature of the Government’s defence preparations since June, 1950, and some £80,800,000 has been spent on new capital equipment. This includes 120 tanks, 300 armoured vehicles, 6,750 transport and other vehicles, 8,290 wireless telegraphy sets, 2,190 weapons of all types - the larger weapons - FN rifles, 441 items of heavy earth-moving and major engineering equipment, and large quantities of artillery shells and cartridges and small arms ammunition. In addition, £52,000,000 was devoted to the procurement of maintenance equipment of various kinds.
The infantry elements of the Regular Brigade Group have been equipped with the new FN rifle. This weapon, and the associated 7.62 mm. ammunition, are coming off the production line in increasing quantities, and over 5,000,000 rounds of ammunition have been manufactured in this country. The ammunition, incidentally, is of the same calibre and type as used by the United States and British forces.
Last financial year arrangements were made for the procurement from the United States of equipment to the value of £2,700,000 to re-equip the Regular Brigade Group. The introduction of these modern items, including the 105 mm. howitzer and ammunition, recoilless anti-tank weapons, anti-personnel mines and signal equipment, will provide increased standardization with the military forces of the United States. In addition, two landing ships, each capable of carrying 300 tons of stores and up to five tanks, were purchased to support the operations of the Regular Brigade Group.
In the current financial year an amount of £14,600,000 is being provided for Army equipment, comprising £5,700,000 for maintenance equipment and stores and £8,900,000 for new capital equipment. The provision of permanent accommodation for married and single members of the Regular Army continues to be a high priority objective of the Army’s works programme. The new barracks at Puckapunyal and Watsonia are examples of this policy. The total expenditure on Army capital works in Australia since June, 1950, has been approximately £36,000,000 and the provision in the current financial year is £3,300,000.
In Malaya, work is continuing on the construction of a cantonment to house the Commonwealth Brigade at Malacca. This is a joint United Kingdom-Australia-New Zealand project. The current estimated cost is £8,250,000 sterling, of which Australia’s share will be of the order of £2,250,000 sterling. The First Infantry Brigade Group of the Regular Army, together with the logistic field force units directly supporting it, the infantry battalion group in Malaya, and the Pacific Islands Regiment, comprise a Regular Army field force of just over 7,000 personnel.
The estimated average strength of the regular forces as a whole in 1959-60 is of the order of 22,000. In the Citizen Military Force, the present strength is approximately 55,000, including 20,500 voluntary enlistments. A total of nearly 200,000 partly trained men has been built up by the Army under the national service training scheme since its inception. The total expenditure on the Army since June, 1950, has been £543,200,000. The proposed vote for the current financial year is £65,500,000.
Finally, I turn to the Royal Australian Air Force. Since June, 1950, the Air Force has spent £116,900,000 on aircraft and other new capital equipment. Some 540 new aircraft have been delivered to the R.A.A.F. over the period, 400 of them from Australian factories. Aircraft procured from overseas include the recently acquired Hercules transports which have added to the mobility of the defence forces. This year, £9,230,000 is being provided for aircraft purchases and production. The prototype fitment of the Sidewinder airtoair guided weapon has been made to a Sabre fighter, and it is planned to equip the Sabre aircraft of the fighter wing in Malaya with this weapon in the immediate future. Similar equipment for homebased Sabres will follow.
Other equipment acquired for the R.A.A.F. includes 1,750 vehicles, two control and reporting unit systems, 29 highpressure refuelling tankers and improved fire-fighting vehicles, and important equipment in the communication and electronics field including ultra high frequency equipment which will ensure R.A.A.F. compatibility with the allied defence forces in the Pacific.
The total provision made this financial year for all equipment both capital and maintenance, other than aircraft, is £16,264,000. Since June, 1950, approximately £14,900,000 has been spent on major airfield works, notably at Townsville, Darwin and Williamtown, Cocos Island, and at Butterworth, in Malaya. During the current year, approximately £400,000 has been provided for further airfield works at various localities. The total expenditure on all Air Force works since June, 1950, has amounted to £27,300,000, and the provision this year is £4,000,000.
The Royal Australian Air Force has an operational force consisting of three bomber squadrons, three fighter squadrons, two maritime reconnaissance squadrons, three transport squadrons, an Air Observation Post Flight and five Citizen Air Force fighter squadrons. Another control and reporting unit will be set up during the current year. The estimated average strength of the Royal Australian Air Force in the current financial year is approximately 15,750. Since June, 1950, a total of £449,000,000 has been spent on the Air Force and the proposed vote for the current financial year is £60,161,000.
As regards research and development, in the Department of Supply our partnership with the United Kingdom in the joint United Kingdom-Australia Long Range Weapons Project is being maintained. As a result, at Salisbury and Woomera we have men in the forefront of modern defence science. The Woomera range is being extended to 1,250 miles and the instrumentation is going ahead very rapidly. A total of £82,000,000 has been spent by Australia on the joint project up to 30th June, 1959. The amount being provided in the current financial year is £9,500,000.
The success of the Jindivik and what can perhaps be termed the triumph of the Malkara - an Australian designed and developed anti-tank guided missile - also come to mind as examples of the efficiency of Australian defence research and development.
The next item that I want to mention briefly is defence production. The Government is continuing the development of the facilities necessary for the production or procurement of the Services’ material requirements. The old Small Arms Factory at Lithgow has been completely modernised and with its new equipment is already turning out the best and most complex rifle ever made in Australia - the FN.30 rifle, to which I have already referred.
– What about St. Mary’s?
– I will deal with St. Mary’s in a moment. Since 1951 an amount of £49,500,000 has been devoted to expansion of production capacity and the replacement and modernization of existing facilities. A further £2,600,000 will be allotted to these objectives in the current financial year. In the years the Government has been in office the Department of Supply has placed orders with Australian industry for no less than £360,000,000.
A further important aspect is the organization of industry. The Joint War Production Committee in the Department of Defence, under the chairmanship of Mr. Ian McLennan, which is responsible for policy advice on industrial war potential in all its aspects, has proved invaluable. In the Department of Supply, which is responsible for the organization of production to meet the requirements of the Services, there are a number of important Industry Advisory Committees comprised of men at the very top of their particular craft or industry. Each of these committees in turn has the capacity to organize its industry if the need should arise.
Advice on the business aspects of proposals for expenditure by the Services is available through the Defence Business Board, consisting of prominent business men under the chairmanship of Sir John Allison. I should like to say here that the Government is deeply appreciative of the able and valuable assistance being rendered by all these gentlemen I have mentioned, who are giving their services to the country in an honorary capacity.
An industrial mobilization course is conducted each year in Melbourne and Sydney under the aegis of the Joint War Production Committee, where selected officers of the services, the Commonwealth and State public services, public utilities and industry study the problems associated with industrial mobilization. Over 500 people have been trained in these courses since their inception in 1953 and their value is greatly appreciated by all concerned.
With regard to defence organization, it will be remembered that the Government decided last year that the Department of Defence would direct and control investigations aimed at the elimination of overlapping, the co-ordination of activities and the development of common services throughout the armed services. A small co-ordinating element set up to co-ordinate the Design and Inspection Services of the three service departments has already achieved economies in man-power. A major study is being undertaken of the feasibility of applying electronic data processing to the Australian armed services, and a central cataloguing authority has been set up to standardize the cataloguing of stores in the service departments. The Army and Air Force canteens were successfully merged this year to form the Australian Services Canteens Organization and the Navy is participating in the bulk supply of goods. Investigations into other major service activities are proceeding.
I have covered the ground briefly in the time available. Summarizing, I would say without any hesitation that the Defence Services of this country have never been in such good shape in time of peace. The men are better paid, better equipped, better housed and more efficient than ever before. Our defence factories - ordnance and ammunition - are better equipped than ever before. Industry is better organized to play its part in an emergency.
In the life of this Government we have been called on several times to fulfil international obligations. In the Malayan emergency, No. 1 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force was there almost from the start. In Korea we were the first to answer the call of the United Nations. For three years we have met our obligations to our Anzam partners in the Strategic Reserve in Malaya. When the United Kingdom was hard pressed in 1952-53 we had No. 78 Wing of the Royal Australian Air Force in Malta. If we are called on in the future to fulfil our obligations internationally, we will be even better able to do so than in the past.
.- The Opposition directs its criticism to the Government. It does not and would not criticize the people who are administering the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, or who are in control on the civilian side of the Departments of Supply and Defence Production and any other agencies that are associated with our defence forces. We have repeatedly said that this Government has spent a huge amount of money yearly on our defence forces and at the end of almost ten years it will have spent something like £1,800,000,000. There is little or nothing to show for that vast expenditure of money.
– Did not the honorable member listen to me?
– I listened to the Minister for Defence labouring on, reciting a number of figures that were supplied to him, but 1 do not think that he impressed anybody with his recitation of wellknown facts. Nobody disputes what he has said, but the people of Australia are entitled to something more than they have for an expenditure of £1,800,000,000. The Minister talked about the numbers in the forces. He said that we have 20,950 men in the Navy. He said that we have 75,750 men in the Army and 16,576 men in the Air Force. I am taking these figures from the defence statistics circulated by the Minister to-day just as this debate started - not some days ago when honorable members could have had an opportunity to study them. The Minister said that the total number of personnel in Australia’s armed forces is 113,276.
The Minister said that we have a Navy, but have we? The greater part of the Royal Australian Navy is in moth-balls in Athol Bight in Sydney and anybody flying over that area can see those vessels any day of the week and any week of the year. The vessels that we have in commission represent only a fraction of the vessels that we own. The reason why the Government is not manning all our naval vessels is not because it wants to cut expenditure but because it cannot get personnel to man the vessels. More officers and men are leaving the Navy to-day than are being recruited into it, and the Minister knows that.
We used to have a unit at Manus Island and I remember the noise that was made in other years about the alleged indifference of the Chifley Government to the future of Manus Island. Since this Government has come into power the Air Force has been taken away from Manus Island. There is half a company of the Pacific Islands Regiment on Manus Island at the present time and there is a naval establishment there with very few officers or men. Presumably, in the event of war this vast area that surrounds us is to be defended from Garbutt, in Queensland. Perhaps, seeing that a new airfield is being constructed alongside Darwin, we will be defended from Darwin. When the Jackson field near Port Moresby has been completed, presumably we will be defended from there also.
We do not have very many fighters or bombers. In fact, the Government has not yet made up its mind as to what kind of new fighter aircraft to order. If war broke out to-morrow, Australia would be defenceless despite the expenditure of this huge sum of money. Certainly, we have wasted £28,000,000 on that magnificent plant at St. Mary’s, in New South Wales. What will happen there? The factory is just a white elephant at present and there is not much to be shown for the vast expenditure that was incurred in constructing it.
The Minister seemed to suggest that we have to continue spending money on defence in order to keep the economy going, and that, if the money contained in the defence vote were not spent on clothes, food and equipment, a great deal of unemployment would result. That was the logic of the Minister’s statement; the Government is afraid to cease spending money on defence for fear that we would have more unemployment than we have at present.
We in opposition who once had the responsibility of building an Australian Army, an Australian Navy and an Australian Air Force - history will attest to the success of our efforts - would, if we were in government to-morrow, give Australia an effective defence force. We would give it at whatever the cost, and we would then have something to show for the money that had been spent. To-day, our Army exists mostly on paper. We have a Minister for the Army who can boast of one brigade of troops - one brigade after ten years in office! When honorable members seek information from the Government about this one brigade of troops, about the Centurion tanks and about everything else associated with the Army, the Government refuses to answer the questions that are put to it. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), who at present has fourteen questions on notice, on< 22nd September last - more than a fortnight ago - asked the following questions onnotice of the Minister for the Army: -
My honorable friend is still waiting for a reply. Probably he will get it when the debate on the Estimates has been concluded and when the information that he has sought will not be of the same value to him as it would be if he were to receive it now.
We have been told by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) that there is no present intention to abolish the national service training scheme.
– Who said that?
– You said it yesterday.
– I said that it had never been considered by the Government.
– Yes, but that is only a quibble. You have not yet taken it to Cabinet, but in all probability you have been discussing it with your fellow Ministers in the defence services, and with the heads of the services. I suspect that when Parliament goes into recess you will announce that the national service training scheme is to be abolished as from some date next year.
– Those are microphones in front of you, not crystal balls.
– I know what they are. I often wonder whether the Minister for Supply knows what his department is for, because the estimates for that department are now under discussion. I do not know that his performance has been any more creditable than that of his colleagues who are administering the service departments. It is all very well to talk about building up establishments in the settled areas of Australia, but what is the Government doing in the northern part of this country, that area north of the Tropic of Capricorn? We have practically nothing there. Certainly we have built an airfield at Darwin and one is in course of construction at Alice Springs. The Air Force Construction Corps which did the Darwin job could have done the Alice Springs job too, but that work was given to a private contractor. We could have maintained another unit of the Air Force Construction Corps in building- this and other very necessary airfields throughout Australia. The recommendation has been made that an airfield should be built at Argyle Downs to cover the Wyndham area. I suppose that it will be built some day, probably when there is an immediate threat of war, but not otherwise.
The Government should consider the construction of roads and railways in the northern areas of Australia as part of its defence programme because that portion of our country may have to be defended some day. But the way things are going, it never can be defended while this Government lasts. This Government does not have a Brisbane-line mentality - the position is much worse than that. It has a Sydney-Melbourne-line mentality. Nothing in Australia on the other side of that line matters to the Government because the great majority of our people live south of it. If our country is to be held, the northern areas must be developed too.
– We are trying to protect you.
– I am glad to hear a Western Australian, aided and abetted by a Queenslander, interjecting because they have let the Parliament down by not raising their voices against the inadequacy of the defence vote to be allocated to those areas for which they are primarily responsible in this Parliament.
– If you had not wasted 40 minutes we would have had a chance to speak.
– We would like to hear a little more from the honorable member on this particular matter and a lot less on other matters. The Minister for the Army has said that we have a highly-trained mobile force, yet the honorable member for Wills, who is still on the Army active list, has asked the Minister this question which has remained unanswered -
Is it a fact that the mobile brigade group, which has been described as the spearhead of our defence, could not be operational under five or six months, If this is so, why, and what steps is he taking to correct this situation?
He has also asked how long it would take the Centurion tanks, if they were fully loaded, to journey from Melbourne to Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide,
Darwin and Perth. How can the Minister talk about highly-trained mobile forces when the forces have no mobility? The honorable member for Wills has also asked why these Centurion tanks were not used in “ Exercise Grand Slam “ at Mackay in Queensland. The Minister for the Army could not answer that question either. Why was there no armour at Mackay? The honorable member for Wills has also asked whether it is a fact that certain of the armour now being used, referring specifically to the 105 mm. gun, is obsolete by modern standards.
This Government has a lot toanswer for in relation to its expenditure on defence. It has spent a great deal of money, and the people of Australia have never begrudged one penny of it. This Parliament has never divided on one single item covered by the £18,000,000,000 when defence expenditure has been discussed in this chamber over the past ten years. But the people are becoming dissatisfied at what little there is to show for the vast sum of money that has been expended and which they have contributed.
When does the Government propose to present the Allison report to the Parliament? We have heard justifiable praise of Sir John Allison, but the Parliament is entitled to know what he recommended in relation to the rates of pay of officers and men of the forces, the extent to which the Government has acted on his recommendations and whether the Government is in favour of everything that he recommended, as it was in favour of everything that was contained in the Richardson report relatingtothesalariesandallowancesof members of Parliament.
These Estimates contain no provision for civil defence. This Government does not have any plans in preparation for the defence of Australia in the event of an atomic war. A government that fails to have defence provided for the civilians in time of war deserves condemnation and should be removed from office at the earliest possible moment.
– I naturally sat at the table with the idea of making a few notes on matters to which I could reply, but I am afraid that none of the members on the Opposition, except perhaps the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) who spoke last night, has made any statements of connected or logical content that are really worth replying to. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) just prattled the old parrot question, “ You have spent £1,800,000,000 over a period of ten years, but what have you to show for it? “ I think that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) gave an effective answer. It is such a foolish statement for the honorable member to make. It is almost as foolish as the question, “ What did you get out of the premium on the insurance that you paid last year because you did not make a claim? “ Defence is much in the same category; it is a protection for this country in the nature of an insurance.
I shall deal with some specific points raised by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Wills was good enough to say that the Centurion tanks are the best in the world. At this point of time they are. But when they were acquired by Australia they were not intended for the kind of role which is now expected. They were acquired at a time when our defence preparation was designed more for the Middle East than for South-East Asia. But still the Centurion is the most modern tank in the world and has performed very satisfactorily in Korea. The tanks can be used even in South-East Asia to great advantage. They can also be moved. I think the honorable member for Wills is merely using his right as a member of the Opposition to try to make things difficult when he speaks as he has on this matter but I repeat that these tanks can be moved quite easily by ship to any part in Australia.
– But we have not got any ships.
– There are plenty of ships that can move them. We have just purchased two L.S.M.’s from Japan which I will be here within the next month. They can take ten tanks and land them on any beach in Australia. The honorable member knows that that is the case. These tanks weigh 50 tons and I admit that they are difficult to move but from the very nature of the exercises that have been held it has been clearly demonstrated that they can be moved on to beaches, by ship to ports, or over the roads. If they had to be taken a great distance between capital cities, no attempt would be made to move them by road; they would be taken by ship from one port to another, unloaded there and taken to the required location. Not only can they be moved but we also have the equipment with which to move them.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the £28,000,000 factory at St. Mary’s. If ever there was an establishment vital to the defence interests of this country, it is the St. Mary’s factory. It provides substantial means for manufacturing ammunition not only for ourselves but also for our allies in case of an emergency.
I now wish to make a few remarks concerning the Army itself. The part given first priority in our organization is essentially the field forces. This is because our objective in the future is to be prepared to join with our friends in the defence of South-East Asia. People forget that to-day. Many members of the Opposition persist in talking about the defence of the shores of Australia. That is all very well but if we are going to prepare only on the basis of defending our own shores from an invasion by a major power, we have lost the war before it starts. The Government intends to prevent an invasion of this country by co-operating with our friends in South-East Asia. The information that we have is that a global war is unlikely and we are preparing our defence on the basis of a limited war and also to deal with the question of the cold war.
It is of vital importance to Australia that we help to preserve the independence of the South-East Asian countries. As honorable members know we are operating under three treaties. The first is the South-East Asia Treaty Organization in which we have joined with the United States, the United Kingdom and a number of other countries in South-East Asia and elsewhere. This is a very important treaty in the interests of Australia. The next is the Anzus pact which is a treaty between New Zealand, the United States and ourselves in which certain undertakings have been given. The third is the Anzam treaty between the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. That is the treaty under which we are operating in Malaya at the present time.
These three treaties are vital to our future defence preparations and our plans are at present devoted to their requirements. The mobile brigade group which has been established is of great importance in the light of these treaties and certainly has first priority in the Army. Yesterday afternoon I circulated a paper concerning this group. It showed the number of the personnel but 1 can now say that it is something over strength. It is a mature brigade group ready for effective fighting at any time that it is called upon. Those honorable members who attended the Mackay exercises will agree with that statement because there this brigade showed its state of preparedness. This is the first time in the history of this country that we have had a force of this character in peace-time.
As the Minister for Defence announced earlier to-day this group is fully equipped with FN. 30 rifles. I am able to confirm that announcement which took effect on 30th September. In reply to the criticism about lack of mobility, I remind honorable members opposite that not only has the Government purchased the L.S.M. vessels but the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) has made available to the Army transport aircraft of the CI 30 type. Very soon also we will take delivery of some 105 mm. howitzers which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition described as obsolete. They are the latest and most modern equipment in the United States Army. Very soon also some 106 mm. recoilless anti-tank guns will arrive. In addition we have very modern signals and communication equipment. The equipment of this brigade group, from a conventional point of view, is equal to that of any army in any other country. The only exceptions might be some of the very modern pieces of equipment manufactured by the United States of America and which have not yet seen the light of day outside that country.
An honorable member opposite referred to the numbers in our field forces. We have 22,000 regular troops, of whom 6,000 - the teeth - are front-line soldiers. Some one may ask, “Where are the remaining 16,000 - the tail, as it were? “ From these 16,000 are drawn the reinforcements and those engaged in communications, training and maintenance work both at headquarters and at all the commands throughout Australia. In addition to the 22,000 regular troops there are the Citizen Military Force, the cadet corps and all the rest that go with them to make up the total of our defence personnel. I am sure that the honorable member for Wills will agree that our Citizen Military Force is at present at a very high level of efficiency. It includes 200,000 young Australians who have received at least partial training in the Army. Surely that is something of which we can speak with some pride. We have over 33,000 cadets in the schools. This is a very enthusiastic group which yields 93 per cent, of our Royal Military College cadets. So it is a very valuable adjunct.
– How many Boy Scouts?
– I would not like to answer you. I have never heard such a display of ignorance in my life as your speech.
I am very pleased to say that since last year recruiting has developed tremendously. The quality and the numbers of the recruits that have become available to us have been very satisfactory indeed. There is no doubt, of course, that the altered conditions prescribed by the Allison report have had an effect. This has made a tremendous difference to the Army, both in fitting out the brigade groups and in its reinforcements and its logistics. There has been a high percentage of re-engagement among those who have completed their period of service.
I do not want to speak for too long because of the time limit on this debate. But I do want to make some reference to equipment, in respect of which there has been some criticism. As I have said, our forces are well equipped with modern conventional weapons. Out of the total of £65,500,000 provided for the Army this year, it is possible, after allowing for maintenance, to allocate only £9,000,000 for new arms, of which at least £8,000,000 worth are on order at present. If honorable members look at the relevant figures they will find that, over the last ten years, 14.6 per cent, of Army expenditure has been devoted to arms. New arms are very expensive indeed.
We must realize that, as a growing young nation of only 10,000,000 people, it is quite impossible for us to have everything that we want. It is necessary therefore to allocate priorities both to equipment and to the works or buildings that we require. It must be remembered, too, that, because most of the Army buildings throughout Australia are of wartime vintage and of a temporary character, their useful life is now ending and they have to be replaced by more permanent structures. I think the Opposition will understand something about that. Therefore, this is a great financial problem. All that we can do is to apply the priorities test and get the most important buildings as they are needed.
Recently, as some honorable members will know, we opened a new barracks at Puckapunyal, costing over £1,500,000. Before the end of this year, a new signals personnel barracks will be opened and will cost about £1,200,000. Other very important works are under construction in Bandiana and elsewhere. In the two or three years that I have held this portfolio, the housing of our troops has improved enormously. I think that there is a great deal of satisfaction throughout the Service at the effort that has been made for the soldiers and their families. This year, we will build 100 married quarters. In addition, under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement another 240 houses will be built. Thus, we are catching up with the deficiency that existed throughout Australia and which was a great deterrent to recruiting. .
I can say, in all truth, to this committee that there has been great progress, not only in the Army but, as indicated by the Minster for Defence (Mr. Townley), in all the Services. But, speaking only for the Army, I say that great progress has been made. We are very proud indeed of the record of our soldiers in Malaya. I said something about that here the other day. We are proud of the standard of training which has been achieved and of the quality of the men in the Australian Army which, I think, is one of the best in the world. Only last week, when our troops were leaving Malaya, Sir Richard Hull, Commander-in-Chief of the Far East Land Forces, complimented the troops on their performance in Malaya. Whilst I was there, the brigadier in charge of the Commonwealth Brigade, Brigadier Mogg, told me that Australian troops were some of the finest that he had ever commanded in his life. They were men of a fine type, well trained, and in every capacity they were splendid soldiers by any standard. One can feel proud of these men and I am quite certain that if ever they are called upon, they will give a splendid account of themselves. 1 am very glad that, on this occasion, members of the Opposition have made no criticism of the amount proposed to be appropriated for defence. That criticism has been levelled on other occasions, some Opposition members claiming that we should spend the money on houses instead of defence. Anybody who has any knowledge of the necessity for us to play our part under defence agreements, cannot be acting in the interests of this nation when he says that. I am sure that the people would not support such criticism.
Defence should not be dealt with on a party level. We are all interested in defence and I think that, in this respect, the Government should receive some encouragement from the Opposition. I am very pleased to say that, in many respects, I do get a good deal of encouragement from certain members of the Opposition during the course of the year, and I am thankful for it. We have a big job to do in difficult circumstances. I feel that progress is being made and that we can claim that we are constantly conscious of the role that we may be called upon to play in this part of the world.
.- The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) was very critical of the Opposition for what he called “ childish “ or “ rubbishing “ criticisms of the defence proposals. The criticisms that we have made are not merely the criticisms of the Opposition, but of a wide section, and a very responsible section, of the community. The Labour Party certainly does not advocate that we should leave this country undefended. But the Opposition does reserve to itself the right to call into question the way in which approximately £1,800,000,000 has been spent in Australia while this Government has been in power.
It is not only the Parliamentary Labour Party that is concerned about this matter. Last night the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) made some statements on it. Referring to the Government’s defence policy and expenditure, he said -
It does not really matter very much except insofar as it may enable us to make a mora effective, sentimental appeal to our allies.
That was his opinion of the kind of defence that the Government is providing for this country. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) stated that our defence forces are in better shape to-day than ever before in peace-time. Surely this is not the criterion by which to judge this matter. The criterion should be the questions, “ How do our defences measure up to modern concepts of defence? How do our defences measure up to the kind of situation in which we could find ourselves if we were involved in another war? “ Our peace-time requirements in days gone by seem to me to be pretty irrelevant to the needs of to-day.
I should like to make a few brief comments on some of the observations made by Ministers concerned with the defence services. The Minister for Defence defended the Government’s defence expenditure by saying that about £1,100,000,000 has been spent on the maintenance and upkeep of our service personnel. He said that £606,000,000, I think, has been paid out in salaries to our servicemen. The Minister went on to say that a lot of this money finds its way back into the economy, because servicemen and their families spend it on eggs, butter, clothing and all the other things that are necessary to daily life. That may be. But that, in itself, may be a factor contributing to our present inflationary situation. Unfortunately, we have had to reserve for defence great resources of what may be called non-productive labour, and we have been spending a great deal of money on non-productive or non-consumer goods. Servicemen and their families have to be fed and clothed. They spend their money and demand a share of the goods and services available in the community, which are provided by the rest of the community which is not directly involved in defence.
By the end of this financial year, we shall have spent approximately £1,800,000,000 on defence, and it is only proper that the Parliament should examine just what is involved in this expenditure. One of the questions that the Parliament should ask is:
What is the real cost to this community? The real cost is expressed in what the economist calls opportunity costs, or the cost of the goods and services that the community is forced to forgo when it spends money on defence in this way. This involves all kinds of goods and services. I do not advocate that we should necessarily spend less on defence, but it is just as well to remind ourselves of the goods and services that we are being forced to forgo. We are spending very nearly f 200,000,000 a year on defence. An equivalent amount would enable us to wipe out the means test overnight and to increase the rates of all pensions. That is one way of looking at the matter. We could wipe out the means test and thereby enable 500,000 people who are eligible by age, but are excluded by the means test, to get the age pension, and we could increase the rates of pension paid to all the 1,100,000 potential pensioners in the country to-day.
Another way of looking at the matter relates to housing. The amount of approximately £200,000,000 which we are spending on defence every year would build 50,000 additional homes a year, and these would enable us to house, I suppose, about 250,000 more people. Think what an additional 50,000 homes a year would do to help our immigration programme and national development! I do not say that the money that we now spend on defence should necessarily be spent on these things, but I remind honorable members and the country at large that we are making these sacrifices. Our educational authorities are pleading for an extra £100,000,000 to spend on our schools. Additional expenditure of this magnitude would transform the face of education in Australia. Yet, every year, we spend approximately twice as much as this on defence!
It is proper that we inquire into what we are getting for the money that we are spending on defence. What are we getting instead of the opportunities and the goods and “services that we could have but have to forgo? I am trying to inculcate an attitude of examination and critical appraisal of these things. At the present time, there is a song and dance going on in the New South Wales Parliament about an alleged scandal involving the loan of about £4,500,000 to a cement company. An amount of £4,500,000 represents only the smallest of peanuts compared with the defence expenditure that we are discussing now.
In this context, we may as well ask ourselves also: What are we doing in a positive way to ensure world peace and to make this kind of expenditure unnecessary? Are we acting positively in that respect? What are we doing to encourage cultural inter-changes, not only at official levels, but also at all levels of the community? What are we doing to promote these interchanges, and closer friendship and understanding, with our near Asian neighbours? These are things that may assist us, in the long run, to reduce this terrific expenditure on defence. We are giving international assistance through the Colombo Plan, but sometimes I wonder whether we should not spend a lot more in that field rather than on, say, national service training. Might we not receive better dividends in terms of national defence if we were to spend more on international aid?
Assuming that we accept the view that this kind of defence planning must be undertaken, I ask: ls it a good thing that Australia - a large continent with a comparatively small population - places this emphasis on man-power. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) advocated this kind of emphasis. He said that we should concentrate on man-power rather than on nuclear weapons. I think it was the same honorable gentleman who said that our task should be to supply our allies with man-power. To my mind a country like Australia, with so small a population, and at this stage of its historical development, should not place the emphasis on supplying its allies with man-power. That is about the last thing that we should do. Australia could help its allies far more in the field of technical development, with particular emphasis on its own national development, and especially by providing a modern Air Force. It may be. too, that we could provide submarine forces. It has become fashionable, in the last few weeks, to advocate the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines. A country with a population as small as is Australia’s demands, above all. mobility of a very high order in its defence forces. This is essential if our defence expenditure is to be effective.
That is the main burden of my contribution to the consideration of this group of estimates. I think that the last thing we should do is to place the emphasis on manpower. For that reason, I call into question again, as I have done several times previously in the short time during which 1 have been a member of this Parliament, the national service training scheme. 1 cannot see any future for that scheme in terms of effective defence for this country. Australia has to think of its defence in terms of conventional warfare - and it will have to do that - and it cannot afford the very expensive intercontinental missiles and other weapons that the great powers can acquire. If Australia is to think of its defence contribution in terms of conventional warfare, it would be far better, instead of spending £143,000,000 on national service training, as we have done, to wipe out the scheme altogether - the Government has already accomplished two-thirds of that task - and release for other duties the Regular Army men who are engaged in giving national service trainees part-time training, and the administrative personnel involved in the scheme. We should not then have such impressive looking figures indicating the number of people being trained, but we should have a bigger Regular Army than we have now.
A mobile Regular Army, well equipped for the task that we are imposing upon it, could make a far more effective contribution to our defence than we are making by wasting money on the national service training scheme, as we have done so far. I suggest that, if we do happen to become engaged in a major war, we are not likely to be able to supply modern weapons of the kind that would be generally used in such a war. So, I think it is better for us to have a well trained and highly mobile force ready to play its part in conventional warfare on a restricted scale, like the kind of warfare taking place in Malaya at present.
The whole national service training scheme has become a farce. We have adopted the ridiculous notion of a lottery to select those who shall take part in it. We should be far better off, and we could make a far better contribution to our economic welfare and our ultimate defence, if we allowed those national service trainees whom we take into the Army to remain in their civilian occupations. I have made representations in this Parliament on behalf of teachers, for instance, for exemption from training. Some science teachers have been taken out of our schools to undergo national service training. They could make a far greater contribution to our defence if they were employed in schools where they could train the scientific brains that this country will need ever so much more than it needs national service trainees. I think we must be honest about these things. It is no good parading a whole lot of figures and statistics; they can be made to look impressive if all the little gadgets are included. But the real need is to look at the position honestly. I do not think that the Government should necessarily interpret the remarks that we make as being political. Our intention is to provide a safe defence for this country, and I have suggested that that could be better done if we had a smaller but a full-time regular force well equipped, mobile and ready to take its place in the kind of war that this country could possibly manage.
It is very difficult for the ordinary man in the community, even if he has had experience in the services, to make a proper assessment of the effectiveness of our defence expenditure. We are very dependent on our military experts; we are very dependent on the few people who have access to the right information, and I would remind them, if they need reminding, that they have a very big moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that the millions of pounds that could be used for some other worth-while project are being used for the real defence of Australia and not used merely as a token, political gesture to our international friends and to the electors in our community.
15.421. - I have been somewhat puzzled by the speech of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds). He began by saying that his party would not leave Australia undefended, and proceeded to giveillustrations of what could be done with the defence vote if it were spent on removing the means test, on housing and other simil lar needs. He disclaimed any suggestion that it would be preferable to spend the money in that way rather than on defence, but he has left me with the uncomfortable and inevitable feeling that that is the case that he would prefer. He questioned whether the money now used for the training of young men to defend Australia could not be better spent in educating them in the sciences. Presumably, he means that they would then be able to make a better contribution, through science, to the defence of the country. Of course, we must have an educated population if we are to defend ourselves in this dangerous and difficult world, but we must also have people trained directly for the defence of the country.
I have risen in this debate to answer some 6f the comments that have been made, either expressly or by implication, about the present state of the Royal Australian Air Force, its effectiveness and its readiness and capacity to discharge its task. That task is to provide for the air defence of Australia - it is generally stated in those wide terms - rand it does so first by providing the air component of those forces which Australia maintains to discharge its obligations to its allies in this part of the world. Secondly, its task is to be ready if ever the need should arise - we believe the contingency to be remote - to defend Australia from our own bases against attack from outside.
Australia, as one of the smaller powers, has an Air Force at present very well equipped and trained for its needs, commensurate with its resources and responsibilities. Critical comparisons are frequently made, not least of all in this chamber, and they lay at the back of some of the remarks of the honorable member for Barton, between the present equipment of a small power and the latest aircraft of the major powers, some of which are still only under development. These comparisons can be very misleading. Excluding the great powers, only two nations are generally reckoned to have larger air forces than that of Australia. They are Canada and Sweden, and both of these countries have concentrated almost exclusively on fighter aircraft. No doubt this suits their strategic needs very well, but it would not suit ours. Our first responsibility is to contribute, with our allies, to the collective defence of our own part of the word. The honorable member for Barton asked what is being done in a positive way to preserve peace. The peace of the world very largely depends on effec tive collective regional defence against aggression, and our first responsibility, as 1 said, is to contribute with our allies to the collective defence of our own part of the world; that is, South-East Asia and the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. To do this, our aircraft must be able to operate over a wide area, often at long distances from their home bases, and must be able to act in a wide variety of roles.
We have three squadrons of Canberras, which still make up the best bomber force of any small power. 1 emphasize this, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Excluding the great powers, no other nation has a jet bomber force as large or as well armed as ours. Then we have three front-line fighter squadrons equipped with Avon-Sabres, well able to deal with any potential enemy now likely to be encountered in the areas I have referred to. The honorable member for Barton asked: How does our equipment measure up to modern concepts of defence’/ This is an answer to his inquiry. The fact that our Avon-Sabre squadrons can measure up to any potential enemy we are likely to meet has been amply demonstrated by the successes of the Nationalist Chinese Air Force over its Communist opponents in the Formosa Straits in September and October of last year and again last July. The Nationalist Chinese Air Force Sabres, which are aircraft of a somewhat lesser performance than our Avon-Sabres, scored successes over their Communist enemies at a ratio of more than ten to one.
– This sounds like a wartime communique to me!
– The honorable member can check the facts for himself. I am not putting my own conclusions; I am putting facts which are open to examination.
– They are jokes.
– They are open to examination even by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith.
– Where do you get your information?
– You can get it, if you like, from the newspapers. The facts I gave about the successes of the Nationalists over the Communists appeared in the newspapers.
I have spoken of our bomber force and of our fighter force. In the distribution of our resources, we give great weight to maritime reconnaissance, as befits an island nation like Australia. The Neptune P2V5 is a first-class modern aircraft now being improved by the addition of small jet engines to increase its performance. The first of these aircraft to be so fitted returned to Australia from America this week. Our Neptunes are constantly being exercised with the Royal Australian Navy in a common anti-submarine doctrine taught at the joint Naval and Air Force Antisubmarine School at Nowra. They regularly take part in Seato exercises, and in exchanges of aircraft with the United States Navy at Honolulu.
Our transport wing has been brought right up to date by the addition of twelve new Hercules aircraft. So, it will be seen that our resources in the Air Force have been spread over the four main aspects of air warfare - striking, air defence, maritime reconnaissance and transport.
It is often the fashion in some circles, and we have heard it again to-day, to decry the equipment of our Australian forces. It should be remembered that the R.A.A.F. Canberra Squadron now serving with the Strategic Reserve in Malaya, is providing half the striking force immediately available to the Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth Far East Air Force. Our two Sabre squadrons based at Butterworth provide the front line of the fighter defence of that air force.
Time will not allow me, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to cover in this committee many other developments which I would like to mention, such as airfield construction both at home and in Malaya, the establishment of a mobile radar control and reporting unit at Butterworth, the imminent establishment of another radar unit at Darwin, for which work is now going on, the introduction of Quadradar at Air Force bases at home to allow our aircraft to operate safely in any weather, and the constant training and planning for mobility.
Several times in this debate we have heard the question, “What has been done with the money? “ Well, I will tell you so far as the Air Force is concerned. In the last three years the Royal Australian Air Force has spent a total of nearly £168,000,000. Much of this has gone in paying, clothing, and feeding a uniformed force of approximately 15,500 men and women. This has accounted for about 6s. 4d. in every £1 spent by the Air Force over the last three years. The next major part of the total amount has gone in paying for maintenance equipment and stores. In varying proportions over the three years this section has absorbed between 4s. and 5s. of the Air Force £1. Next comes expenditure on new aircraft, which has varied between 2s. Hd. and 2s. lOd. in the £1 over those years. This year, a total of £9,230,000 will be spent on the purchase and production of aircraft. The balance of the Air Force £1 has gone on housing and works, general services, repairs, overhauls and modification of aircraft, and new equipment of all sorts other than aircraft.
The most interesting aspect of an analysis of Air Force spending is the relation of the cost of maintenance to that of new capital equipment. In 1956-57, and again in 1957-58, maintenance absorbed almost 15s. 6d. of the Air Force £1, leaving only 4s. 6d., for new capital equipment of all sorts, including aircraft, radar, airfields, housing and new equipment and building of all kinds. The effort to reduce the proportion of the cost of maintenance to capital expenditure bore fruit last year, when the cost of maintenance was only 14s. 3d. in the £1, leaving 5s. 9d. for new capital expenditure. This showed a very considerable improvement in the previous relationship between capital expenditure and maintenance expenditure. The budget for the present year maintains this proportion - 14s. 3d. for maintenance to 5s. 9d. for new capital expenditure.
– Does the Minister not think that the cost of m’aintenance is still too high?
– Well, there has been a very great improvement, and it reflects a determined and successful effort to keep down the cost of maintenance, so that as much as possible can be spent on new equipment. This has been achieved only by a persistent search for efficiency and economy, the most recent example of which has been the re-arrangement of the command structure, undertaken in conjunction with the movement of the head-quarters of the Department of Air from Melbourne to
Canberra. That re-arrangement was intended to achieve a more logical division of function in the Air Force between operations and support, to review and improve the distribution of authority and administration between the head-quarters of the Department of Air and the commands, and to economize in the numbers of people engaged in head-quarters’ tasks, thus freeing more for operational units.
I have spoken, Mr. Temporary Chairman, of the constant search in the Royal Australian Air Force for efficiency and economy. Recently, I had a comparison made of the ratio of men to aircraft in the air forces of a number of allied countries. In the Royal Australian Air Force we have an average of 30 men for each aircraft that we operate. This is the lowest number, by far, in any air force, except one, for which figures are available to ms. That one is an air defence force operating entirely from home bases and relying on civilian contract for maintenance and domestic services. The comparison speaks well for the efficiency and operational economy of the Royal Australian Air Force.
The last thing I want to do this afternoon is to suggest an atmosphere of complacency, either on my part or for my department. The tasks which the Royal Australian Air Force may have to face are serious and heavy, and we have to solve many problems of equipment, of airfields and of training. But in justice to those who are responsible for the present state of the Royal Australian Air Force, whether they are in high rank or low, it should be said that their equipment is good, their judgment has been sound, and they are meeting their problems with confidence and vigour.
.- In the few moments at my disposal, perhaps the best I can do is to sum up the Opposition’s attitude on the defence group of Estimates, and to give a symposium of its views on the matter. In the first place, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) has completely misrepresented the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds). The average Labourite and the average citizen, looking at our services generally, and with some pride, wonders why, in the years during which the Liberal Government has been in power, our defence services have cost us £1,767,000,000. They ask, and quite properly, since this sum represents approximately the amounts provided for in Budgets for two whole years, “ What have we got for the money? “ Immediately that question is asked we are assailed on all sides. lt is said by Government supporters, “ You do not want an air force; you do not want a navy; you do not want everything up to date, and you do not understand our problems “. Either the Government cannot explain its dilemma, or its publicity organization needs an application of elbow grease so that it can tell the story to the world and to the ordinary observer, including honorable members on this side.
Consider, for example, the matter of the Centurion tanks. Everywhere there is a note of comedy which is highly dangerous for our defence. It is alleged - and alleged with some conviction - that the Centurion tanks cannot be carried by our existing transport facilities and, therefore, cannot take part in operations. In the operation at Mackay the Centurion tanks were not included because they could not get there. They cannot be shifted. I understand that the River class ships that are being sold today are the only government-owned ships that can lift the Centurion tanks. We charge the Government with a complete lack of co-ordination. The Hercules transport aircraft cannot lift the Centurion tanks. As to our Navy - and we say it with despair - much of it is in mothballs or swinging at anchor, and much of it is completely and horribly obsolete or obsolescent.
The Government may be confronted with a dilemma, it may be faced with an almost insoluble problem, but it should at least be frank about it, and not come before this Parliament telling us that we have a naval force here, and a naval force there, and that we have the best of possible conditions, when every visible circumstance points to a completely crippling state of affairs in which money has been expended without value being obtained for it.
On every side we hear these words “ obsolete “ and “ obsolescent “. We pay millions of pounds for something that is going to be out of date before we get it. In those circumstances, why does the Government pay out the money? Why does it not listen to arguments such as that put forward by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who says we still must have troops. Even if we cannot have nuclear submarines costing £30,000,000 or £50,000,000, or expensive rockets with atomic warheads, we can still have some kind of a defence force. But on every hand we find the same kind of situation has developed. We have not yet got over the tragedy of St. Mary’s, an ammunition factory which does not produce ammunition. It has been flogged for contractors, but it has never been efficient, and it is only now slowly approaching efficiency.
Then there is the FN .30 rifle, about which the Minister talks so glibly. We are told that the allied forces of the world are to be co-ordinated and that the soldiers of every army will shoulder the same kind of rifle. Well, the Americans are not shouldering the FN for a start. They are shouldering the Garand rifle.
– Order! The time allotted for consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Defence, Department of the Navy, Department of the Army, Department of Air, Department of Supply, and Other Services has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Advance to the Treasurer.
Proposed Vote, £13,500,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- Speaking on the proposed vote for Miscellaneous Services, I wish to make some reference to the Colombo Plan. At the outset I want to state’ very definitely that I am not opposed to the plan. However, I feel that the money provided in the Estimates for this purpose could be better spent on improving some of the features of life in the recipient countries than in the way it is being spent at the moment. For instance, it could be spent on the provision of food, the improvement or provision of sanitation, the provision of pure water supplies and of housing and hospitals. Indeed, 1 would go so far as to say that the whole framework of the plan should be overhauled, especially in view of the criticisms that have recently appeared in the press, so as to apply the plan in a better fashion to the wants of the people in the recipient countries.
In 1957 I was privileged to visit India and Pakistan with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation. I want to say now that what I saw in those two countries made a very definite impact on my thinking. In fact, I, with a lot of other honorable members who had never been to India or Pakistan before, was shocked at what I saw there. So great was the impact on me that I felt that when I returned to Australia and told people here about what I had seen there they would not believe me. Consequently, I went to some expense to bring not only copies of newspapers from India and Pakistan, but also government journals which confirm what I told people on my return.
Since my visit I have been asked questions about the Colombo Plan. One person who is very interested in the plan is the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird). He asked me on my return what I thought of the plan, and I informed him that I was not impressed by what I saw of it in operation. Since I made my statements on the plan to various people articles have appeared in Australian newspapers which more or less support my contentions about it. Only recently Osmar White wrote a series of articles for the Melbourne “ Herald “, but before referring to Osmar White’s articles I wish to refer to the disagreement that arose between a Mr. Cunningham, a man who visited Pakistan, and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), and to the comment that was made by the Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan about the news report of Mr. Cunningham’s criticism. The report of
Mr. Cunningham’s criticism of the Colombo Plan, which appeared in the Melbourne “Herald” in April, 1958, read in part-
The Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Casey, personally had seen “ colossal wastage “ of Colombo Plan equipment sent to Pakistan by Australia, Mr. R. E. G. Cunningham said to-day.
Mr. Casey denied statements about Colombo Plan wastage “ running into millions “ made last week by Mr. Cunningham, an Australian sheepman who recently worked in Pakistan. “ I have pictures of Australian equipment lying idle at the big Quetta research station,” Mr. Cunningham said to-day. “ Tractors, tillage implements and big farm machinery is lying in waste and rusting on the station.”
The report continues - “ Pakistan is still living in the steam age and we are sending them modern equipment of the atomic age.” “ The best way to help these people is to approach them from the very bottom level.” “ It is no good sending them steel ploughs because that requires two more bullocks to pull the plough and the average Pakistani couldn’t afford that.”
That is quite true. The report continues -
Mr. Cunningham also suggests setting up schools to coach Pakistanis in elementary animal husbandry and hygiene.
Hygiene is a definite necessity over there.
The report goes on - “ If Australia set up a six months’ course for 500 boys, it would do a tremendous amount of good,” he said. “In one year this would mean that 1,000 young men had been educated and could then go back into the villages and pass on what they had been taught.”
The Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Major-General Sir Walter Cawthorn, described these charges as wild and reckless. I was hopeful that they were; but since then Osmar White’s articles were published in the Melbourne “ Herald “, the first appearing on the 15th of last month. The “ Herald “ introduced this series of articles with the following statement: -
Last year “ Herald “ journalist Osmar White was seconded to the Commonwealth Government to survey Australian Colombo Plan projects in South and South-East Asia.
In six months he travelled more than 30,000 miles through 16 Asian countries, and spent a further three months studying Plan policy and history and preparing a confidential report for the Department of External Affairs.
Mr. White’s lengthy series of articles state, among other things -
In the field of diplomacy, the plan has scored substantial success. It has done much to convince understandably distrustful Asians - at least those of the governing classes - that their Western political allies are genuinely trying to help them achieve better living standards and greater security.
This article continues -
But, to my mind, it would be unfortunate if Australians continued to support the plan for the wrong reasons.
It would be even more unfortunate if we continued to support the plan in the belief that we arc winning lasting gratitude or undying friendships in Asia by providing gift machinery for irrigation projects in Pakistan and India, or a few score scholarships in law or engineering for bright youngsters from Siam. Sarawak or Sumatra.
No realist can regard the Colombo Plan as an inspired, magical formula for abolishing Asian poverty, ignorance or ineptitude within a decade or two.
In his next article Osmar White supports what Mr. Cunningham had to say. The article, which appeared on the next day under the heading “ Colombo machinery has been wasted “, read in part -
One of the questions people most often ask me about the practical workings of the Colombo Plan is this:
Is it true that much valuable machinery given by Australia to Asian countries under the Plan has been wrecked by misuse or neglect, or never used at all?
The answer is yes.
Many hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of expensive modern equipment has been misused, neglected or - as yet - not used at all.
There are a number of reasons for this.
He then gives the reasons.
– Which country is he talking about?
– He is referring to the Asian countries which receive Colombo Plan aid. He even told in an article where the machinery was lying. This particular article continued -
The Asian countries to which the equipment was sent are desperately short of trained mechanics and machine operators.
They are still inefficient in most branches of industrial management - and the lower ranks of public administrations are still riddled with graft and favoritism.
Many are short of foreign exchange.
The authorities in the donor countries which approved gift shipments in the first place must have been aware of these deficiencies and have realized that, in many cases, poor practical use would be made of what they were sending.
In spite of this, they decided to go ahead and make the gift. lt is evident that there are great deficiencies in this plan and that we should reorient our thinking on it. We should try to do more for the masses instead of trying to force our technicians on them. These people are not ready for that sort of thing and I think the money could be better spent on housing, hospitals and, most important of all, food. What amazed me when I was in India was the ability of the Hindus to lie down in the street on a steaming day and go to sleep on the hot pavement. That puzzled me until I came to realize, after conversations with others, that they were able to do that because of lack of resistance. They were either absolutely starving or near to starvation point. I am not speaking of just a few Hindus but millions who are in this condition. So if we can use some of the millions of pounds that we are spending to give some food to these people we will be doing more to combat all the troubles that we read about in those countries concerning communism.
An interesting article appeared in the “ Age “ on 4th September, 1956, under the headline “ India Offered American Wheat “. The article stated -
The Australian Ambassador (Sir Percy Spender) has expressed Australia’s “ concern “ at the United States promise of surplus wheat to India under the new 350 million dollar loan-aid agreement . . .
Sir Percy Spender gave his reasons for Australia’s concern. He wanted to know how the wheat was to be offered. To give some further indication of the problems of these countries, particularly when it is remembered that their population increases by about 5,000,000 people every year, I point out that Professor Carl Forster, speaking at the Wesley Church Pleasant Sunday Afternoon said -
Every hour, somewhere in the world, 7,500 people died from starvation.
That emphasizes my point that it is more necessary to turn our attention to supplying food, housing and hospitals to these people than it is to bother about machinery, which even Mr. Nehru admits that they do not want.
I want to refer now to an article written by Mr. Rohan Rivett. This article was supported by Mr. Nehru in what is known as the Lok Sabha or federal parliament of India. Mr. Rivett was referring to some
American tourists who were journeying through India. This article was written shortly after I came back from India in 1957. Mr. Rivett states -
In any of a hundred construction projects you see thousands of coolies scooping up and carrying pitiful baskets of a few pounds of earth on their heads for perhaps a hundred yards. Endlessly, painfully, slowly, they repeat the process. The American wants to put in two men with two bulldozers and do the day’s work of the thousand coolies in a couple of hours. What the American doesn’t work out is what happens to the 998 coolies thus unemployed . . . So it is hard for him to realize why the Indian government as a principle prefers to have 1,000 men working without mechanisation and with (to Americans) appalling inefficiency, rather than have two mechanised efficient operators and 998 men on the dole.
Unfortunately there is no dole and Mr. Nehru commented on this statement in the Lok Sabha. He said it was true that two men could do the work of those 1,000 men in a couple of hours but he said that India did not want modern implements. He said that he would have to provide sustenance for the other 998 men. Already India’s first five-year plan has failed. The country cannot get enough food. An article in the “Herald” on 10th September, 1958, carried the headline, “ ‘ Give us bread or gaol ‘ - Indian cry “. Another article, written by Osmar White, carries the headline, “ Death on the Dum Dum Road “.
To conclude my remarks I appeal to the Government to take heed of these things and see whether it can spend more of the money provided for these countries on food, hospitals and housing.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to direct the attention of honorable members to Miscellaneous Services, Division No. 622, in which there are several items on which I should like to comment. I will also deal with Division No. 626, which concerns the Commonwealth Office of Education, and finally with Division No. 636 in which there is an item “ Commonwealth Council for National Fitness “ under the Department of Health.
Mr. Temporary Chairman, I have reason to believe that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is concerned at the long list - which tends to increase year by year - of grants under his department, all of which I am sure are perfectly justified. For example, there is a grant of £8,000 to the Surf Life Saving Association and a similar grant to the Royal Life Saving Society. Those are most commendable grants indeed, and my friend, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), who wears the badge of a life-saving association, will agree with that statement. I have no reason to do other than commend the Government for those grants, as well as the grants for the Boy Scouts Association and the Girl Guides Association.
I believe that grants of this type would be far better located under a division which was indicative of a specific interest in the fitness of people in Australia, particularly young people, and also relative to service to youth.
It is in this connexion that I want to make some observations and recommendations. But before I leave Division No. 622, may I take the opportunity to express appreciation to the Government for the grant of £15,000 to the British and Foreign Bible Society to aid in the setting up of that splendid Bible House which will stand for so many years as a monument in this Federal Capital of Canberra. The Bible House will be on an ideal site, the selection of which was assisted by the Government. When this Bible House is opened I am sure that many, if not all, honorable members will agree that it is a significant contribution to the development of the Federal Capital of Australia.
My interest in national fitness and the youth of Australia leads me to suggest that the Prime Minister would express his gratification if these grants to youth and to fitness bodies could be grouped preferably under the Office of Education, which, as I remind the committee, already is interested in finance to the universities of Australia, is responsible for the operation of the Commonwealth scholarships scheme, is the section under the Prime Minister’s Department which handles the presentation of Australian national flags to the various schools of the Commonwealth and deals with grants in aid to colleges of nursing and similar grants to other worthy bodies. I believe that it would be a move in the right direction, which further comments of mine here to-night I hope will confirm, if a fitness and youth services division could be set up under the Office of Education.
A further development of which we should all take note as being significant is that within a matter of weeks in Australia a national youth council is to be established. For many years we have been at a disadvantage in youth activities in this country because when Australia has wanted to send a representative or a delegate to overseas conferences of the World Assembly of Youth, it has been found that because the only co-ordination of youth work in Australia has been through the National Fitness Council, which was government-sponsored, there was no entitlement for a delegate to go to the World Assembly of Youth because delegates to that international body - the democratic youth body of the world - must have no direct relationship or sponsorship with any government. The establishment of this Australian youth council in November will make possible direct representation of Australia for the first time. In fact, in anticipation, a move is current - a move which I have been pleased to recommend strongly to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) - to send a delegate from this newly established Australian National Council of Youth to a world assembly of youth seminar to be held in Tokyo during this month. To make that possible, it has been necessary to turn to the Commonwealth Government for assistance in the payment of the fares of that delegate. This is just another instance of an appeal to the Prime Minister and, if the grant in aid is made, it will appear as another addition to this long list of grants.
I have mentioned the Office of Education. It seems to me that the Office of Education, which already is carrying out the duties to which I have referred, should absorb all these applications for grants. It should be the co-ordinating body to place legitimate recommendations before the Prime Minister. Further, I repeat the proposal that I have advanced during debates on the Estimates of other years - that the vote for the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness, which at present appears under the estimates for the Department of Health, should ,be absorbed .by the Office of Education. The item is
No. 03 in Division No. 636, and the amount of the vote stands unchanged at £72,500.
– It has been unchanged for about five years.
– It has been unchanged, my friend of the Opposition, since the council was set up in 1944. I am surprised and bitterly disappointed that the Government, of which I am proud to be a supporter, has not recognized the importance of the National Fitness Council. This body has become the waif of the Department of Health. The Director-General of Health appears to be quite disinterested in this facet of his responsibilities. I have found that resolutions that were adopted at the Commonwealth council on national fitness that was held in this capital city some three or four years ago have been put to one side. The council has not been called when it should have been called. In these circumstances should the National Fitness Council, as a Commonwealth organization, be discontinued, notwithstanding the splendid service of the trained man who for so many years has held the office in the Commonwealth service of National Fitness Officer, and notwithstanding its undoubted value in the various States of the Commonwealth, its death by slow strangulation will stand to the discredit of the permanent head of the Department of Health.
On 22nd September, only a couple of weeks ago, in reply to my repeated representations, I received from the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) a letter in the following terms: -
I can now tell you that the position has been carefully considered and, as a result, it has been decided that the Commonwealth should continue to participate in the movement, but that continued Commonwealth participation should be without increased financial responsibility.
In making this decision it was again pointed out that the Commonwealth grant was intended as a stimulation to State action in fields of activity which are regarded primarily as State functions and it was therefore suggested that State Governments should be encouraged to increase their contributions and to accept more complete responsibility for financing the activities of the movement within their respective States.
Had it not been for the representations of some honorable members, and of bodies outside this Parliament which have had direct association with this movement which embraces so many of the youth of Australia, and had we not continued our agitation, 1 suspect that the proposed vote that now appears in the Estimates may not have appeared this year or in subsequent years.
In his letter the Minister has spoken of the Commonwealth stimulating action by the States. 1 cannot reconcile the claim that is conveyed in the official correspondence and the attitude of the Government in allowing the provision to remain unchanged, with any idea of stimulating something that carries a Commonwealth title. If this is a Commonwealth national fitness movement, and if a Commonwealth Minister and a Commonwealth department are responsible for its administration, it stands to the Government’s discredit that no move has been made to stimulate financially, to take a direct interest in, to command and to make the movement more attractive to the growing population of our Australian youth. If, for example, the administrative responsibility were mine, I would be. compelled to classify the situation as stagnant, and I would be ashamed that my administration had caused a youth activity of this kind to fall into discard while we see ample evidence of what national governments in other countries are doing by actively seeking means to help their young people. Is Australia the only nation which is not concerned about its teenagers? Do we have to take the time to study the situation in the United States of America? ls it necessary for me to refer, during this debate on the Estimates, to the youth services in Great Britain? I suggest, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the daily press contains ample reports of the delinquency and general conduct of young people, which warrants governments, Commonwealth and State, and local government authorities, facing up to their responsibilities.
I have referred to the youth services in Great Britain. I should like to remind the committee that the English Education Act of 1944, and the corresponding Scottish legislation gave official recognition to the view that the State - that is, the Government of the United Kingdom - must be responsible for the provision of social and physical training and the means of intelligent recreation for all young people who want them. Therefore, a three-fold partnership was set up in which the national government, the local government authorities and the voluntary youth organizations of the United Kingdom participated. Since 1944 the youth services of the United Kingdom have moved on apace. It is interesting for us to note also that during the campaign prior to the election to be held in the United Kingdom to-morrow, the leaders of the various parties realized that the teenagers are receiving pay packets totalling approximately £800,000,000 sterling a year. The attitude of the teenagers generally to the election is rather interesting. Youths in the 15 to 19 age group were recorded in a survey as believing that all politicians are phony and that all politics are dull. Realizing that if this attitude were allowed to continue it could have a damaging effect upon the prestige of Parliament and of the Government, the various parties vigorously attacked the problems of youth during their election campaigns. They said that the very estimable policy of giving service to youth would be stimulated in the event of their obtaining power as a result of the election.
In the United Kingdom great charitable trusts have been set up to carry on the tradition of helping to finance youth work. A notable example of this was given by the King George Jubilee Trust, which was founded in 1935 with a national thanks offering on the occasion of the silver jubilee of King George V., which realized over £1,000,000. His Majesty commanded that this sum was to be devoted to the welfare of the rising generation. There has been a constant flow of money from that fund to the voluntary youth organizations which are endeavouring to train the young people of the United Kingdom to be better citizens.
In conclusion I say to the committee and to the Government that surely we do not have to wait for very many more years before a similar charitable trust is established in Australia. It could make a very valuable contribution towards supplementing the Commonwealth Government’s inadequate financial vote and interest.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Like my colleague, the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor), I wish to speak about the Colombo Plan. I agree with him that, under the present situation, all is not well with the plan. I say that as one who has consistently championed it within Parliament and outside. But it should be the prerogative of members of this committee to suggest improvements to the plan so as to make it a vital force in the lives of the people of India and South-East Asia.
This plan has been in existence for eight years. At the time of its introduction it was hailed as a new international venture of co-operation and over the years Australia has spent just over £30,000,000 in various economic, technical and educational projects to help our Asian and South-East Asian neighbours. But after all that expenditure of the taxpayers’ money, we, as members of the Federal Parliament, are entitled to ask ourselves whether the money has been wisely spent and whether the plan has produced the goods.
I have not had the good fortune, like the honorable member for Gellibrand, to travel in the areas covered by the plan but from the reports that I have been able to read it appears that quite a lot should be done to amend the plan and place it on a stable basis. The original intention was that the plan should operate for six years but since that time expired it has been extended and it is reasonable to assume that it will take on a role of permanency in the foreseeable future.
It is impossible at this stage to get an overall crystal clear picture of the results of the plan in its entirety, but we can look at certain sections of the areas in which it is operated. When we diagnose these results we discover many ills. Sufficient time has not elapsed to enable us to ascertain whether the hopes of the sponsors who met in 1951 at their historic meeting in Colombo have been realized. I think it could be justifiably said that this plan, during its comparatively short existence, has made a helpful contribution to newly constituted independent nations. In the field of international relations it has been beneficial because it has engendered a feeling of mutual respect between Western and
Asian governments. It has provided a dignified formula under which Western countries can provide economic aid and technical know-how which Asian countries can accept without loss of self-respect. It has resulted also in a better understanding between East and West - particularly on the part of people in Asia who know that there is such a thing as Australia in the world and those who are capable of reading and understanding literature on the subject.
It is no use our deluding ourselves that our annual contribution of £5,000,000 in the past has been of substantial assistance to the Asian economy or that it has done much to educate the illiterate and unskilled Asian masses. I hope that nobody leans to the belief that because we make some machinery or scholarships available, the principle underlying these gifts has been fully appreciated by the Asian people. When all is said and done, £30,000,000 spent over seven years on 1,200,000,000 people does not mean a great deal in the lives of individual persons. Unfortunately, the Colombo Plan is not the panacea. It will not cure Asian poverty and ignorance within ten or even twenty years.
The clear idealism of the early years of the Colombo Plan is in strong contrast to the cold, stark facts presented annually by the consultative committee of the Colombo Plan countries. Each year I read with a great deal of interest the report of that committee, which is circulated among members. The seventh annual report, which was the last one issued, does not paint a very optimistic picture for either the present or the future. It states that although developmental activity is growing among nations in the area it is not growing at a sufficient rate to produce any real increase in the wealth and living standards of the people.
It should be clearly understood that the purpose of the Colombo Plan was not just to give a hand-out here and there to an occasional Asian nation, but to increase the production potential. If the productivity of these nations can be increased sufficiently, the products can be distributed among the people and raise their standard of living. But according to the consultative committee’s report the gap is widening between the economic capacity and the living standards .of Asia, compared with those of Western countries. The gap, instead of closing, is widening, and that is the very thing that nobody wants to happen. The export trade of South-East Asia has shown a marked decline.
It was hoped that if the plan was successful there would be an increase in the export trade but last year the overall value of goods exported from countries covered by the Colombo Plan dropped by 15 per cent. If it had increased by 4 or 5 per cent, as a result of increased productivity we would have felt the plan was succeeding. But such was not the case. Exports dropped by 15 per cent. By the end of the financial year 1957-58 the gold, foreign exchange and reserves of eight Colombo Plan countries from which data is available fell by 600,000,000 dollars. This adds up to a pretty dismal picture. The last report of the consultative committee points out that the economic progress in the Colombo Plan countries is desperately and perhaps dangerously low.
It is obvious that an approach of greater magnitude must be made if results of an enduring nature are to be achieved. It is quite easy to state a problem but it is far harder to provide a detailed solution. I do not suggest that anything that I may say will greatly affect the issue because I feel that the problems confronting the Colombo Plan organization as a whole are outside the control of any one nation. But we, as a nation, have some part to play. Quite frankly, I consider that the £30,000,000 that Australia has spent over the last seven years, and the £6,000,000 proposed to be spent this year is, altogether, only a drop in the ocean. Although it may have served some useful purpose in the past, I agree with the honorable member for Gellibrand that much of the equipment given to these countries has not been used and to-day is in a state of rust.
Three years ago I mentioned in this chamber that a consignment of tractors sent to Ceylon and placed upon farming land there had broken down and instead of being repaired and used were standing idle in the fields and rusting. Tractors do break down, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) knows from the unfortunate experiences he has had with them on his farm from time to time. Like human beings they are temperamental and break down. This happened in Ceylon and a year or two afterwards the unedifying spectacle was presented of disused tractors rusting in the fields, surrounded by Ceylonese farmers using the ox and goad. Whether that position has been rectified in the past three years I do not know.
But these are the situations in which we should certainly provide much more technical assistance. By that I do not mean that we should bring Asian students to Australia and try to find them places in our universities. The Australian universities cannot find room for all the Australian students who wish to attend. I know that that fact has been used against the Colombo Plan by certain people who do not like it. But we can reverse the process and send our technical experts to the Asian and South-East Asian countries. The consultative committee had this to say in its last report with regard to technical assistance -
Many countries of the area are now finding that shortages of people with required skills are even more frustrating obstacles than any limitations on capital resources.
In other words, they prefer technical skill to more money. We have to take notice of that statement. I think that, in addition, Australia should support any international action to stabilize the prices of food and raw materials that emanate from Asian countries. One of the great difficulties faced by Asian countries is that they depend for their export trade mainly on a comparatively few staple products, which, unfortunately, are subject to the fluctuations of the world market. Unfortunately, from our point of view, as soon as the Colombo Plan was brought into existence, and more or less intermittently ever since, just when we hoped for an increase in world prices for the staple products of the Asian countries, there was a decrease. The export trade of those countries has suffered in consequence. There has been a diminution of their national income. Consequently, no effect has been seen in these countries from the Colombo Plan as a whole.
We have to support any system of international aid whatsoever, and in that respect there has been a very noteworthy change in the outlook of all the Western countries since the war. Before the war, nobody ever thought of giving assistance to Asia, but to-day it is common practice among Western countries. There are three reasons why people support schemes for aid to Asia. The first is political expediency, arising out of the advent of world communism. Competition for the friendship of the lessdeveloped countries of As/a and SouthEast Asia is rather keen between the Western democracies and the Communist bloc, and economic assistance as a means of securing that friendship is used by both blocs. I hope that is not a reason why this country supports the Colombo Plan.
The second reason why people support aid for Asia is the reason of economic expediency. As the backward countries develop their resources and living standards, it is reasonable to expect that there will be an expanding market in them for the products of the advanced countries. It has been estimated by reputable authorities that a 5 per cent, increase in the income of the average Asian could lead to a doubling of Asia’s imports. As Australia sells a quarter of its exports to Asia, if we could ensure a 5 per cent, increase in the average income of Asians, it is quite possible that we could sell one-half of our exports to Asia. It is from that point of view that some people support the Colombo Plan.
I support the third reason that is given in favour of the Colombo Plan. It is that international economic assistance is a great force, brought about by the stirring of the moral conscience of the countries concerned. As this country is more advanced than the Asian countries to its north we have an obligation to assist in the relief of distress and to improve the living standards of people in a less fortunate position than ourselves. In other words, the Colombo Plan, to my way of thinking, is an extension of the concept of the welfare state from the national to the international plane.
The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) pointed out that the Commonwealth Government had requested Mr. Osmar White to make a report on the results of the Colombo Plan. The Government has a duty to make that report public as quickly as possible, in order that members can be appraised officially of the shortcomings of the plan. At the same time, we could give detailed study and attention to Mr. Osmar White’s recommendations as to how the plan can be improved. I hope that, because this report may be unsatisfactory to the Government and may cut across the Government’s policy over the last seven years, it will not be pigeon-holed. At the first opportunity, the Government should make the contents of the report available to the House so that we can have a discussion for two or three days and so that members may put forward positive suggestions to improve the position. If that is not done the Government will not be doing what it should do in the interests of the Australian taxpayer and of the unfortunate people living in the Asian countries adjacent to us. [Quorum formed.]
.- I was very pleased to hear the last two speeches from the Opposition side of the chamber - the speeches of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor). They were the first constructive speeches that I had heard from the Opposition during this debate. It is quite refreshing to me to find that sometimes in this Parliament we have interests in common, although most of our debates are somewhat acrimonious. The two previous speakers from the Opposition side both made thoughtful contributions to the discussion of great problems of the Colombo Plan and assistance to our Asian neighbours.
T should like to see our assistance under the Colombo Plan directed more towards enabling the Asians to help themselves. Admittedly, it is necessary for machinery, plant and guidance to be provided for them. Transport is needed, for example, in Indonesia. But I believe that many of these peoples are proud peoples, and that it is not healthy that we Westerners should try to force our ideas on to them. We can give guidance in medical hygiene and agricultural science, but it should be done more with the idea of helping them to help themselves.
The honorable member for Batman mentioned that the export incomes of these countries had fallen last year. That is quite true. The prices of primary commodities fell all over the world last year. The fall did not affect the Asian nations only.
It affected Australia also. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) took up the matter of commodity prices very strongly at the Montreal conference and at another conference in Europe. In order to assist the free Asian countries, we should ensure, if possible, that they get a fair and reasonable return for the commodities on which they live. It is strange that, all over the world, it is the primary producer who suffers when there is a recession in prices. The manufactured article always seems to bring a price which returns a profit. If there is exploitation, it takes place at the expense of the unfortunate primary producer.
I should like to turn to the question of education and refer to an item which appears at page 56 of the Estimates, in Division 226, “Oriental Languages - £56,000 “. That matter cropped up in the debate on foreign affairs. I feel that not sufficient attention is paid to the need to learn oriental languages. Russians who are sent to various diplomatic posts in Asia speak the language of the country to which they are sent. I remember that when the German official came to Tanganyika, or German East Africa as it was called in those days, he spoke Swahili, but the English official came from some other colonial post to East Africa and he had to learn the language. I think that much more attention should be paid to this matter. Oriental languages should be taught not only at university level. They should be included in the ordinary high school curriculum. In addition, members of the defence forces should be encouraged to learn these languages which are spoken in the countries in which Australian troops may have to serve.
We are a country which has bonds with Asia, and we should teach Asian languages in order that a greater proportion of our people may speak the languages of our neighbours. Certain lingua franca languages, as I shall term them, would help us. We do not need to cover all the dialects, but there are many that we should find very useful. The Malay language, for instance, serves in many parts of Asia, and Hindustani serves as a medium of communication over a great part of India. Australia should be prepared in this matter. It should teach these languages to its people. I feel that we can do so much more if we can speak the language of the country with which we are dealing.
I want to deal with another much more domestic matter - the bounty on superphosphate. This subject has been a fairly hardy annual in this chamber. In my mind, there is no doubt that the main part of our industries and our economy is based on primary production. For the remainder of this century, there is no possibility of manufactured goods earning enough foreign exchange to maintain our level of employment. The foreign exchange that we need must come from exports of primary products. Over most of Australia, superphosphate plays an important part in increasing production. As our population grows, it will consume more and more of the commodities that we should export in order to earn overseas funds. The superphosphate that we need to increase our production can be provided, but the price is much too high.
I use a great deal of superphosphate on my property. Every acre of my land is top-dressed annually. I can speak from considerable experience in this matter. I do not fear droughts. In fact, I prefer them to periods of heavy rainfall. The continued application of superphosphate over most of the country returns security to the farmer and the pastoralist. It builds up the soil fertility very considerably. Why should superphosphate be subsidized? The cost of any superphosphate that I buy is a cost of production, and it is deducted from my income before the assessment of tax. If superphosphate is subsidized, I deduct less from my taxable income, and I pay more in income tax because I produce more. Therefore, it is immaterial to me whether I pay more tax and receive the benefit of the subsidy or whether I pay more for my superphosphate and pay less in income tax.
However, the smaller man is not in so happy a position. He must make a cash outlay for the purchase of his superphosphate, and then he has to wait for its effect on his crop in order to recoup that outlay. Cash is very important in the financing of farming operations. Naturally, the return from the application of superphosphate is very great. The farmer then has to lay out more money in order to buy stock which will eat the grass grown as a result of the application of superphosphate to his land. So he is called upon to make two outlays of cash. That is too much for the small man. When he applies superphosphate to his land, he is forced to buy more stock and to produce more. The more he produces, the more he pays in income tax and so recoups the Government for the outlay of revenue on a superphosphate subsidy. However we look at it, it is a sound business proposition for the Government. If the Commonwealth subsidizes superphosphate, more will be used.
But it is not sufficient for the Commonwealth alone to take measures to make superphosphate cheaper. The transport costs on this commodity are far too high, and the State governments should subsidize the carriage of superphosphate by rail, because its use will increase production and provide more freight traffic, which will help to increase railway revenues. I spent many years in Kenya. When I was there, it cost 5s. to transport a tractor by rail from the coast to the highlands - a distance of between 300 and 400 miles. It cost 6s. for freight on a bottle of whisky. The tractor was productive, but the whisky was not. Items such as fencing wire and cattle dip, which helped production, were transported at ridiculously low rates, because the railwas a business proposition, and its policy was that productive goods should be carried cheaply. Conversely, the freights on nonproductive commodities were high. When I came to Australia, I bought a Caterpillar bulldozer in order to clear land, and thereby produce more wool and wheat. It cost me £35 to have that bulldozer transported by rail 250 miles inland from the coast. That demonstrates the difference in point of view as compared with the situation in Kenya. On the one hand, everything possible was done to promote increased production, which, after all, is one of the greatest needs in this country. We must produce more. Therefore, let us look at these things as business propositions.
The coal industry is another subject that interests me very much. We have magnificent coal-fields in Australia, but I do not think that we are making the best use of them. In the current financial year, £39,000 is to be spent by the Joint Coal Board on prospecting, research and other expenditure.
Coal could become just as important to our economy as is wool. We are not using our natural coal resources to the best advantage. An allocation of only £2,000 is to be made this financial year for the expenses of the Coal Utilization Research Advisory Committee. On the other hand, £1,100,000 is to be spent on the oil search subsidy. I have no grouch against that. Indeed, I would prefer even more to be spent in that way. We have in coal a natural product which we could use to much better advantage than we are at present using it. We are not putting nearly enough money into coal research.
Much of our coal resources is in inland districts. One of the curses of this country is the concentration of population in the few capital cities. We have talked a good deal about civil defence in the last few days. What better civil defence measure could we have than the decentralization of industries by establishing them at places such as Muswellbrook, Gunnedah and Lithgow, where there are first-class coal seams? What use is made locally of the coal available in these seams? None whatever! It is all sent to the Sydney area where industry is concentrated. As I have said, coal is a very important natural product, and we are not making full use of it. We are, however, doing a reasonable job in encouraging oil search.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I wish to deal with some of the suggestions which were made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) when he discussed the Estimates for the Office of Education. Great as is my admiration for the enthusiasm with which the honorable member takes up the topics that he espouses, I wish that he had read the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Office of Education before he made his speech this evening. The honorable member was not a member of that committee when it wrote its report on the Office of Education. He has since joined the committee, and I hope that he will bring to it the same enthusiasm as he has for his own children.
I find that there is a tendency for more and more things to be thrust into the lap of the Commonwealth on the ground that they are matters in which it ought to be interested. That was the plea made by the honorable member for Swan this evening when he argued, for example, that the work of the national fitness movement should be espoused by the Commonwealth more enthusiastically and that more Commonwealth money should be allocated to that movement than is provided for in the current Estimates for Miscellaneous Services. Let me read some of the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee, which will give the House an idea of what that body has been trying to do over the years. The committee considered the Office of Education as a new activity under the control of the Commonwealth, and it gave its view that -
Organizations such as the Office of Education, which have no closely definable sphere of activities, are prone to expand beyond what might be regarded as a reasonable size.
We are prone to succumb to the temptation to grant assistance in a certain case merely because it happens to be a good cause. This is the kind of situation that develops. The Commonwealth is supposed to have so much more finance at its disposal than the States, and therefore, it is argued that the Commonwealth should come in and take over the burden that the States want to rid themselves of. The committee further said -
The cost of the Office of Education and its associates is substantial, and the sums that it spends or administers for other Agencies or Departments are even more so.
The honorable member for Swan to-night gave the figures that appear in this year’s Estimates. In the years in which the Public Accounts Committee was dealing with the Office of Education it found that the amounts were, even then, nearly as considerable as they are now. The committee went on to say -
These figures, quite apart from the functions discharged, emphasize our warning against the tendency to expansion. Particular care should be taken to ensure that, amongst other things, the educational fields of the States are not trespassed upon.
That is a statement of fundamental principle so far as Commonwealth-State relationships are concerned. The committee wants to emphasize that there is always the danger that Commonwealth departments may expand beyond real control, and may do so at the expense of the States. Those two results of wide expansion - the removal from the control of this Parliament, and the taking away of the functions of the States - are possibilities that we must be well aware of. The committee took care to warn against the probabilities that were inherent in a policy such as was proposed to-night by the honorable member for Swan. The committee went on to say -
From the performance of the specific duty of arranging the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, the Office has been invited to undertake and has been clothed with authority to discharge a very wide range of functions because they embrace something of an educational character.
The mere fact that a certain matter has some educational content is no justification for getting the Commonwealth to take it over. The Commonwealth has its own duties to perform, and they should not include taking over the functions of the States and aggrandizing itself at the expense of the States, or even the taking over of certain functions that the States want to get rid of, merely for the sake of accommodating the States.
I have, I think, fulfilled my main purpose in rising to-night. I have directed attention to the fact that matters are being foisted on the Commonwealth that are really within the sphere of the States. Honorable members may have got some idea of the way in which these activities are developing by listening to the news broadcast last night, in which it was said that the Office of Education is now undertaking the teaching of English to people overseas. It was reported that this programme will be carried out for the next three years, and that a considerable sum of money will be available for the teaching of the English language and other subjects to overseas students. This is an illustration of the way in which one thing leads to another, so that before you know where you are you have a department of considerable size that has got out of control and beyond the real understanding of the people dealing with it.
The honorable member for Swan was mainly concerned with the subject of physical fitness and with the question of whether or not the Commonwealth should grant a larger sum of money than it grants at the present time for this kind of work. He evidently thinks that because, years ago, in the 1940’s, the Commonwealth placed an amount on the estimates for physical fitness promotion, that item ought to be taken as a starting point and that we should keep on making greater and greater contributions. I submit that the Commonwealth provided the amount at that time as a stimulus to the States to increase the volume of their own work in the particular field. As a matter of fact, I should like to see the example of the Carnegie Foundation followed in this country. Honorable members know that the Carnegie Foundation made grants to groups and agencies for use in a number of activities, such as cancer research and educational research. The practice of the foundation was to give a grant and say, in effect, “ This is to stimulate your thinking and your work in your own particular State, and it must not be regarded as a recurring grant “. Over the years the Carnegie people gradually withdrew from the fields they had entered for the purpose of stimulating the States and the universities, and they now want those States and universities to rely upon their own resources. That is the outlook we should adopt, I believe, in connexion with the Office of Education.
I would like to direct the attention of members of this Parliament to the reports that the Public Accounts Committee has written concerning the Supplementary Estimates. It has written, in all, five or six such reports, and they discuss all the pitfalls into which the departments can fall when dealing with the Supplementary Estimates, section 37 transfers or Additional Estimates. In each case we have tried to get down to fundamental principles and see what is involved in the operation of these accounts. Ought we to retain the Supplementary Estimates - that is the Advance to the Treasurer - in the shape in which they appear at the present time, or should they be curtailed and presented in a different form to the House? As it has turned out, we found that the way in which they were being presented to the House had neither effectiveness nor legal advantage. If the committee had not been intent upon examining that matter it would not have found this particular defect.
Similarly, in connexion with the section 37 transfers we found a system in which departments can transfer funds from one vote to another. This could have the effect of destroying the incentive of one department to save its money. We went into that matter, and as a result of the committee’s investigations the Treasury has agreed to a new treatment of the section 37 transfers. The system under which one fund may be boosted by transfers from another which has not spent its appropriation has been changed, and a completely new arrangement has been developed.
These debates on the Estimates have proceeded for some time, and if honorable members had known of the existence of these reports on the Supplementary Estimates, for example, they would have found in them all the fundamental principles that should be observed in the preparation of Estimates and in appropriations and so on. These matters had not been discussed until the Public Accounts Committee started to inquire into them in 1953, and I commend to honorable members these reports that we have written, because they will find in them the information that they need in discussing many of the problems with which we have been concerned during recent debates.
.- Against the item “ subsidies “ appears the amount £13,500,000. I assume that this is to be a subsidy for the Australian dairying industry. Before I touch on the justification for a subsidy to the dairying industry I should like to comment on the remarks of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who expressed himself as being in favour of a subsidy to the users of superphosphate. I entirely agree with him, Mr. Temporary Chairman, not from the point of view that the subsidy will give financial help to people like himself and others who may not need a subsidy, but from the point of view that there are a great number of primary producers who, because of their financial position, are not able to use superphosphates in the quantity which the land they are farming requires. The end result is that production in this country is substantially below the volume that could be attained if superphosphates were more liberally applied.
It has always been my contention that a subsidy on superphosphate probably repays itself to the Treasury twice and perhaps more times over, because it is obvious that if we double the volume of production from the land, the Treasury would find itself in the position of receiving increased tax revenue as well as direct revenue, from transport services, because of the increased volume of freight. In addition, a large number of people would be brought into the taxation field, and those already paying taxes might move into higher income brackets. For that reason, I have always been a supporter of subsidies for the users of superphosphates. Unfortunately, however, the Government of which the honorable member for Hume is so ardent a supporter eliminated subsidy payments on superphosphate, and has continued to refuse to restore them.
Reverting to the dairying industry, I wish to say, first, that I support the payment of this £13,500,000 in subsidy to that industry. When one says that he supports the payment of this subsidy to the industry, one has to point out, however, that by the very nature of things, in order that this money may be disbursed to the industry itself, it must be paid to the industry. The end result is that the butter consumers of Australia are to-day, because of the payment of that subsidy, receiving butter on their tables at approximately lid. per lb. less than they would have to pay for it if no subsidy were payable. There are very few butter consumers in Australia who appreciate that position. It may well be asked, “ Why do not the dairy-farmers increase the price to the Australian consumer by Hid. per lb.?” That is a very pertinent question. But if the price of butter to the Australian consumer were increased by Hid. per lb., the dairying industry would immediately be in grave difficulty, because obviously the amount of butter consumed would suffer a very serious decline. As a matter of fact, over recent years, while this Government has been in office there have been some minor rises in the price of butter to the consumer, with the result that butter consumption in Australia has fallen from 29 lb. per head some years ago to 26 lb. per head to-day.
I suggest, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that this Government is not doing all it could, and has not done all it could, to assist the dairying industry. Recently the industry found itself in serious economic difficulty. It was apparent that, because of the fall in the price of butter exported to London to the low figure of 205s. per cwt., the end return to the Australian dairy farmer, plus the realization on butter sold in the local market, was substantially below the ascertained cost of production. In many cases severe economic difficulties have been experienced in the dairy industry.
When this Government came to office it found that the previous government had guaranteed to the dairy farmers the full ascertained cost of production for their product. But this Government subsequently altered that guaranteed price to the dairy farmers, and it appointed an Advisory committee which was charged with the responsibility of considering annually the ascertained cost of production of butter. It was an expert committee, and it found itself charged, in addition, with the responsibility of advising the Government as to what price the Australian consumer should be charged for his butter. Unfortunately, because of the inadequacies of the subsidies paid, and because of the fall of the price of butter on the Australian market, the committee advised the Government to guarantee to the dairy farmers, not their ascertained cost of production as found by an expert committee, but a figure at which the committee considered there would be no diminution in the consumption of butter in Australia. Quite obviously this committee was a front for the Government, to enable the Government to excuse itself from honouring the pledge it had made to the dairy farmers that they would receive the full ascertained cost of production.
This position went from bad to worse following the disastrous fall in butter prices on the London market when, instead of the dairy farmers receiving 5s. 3d. per lb. - the ascertained cost of production - they were in the position that for a start they could only see ahead a net realization of about 36d. per lb. The Government then, moved to action as a result of agitation by the dairy farmers’ organization, said that it would underwrite the price that the farmers would receive in that particular year so as to give the farmers 40d. per lb. - still leaving them 13d. less than the industry had been led to believe they would receive. Obviously there was only one way of fulfilling the desire of the dairy industry and of honouring what the industry took to be the Government’s promise of the full ascertained cost of production. The only way to do that, other than increasing the. price to the consumer, was to increase the subsidy.
I believe, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that, that would have been justified, because I have never believed that the London market would remain at the low figure of 205s. per cwt. to which it fell. My confidence in that respect has been justified, because today the price on the London market is 391s. sterling per cwt. - a figure which, in terms of Australian currency, returns to the dairy farmer for his export butter a price very close to the ascertained cost of production. But the Government a few months ago, before this price rejuvenation occurred, decided that in order to appease the protesting dairy farmers it would appoint a committee of inquiry into the dairying industry. It appointed as chairman of this committee of inquiry Mr. McCarthy, one of the most brilliant, one of the most versatile public officers who ever served any government. Mr. McCarthy’s opening address to the committee was very illuminating. Any one who reads it can see the knowledge that the man has about this industry.
I read of the proposed itinerary and the operations of this committee. It intends to tour Australia and hold public hearings in various places. It intends to ask witnesses to come forward from butter factories, dairy farms, retail shops - in fact, it intends to ask anybody who is interested to come forward. A vast amount of public money will be involved to ascertain what Mr. McCarthy could tell the Government from his own knowledge. The information, incidentally, is already available in the archives of the Department of Primary Industry.
Why do I say that information is already available? Back in 1947 or 1948, we should remember, the government of the day appointed a committee, presided over by Mr. Justice Simpson and having as its members representatives of the Prices Branch, the Treasury and other Commonwealth instrumentalities. After exhaustive inquiries that committee laid down a basis on which the cost of production of butter should be determined. With some variations and alterations the advice tendered by that committee was accepted by the government of the day. Since then other governments have appointed committees, to make periodical reviews and information is available within. the Department of Primary Industry to show exactly what was the average cost of butter in Australia at any given time.
But in an effort to appease the industry and to obviate the necessity for giving it a greater subsidy, the Government set up this committee with its prolonged investigation. In addition to the cost of production committee a most expert body of economists - the Division of Agricultural Economics - is available. Yet this Government, in order to evade its responsibility to say yea or nay to the requests of the dairy farmers, spent the people’s money on this prolonged and proliferating investigation. That was a lot of humbug and nonsense and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) knows that I speak the elementary truth.
I never lost faith in the industry. I never relinquished my belief that it would come good regarding prices on overseas markets. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan), when the subject came up for discussion, offered a cure-all. He thought that the dairy farmers should give up dairying and transfer their attention to the breeding of beef cattle. His was a policy of despair.
– That is not true.
– Of course it is true. The honorable member may make his apology later. These things are elementary truths. It is regrettable that such a long delay will take place because of the Government’s failure to face up to its responsibilities in this matter. This Government, to its credit, has continued the precedent set by a Labour administration, which granted to the agricultural departments of the Commonwealth £250,000 for five years to endeavour to improve, by research and other methods, dairy farming practices in Australia. But the Government is doing something else that completely nullifies that activity. Anybody who reads knows that some people, for the sake of income, are exporting our best dairy stock. This is with the connivance of this Government. We are exporting our best breeding cows and heifers to many countries. On the one hand we provide grants to improve dairying techniques and on the other hand we allow people to export their stud and topgrade cattle to other countries. The moment we do that we diminish the efficiency factor of the dairy farmers of Australia because those who desire to improve their herds - and the Lord knows there is room’ for improvement - -are not able to buy the necessary stock because it has been exported.
– We can breed some more.
– We could breed some more from the runts and the rejects that are left behind. That is what we are doing. I would not object to the export of stud cattle if this industry had reached maximum efficiency, if the standard of breeds in all herds was top-notch or if we had a uniformly good number of dairy cattle in Australia as dairymen have in some other countries, such as Denmark. Then an export trade would be entirely justified. The honorable member for McMillan may protest as much as he wishes, but the fact is that this country is still importing good stock from other countries. So how can you justify the export of stud cattle from this country? It is time that we put an end to this sort of thing. If it were to cease, the need to pay these subsidies would not be so great.
.- It was not my intention originally to enter this debate but I am prompted to do so by the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) who has gone a little off the beam, if I can put it that way. It has been interesting to hear honorable members in this debate expressing a common interest in some of the matters before the committee of inquiry at the moment. I refer particularly to the remarks passed by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) and the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) - I will have something to say about the Colombo Plan later.
What the honorable member for Lalor said in his opening remarks was profoundly true, and I think that it is wise to emphasize the point that he made because it is something which many people in Australia lose sight of when they speak about subsidies paid to industry, particularly the dairying industry. The subsidy paid to the dairying industry is perhaps of indirect assistance to the industry but it is also of assistance to other sections of the community. As the honorable member pointed out, it means that a person may purchase lib. of butter and place it on his table at a price lower than would be possible if there were no subsidy. This has a continuing effect in our cost of living because butter, being a food commodity, has its cost added to the C series index and if the price of butter were to rise it would affect the C series index and lead to an increase in the basic wage.
I have spoken on this subject on other occasions. When we are endeavouring to assist our economy we must give closer attention to this subsidy. Indirectly the State and Federal Governments gain by the payment of a subsidy because if there is a wage increase there is a corresponding increase in government expenditure.
I particularly wish to refer to the appointment of the committee of inquiry. Many honorable members were optimistic that the price of butter on the United Kingdom market would not remain at its low level of last year. We felt that the dairying industry should be encouraged and should not have to wait indefinitely for an increase in price. It was for that reason that many of us suggested the underwriting at least of portion of an increase. I think I can say that not one of us who suggested the underwriting of this increase felt that it would be the only amount the dairy farmer should receive as his return. We felt that it was something that was needed to give him immediate assistance and encouragement in the future.
The honorable member for Lalor said that the committee of inquiry will do no more than travel the countryside discovering what is already known. The committee may cover certain ground aboutwhich wealreadyhaveinformation,butthe Government hopes that the committee will find solutions to many of the problems that now confront the industry. Wecannot make too many inquiries or too close an investigation into these matters. Let me refer to the subsidy payments that are made to the various States. Last year New South Wales received £2,600,000; Victoria, £6,100,000; Queensland, £2,950,000; South Australia, £775,000; Western Australia, £450.000; and Tasmania, £625,000. These subsidies will be continued, because the Estimates provide for grants to New South Wales of £2,290,000; Victoria, £6,750,000; and Queensland, £2,345,000: while grants for the other three States remain basically unchanged.
Because of rainfall and certain advantageous conditions, certain areas in Victoria are able to produce butter at a lower price than some areas in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia are able to produce it. Therefore, although this industry may be regarded as a Commonwealth industry - its importance to the Commonwealth has been mentioned on many occasions by honorable members on both sides of the chamber - because of geographical factors it poses completely different problems in one section of the Commonwealth as against another. It poses completely different problems even in one section of a State as against another section of the same State.
I make no apology for supporting strongly the proposal to appoint a committee of inquiry which will look at the problems and difficulties that are now confronting the dairying industry. The Government, in setting up this committee of inquiry, has done nothing for which it need make any apology. Because of the vital importance of this industry - no honorable member would deny that - the Government feels that there should be a thorough investigation so that no stone may be left unturned in an effort to find the solution to these problems.
The honorable member for Lalor has referred to the length of time that the committee will be making its investigation. Because most of the men who have been appointed to the committee are busy men, and because it would be difficult to find men in Australia who could give a lengthy period of time to a committee such as this, I am afraid that it may not be able to spend sufficient time to make the complete investigation that some of us would wish it to make.
It has been stated that some people may have to leave the dairying industry. We must be realists and accept that there may be certain uneconomic areas in which this may be the only solution of the difficulties that confront the dairy farmers. If certain people have to leave the industry and perhaps go into another sphere of primary production, I hope that the committee will submit recommendations as to the best way in which those people can be assisted.
It is impossible to satisfy everybody, but if one looks back at the record of this Government over the last ten years in relation to the dairying industry, one must agree that the Government has done nothing of which it need be ashamed. As my colleague, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has reminded me, to put the matter in a positive way, we can be proud of the achievements of this Government and of the assistance that it has given to the dairying industry.
I wish to comment briefly on the remarks that have been made by the honorable member for Batman and the honorable member for Gellibrand in relation to the Colombo Plan, and to comment also on some of the criticisms that have been made by a gentleman named Cunningham. My friend and colleague, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has said that the Asians are a proud people. This Government, in participating in the Colombo Plan, has endeavoured to make financial and other assistance available to the people of Asia without appearing to dictate to them as to how the assistance is to be used. We must keep that point always in the back of our minds. Even if on some occasions we feel that the things for which these people have asked would not best serve their interests, we must accede to their requests to assist them to obtain the complete independence for which they have waited for so long and of which they are so proud.
The other factor that must be taken into consideration is that in the early days ot a programme of such wide scope as the Colombo Plan, naturally some mistakes will be made until, as it were, things begin to work themselves out and we can see exactly which road we are treading. The traffic is not all one way. All countries that are parties to the Colombo Plan must co-operate. If we view things in the correct perspective, we shall be able to learn from the Asian people as well as being able to teach and to help them. We should endeavour, as far as practicable, to send technicians and technical assistants to the Asian countries. We should also allow Asian students to attend our universities so that we can train them in the arts and sciences. By doing so we shall be assisting them greatly. I have had the privilege ot meeting quite a number of Asian students. One young man whom I have met is studying engineering and another is studying veterinary science. After they have completed their academic courses in Australia they will return to Malaya and take their place in the community and play their part in the development and progress of their own country. Although, whew practicable, we can send technicians and advisers from Australia to assist the Asian countries, we must not lose sight of the valuable contribution that we can make by bringing the young people to Australia, training them and sending them back to their own country so that they can assist their own people. After having made contacts in Australia and after having obtained an appreciation of this land, they will be in a better position to assist in the progress and development of their own country and the maintenance of their independence.
We can be proud of the contribution that we have made to the Asian people which, I may say, is greatly appreciated. Recently a number of Asian journalists visited Australia. One of them said that Australia could be the bridge between the East and the West, a bridge built on friendship and understanding which would stand against communism. We in Australia can be proud that we are making a contribution towards the progress and development of the Asian countries.
.- I am rather delighted at the increasing interest and concern in the development of education that has been evidenced by members of this chamber. I wish to refer to Division No. 626 of the Estimates relating to Office of Education and, in particular, to item 3 which deals with the Australian Council for Educational Research. This council is a body independent of any university, of any State system of education and even of this Federal Parliament. I wish to add, however, that it receives a subsidy from this Parliament and an equivalent subsidy from the States. The Commonwealth Government subsidizes if to the extent of £7,500 and the States contribute, in all, an equivalent amount.
My plea for the Australian Council for Educational Research arises, firstly, out of a modest recognition of the utter importance of education in the development of this country and, secondly, out of my noting that this body is having some financial trouble. The objects of the council are to promote generally, as far as possible in co-operation with existing institutions, the cause of research and investigation in education in Australia; to make grants to assist in carrying out any research or investigation approved by the council; to publish in suitable form the results of research and investigation approved by the council; to nominate, or to advise upon students of education qualified to carry out research either at home or abroad; and finally, to take such action, including the making of grants, as in the opinion of the council may afford suitable and effective assistance to any educational experiment or development.
It has been most heartening during the last year or two, and particularly in recent months, to be in a Federal Parliament which has accepted a good deal of educational responsibility, particularly in the tertiary field. Nevertheless, this is no time for us to be complacent, particularly when we examine what is being done in the United States of America and in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the development of education, the pursuit of science and the promotion of all forms of technical assistance in the development of those nations. This is a salutary reminder that in Australia we should likewise be well aware of the importance of education to our national development on the one hand and to our national defence on the other.
This council has, as its functions, the initiation and carrying out of researches in connexion with or for the promotion of education in all its grades. It also undertakes the training of research workers and the establishment and awarding of educational research studentships, and it provides for the making of grants in aid of educational research, investigation and service.
It is all very well for us to make money available for carrying out accepted programmes of education, but in a fast changing world, given to scientific and technological developments, and which is still trying to establish a clear and consistent philosophy of life, research and inquiry must claim a very important part in the allocation of our resources. That is why I make this plea that our very small subsidy of £7,500 to such an organization should be substantially increased.
This Australian Council for Educational Research was set up in 1929 by local educationists with the support of the Carnegie Foundation in the United States of America. This corporation was very concerned about the absence of research into educational problems. Its primary purpose was to aid educational research in the United States. Later it adopted, as part of its policy, the aiding of educational research in British dominions and as a result of a visit of its representative to Australia in 1929 and his contact with local educationists it decided to help the Australian body engaged in educational research. By 1930 the corporation agreed to make available for Australian educational research the sum of £50,000 to be paid in ten annual instalments of £5,000. The sum of £50,000 is quite substantial when one recognizes that the expenditure of this body to-day is something of the order of not less than £100,000, even for the great work that it is carrying out. Later, in 1930, the Carnegie corporation made a further £12,500 available to help meet the administration costs of the body. The council formally got under way on 1st April, 1930.
The achievements ‘ of this council in the years since that time have been very substantial. My experience in education has informed me of the great work that it is doing on comparatively meagre financial resources. It would be a very great investment for this Parliament to make a much more substantial contribution to its activities.
Included in the work that it has carried out has been the preparation and standardization of a whole variety of aptitude tests, ability tests and psychological tests for use in schools and universities. These have been applied in the selection of students for universities as well as personnel for the defence forces. If I had time, I am sure that honorable members would be very interested to hear the story of what it did during the last war in the selection of personnel for various categories of the defence forces. It made special contributions by way of Army classification tests and mechanical aptitude tests, which resulted in the selection of suitable people for important Army positions. The same sort of thing was done for people in civilian activities, lt has also helped in the selection and advising of students in various industries concerning courses of technical education and commerce.
Among the projects carried out by this council, which show at once why this Parliament should take a substantial and practical interest in its work, were the investigation of problems concerning postwar reconstruction and rehabilitation. It also made exhaustive inquiries into the prediction of success of students in university courses. We make a lot of money available for the purpose of university training but it would be a good thing if we could be assured that it was being spent as effectively as possible.
This council also undertook a survey for the Australian Universities Commission of the supply and. recruitment of teachers in Australia. Another was the testing of South-East Asian students for success in Australian universities. It provided the tests for the selection process. Another project was the research, in 1954, into the occupations of adolescents in Australia, aged fourteen to twenty inclusive.
The council has also been responsible for the publication of books, pamphlets and reports of an educational nature. These may not always be a commercial proposition; in fact, more often than not they are not a commercial proposition but because they provide a valuable contribution to educational thought and practice in this country, this council has undertaken their publication. The title of one of these is “ Education for Industry and Citizenship “. Another of its publications is “ Native Education and Culture Contact in New Guinea “. All these seem very relevant to our Federal Parliament and its activities. Other publications are “ Education for Complete Living “, “ Public Service Recruitment in Australia “, and “ The Education of the Australian Aborigine”. The lastnamed ought to catch the attention of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant). Another one is “Assumptions Underlying
Australian Education “. There is also a pamphlet series, “ Education for Democracy “, “ Education for Parenthood “, and “ Adult Education in Australia “. These are just some of the books and pamphlets that this body has published on behalf of educational thought and practice in Australia and as may be seen from the titles, they are all of profound assistance to this Parliament and to the government of the day.
As I mentioned at the outset, this laudable body has some financial problems. Its expenditure in 1957-58 exceeded its normal income. It has stated quite clearly in its report that the shortage of funds has impeded research. The council was scraping the bottom of the barrel, lt has a comparatively small professional and clerical staff which I think includes about ten professional men but their salaries, like that of other professional men, have gone up. This makes it very difficult for this body which publishes about 32,000 copies of tests in one year to carry on in an effective way. In the report for 1957-58, after dealing with the considerable work done by the council, the director, Dr. W. C. Radford, said -
Financially, it has not been a successful year and, as I have said earlier, we must obviously give careful thought to the sources of our income and the nature of our expenditure in the next few years. There is much that can be done, given finance and staff, that we cannot undertake at present. I remain, however, optimistic.
Let us hope that he can remain optimistic and that this Federal Parliament before long will justify the optimism of the director of the council and that the good work carried out since its inception in 1930 will be allowed, not only to continue, but to expand to the great advantage of this Commonwealth of Australia.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I desire, first, to inquire whether the “Hansard” reporters can hear me in this position. The chamber was built with a great deal of attention and deference to tradition but with no attention to common sense and its acoustic qualities can only be described as putrid. As a consequence, I should like to ask whether the “ Hansard “ reporters can hear what I am saying now.
– I am sure that the “ Hansard “ reporters are able to hear the honorable member.
– I am glad to hear that. I desire to make some references to only two of the eight bounties paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The first of these is the cellulose acetate flake bounty in which, for the past two years and in the Estimates for the coming year, there is only a very small variation. The amount for each year equals £110,000 in round figures, calculated at the rate of10d. per lb. avoirdupois of acetate flake.
In June of this year a bill was enacted by which the payment of this bounty was extended until next year, 1960. The principal act, incidentally, contains many safeguards for the public purse and it would seem that, since the act makes provision for an annual payment of £142,000, the company manufacturing cellulose acetate flake has kept well within the bounds of propriety. I should like to quote from the principal act a few of the safeguards to which I have referred. There are, in all, twenty sections of the principal act but those with which I am concerned relate to the protection of the public purse. Section 9 of the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act 1956 states -
Bounty shall not be paid in respect of any cellulose acetate flake unless the ComptrollerGeneral is satisfied that it is of good and merchantable quality.
Section 10 states - (1.) A person may apply to the Minister for the registration as a factory of premises at which he carries on, or proposes to carry on, the production of cellulose acetate flake. (2.) The Minister may require an applicant under this section to furnish such information as the Minister considers necessary for the purposes of this Act, and may refuse to register the premises until the information is furnished to his satisfaction.
Section 12 states - (1.) An authorized person may, at all reasonable times, enter a factory, or premises where cellulose acetate flake in respect of which bounty has been paid or claimed is stored, and may -
So it will be seen that quite efficient safeguards are contained in the principal act.
I have noticed that Courtaulds (Australia) Limited have been relieved of at least one major anxiety in regard to continuity of supply by the local manufacture of cellulose acetate flake. Moreover, what could be quite a heavy drain upon our overseas funds is at least partially cancelled out by the existence of a plant which manufactures a material which is basic to the rayon acetate yarn industry. The existence of this lastnamed industry is of enormous consequence to the textile industry of Australia and, in fact, is of equal consequence to Australia. It has removed our utter dependency upon supplies of rayon yarn from overseas manufacturers.
It is interesting to recall that Japan, of all countries, found it necessary to impose protective duties for its own local industry. I believe that the protection still remains and this would indicate, if it indicated nothing else, how great is the value placed by countries with large secondary industries upon the rayon spinning industry. Australia is indeed fortunate that Courtaulds (Australia) Limited was established here. Until the parent company took the decision to manufacture in Australia, we were at the mercy of many factors in textile manufacturing such as transport of the yarn in the form of beams or cones over vast distances by ship, the possibility of damage while in transit, the possibility of price fluctuations at the whim of a supplier desiring to take advantage of a temporary shortage and any one of the things that can happen to a consumer who is thousands of miles from the supplier. I know the mill belonging to Courtaulds (Australia) Limited extremely well. I am able to testify to the high rate of efficiency that it has attained. I suggest that honorable members should take the opportunity to visit Tomago, Newcastle, and inspect this mill and the processes that are going on there and see for themselves the situation which I am trying to describe to them to-night. Australia can afford little room for inefficient industries, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and if there were the slightest doubt in my mind as to the efficiency of this plant, its management or its operatives, I would hesitate to raise my little finger in support of it.
The rayon-spinning industry provides direct employment for 1,600 people at Tomago, in the Newcastle district. In view of the situation which has developed in the coal-mining industry, with the advent of the mechanization of mines, I ask: Where else could this industry have been better placed? As everybody knows, there has been a very, very serious displacement of miners from the coal mines in the Newcastle district. Many hundreds of displaced miners remain unplaced in new jobs. I know that great pressure is being brought to bear on the New South Wales Government in an endeavour to obtain finance to establish on the coal-fields some other industry which would provide remunerative and regular employment for the miners who have been displaced from the coal industry. Here we have a ready-made opportunity to employ many displaced miners in the textile industry, but the actions of this Government give very little indication that it is endeavouring seriously to take advantage of the opportunity which the textile industry has presented to it. I should say that the rayon-spinning industry has reduced the responsibilities of the Federal Government to a small fraction of the proportions that they would otherwise have assumed, because the industry has relieved the otherwise terrible economic plight of miners and their families in the Newcastle district.
It is a most depressing fact, however, as is revealed by the closing of one rayonweaving mill in Victoria, heavy dismissals in another Victorian mill, and threatening dismissals in yet another rayon-weaving mill, which is situated in the Newcastle district of New South Wales, that Japanese intrusion into the market for the products manufactured in this efficient field of employment is jeopardizing the prospects of this great rayon-spinning mill at Tomago, which is now beginning to feel the first constricting effects of slow strangulation as its own best customers - the rayon-weaving mills of Australia - slow down their purchase and consumption of rayon yarn, through no fault of their own. There is something in this situation which makes little sense, Mr. Temporary Chairman.
Out of Consolidated Revenue, we provide funds in order to assist, as, indeed, we should, an industry which is in competition with the world’s greatest rayon-spinning mills, many of which are situated in countries with standards of living much lower than is our standard of living. At the same time, we tolerate the development of another situation which is causing unemployment and, frequently, the permanent loss of highly trained textile operators. I refer to the intrusion into the Australian market of 7,200,000 square yards of Japanese rayon fabric during the last twelve months. This is equivalent to 32 per cent, of the total volume of rayon fabric produced in Australia. Even worse, every single yard of it represents a decline in the volume of Australian production, which the taxpayer subsidizes by a bounty paid to the rayon spinners. Just as it was true to say of the recently presented Budget, and the increased postal charges, that the Government gave with one hand and took away with the other, so is it true to say of the rayon yarn bounty that the Government gives with one hand and takes away with the other. I have known people to be damned with faint praise. The rayon yarn spinning industry, like the rayon weaving industry, is being damned with faint help.
In the financial year 1958-59, £69,189 was appropriated for the payment of the rayon yarn bounty, at the rate of 6d. per lb. In 1959-60, £60,000, or £9,189 less, is to be voted for the payment of this bounty. What accounts for the fall of £9,189 in the allocation of funds for the payment of this bounty? How did the Government arrive at its prognostication of the cost of the bounty for the current financial year? Was it aware of what was happening and did it therefore predict a decline in the volume of Australian production for 1959- 60? By its own estimates, it convicts itself of an intended crime against a highly efficient industry which is struggling for a place in the Australian sun. We on this side of the chamber can only hope that the Government will perceive the folly of its ways and move rapidly to a policy of common sense by extending protection where protection is due. If the rayon spinning industry is permitted to languish through neglect, the consequences will be felt right along the lines of production and distribution, from factory to factory in the divers processes from wood pulping to the., making up of rayon wearing apparel. These consequences could well include another jump in the cost of living.
But the Government, if we judge byits inaction, may have the idea that the cost of living would be reduced if there were no Australian textile industry and if all our textile requirements were obtained from low-wage countries. Perhaps this Administration contemplates the purchase of textiles from mainland China in the near future, as well as from Japan. If so, it leans upon a rotten reed. Without a textile industry, which, despite some of the things that have been said in this chamber of late, is genuinely and keenly competitive, we should be at the mercy of foreign speculators and avaricious entrepreneurs - from wholesale distributors to small retailers - who, in many, many instances, have created a system of price determination which goes far towards eliminating genuine competition in the field of distribution.
But that is another problem. I am concerned because we are preparing to spend, in the current financial year, less than we spent last financial year on a well earned and well deserved bounty while, at the same time, we permit grievous injury to be inflicted upon the industry that we setout to assist. This does not make sense. Perhaps the Government will explain this paradox. If it can do so, it will have performed the impossible.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, in the discussion of this group of estimates, we have heard very little about payments to or for the States. The reason for this is very pleasing. I think that this is the first time since I have been a member of the Parliament that the States have not complained bitterly after receiving their financial allocations. This time, apparently, all the States are perfectly happy with the financial allocations made to them under the uniform taxation reimbursement procedure, because, so far as I know, no complaint has been made about any of the allocations. When the Premiers came to Canberra for the last Premiers’ Conference, they expressed their satisfaction at the grants that the Commonwealth proposed to make for the current financial year. That was the first time that this had ever happened. This should not be treated as a party political matter. The Premier of Victoria - my own State - whether he was a member of the Country Party, the Australian Labour Party or the Liberal Party, for example, always expressed dissatisfaction with the financial allocation made to that State. This is the first time that all the States have been satisfied with their allocations and we hope that they will continue to be happy about them.
I am a firm believer in having in Australia as many thriving primary industries as possible, and I wish to discuss subsidies, which come within this group of estimates which we are now considering. I believe that subsidies should be paid to those smaller industries that, at some stage, struggle for existence. It pleased me very greatly when, three years ago, through Sir Arthur Fadden, who was then Commonwealth Treasurer, the Government made a grant of £300,000 to those engaged in the dried fruits industry in Victoria. At that time, the industry was facing what was probably one of its hardest times. The grant enabled the growers to continue production. The following year was better, and prices improved, and the one after that, also, was good, and the growers are now in a very much better financial position than they would have been in had they not received this grant at the right time in order to enable them to continue producing satisfactorily - and our economy is the richer.
When I speak about various industries, I do not speak especially about the people engaged in them. After all, if an industry is prosperous, those engaged in it who work in an efficient, husband-like way are bound to prosper. The tobacco industry in Victoria has just had one of its best years. It will be noted that the subsidy paid to tobacco-growers has been very small, but, nevertheless, it has been of great benefit to the industry and has helped it through very bad periods of low prices and low production. Only by tenacity and a continued fight were those engaged in the industry able to emerge this year with the best crops that we have ever had in Victoria, for which they received the best prices ever. That position, I believe, is fairly general throughout the industry.
I want to speak now about a little industry that is not engaged in very widely in my electorate.I refer to bee-keeping. Bee-keepers are at present experiencing great difficulties in their efforts to continue in production. Bee-keeping is an activity that needs finance. The bee-keepers have to move their hives, generally by truck, from one part of the country to another in order to catch the various species of trees as they bloom.I believe that the Commonwealth Government could subsidize the bee-keeping industry to advantage, so that it could come into greater production and so that it could fight the disease known as nosema, which is robbing it of much of its productivity. Often, the bee-keepers do not know that the disease is in the hives until they go to collect the honey, and then they find that production is down and that many bees have died.
A subsidy would help greatly in fighting this disease and would give the bee-keepers a chance to produce satisfactorily. They are really up against a big problem just now, and they urgently need assistance. As we are now discussing subsidies, I ask that the bee-keepers be given a subsidy.I know that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Waite Institute in Adelaide are doing research into nosema, but a subsidy given now by the Commonwealth Government would give great heart and help to the bee-keepers. This is not, perhaps, a large industry, like the dairying industry, but it needs assistance. As I said earlier, we must spread our primary industries and have as many as possible coming into production. When one is prosperous, perhaps another is not. However, generally speaking, with a lot of primary industries together, the risk is spread and our economy benefits.
I believe that agricultural research farms should be subsidized liberally. I refer to agricultural research farms that are conducted by local committees and chiefly financed by them. I do not want to introduce my electorate into this debate too much, but I want to mention an agricultural research farm at Swan Hill and another at Kerang, in Victoria, both near the Murray River. I mention these farms because I have inspected them and I know the work that is being done there. Help could be given to them by the Government. I know that a subsidy would help the local committees to continue the experiments being conducted there, and to spread the benefit of the research to farms, not only ten, twenty or 30 miles away, but in all parts of Australia. This is vital work. It is being financed chiefly by local residents and is being carried on by local committees. This is not a government concern. The C.S.I. R.O. research farms and other government activities are being financed, but this is something that people are willing to do in their own time and with their own skill and energy. Men who are prepared to do this should receive every possible assistance from the Government.
The great river for Victoria and New South Wales is the River Murray. Its water, taken to fertile soil, helps to provide products worth many millions of pounds. I want to stress the need for a Government subsidy to the Murray Valley Development League.
– Order! I must draw the attention of the honorable member for Mallee to the fact that the subject under discussion is bounties and subsidies on dairy products, amounting to £13,500,000. I do not see the relationship of that to the subject now raised by the honorable member.
– I notice that the subsidy for dairy products is here, but, with all due respect, Sir, that is not the only subsidy mentioned. There are a number of others.
– That is the only one under discussion at the moment. The honorable member will notice that the vote is for £13,500,000, which is the amount prescribed under the heading “ Bounties and Subsidies, Dairy Products “.
– With all due respect
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I must ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the subject before the committee.
– With all due respect, Sir, you have stated that the dairying subsidy is the only one under discussion. Am I to understand then that the other subsidies, those for flax, tractors, rayon, copper and cotton, are not under discussion at all? There must be some misprint in the document if they are not.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I remind the honorable member for Mallee that the bounties and subsidies to which he refers were dealt with in the customs estimates.
– Very well, Sir, but I understood you to say that dairying was the only one. Included in the list is an amount for the encouragement of meat production. That amount is not very big and, of course, as the price for beef is now so good, it is hardly necessary. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) took exception to the export of some of our stud dairy cattle. He said that this has brought about a shortage, because we are importing cattle. But the practical men on the land know that the cattle we are importing are necessary for the continuance of successful beef and dairy production, because we must always import cattle to introduce new strains into our herds. Therefore, this is no indication of shortage; in fact, it is the very opposite. If we are importing stud cattle from the United Kingdom and other countries, it is a good sign for the future of the beef and dairying industries. The introduction of different strains always brings with it greater productivity and even better cattle types. If that happens, I cannot understand why the honorable member for Lalor should object when we sell some cattle that are surplus to our needs.
The Colombo Plan has been mentioned in this debate. Under the Colombo Plan, we have sent stud dairy cattle and grade types to our near neighbours in the East, and they have benefited greatly as a result. This has assisted in building up herds that are so necessary if children and others in these countries are to receive adequate nourishment. The nutrition of children comes into the estimates we are now discussing. That, I take it, refers to free milk for school children in Australia. If we sincerely believe in free milk for Australian school children, surely we will not oppose the sending of dairy cattle, under the Colombo Plan, to certain Asian countries so that the children there may enjoy the benefit of milk.
We are now discussing payments to the States generally for certain services. I notice that only a very small amount is provided for drought relief, and I am very pleased that only a small amount is necessary. The amount provided for drought relief is only £240. Last year expenditure on this item totalled only £105. This is especially pleasing, of course, because it shows that we have had good years and the Government has not been called upon to provide significant amounts for drought relief.
The extension grants for agricultural pursuits have been well worth while. As a result of them, much valuable advice and assistance has been given to primary producers. This advice has been followed and has resulted in greater productivity in many spheres of primary production. Therefore, I support these provisions most heartily.
I had intended to make a plea for the Murray Valley Development League, but as I cannot do so now, under the Standing Orders, I will do so on some future occasion.
.- I wish to refer to Division No. 642 - Department of Immigration - under the heading of Miscellaneous Services. It seems to me that with regard to immigration from the continent of Europe an element of discrimination is entering into the practice and policy of this department, which is generally very well and very fairly administered. This is revealed by the amounts of money allocated for assisted migration in the various countries, when those amounts are related to the volume of migration from the countries concerned. We find that an amount of £159,000 was expended last year on the general assisted passage scheme, non-British. An amount of £370,000 was spent on German migration, £479,000 on Dutch migration, £149,000 on Italian migration and £84,000 on Austrian migration. Those are round figures. However, the volume of migration from Italy is substantially greater than that from any of the other countries mentioned.
The lesser amount of money being provided in Italy shows, it appears to me, distinct discrimination in favour of northern European countries. This was also revealed in the speech that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) made on this subject, or on an associated subject, yesterday, when he showed honorable members that the decentralization of offices of the Department of Immigration had progressed to a far greater extent in Germany and Holland than it had in Italy, where, as far as I could make out from his remarks, there has been no real decentralization of our offices at all. This has, pretty clearly, imposed upon Italian people endeavouring to join their families in Australia the very considerable extra cost involved in travelling from where they live to the places where they have to undergo medical and other examinations. This cost in some cases is of the order of many thousands of lire, which most of them are unable to afford. Apparently the Italian Government is unaware of its responsibility to its own people and to Italians who have come to Australia, because, as far as I can make out, it gives very little assistance towards overcoming these problems.
The fact that discrimination has entered into the administration of a department which has been very soundly operated in many respects is again illustrated by a statement that was made by the Minister for Immigration and reported in the Melbourne “ Age “, on 22nd June this year. The Minister pointed out in that statement that he had reached an agreement with the Italian Government which would result in an increasing proportion of migrants from northern Italy and, it would follow, a diminishing proportion from southern Italy. This statement clearly shows discrimination as between two parts of the one country. I have already shown that there is discrimination between northern and southern Europe, and it now appears that inside Italy itself the policy of discrimination between northern and southern Italians is being carried out.
There are two points I want to make in relation to that statement by the Minister. First, he said that the present policy is the result of an agreement between the Australian and the Italian Governments. Secondly, he said that this is a continuing policy of the Australian Government. We can conclude, therefore, that the policy has not been brought into operation only since the Minister returned from overseas, but that it has been a continuing policy of the Government to seek a higher proportion of migrants from northern Italy and, consequently, a lower proportion from the south.
I deplore this kind of discrimination,first between one section of the continent of Europe and another, and, secondly, between one part of Italy and another. It is totally unnecessary. This Government should not be associated with it, and, of course, the Italian Government should not be associated with it. As the Minister pointed out, the agreement between the Australian Government and the Italian Government reflects this discrimination between north and south and results inits being put into practical effect.
I want to make a most emphatic protest against this policy. I am informed that the Minister has said that he was misunderstood with regard to this statement that I have mentioned, but I refer the committee to the report of the Melbourne “ Age “, of 22nd June, which shows that a clear, unequivocal and unambiguous statement was made by the Minister. He said, not that he was incorrectly reported, but that he was misunderstood. I would like an explanation from the Minister - I sought to raise this question yesterday, but shortage of time prevented me from doing so - as to what he did in fact mean when he said that it was the policy of the Australian Government to obtain a higher proportion of migrants from northern Italy and - as naturally follows - a lower proportion from the south, and also what he meant when he said that it was a continuing policy of the Government.
– Did he say why it was the policy?
– He implied that we wanted people of better quality. The position is this: We must expect the Australian Government to do everything it can to obtain the best possible migrants, within the total numbers of those who can come here in any one year. I suggest, however, that you get the best possible quality of migrants by applying the same standards of selection to every one of them, irrespective of where the various applicants come from. If you decide upon particular standards of skill, of training and of ability to be assimilated into Australian conditions, and you apply those standards equally to people who come from the north or south of Italy, and you apply them equally to those who come from northern and southern Europe, then there is no earthly reason why you should select a worker from Milan who attains those standards in preference to a worker from Palermo who also measures up to the required standards. This is a matter that I want to bring to the attention of the Minister for Immigration. I hope that he will give it due consideration.
In conclusion I wish to refer to the Commonwealth Office of Education, which is mentioned in division No. 626. It has been said to-night by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) that the Office of Education tends to stray beyond its boundaries. I have agreed with a great deal of what the honorable member has said from time to time, both here and elsewhere, but I disagree with him very strongly in this attempt to restrict the educational activities of the Commonwealth Government. I will have time to refer only to one aspect of this matter, which concerns the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. Expenditure under this scheme has remained almost stationary, in money terms. While the numbers of students in universities has increased by 50 per cent.or more, and while fees have increased, less and less money has been provided for Commonwealth scholarships. The universities, which had become, under the post-war reconstruction scheme, places where the children of working people had a chance to be educated, have, as a result of the decline in the significance of the Commonwealth scholarship scheme, become places for the education of the wealthy.
– Order! The time allotted for consideration of the proposed votes for Miscellaneous Services, Refunds of Revenue, Advance to the Treasurer, Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve and Bounties and Subsidies has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed Vote, £3,983,000.
Proposed Vote, £105,066,000.
Proposed Vote, £9,626,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I wish to discuss television under this group of the Estimates. I believe that Australian viewers are not enjoying the best possible television programmes, and I also believe that the Government must accept full responsibility for this. I know that the Government may say that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is responsible for supervising the programmes broadcast to the public over television stations; but the Government is responsible for the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and when those bodies are not performing their functions in the best interests of the community the Government, in my opinion, should intervene.
I believe we are not developing enough Australian television programmes, whether they be vocal, instrumental, operatic, dramatic or comedy entertainment. Australian artists and writers are equal to the best in the world, but they are not getting their fair share of work in the production of television programmes. In addition, full use is not being made of the talent and the studio facilities available in Australia for the development of true Australian television production. I do not know why the Government does not give more attention to this matter and give more preference on television to Australian artists who, as I have said, are equal to the best in the world. Because the Government fails to give this sort of recognition to Australians the wheels of the Australian film-producing and television industries are hardly turning. The result is that in those industries we find discouragement, disillusionment and lack of progress, while at the same time we have to suffer poor programmes.
I should like to quote to honorable members some comments on this matter made by various people. First I shall quote the remarks of Mr. Garnet H. Carroll, O.B.E., leading Melbourne entrepreneur and managingdirector of Pagewood Studios, Sydney. He said -
The Australian actor and producer now have very little chance of holding their own against the cheap American TV films flooding this coun- try. The television production industry in Australia will never get started under present conditions. It is an economic impossibility. It is a bleak future for the actor, producer, musician and technician.
Another statement on this question was made by Mr. R. V. Spike, managing-director of the Video Film Corporation, Sydney, who said -
The reversal of Government policy on the importation of overseas television programmes has caused our company great concern. We earnestly feel that the interests of the Australian film producer and Australian artists are very closely tied. The main interest of this company is the production of television programme material for Australian television with Australian talent, and for export, and to try and establish an industry in Australia. We have been waiting patiently for the imported TV programmes to start repeating so that the film production industry and Australian talent may at last be given an opportunity.
Then we have another person expressing an opinion on this matter - no less a person than Mr. Charles Moses, the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He is reported as saying -
The only appropriate means of guarding against an excessive use of imported TV material is to stipulate that there shall be a minimum percentage of Australian material in all programmes (national and commercial).
That is the point of view that I support. We tried to have incorporated in the law the provision which Mr. Moses obviously favours - that a certain percentage of programme time shall be reserved for programmes consisting of Australian material.
There is another thing about television programmes that concerns me. I think special action should he taken regarding television programmes that are likely to be seen by children. In my opinion television is the most powerful propaganda medium ever invented, and it is a scientific fact that 80 per cent. of all information conveyed to the human mind is received through the eyes. A picture can convey more than a book of 10,000 words and I think that that should be borne in mind when television programmes are being arranged. I am certain, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that various programmes that I have seen anyway are unsuitable for children. It must not be forgotten that children have very impressionable minds. I believe that they see too many acts of violence and crime, too many victories for villians. I feel that the delinquency in America that we hear so much about is probably due in some degree to this kind of programme on television. We do not want a similar position in Australia.
Now I should like to refer to some other aspects of this matter. A survey has been taken in Sydney of the content of television programmes, and the results are astounding. The result of the survey is reported as follows: -
A group of Sydney citizens . . . have completed a four-day survey of the incidence of crime and acts of violence in “ entertainment “ programmes being televised by Sydney’s three TV stations.
This group of Sydney citizens viewed all television programmes shown by Sydney’s three television stations on and from Monday, September 9th, until Thursday, September 12th, inclusive. They report the following acts of violence and crime televised during the above period of four days.
These features are going out from television stations in Australia, which is a serious matter. There is a bigger population to see them in Sydney than there is anywhere else in Australia and it is important that this matter be given prompt attention. The report continues -
All of these acts of violence took place in a total transmission of 10 hours. The maximum length of time during which any one of the three Sydney TV stations refrained from showing an act of violence was 214 minutes. All of the scenes reported above took place before 9.30 p.m., at times when children could be said to be watching TV.
Among the expressions heard by viewers were “ Dirty double-crosser “; “ I’ll get that mug “; “ Let’s go find a sucker “; “ I’ll blow your brains out “; and “ Shoot ‘em in the stomach. They take longer to die that way “. Thousands of similar expressions were heard, but they were too many to enumerate. In the ten hours of telecasting referred to one of those expressions or crimes of violence occurred every eight minutes. Every crime, violent incident or objectionable expression occurred in an imported television film. Not once was an offensive incident seen or heard in Australianproduced programmes. A total of 65 .major crimes and brutalities were shown on television by Sydney stations in four days in the guise of entertainment. All those incidents occurred in imported television programmes, all of which were telecast before 9 p.m. when children would see them. It is a shame that rubbish of that type should be foisted on the people who are paying £5 a year for a viewer’s licence.
I stress to the Postmaster-General the urgent need to give greater encouragement to Australian television talent. Even if the talent of Australians is not too high, in the initial developing stages of television in this country we should make concessions to Australian artists.
I wish to pass now to another matter. I propose to refer to telephone installations as they affect Australia generally but in particular the electorate of Banks. The Postmaster-General has provided me with figures of outstanding applications for telephones in a very important area of Australia embracing the Banks electorate. In Bankstown 802 people are waiting for telephones. In Hurstville 178 people are waiting. The figure for Peakhurst is 266 and for Revesby, 963. That means that in my electorate 2,209 people are waiting to be connected to a telephone. The total number of people so waiting in the Commonwealth is 40,000. So approximately 5 per cent, of the outstanding applications for telephones in Australia are in the electorate of Banks. If outstanding applications in the electorate of Banks were in the same proportion as in other parts of the Commonwealth, the number would be 320. I think that some system of priority should be revived for telephone installations, paying heed to the development of industry and commerce in certain districts. The electorate of Banks is progressing commercially, industrially and as regards home construction more than any other district possibly in Australia. It is really bursting at the seams.
The Postmaster-General’s Department when planning to install new equipment in an area such as Bankstown should look further ahead than it has in the past. The department has informed me that the 1,800- odd people waiting for telephones in the Bankstown area will not be satisfied until 1962 - three years hence. I forecast that by that time a further 1,800 people will be waiting for telephones. The same thing applies to the Hurstville district. 1 have recently received population figures for Bankstown which show that the population in that area now exceeds the population of Newcastle. The population of Bankstown and Revesby is second only to the city of Sydney as far as New South Wales is concerned. During the last twelve years the population of the area has increased from 40,000 to 140,000. In the same period more than 27,000 new dwellings have been completed in Bankstown. Those cottages have been erected thanks to the progressive New South Wales Labour Government. At the present time the unimproved capital value of rateable land in the municipality is more than £28,000,000 and it is anticipated that by 1960, to judge by new valuations that are coming to hand, the value will have increased to £40,000,000. The number of commercial buildings in the municipality is approximately 1,300. The number of industrial buildings has risen from fewer than 50 in 1946 to 600 to-day. The factory pay-roll in the municipality is more than £12,000,000 annually. The number of factory employees has risen from 8,672 in 1954 to 18,000 to-day. Next year more people will be employed in factories in Bankstown than in any other industrial municipality in New South Wales and possibly in Australia. I suggest that the Postmaster-General should look at the progress in this area and adopt my suggestions regarding it.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.-I think it would be a great pity if, as the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) suggested, the Government made itself completely responsible for programmes on television or, for that matter, programmes on the radio. If that were the case we would reach a stage where government control of programmes would be a type of regimentation. The more freedom that radio and television people have in their choice of programmes, the greater the chance the public has of getting the type of programmes that it wants to see or hear. 1 am quite certain that the advertisers on television in Australia to-day, who face high costs for television time, judge the type of programmes with the idea of sponsoring programmes that appeal to members of the public who, after all, are the people who want to see them and are the people who buy the sponsors’ products.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is interjecting. I know that he would force the television stations to telecast Australian programmes featuring Australian artists. But the answer to this problem does not lie in a government direction that Australian artists shall be used or that the programmes shall consist entirely of Australian plays or productions. The answer lies in the standards attained by Australian artists. If they attain the standards necessary for television they will slowly edge out every other programme. Many Australian artists who have gone overseas have found that it was not easy immediately to break into television. At times it took years to learn the techniques and to Teach a standard of entertainment before they were acceptable to overseas television. Because those people, having returned to this country with training and experience have been immediately taken on by Australian television stations, people assume that every Australian is fit to go on a television programme and will be a drawcard.
The honorable member for Banks said that Mr. Charles Moses had advocated a quota of Australian programmes on television. That opinion was given in evidence before the commission set up to investigate television - long before television became an established fact in this country. If one looks at the recommendations of the commission one will see that it did not recommend a quota of Australian time on television. In actual fact the stations operating television in Australia at this stage have, I think, been very generous toward Australian programmes. It is true that there has been a drop in the percentage of time allotted to Australian programmes, but that is not because there have been fewer Australian programmes televised. It is because the total programme hours have increased.
Reference has been made to the murder, mayhem, violence, shootings, eye-gougings and the like that appear on television. Well, nobody has his arm wrung in order to force him to watch television- Anybody who permits a child to watch a television programmeat 9.30 or 10 o’clock at night is not fit to be a parent if that child has homework to do or school to attend next day. The control of children lies, not in the Government’s hands, but in the parents’ hands. If parents do not have sufficient control over their children to see that they are in bed at an appropriate hour or are doing their homework, you cannot blame the Government if they watch television.
– Wait until you have television in Perth.
– I am quite prepared to wait for it. In fact, we have had television in Perth already for a month. Trade tests have been carried out during that period and my children have had every opportunity to see television subject, so far, to parental control. I can inform the champion of righteousness, who has interjected, that I think the children are in good hands. It is strange that most of the critics of all. this crime and murder that is shown on. television, and all these cowboy pictures,, sit with their eyes glued to the screen and say, “It was a terrible show for the children, but what will happen in the next episode to-morrow night? “
These programmes are shown because public opinion polls that have been taken among viewers indicate that they are the kind of programmes that the people want to see. Any one who criticizes cowboy pictures does not know what the average viewer in the community wants to see because some cowboy pictures, whether they be “ Gunsmoke “ or any other programme, afford complete relaxation. I am sure that many honorable members opposite view cowboy pictures and thoroughly enjoy them. However, it seems to be the proper thing to do to rise in this chamber and say, “ This is the end of civilization “.
– Do not circulate this speech.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member for Parkes will cease interjecting.
– What happened before we had television? Books and comics that were sold contained just as much murder and mayhem as one sees on television. One has only to look at school publications. Surely Shakespeare’s plays contain as much violence as many of the programmes that have been mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes, and I do not think that those plays have had a very grave effect on honorable members who have studied them at school.
People in Australia scream their heads off about child delinquency. They publicize it and blow it up out of all proportion without realizing that by doing so they are pleasing the small larrikin element in the community which is receiving top-line publicity and which thinks that it is far more important than it really is. Instead of talking so much, these people should try to do something to curb juvenile delinquency.
– Chicago comes to town.
– Anybody who has listened to the broadcast of proceedings of the Parliament when the honorable member for Parkes has been speaking would be convinced that whatever damage may be done to the junior or the senior mind by television could not be half as bad as the sheer larrikinism that has been exhibited in this chamber on occasions.
I did not rise to talk about television. I rose to speak about broadcasting, especially as it applies to Western Australia. The debate on the Estimates provides the opportunity for honorable members to bring before the committee certain disabilities that people in some parts of Australia suffer. If one looks at the statistics that have been prepared by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department one will see that we in Western Australia are out on a limb in relation to broadcasting as with many other facilities due to our distance from the centres of civilization and dense population in the eastern States.
On 30th April the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) referred to the third phase in the introduction of television in Australia and the areas that were included in the third phase. Without going into detail, they were the Australian Capital Territory which, after all, is the size of a pocket handkerchief when compared with the size of Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. Not one word was said about Western Australia. We have only just reached the first phase in the introduction of television. We have one commercial station which will commence televising, I think, next Friday or next Friday week, and a national station which is due to commence operations early in the new year. No mention has been made of when television will be extended to other parts of the State, but I hope that not much time will elapse before the people outside the metropolitan area in Western Australia will be afforded the opportunity to view television. They are entitled to the same amenities as are extended to people in other parts of Australia.
My colleague, the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Halbert), who has recently come to this place, and his predecessor, have often mentioned that there are still areas in Western Australia which cannot receive ordinary radio broadcasts. We should not lose sight of this fact. Many people in those areas, including those in the high income bracket and those in the low income bracket, believe that before television was introduced in any part of Australia they should have been afforded the facilities that are made available to radio listeners. I hope that some move will be made to cater for those people. The Postmaster-General, in replying to a question that was put to him recently, said that plans were under way to increase the power of the national stations to cover the areas which at present receive poor radio reception. If this increase in power does not meet requirements, I hope that some steps will be taken to establish additional radio stations.
Reference to the Financial and Statistical Bulletin issued by the Postmaster-General’s Department for the year ended 30th June, 1358, reveals that Western Australia has been left out in the cold in the provision of national broadcasting stations. In the Australian Capital Territory which, after all, could receive radio broadcasts from other stations in adjoining districts, there are two national stations. In New South Wales there are two in the metropolitan area and thirteen in country districts. In Victoria there are two in the metropolitan area and three in the country. In Queensland there are two in the metropolitan area and ten in the country, while in Western Australia, which is larger in area than any other State, there are two national stations in the metropolitan area and five in the country districts. Of those five, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie and the south-west district have regional stations. If one compares the aerial power of the national stations one sees that in New South Wales the power varies from 10,000 watts to 200 watts. However, in the main, the Western Australian stations are down to 2,000 watts, 400 watts and even as low as 200 watts. Therefore, the average person in Western Australia is denied the ordinary amenity of radio broadcasts, and some effort should be made by the Postmaster-General to give the people in that State a facility that is the right of every citizen in other parts of Australia. 1 should like to comment about another aspect of television. As I have said, we are about to commence operations in Western Australia and I do not think that in this year of 1959 any one should seek to deprive the people of that State of their right to television. It is a sobering thought that as a result of the introduction of television in Western Australia, which will mean that about 50,000 television sets will be sold in two or three years, the people of New South Wales and Victoria will benefit. About 90 per cent, or more of the anticipated expenditure of £10,000,000 on television sets will flow immediately to the eastern States because Western Australia does not have any manufacturing industry connected with television. When honorable members from New South Wales and Victoria talk about Western Australia’s demands for Commonwealth finance in other fields, they should keep in mind the facts that I have just brought to their notice. The introduction of television in Western Australia will provide employment for thousands of people in New South Wales and Victoria. We do not quarrel with that. All we ask is a little return in kind, and a little straight thinking about the disabilities which the people in Western Australia suffer.
– We support you. Why do you have a persecution complex?
– We want a little more than an odd word or two to show that we are supported in this chamber. We want some pretty smart action.
I realize that a terrific number of applications for country television licences have been received, but I hope that as phase three gets under way a move will be made to give to the people of Western Australia a complete coverage by radio, and a television coverage to the outer suburban areas which lie sometimes 300 miles from the capital city, so that the people in those areas can enjoy the benefits of television, including some of the dreadful things that have been mentioned by the honorable member for Banks.
– After listening to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) I am convinced that he must be a member of the Opposition and not a supporter of the Government. The criticisms which he levelled at the Australian Broadcasting Control Board are of the sort which would normally come from the Opposition and not from the Government side. It is obvious, from his remarks, that he has not much say in the affairs of the Government.
I wish to speak on a matter which 1 raised during question-time recently. My question was very rudely rejected by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). Although it may be only a minor matter to him it is of major significance to man, people residing in areas on the fringe of television reception. I brought to the notice of the Minister several instances in which, during storms - one of which occurred early in September and another on Monday last - quite a considerable number of television antennae were blown down bv gale force winds. 1 asked the PostmasterGeneral whether he would direct his officers not to issue a licence until the applicant could produce from a local municipal council proof that he had received from that body permission to erect an antenna and also that it had been erected to the council’s satisfaction. The Minister’s reply was to the effect that I was asking him to instruct the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to intrude in the affairs of local government throughout Australia in regard to installing antennae. He concluded by saying, “ My reply is, ‘ No sir, 1 am not ‘ “.
May 1 ask what is wrong with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board cooperating with local government, which desires its co-operation? Local government is prepared to grant permits for people to install television antennae in accordance with its requirements. Unfortunately, many viewers are either unaware of or shirk their responsiblity to obtain such a permit. It is also a fact, as the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) pointed out at question time to-day, that high-pressure television salesmen talk people into obtaining certain types of television receivers, then go ahead and erect the antennae, collect their money and shoot through. Subsequently, when gale winds come, the antennae, which have not been erected in accordance with council’s specifications, are blown over, as happened in the two cases I quoted in my question to the Minister. They sometimes fall across power lines and do a great deal of damage. When the local electricity authority comes to make repairs, it naturally seeks compensation for the cost involved and the unfortunate owner of the television set, who was unaware of his responsibility to erect the antennae in accordance with council specifications, is held liable and has to pay.
In addition, great danger to life can be caused by an antenna falling across a power line and sometimes bringing it down. It was fortunate, in the cases which I brought to notice, that people were not in the vicinity or they could have been electrocuted. The antenna was lying in a dangerous position in a public thoroughfare, and because it was touching the power line, could have electrocuted any one coming into contact with it.
If local councils were to receive an application in advance from the purchaser of a television set. he could obtain a permit to erect an antenna and be advised by the council as to a suitable place and the proper manner in which to erect it. It would not be asking too much of the department to come into the matter and insist that before a receiver’s licence is issued the owner of the television set should obtain permission from the council to erect an antenna. Cases have occurred in which owners of television sets have made claims on insurance companies, but their claims have been refused because they had not obtained a permit from the local council to erect the antenna. That is another way in which snide insurance companies - we know that they exist - are able to avoid their legal and moral responsibilities to insurers - particularly those who have brought receivers under hire-purchase agreements.
The location of antennae is of considerable importance to aero clubs. If the antennae are erected in dangerous positions, or too high, a wrangle follows between the council, aero club and television owner as to who will pay the cost of lowering them. Because I had knowledge of actual examples of this sort of thing happening, I asked the Minister what I thought was a fair and reasonable question. I am sure that if he were to discuss this matter with the Local Government Association he would find that he was not intruding in the affairs of local government, but rather co-operating with local authorities to assist the people. The average man - the man in the street - whom we are supposed to represent in Parliament, makes mistakes, sometimes knowingly, and at other times honestly and unknowingly.
A further suggestion I should like to make to the Postmaster-General is that the holder of a television viewer’s licence should be compelled to take out a third party insurance policy similar to that on a motor vehicle. In this way, both he and his next door neighbour would be protected from the damage caused by an accident involving the antenna. The masts of these antenna are mostly made of steel tubing. Steel rusts and deteriorates, and under pressure of gale force winds the mast could easily collapse and cause damage either to the property of the television owner or that of his next door neighbour or even the general public.
I wish to refer now to the forthcoming hearing of applications by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for television licences in country centres. 1 am greatly concerned about a move by city interests to extend the monopoly control they already have of the press, radio and television. In the cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane the situation has developed that major newspaper companies control the press, radio and particularly television. I should like to read a brief reference which shows the extent of the interest of the “ Herald and Weekly Times Limited “ and its subsidiary companies in television. It is as follows: -
The company heads the largest publishing group in Australia. In addition to owning the “ Herald “ and “ Sun News-Pictorial “ in Melbourne, the company prints seven magazines, has large share interests in Queensland Press Limited (which owns both of the Brisbane daily newspapers), the Advertiser Newspapers Limited, Adelaide, and is the principal shareholder in Australian Newsprint Mills Holdings Limited. The company also owns two Victorian radio stations and has an 85 per cent, interest in one of Melbourne’s two commercial television stations - HSV-Channel 7.
That company has a major say in one of the television stations in Melbourne. A similar situation is found in Sydney where the Sydney “Daily Telegraph” and the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ are major shareholders in the two television stations there. These television monopolies are now attempting to infiltrate country districts so that there also they may have complete control over press, radio and television throughout the Commonwealth. We have seen what happened in those countries in which the propaganda means of the nation were controlled by one group. We have seen what Goebbels did in Germany; we have seen the propaganda merchants of Fascist Italy. The same circumstances apply in the Soviet Union to-day, where there is one line of propaganda and where one body controls the press, radio and television. That results in the suppression of free speech.
In our own country, as a result of the monopoly control of the press and the radio, some thoughts expressed in various places are given no publicity. I am afraid that a similar situation will prevail in the television field. I have remarked that the people who control the city television stations are trying to infiltrate the country television stations that are to be established. I have here several leading articles on television, one from the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and two from the Sydney “ Sunday Telegraph”. Why do these people adopt the tactics of writing such leading articles and placing them in prominent positons in those newspapers? The two leading articles in the “ Sunday Telegraph “ were printed on the front page of that newspaper, where you could not help but see them. Normally, the “ Sunday Telegraph “ prints its leading article on page 2, but on these occasions it had to put them where everyone could see them. As soon as you picked up the newspaper, you could not help but read -
TV: Country people must get the best.
That appeared in the “ Sunday Telegraph “ of 3rd May, 1959. Then there followed a very capably prepared article, stating why the Sydney “ Sunday Telegraph “ or the “ Daily Telegraph “ should either control the whole of the shares or should be one of the major shareholders in country television. Referring to red tape and the countryman, the article stated -
If he is denied the full enjoyment of television it will be through red tape and a desire on the part of the Control Board to limit enjoyment - or possibly through Country Party pressure designed to control rural T.V. through stations owned in country towns.
What could be more ridiculous than a T.V. network in N.S.W. in which stations were noi linked so that country residents could see simultaneously the programmes being telecast in the city?
Immediately country television stations in New South Wales are linked with the city stations, they will be in the control of the monopoly interests of the “ Daily Telegraph “ and the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, and the same will apply in Victoria, Queeensland and South Australia. That is a point which I hope the Postmaster-General will take into serious consideration when he examines the recommendations of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and before he finally allocates television licences to the various country centres, because it is necessary to try to protect new interests and new capital.
Consider, for example, what is taking place in one country district. The Central Western T.V. Company has been formed. What are its interests? It is associated with Macquarie Publications Pty. Ltd., the Parkes Broadcasting Co. Pty. Ltd., Western Cinemas Pty. Ltd., Western Broadcasters Pty. Ltd., and Bathurst Broadcasters Pty. Ltd. What is the interest of these people in television? They are afraid that somebody else will come into the field of dissemination of news and entertainment and provide them with some real competition. 1 feel certain that that is their real problem. One of the leading articles in the “ Sunday Telegraph “ asks why the country fellow should not be entitled to see “ Gunsmoke “, as well as Perry Mason. Perry Como and the rest of those people of whom the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) spoke, referring to those deplorable programmes which are telecast from time to time in the city areas.
In conclusion, I ask once again that before the Postmaster-General approves of television licences for country districts, he will break the monopoly grip that the cities have on television at present.
.- I want to refer to the Postmaster-General’s Department and then to broadcasting and television services. I was a little disappointed, in one sense, by the statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his Budget speech, when, speaking about postal, telephone and telegraph charges he said -
It is only proper to say that, over the long period from federation to the end of the Second World War, the Post Office commonly earned substantial surpluses on its operations. This enabled it to pay off capital debt and to make sizeable contributions from time to time to the general revenues of the Government.
There is room for difference of opinion as to what the true capitalization of the Post Office should be in accounting terms, and so that the Government may have the best advice on that and other outstanding questions, we have recently decided to appoint a committee of competent outside people to study and report upon the basis on which the commercial accounts of the Post Office should be prepared.
When we have the advice of that committee we shall review the whole question of Post Office finances, and we hope then to be able to determine in precise terms what constitutes the capital of the
Post Office, regarded as a business undertaking, and what annual return upon it the Post Office should reasonably be required to seek.
In the meantime, however, it is clear beyond doubt that, since capital expenditure on the Post Office must continue to increase, the earnings of the Post Office should also be increased, not merely to meet the cost of its day-to-day services, but to provide something by way of return on the additional capital.
While there is a great deal of truth in those words, I feel that it would have been advantageous for the Government to have withheld any increase in postal charges until after the report of that committee had been presented. I feel that we would then have been in a better position to judge the whole matter. But, having said that, may I say now that I think the PostmasterGeneral’s Department deserves to be congratulated and commended by all the people of Australia. This is one of the departments that has made a tremendous contribution to the development and progress of this country in recent years. In view of the difficulties under which the department has been working, I am sure that the contribution that it has made should receive the commendation of the people of Australia.
We know that in periods of flood, such as have been experienced in New South Wales in particular, the staff of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department have always been first on the job and have restored the lines of communication in the shortest possible time, making a valuable contribution to areas that are recovering from these catastrophes.
With the development of country areas, there is a demand for telephones by individuals for homes and offices. This, in turn, places a strain on the trunk-line services. The increased demand for trunk-line services places a further burden on the switchboards and other equipment in post offices. So there is a cumulative effect. An increase in the number of telephones means an increase in the number of trunk lines, and an increase in the number of trunk lines means an increase in the equipment in the post offices. This places a strain upon the accommodation in the post offices. All this has meant that the Postmaster-General’s Department has been faced with a tremendous task in coping with the development and progress of this country.
I can speak from personal knowledge of the work done in my own electorate. I imagine that similar development and progress, and a similar official attitude, have been experienced by people throughout Australia. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) deserves congratulations for the job that he has done in the time during which he has occupied his portfolio. The same high standard of endeavour is evident in all ranks of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, from the Minister down through the ranks of the executive officers to the ordinary workmen in the various branches and sections of the department. I can speak only in terms of the highest praise of the technicians, linemen and administrative staff of the Post Office in my electorate for the job that they are doing. I think that, occasionally, we tend to take for granted the service provided by the department, because we are so accustomed to it in our daily lives. We take it as part and parcel of normal life in the community without fully appreciating - not because we lack appreciation, but because we do not fully realize - the job that is done by those in the department who have played their part in its development and progress.
I know that there have been times when we have felt that, perhaps, telephones were not being installed fast enough in certain areas, particularly when residents of our electorates have said that they have waited for a telephone for a number of years. Perhaps, on occasions, there may have been differences of opinion about priorities, but, overall, the Postmaster-General’s Department is to be congratulated on the work that it has done. Its achievements have been due, not to the efforts of any one person or any one section, but to the co-operation of all in the department, from the Minister down to the lads who deliver letters and telegrams.
I want to say something about television, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I believe that, in television, we in Australia have an ideal system, because we have national and commercial stations. In the field of radio, the interlocking services provided by both the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial stations have given us radio programmes that are second to none. Both the commercial stations and the
I think that the complete nationalization of television programmes and stations as proposed by members of the Australian Labour Party would be the worst thing that could happen to television in Australia. I congratulate the PostmasterGeneral on his attitude towards the establishment of television stations in country areas. After all, we talk a good deal about decentralization and about the need to provide for country people amenities similar to those enjoyed by city residents. I believe that, as far as is practicable, country people should be given control over their own television stations. This does not mean, Sir, that country and city stations should not co-operate. We have seen very effective co-operation between country and city radio stations, and I personally see no reason why similar co-operation should not be extended to the field of television as well. Those who say that control by country people of their own television stations will lower the standard of television in the country areas speak, I believe, either with their tongues in their cheeks or without any real appreciation of the situation.
The desirable proportion of programmes featuring Australian artists has been mentioned. I think that one of the arguments against too high a proportion of programmes featuring Australian artists is that it would mean that our television stations would not be able to broadcast programmes over an extended period daily, because they would not be able to get enough programme material for broadcasts extending over some hours each day. Our own artists would not be helped if they appeared only on their own in television programmes, especially if programmes featuring Australian artists formed by far the greater part of all programmes. If television in this country is to develop and progress as it should, we shall for a considerable time need to use programmes obtained from outside Australia. I am sure that most honorable members recall that this matter was raised in relation to radio in its early days. People said that we should have a certain proportion of programmes featuring our local artists. It was appreciated, Sir. that if the proportion were increased beyond the limit set at the time -I forget exactly what the percentage was - the radio stations would have had to reduce their broadcasting hours, because there were not sufficient Australian artists available to provide continuous programmes. The situation in respect of television is exactly the same. It would not be possible, especially in view of the cost of television programmes, to broadcast, for an extended number of hours daily, programmes featuring Australian artists almost exclusively.
In submitting this argument, Sir, I do not wish to imply in any way that Australian artists and programmes cannot hold their own with overseas artists and programmes. If I may say so, I am able to speak on this matter with some real appreciation and understanding of what is involved. Anybody with a proper appreciation of the situation, and with any experience of the matter, knows that Australian artists and productions can hold their own with overseas artists and productions, and, in many instances, improve on them. As I have said, the limited number of Australian artists that we have at present would not allow us to provide Australian programmes for the full period of broadcasting daily.
I commend the Postmaster-General and the department for the work that they have done. I commend the Minister especially for his attitude towards the establishment of country television stations.
Hotel for Qantas Empire Airways Limited - Melbourne Peace Conference - Trade with Communist Countries.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Deputv Speaker, I again raise the proposal by Qantas Empire Airways Limited to construct a hotel in Sydney. I have raised this matter on several occasions, but, so far, I have received no constructive answer from the Government. Qantas Empire Airways
Limited is anxious to construct a 400- bedroom hotel of international standard, at a cost of between £3,500.000 and £4,000,000, in Sydney, alongside its new office building, in order to cater for the great influx of overseas travellers resulting from the introduction of Boeing 707 jet airliners recently. We well know that for certain reasons there has been delay. We know that the hotel interests in Sydney and certain honorable members on the Government side are preventing the Government from giving a decision. Qantas Empire Airways Limited is at present successfully running a hotel in Sydney known as the Wentworth Hotel. This hotel was taken over by Qantas several years ago because Sydney hotel interests could not accommodate all the passengers brought from overseas by Qantas. Any one who has been to the Wentworth Hotel knows that the standard has improved and that it is a successful undertaking.
I am pleased to see the honorable members for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) and Phillip (Mr. Aston) in the House because they are two of the people who are frustrating this Government instrumentality, which is the people’s instrumentality, in its efforts to give an efficient service and guarantee hotel accommodation to passengers brought from overseas. Qantas is anxious to go ahead with the construction of the hotel, and a brief extract from the 25th annual report for the year ended 31st December, 1958, shows that this is so. The report said -
The hotel at present run by Qantas is not large enough for it to guarantee accommodation to all its passengers, and it must rely on private hotel interests. In each of the last two financial years Qantas showed a profit of about £43,000 in running the Wentworth Hotel, so there is no doubt about its ability to carry on the hotel business successfully. Recently a Colonel Young, representing Pan American World Airways Incorporated, was here negotiating for the construction of an hotel. I do not know whether it is coincidence, but we find that recently Chevron Hotels has been given permission to construct a modern hotel at Potts Point. We do not know that all the capital for this venture will be raised in Australia and we cannot be certain that Pan American World Airways has not invested capital in it. If it has, there will be a further flow of money from Australia to America.
We should make every effort to help Qantas, which is a successful undertaking. It is most anxious to get a decision from the Government so that it can go ahead with the construction of an hotel. Yet the Government is stalling while other interests are going ahead with the construction of an hotel. Last year £16,800,000 was sent from this country to America as the result of the investment of foreign capital here, and a further investment in an hotel would worsen the position. The “ Australian Financial Review “ gave the figure of £5,800.000 as the amount of new capital invested in Australia last year, and we should see that this amount is not greatly increased.
I ask the Government to give urgent consideration to this matter and stop frustrating a wonderful instrumentality that belongs to the people. It was founded by Labour along with such great public instrumentalities as Trans-Australia Airlines and the Commonwealth Bank. This is at least one asset that the Government has not yet sold, but certain interests within the Government are white-anting it and want to hold it back, just as they have tried to hold back other ventures.
– It is not tommyrot. If you were a fair-minded Australian, you would get out and see that the people, through Qantas, were allowed to build an hotel. We should give service to overseas travellers and maintain the best interests of Australia. We should not permit foreign interests to come here to control the activities that we should be controlling. Certain back-benchers on the Government side have made representations on this matter. Questions have been asked so that outside interests will know that they are doing their job. These members got themselves in print so that the people they represent will know what they are doing. Any one who checks “ Hansard “ for 3rd September and 15th September will see that the honorable members for Phillip and Mitchell were both interested in this subject. Most likely they represented the private hotel interests and overseas interests. They were endeavouring to ensure that another great government instrumentality would not go forward. I ask the Government to give a decision to Qantas and to allow it to construct a modern hotel in Sydney.
.- Yesterday and the day before, the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) attacked the Australian- New Zealand Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament. I hope that the press which gave space to this attack will give some space to the criticism of the attack. The AttorneyGeneral, among other things, said -
This congress is truly a Communist front. It is not intended to be a vehicle for any impartial discussion of a topic with which we are all most concerned - disarmament and peace. The purpose is, if possible, to get highly respectable citizens to associate themselves with the congress in the hope that their association will benefit Communist propaganda, particularly propaganda among uncommitted countries and peoples, and also in the hope that those people who have high and philanthropic motives will not observe the boundary which will exist between their highmindedness and some Communist ideology. One can expect from this congress resolutions which, of course, will not say anything about the actions of Communist countries.
That is the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral, and it is a particularly illiberal opinion. It is only an opinion. It is probably not his opinion; it is probably the opinion of some person whose knowledge of politics is as inadequate as his knowledge of so many other things.
I want to contrast that opinion with the opinion of the Methodist Church in Victoria, of the Baptist Church in Victoria, of the Church of Christ, of the Australian Labour Party in Victoria and of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in Victoria and in New South Wales, which have endorsed the conference. I want also to contrast that opinion with the opinions of Professor Sir Mark Oliphant, Professor A. K. Stout, Professor R. D. Wright, Professor Walter Murdoch, Air Marshal Sir George Jones, Reverend G. Kennedy Tucker of. the Brotherhood of St. Laurence, Reverend Rex Matthews, the Honorable J. D. Kenny, M.L.C., Mr. J. V. Stout, Dame Mary Gilmore, Alan Marshall and many other distinguished Australians who have endorsed and supported this congress. I want the House and the public to contrast the opinion of those distinguished Australians with the opinion of this little man. this Minister. Has he no respect?
– Have you got their opinions?
– Of course we have their opinions.
– You have not!
– I am quoting them. They have supported this conference, and there is proof in black and white of that fact. The churches and the other organizations that I have mentioned have also given their support, and if the honorable member for Lilley does not know that, he is showing as much ignorance of this subject as he shows of every other subject about which he speaks in this House.
I thought that McCarthyism had finished. The world is crying out for cooperation, for international understanding and for an end of suspicion, but this pintsized McCarthy who is temporarily the acting Minister for External Affairs, comes in here and spits in the eye of all those who are concerned to improve international relations. What this congress is, as I say, is a matter of opinion. We have, on the one hand, the opinion of the Minister, who has proven himself intolerant, aggressive and small-minded in this House. We have, on the other hand, the opinion of people like Professor Sir Mark Oliphant, Air Marshal Sir George Jones and others, and the opinions of the churches and other bodies I have mentioned.
I want to ask the House: What is the reason for this Minister making these attacks? How can such conferences as this help Communist propaganda? What is there to be afraid of in Communist propaganda, which influences about 1 per cent. of the voting public? In what way can this conference assist or develop Communist propaganda? If the conference puts forward conclusions which criticize only the anti-Communist countries and have nothing to say about the actions of Communist countries, is it not likely to fail completely to affect the minds of the people? This conference is not concerned to criticize Communist or anti-Communist countries. It is concerned to try to find areas of agreement between the two sides, and to show things that can be done. It is like many other conferences that have preceded it, and which have said that there should be summit conferences, that nuclear bomb tests should be stopped, that there should be disarmament, and that the expenditure on arms should be reduced while the expenditure on economic development should be increased.
These are the kinds of things that the conference will say, and I give the direct negative to the opinion expressed by this little Minister. The conference is not concerned to pump out cold war propaganda. It will be concerned to try to find areas of agreement. Most of the things that this and other conferences are and have been concerned with have been incorporated finally in the policy of this Government. Even the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) came to an astounding conclusion at a late hour last night, when he said that when all is said and done our security must depend upon international accord. Had that been said twelve months ago it would have been deemed Communist propaganda.
In the forthcoming conference all points of view can be expressed. What the Minister is trying to do is to keep people away from the conference, in the hope that it will become sectional and unrepresentative. If any influence prevents the conference from becoming representative, then the most important influence will have been the action of this Minister, who is trying to discourage people from becoming interested in and concerned with it.
The attack by the Minister, which is calculated to drive people away and keep them from participating in the conference, is the action of a politician. It is not the action of an objective observer, but of an illiberal politician, a reactionary one, one who is again introducing into this community an upsurge of McCarthyism. It is the action not of an objective observer concerned to get at the truth, but of a man concerned to use his words as an instrument of political warfare, a man who is concerned because he knows that the propositions that are being developed by public discussion in this community are propositions that embarrass the Government of which he is a member. For these reasons he tries to stifle discussion of these matters.
This Government opposed summit conferences. It opposed negotiations, and appended to them impossible conditions. But in the face of developing public opinion, both here and elsewhere, it had to retreat from that position, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had to come out as a supporter of summit conferences. Likewise the honorable member for Mackellar had to come out with the conclusion to which he gave utterance in the chamber last night, that when all is said and done our security must depend upon international accord. This is the trend of events. This is the trend of public opinion, and there is nothing that the Minister who is acting for the Minister for External Affairs, or any of those who agree with him, can do to stop that trend of public opinion. The world believes that international co-operation is possible and that there can be a reduction in the tensions of the cold war. The world believes that this can be achieved with full regard to security and the interests and welfare of the people.
I suggest that people will not be afraid to take part in this conference and will not be influenced by the kind of action that the Minister has taken. They will attend this conference and many others and will develop opinions with which the Government, for the time being, disagrees. By attending this conference people will do something to curb men like the Attorney-General, who are conservative and narrow-minded, and who deliberately attempt to create an atmosphere of intellectual nervousness, which is the weapon of those who cannot interfere with free discussion by more direct methods. There is no other reason for the attack made in this House. I challenge the Minister, or any one else, to say how this conference can be misused if those who attend it are members of the Australian public - and the only thing that can prevent it from being attended by members of the Australian public is the kind of action that the Attorney-General has taken in this place.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- If ever an attack is made at any time in this Parliament on the Communist Party, or on a Communist-front organization, based on sound and solid facts presented by a Minister or member of the Parliament, no one is at all surprised when the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) rises in his place to launch an attack on the person who has had the presumption to attack his friends of the Communist Party. I say, despite all the interjections that I hear from honorable members opposite, that it is not surprising to members of this Parliament to find the honorable member for Yarra defending the Communist Party, because those of us who know his background, and who know where he received his political training and education, know that the honorable member would do nothing else but defend his friends of the Australian Communist Party.
Despite the interjections that still come from honorable members opposite, I ask them to consider the statement made in this House to-night by the honorable member for Yarra, and which is grossly untrue. The honorable member has tried to convince members of this Parliament that the Australian Labour Party in Victoria is completely behind this Communist-inspired conference, but it was only a few days ago that Mr. Stoneham, the Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Parliament, came out with a clear and emphatic denial that he was in any way associated with this organization.
– That is a lie!
– Order! The honorable member for Yarra will withdraw that statement and apologize for making it.
– Well, it is an untruth.
– The honorable member will withdraw.
– I withdraw.
– I rise to order. Mr. Deputy Speaker. I ask you how it comes about that the honorable member for Yarra is made to withdraw the term “ untruth “ when you allowed the honorable member for Lilley to use it in his speech.
– Order! The honorable member was asked to withdraw the word “ lie “, not the word “ untruth “. The Chair will interpret what is right and what is wrong.
– I have had an opportunity to study one of the letterheads sent out by this organization. It was on a letter that had been written to the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, requesting him to issue an invitation to this organization, and to entertain the members of it at a banquet at which Mr. Priestley would be present. In examining this letterhead - and there is more than one kind of letterhead circulated by this organization - we find that it contains a great list of names of very prominent people, such as those referred to by the honorable member for Yarra in his speech. It would appear, from a cursory examination of the letterhead, that the people whose names are listed were supporters of this Communist-front organization that is holding the conference in Victoria. It would appear that they were people associated with the organization. As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and as does every honorable member of this House, no one reads in detail the small print contained in a letterhead. When you see a list of names you automatically read them and in your own mind associate them with an organization. If an organization is able to place a list of highly reputable people on its letterhead, one automatically concludes that it is a reputable organization, that a reputable conference is to be held because it is to be supported by those people. On a closer examination of the letterhead one finds that the said people are not associated with the Communist front organization at all, that they have been invited to be associated with the Communists in this peace conference. By so doing, the Communists hope to mislead a great number of reputable people and public figures, and lend an air of respectability to their activities.
I suggest to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) that before he makes statements about the Methodist Church in Victoria, he should discuss the matter with the Reverend Alan Walker, whom no one in this Parliament could claim to be in the right wing of politics. He is, indeed, a left wing member of the Methodist Church. I suggest to the honorable member that he should examine what was said by the Reverend Alan Walker when the statements made by the acting Minister for External Affairs were referred to him. I refer to the statements which the acting Minister made in this House yesterday in reference to the television appearance of the reverend gentleman. In no way did the Reverend Walker suggest that any statement which the acting Minister for External Affairs made was wrong. Indeed, if one reads his comment, one can only conclude that he was in agreement with the acting Minister for External Affairs.
This Parliament should be told quite clearly that this is indeed a Communistfront organization which is hoping to bring an air of respectability to its activities, in accordance with normal Communist tactics, and trying to inveigle simple-minded people into believing that it is supported by prominent people. These public figures are just as anxious to ensure world peace as is every one in this Parliament and the Communists are endeavouring to make it appear that the cause of peace is the aim of the conference. Their approach is dishonest, and if we study the tactics which they have employed throughout the world in regard to peace conferences we find that this is just another of their customary stunts.
I conclude by directing some questions to the honorable member for Yarra, whose knowledge of the organization which is supporting this conference must be very intimate indeed. 1 ask him: Where is the money that is sponsoring this conference coming from? A great deal of money is being spent. There has been no suggestion as to its source. I am reminded by the honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin) that the known expenditure is at least a quarter of a million pounds. What is the liaison between this organization, which is sponsoring the conference in Victoria, and the peace conference that was held in Stockholm? Who is the liaison officer? What is the relationship between the two organizations? Does the honorable member for Yarra deny that the Stockholm peace conference was a Communistinspired conference? Of course, it was. In conclusion, I sincerely hope that honorable members will realize that the acting Minister, before he answered the questions put to him by the honorable members for Phillip (Mr. Aston) and Reid (Mr. Uren), was certain that the information he gave was absolutely reliable. It could not be disputed by any responsible member of this Parliament who did not have an axe to grind for the Australian Communist Party.
.- How silly can honorable members on the other side of the chamber become? What does it matter if this organization is Communistinspired? Let us suppose that that is true. ls it not all to the good that members of church organizations, bona fide Labour organizations, the Liberal Party and all well-disposed bodies should go in among these people and see that the activities of the congress are directed along sound Christian lines, with the Christian objective of peace.
– If you lie down with dogs you will be covered with fleas.
– 1 may have something to say to the honorable member and his colleagues in a moment that will hurt. It is not very long since Her Majesty the Queen entertained Bulganin and Khrushchev at Buckingham Palace. Her Majesty became the recipient of a beautiful Arab pony. According to the view of Government supporters, it is a pity that Her Majesty did not know that it was part of a Communist front. It is not very long since Mr. Macmillan and General Eisenhower went into conference and decided to invite the prince of Communists to the United States with the very desirable objective of endeavouring to find whether there was a road to peace. Lo and behold, Mr. Macmillan is using as his secret weapon during the current British election campaign the fact that, of all men, he, a good old Tory, has been able to work with the Khrushchev Communist front. He is using that as a means of winning the British election campaign. 1 am in good humour, so 1 shall not use an offensive term in describing the idiocy of some of the people who have been speaking to-night. The worst that has been attributed to these people who are to be associated with the disarmament conference - to which I will give my support - is that they will be there in person, mat they are going to argue the merits of peace and the best road to peace. On the other side of the chamber we see gentlemen who are actively engaged in trading with the real Communists in red China, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Russia, Poland, and so on. For them it is not a battle of words; it is a battle of Russian gold, and in the pockets of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) are to be found some of the proceeds of the wool clip which went to eastern countries. Would it not be more practicable if these people got up in the chamber and said, “ We will not sell a bale of wool to any Communist country “, where, according to you humbugs, all the evils of mankind are hatched and practised. lt will not be denied that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has allowed zinc to be sold to Communist China. You need 10 per cent, of zinc and 90 per cent, of copper to make brass, which is the essential element for cartridge and shell cases. There are people in this Parliament who hold shares in or have interests linked, either directly or through banking organizations, with all kinds of commercial institutions which are getting a reward from Communist countries for their produce. If these people are of evil intent, why do you go on selling them the basic materials with which to make war on the democracies? Do any of you hypocrites and humbugs deny it?
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw those words.
– I shall withdraw because I do not wish to fall foul of you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that you were a good soldier and know what can be done with brass. Zinc can be used to galvanize the iron that can be used to make everlasting, or very durable, shelters for these Communist Chinese. Then, if you want to be a little bit diligent you can get the report of the Australian Wool Bureau, in which, blatantly and, I am glad to see, open to the light of day, there is the information that the Australian Wool Bureau invited to Wool House, Melbourne, the Chinese trade delegation that was in Australian in 1958, and had the most amicable discussions with its members, who are Chinese Communists. The word “ Communists “ was mentioned. The Communist delegation was mighty interested in the possibilities of trade in wool with Australia. During the visit this delegation from Communist China also had very amicable discussions with the Australian Wheat Board, no less - an authority whose funds are guaranteed by this present Government - with the object of fostering the selling of wheat to Communist China to nourish little Communists. And so it goes on! Did you ever in your life hear such humbug? Did you ever hear such hypocrisy? Did you ever hear such nonsense? You gentlemen opposite try to cover up your tracks by indicting men of Christian outlook who are not Communists but who, like the Eisenhowers, the MacMillans and Her Majesty the Queen herself, are prepared to confer, if need be, with Communists, admitted or not admitted.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) gets very emotional about this peace conference.
– There is nothing emotional about my allegation against honorable members opposite. This is right under their gills. You have been trying to sell your butter to Communist China.
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor must remain silent.
– One can understand the emotional feeling of the honorable member for Lalor when the Labour Party which has been trying to be a bit quiet about this matter lately, finds that it has come out into the open again. Of course the honorable member is upset. This peace conference is a phoney. I have here a copy of an invitation sent to people by those who are sponsoring this conference and who are puppets and stooges for the Communists. This document proves that this conference is a phoney, because here is an invitation sent to a very distinguished person in Sydney, and on it is a list of invitees - not a list of people who have accepted invitations. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) quoted some names as though they were legitimate sponsors.
– Every one of those whose names I mentioned accepted the invitation.
– The honorable member for Yarra is shouting at me now. He can shout as much as he likes, but he knows that a most expensive brochure that cost a very large amount of money gives his name as among the many distinguished writers, painters and musicians said to be sponsoring the conference. The brochure says -
Among the many distinguished writers, painters and musicians sponsoring the festival are, amongst others, Dr. Cairns, M.P.
Perhaps the fact that he is a sponsor is the worst thing that can be said about the conference.
I return to the list of invitees that I mentioned. On the invitation which is addressed to one of the invitees, are the names of distinguished people. The invitation seeks to make it appear that all those distinguished people are going to take part in the conference, when, in fact, those people have only had letters of invitation addressed to them. The first person concerned brought the invitation here to members of this House in protest, and said that he was most concerned, most offended and tremendously embarrassed by having his name on such a list. Therefore, Sir, we can brand the whole thing as a complete phoney, lt is just as phoney as the Somerville Smith case.
The honorable member for Lalor will be on his feet defending this sort of thing. A list of people has been put together to look convincing in an attempt to make those people puppets and stooges for the under-cover Communists who are sponsoring this kind of conference. Of course, anybody who falls for this gets on what the Communists call “ the little hook “. The Communists seek to get these people in and, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, try to get their good fellowship and their friendliness and, under cover of the list, seek to run this conference. Of course it is a phoney and of course it is damaging to the softheaded people who would heed such an approach. Let us hear what other members of the Labour Party have to say about this conference.
.- The honorable member for Mackellar-
– That is right. McCarthy, McCarthyism. There is something wrong with the letter “ M “ as an initial. It seems to be the mark of quite a lot of people who indulge in this kind of thing. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), to whom I intended to refer, spoke about regarding us as puppets. He himself is well known. He is Bate, and he is on the same little hook. I do not know what particular hook it is. If he wants to know what other members of the Labour Party have to say about this conference, here is my opinion: As far as I am personally concerned I propose to go to the conference, and I have no doubt whatsoever that if all the Communists this side of the North Pole turn up, and I hold an opinion contrary to theirs they will in no way influence me whatsoever, any more than I am influenced by my continual association with honorable members opposite or by my sitting beside you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on the aeroplane that takes us home at the end of the weekly sittings. Such association would make me no more a member of the Australian Country ; Party or a member of the Liberal Party than would what was said at this conference influence me against my opinion.
One of the blackest pages of political history in Australia is the stain by association and, unfortunately, it is one of the principal tactics of the Liberals. After my departure hence, if I were to return to this planet in a space ship and were to look around and consider your political status, one of the things for which you would stand condemned in the eyes of everybody would be that in your political activities you have continued the principles of McCarthyism and have sponsored them, all the way down from the most distinguished members of the Government, from the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) himself, who once said that there was a nest of traitors in the Public Service - and not one single traitor was found - to his present fellow-runner, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). Those are the things that condemn you in the eyes of every decent Australian, and those are the things in regard to which at this very moment in history you are going against the tide. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight), who chose to leave this place after having made his speech against my friend from Yarra (Mr. Cairns)-
– He is here.
– I see that he has come back now. He comes and goes, but his non-return to this place will be assured when the people of the division of Lilley realize that despite his many virtues he unfortunately carries this dark stain of assessing crime by association. When they realize that, he, like a lot of other people, will pass from this place.
The question was asked, “ Where does the money come from for this conference, and where do the people who will attend it come from?” As far as I personally am concerned, I give no sponsorship to anybody else’s resolutions. I am convinced that the people who attend this conference will be able to state their views, be able to say what they will, and that resolutions will come from it. However, even if no resolutions come from it the gathering of people together to discuss things that are fundamental to all of us is democratic. Surely the very principle of democratic conduct is that we should gather together as many people as possible to discuss these questions in an effort to find some common meeting ground. I know that meetings have been held in Melbourne during the last few weeks at which people who are possibly Communists and people whom I know are Liberals have turned up to discuss these things. At the meeting which I chaired in my electorate - which is .certainly not a wealthy electorate - a collection of £40 was taken up from 50 or 60 people. This is a symbol of something for which people are seeking.
I have no hesitation in saying that the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) is adopting a cause which does him great discredit. I am disappointed that my friend the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) has taken up the cause of the most reactionary forces in the community. I am bitterly disappointed in the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick), who is a Knight Batchelor, a Minister of State and, at present, the acting Minister for External Affairs. He speaks here, not only for the people of Parramatta, but for the people of Australia. You can count me out. I will have nothing of that kind of attitude. It is a disgrace to the nation and to this Parliament. It is opposed to the political atmosphere of the rest of the world. It is against the tide and current of Australian opinion that such an attitude is adopted in this Parliament, where we ought to be the spokesmen for sympathy, understanding and get-togetherness. Honorable members opposite are struggling against the tide of current opinion, and they will be drowned in it.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, there has been some passionate language coming from honorable members opposite about this socalled peace conference.
– No, against you.
– Well, against us, if you like. Let us get the matter straightened out. I do not know whether the honorable members who have spoken are suggesting that we are opposed to peace, or to the discussion of peace. I do not think that could possibily be in their minds, because it is a quite fantastic suggestion. I do not suggest that we would want to stop discussion of peace, or conferences about peace, as long as those conferences are convened by people who do not try to conceal who they are or why they call them. That is the essence of the matter.
The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) has spoken most passionately about his desire to be free to go to this conference. Good luck to him. Let him go there and’ talk, but let there be no deception about who is running this conference and who is lending his name to it under false pretences. After all, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) talked about the visits between Eisenhower, Macmillan and Khrushchev. Khrushchev never suggested that it was some one in the free world who had invited Mr. Macmillian to go to Moscow. Khrushchev did not have to hide his identity. Those exchanges between the Communist and the free world are valuable.
The point which the Attorney-General made and which other honorable members on this side of the House made is that there has been a calculated deception practised in regard to the convening of this conference. And it is that deception which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) defends. That is the only matter to which the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) directed the attention of the public. Sir, I think this matter should be placed in its proper perspective. It is well known that Communists do this kind of thing. They try to persuade the public that they have some respectability. They try to get people to these conferences to espouse causes which are worthy in themselves. Let there be no mistake about that.
– Whom are you speaking about?
– I am talking about well-known and recognized Communist tactics in espousing worthy causes and inviting the support of respectable people. Having attracted people to these conferences under false pretences they then go forward and hold up the kind of discussions that have taken place as showing what worthy people the Communists are. They come out in the open afterwards, but not before. I say that there is no objection to conferences of any sort as long as people who go there know the kind of thing they may be committing themselves to, and the kind of use that may be made afterwards of what they said.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, it has been said by Government members to-night that this peace conference in Melbourne is a phoney conference. I should like to refer to the phoney attitude of the Government with regard to communism. Yesterday week, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) met a delegation representing the Trades and Labour Council of Sydney, which came to see him about retrenchments. To the Minister’s credit, he was good enough to agree to what this delegation sought, and he cancelled 32 dismissal notices. On the way out of the room, every member of the delegation shook hands with the Minister. He was quite fraternal with them. One of them was one of the best known Communists in Sydney - Mr. McDonald.
I would suggest, so far as the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) is concerned, that he is much better at climbing fences than he is at putting a case for the Government. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) has asked, “What about Tibet”? The climate of Tibet is very cold and, of course, the Chinese Communist army has to have warm clothing. Where do they get the wool to put into that clothing? They get it from the members of the Country Party.
Let us look at the great deception by the Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), I am led to believe, sent fraternal greetings to Khrushchev on behalf of the people of Australia. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) was drinking vodka with Mr. Firubin. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) was wining and dining with the newly arrived Russian Ambassador. The Leader of the Country Party (Mr. McEwen), who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, has made no bones about the fact that he wants to recognize red China. There is no answer from the members of the Country Party. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) said that the Government of Australia is accepting blood money because it is trading with red China.
I went to the Olympic Games in Melbourne a few years ago and I saw a great Russian long distance runner win the 10,000 metres race. I looked around and I saw plenty of Liberal members in the reserve for parliamentarians. They were cheering, clapping their hands and saying what a great runner he was.
Strange to relate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) mentioned the Reverend Alan Walker and, by implication, referred to him as being a left-winger. In the eyes of many Government members, any one who is a left-winger is either a Communist or a fellow traveller. You cannot get away from that one. There is no more straightforward man in the world than Alan Walker. He is a lighter for what he thinks to be right, irrespective of other peoples’ opinions.
Not so long ago, I attended the funeral of one of the greatest men that Australia has ever seen, Archbishop Mowll. When he returned from red China, he was accused of being pro-Communist because he expressed his opinions of what he had seen there. The Government tried to evade the question by saying that it was window dressing. He had spent 25 years of his life in China, yet when he returned and gave his honest opinion on what he saw in red China, he was accused of being proCommunist by some of these McCarthy-ites. It is very interesting to see these arguments brought up. What about the restoration of relations with Russia? What about that? The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) - or should I pronounce it Mortein - opposes it. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) opposes it, but he has to accept it. Yet those honorable members support a government that recognizes red China. Before talking about people being phoney honorable members opposite should clean up their own cup boards. There can be no doubt that the question asked yesterday by the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston) was an attempt to smear the Australian Labour Party, but the longer honorable members opposite keep this smear campaign going, the bigger mess they will get into themselves.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.20 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
All United States Navy P2V5 Neptune aircraft (the same model as those of the R.A.A.F.) have been modified by the addition of jet engines; Royal Canadian Air Force P2V7 Neptunes are undergoing modification at present. It is not known whether or not Neptune aircraft operated by N.A.T.O. countries are jet engine fitted, but it is believed that P2V7 Neptunes operated by the Japanese Air Defence Force are so fitted. 6 and 7. - (a) The number of flying squadrons at present on the R.A.A.F. Order of Battle is sixteen. (b) The types of squadrons, aircraft equipment, and present bases are -
m asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice -
Will he supply me, before the debate on the Estimates for his department, with a reply to the question which I placed on the notice-paper on 18th August, concerning civil defence?
– It was not possible to accede to the honorable member’s request.
m asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
What were the component elements of costs contained in each of the figures for the expenditure per mile of running the different makes of car given by him on Wednesday, 30th September, in reply to my question on this subject?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Holden. - Petrol and oil, Id. per mile; tyres, and tubes, .46d. per mile; repairs and maintenance, 1.6d. per mile; depreciation, 1.3d. per mile; total,. 4.36d. per mile.
Ford. - Petrol and oil, 1.4d. per mile; tyres and tubes, .56d. per mile; repairs and maintenance, 2.7d. per mile; depreciation, 2.7d. per mile; total, 7.36d. per mile.
Buick. - Petrol and oil, 2.2d. per mile; tyres and tubes, .73d. per mile; repairs and maintenance, 2.8d. per mile; depreciation, 4.7d. per mile; total, 10.43d. per mile.
Armstrong Siddeley. - Petrol and Oil, 1.6d. per mile; tyres and tubes, .73d. per mile; repairs and maintenance, 5.8d. per mile; depreciation, 5.3d. per mile; total, 13.43d. per mile.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
What steps have been taken by the Government to prevent companies engaged in the manufacture and distribution of drugs from taking advantage of the National Health Scheme to raise the prices of their products above a reasonable level?
– The costs of pharmaceutical benefits are under constant review and my department takes all steps necessary to ensure that the prices paid for pharmaceutical benefits are fair and equitable.
z asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will consideration be given to the inclusion of Marsilid tablets, which are used for the treatment of special heart conditions, on the free drug list?
– I will refer the question of the inclusion of Marsilid tablets to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee for consideration.
z asked the acting Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Social Service Workers.
s asked the Minister for Social Services, uponnotice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 October 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19591007_reps_23_hor25/>.