23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. What is the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to the suggestion of a subsidy to assist pineapple-growers? Have pineapplegrowers asked for a temporary subsidy by way of a loan, and, if so, with what result?
– To my knowledge there has been no request for a subsidy, temporary or otherwise, from the pineapple industry. Indeed, the pineapple-growers evolved a stabilization scheme of their own, which was submitted to the growers generally and was approved by them. I rather imagine that they are operating under their own stabilization scheme, or will be operating under it in future.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. Will the term of office of Sir Josiah Francis as Australian Consul-General in New York terminate in the immediate future? If so, has consideration been given to extending his term, or is it correct, as reported, that Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan is to be appointed to succeed to the office in New York?
– 1 announced recently that the term of office of Sir Josiah Francis was coming to an end about the end of the year, and that he desired to return to Australia. I think he will be soon on his way. He is due to arrive by the end of the month when his term will end. No consideration has yet been given to a successor. As usual, I read these speculative stories with great interest.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the fact that the Soviet bloc has refused to pay any of the costs of the United
Nations forces in the Congo, to the consequent financial embarrassment of the United Nations, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether it has been proposed that Australia and the democracies should increase their contributions to the United Nations? Does the right honorable gentleman feel that some of the present United Nations costs of administration are excessive or extravagant?
– As to the second part of the question, I really do not have enough, information to form a judgment although, like the honorable member, I have occasionally thought I saw symptoms of extravagance in the United Nations administration. As to the first part of the question, no proposal has been made that the gap caused by the Soviet abstention from contribution, should be filled in any particular way. We have all been invited to make a contribution and we are, in fact, proposing to make one.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the latest “ Annual Bulletin of Overseas Investment” discloses that thenew - and I emphasize new - capital inflow from the United Kingdom, the United States of America and other countries exceeds by only £5,000,000 our capital outflow of dividends on foreign investment in this country. Is it also a fact that if the tax saving by the United Kingdom, the United’ States of America and Canada under thedouble tax agreement were taken into account, a good deal of the new capital’ inflow would be represented by our own money?
– I am not sure that I follow completely the details of the honorable gentleman’s question. I do not know whether he has overlooked the fact that included in the capital inflow is a good deal of reinvestment in Australia of dividends which otherwise might have gone from this country. On other occasions, I have told the House that the percentage of the income from our exports required toservice our overseas borrowings and also to pay for the remittance of dividends overseas is only a fraction of what it was in earlier years. Indeed, it is slightly lower than it was when we took office from the Labour Government in 1949.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that, in the town of Grenfell and, indeed in all towns west of Bathurst where all industry is engaged in export pursuits, the Industrial Acceptance Corporation has withdrawn agents’ finance and retail finance for the purchase of farm machinery, tractors and motor vehicles, and that since then it has not been possible to arrange hire-purchase finance with any other of the well-known hire-purchase companies in those areas. Does this action accord with the Government’s economic directives which, it is understood, specifically exclude any hardship from being imposed on export industries? Are the only agencies in these areas which are now able to provide finance those which handle General MotorsHolden’s and Austin Massey Ferguson equipment? Is it in the best interests of the community that hire-purchase finance provided from Australian sources should be available only for the purchase of the products of these two great but foreign-owned companies?
– It is appropriate that the first utterances of the honorable member for Calare in this House should reflect his concern for the welfare of his constituents. I have not had brought to my notice from any other source the facts which he has now presented to me. I would, indeed, be concerned to learn that one of our major hire-purchase organizations was apparently either ignoring or not concerning itself with the expressions of Government policy made so clearly from this place by me in a number of statements recently. We have no constitutional power in respect of hire-purchase companies. But the Government has made it clear, through the directive which has gone out expressing a decision of the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia, that even within a rather stringent banking policy it desires the needs of rural producers and exporters to be given special attention. I would hope, Sir, while I recognize the importance of the profit motive in commercial and industrial affairs, that great Australian financial and industrial organizations are not so mindful of that motive as to be regardless of the national interest in these matters. Just as we wish to see. the credit available in this country made available in a reasonable degree to our export industries, so we most certainly hope that the hire-purchase organizations will not be unmindful of that consideration also.
– In view of the fact that wool-raisers are to be represented on tribunals that fix the price of labour, I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he will consider giving the workers representation on any board that may be created to fix a reserve price for wool.
– I think the honorable member is assuming a good deal. He is assuming in the first instance that a board will be appointed after the committee of inquiry has presented its report. I think it would be far better to wait until we receive the committee’s recommendations before discussing the matter any further.
– As a degree of confusion exists amongst some branches of dairy industry organizations regarding the report of the committee of inquiry into the dairy industry, I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he will again state that the industry will be given adequate time to consider the report and make submissions to the Government before any action is taken. I ask also whether, at this stage, there is any indication when the submissions of the industry will be received.
– I hope that the dairy industry as a whole recognizes that the report presented to the Government contains recommendations upon which the Government has as yet taken no particular stand. I have stated quite clearly that the report was released in order that the industry might study it thoroughly and have ample opportunity to state its opinion thereon. Although we have received letters from certain branches, I much prefer to have a submission from the industry as a whole. Such submissions are usually made by the Australian Dairy Industry Council, which is representative of the industry. The honorable member can be assured that no action will be taken by the Government this side of the New Year.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in his capacity as Minister for External Affairs, whether he has been officially advised of a flagrant interference with the freedom of an Australian citizen, the Right Reverend Monsignor Fahy, of Camden, New South Wales, during his recent visit to Belfast, in Northern Ireland. In view of the fact that Monsignor Fahy, a former Australian Army chaplain, was ordered to a police station for questioning because he had taken a photograph of a public building, will the Minister take appropriate action calling for a suitable explanation of, and apology for, this blatant interference with the freedom of an Australian citizen, particularly as Monsignor Fahy was in possession of a Commonwealth credential letter issued by the Prime Minister?
– That last observation goes right to the heart. If the honorable member would be good enough to give me the particulars of this case, of which I had not previously heard, I shall see whether I can make an inquiry.
– 1 ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he has received confirmation of the report that the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr. Subandrio, recently predicted a possible armed conflict over West New Guinea. If he has, can he say how such a statement can be reconciled with President Soekarno’s statement to him almost a year ago that force would not be used in the settlement of the dispute?
– We have not yet had confirmation of this reported statement. We are inquiring into it, of course. If the statement were made, quite plainly, it would be completely inconsistent with statements made by Dr. Subandrio himself and by President Soekarno in relation to the use of force. If the reported statement is eventually confirmed, we shall probably have to address ourselves to the matter.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. The right honorable gentleman will be aware that a clergyman in his constituency, who has advocated modifications of our immigration policy, has received threatening letters and telephone calls, that racist epithets have been painted on the pavement outside his church and that the door of the church hall has been embellished with verses such as -
The Vicar with the empty church Has left his own race in the lurch.
I ask the Prime Minister whether any Commonwealth agencies are responsible for investigating or countering such racist or fascist activity, and whether any such agencies have concerned themselves with the activity in this case.
– 1 know about this case because my constituents wrote to me about it. Who knows what can be done about this kind of thing! We had outbursts of it recently in the surroundings of Sydney, directed against the Jewish community. In the old days, I have even had the spectacle of my own fence being painted with suitable slogans calling on the people to remove me. We regret this deplorable piece of vandalism - for that is what it is - but it is primarily, I think, a matter for the State police, because it is not a matter of great political significance or anything of that kind. It is sheer larrikinism and vandalism. In fact, the sooner some of these young vandals who get about are dealt with suitably, the better it will be for the country.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Can he tell me whether the Geraldton crayfishing grounds in Western Australia are in any danger of being fished out? Is the Minister aware that large tuna fishing grounds are thought to exist to the north of Geraldton? Will he have investigated the possibility of establishing a tuna fishing industry in this area, aided if necessary by money from the Fisheries Development Trust Account?.
– The honorable member has asked whether crayfishing grounds of Geraldton are in danger of being fished out. I should say that there is always that danger if any particular fishing ground is over-exploited. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the Western Australian Fisheries Department and the Department of Primary Industry are keeping in touch with the matter, because we believe that these crayfishing grounds have been fully exploited and need watching and conserving. With respect to the development of a tuna fishing industry, the Department of Primary Industry, in conjunction with the C.S.I.R.O. and the departments responsible for fisheries in all the States, has undertaken an investigation into the possible development of this industry, because canned Australian tuna is being favorably received in various markets. We are hopeful that as a result of what has been done on the southern coast of New South Wales and in the Port Lincoln area of South Australia we shall be able to develop the tuna industry.
If the honorable member has any particular proposition to put to me for research in the Geraldton area and the use of money from the Fisheries Development Trust Account, I shall be very pleased to receive his proposal. It will receive due attention in connexion with our general investigations into the development of the tuna industry.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Health. refers to the treatment of alcoholism as a disease and not as a form of delinquency. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that tests are being conducted in Australia to prove the efficacy of a new drug named librium, believed to have been developed in Switzerland. Can the Minister affirm that rather distinctive success has been claimed for this drug both in America and the United Kingdom as an effective cure for alcoholics? Will he say whether this drug will be generally available in Australia in the near future, and will he take steps to have it included in the list of free drugs under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act?
– I am not particularly familiar with the drug mentioned by the honorable member, but I understand that from time to time various drugs are investigated for the treatment of alcoholism. Before they are admitted to the list of pharmaceutical benefits, of course, they would need to be examined by the advisory committee, and the Government as usual would act on the advice of the committee.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Has the right honorable gentleman received a request from the Queensland Government for financial assistance to construct roads for the expansion of the cattle industry as distinct from the Channel country roads scheme?
– The honorable member mentioned this matter to me the other day. I find that on 11th October the Premier of Queensland wrote, I think to the Acting Prime Minister because I was not here. He forwarded copies of a report that had been submitted to the Queensland Government in relation to the expansion of the beef industry. The committee which furnished the report included among its recommendations, as the honorable member knows, a scheme for the construction of roads for the transport of store stock. My colleagueacknowledged the letter and said that after the Commonwealth authorities had studied the report, we would write again. We areactively engaged in the study of the report and hope as soon as possible to be able tosay something about it.
– I ask the Treasurer a. question. In view of the report that the Industrial Acceptance Corporation is vacating the field of hire purchase on farm machinery in the Calare electorate, will the Treasurer give an undertaking that, not only in the Calare electorate but also in all electorates throughout Australia, primary producing electorates particularly, the people will be made more aware of the fact that the Commonwealth Bank undertakes hirepurchase business on farm machinery at an interest rate which I believe is much lower than the rate charged by other financial institutions engaged in this business? Will he give a further undertaking that the Commonwealth Bank will be suitably equipped financially to accept any business of this nature that may be offering?
– The honorable gentleman is asking me for a policy statement which .he knows it would not be appropriate for me to make at this stage. I do not think that our problems are necessarily met by having some Government organization take over business that is normally undertaken by established financial and commercial organizations. If we are to meet the economic problems facing the country, it must be by the combined efforts >of all sections of the community, and I hope that all sections and people in all walks of life will adopt a responsible attitude. I have enough faith and confidence in my fellow Australians to believe that once the facts of the situation and the problems inherent in it are clearly perceived, they will play their part in ensuring that the country successfully overcomes its difficulties. I do not have any reason to believe that hirepurchase organizations will be found to be any more lacking in a sense of responsibility in these matters than are other sections of the community.
– I ask the Treasurer: ! Does he expect to be in a position, before the House rises, to give an indication of the “Government’s intentions regarding the report of the Decimal Currency Committee?
– I do not expect to be in a position to make any such policy statement on behalf of the Government next week, by which time I think it is generally accepted or hoped that the House will be able to conclude its business satisfactorily. I can assure the honorable member that the Treasury is going ahead as rapidly as possible with its consideration of this matter, having regard to the very real pressure of work to which it is being subjected at the present time. As recently as this week I have had discussions with the Treasury regarding the possible results in South Africa of the introduction of decimal currency in that country early next year. I find that a considerable body of observers, representative of various sections of the Australian financial community and of other interests concerned with the use of a decimal currency system, will be going to South Africa. We ourselves are giving thought to the extent to which the Australian Government should be represented by observers in South Africa.
– I address a question to the Minister for Territories. Is it correct that the Government’s decision to delete the assembly hall and air-conditioning facilities from the plans of the proposed Darwin High School represents a major departure from the recommendations of the Public Works Committee with regard to this matter? Why was not the traditional course followed of referring the project back to the committee in the proposed amended form? Will the Minister say by what authority the Government acted as it did in this matter?
– Matters concerning the relationships between the Government and the Public Works Committee are under the administration of my colleague, the Minister for Works. I will not attempt to cover ground which he can himself cover. The House may find it instructive, however, if I give some brief information about this project. After the honorable member for the Northern Territory asked a question about it yesterday, I checked up on the figures, as I promised him I would. I find that the real problem has been related to steadily mounting financial commitments in respect of this work. As long ago as 1953, as Minister for Territories, I approved of the building of this school at a cost of £175,000, a figure below that for projects that are usually referred to the Public Works Committee. When the project reached the design stage, however, additions of various kinds were made to the basic requirements of the client department, and because of the mounting estimates of cost the project missed Budget after Budget, because we could not accommodate it within the total amounts available for the works programmes of the Northern Territory.
Finally, early in 1958, we reached a stage at which there were three different proposals before the Northern Territory Administration. Using round figures, the proposals were for schools costing £541,000, £419,000 and £353,000. The Northern Territory Administration, after considering the various proposals, expressed its preference for the third and cheapest proposal - for a school costing £353,000. It was that proposal which was referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works. When the report on the matter emerged from the committee, a project which we had hoped would cost £353,000 had become a project costing £557,000, as a result of certain additions and proposals made by the committee. When a further estimate was made and this proposal was ready for submission to Cabinet earlier this year, the estimate presented to Cabinet was £630,000 for a school for 500 children. Cabinet, in its first reaction, asked that this cost be reexamined to see whether some reduction could be made, but the only offer for economy that was made in redesigning was a reduction of £20,000.
In those circumstances Cabinet, knowing quite well that a school for 500 children costing £630,000 could not be accommodated within the prospective works programme of the Northern Territory, and wanting to have the school as early as possible, made two decisions. One decision was to delete from the present stage of construction an assembly hall costing £175,000. The Public Works Committee, in its wisdom, had proposed that an assembly hall sufficient for 1,000 children should be included in stage one of the school. Cabinet decided that the building of the assembly hall for 1,000 children should be deferred, and the reduction made on the current proposal was £175,000. So the assembly hall will go in at the second stage of the building of this school when funds are available. The other question to which Cabinet addressed itself was that of air-conditioning or mechanical cooling by forced draught ventilation or natural ventilation. In the upshot it was-found that we could not return to natural ventilation because of the way in which the school had been designed, and so the choice was between air-conditioning or mechanical cooling through forced draught ventilation. Again, for reasons of trying to accommodate the whole project within our financial resources, we saved £68,000 by a choice of mechanical ventilation instead of air-conditioning.
In the upshot, Cabinet’s decision was to reduce the estimated expenditure, in round figures, by £243,000, and to put to design a school which, on current estimates, will cost £440,000, plus surrounding services such as water, sewerage and preparation of the site, which will probably bring the cost of the school to about £480,000. 1 remind the House that we have to cut our suit according to our cloth. At the present time this is a school, for which, immediately, approximately 300 secondary school students are available. At the time of completion about 500 secondary school children will be available and, as the population of the Territory grows, successive stages of the school will be undertaken. I think that gives the full history of the project and the reason why Cabinet has deferred the building of the large assembly hall at a cost of £175,000 and has chosen mechanical ventilation instead of air-conditioning.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Will he confer with the appropriate Victorian authority with a view to providing efficient rail or other means of transport for conveying goods for export from the Mallee and Wimmera districts of Victoria to the decentralized port of Portland?
– While one can appreciate the interest of the honorable member for Mallee in this problem, I should like to point out that rail transport, of course, is a matter for the State authority, and that roads or other forms of transport are under State administration also. But this new port of Portland is one which needs to be developed and, as honorable members know, it was evident at the opening just what a future it will have and what a stimulating influence it will be on that part of the country. As a result of the initiative and support of the Victorian Government
– But a Labour government started it.
– Whatever may have been done in the past, the scheme has been brought to fruition by the present Victorian Government. The State Government, through its Minister for State Development, has been in consultation with me already with regard to the shipping aspect. As is well known, the Commonwealth Government always co-operates most readily with the States in any project which will be to the benefit of Australia. I assure the honorable member that if any co-ordination of rail and road transport with the Australian National Line is necessary to channel trade and commerce through the port of Portland, assistance will be forthcoming very readily.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the recent report to the effect that Mr. Wybrow, secretary of the Australian Coal Association, Mr. Ballard, fuel manager of the Victorian State Electricity Commission, and Mr. Winning, legal officer of the Joint Coal Board, have suggested that an excise duty be placed on industrial diesel oil and other fuel oil equivalent to the existing customs duty so that unfair competition with the Australian coal industry can be reduced? Will the Government consider the suggestion that has been advanced by these men in public life?
– I regret that I was not aware of this report, but no doubt it has come before my colleague, the Minister for National Development, who deals with the Commonwealth’s interest in matters relating to coal. I shall be very happy to pass on to him the text of the honorable member’s question.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade. Are reports correct that the first Soviet trade exhibition will be staged at Sydney in August, 1961, as part -of the Sydney Trade Fair? Will the Soviet exhibit machine tools and machinery, as well as consumer goods, at the fair?
– I understand that it is the intention of the Soviet authorities to exhibit at the Sydney Trade Fair. I have no particulars of the proposed exhibit, but
I expect that it will include, as the exhibits of all countries do, the kind of articles that are for sale and that have a prestige significance.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Is it true that Electronic Industries Limited, the foreign owners of television station GTV9, has sold the station for a capital tax-free gain of £3,200,000? Is there an anomaly in the act that allows this company to make this exorbitant, tax-free capital gain? Will the Minister consider amending the act to provide in similar circumstances for the licence to be withdrawn and re-issued?
– This matter was thoroughly investigated by myself and the Attorney-General when the proposal for the transfer of certain of the GTV interests came before me for approval. I can assure the honorable gentleman and the House that no action was taken that was in any way in contravention of the act, and nothing was disclosed which suggests the need for any further amendment.
– I direct to the Treasurer a question which relates to recent criticism of the Government’s proposed economic measures to compel insurance companies to invest 30 per cent, of their funds in government securities. I ask the Treasurer: Is it not true that at present 37 per cent, of all life assurance funds are in government or semi-government securities, and that the proposed legislation is partly to curb the activities of some of the smaller companies which are risking their clients’ contributions by investing in speculative enterprises?
– It is a fact that over the main life assurance companies the average holding of government bonds, whether Commonwealth Government bonds or local government or semi-government bonds, would average 37 per cent. However, the aspect which is giving the Government concern is the trend, over recent years, whereby a very much smaller proportion of the accrued assets of those companies has been going into government securities than was the case in earlier years. In 1939, a very much larger proportion, and in 1949 an even greater proportion, was held in such securities.
– It was 67 per cent, in our day.
-Sixty-eight per cent., or thereabouts. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that when the full story of the Government’s intentions, and the reasons for them, can be made known, the criticisms to which the honorable member for Richmond referred will abate considerably.
– My question to the Treasurer is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Richmond. While the Treasurer’s recently announced economic measures to correct and counter the growth of convertible notes, fixed interest borrowings and fringe financial institutions caused no surprise, in that they flowed from circumstances that were well known and well documented, the insurance proposals did cause surprise. In order to inform the public as fully on insurance and superannuation investment policies as it is already periodically informed on hire purchase and banking policies, will the Treasurer arrange for the Insurance Commission or the Commonwealth Statistician or his own “ Treasury Information Bulletin “ to give quarterly or other regular information on movements in the major assets of superannuation funds and life assurance companies?
– I examined the practicability of the proposals put forward by the honorable gentleman. I rather welcome, Sir, the implied support which 1 gather he is giving to some of the measures which the Government has announced, and I would certainly hope that the Opposition, if it adopts that attitude generally-
– The ones I have mentioned are not wrong, but they are belated.
– The honorable gentleman says they are not wrong - but that they are belated. I certainly hope that if the Opposition feels that those measures can make a significant contribution to our economic well-being it will apply, in another place, the democratic and constitutional principles that were given such pungent expression by the Leader of the Opposition in this House last week.
– Does the Prime Minister propose to make a foreign affairs statement to this House before it rises for the coming recess? If so, will he say when he proposes to do so?
– I propose to make a statement on Tuesday, immediately after questions.
- Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr. Speaker. Last night I was misrepresented by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) in a number of ways; but I think I should direct attention to one particular misrepresentation. “ Hansard “ will show that I quoted from paragraph 914 of the report of the committee which recently inquired into the dairying industry. In that report, the committee stated that there was no longer a “ cow cocky “ or a “ Dad and Dave “ atmosphere in the dairying industry. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said that I had called the people in the dairying industry by those names, which would be offensive to them. I would like to state, to clear the record, that I read from a paragraph of the report. The paragraph stands as the record of what I said. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro flagrantly misrepresented what I said, and that is in keeping with his tactics.
– by leave - I present the following paper: -
Inter-Parliamentary Union - 49th Conference held at Tokyo. September-October, 1960- Report of Australian Delegation - and move -
That the paper be printed.
In speaking to this motion, I should like to say, first, I sincerely regret that I have the honour of presenting this report instead of the leader of the delegation, the late Mr. Frank Timson. The report of the Australian delegation states at page 55 -
The Australian Delegation can bear witness to the splendid work which the late Mr. Timson performed both prior to and during the 49th Conference. He was conscientious at all times in the discharge of his duties as Leader of the Delegation and did not spare himself in his efforts to make a valuable contribution to the work of the Union on behalf of the Australian Group.
That is the very sincere opinion of those of us who had the honour of being led by Mr. Frank Timson on that delegation.
Sir, I hope this report will be studied in some detail by honorable members and that the printing of it will not be delayed. As honorable members will know, Australia has been a member of the InterParliamentary Union for only four or five years - a comparatively short period. Consequently, there is a lack of knowledge about some aspects of the union’s work; and arising from that, there is a lack of interest. I believe that Australian membership of the I.P.U. is something that should continue. Some years ago, Canada decided that the Inter-Parliamentary Union was of no particular value to it, and it withdrew from the union. At the last conference, Canada asked for re-admittance. I believe there is a valuable field in which the Commonwealth of Australia can contribute to the union and to international affairs. If honorable members look at this report they will find that reports were presented to the union dealing with the following subjects: -
Primary products - methods of improving the International Distribution System for Primary Products and the relation of their Prices with those of manufactured goods.
Disarmament - Present Problems and Prospects - Future of Parliamentary Democracy in Asia.
On the whole, these reports were very good. They led to interesting discussion and debate; and while it is perfectly true that in some cases some of the member nations used this conference to expound their own political propaganda, it is equally true that great value emerged from the fact that the representatives of so many different nations met together.
There has been some criticism of the I.P.U. on the ground that it could be considered to be coming into the field of work that is being done by the United Nations and there could be duplication of work. To a certain extent, that is true. However, all members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union are not members of the United Nations, and on the other hand all members of the United Nations are not members of the I.P.U. I believe, Sir, that the interchange of ideas between people on a parliamentary level is equally as important as an interchange on an official level at the United Nations. There are not sufficient common meeting grounds for members of the various parliaments of the world. There is a difference between government officials meeting for discussions and members of parliaments meeting and having discussions. AH too frequently, the members of a parliament do not necessarily know what the Government instrumentalities are doing in relation to work in other countries. I believe these meetings do serve a valuable purpose.
I hope the time will not be too distant when Australia will seek the honour of being the host country to a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. That must lie in the years ahead because I do not believe we have the accommodation at present to have a conference of this nature. However, I hope it will be possible soon to make a request that we be the host nation. A very great number of delegates from other countries expressed the hope that Australia would make that request at some time in the future because there is a considerable interest in Australia, particularly among some of our friends in South-East Asia. Many of them would welcome an opportunity to visit our country.
One value of these meetings is that they provide a valuable opportunity to members to go overseas and see other countries. I have said in the House before that, in spite of criticism that has been levelled from time to time, T do not believe sufficient opportunities or facilities are provided for members of this Parliament to go abroad and see what is happening in other countries. I would be completely opposed to any suggestion that Australia should not continue to have an active interest in the workings of the I.P.U.. I believe we should, in. fact, take a more lively interest in it in the future and send more representatives to its meetings.
– I should like to support the remarks of the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) in presenting the report of the Forty-ninth Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union which was held in Tokyo recently. I was privileged to be a member of the Australian delegation. As the honorable member for Bowman has said, we suffered a grave misfortune in the sad and untimely death of our leader, Mr. Frank Timson. I believe that an appropriate motion of regret was moved in this Parliament and I should like to associate myself with that motion and the sentiments then expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). Mr. Timson was a very capable leader and a very popular member of the group. I should alsolike to mention that the deputy leader of the group, Senator Cooke, worked very assiduously on behalf of the delegation.
One must realize that very many onerous duties are attached to such a conference. When I was selected as a member of the group to go to the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Tokyo I went there with the thought that possibly the InterParliamentary Union might not serve any useful purpose. However, after returning to Australia I say publicly that I am thoroughly convinced that it is a very worthwhile organization which is creating goodwill amongst the nations concerned. It is helping to find ways of assisting underprivileged countries to improve their educational and living standards.
The conferences of the union also provide opportunities to learn the problems of other countries. As has been mentioned by the honorable member for Bowman we can understand the problems of other countries only by going there and seeing them for ourselves. The world is now a very small place; we are part of it, and we cannot afford to isolate ourselves from what other countries are thinking and saying. Finally, I say that this is a very worth-while organization and that, in this
Parliament, I shall always support its retention.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chaney) adjourned.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Sugar Agreement Bill 1960.
Weights and Measures (National Standards) Bill 1960.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1960.
Canberra Housing - Postal Department -
Telephone Services; - National Development - Tea - Censorship - Overseas Investments in Australia - Restrictive Trade Practices - Iron Ore - Decentralization - Beef - Darwin High School.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.
– As this is Grievance Day, I seek to grieve on behalf of some hundreds of Canberra families who are suffering difficulties in housing. I grieve also because of the grave social problems that are arising in this city as a result of the shortage of housing. In addressing a question to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on this matter last week, I suggested that he might consider declaring a “ holiday “ or a deferment in the transfer of defence departments from Melbourne to Canberra so that many of the newly constructed houses at present held vacant - and an increasing proportion of those now under construction - might be made available to Canberra families who are already here and who are on the list waiting for houses. Many of these people are waiting under conditions of extreme distress.
I am as keen as any one else that all Commonwealth departments should be transferred to Canberra. That has always been the policy of the Australian Labour Party which believes in the development of the National Capital. But I feel it my duty, as the representative of the Australian Capital Territory, to call attention to the very grave difficulties that are being created. When I addressed my question to the Prime Minister I said that the question arose from a sincere concern for many hundreds of Canberra families and that there was no party political content in the question. That statement is true. I speak as a representative of this electorate, without any party political bias and with a desire only to see that justice is done to all people equally.
In Canberra, people who wish to secure the tenancy of government homes place their names on a waiting list, the requirements being that they either are engaged to be married or are married, and that they are either living or working in the Australian Capital Territory. That list has existed for a number of years. From time to time, it is proved, checked and pruned by the officers of the Housing Branch of the Department of the Interior to see that the names only of those people who are entitled to be on the list are on it.
Several years ago, when a decision was made to speed up the transfer of departments from Melbourne, the same procedure was adopted as has existed in the Public Service for many years: That is, that once the transfer of a public servant to Canberra, whether he be in Perth, Adelaide or any other part of the Commonwealth, is confirmed he is entitled to have his name placed on the housing list in Canberra. Quite fairly and properly, when the defence move was decided, not necessarily the names of the officers to be transferred, but the positions that they filled, were placed on that list and those of them who are now in Canberra are occupying the houses that were reserved on the housing list at that time.
Because it has not been possible to provide adequate housing for all the people now coming to Canberra, the practical result has been that since April of this year all new construction in housing and flats has been reserved for defence personnel on transfer from Melbourne to Canberra. Quite obviously, if those families are to be transferred, justice and fair treatment demand that there must be houses for them to move into as they arrive. But the transfer of the departments has meant the reservation of all new construction for defence personnel and this has meant that the waitins time for people in Canberra who are already on the waiting list has been very greatly extended.
When the defence move was mooted, the then Minister for the Interior gave an assurance that the housing rights of people already in Canberra and on the list would not be adversely affected. In fact, he mentioned that the waiting time for housing would decrease. That the reverse has been the case is to be deplored. I feel that the Government must accept the responsibility of inquiring into the position to see that justice is done to all people. The waiting time for people on the housing list in Canberra has extended from under two years to two years and nine months for the applicant who is prepared to take the first house offered to him. For those who require a modest detached all brick or brick veneer home of three bedrooms, the waiting time is now over three years. The only new dwellings that are becoming available to people on the ordinary housing list in Canberra are the houses that aTe rejected or, to put it more kindly, not accepted, by defence personnel on transfer. When defence personnel are to be transferred, plans and photographs of houses are sent to Melbourne where they can be viewed by the transferees. A number of houses somewhat in excess of actual requirements is reserved for those subject to transfer. These people enter into a ballot on a fair basis into which rank or position does not enter. All the applicants enter the ballot whether they are brigadiers, corporals or bombardiers. The man who draws first position in the ballot has the right to select a house that he would like to occupy. Obviously, his choice is governed by his salary and position.
The only new houses becoming available to Canberra people are those which are not accepted by defence transferees - in fact, those which are rejected by them. These are the least desirable of the houses that are available. As I have said, people on the housing list in Canberra must wait two years and nine months for the first offer of a house. Then they can get one only if they are prepared to take any house offered to them in any suburb. This means that the only type of new house that they can hope to obtain is what is known as a twostory semi-detached, which is not a popular house.
I would like members of Parliament and particularly members of the Cabinet to look behind the pretty picture of Canberra. And
Canberra is a pretty picture at present. To those who visit here occasionally, and to those who come here just for the sitting of the Parliament, this appears to be a pretty place of wide, tree-lined streets, attractive cottages and pleasant surroundings. But behind that pleasant facade there is real misery, real distress. There are literally hundreds of families in this city living in the most deplorable conditions. There are families living in shacks and in garages. There are families crowded into one room, which might be quite appropriate in eastern European countries, where that is quite common, but it is not appropriate in this country, and most certainly not appropriate in this national capital. The fact is that the people who are coming here to carry out the work of the capital, indeed, the people who are building the houses in this place, are forced - not by Government decision but by circumstances - to live in these conditions while waiting their turn on the housing list. By contrast, defence personnel arriving here move immediately into good housing. I do not quibble at that because I believe it is fair and just to those people, but I do suggest that we have reached the stage at which, in giving justice and fair treatment to the defence personnel being transferred from Melbourne to Canberra, we are denying justice and fair treatment to the many citizens of this Commonwealth who are already here, who are employed in the Public Service, in business, in private enterprise, or in contracting for the work of building this city.
While I am reluctant to see any delay in the transfer of departments, I believe that the Government should consider this question. At the end of last quarter, 190 houses and flats were held vacant. I hope that the Minister will look into the matter.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The matters I propose to raise this morning are small. When considered in the national perspective, they might be thought to be trivial, but nonetheless they are matters of great importance to the people concerned, and they do illustrate what I feel is a too-ready acquiescence on the part of Ministers in departmental gobbledegook which gives rise to a sense of overwhelming helplessness in the citizens concerned, who feel that in making representations they are faced with a blank wall. I raise these matters in the hope that the Minister will endeavour to alter the attitude of mind of his officials.
The first matter to which I refer relates to the firm of J. G. Denson Proprietary Limited. On the 8th January of this year, this firm sent a letter to the Commercial Branch at the General Post Office, Sydney, confirming a recent change of address and telephone number. The name of the firm and the telephone number were omitted from the new telephone directory. The Postmaster-General’s Department does not deny that this omission was in no way due to any late notification or other fault on the part of J. G. Denson Proprietary Limited.
This firm supplies sheep dips and drenches, blowfly dressings, sheep marking and branding fluids, weedicides, herbicides and so on. Its customers are storekeepers in country areas and some graziers. It has about 700 customers in the country and about 100 in the metropolitan area of Sydney. It has also an advisory service which employs an entomologist, an agricultural chemist and other experts to advise customers who meet with technical difficulties. Often its customers have occasion to telephone not only to place orders, but also to consult the experts about difficulties which they encounter in using the chemicals supplied by the firm.
Since the name and telephone number were omitted through the fault of the Postal Department - and I repeat that this is not denied - the firm asked the postal authorities to notify all its clients of the change of address and telephone number. The reply received from the department was -
As there is only a small percentage of subscribers in the country areas who obtain a copy of the Sydney Telephone Directory, and as they rely mainly on the information service when calling Sydney subscribers, the department feels that circularizing as requested is not warranted.
We are well aware that it is only a small percentage of subscribers who keep a Sydney telephone directory, but can assure you that most of our clients do so and that we feel we are undoubtedly losing business by having our entry deleted from the new book.
Since most of this firm’s customers are storekeepers, it is highly probable that they would have Sydney telephone directories. I think it is fairly well known, too, that copies of these directories would be used by many people in the country for the purpose of obtaining addresses. The reply received from the department was -
It is considered that your clients will have no difficulty in booking a call through centralized information. While the department is still prepared to circularize your metropolitan clients it cannot grant your request to do likewise for those in the country.
The milk in the coco-nut is that this firm has been taken over by another firm, and the same telephone number should have appeared in the book for both firms. Perhaps I can explain the situation better and more briefly by reading the following letter which I addressed to the PostmasterGeneral: -
I have been in touch personally with the Commercial Branch, G.P.O., Sydney, and it appears that the attitude of the ‘Department on this matter is adamant. It is under the impression that, since the telephone numbers are shared, this firm is very small, that the number of clients is therefore probably less than claimed, and that the request is merely an attempt to gain free advertising.
I have been in touch with J. G. Denson Proprietary Limited who advised me that the reason why the telephone appears to be shared is that the firm of J. G. Denson Proprietary Limited is now .a subsidiary of Lane’s Proprietary Limited whose name appears in the telephone directory as subscribers for the telephones mentioned. However, J. G. Denson Proprietary Limited still carry on with their business under their old name. They manufacture and sell sheep dips, sheep drenches, sheep branding fluids, blow fly dressings, weedicides, &c. Their customers are country storekeepers and individual graziers.
I submit herewith by way of evidence a price list of Lane’s Proprietary Limited from the inside front cover of which it plainly appears that J. G. Denson Proprietary Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary, sharing Lane’s telephone numbers.
Since the firms employ entomologists and other technical staff, they are frequently consulted by people on the land about particular problems and often receive orders by telephone. Furthermore, they assure me that the country clients listed are all current customers who have had occasion to communicate with them during the past twelve months or so.
I feel very strongly that, since the error is due to your Department and since the rectification of it is within the power of the Department and does not involve heavy expense, this application should receive much more sympathetic consideration than has already been given to it, and I ask that it be re-examined in the light of the facts and circumstances set out in this letter.
Here we have a plain, straightforward case in which some tinpot Caesar in the Postal Department reached the conclusion that this was simply a matter of a firm trying to deceive the department. In the face of conclusive evidence that this was not the case, the tinpot Caesar continued to adhere to the attitude that he adopted originally.
My complaint is that when ‘I wrote to the Minister he simply wrote back to me a letter prepared for him by the department, a letter which set out the same old stuff that had been stated previously, despite the fact that I had been at some pains to show that the omission had been made, that the department was at fault and that the error ought to be rectified. I hope that the Minister will look more carefully into departmental letters that are put before him by members of Parliament, especially when they are accompanied by conclusive evidence that an error has been committed by an official. A citizen should not have to put up with such mistakes in order that officials in the department may save face. It rs the Minister’s function, as I conceive it, to see that this kind of thing does not happen.
There is one other matter about which I should like to say something if I have time to raise it, Sir. No doubt most honorable members from time to time have received from constituents complaints that they have been given misleading information at the General Post Offices in the various capital cities as to when they might expect telephone installations to be made. I imagine that most honorable members who have received such complaints have felt, as I have done, that sometimes constituents draw the long bow when talking about the inquiries they have made and the answers they have received. However, on this occasion I wish to mention the case of a most responsible man who came to me and gave me the fullest possible particulars of precisely what was said to him when he went to the General Post Office in Sydney to make inquiries about a telephone installation. In view of the standing of the man himself, whose word is not to be doubted, and the particularity of the information that he gave about his interviews with officers at the Sydney General Post Office, I am quite convinced that there is something the matter with the system under which advice is given at the General Post Offices about the times when particular telephone installations will probably be made.
The man I refer to is Mr. L. H. R. Laurent, of St. Ives. In a letter to me, he stated -
I am Investment Manager for New South Wales of the National Mutual Life Association and as such am also Manager in New South Wales of National Discount Corporation Pty. Ltd., a short term Money Market Company authorised by the Reserve Bank, and also Secretary and a Director of National Mutual Development (N.S.W.) Pty. Ltd. Consequently a phone is important in many ways to me from a business viewpoint.
It will be seen that this man is a very responsible person. I have not time to go into further details.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, you yourself are aware as are other honorable members who have had an opportunity to visit my electorate, that it is the most northerly electorate in Australia. It extends to the tip of the Cape York Peninsula. Immediately off the tip of the peninsula is a small island - Thursday Island. Relative to its size and population, the exports of that island are one of our biggest dollar earners. This brings me to a matter which I took up earlier with the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). I suggest that he is not taking the development aspects of his portfolio seriously enough, and that if he did, he would appoint an active, energetic and virile committee to deal with development; problems. Such s committee could co-operate with the States, and I believe that the State authorities would be very happy to. co-operate with such a Commonwealth committee in planning the development of undeveloped areas. It is essential that we do what we can to make all our land, productive. I believe that no land is so arid as to be useless, and we should not waste the land that we have.
Year after year, we spend millions of pounds in assisting people in other countries to develop their undeveloped areas in order that they may live happily and enjoy a better way of life. Yet we have in this country .no plan’ for the organized develop ment of areas that could be made productive. After all, the engineers have a saying that the difficult can be done immediately, but the impossible takes a little more time. I believe that nothing is impossible when the full powers of man’s inventive genius and intuition are brought to bear, and that all these areas that are at present unproductive and undeveloped should be made useful by a planned scheme of development.
There is no better way of proceeding with such a scheme than by putting it in the hands of a Commonwealth committee able to co-operate with the State authorities. Each State could appoint a committee to co-operate with the Commonwealth committee and place before it problems concerning wastelands in each State, with suggestions as to what can be done and as to whether irrigation and power projects or roads are needed. If State committees submitted such suggestions, a Commonwealth committee would be in a better position to establish a proper order of priorities for the progressive development of undeveloped areas. A Commonwealth committee of this kind would also be able to take into account the demand in other countries for products which could be produced in these undeveloped areas, and could determine which crops should be grown. The establishment of such a committee would be a positive step in the development of our undeveloped areas.
This brings me to the growing of tea in northern Queensland. I put this matter before the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) some, time ago, and he has informed me now that he has passed my representations on to one of his colleagues. I do not yet know which one. I suggest that we could develop the tea industry in the north. Every year, imports of tea cost us millions of pounds) and I suggest that the tea industry could be- made a very worthwhile one for Australia. If we developed it, we could save ourselves millions of pounds. I believe that the biggest problem at the outset would be picking the leaf, which ordinarily is picked by hand. However, I made inquiries and found that a mechanical harvester has been developed in one country. I passed on to the Prime Minister a pictorial representation of such a harvester and asked him to inquire into the cost of manufacturing such a machine and the principle on which it is based, and to get any other information that he could obtain. Tea has been grown in the north of Queensland for many years, and so has coffee. The tea industry could greatly assist the development of the north; and I firmly believe that we could make it a worthwhile industry by using it to develop areas which at present are undeveloped. The Queensland Government already has an experimental station near Innisfail, and a doctor in northern Queensland who is very keen on establishing the tea industry has many plants under cultivation.
I understand that in the country in which the mechanical harvester has been developed, the production of tea is not just a matter of putting in the plants and watching them grow. The harvester is so made as only to skim over the tops of the plants and take the choice upper leaves. I understand that the agricultural experts in the country, concerned set to work and cultivated a tea plant to suit the requirements of the harvester. Surely we have inAustralia brains just as keen as are those anywhere else in the world. We ought to be able to do the same sort of thing. I believe that there are possibilities in this field and that the matter should be considered more sympathetically by the Commonwealth.
I- should like to- take the minds of honorable members back to the early days of the tobacco industry in northern Queensland- in order: to- illustrate what can be done. In the early- days of the tobacco industry, the growers suffered greatly because they did not receive a sympathetic hearing from the Commonwealth Government. The growers could not produce ‘leaf of sufficiently good quality, and they lost- everything that they had put into their farms. Eventually, the Commonwealth Government saw the light and came to the assistance of the industry. As a consequence, it went ahead and it is to-day, with the exception of the sugar and timber industries, perhaps the most important agricultural industry in northern Queensland. Much the same considerations apply to the tea industry. Unless we see a concerted effort on the part of the Commonwealth and the State authorities,, the industry will remain in the doldrums, as did the tobacco industry in its early stages. I do not want to see that happen. Those who pioneer industries such as these deserve a fair reward and should be given all possible opportunities to establish themselves properly while their industry is young.
A Commonwealth development committee of the kind which 1 propose could take an interest in these new industries, exercise some control over their development and give those engaged in them valuable advice. I feel sure that such a committee, by developing new industries in this way, would do a great deal to promote the development of areas which at present are undeveloped. This is the sort of thing that the national government must consider: We contribute millions of pounds year after year to help other countries develop undeveloped areas, and we must not lose sight of the fact that in this great country with its huge area so sparsely populated, we have no right to hold what may be required by other people unless we ourselves do something worth-while with it.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I want to say something this morning about censorship, because I believe that in the very near future this country’s attitude to censorship will be brought into relief in a way that perhaps no one has contemplated. On 2nd November of this year, in the United Kingdom, a jury composed of nine men and three women found not to be obscene a book written by one D. H. Lawrence and entitled “ Lady Chatterley’s Lover “. I believe that the pressure that will be exerted upon the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), upon the Government and, I should think, upon the whole Parliament to allow this book into Australia will grow considerably and will reach very substantial proportions. Already there have been indications of this growth of pressure upon the Minister and the Government - and I include the whole Parliament in this because I think that that will be found to be the case. Typical of the sort of pressure that I have in mind is an editorial comment in the “Observer” of 12th November. I shall read briefly from the editorial, but I hope not out of the context of what the editorial writer meant. The editorial said -
If the Government shows commonsense and benevolence we may have this book- circulating freely in this country.
I have never disguised my views. I have been one of those who have long hesitated to advocate establishment of a censorship authority, because with such an authority, composed of one, two or three individuals, the process of censorship is exposed to human weakness, to the particular prejudices of the persons and indeed to personal environment. The censor imposes his view as to what people should or should not read. At the same time, I have held the view that censorship should proceed judicially and not administratively. 1 believe that this book has thrown into relief, in a form that I for one never contemplated, the whole problem of censorship. I believe further, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this is not a partisan matter. It is an intensely political matter, but I doubt very much indeed whether any one can fairly say that it is a party political matter. In the final analysis, men of goodwill in all political parties are interested in establishing and maintaining a sense of responsibility in the community and ensuring that morality is kept at a high level.
Having said that, may I say that a powerful academic argument against all forms of censorship can be built up. One can say censorship is perhaps a display of priggishness and of prudery. I hope that no one, not even my most violent opponent, vi]] accuse me of being priggish or a prude in the sense of running away from what T regard as the facts of life. Nevertheless, there are comprehensible grounds of decency and morality to which one is at liberty to resort in taking up an attitude. Frankness in all senses is refreshing and I suppose in no sense is it more refreshing than when dealing with the human body. The “ Times “ of London has sharply reminded us of the need to distinguish between something that is frank and something that borders on the vulgar or goes beyond. An editorial in the “ Times “ had this to say -
A decent reticence has been the practice in all classes of society and much will be lost by the destruction of it.
I think that is an admirable attitude and a balanced attitude. But the difficulty is to decide where this Parliament should draw the line in saying what can sensibly be regarded as a decent reticence.
What of the book itself? Many people have sought to excuse the author on the grounds that he was a pagan. I regret very much indeed that my Lord Bishop of Woolwich, in his defence of the book, said” that he thought that D. H. Lawrence was trying to “ portray the sex relationship in a real sense as something sacred - as an act of holy communion “. He said it was a book that Christians ought to read. I say with all respect, if this is his considered’ approach to the ramifications of the book, that I can only regard him, in the social sense - certainly not in an ecclesiastical sense - as a silly old goat. Professor Pinto, of Nottingham University, was called as a witness for the defence and he described the book as “ a moral tract “.
The problem is this: A prosecution was launched in the United Kingdom under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959, and the prosecution lost. The book is now circulating freely in the United Kingdom. It is also circulating freely in the United States of America. When the book was under judicial review, the judge who heard the case instructed the members of the jury that they must consider “ the effect of the book on the average man, not on the irresponsible, the immature or the sensually minded”. That is a fair enough attitude to take, but surely to heaven we are alive enough to the fact that there are many irresponsible people and many immature people in the community. Particularly do I have in mind the adolescents. A friend of mine, who has been at sea for some 45 years and is an executive of a large shipping company in Queensland, said to me, “ I have knocked around the world a lot, but I shudder to think of the effect that a cheap edition of this book would have if it were read by young girls and by young boys “.
My appraisement of the book can be expressed in a few words: I think it is explicitly crude in its detail. I think it inferentially applauds infidelity and it glorifies the obscene. My considered view is that if the book is released in Australia, it will have a debilitating effect on the morality of the community, and particularly do I have in mind the adolescents. If a campaign of degradation of national leaders, of national institutions and of national practices is continued long enough, the results will be calamitous. But if a campaign of degradation of family life and of basic morality is continued long enough, there will be a price to be paid somewhere.
This is not solely the problem of the Government or of the Minister for Customs and Excise of the day, because governments and Ministers are transitory bodies and beings. This is a parliamentary problem. I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Government will see its way clear to consider this matter on a broad basis and will realize the enormous and manifest consequences of literature of this character. This book may be defended upon the basis of literary technicality. I have heard some spirited defence of the work on that basis, but every person who will read it will not be trained in literary appraisement, and that is a fact we must all realize.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This morning, in a question which I directed to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), I drew attention to the fact that the “Annual Bulletin of Oversea Investment “ disclosed that new capital inflow from the United Kingdom, the United States and other overseas countries was only £5,000,000 more than the capital outflow. I also drew attention to the fact that, because of double taxation agreements, a great deal of the new capital inflow was a part of our own money. The Treasurer floundered in attempting to reply, and he again spoke of the Government’s achievement in attracting overseas capital to this country. I remind the House that the double taxation agreements were arrived at by the Menzies Government, particularly with the United States of America Government, in order to attract new capital inflow to this country. This has not been achieved, however. The fact is that because of the double taxation agreements a great deal of our own money is being reinvested here.
Before the double taxation agreement with the United States of America was arrived at, tax paid by United States interests was at the rate of 7s. in the £1 for companies, and in the case of individuals it was at the rate of Id. in the £1 for the first £100, rising to 15s. in the £1 for amounts of £8,000 and above. To-day there is a flat rate of 3s. in the £1, and my estimate is that in this year there has been a saving to United States investors of about £4,000,000. New capital inflow to this country from the United States in this year amounted to £11,600,000, while outflow was £16,300,000. The outflow was a good deal greater than the inflow. But if we consider the true figures, we find that it was not £11,600,000 that came in, but only £7,600,000, because £4,000,000 was our own money reinvested.
I am giving this information to the Treasurer because I am quite sure he has not received full information from his department, and that he does not know exactly where we stand in regard to these matters. The total new capital inflow from all countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, in this year was £55,200,000. The total capital outflow was £50,200,000. But if you study the situation in the light of the double taxation agreements, you will find that the saving to United Kingdom investors was not of the order of a mere £4,000,000, but that it was about £10,000,000. Year by year the position is becoming more difficult, and foreign capital is taking control of the Australian economy to a greater and greater extent.
In the little time that is available to me I wish to make a few remarks about a company that is not doing too badly in this country. I refer to Myer Emporium Limited, which has now taken over Farmers (Holdings) Limited in order to increase its empire. This company is making tremendous profits, but the Government will not accept its responsibilities and restrict the activities of this great monopolistic undertaking, although it is quite prepared to go to the arbitration courts and advocate the freezing of the workers’ wages, and object to an increase of annual leave from two weeks to three. In January, 1954, the holdings of the Myer family in Myer Emporium Limited amounted to 8,236,000 five-shilling shares, which were listed on the stock exchange at lis. 4d. On 1st January, 1960, they were listed at 35s. 4d. During that period of six years there were no bonus issues, but the capital appreciation was 24s. for each of the 8,000,000-odd shares. The capital gains of that family amounted to £9,874,000. That is the extent to which the wealth of one family increased in six years.
But that is not all of the story. This year the company made a bonus share issue of one for one. The family’s shareholding, as I have said, amounted to 8,236,000, and the shares to-day are listed on the stock exchange at 34s. The present value of that capital issue of one for one to the Myer family is £14,002,220. The cost of the shares, at the nominal value of 5s. each, was £2,059,150, so that the family increased its capital by £11,943,070 with the stroke of a pen. This is the kind of thing that can happen under a government which supports monopolistic interests.
The fantastic growth of the wealth of the Myer family is unequalled anywhere in the world. No eastern Sultan controlling great oil resources has acquired more wealth in the past five years. No Mediterranean shipping magnate has expanded his empire to such an extent as this Australian family. What does this Government do about it? It controls and freezes the wages of the workers while this family, which has increased its wealth to such a fantastic extent, is not subject to any kind of control. Let us hear what the financial editor of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ had to say on 30th November, 1960, about the take-over of the Farmers organization -
The “ effective cost “ to Myer is an issue of £2.8m. of its own share capital (paying 16J per cent, dividends), plus £l.lm. of 7 per cent, notes.
The annual servicing cost of about £544,000 on these securities compares with Farmers’ and Western Stores’ last combined profits of about £800,000 on the ordinary capital.
Then follows the significant comment: -
Once again, the magic of the share market premium makes a huge paper price very economical to the purchaser.
We have this gigantic financial empire creating its own capital, and although this Government has the power to control capital gains it does nothing about the matter. It controls the workers, but it does not control these monopolistic interests that are building up their empires day by day.
Those are the two issues I wished to raise. First, we must control foreign investment in this country, and secondly, we must ensure that the monopolistic capitalists, who are bleeding the country’s economy, are brought under control.
.- It appears that in the very near future, according to newspaper articles and other information that is available, a decision will be made concerning the export of iron ore from Australia. I believe the decision will be a very important one, in view of Australia’s position in the southern hemisphere. We suffer many disadvantages, one of them being that ours is the driest continent in the world. We must, therefore, make the most of some of the tremendous advantages that we have. Not only must we make the greatest use of our geographical situation in relation to the major countries of the southern hemisphere, and particularly of Asia; we must also take the utmost advantage of the fact that we have tremendous quantities of iron ore and coal, which would enable us to build up a vast steel industry. We could make Australia the centre of heavy industry for the southern hemisphere. We could build up extensive markets in the South American countries, in Asia - particularly the southern parts of Asia - and possibly in Africa. We have already made an excellent start in developing steel exports, but unfortunately our capacity to produce is not by any means sufficient to enable us to take full advantage of our extensive deposits of iron ore and coal, and we should try to increase our productive capacity.
Despite its excellent history in Australia, I believe that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited will not be able to do the job on its own. I do not think it would be desirable for it to do so in any case, because, after all, this Government supports free enterprise, and the basis of free enterprise is efficient competition. Undoubtedly our best means of expanding the steel industry in Australia would be to attract steel industries from overseas, particularly the United Kingdom, or, failing that, the United States of America, and induce them to establish themselves in Australia and make use of our undeveloped resources of iron ore. I believe that many of the articles written on our steel industry and our Australian iron ore reserves are written from a very negative point of view. These articles invariably quote the essential requirements of Australia over the coming years, but we want to look further than that. We have to set our sights higher. We must remember that the population of the world will increase very rapidly over the next 50 years. We know that Communist China will have 1,000,000,000 people. Our own population will be somewhere about 30,000,000 by that time, and undoubtedly the people of southern Asia will enjoy a higher standard of living in years to come.
Statistics show that the consumption of iron and steel products in Australia prior to the last world war was about 400 lb. per capita, whereas to-day that figure has practically doubled. Who can say that that progressively increasing consumption will not accelerate, and although our iron ore deposits are vast, there will be an end to them. Why not make full use of them? We have these tremendous deposits of coal and iron and it would appear that this is our opportunity to sell our iron ore and coal and our labour at the same time. We have also the responsibility to the nation to develop our population. We want our people to enjoy a high standard of living and we will not achieve that goal purely by the efforts of our primary industries, vast as they are. Our secondary industries have shown so far that they are not capable of great immediate expansion. But here is an opportunity, which has been proven to us, that we have in Australia an industry which could be developed to a tremendous extent and relieve our primary industries of the burden of earning our overseas income. While we are dependent upon our primary industries this nation will not be in a safe economic position owing to the fluctuations of world prices for our primary products and owing to climatic conditions in Australia.
This Government has a tremendous record over the last ten years during which our economy has increased to a tremendous degree. It would be a very serious matter if we adopted an attitude of complacency and merely said, “ We have achieved all this over the last ten years. Look what we have done.” Our object must be to add to the record of this Government by expanding these industries. Undoubtedly we can attract overseas capital and know-how to develop them. I counsel the Government that, in future, no more leases of iron ore should be granted to one company in Australia so that it will get a stranglehold on all the resources of this country.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise, on Grievance Day, to speak on behalf of all country communities in the Commonwealth. To country people generally the most disturbing feature about this country’s growth in recent years has been the abnormal concentration of industrial development, and consequently of population, in the capital cities. There is a strong feeling current among country communities that they should have received a greater share of our industrial development, and that governments have not played their part in providing a more equitable distribution of population and industry. I refer particularly to the lack of action by the present Government in respect of an agreement made in 1945, in the Chifley era, as a basis of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. Although it was never intended, we know that approximately 75 per cent, of migrants coming to this country in the post-war era ‘have settled in the capital cities, and undoubtedly this has contributed greatly to the capital cities sprawl. In the last twenty years the natural increase in population in New South Wales country areas has been approximately 200,000, but the permanent increase in those areas has been only 100,000. That fact clearly indicates the drift of country people to the cities, a drift which forms part of the pattern evident throughout the Commonwealth.
City dwellers might well ask, “ What is wrong with the continued development of the big capital cities? “ Without delving too deeply into the question in the short time available to me, ‘I say that broadly three main factors - economic, social and defence - must be considered. All point to the need for a correction of the bloated and lopsided growth which is so evident to-day. Generally it is thought that because a concentration of industry has occurred, it is the best distribution of industry on purely economic grounds. That may be so, in the case of individual industries. I grant that the advantage of close proximity of major markets, the fact that the capital cities are focal points of road, rail, air and sea routes and that there are available in the capital cities large labour forces with varied skills, adds to that argument; but it can be reckoned, too, that in the terms of cost to the community a stage could be reached when the sprawl of capital cities becomes uneconomic. Country people believe that that point has been reached in Australia. Overburdened transport systems, bloated land values and the colossal time wastage in travelling to and from places of employment and the backlog of public services, such as sewerage, water, power, roads and footpaths, all add tremendously to the cost to the community. Leading from the economic factor is the social factor. The breaking up of homes and the disruption of family life are painfully evident in country areas. Each year thousands of youngsters leave school and gain employment in the capital cities not because of a desire to go there but because of economic necessity.
I do not profess to be a military expert, but my assessment of modern warfare is that the great cities of the world are extremely vulnerable. Two atom or hydrogen bombs could cripple this country; and the need for decentralization of population, power, industry and the defence services indeed seem to be imperative. Throughout the Commonwealth, local government authorities and other interested bodies have set up committees in an endeavour to attract industry to their areas. In Bendigo we have the Industrial Expansion Committee, and in Seymour the Committee for Industrial Enterprises. Whatever their names, these committees all have the earnest desire to expand their country communities. But their role is changing. Formed originally to entice industry, they now fight desperately to hold what industries they have. The scales are heavily weighted against all country industries and the strain of competition against the city is forcing the closure of factories vital to the very existence of many country towns. Let us look at the situation briefly. The transport of raw materials and the finished product to the cities is a major cost factor. We find that freights between Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide are only 2£d. to 3id. per ton-mile, and the rates for different commodities vary. But the average ton-mile rate between Melbourne and Bendigo is more than double the inter-capital city rate. For electric power and water rates country industries again pay much higher charges. Clearly these factors do not induce, but discriminate against country industries. It might be said that these are State matters, and it might be asked how the Commonwealth can help. Country people believe that the drift to the capital cities is a national problem and that any effective move for some expansion of country industries must come from the top.
There are two methods of swaying the economic scales towards the dispersion of industry to country areas. First, pressure can be applied to make more difficult and costly the establishment of industry in capital cities. Secondly, there is the more obvious and palatable method of offering special inducements to set up industry outside the metropolitan areas.
The Commonwealth Government could well grant reductions in company tax to manufacturers outside the capital cities; it could grant those industries higher depreciation allowances and it could assist the States to subsidize transport to and from country areas. Through the Commonwealth Bank, it could well grant special financial assistance to industries which are willing to begin operations, or to expand in country areas, but which lack financial resources. Certainly, the very least that the Menzies Government should do is to recognize this national problem by setting up an inquiry into the need for the decentralization of industry so that a firm plan for country progress could be formulated.
.- For the last two years I have been asking consistently that more attention be paid to the beef cattle industry in the north of Australia. It is generally agreed by most honorable members who have any knowledge of the industry that we have tremendous possibilities. It is obvious to those of us who live in north Queensland, and to those who have any knowledge of the area, that the land across the north of Australia will be used for generations to come for beef cattle raising. The most important aspect is that all the evidence available suggests that we shall have certain markets for our beef. Existing markets are growing and there are many markets still untapped, but we are doing nothing about them. To fail to take advantage of existing markets and to ignore potential markets, as we have done in the past, is to me the height of folly.
For two years I have tried to move the Government into action, and, although I believe that there is a growing interest and awareness of the possibilities, no positive action has yet been taken. Two years ago it was calculated that, by 1975, the requirements of our population would demand that we increase our beef production by 40 per cent. Two years have passed and now we have only fifteen years before what might be regarded as the deadline, but we have made no impact upon the problem. Unless some positive action is taken quickly we shall not be able to meet our predicted requirements for 1975.
Matters arise occasionally that call for urgent planning and action. We have seen urgent financial measures being taken in this House. The problems of the beef cattle industry demand urgent attention, both in thought and in deed. Many honorable members, including the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes) and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt), have spoken in this House about the possibilities and potential of the beef cattle industry. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), too, knows the industry very well. But nothing is being done. It has taken two years to get agreement on the composition of the beef cattle research committee. The Foster committee has completed its report on the Northern Territory after eighteen months. My conscientious and capable friend from Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) has done a tremendous amount of work in this respect; but investigations take a long time and usually a further lengthy period elapses before a report is available, so honorable members will realize that it will be a long time before anything concrete can be done about the beef industry.
We have seen the allocation of money to the north-west of Western Australia for development in the Kimberleys and in that general area. We have seen some development in the principal beef-producing State of Queensland. We have seen a road constructed on the peninsula which has helped the movement of cattle. We have seen about 2,000 acres of country in the wet tropics opened up; but about 400.000 or 500,000 acres of idle Crown land is available. If this land were used there would be a tremendous impact in the year-round fattening of cattle, thus providing continuity of production and continuity of employment in the northern meatworks.
– Tell us about that.
– I wish I had the time to elaborate on it. We have seen the attempt to establish a shipping line comprised of suitable ships for the movement from various ports and rivers of store and fat cattle for either slaughter or fattening. Many difficulties have arisen in the attempt to establish this shipping line and the organization concerned has received little or no recognition by governments.
– What about the “ Wewak “?
– I understand that vessel is tied up in Darwin. We have seen the Queensland Government making repeated requests for financial assistance, but with very little success. We have seen an independent body known as the Federal Inland Development Organization put forward a scheme, which it feels will have some success, for the Commonwealth to build a road from Bourke to Camooweal. We have seen over the last few years the loss through drought of many hundreds of thousands of cattle particularly in the Channel country and in other areas where there is an uncertain rainfall and production. We have seen the price of beef rise to a level that producers did not believe it would ever reach, and we have seen the consumer wonder how much longer he will be able to afford to buy beef.
I do not profess to be an expert on the beef cattle industry, but I believe that we should adopt a national outlook on the problems confronting that industry and do something about them. The Commonwealth and State Governments and every section of the industry down to the producer should share equally in the responsibility for solving the industry’s problems. The haphazard planning that we have seen in the past - planning in bits and pieces and in penny packets - will get us nowhere. Because of the limited finance that is available to us we cannot afford to dissipate our efforts. We must get on with the job of development.
People in various walks of life have been putting forward plans and ideas with the very best intentions and motives. Various States have advanced plans but the matter has reached such a stage that the States mistrust each other’s motives. We now have factions within States vying with each other and disagreeing on various aspects of beef cattle production. This air of disagreement makes a difficult problem more difficult. The number of plans that have been advanced indicate that many people are aware of the problems, but governments generally fail to appreciate them.
The most popular thought these days is that cattle should be bred in the north of Australia and then brought to the south either by road or by rail, to be fattened for killing in the southern meatworks. Any surplus above home consumption requirements could then be exported. This plan depends upon a network of sealed roads from the north of Australia to the south. Many millions of pounds would be needed to provide this network of roads, but we all agree that roads are necessary in any case. If for no other reason, we need a network of roads throughout our country to open it up and develop it. The north of Australia, because of its monsoonal weather pattern, which results in native pastures falling off in nutritional value, is better suited to the breeding of cattle which could then be fattened elsewhere. There is always some turn-off of fat cattle after every wet season, but that is the general thought existing to-day. To accept this thesis as being a proper policy on which we should plan our beef cattle industry is completely wrong. The fact of the matter is that we have land in northern Australia which enjoys almost certain adequate summer rainfall for the production of crops and pasture improvement which can stabilize the the beef cattle industry in that area without our having to consider the movement of cattle from the north to the south for seasonal reasons.
We have also, of course, a problem which I have spoken about many times in this House - the fact that the whole of the northern meat industy, in which Queensland is the major beef producer, is run on a seasonal basis - and this year the season is very short, indeed. Meat works are operating at only about 40 per cent, of their capacity, and the seasonal nature of the industry means that men are thrown out of work every year merely because of our acceptance of this seasonal factor. To go on accepting it would be absolutely fatal, and we have to do something about it.
.- During question-time I addressed a question to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) asking why the Government made major alterations in respect of the recommendations of the Public Works Committee on the Darwin High School. The Minister did not answer my question’ properly. Up to this morning I had always thought that the Minister was a responsible Minister, but after his reply to my question’ I think I must have been suffering from some sort of delusion, because he attempted to evade answering the question in the terms that I put to him. I asked him, first, why the recommendations were rejected and under what authority the Government acted in proceeding with the changed plans without resubmitting the project to the committee. He attempted to justify the Government’s action by misrepresenting not only the report of the Public Works Committee but also by misquoting that report.
I believe that up to now, and by tradition, the Public Works Committee functions in the following ways: It prepares a report which it submits to this Parliament. The Parliament has the authority to accept the report, to reject the report or, if it disagrees with its contents, but does not reject it, to refer the report back to the committee for reconsideration. In this case the Government did none of those things. Instead, it took it upon itself to alter the proposals drastically. The major alterations it made were the elimination of airconditioning as recommended in the report, and the rejection of the recommendation for the inclusion of an assembly hall.
In his reply to me the Minister misquoted and misrepresented not only the decisions of the committee but also the evidence that the committee took. He said in the beginning that stage 3, as submitted to the committee, would cost £353,000. Never at any time during the committee’s hearings did it receive a submission from the Department of Works giving that figure. The first figure we received was of £400,000: That figure was given in evidence by Mr. Osborne when the committee met in Melbourne. At the same time we were advised that the figure was subject to correction. When we arrived at Darwin and took additional evidence we were informed by officials there that the estimates had been re-checked and that as a result the estimate for stage 3 would be £454,000. That is the estimated figure that the Public Works Committee received, and not the figure of £353,000 as the Minister informed the House this morning, thereby misleading honorable members.
Air-conditioning was the subject of one of the proposals submitted to the committee, and when we made our official submission on air-conditioning, based on all the evidence that had been given to us on that subject, we made an additional recommendation that an assembly hall be included, provision of which would have brought the cost of the project to £545,000. Now we find that the Government has decided not to have air-conditioning in the school, and not to have an assembly hall there either. The statement made by the Minister to-day completely misrepresented the Public Works Committee’s recom.dations.
The committee was particularly anxious that air-conditioning be included in the Darwin High School, because Darwin is in an area which has a. monsoonal period. All the evidence that we took supported the provision of air-conditioning. The only witness who disagreed in this respect was a doctor. Having listened to witness after witness give evidence on the matter, I have come to the conclusion that the only people who do not want air-conditioning are people who are impervious to heat. Because they do not feel the effect of heat in such tropic climes as Darwin’s, they believe that there is no necessity for air-conditioning. The evidence, however, was overwhelmingly in favour of air-conditioning, and the Public Works Committee accordingly recom- mended its installation. Now the Government, on the ground of cost, has decided to eliminate air-conditioning from the project. The air-conditioning was to cost £109,000. The Government has decided to install, instead, mechanical ventilation at a cost of approximately £50,000, although all the expert evidence available shows conclusively that mechanical ventilation is no more effective than natural air.
In order to save face, the Government has come before the House and told us that it will install mechanical ventilation, to cost £50,000, though the effect of the installation of this means of ventilation will be absolutely nil. It would be hard to demolish an argument in favour of the installation of air-conditioning in the Darwin High School, because everybody knows what Darwin’s climate is, and how necessary it is to attract people to work and live in Darwin, and how necessary it is to develop high schools there at this stage of development and growth. To attract people there we must give them conditions that make for a comfortable life.
It is beyond all doubt that an assembly hall in a school has become a must in modern education. Yet this Government, which can find - and I do not disagree with this - the money to put an assembly hall at Lyneham High School, in Canberra, finds every objection to putting an assembly hall in a high school at Darwin. If it is possible to provide an assembly hall in a Canberra school, why is it not possible to do so in such an out-of-the-way place - and such a very important place - as Darwin.
In his statement to-day, the Minister said that the Government could not, and would not, spend such an amount of money on a school to provide for only 500 pupils. I say that the Minister has not read the report of the Public Works Committee properly. If he had done so, and had paid any attention to the evidence submitted to the committee by officials of various departments, and the evidence supplied by the Northern Territory Administration, he would realize that there is no justification for contemptuously dismissing the committee’s proposals on the ground that they are not called for in a school to serve only 500 pupils. The evidence submitted to us in Darwin was that the population of Darwin would increase by 25 per cent, if the present rate of development there continues.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 291.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 29th November (vide page 3320), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a small measure. Its intention is to alter the membership of the Australian Apple and Pear Board about which very few people know very much. However, since 1938 it has done a lot of important work for the exporting branch of the apple and pear industry and, indeed, for the industry as a whole. Any organization that works for the exporting side of the apple and pear industry must have a marked impact on the marketing of fruit within Australia also.
When the board was created in 1938, it had sixteen members. During the Second World War, it had what I might describe as a most horrible job. Under war-time regulations, it had the awful responsibility of maintaining the apple and pear industry in Australia. Before the war, the apple crop totalled 13,000,000 bushels. When hostilities began, apples and pears as such were not of great interest to people overseas when shipping was scarce and was urgently required for the transport of wool and wheat and other essential commodities. Overnight, we lost an export market for approximately 6,000,000 bushels of fruit, and Australian apple and pear growers were left with a horrible problem. How was Australia going to dispose of 13,000,000 bushels of fruit within its own boundaries? The Government of the day, led by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), introduced measures for the acquisition of all apples and pears grown in Australia. We were faced with the terrible problem that it was humanly impossible to double the consumption of apples and pears overnight within Australia, and if it were attempted, the local market would collapse. On the other hand, if the Government did not market the 6,000,000 bushels of surplus fruit which usually went overseas and allowed it to rot, it would be charged with a crime against humanity. This unfortunate organization, the Australian Apple and Pear Board, had to deal with the problem. Because of a great deal of misunderstanding, the board incurred a lot of abuse; and so also did the government of the day and its successor. However, looking back on history, I think it is accepted that the board did valuable work in the acquisition of apples and pears and saved the industry. Those who look back over that period should realize that the board did good work and still exercises a profound influence on the welfare of the industry.
Tasmania has always been the largest exporter of apples among the Australian States, and is also an important exporter of pears, although I believe that Victoria is actually the largest exporter of pears, both raw and canned. It was hoped that, after the war, Victoria would maintain its prewar proportion of the export trade in apples. When the war ended, the Government of the day considered that the Australian Apple and Pear Board should be remoulded and given additional functions, and that a wise course would be to cut down the membership from sixteen to twelve. The Government then laid down a fairly hard and fast rule in relation to marketing authorities and export control boards that there should be sufficient wisdom in the minds of twelve knowledgeable men to deal with marketing problems. Consequently, when the Labour Government amended the Apple and Pear Organization Act in 1947, it reduced the membership of the board from sixteen to twelve. In accordance with its belief that employees should be represented on these organizations, the Labour Government also provided for a representative of the employees on this board and that is still the situation to-day.
This Government has now decided that since Tasmania has not only maintained its dominant position as an exporter of apples, but has also strengthened its position, it should have more representation on the Australian Apple and Pear Board. The
Tasmanians are never lagging in speaking for themselves, and there has been a clamour in Tasmania, particularly among apple-growers, for larger representation on the board. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) concurs with that viewpoint. The Opposition accepts the situation that Tasmania undoubtedly has a claim to increased representation since it has increased its proportion of Australian exports of apples. Therefore, the Opposition will not oppose the provision in the bill that Tasmanian growers should have three representatives on the board instead of two. There is also provision in the constitution of the board for representation of the export side of the industry. The business interests and exporters who purchase from the growers now have representation on the board and no doubt will continue to be represented. The merchant representation comes from Tasmania, and that state of affairs probably will continue also. Therefore, Tasmania will have four representatives on a board of thirteen members.
Perhaps that is a bit tough on other States. It diminishes the influence of Victoria and Western Australia, two States which still export very good quality apples and pears to overseas markets. But, after all, I am not a parish-pump politician. I accept the fact that the overall interests of apple and pear growers in Victoria, Western Australia or Tasmania are much the same. After all, geographical lines which define the State boundaries are not the test of representation. Since there is still to be adequate representation of the Australian industry as a whole on the board, we are not going to protest and be so parochial as to deprive Tasmania of its representation.
– Are you saying that with your tongue in your cheek?
– No, I am not. The honorable member represents an important apple and pear producing district, but I remind him that like the present Minister, when T was faced with requests for representation on various producers’ organizations, I was not over-impressed by imaginary State boundary lines. After all, the interests of producers on export markets are largely identical. So we will not quarrel with this representation of Tasmania.
I think it is regrettable that the Government sees fit to find it necessary to increase the membership of the board to thirteen. Of course, that is the natural outcome of acceding to the request of Tasmania. The request could be met only by increasing the total membership of the board, or depriving some other interest of its representation. I can understand the difficult position, but I do not think that the principle should be generally accepted.
The other little matter that I want to mention is that there is no provision in the bill for the extra grower representative of Tasmania to be elected by the rank and file of the export growers - a principle which, I think, we should incorporate in legislation of this character. It so happens that there is provision in the bill for the State Fruit Board of Tasmania to nominate a representative whom it thinks fit and proper to become a member of the Australian Apple and Pear Board. I might be inclined to quarrel with that, but for the fact that the State Fruit Board of Tasmania is a democratically elected board.
So I think everybody can say that we are pleased that this great export industry which contributes substantially to our sterling balances has done a good job. I might disagree with some of the activities of the board from time to time but, over all, it does a good job for an industry that helps to maintain our export earnings.
The bill contains provision for changes in the sections of the act relating to banking by the board. One change is due, of course, to the recent constitution of the Reserve Bank of Australia. Nobody can object to that. I have some doubts, however, as to the wisdom of providing, also, that the board may transact its banking business with banks other than the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. I suppose that the Minister will correct me if I am wrong when I say that, at the present time, the board does bank with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
– It banks with the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
– That is desirable. I hope that the right, under some circumstances, to use other banks will not be used as a lever to take the board’s general business away from the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
– The bill provides that the board may bank with the Commonwealth Trading Bank or with other banks.
– Yes, but because of the phraseology in the bill, any private bank could be used and in unforeseen circumstances, it might be necessary, temporarily, to use the services of a private banking organization. The Labour Party wishes the industry well. It has always done what it could to help the industry, and will continue to do so in future. I leave it at that. I am quite sure that some Tasmanian members from both sides of the House will desire to say something about the measure.
.- The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), a former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, has always taken a very keen interest in this subject. I appreciate his remarks and analysis of the bill. I will not try to canvass the bill itself now that he has gone through it so thoroughly. He will remember, and subsequent Ministers will know, that I have pressed, over the years, for additional representation for Tasmania on the Australian Apple and Pear Board. I think that the case for additional representation is clearly supported by facts and figures and I think that figures are the determining point in this argument.
In the five-year period 1953-58, Tasmania exported 61.5 per cent, of our total exports of apples and pears. Victoria exported 17 per cent., Western Australia 16 per cent., South Australia 4 per cent., New South Wales 1.2 per cent, and Queensland 2 per cent. That, in itself, seems to me a quite logical argument in favour of additional representation from Tasmania. The honorable member for Lalor quite correctly said that we had to look at the industry as a whole, but it is fair to say, too. that the State which provides the heavy weight of exports. should have the heavy weight of representation.
I remind the honorable member for Lalor that Tasmania relinquished its right to have representation on the egg export authority and the meat export authority. That is why I feel it is not unreasonable that we should have this additional representation. Some eighteen months ago, I put forward a proposition that New South Wales and Queensland should have one representative jointly representing them on the board. In view of the fact that only 1.2 per cent, of exports are provided by New South Wales and .2 per cent, by Queensland, that seemed to me to be a reasonable proposition. However, the point is that Tasmania is now to have additional representation.
I am very glad indeed to know that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) .in his wisdom, has arranged to have two representatives from the south and one from the north of Tasmania. Tasmania is a small island but there is a kind of Mason-Dixon line which divides it, particularly in the apple industry, as the honorable member for Lalor knows. I think, therefore, that that provision is a very wise one.
J should like to follow on from what the preceding speaker said as to whether or not the Tasmanian members of the Commonwealth Apple and Pear Board should be elected by the growers or appointed by the Tasmanian State Fruit Board. It would seem to me better to have them elected by popular vote of the growers. On the other hand, I do not think it is unreasonable that the State Fruit Board itself should make appointments because the members of that board are themselves elected by the growers. I do not want to speak for too long on this bill because I have talked about the matter many a time in this Parliament. But may I say, with great warmth, that this is a very welcome amendment to the act. I feel sure that every Tasmanian fruitgrower will warmly applaud it and I commend the Minister for having taken this course.
.- I join with my colleagues, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), in supporting this measure, and I pay tribute to the honorable member for Franklin for having raised in this chamber on previous occasions - with our support - the question of extra representation for Tasmania on the Australian Apple and Pear Board. The proposed alteration to the constitution of the board will give Tasmania four votes out of thirteen, three of those votes being those of growers’ representatives, and one the vote of the exporters’ representative. Hitherto, they have had three votes out of twelve. Although, the acual percentage of additional Tasmanian representation is not very great, the Tasmanian growers are extremely pleased with it. As the honorable member for Lalor said, Tasmanian fruit growers provide 70 per cent, of the apples exported from Australia, and it is only right that this small island, which grows so many apples, should be adequately represented on the board.
– Most of the apples grown there are Democrats, too.
– And most of the “ Democrats “ are in the electorate of Wilmot, if you mean electors! The present members of the board are Mr. C. E. Critchley, O.B.E., chairman; Mr. D. G, Jones, who represents the exporters of apples and pears- in Tasmania; Mr. D. K. Barron, who represents the exporters of apples and pears in Western Australia; Mr. A. G. Perry, who represents the exporters of apples and pears in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland; and Mr. W. H. Nicol, M.B.E., who represents the employees engaged in the industry. Mr. Nicol is a very distinguished Tasmanian, and it might interest honorable members to know that it was a Labour Government which amended the act in 1948 to give the employees representation on the board.
– And it has helped to create industrial peace in the industry.
– It has done much to promote industrial peace in the industry, as always happens when boards such as this are made up of representatives of employers and employees or of growers and employees. Mr. Nicol has done great work on the board. He gave distinguished service to the Australian Workers Union in Tasmania, and has done splendid work in connexion with the Hydro-electricity Commission there. We in Tasmania are delighted at the fact that the employees’ representative should be a Tasmanian. Of course, the act does not require that he shall be a Tasmanian; he may come from Western Australia, Queensland, or any other State, but at the moment the employees’ representative is a Tasmanian and we are pleased that he is.
The members who have been elected to the board by the democratic vote of the growers are Mr. W. B. Pascoe, who represents the growers in New South Wales; Mr. R. J. Tully, who represents the growers in Victoria; Mr. R. W. Anderson, who represents the growers in Queensland; Mr. H. K. Caldicott, who represents the growers in South Australia; Mr. G. C. Parke, who represents the growers in Western Australia; Mr. D. F. Calvert, who represents the growers in Tasmania; and Mr. W. H. Smith, who also represents Tasmanian growers. The two Tasmanian representatives have had many years’ experience in this industry as growers and administrators. Both have played an important part in the affairs of the State Fruit Board of Tasmania. Mr. Smith is at present chairman of that board. He is a most active man, and is always prepared to say what he thinks. He has forthright and progressive views, and although at times his presence at meetings might cause discussion, to put it mildly, it is a good thing to have on such boards men who try to brush the cobwebs from the minds of the other members and get them to discuss the real problems confronting the industry. He is not one of those who are satisfied with the status quo; he wants to see progress in the industry. Later I shall have something to say about his work in trying to obtain financial assistance for those growers in Tasmania who suffered hail damage. The secretary of the board is Mr. W. J. Oldman. From now on, there will be one more Tasmanian on this board.
– Mr. Farrell is the secretary.
– According to the report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board for the year ended 30th June, 1960, the secretary is Mr. W. J. Oldman. You are referring to the secretary of the State fruit board. We welcome this recognition of Tasmania’s strength in apple and pear production, and 1 sincerely hope that the newly reconstituted board will improve the market for Tasmanian apples, and that under its administration there will be intensive research into ways of producing better fruit to meet the growing competition from overseas.
– in reply - I appreciate the support honorable members have given this measure. It is pleasing to see recognized the good work of boards which do so much for our economy by finding markets for our exports. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that he hoped that in future the representative of the Tasmanian exporters would be a man from Tasmania. I point out to him that the act requires that now. Therefore, the honorable member can be assured on that point.
As to the bank, I remind the honorable member for Lalor that sometimes it is necessary to take advantage of facilities offered by banks other than the Commonwealth Bank; but, where central bank facilities are normally available, the boards are required to make use of them. The honorable member need have no worries on that score. Again I express appreciation of the support accorded this measure, which, T am sure, will be of great benefit to the industry.
The honorable member also mentioned the qualifications of the chairman of the board. The important question there is: Can he sell apples?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 29th November (vide page 3321), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, this is a small measure, the purpose of which is to amend the Apple and Pear Export Charges Act 1938-1957, which authorizes a levy on apple and pear growers in order to obtain funds out of which to meet the administrative charges of the Aus tralian Apple and Pear Board and to finance the participation by the board in certain publicity and other activities designed to obtain and expand markets for Australian apples and pears. Under the existing act, the maximum levy which may be imposed is 2d. a case on apples and pears exported. This bill will substitute for the word “ twopence “ in the principal act the word “ sixpence “ in order that a levy of up to 6d. a case may be imposed. I understand that the Australian Apple and Pear Board recommended this change to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), and I think I am correct in assuming that the board would not have recommended the imposition of an increased charge on export fruit - the levy does not apply to fruit consumed locally - unless the board had been satisfied that the great majority of the growers whom it represents was in favour of the proposal.
It is true that over the years since 1947, owing to the weaknesses of this Government as exemplified by its false economic theories and practices, the administrative expenses of the Australian Apple and Pear Board have increased. No doubt, also, publicity in other parts of the world designed to promote the sale of Australian apples and pears has become more important than hitherto. In these circumstances, what can the Opposition say except that it believes that the board has necessarily to continue with this work and to meet its obligations, much as we dislike giving this authority to increase the levy from 2d. to 6d. a case. After all, 6d. a case will amount to a fairly heavy levy for a grower who produces a lot of fruit. The giving of authority to make a levy of 6d. a case, however, does not necessarily mean that the levy inflicted will be 6d. a case. It may be 4d. or 5d., or whatever other amount the board thinks is necessary and the Minister approves.
– Could it be 5id. a case?
– It could. To any one who knows anything about fruit-growing, a levy of 5d. a case is not insignificant. The trees cultivated by some growers are very prolific, and many cases are produced. On a large volume of production, one halfpenny or even one farthing a case is of great importance.
The Opposition does not object to the passage of this measure, Mr. Speaker, and I wish only to express the hope that the Government will exhibit greater wisdom in the control of our economic life in the future and that ever-increasing costs will not make it necessary for the Minister, in about twelve months’ time, to bring in another measure to authorize the raising of the limit of maximum levy from 6d. to ls. a case. With those few words, I give the Opposition’s agreement to the passage of this bill.
.- Mr. Speaker, this bill is far more important than is the Apple and Pear Organization Bill 1960, which the House has just passed, and for that reason I want to spend some time on this measure.
– Not too long. Spare us.
– Much to the disgust of the sheep men, wheat-growers, dairy men, auctioneers, commercial travellers, insurance agents and the like on the other side of the chamber.
Up to date, the levy on apples and pears exported has returned to the Australian Apple and Pear Board about £40,000 a year to meet the cost of the board’s administration and of publicity activities, sales promotion and like activities abroad. The board’s present income has been found to be totally inadequate to meet the challenge by other producing countries to our apples and pears in overseas markets. If a levy of 6d. a case were in fact made, the return would be approximately £120,000 a year, and this would make a tremendous improvement in the finance available for the promotion of the sale of our apples and pears overseas. The position of the fruit industry at the present time may be such as to induce the board to impose a charge of 6d. a case from the time when this measure becomes law, instead of fixing the levy, as my friend, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), said may happen, at 4d. or 54d. a case.
I believe that time is not on our side in our efforts to meet this challenge to which we are subjected in competitive overseas markets, and I think that the industry ought to get cracking immediately this bill is passed by the Parliament and make efforts during the 1961 season to boost its overseas publicity campaign, its research activities, which are essential, and its trade promotion work generally. I congratulate the fruit industry on its progressive attitude, which has led it to realize that intensive promotion in the world’s markets and research designed to improve the quality of fruit are necessary if this great Australian industry is to be maintained in a stable condition. Thousands of people in the various States depend for their livelihood on this industry. There are 1,200 registered growers in Tasmania alone. When one takes into account their families and the other people who, with their families also, depend on this industry, one gains some proper conception of what the industry means to Tasmania and the economy of that State.
The idea of an increased levy has been brought about by greater competition from other countries in our traditional markets. Page 6 of the report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board for the year ended 30th June, 1960, lists the countries which are seriously competing with us. South Africa. Argentina, Chile, Holland and Italy have increased their production of fruit, and competition from those countries is now threatening the marketing of Australian apples and pears overseas.
The first of the five main factors influencing the export markets up to recent years for our fruit has been the ordinary law of supply and demand, which quite often gets out of hand. The second factor has been economic weaknesses in purchasing countries arising from the devastation of war. These economic weaknesses have now been overcome and countries which were devastated by the war are now active as both producers and purchasers. Thirdly, seasonal crop failures overseas have helped steady sales of Australian fruits in our exports markets. One of the tragedies of primary production is that, for example, good fortune for wheat-growers in Canada may upset Australia’s export trade in wheat. If wheat-growers in Canada experience bad seasons, the export price of Australian wheat is automatically lifted. The situation with respect to every primary product is the same, Mr. Speaker. The tragedy of drought, bad seasons or any other weather hazard overseas helps Australia. But if we have adverse weather conditions and other countries do not, we suffer and they are helped. This factor has had an important levelling effect in the past and has helped, through its consequential effects, to keep our export fruit industry fairly stable. The fourth factor has been occasional shipping difficulties, and the fifth factor has been increases in freights.
These factors have affected the marketing of our fruit and, on the whole, have had the net effect of keeping our markets fairly stable. But competition in the United Kingdom and European markets has now reached a new peak. Why? The cause is, first, the economic growth of countries like Argentina, Chile, Italy, Germany and South Africa, and, secondly, cheaper labour costs in South Africa and Argentina, which have enabled those countries to produce more cheaply than we do and to sell their fruit in the United Kingdom and European markets at prices lower than those at which we can afford to sell. Furthermore, other producing countries have improved the quality of their fruit. An additional factor is their proximity to the main markets compared with Australia. Their freight rates are lower than ours and they have shorter distances to cover. All this enables them to put their fruit on the market much more cheaply than we can.
The increased levy must be used to the full to step up the campaign to promote markets in various parts of the world. We must not confine ourselves to our traditional markets, but must seek new markets. The board is to be commended for what it has already done in the Asian area. For a long time, we were not exporting much fruit to Asia, but in recent years the board, as a result of its promotion campaign, has disposed of a lot of fruit in this area. For instance, in round figures, in 1959, it sold 100,000 boxes in Hong Kong, 27,000 in the Philippines, 29,000 in Ceylon, 13,000 in East Africa, 18.000 in Aden and 31,000 in the Pacific Islands. But our sales to these markets must be further increased. These markets are closer to us than the European markets are and this helps to keep freight costs to a minimum.
I should like to give an example of the way that production has increased in countries which compete with us. This will show the massive problem that we face. The board is aware of the problem and is worried about it. On page 6 of its report, the board said -
The Board wishes to emphasise that there is little in the 1960 season’s results to give rise to optimism.
The report continued -
Last year, the industry suffered a considerable setback in the face of intensified competition from other supplying sources. Forward sales showed a sharp decline and returns to growers for apples sent on consignment were frequently below cost of production.
This industry is beginning to meet the great pressure of competition. Any money that can be spent in the promotion of markets will be of tremendous value to our economy. I shall give some figures to illustrate how production in other countries has increased and how competition from them has become really intense. From 1934 to 1938, Italy produced 269,000 tons of apples. For 1953-54 it produced 846,000 tons, but by 1958-59 production had jumped to 1,601,000 tons. Italy, of course, is only a hop, step and a jump from the European markets. France produces mainly dessert apples, but its production will be doubled by 1965. South Africa, because of its low cost of production and low freight charges, has practically wiped out great areas of our small fruits industry in the electorate of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and in the south of my electorate. Now South Africa is coming into the apple market. In 1959-60. South Africa produced 5,000,000 bushels, but production in 1970 is estimated at 13,000,000 bushels. Argentina, in 1939, produced 4,000 tons of apples, but this year it produced 100.000 tons.
North America, New Zealand and Australia, on the average, are producing more apples as the years go by. Our production is not increasing at such an alarming rate as the production of other countries is, but it is increasing so much that we should ask ourselves how we will ever get rid of the fruit we will produce in the next two, three or four years. It seems that we will not be able to do so unless we are able to increase our overseas markets tremendously and, in addition, increase our home consumption. The board should not lose sight of the need to increase consumption of apples and pears within Australia. However, we now pay 6d. for an apple, a pear or a banana in the dining-room here, and we should realize that such high prices must generate some buyer resistance.
The difficulties that I have outlined create a colossal problem for the industry. It is difficult for some growers to keep their heads above water, and we must not forget that some of them are selling their fruit at a price below the cost of production. They will not be able to stay in the industry if that state of affairs continues. The farmer cannot pass on his increased costs, and his costs have certainly increased in the last few years. The only thing that has not increased is the price at which he sells his apples on overseas markets. We are right at the heart of the problem when we speak along these lines.
How can we meet the intense competition that faces us overseas? The first means is publicity. From what I have read and heard from those who have been overseas recently, our publicity in the United Kingdom is very good. The board, in its latest report, gives some account of what is being done to increase overseas publicity. Mr. White, the Tasmanian Agent-General, is doing a very fine job for apple-growers in publicizing the fruit in the United Kingdom as much as he can, and the Australian High Commissioner is doing what he can to obtain increased publicity. In its report, the board said -
The Board’s contribution to the 1960 United Kingdom Publicity Campaign was £10,000 (stg.) compared with £6,500 (stg.) in the previous year. It has been decided to contribute a similar amount for 1961. In this regard the Board notes with appreciation the Commonwealth Government’s agreement to the proposals of the Overseas Trade Publicity Committee for a substantial increase in expenditure over the previous year. The 1961 campaign will involve a total expenditure of £521,000 sterling, and the Board’s contribution will be more than doubled by the Government in providing specific funds for the .1961 apple and pear drive.
Television and all possible avenues are being used to publicize our apples in the United Kingdom. The impact of the television campaign was very great. Beautiful Australian girls are being used in this campaign.
After appropriate advance publicity, the girls gave away fruit at railway stations. This was accompanied by special apple dishes at railway restaurants. The National Farmers Union is also assisting in the publicity campaign. Publicity campaigns are also developing on the Continent, in Germany, Sweden and Norway. I believe these campaigns could be stepped up to much the same intensity as that which prevails in London. The report says -
The campaigns were organized through the Australian Trade Commissioners in Bonn and Stockholm in conjunction with the local trade. In this regard it is desired to record the Board’s appreciation of the efforts of those concerned. With the increased funds available for Germany it was possible to undertake a concentrated newspaper advertising drive tied to the arrivals of Australian shipments. The advertisements were in colour and featured a brief description of the Australian varieties available. Reports indicate a marked consumer reaction. The campaigns in Sweden and Norway also featured press advertising together with point-of-sale material. It is considered that satisfactory results were achieved, having regard to the limited funds available.
It is very good to hear such reports. As to Australian publicity, good work was done through the Health Publicity Council.
Another way to attack the problem is by trying to reduce freight charges. In this respect the positron has deteriorated. Freight charges have increased by 20 per cent, in the last few years. Every small increase in freight rates deals a dagger blow at the industry. The report to which I have been referring says -
The Federal Exporters’ Oversea Transport Committee has by negotiation obtained agreement from shipowners for an increase of 5 per cent, on general cargo and 7i per cent, on refrigerated tonnage . . . The current rate of freight represents about 40 per cent, of the C.I.F. value of apples, already a serious burden to carry in the face of the greatly intensified competition which must be expected in the future.
We on this side of the House have contended from time to time, and we will continue to contend, that we should have a national overseas shipping line, so that our primary producers, including apple growers, may get a better freight deal. The increases in freight rates have represented a tremendous impost on an industry in which the growers are already receiving for their product, in many cases, prices that do not cover costs of production. The Government has a bounden duty to primary producers to keep freight rates down. It may even have to consider seriously subsidizing freight charges if they continue to rise at the fantastic rate at which they have risen in recent years. We on this side of the House will continue to fight for justice for our primary producers in the matter of freight charges. We believe that some of our River class ships could have been converted and provided with refrigerated holds for the carrying of perishable cargo. As these ships are of about 10,000 tons displacement they would have been of great assistance in getting our fruit to overseas markets. Most of them have been sold in other countries, such as China and Japan. Some have been broken up and some are merely lying idle.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member is a little wide of the bill.
– I am not wide of the bill, Mr. Speaker, because the report of the board distinctly refers to freights.
– Order! We are dealing with the bounty.
– The purpose of the bounty is to increase sales of fruit overseas, and anything that helps to make apples dearer on the English market will also make the task of the publicity campaign more difficult.
On the question of research, the Minister said when introducing the bill -
The board is also considering the possibilities of developing a plan of central research into the problems connected with pest and disease control in apple and pear production. This is, however, more of a long-term project and concrete proposals have not yet been formulated, but the board is aiming to be financially responsible for the establishment and co-ordination of a programme of scientific research into fruit production.
No doubt this plan will involve assistance from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which has already done a wonderful job in this direction. Of course, people overseas are becoming more selective in their choice of fruit. The only fruit that will hit the deck and stay there with good prospects of being sold is the best fruit that can be grown. The board is getting into a very important aspect of the matter when it speaks of carrying on research work with a view to improving the quality of our Tasmanian fruit, and also of fruit from the other States.
In conclusion let me say that the season that has just passed was a hazardous one for our Tasmanian fruit-growers. They expected about a 3,000,000-case season, and they finally harvested just over 2,000,000 cases. Australia’s total exports were 4,435,050 cases. The reduced production was due to drought and hail damage on a colossal scale in the Huon Valley. Let me say in passing that we were most disappointed that the Government did not see fit to contribute on a £l-for-£l basis to help the 400 growers in the Huon Valley who were almost wiped out by hail storms.
– Why did they not insure?
– They are insured, thanks to the action of the Labour Government in bringing down the 1947 act. But the insurance was not sufficient to cover their great losses. The board may have to make allowances for this kind of disaster in its future planning. Mr. W. A. Smith did a great job in this regard with the assistance of federal members, but we were unsuccessful. It seems tragic to think that we have not a national disaster fund into which each State could make annual contributions, and which could be used to assist those primary producers who suffered losses through acts of God. This higgledypiggledy, hit-or-miss method of coming to the Government, cap in hand, asking for a few pounds to help every time a disaster occurs, is not scientific and is not businesslike. Moreover, it rarely achieves the desired results. Only recently the Government refused to contribute towards the relief of those who suffered losses through drought in Queensland. I merely throw out my suggestion of a national disaster fund for what it is worth. I am grateful for your kindness, Mr. Speaker, in letting me get away with it.
– At first glance it seems that this bill will have quite an impact on growers. At the present time the cost of putting a case, or a bushel - whatever expression one cares to use - of applies on the market is about 15s. 10d., and the proposed increase in the levy will add another 4d. a case to those costs. I believe, however, that the growers of all States will see the wisdom of this increase and what it can do for them in the long term. Every State, with one exception, voted for the increase. The exception was Western Australia, where the recommendation was for an increase to 4d, a case instead of 6d. This speaks for itself, because all of the boards that considered the matter in the various States are composed of members elected by growers. They must, therefore, enjoy the confidence of those who are engaged in the industry.
It has been a contention of mine for a very long time that we should pay much more attention than we have done in the past to publicity overseas. I can recall, as I am sure the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) can, the late chairman of the board, Mr. Ben Mills, ardently advocating much more extensive advertising of our product overseas. We are fortunate in having as the present chairman of the board Mr. Critchley, who was a Trade Commissioner in London, and who, therefore, knows the market extremely well. I feel (hat with his guidance, and with the additional money that will now be coming forward, we can get the very best value possible in the way of advertising.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) was perfectly correct in one of his statements. He said that the Argentine and South Africa are becoming increasingly important competitors of ours. I do not share the pessimism that he displayed in suggesting that in three or four years’ time the industry will be in dire straits. For as long as I can remember - and J was practically brought up in an apple-growing area - the forecast has been made, year by year, “ Next year is going to be a bad year “. The fact is that production of apples is increasing, but the population of the world is increasing at a tremendous rate. These people still want to eat. On that basis alone I have an abiding faith that in the future we will still have a sound market for apples and pears, despite opposition from Argentina or South Africa. One aspect of the proposal which 1 believe is very sound is that it will devote some money to the prevention of pests and diseases. Without delving too deeply into that subject, we all know there are certain countries that are almost over-zealous in their quarantine regulations, but they are entitled to be. If we want to sell our products on those markets we have to raise them to the standards that those people require. I believe that this provision of the bill is very sound.
One other point I wish to mention, without labouring the subject too far is that on the publicity side in particular we tend to send our apples overseas under so many brands or labels on the boxes that they completely lose their identity. Those brands or labels are probably very picturesque and colourful, but they are apt to miss the point of stressing that these are Australian apples, or that they are Tasmanian apples. The New Zealand exporters never make that mistake when they send their lamb or apples overseas. Their products are known on the market as being entirely New Zealand products.
– In New Zealand they have not the competition of various States as we have.
– That is true. When sending our products overseas we should devote our minds to accentuating the fact that the apples or pears are Australian products. I have seen plenty of the brands and labels under which our apples and pears are exported, as most honorable members have; and although they are picturesque and colourful they have nothing but a line of print about half an inch high saying that the apples or pears are Australian. This is one avenue to which money can be devoted to assist people overseas to think in the right terms and put Australia over in Covent Garden, in London.
I believe we shall have some other competition in time to come, perhaps from China. China is growing apples in large quantities. There are immense areas under apples in China, but, by the same token, at the present time we have plenty of opportunity to go into the Asian and near-Asian markets in Singapore, Borneo and places like that, where we should devote considerable studies to marketing. I know that the trade promotion section of the Department of Primary Industry is attending to that problem, but I want to see closer attention paid to it. Without prolonging the debate,
I think this measure is a very sound one indeed, and I hope that the industry as a whole will support it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Copper Bounty Act 1958, as amended by the Copper Bounty Act 1960.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Osborne and Mr. Davidson do prepare and bring in a bill for an act to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In 1958 this Parliament passed a bill authorizing the payment of a bounty on copper produced in Australia from indigenous materials and sold for use in Australia. The Copper Bounty Act 1958 provided for the bounty to be paid on refined copper sold in the period from 19th May, 1958, to 30th June, 1960. However, before this period had expired, the Government directed the Tariff Board to reexamine the question whether, having due regard to the importance of copper production both to the national economy and to the economies of several substantial isolated communities, assistance should be given to the production of unwrought copper in Australia, and if so, the nature and extent of such assistance. The board made its inquiry, and delivered its report on 20th May, 1960. It was obvious that the time available before the intended expiry of the 1958 Act on 30th June, 1960, was too short to allow a detailed examination of the board’s report, and accordingly the act was extended to 31st December, 1960.
The present act, in conjunction with the Customs Tariff, provides assistance to the industry by a combination of bounty and duty. The duty begins to operate when the overseas price of copper falls below £275 per ton. The bounty provides for a maximum rate of £45 per ton on refined copper produced and sold for use in Australia, subject to a profit limitation of 10 per cent. The assistance by way of bounty and duty gave producers a return of about £335 per ton.
The Tariff Board’s report of 20th May, 1960, has already been tabled. The board considers that assistance will still be required by the industry after the expiry of the present act, and has recommended the continuance of the present duty-cum-bounty arrangements, but with revised rates. It has proposed that the duty should operate when the overseas price of copper falls below £290 a ton, and that bounty rates be prescribed with a maximum of £35 a ton, which would apply when the overseas price was £290 a ton or less. The Government has considered the report and has, in general, decided to adopt the board’s recommendations. A resolution to move an amendment to Tariff Item 137, to alter the “ cut-off “ point for duty purposes from £275 to £290, as recommended by the Tariff Board, was introduced into the House yesterday. This amendment will operate from commencement of business in 1961 to correspond with the operating date of the new bounty rates.
The proposed revision in the duty and bounty rates has become necessary because of the changed circumstances in the industry since the present act was passed. The effect of the new legislation will be to give producers an increase of £5 a ton in their return for copper sold for use in Australia, compared with what they now receive. However, h is expected that bountiable producers will be exporting greater proportions of then- output than in the past. Their overall returns on copper produced in Australia may, therefore, be somewhat less than at present.
There are certain other minor changes provided by the bill designed to facilitate operation of the bounty.
The Tariff Board recommended that bounty be extended for a period of five years, but that the rates be reviewed in three years. However, in view of the rapidly changing situation in the industry, the Government has decided that the board should review both the form and level of assistance in three years. Before the expiry of the bounty, the Government will give careful consideration to its policy of protection to the industry, and will then direct the Tariff Board to make a further review of the industry.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954-1959, as amended by the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1960.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Osborne and Mr. Davidson do prepare and bring in a bill for an act to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members will recall that until last year it had been Government policy for many years, and particularly since the early 1950’s, to encourage the production in Australia of sulphuric acid from indigenous sulphur-bearing materials. The main material used has been iron pyrites.
In 1958-59 total sulphuric acid production was almost 1,000,000 tons, and 35 per cent, of this was derived from pyrites. As part of this policy, the Government has since 1954 paid to acid producers using iron pyrites a bounty to compensate them for the additional cost involved in using these materials as compared with imported brimstone. Since 1957 bounty has also been payable on acid produced from lead sinter gas.
In 1958 the Tariff Board submitted a further report, recommending increased rates of bounty in line with this policy of encouragement. However, there had been, by then, a considerable improvement in the supply position overseas for brimstone. After examining the position, the Government decided in May, 1959, that in view of the extra costs involved in using pyrites and other Australian materials, economic reasons no longer justified continuation of the past policy. In making this decision, the Government recognized that it had obligations to those producers of acid and sulphur-bearing materials who had cooperated or planned to co-operate in the previous policy. Because of this change in policy the recommendations to the board’s 1958 report were not adopted. Instead, the board was asked to recommend a bounty which, while not conflicting with the Government’s decision to abandon the encouragement policy, would have regard to its obligation to the producers mentioned above. The board delivered its report on 20th June, 1960. As the act then current was due to expire on 30th June, I960, and the short time available was not sufficient for a thorough study to be made of the board’s report, the bounty was extended for six months to 31st December, 1960.
The board has recommended, in effect, an extension of the bounty for a further period of five years; separate rates of bounty for sulphuric acid made from iron pyrites and for iron pyrites itself; and that no bounty rate be prescribed at present for acid produced from lead sinter gas.
It proposed alternative bounty rates of £3 or £5 4s. a ton of 100 per cent, sulphuric acid, either of which could be adopted by the Government in the light of what it considered to be its obligations to the producers concerned. The lower rate measured the average disability of producers, the higher rate the disability of the highest-cost producer. Similarly, it proposed alternative rates of bounty on iron pyrites, with the same criteria to be applied.
A copy of the Tariff Board’s report of 20th June, 1960, has already been tabled.
The bill now before the House is designed to give effect to the board’s proposals for sulphuric acid, and a complementary bill to be presented immediately after this will implement the board’s proposals on iron pyrites bounty. The rate of bounty which will be prescribed in the regulations is that based on the average disability of producers. I point out that even when it was the Government’s policy to encourage the production of sulphuric acid from indigenous materials, the bounty was based on average disability, not the disability of the highest-cost producer.
Under the terms of the present act bounty is payable on sulphuric acid made from iron pyrites and lead sinter gas. There is one producer of acid from lead sinter gas, and the board has reported that he is now under no cost disability through the use of that material compared with brimstone. Accordingly, the board has recommended, and the Government has accepted the recommendation, that no bounty be payable on acid made from lead sinter gas.
The bill contains provisions to restrict the bounty to those producers to whom the Government recognizes an obligation. Accordingly, the only recipients will be those producers who have been producing sulphuric acid from iron pyrites before the introduction of this bill. Producers who before this date have incurred substantial commitments to commence production will be allowed a period of six months in which to apply to the Minister for consideration as possible bounty claimants in the future. No alteration has been made to the rate of profit limitation which, at 12i per cent., is the rate which has applied on sulphuric acid since the bounty was introduced in 1954.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of pyrites for use in the manufacture of sulphuric acid.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Thai Mr. Osborne and Mr. Harold Holt do prepare and bring in a bill for an act to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Earlier to-day, I introduced the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill (No. 2) 1960. In my speech introducing the bill I referred to the Government’s obligations to producers of sulphuric acid and sulphur-bearing materials who had co-operated, or planned to co-operate, in the policy of production of sulphuric acid from indigenous sulphurbearing materials. I mentioned that the Government had adopted the Tariff Board’s recommendations, contained in its report dated 20th June, 1960, on the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954-1959, for an extension of the bounty for a further five years and for different rates of bounty for acid and iron pyrites. The bill now before the House is designed to put into effect the board’s proposals regarding iron pyrites.
The board proposed two alternative basic rates - £3 or £7 per ton of sulphur contained in the pyrites - either of which could be adopted by the Government in the light of what it considered to be its obligations to the producers concerned. The lower rate was based on the average disability of producers, the higher rate on the disability of the highest cost producer. As with sulphuric acid, the Government has adopted the lower rate. The basic rate is to be increased or decreased by the same amount to the nearest ls. as the landed duty free cost per ton of brimstone falls below or rises above £16. It is recognized that the disabilities of the iron pyrites producers vary with the cost of imported brimstone, and the adjustment of the basic rate will relate the bounty to the cost of brimstone.
Bounty will be restricted to those producers to whom the Government recognizes an obligation. Accordingly, the only recipients will be those producers of iron pyrites who have been in operation before the introduction of this bill. The rate of profit limitation, at 12± per cent., is the same as is provided for sulphuric acid under the current act and as proposed under the new Sulphuric Act Bounty Bill.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 24th November (vide page 3228), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition offers no objection to the passage of this bill, which is a simple measure which, I understand, is but the forerunner of a larger measure that the Government has in view to deal with insurance. I may be wrong in that regard. I am not now referring, of course, to the proposal to oblige leading insurance companies to invest a certain percentage of their assets in government loans. My sympathies are all with the Government in that regard. In this particular instance the Government, for good reasons, has decided that the amount which insurance companies, other than life assurance companies, shall be required to deposit with the Treasury will be increased from £5,000 to £10,000.
I remember very well the circumstances in which the first bill of this nature was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1932. It obliged the insurance companies, both life and non-life, to deposit sums with the Commonwealth Treasury in order to protect policy-holders. One does not need to go back over that period of history. I suppose that, had it not been for the action of the Lang Government in New South Wales in attempting to seize the deposits of the insurance companies that were lodged with the New South Wales Treasury at that time of financial stringency, Australia might have waited a very considerable time for a Commonwealth insurance act. It might have waited for a long time for the Commonwealth to use its insurance powers. For 32 years, the Parliament did function without any attempt being made to invoke the concurrent power which this Parliament had to pass laws in respect of insurance. At a subsequent period - in 1945 to be precise - a special Life Insurance Act was passed, and that act is still in operation and functioning well.
The legislation now before us deals with a number of forms of insurance that are not connected with life insurance. It does not deal with accident insurance business undertaken solely in connexion with life insurance business. It does not deal with superannuation and insurance schemes operated by friendly societies pr trade unions for their members or dependants. It does not apply to superannuation and pension schemes which confer benefits on employees or their dependants on retirement, disability or death, when such arrangements are provided by an employer or his employees or by both jointly, wholly through an organization established solely for that purpose. It does not deal with funeral and burial benefits schemes. The Government argues that, until 1958, it was accepted that such schemes did not constitute insurance business. Doubts apparently arose on the matter and the exclusion of these benefit funds from this particular legislation, as under the Life Insurance Act 1945-1959, in the Government’s view makes the position clear. The clarity is in the fact that these schemes are not insurance schemes. The Government leaves it to the States to regulate the activities of funeral and burial benefit schemes. In my view, most of them are rackets and should be regulated by somebody. It would be a good thing if the Government introduced legislation dealing with them and left it to the High Court of Australia to decide whether they were schemes that came properly under the insurance power. The legislation excludes, too, insurance schemes operated by trusts and companies established solely for the purpose of insuring the property of religious organizations. Many of these provisions are not new because they were included in the 1932 act and the amending act of 1937. They are desirable provisions, and the Opposition offers no objection to them.
As I have said, the bill provides that those who commence the business of insurance in Australia shall be required to lodge a minimum deposit of £10,000 in place of the former minimum deposit of £5,000; but the amount rises, of course, after the commencement of business. If the company flourishes, it has to increase its deposit, and that, too, is right and proper, because the deposit should always be adequate to protect the equity of policy-holders. The Government says that the deposit is to be reviewed annually; and provision is made so that it can be varied up or down to represent not less than 20 per cent, of the premium income up to a maximum deposit which is now being increased from £40,000 to £80,000. We offer no objection to that. We offer no objection either to the fact that foreign companies have to lodge a deposit which will be at a fixed sum of £100,000.
I just want to make one or two other observations before I conclude, and they are these: There seem to me to be too many insurance companies operating in the insurance world outside the great life companies. Nobody can criticize the five or six great mutual life insurance organizations the benefits of which go to the policyholders. In some few cases there are life companies that take a certain percentage of the profit before they distribute their benefits to policy-holders. The companies affected by this legislation are mostly proprietary companies. The profits go to the shareholders of the companies that control them, and in many cases, the shareholders live outside Australia altogether. Now that we are becoming nationalist enough in sentiment to require that foreign interests owning shares in television companies shall be limited to a very small percentage holding, we should look at the question of how far we should permit foreign companies to participate in the insurance business, because there are not so many risks involved and the money made is made very easily. It is taken out of the country for the benefit of people who have never seen Australia and who have no interest in it other than to make profit out of it. In addition, now that this Government has established a precedent with the passage of a resolution limiting the amount of shareholding which English newspapers can have in radio stations in Australia, the time will arrive when some government will ask the Parliament to adopt the same principle in regard to banks, insurance companies and many other institutions and organizations.
I am only speaking for myself in this regard; but there are far too many companies operating with a great deal of wasteful competition. A lot of unnecessary money is spent in overhead, and all that is paid for by premiums which are far too high. I think most of the fire business in Australia is too costly. Fire, marine, accident, and quite a lot of other forms of insurance are being charged at too high a rate and the Australian public is being forced to pay more than it should for the benefits it is offered. The Government could well consider an examination of the whole problem of insurance just as a previous non-Labour Government inquired into the business of banking; but when the report is presented, unlike the Government which had the previous report on banking, it should put into effect the results of the examination in the field of insurance. In some respects, of course, the matter of insurance is carefully safeguarded. Foreign investments in insurance are carefully watched and as far as possible, the whole business is made a matter of a local investment and the profits are used locally.
I would make these other remarks with reference to the 1945 act: We passed that legislation in the hope that it would benefit the Australian people generally, and it did. We included a provision that, if necessary, the Commonwealth Government should establish a life insurance office. This Government repealed that particular provision. I think it was the wrong thing to do. 1 think that provision should be re-inserted at some future time; but this is not the legislation to deal with that particular matter. However, the Government might have to consider later what it will do if some other legislation which it proposes to introduce is not obeyed in the way it wishes it to be obeyed. I commend the bill to the House. I hope that this is not one of the measures upon which the Government is likely to strike trouble with its recalcitrant followers in another place.
.- I would like to add a few words to those of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) on this matter. It seems to me that this is the first amendment that has been proposed to the Insurance Act since 1937. This bill covers almost every field of insurance, bar life insurance. Under the Life Insurance Act there is a gentleman known as the Insurance Commissioner who, annually, files a report which gives comprehensive information on transactions in the life insurance field. There seems to be no similar statutory report on general insurance. I have searched the records and I cannot find any document that has to be tabled under the Insurance Act. I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) whether that is the case, and, if it is, whether that deficiency will be remedied.
The only figures that I have been able to get are those for 1957-58, published in the finance bulletin of the Commonwealth Statistician. At page 171, under the heading “ Fire, Marine and General Insurance “, a total premium income of £154,000,000 is shown for the year 1957-58. Nearly £30,000,000 of that sum came from fire insurance, nearly £42,000,000 from insurance on motor vehicles - a very significant topic at the moment - and £33,000,000 from employers’ liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. Those three classes of insurance between them yielded about £105,000,000 in premiums. Yet there does not seem to be any coordinated and complete information in this field as there is with regard to life insurance. The only reference that I have seen to other insurance appeared in the report of the Insurance Commissioner for 1959. On page three of his report he stated -
An important feature of recent years has been the developing interest shown by overseas insurance companies in Australia as a field for the transaction of life insurance business.
That has nothing to do with this measure. Then the report states -
In addition the recent move by a number of Australian life insurance companies into general insurance business has resulted in some general insurance companies entering the life insurance field.
I would have thought that general insurance - fire, motor vehicles and workers’ compensation, which are covered in the bill - would be an entirely different kind of activity from life insurance. Whilst it might be justified on the basis of competition, the entry of life insurance companies into the general insurance field, and vice versa, seems to be worthy of some investigation, particularly in view of the entry of more and more foreign countries into Australian insurance. Although the total premiums collected from general insurance - about £154,000,000 - are greater than the amount collected in life insurance premiums, it does not seem that this field of insurance is subject to the same degree of analysis as is life insurance.
At page 172 of the finance bulletin I find that of the £154,000,000 which is collected in premiums, £25,000,000, or £1 in every £6, is absorbed in expenses of management. This seems to me to be a fairly inordinate ratio for this kind of business. Out of every £6 with which people believe that they cover a certain risk £1 is absorbed in the expenses of management! This seems to me to indicate that there is a great deal of unnecessary expenditure because there is overlapping in the insurance field by a number of companies which compete for a particular kind of business. The result of this overlapping is not necessarily to give a greater cover or greater security to the insured but rather to absorb a greater part of premiums in unnecessary expenditure on management.
The life insurance report contains details of every life insurance company and gives the ratio between their expenses and their premium income, but no such statistics seem to exist for other fields of insurance business. I suggest that the Government consider appointing somebody in those fields equivalent to the Insurance Commissioner in the life insurance field. On behalf of the Government, he could act as a scrutineer to inquire whether or not the expense rates of some of these companies are excessive compared with the services that they provide. I think that this is of some significance.
On page 171 of the finance bulletin are listed a number of types of insurance including fire, motor vehicle and workers’ compensation. Those types account for about two-thirds of the field of general insurance, but general insurance also covers all sorts of other risks such as death of live-stock, which is of some significance, burglary, aviation accidents, and sprinkler leakage. It seems that, apart from a number of specific exemptions, to which the Leader of the Opposition referred, this bill would cover anything except life insurance. In the notes on the clauses which were given to the Leader of the Opposition there is a rather vague explanation. Perhaps the Treasurer might clarify it later. It relates to the specific exclusion of one field of insurance, namely, funeral insurance.
Funeral insurance, which operates under State laws, has become subject to a great deal of criticism because a number of practices which might almost be called rackets have been carried on in that field. I do not know whether it is felt that this subject is adequately covered by State laws but it seems to me that it is not. The people who seek this kind of insurance are usually unfortunate people in receipt of a pension of some kind. Because the Commonwealth funeral benefit is entirely inadequate, these people fear that they will have a pauper’s burial and so they contribute to a funeral scheme in order to have a decent burial. Such schemes are specifically excluded from the provisions of the bill.
The Treasurer, I think, said that it was not clear whether funeral schemes were a form of insurance or not. Whether it has been assumed that they are not insurance and so should not be included in the bill I do not know. But this would seem to indicate the existence of a void so far as definition is concerned. If funeral schemes cannot be regulated under this legislation there may be some other way to regulate them under social service legislation. I do not know. However, now that the principal act has been in operation for nearly 23 years, I ask that some consideration be given to the position which insurance of this kind occupies in the community. After all, each year there are paid £154,000,000 premiums, which are subject to investment decisions just as are premiums paid in respect of life insurance, and I suggest that the net should be cast a little wider in order to provide that the same detailed information be published in connexion with the activities of individual companies. I cannot see why individual companies should not be subjected to scrutiny in this direction. At present, the Government is able to compare the performance records of one life assurance company with those of another. We know mat some companies come off rather badly in such a comparison, and I should think that if the same sort of information were required in connexion with insurance in the fire and general field it would be beneficial to those persons who invest in such schemes, because it would prevent too great a proportion of the premiums being absorbed by unnecessary overhead costs.
– in reply - It is a fact, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has just suggested, that this is the first amendment of this legislation since 1937. Whether there should be an insurance commissioner in this field examining a mass of material comparable in scale with that relating to life assurance business is a matter of policy which has been considered by the Government. There are many differences in the two classes of business. This measure deals with short-term risks. It is because of the short-term aspect that it has been felt desirable to introduce a system of deposits. In the case of life assurance companies, the schemes are backed by the enormous assets held by those companies; but, in the absence of a system of deposits with the Government, a general insurance company might not be able to meet the claims lodged against it. The fact that there is to be a deposit varying in amount up to the maximum set out in the amending legislation, and based on the premiums received, does ensure that information as to premiums received will be provided. The deposit required will be calculated on the premium income. ‘It is believed that, in the circumstances, the additional expense involved in supplying information that might be of doubtful value to the general public would not be warranted.
– No annual report is required under the act.
– No. What is required is a statement of premium income. Once the premium income is known, the deposit can be determined. If deposits are hypothecated for the purpose of this legislation, the individual is assured of some security.
In answer to the honorable member’s question about the exclusion of funeral and burial benefits schemes ‘I point out that, up to 1958, it was accepted that such schemes did not constitute insurance business, and it is because some doubts have arisen since then that it was decided to make the positron clear. That is why such schemes have been specifically excluded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I am still in some doubt about funeral benefits. It seems to me that the question has been settled on the basis that it is not insurance because it is excluded. I repeat that there seems to be a real need for pointing out clearly to the community that it is not insurance. If that were done, those who might go into it unwittingly might perhaps be protected against themselves. At one stage it was quite an extensive field, and merely to exclude it does not seem to me to be a good social solution.
– I will undertake to give some further consideration to the matter.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9th November (vide page 2649), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports this bill, believing that the National Capital Development Commission, as the authority entrusted with the task of building the National Capital, should have the powers that are conferred by this measure, namely, power to control the design and siting of buildings privately constructed, and power to carry out works at the request of semi-government instrumentalities and similar bodies. We also believe, however, that the work proposed to be carried out by this commission should be subject to the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee and, when the bill is in committee, I will move for the insertion of a new clause to give effect to that proposal.
When the commission was set up some three years ago, it was decided that the commission should be a planning and construction authority only, and that it would be given no powers of administration, those powers being retained by the several departments then exercising them. They were the Department of the Interior, the Department of Works, the Department of Health and the Attorney-General’s Department. The fact that the commission is operating on a yearly vote of about £11,000,000, with the consequent great acceleration of the rate of development and building, both private and governmental, which is evident to us every day in the National Capital, has thrown administrative burdens on the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works, and has created problems of administration which have led sometimes to extensive delays in the completion of work. It is becoming apparent that the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works, which are geared to development at a somewhat more leisurely pace, have not been provided with the means of solving the problems which they face in the situation I have envisaged.
Two instances, I think, will be sufficient to illustrate the position. In the first place, plans for buildings have still to be approved by the proper authority within the Department of the Interior, but the department itself has not been enabled to obtain the aditional staff required for the increased work, and great delays have become common in the examination and approval of plans. Those delays are so lengthy now that they should no longer be tolerated, and arrangements which will eliminate them will certainly have the approval of the Australian Labour Party. These delays have in fact held up the start of work on many projects in the National Capital.
In the second place, the Department of the Interior employs building inspectors and supervisors, but the department has not been enabled to employ enough of these officers to cope adequately with the increased volume of work. Thus, it is becoming apparent that many buildings - this applies notably to houses privately constructed - have been erected without adequate supervision. They have not been subjected to proper supervision at the vital stages of construction. As a result, some shoddy and inferior building has occurred in this city. It appears necessary that the National Capital Development Commission be given greater control over private construction in Canberra. As the body charged with responsibility for the planning and development of the city, it must be able to ensure that siting and construction generally are compatible with overall planning and fitting for the picture of the planned and gracious city which is the Canberra ideal.
I may say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that not all the sins against good planning and against good taste, if one may use the phrase, have been committed by private builders in Canberra. Indeed, in the field of housing and commercial construction generally, the private builder in this city has sometimes achieved results more pleasing than those achieved by the governmental authorities, who, too often, seem to have become wedded to the repetitive mediocrity which mars so many of Canberra’s suburbs and centres.
Nevertheless, we recognize that there is need for realistic control over the private builder so that he does not commit excesses which are not gratifying to the public eye and which are out of step with the desire of the community for an attractive and livable city. Accordingly, we support the proposal to give the National Capital Development Commission power to control the design and siting of buildings privately constructed. The power to be given in proposed new sub-section (4.) of section 1 1 of the principal act will enable the commission not only to carry out work for semi-governmental instrumentalities such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, Trans-Australia Airlines, I suppose, and the Australian National University, but also to assist sporting bodies such as district cricket clubs, bowling clubs, tennis clubs and even golf clubs, and also organizations promoting culture, such as theatrical and musical societies, in the Australian Capital Territory.
I come now to the amendment that I propose to move at the committee stage with the object of bringing the works of the National Capital Development Commission under the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. The committee has already noted that approximately 38 per cent, of the funds provided under the 1960-61 civil works programme are under the control of the commission and are not subject to the scrutiny of the Parliament through the medium of the Public Works Committee. I shall deal with this matter in more detail when we come to the committee stage, Sir.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I support the bill and I agree with the remarks made by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who has just spoken for the Opposition on this measure. I believe that the National Capital Development Commission should be given the additional powers that will be conferred on it by this bill, but I am afeared that those powers do not go quite so far as they ought to go. It is true that the commission must have greater control over private building, both, I suggest, as to design and as to siting, so that, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has said, the private construction in the community will fit into a pattern - a pattern which must remain the responsibility of the Government and of the Government’s authority, which in this instance is the National Capital Development Commission. We have seen in the past the errors that can arise and the mistakes that can be made when adequate control over private construction is not exercised.
Some years ago, when the expansion of this capital city first entered on its present phase, a decision was taken that something which previously had been regarded as an essential feature of the garden-city concept was to be discontinued. I refer to the great question of the cutting of hedges. It will be recalled that the Minister for the Interior at that time, in his wisdom and in the sure knowledge that in the suburb of Kew, in Melbourne, the government or the local council did not cut the hedges, decided that the hedges in Canberra would not be cut at the expense of the Department of the Interior. The purpose behind the cutting of hedges in this city at the expense of the department was to maintain governmental control over private development. Indeed, the hedges themselves were planted by the government. They were planted according to a pattern and were maintained at a uniform, even height. These hedges added greatly to the attractiveness of this city, in my view, although, of course, that is a matter of opinion. A decision that they would no longer be cut at the department’s expense was made and authority was given to tenants of government houses, or to persons who occupied their own homes, to have the hedges removed. Permission was given for replacement of the hedges with low stone or brick walls of an approved design.
This seems a trivial matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it bears directly on the necessity for governmental control over private construction. What happened was that the people of Canberra, exercising that sturdy independence which I have so long admired - although I do not necessarily agree with the result in this instance - went ahead and removed hedges, which were then replaced with stone fences of their own design without the approval of the department being sought. With the advent of the National Capital Development Commission has come the desire to restore the garden aspect of this city, which now, of course, is in some instance marred by unsightly fences which would never have been permitted had proper control been exercised. That is only one aspect of the problem of the planning of this city, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The amendment of section 11 of the principal act which is to be made by this bill will give the National Capital Development Commission power to plan and develop the National Capital. The functions of the commission are set out in section 1 1 of the act, of which proposed new sub-sections (3a.) and (4.), will replace the present, sub-section (4.). When we propose to give additional powers to any statutory body or any authority constituted by the Parliament, we must be certain that that body has exercised wisely the powers that it already has and that it will exercise wisely the powers which it is to be given. I have some misgivings in this respect in relation to the present bill. My experience has been that the exercise of the powers already held by the commission has not always had pleasing results and has not always been satisfactory to the people of this city. Under the powers conferred by section 11 of the principal act, the commission designs and establishes new suburbs. As the suburbs of the city extend outwards, the commission also exercises its power with respect to the construction and design of housing, and we find that the houses which are constructed most cheaply and which, consequently, will let at the lowest rentals, are ever father and farther away from the heart of the city and the places of employment. So we are building a city in which the people with the lowest income and the greatest requirement to travel, to their employment and for their children to attend school, are being pushed farther and farther out into the suburbs where transport costs are higher and where convenience is often lacking.
When we consider giving additional powers to the commission, we are entitled, I suggest, to assess the way in which it has exercised the powers that it already has. I give full marks to the commission in many ways. I am a layman. I am not expert in any of the fields in which the commission and its employees must be expert, but after all it is the layman who, in the final analysis, must assess the worth of many works. While I take issue with the planners and the experts in many fields, I give full marks to the commission for having attacked with vigour, though not always with imagination, the task that lies before it. I would say that in the engineering field the commission has done wonders. But when it comes to the architectural field, I do not hold this view. Of course, architecture is a matter of opinion and one opinion differs from another. Both may be equally good, but what pleases one does not please another. I say quite frankly that what the commission has done in housing does not please me and does not please many hundreds of people in this city.
The problem that has arisen with the establishment of the commission is this: As the honorable member for Eden-Monaro so ably said, the commission is now operating on an annual budget of £10,500,000 to £11,000,000. Through the expenditure of this amount, it has been responsible for a vast increase in governmental construction in Canberra and by providing services and roads, it has enabled a vast expansion of private expenditure in this city. All that expenditure has placed burdens on other departments of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, of course, has many pockets and when it increases the amount that is in one pocket it does not always make adequate allowance for the consequent drain on other pockets.
In this instance, we have the commission with an annual budget approximating £11,000,000. That expenditure throws great burdens on other departments, to which the honorable member has referred. The Department of the Interior, of course, still retains the power to approve plans for dwellings in the Australian Capital Territory. The Government has not seen fit to provide sufficient funds to enable the department to increase its staff so that plans may be dealt with promptly and the work proceeded with. In fact, delays of up to eight weeks have occurred before house plans have been approved by the department.
Not only is this burden thrown on the department, but it is also responsible for maintaining a force of building inspectors who are required to see that building regulations and requirements are met in private buildings erected in the city. Because the vote to the Department of the Interior is not sufficient - I am sure that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) realizes this - it is not possible for the department to employ an adequate number of building inspectors to ensure that all private building is done according to the best building practices and to the requirements of the regulations. If I heard him aright, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro referred to shoddy building, and I believe that is an accurate description of much of the private building that has occurred. I have had instances given to me in which a man has completed the construction of a house only to have a completion certificate refused on the final inspection because the damp course had not been placed in its proper position in the foundations or some other feature in the roof structure or elsewhere in the dwelling had not been properly done.
This arises because of two factors. The first is a shortage of building inspectors to cope with the increased work being undertaken as a result of direct contracts from the National Capital Development Commission or of increased private building because of the additional areas of land that have been made available and because of the finance that has been provided by the Government through another agency. The second factor concerns the licensing of builders. This is within the competence of the Department of the Interior and the department, with ministerial approval prior to the term of office of the present Minister, has seen fit to grant building licences to any one. A person does not need to be a builder to obtain a builder’s licence. What I am striving to do is to point out that while this bill grants certain increased powers to the commission, it does not go far enough to ensure that what we build in this place will be properly and well built. Anybody who goes to the Department of the Interior can apply for a certificate as a builder. He then becomes the builder of his own home and he employs labour on it or works on it himself. The circumstances to which I have already referred then arise, and we have a large amount of building which never has been passed by a building inspector. If the control of these matters were vested in the commission, or if the Department of the Interior were given the funds to employ the necessary personnel, these things would not happen.
The Minister, I am sure, would know that it is customary to have the footings of a building inspected. The trenches are inspected and, in theory, a building inspector should be present when the concrete is poured. The unscrupulous builder, when building for himself or working under contract, has been known to half fill the trenches with mud and to pour the concrete on top of that, if the inspector is not present. On completion of the building, he obtains a completion certificate. Ultimately the house passes into the hands of some other person who is buying a building which has been inspected only on completion and has not been inspected at the vital stage at which these practices have been adopted. I suggest, therefore, that there is a need either to have these additional powers granted to the commission or to ensure that the department responsible for enforcing the building regulations is able to employ sufficient building inspectors to see that proper standards are maintained.
Not only does the commission’s work place an increasing burden on this section of the Department of the Interior, but it also places a burden on the Canberra Electric Supply, which is an instrument of the Department of the Interior. Obviously, the Canberra Electric Supply becomes responsible for the extension of electricity into all the extensive suburbs of Canberra. Here again we come up against a lack of power, a lack of control or a sheer lack of money. In the early days of this city, it was decided that it would be a city that did not have unsightly poles in the streets. It was wisely decided that all electricity wires, all telephone cables and the like would go underground where they had to traverse or pass along a street. But because of either a shortage of funds by the Canberra Electric Supply or lack of authority with the commission, we are now seeing the development of this undesirable feature in what was to be, and what should be, a garden city. These unsightly electric light poles can be seen in the less expensive suburbs, if I may put it that way. If honorable members go down the streets of Narrabundah, where the poorer houses are, they will see the unsightly wooden poles carrying the electric light or telephone wires. This is not so in Deakin and Forrest, where the commission, in its wisdom, has made land available at auction, and where it has placed very substantial building covenants on the blocks. In that suburb you will find that the power supply cables are taken underground. The streets are lined with neat concrete lamp standards, which add much to the attractiveness of the city, and which are installed much sooner in those suburbs than they are in, for example, Narrabundah.
Similar problems arise in the activities of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Here again the Government does not pay sufficient attention to the effect on one pocket of putting amounts of money into another. Because the growth of this city is rapid - and for that I give the Minister full marks - there has been a rapid extension of telegraph and telephone services throughout the city and the suburbs. But once again the noble concept has been brushed aside. I have raised this matter in the House on previous occasions, and in raising it now I suggest that the time must come when we will have one authority with power to decide what shall be done in this city. At the present time we have a division of authority. The commission has some powers, given to it - grudgingly, I suggest - by the departments that previously had held them. There must come a time when the division that now exists will be resolved. There must then be an authority - I do not suggest that it should be this commission; it could well be an elected body - with power to decide what shall be done. That authority must have the desire, the ability and the power to build this city on the noble concept of its founders and others who have gone before us. I say to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that what has been done in this city in the past years is better than what is being done now. I say that without any apology to the commission, the Minister or any other person.
As matters now stand, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department says, “We cannot afford to put our telephone lines and telephone cables underground”. Those who planned the city said that they should be underground.
– Are any of them underground?
– They are in the older parts of the city, but as extensions of the city have taken place, because of the alleged shortage of money, the poles and the lines that they carry can be seen along all the new streets. It is false economy and it is foolish expenditure, because ultimately they must go underground. Even in a small country town or municipality, if the municipal authorities approach the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and say, “We want cables put underground “, they can, by agreeing to undertake the additional expenditure, have their wishes acceded to. But here, where the Government is the municipality and also the construction authority, and where the Government also provides the finance, we do not get that happy conclusion. I am hoping that the time will come when there will be established an authority - I hope it will be an elected body - with the power, the desire and the ability to have these things done.
Similar problems exist in relation to the Parks and Gardens Section of the Department of the Interior. The extension of suburbs ever outward places a great strain on that section of the department, and once again foolish planning or foolish budgeting has resulted in insufficient money being made available for the Parks and Gardens Section to carry on its work. It is magnificent work and very well carried out having regard to the section’s limited resources. It is not provided with enough money to do the job as it should be done. Similar remarks apply in the case of the Department of Works, which must employ the works’ supervisors to ensure that construction under Government contracts is being carried out according to building regulations and other requirements.
The Minister probably knows of these problems, and he is probably doing what he can to see that funds are made available to the various authorities which are at present responsible for their expenditure. I hope he will agree with me that the time must come when these powers will be concentrated in one .authority. I hope it will be an elected authority, and that it will exercise its powers wisely in the building of this National Capital.
As the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has said, this bill, the purpose of which is to amend the National Capital Development Commission Act, will give the commission some additional powers. It will enable the commission to act as various departments were able to act before the commission was created, in providing assistance for sporting bodies in the community. I know that Canberra has been the subject of criticism for many years. Interestingly enough, the greatest body of criticism of Canberra emanated from Melbourne. It is now the
Melbourne people arriving in Canberra who seek the facilities that were originally provided in this city.
In earlier years the Department of the Interior was able to prepare sporting areas, such as tennis courts and bowling greens, and then hand them over to clubs to operate, on reasonable rentals and on a proper basis. Now, because the commission’s money is allocated to the major projects, and because the Department of the Interior no longer makes money available for these activities, the dubs are being hamstrung in their efforts to provide - not entertainment for themselves, although admittedly that is a part of it - something for the community, and particularly for the young people, who are far from being a pampered section of the community in Canberra. It is not for me at this time to develop that theme further. I know that the Minister would object if I did. But this matter does come within the scope of our discussion, and I suggest that we are not providing properly for the young people of the community when we do not cater adequately for the housing needs of families and for the sporting facilities which will enable young people to lead the lives they should ‘lead in the city in which they wish to live and work.
I commend the bill. I hope that the powers given to the commission will be used wisely and well. I hope the commission will enjoy the co-operation of the community in its efforts to build this National Capital. I appeal to the commission, through the Minister, to see whether it can build this city as it was envisaged. I suggest that the commission should not unnecessarily pare expenditure - that it should not pinch pennies here and there, taking something out of this year’s budget because something can be done on a temporary basis. That kind of procedure becomes ultimately vastly more expensive than if the permanent job had been done originally. I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the commission will look at the matter in this way, and that it will use the powers given it under this legislation wisely. They are wide powers. They include powers that can be exercised by engineers, by architects and by planners. I hope they will be exercised wisely and well, and that the work of the commission will lead to the development of a better city than we now have, the kind of city that we should have if it is to be a symbol of the nation, I support the amendment that has been foreshadowed. I may seek an opportunity, although I doubt it, to speak on that amendment in the committee stage.
– in reply - As I had expected, the opportunities provided by a second-reading debate, and the latitude that has been shown, have allowed honorable members opposite to cover quite a range of topics which are not strictly within the ambit of this bill. I am grateful to Opposition members for their cooperation and their support of the relatively modest proposals contained in the bill, but, because they roamed over rather a large field, I would like to refer briefly to some of the comments made by them, concerning the lack of support, particularly financial support, for all aspects of the development of Canberra at a time when the city is expanding, as every one admits, at a remarkable rate. lt is quite true that if we were completely free to pour money into this city, we could do a great deal more than we are doing at the present time. But we, as a Government, are faced with an enormous problem, not only in regard to Canberra, but also in regard to Canberra’s relation to the whole of Australia. We have to strike some sort of compromise, although compromise is not always acceptable to people who have high ideals. Although we are even now accused of doing it, we cannot pour money into this city regardless of the funds that are available for public works quite as urgently needed in other parts of Australia. In that connexion it will not have escaped the notice of honorable members that even now we are quite unjustly subject to a barrage of criticism from one source in Melbourne - that this National Capital is getting all the cream and that there is nothing left for the States. That criticism, of course, is quite false; it is based on the suggestion that our budgeting for this Territory has suffered no reductions, whereas all the rest of Australia has had to suffer because of the financial restrictions in order to meet the inflationary situation. That, of course, is quite false.
The whole of the Commonwealth Government’s public works programme in preparation for this Budget was scrutinized very carefully, and all our public works were reduced to the level which we considered was the bare minimum which could be accomplished during the current year without creating quite serious problems everywhere. The same kind of thing happened to Canberra and the same kind of thing happened to the Postmaster-General’s Department. At the same time, we were faced with the problem of carrying on at a planned level with the transfer of public servants from Melbourne and elsewhere to their proper place in the National Capital. The critics will immediately say that that does not compel us to go ahead and develop projects like the lakes scheme. I think that has been adequately explained at other times and in other places. It is part of the same problem. If we are to have government offices and buildings here and if we are going to house government servants here, we have to have a plan of the city’s development. We must know, for example, that the administrative triangle is to contain permanent offices of a worthy character and that this is the site where those buildings are to be established, and that they are not to be established alongside an empty plain which is subject to periodical floodings. If that plan is not firmly established and proceeded with, there is no point in putting the administrative offices in certain localities. It is all phased, one part with the other, and it has all been explained before; but for some reason the critics do not want to take notice of it.
I believe that the commission itself has done an heroic job in making the resources it has go as far as they can go and in maintaining a very high standard of development. Of course, when the Government is faced with a housing shortage here it does not build houses of the standard that the relatively wealthy section of the community, who can afford homes regardless of cost, or perhaps not entirely regardless of cost, can build. We cannot compete with that standard, but the standard of homes here is far superior, by an appreciable percentage, to the standard of homes that the State governments can afford to build through their housing commissions and under other building programmes. Again, we cannot set ourselves too high above the State authorities. We are all Australians whether we live in Sydney or Canberra, and although we would wish to have a standard of building here which will not disgrace the Australian capital, we would disgrace Australia if we put everything here and lowered the standard available to the States. I am grateful to the Opposition for its support of this measure. For reasons which will appear in due course, I cannot accept the amendment which it has foreshadowed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed new clause.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted in the the bill:- “ (4.) After section eleven of the Principal Act, the following section is inserted: - 11a. The provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960 shall apply in relation to works and buildings proposed to be constructed by the Commission in like manner as they apply in relation to public works proposed to be constructed by the Commonwealth.’.”.
Of a total of £27,387,000 provided for civil works, £10,500,000 is appropriated for Canberra works under the control of the National Capital Development Commission, and as the commission is a statutory authority, works undertaken from funds under its control are not subject to the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act. An opinion on this matter by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department states, in part: -
The Public Works Committee Act does not permit either the Minister or the House to refer to the Committee works proposed to be constructed by a Statutory Authority of the Commonwealth.
Where Parliament creates a statutory authority, the constituent act will usually invest in the authority itself the power to decide what works it will require to carry out. The statute will usually authorize the construction of these works, subject, of course, where appropriate, to the necessary funds being available.
Section IS of the act refers to public works which are, broadly, those works in the control of, or at least in the initiative, of the Executive Council. Statutory authorities set up by the Commonwealth are not, in general, included in the expression “ the Commonwealth “.
If a work decided upon by a statutory authority pursuant to its special act were referred to the committee, a veto would in substance be given to the House of Representatives upon the exercise by the statutory authority of the powers which had been conferred upon it by the Parliament.
For the reasons outlined, therefore, works provided from funds under the control of the National Capital Development Commission are not subject to the Public Works Committee Act.
Whilst the committee is aware that the commission was set up as a statutory authority to give it maximum freedom in the orderly planning and development of the National Capital, it is not convinced that parliamentary supervision is undesirable. The committee, therefore, suggests that consideration might be given to providing the Parliament, through the agency of the Public Works Committee, with the means of informing itself on major projects to be undertaken by the National Capital Development Commission in the development of Canberra as the National Capital. This could be achieved by an amendment of the National Capital Development Commission Act to incorporate the provision of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act, 1924, which, in relation to the Federal Capital Commission, stated -
The provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921 shall apply in relation to works and buildings proposed to be constructed by the Commission in like manner as they apply in relation to public works proposed to be constructed by the Commonwealth.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition. This matter was thoroughly canvassed, as honorable members will recollect, earlier this year when this very point was raised in connexion with an amendment of the Public Works Committee Act. I explained then - apparently to the satisfaction of the House, because my explanation was accepted - that it was not desirable to make the undertakings of the National Capital Development Commission subject to the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee.
The commission was set up to avoid as far as possible, in matters relating to town planning, as it were, the usual administrative processes which go on in an ordinary government department.
By setting up the commission the Executive deprived itself of the ordinary direct control which an executive has over an ordinary government department. The commission was to be almost a separate instrumentality which would devote itself to the planning of Canberra. It was not to be fettered by normal administrative control. The Executive, which of course is responsible to Parliament, divested itself of some control. It would hardly be willing to bring back to Parliament the control of which it had divested itself, thereby, by virtue of its responsibility to Parliament, leaving itself open to criticism in relation to something over which it had rather a nominal and limited control.
However, there are so many other safeguards in relation to the National Capital Development Commission that it is not felt that the particular control under discussion is necessary or desirable. In the first place, the commission has many committees to guide it. There is the National Capital Planning Committee which consists of experts in their own fields from all over the Commonwealth. It includes experts in art, academic design and the like. This body is far more authoritative in its particular field than is the Public Works Committee. That is one way in which control is exercised over planning.
The Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council has some voice in planning. The commission sends a representative to meetings of the council to explain and discuss its proposals. To my mind, it is important that the Advisory Council should be encouraged to take an increasing degree of responsibility if it is to develop into a more responsible body with more authority than it has now. I hope that some day this will come to pass.
We have also a standing committee of Parliament which interests itself in the overall planning activities of the commission and undertakes specific projects which may be referred to it by the Minister. These are desirable ways in which indirect supervision is exercised over the planning of the commission.
The Public Works Committee is slightly different from the other bodies that I have mentioned. Its main function is to see whether it is expedient that a particular public work should be proceeded with. It is not concerned primarily with the nature or the cost of the work, although those aspects arise incidentally in the committee’s deliberations. The committee merely has to say yes or no to a proposal that is submitted to it.
The object in setting up the commission was to give it a specific sum of money each year and to tell it to do the best that it could with that sum of money in the development of the National Capital. Since the Executive has taken that step, with the approval of Parliament, I believe that the matter should be left as it now stands.
– I wish to speak very briefly on this matter. While I appreciate the need for the commission to be able to proceed with a certain degree of freedom in the development of the National Capital and in the expenditure which must be undertaken on projects in the National Capital, I support the amendment which has been proposed by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) on behalf of the Opposition. On this occasion I shall have the opportunity to support my voice with my vote and I trust, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that you will so instruct the Clerk and the tellers when the committee divides.
Question put -
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Allan Frasers amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– by leave - In the statement I made to the House on the Patents Bill, on 8th September, which is at present before the House, I outlined a scheme for amendment of the Patents Act as a substitute for the repeal of section 43 of the act. The repeal of section 43 was recommended by the Patents Law Review Committee and is proposed in the bill before the House. Section 43 of the act provides that at the expiration of six months after a complete specification has been lodged at the Patent Office, the Commissioner of Patents shall publish in the Official Journal a notification that the complete specification is open to public inspection and, upon publication of the notification, the application, complete specification and provisional specification, if any, become open to public inspection. The section also goes on to say that when a complete specification has become open to public inspection under the section, the specification shall be deemed to have been published.
The reason for proposing the substitute scheme was that I had received representations asking for the withdrawal of the provision in the bill which proposes the repeal of the section. Details of the proposed scheme were circulated to interested parties, and I have received various comments and suggestions in relation to the scheme. It was clear from these communications that it would not be possible to settle the proposed scheme in time to incorporate the necessary amendments in the present bill in this session. It was also clear that the amendments which I envisaged in my previous statement as an interim measure needed some modification. As well as considering the many written submissions I have received, I have had further discussions with representatives of the Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, who strongly maintain their view that section 43 should not be repealed.
In my second-reading speech on the bill, and in my previous statement to the House. I set out the main advantages and disadvantages of early publication. I will briefly summarize them again. With the concurrence of honorable members I shall incorporate the summary in “ Hansard “ as follows: -
The chief advantages of early publication are -
On the other hand, the main disadvantages of early publication are -
– Order! There is too much audible conversation.
– After consideration of the oral and written representations made to me, I remain of the view that the disadvantages of early publication are such that section 43 should not remain in its present form. I intend, therefore, to propose as an interim measure an amendment of the bill, by which the documents accompanying a patent application would become open to public inspection at acceptance of the application or at the expiration of two years from the lodgment of the complete specification, whichever is the earlier. The reasons for this proposal are: First, it is clear from the comments which I have received in respect of the proposed scheme that interested parties would prefer a measure of certainty regarding the date on which documents accompanying applications become open to public inspection. Secondly, when the Patents Law Review Committee made its recommendation, the work position in the Patent Office was such that applications were, on the average, being accepted two years after the complete specification was lodged. Thirdly, in the case of Convention applications which have originated in the United States of America or Great Britain - and these form the majority of Convention applications lodged in Australia - publication two years after the lodgment of the complete specification would mean that publication of an invention would take place in Australia at approximately the same time as it would in the United States of America or Great Britain.
I repeat that this is only proposed as an interim measure. It would give effect to the intention behind the Patent Law Review Committee’s recommendation that section 43 be repealed while avoiding the disadvantages accruing from any worsening in the work position in the Patent Office.
In preparing the permanent scheme, which I intend to be the subject of a further bill next session, consideration will be given to alternative suggestions regarding publication, since, as I pointed out in my previous statement, under the permanent scheme it might be possible to secure the advantages of earlier publication while avoiding the disadvantages. The present bill would give effect to the various improvements in the patents law which were recommended by the committee, and would also give effect to amendments which are required to the Patents Act before Australia can ratify the International Convention for the protection of Industrial Property as revised at Lisbon in 1958. Clearly, these proposed amendments should not be held over for a further period pending settlement of the permanent scheme. I intend, therefore, to propose the amendment I have already mentioned - that is, a provision that the documents accompanying a patent application would become open to public inspection at acceptance of the application, or at the expiration of two years from the lodgment of the complete specification, whichever was the earlier - and to have the bill considered by Parliament this session.
As this proposed amendment is an interim measure, the result is that there will, in effect, be a holding period on publication until a further bill is introduced next session. The same result could, of course, be achieved by the stipulation of a shorter period than 24 months. However, it is, I think, preferable that if the period is to be altered by future legislation it should not be increased by that legislation. I would not expect that any longer period than 24 months from lodgment of the complete specification would in any case be favoured.
In addition to the amendment just mentioned, certain consequential amendments of the bill will be necessary. The most important of these would be an amendment of clause 15 - new section 78 - so as to provide that after publication, rather than after acceptance, as in the bill, an amendment of the specification would not be available if a claim of the specification as amended would not in substance fall within the scope of the claims of the specification before amendment.
Debate resumed from 15th November (vide page 2826), on motion by Mr. Menzies-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) initiated this debate at the second reading, he spent a good deal of time tracing the development of this great plan for India and Pakistan, and illustrated the great facilities that would be brought about by this scheme which is probably the greatest new settlement and development plan in existence outside our own Snowy Mountains project. The right honorable gentleman also indicated how much, besides the Colombo Plan, we were deeply involved on the side of lifting the standards of these people in the Asian countries, particularly in this area of the Indus River Basin. The Australian commitment in this irrigation scheme is about £6,965,000. The scheme is fosterfathered, as it were, by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and other countries, which I shall refer to later, are also involved in the scheme. They include New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, West Germany and others. But the dramatic side of this project is the harnessing of two groups of rivers and spilling their waters by irrigation into an arid plain where 50,000,000 people live under sub-standard conditions. They have an expectancy of life of about 30 years. Their poor crops hardly keep them alive. In fact, these people live on a subsistence level which is one of the lowest in the world.
Peaceful planning is necessarily slow planning and it is good to see that Australia has added its quite considerable quota to the huge amounts that will be necessary to make this 130,000,000 acres of poor rainfall country blossom into useful, strong, and even rich production. As the Prime
Minister has explained, there are two river systems - the eastern and the western systems - of the Indus Basin. The eastern rivers are the Ravi, Sutlej and the Beas and they flow into Pakistan. The western rivers are the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab The huge development of these irrigation schemes will be one of the outstanding public works in the world to-day. It is a good thing as the Prime Minister has said - and the Opposition concurs - that we, as a powerful unit in the democracies of South-East Asia, should be involved in this project ourselves. We will be involved in the mechanical advice that we can give and in providing know-how and the goods we can sell. We will be involved also in the spending of money towards the development of this great basin into an active and successful settlement.
Therefore, it seems that any criticism which is likely to be levelled at the proposal can be answered appropriately. Admittedly, there is criticism of such things. To-day, in the House a statement was made about heavy cuts in the proposed expenditure on a new high school at Darwin. One sees in the newspapers, and in a film which is now running in Sydney, news and pictures of the terrible devastation by drought in Queensland which could have been saved to some extent if there had been sealed roads in the Channel country to permit the transport of starving cattle from the beleagured area into the lush pastures of New South Wales which is enjoying a great season. It is evident that we have our frustrations, our need for money for development and grounds for valid criticism in many cases. Honorable members on the Labour side have voiced criticism from time to time that our peaceful planning is tortuously slow and in many cases amounts to nothing more than complete frustration and a feeling that nothing will ever be done. Despite all these things, and admitting that charity should begin at home, it is occasionally imperative that our charity should be extended overseas. The amount of £6,965,000 Australian which will be used to further the scheme of the Indus Basin will be money well spent.
This project will involve the use of our know-how, our planners and our architects. We have had vast experience in the building of dams, and the various appurtenances, canals, lakes and hydro-electric schemes which go with a vast enterprise such as this. We certainly will be called in to help. I was speaking only the other day to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who had been conversing with Lord Boyd-Orr, the chairman of the United Nations great Food and Agricultural Development Organization. Lord Boyd-Orr said that the Australian was admirably fitted for work in the Pakistan areas because he understood better than many other technicians the value of dry farming, the problem of rivers that flood in the monsoon and are strings of waterholes in the dry. So we will not only give our money but we will also provide the brain and muscle of Australians towards the development of this great enterprise. If we can quell the desert and follow the biblical injunction to make it blossom like the rose, we will have gone a long way towards relieving one of the old causes of war that drive men to hate each Other blindly without knowing why. How often have we been distressed by the IndianPakistan situation and by affairs in Kashmir. These are all tensions on tensions. Perhaps on one side there is lusher country than on another; or there are arbitrary divisions which are not our business any more. They have all been passed over in this instance.
As against the tensions and the anger, the boundary quarrels, the poverty and the struggle to get a living subsistence, everything is now suddenly put into a new perspective. Groups of democracies in the world will club together to build an enormous irrigation scheme which will lift up 50.000,000 people at least, and enable perhaps 100,000,000 eventually who inhabit this basin to rise above the low-grade basis of just getting a living and scraping the soil. No longer will they live in the poorest possible circumstances. They will have an opportunity to live, to rear their children, develop a culture and have some of the good things of life that are denied now to the teeming millions of Pakistan and India. Until these waters flow over the arid areas and the eastern and western rivers are locked together so that the water can be controlled, there will always be alternate seasons of great flooding and great drought. The man who lives in that area now is existing on a small pocket handkerchief of land, working his inside out, rearing an immense family and dying in the dust he was born in with no hope for the future and nothing but work and sweat in his eyes from the time he is born until he is buried.
Therefore, the concept of the United Nations and the peaceful planning that is envisaged in this scheme involve a project that we should be proud of. Certainly we should not worry unduly about the money we will owe the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development because of our participation in this great scheme. The country that is to be developed is poor country and 90 per cent, of its inhabitants are peasants who have a life expectancy, as I have said, of 30 years. It is dry, arid, hot and dreary. The average rainfall over this 130,000,000 acres is low, yet paradoxically enough the area is surrounded by rivers. The long, lazily-flowing Indus is like our river Murray. The other shorter rivers are big rivers in our book because mostly we have no rivers of any great size except the Murray, the Mumimbidgee and a few others. Between the river systems of this area there is arid desert or flooded landscape.
This calls for the maximum of flood control and for the maximum of planning for the distribution of water. In the monsoon period of June to September most of the rain falls. After that, it tapers off and, in some places, there is no rain for the best part of the year. The highest rainfall is about 15 inches and the lowest between 5 and 10 inches. Of this area, 16 per cent, has 5 inches of rainfall. There is an opportunity for us and for the world to do something important to relieve the sufferings of the people concerned.
This will be a sort of a test case for us as the Prime Minister has said. Here is a challenging project. Here is an immense project. Here is a semi-arid area which gradually tapers off to what is called the Indian Desert. It is interesting to see how the people of Pakistan and the people of India who are faced with the eternal, carking, vital, day-by-day problem of feeding themselves look at this. One report states, referring to Pakistan -
The majority of cultivators are working with uneconomic holdings and with the growth of population these are becoming even smaller and more fragmented. According to Sir Malcolm Darling (Report on Labour Conditions in Agriculture in Pakistan, 1955): “Sind is the only province in Pakistan where it can be said that (the cultivator) has enough (land to live on) . .”. He goes on to point out that many holdings are barely sufficient for the maintenance of the families which own them. The pressure of population on the land is therefore the ultimate cause of the Area’s economic trouble.
A good deal of the problem is political. The population explosion is at its fiercest in India and Pakistan. There is a rapidly growing population and a growing and serious problem of feeding them. With the news that the great Indus scheme was at last to become a reality and that the differences between India and Pakistan had at least been assuaged to a great extent by the signing of the treaty by the leaders of those countries and the representative of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, we began to see the plan unfolding and the machinery of development getting under way.
This plan is as important to these people as was the initiation of the Snowy River scheme to us. Because of that, the “ Pakistan Times “ published a supplement late this year concerning the Indus Waters treaty. One paper pointed out that in West Pakistan the average area under crops was 8 acres per head. This is about half of the world average. Despite the fact that the man who grows his meagre cotton crop, and the wheat for his sustenance, works day and night, he has not the water to produce at a higher rate than half the world’s average. The “Pakistan Times” further stated-
Of the 130,000,000 acres of the Basin, about 75,000,000 are cultivable. Of this total only 31,000,000 acres is at present under crops.
These crops would be good, bad and indifferent. Here, production is to be doubled and trebled. Here, international tension is to be made easier. Here, a challenging piece of engineering work is to be done which will draw the interest of the world as the. Snowy Mountains scheme has drawn that interest for many years.
This great scheme is under the aegis of the United Nations and it is financed, curiously enough from our point of view, by a benevolent institution known as the World Bank. It is very seldom that a bank stands in the position of a fairy godmother or fairy godfather, according to whether a bank is masculine or feminine - I had thought that they were amorphous. But this bank which has been established by the United Nations does not seek profit. It has given considerable assistance to this scheme. A great deal of the credit is due to Mr. Eugene Black and to later directors of the bank who ha.Ce persisted with the gathering of the immense amount of money required for cultivation and development under this massive scheme.
The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is holding the sinews of war. Balanced on either side of it are the Indians who are contributing an enormous sum and the Pakistanis who are contributing another heavy sum. They will have to borrow heavily from America and elsewhere to keep up with their commitments. The amount of money involved from all countries is considerable. As I said before, Australia has contributed the sum of £6,965,000 to this scheme. In terms of Australian currency, Canada has contributed £10,157,000 to it, West Germany, £13,000,000, and New Zealand, £1,244,000. The United Kingdom has contributed £26,000,000 despite its own problems and the difficulty of quieting the carping critic who says, “These financial expeditions abroad are all very well but what are you doing at home? “ The United Kingdom is beset by its problems of currency and the development of markets in Europe. Yet it has made the strong contribution that I have mentioned! The United States has contributed £73,903,000. The total is some 400,000,000 dollars.
The rivers of the Indus Basin are the only source of water for the region. Without irrigation from them, West Pakistan and North-West India would be largely desert. As I said before, this scheme will make the desert blossom. We have learned by experience that irrigation itself is not a miracle in the sense that it makes everything all right for ever. But irrigation can turn parched land into a garden. There are various problems which we have conquered in this country. There is the salting-up, the dying-off of land, and the damping-down of land which we found in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area and other irrigation schemes. Now there is a curative process by which irrigation can really mean a Garden of Eden blooming where previously there has been nothing.
Irrigation waters from the Indus will end the reliance upon a rather hungry crop of hard cotton plus the wheat which is the stable diet of the people in the area. Many supplementary crops will be tested for the area. They will include barley, oil seeds, rice, corn, millet and the better varieties of cotton. In the past, irrigation has been a very uncertain proposition. In some months there has been little more than a trickle of water in the river beds. In others, the rivers have swollen to uncontrollable torrents. There is an enormous plan on the highest possible technical level to make certain the water is completely controlled.
The initiation of this vast scheme will grasp the imagination of the Australian because in our own great Snowy Mountains scheme we have seized a few brawling torrents which ran to the east coast and thrown them over a mountain range. Most of us will live to see the Snowy waters flowing out through the Riverina into South Australia, Lake Alexandra and the sea. That is one of the dramatic developments of irrigation in this country. So we are appreciative of what is happening in the Indus Basin. I think that we are really sensible to have engaged as partners in the development of India and Pakistan and other eastern countries. I see the money we have invested in this project coming back to us in dividends in the form of peaceful planning which will mean much in the future. The Prime Minister made a point of the fact that we had never been very far behind in developmental plans or in defensive alliances; indeed, that we had never been to the rear of the field in anything that made for the betterment and democratic advancement of the hemisphere in which we live. To date, we have invested £34,900,000 in the Colombo Plan. Taking into consideration our small population of only 10,000,000, our own vast commitments, and the high standard of living of the Australian people, the expenditure of that money at the rate of approximately £5,000,000 a year is a very good performance. In addition to that, we have done much for those whom we seek to aid by giving them entry to our universities so that they might study economics and other subjects.
The Labour Party supports this great Indus Basin scheme which seeks, by the ingenuity of man, to conquer one of the great arid deserts of the world. Under this scheme, that desert is not to be conquered by commerce, nor by marauding capitalism; it will be conquered by the contributions of the free, democratic nations of the world, who believe that it is part of their job to see that the standards of living of the Asian people are lifted. This project is one of the finest examples of help to those who are unable to help themselves. The benefit that will come from it is almost incapable of measurement. We ought to be proud of the fact that by contributing £6,000,000 from the comparatively small population of 10,000,000 Australia has played its part manfully with the other members of the United Nations. We Australians ought to be proud of the knowledge that, by peaceful planning we have been able to bring to the people in the stricken parts of the world a better standard of living, and the feeling that there is a greater destiny than that of poverty and travail from the cradle to the grave.
We can lift the standards of the stricken people only by getting down to the job of making mother earth prolific. Sophistries and philosophies are of little value if we do not get down to the great problem of producing food. This project will take some time to bring to fruition, but when it is completed it will be a monument to the integrity of a bank which belongs to the peoples of the world; it will be a monument to the two countries which have decided to be friendly, at this stage at any rate, if not continuously, and it will be a monument to the United Nations, which gets so many kicks. I say that it will be a monument because it seeks to divert man’s mind from murder and mayhem to peaceful planning, and to a submission to arbitration rather than to the dreadful arbitrament of war.
When we do have these areas settled in the years to come, we shall have conquered one of the greatest deserts in the world, and from then on the United Nations will move from strength to strength in helping those people who cannot help themselves. For those reasons, I believe that the £6,000,000 we propose to invest in this project will be money well spent. The Labour Party believes that it will be money well spent because this project represents internationalism on a high scale. The International Bank and the contributing countries are to be congratulated upon cooperating in a scheme that does make for better living conditions and for a better way of life for our fellow-men. This project has, I believe, surely made history.
.- It is with great pleasure that I rise to support this project to which Australia is contributing something in the vicinity of £7,000,000. Other contributing countries are Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. This is, perhaps, the greatest human gesture ever made by this Government. We all realize that, since the separation of Pakistan and India in 1947, the people of those two countries have endured a great deal of misery and suffering.
In appreciating the magnitude of Australia’s contribution, we must bear in mind the grand gesture of the Colombo Plan as it has operated during the last nine years. As the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has said, we have spent £34,900,000 under the Colombo Plan and, while doing that, the standard of living of the people of our own great nation has been rising. Especially should we remember this when we see what is being done overseas in the cause of propaganda. For instance, we saw what happened to the people of Poland when Russia, in an attempt to gain publicity, assisted Egypt with the Aswan Dam. We know that when Russia was giving this aid, the people of Poland, which is one of the largest cement producing countries of the world, were starved of raw materials, and were living in dejection and misery. We, on the other hand, have been lifting the standards of our people while we have been granting aid to others.
The agreement under consideration has been responsible for bringing India and Pakistan together in common understanding for the first time. For that reason alone, the effort has been well worth while. I go so far as to say that it could be the forerunner to a satisfactory conclusion of the Kashmir dispute. I only hope that it will be.
Throughout the Indus Basin, there is a population of 50,000,000, which is five times greater than that of Australia. The construction of this great dam involves the expenditure of large sums of money, something which is, naturally, beyond the financial resources of Pakistan and India combined. The six rivers of the Indus Basin, that is, the Indus itself, which rises in Tibet and flows through Kashmir to West Pakistan, and the five tributaries, three of which rise in the Himalayas in Kashmir, and two of which rise also in the Himalayas, but in India, surpass all other rivers which are primarily used for irrigation purposes. Honorable members will gain some idea of the length of the Indus, when I say that it would reach almost from here to Perth. The International Bank has estimated that the average annual discharge of these rivers is more than twice that of the Nile, three times that of the Tigris and Euphrates combined, and almost ten times that of the Colorado River. The rivers of the Indus Basin system are fed by the melting snow of the Himalayas, as I have already mentioned, and are often flooded in summer, but their flow is dramatically reduced in the winter. In fact, at some times of the year, the Indus hardly reaches the sea. In addition, the rainfall is less than ten inches per annum throughout a large part of the basin.
The irrigation network which at present exists in the Indus Basin serves almost 30,000,000 acres and is now larger than that of any other river system m the world. The area under irrigation is about the same as the total irrigated area in the United States of America. However, the area of land suitable for irrigation in the Indus Basin is about 100,000,000 acres. This is almost twice the size of Victoria or half that of New South Wales, to take a local comparison. The economic importance of the project can perhaps be seen in the fact that it is estimated that in Pakistan the additional irrigation development which this project will make possible could lead to an increase in agricultural production from £37,000,000 to £60,000,000 a year. Two crops a year can be grown on land that is already irrigated in the Indus Basin, and some of the highest crop yields in the Indian sub-continent are obtained.
The Indust Basin development scheme is expected to cost £440,000,000, which is more than the estimated cost of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, which is £374,000,000. The cost of the Snowy Mountains scheme to 30th June, 1959, was £163,000,000, and expenditure in the current financial year is estimated to be about £18,000,000. The cost of the Indus Basin scheme is expected to be spread over some twelve years, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) told us in his second-reading speech.
Along with the urgent need for water to irrigate these vast regions, Pakistan has some rather peculiar irrigation problems, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When I was in Lahore last year, I had an opportunity to discuss West Pakistan’s water problem with Mr. Ghulam Farouq, chairman of the West Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority. Mr. Farouq’s problems are problems of not only too little but also too much water. He pointed out to me the great problem caused by water-logging, as a result of which salt rises to the surface and destroys the fertility of the soil. We have found something similar in Australia in many of the early irrigation areas, where the salt has come to the top and the soil has been ruined for many years to come. Mr. Farouq said that when the great Punjab irrigation canals were built at the end of the nineteenth century, the water table was 1 00 feet below the surface and nobody ever contemplated that seepage from the canals would be so great as to cause the water table eventually to rise to the surface. This has been the case, however, and every year tens of thousands of acres have gone out of production.
To combat this problem, the West Pakistan authorities have instituted the tubewells pumping project by means of which the water is pumped out of the waterlogged fields and redistributed to the irrigation system so that the salt can be effectively leached out of the soil. Mr. Farouq paid tribute to the important contribution which Colombo Plan aid from Australia had made in this connexion. Agricultural pumping. electrical and mechanical equipment was supplied from Australia for the Punjab tube-wells project at a cost of approximately £2.000,000. The Indus Basin development plan envisaged by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development makes provision for further tube-wells to be constructed.
One other point, which is of importance, concerns the effect of irrigation on the flow of the rivers. Many experts in Pakistan to whom I spoke claimed that the siltation rate in the great river beds had greatly increased since canal links were introduced. It was stated that this had made the beds unstable and that this was responsible for the annual flooding of rivers in the Punjab. This problem possibly has some relevance to the problems of irrigation and siltation which we have found in the Murray valley region of this country.
There is no doubt in my mind, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that Australia has made a great humanitarian gesture by aiding the people of India and Pakistan and other under-privileged people. From time to time we hear a great deal of criticism to the effect that the free world is not doing sufficient, but Australia’s assistance with respect to the Indus Basin scheme is an outstanding example of what we in the free world are doing to help the under-privileged peoples. Therefore, it is with a great deal of pride and pleasure that I support this bill.
In conclusion, I should like to quote the words with which the Prime Minister concluded his second-reading speech. He said -
This enterprise, which means so much for the common welfare of people in both India and Pakistan and represents one of the really great contemporary examples of international cooperation, can hardly fail to have beneficial effects on general relations between the two countries. The Indus waters settlement constitutes a stirrine example, I believe, of how two great nations, India and Pakistan, can co-operate with each other and with other nations in the solution of a complex and difficult issue. I should like to pay a tribute to the wisdom of their leaders and also with marked emphasis to the skilful and patient diplomacy of the representatives of the International Bank.
I also pay tribute to the leaders of India and Pakistan and to the representatives of the International Bank.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
.- The measure before us, the Indus Basin Development Fund Agreement Bill, probably represents the end of one aspect of a dispute which could have been serious for India and for Pakistan, and for the world. It also represents a great constructive lead by the World Bank. When we speak of Pakistan, we speak of a country which is wholly dependent, in its western region, on the waters of the Indus Basin. So valuable is water in the territory that we now call Western Pakistan that, in the social history of the country, property in water evolved before property in land. If one studies the recent rainfall of Karachi, one can understand the importance of irrigation, so violent are its fluctuations. In succeeding years, the rainfall was 13.52 inches, 0.69 inches, 9.41 inches, 20.82 inches and 6.97 inches. Yet it is quite possible for 12 inches to fall in 24 hours in a deluge and much of this is lost in run-off.
The coming of partition between India and Pakistan made the problem of an agreement concerning the use of water acute, but it was not a new problem. We tend to think that every problem of the relationship between India and Pakistan has arisen since partition. But disputes on water rights were common before partition in British India. There were disputes between the States of what was called British India and the princely States. The duty of solving these disputes devolved on the Secretary of State for India from 1858 to 1919. After that, it became the responsibility of the Viceroy’s Government. It was clearly, therefore, likely to be the subject of dispute after partition. David E. Lilienthal, of the American Atomic Energy Commission, has said that without irrigation water in Pakistan millions of acres would dry up in a week and tens of millions would starve. Sir John Russell, the world food expert, says at page 343 of his work “ World Population and World Food Supplies “ -
The partition of India not only disrupted trade relations between the various regions but, what was far worse, cut across the irrigation systems of the north. The River Sutlej till recently provided water for about 5,000,000 acres of some of the richest wheat and cotton growing land of the Pakistan Punjab. But before entering Pakistan it flows through East Punjab, which is in India.
He is writing in 1954 -
The Indian Government is now constructing works on its part of the river which enable it to divert waters into its own Punjab. . . . These works are causing great anxiety to the Pakistan Government who fear that much of their Punjab may be reduced to desert. … It is impossible to irrigate much more than half of the cropland each year, and’ there is only a small amount of double-cropping. In other words, about one acre of cropland is idle each year for every acre cultivated.
Of course, had the water been withdrawn into India as Pakistan feared, a crisis would have developed and the whole of the west of Pakistan might have become untenable. The good offices of the World Bank and of various Western powers were directed towards solving the dispute concerning water. The dispute was complicated with rival disputes concerning the possession of Kashmir, but although that problem has not been solved, the water problem has been. In June of this year, the Indian Ministry of Irrigation and Power issued the statement which is the basis of the bill that we are discussing to-night. It said that discussions in Delhi and Karachi had - resulted in. the formulation of certain general principles which would afford a basis on which it should be possible to move forward towards a settlement of the Indus basin waters question. The Government of Pakistan have conveyed to Mr. Black-
He is of the World Bank- their willingness to go forward on the basis of the system of works proposed by the Bank . . . The Bank has reached an agreement in principle with the Government of India on the amount of financial contribution to be made by India towards the cost of construction of these works . . . The transition period - i.e. the period after which India would be entitled to the exclusive use of the waters of the three Eastern rivers - would be approximately ten years.
The essence of the agreement between India and Pakistan was that the three eastern rivers of the Indus system - the Sutlej, the Beas and the Ravi - would be for the use of India and the three western rivers - the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab - would be for the use of Pakistan. That diplomatic problem having been solved, the next problem was one of finance. I feel that this is where we may well need an attack of modesty, because the Australian contribution towards this is about H per cent, of the total cost. The Australian contribution, as I hope to show later, in technical skill and advice may be very great indeed.
The friendly governments, as they are called in the correspondence relating to this transaction, contributing towards the total cost of the scheme of 1,000,000,000 dollars are Australia which is contributing £6,965,000 Australian, Canada which is contributing 22,100,000 Canadian dollars, West Germany which is contributing 126,000,000 Deutsche Marks, New Zealand which is contributing £1,000,000 New Zealand, the United Kingdom which is contributing 177,000,000 dollars in grants and the United States which is contributing 103,000,000 dollars in loans and the equivalent of 235,000,000 dollars in the local currency of India and Pakistan.
– The Prime Minister converted those sums into the Australian equivalent.
– Yes, but this is the agreement. Actually, as far as Pakistan is concerned, one of the great virtues of the agreement, since the actual physical equipment for the scheme is being drawn from many different quarters, is that it puts into the hands of that country various foreign currencies.
Pakistan irrigation, as I mentioned at the beginning, was quite vital. In Sind, for instance, in the North-West Punjab, in Bahawalpur in North-West Province, irrigation to bring some 6,000,000 acres into cultivation was in existence before this scheme. But when these irrigation schemes have been developed in the past there have been two factors of waste. One is that the channels are not lined with concrete and a good deal of water soaks away into the channels. The second is that the longing for water on the part of the cultivators led to excessive use of water, which in turn led to waterlogging and to salting. In fact, in one State, on the Sukkur barrage - which had been one of the big barrages, the Lloyd barrage, started by the British in the ‘thirties - waterlogging began within a few months of its completion and finally a valuable area 23 miles long and half a mile wide was abandoned, with the salt working up to the surface. As the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) mentioned, that is perhaps a field where Australia may have some valuable advice and technical expertise to contribute to Pakistan. Already Australia and New Zealand have had a stake in this whole problem, long before this present agreement but in such irrigated areas as already existed. For instance, Australia and New Zealand had contributed large numbers of livestock, of high quality, from an animal development farm which the two countries maintained under the Colombo Plan. The lifting of the level of stock in Pakistan, both as to numbers and as to quality, is vitally important, because the most serious deficiency in diet in both India and Pakistan is a deficiency of protein. If we can show how to overcome this deficiency by the use of milk and milk products, and meat itself, we shall have contributed very greatly towards supplying the needs of West Pakistan. First-class livestock that have been bred in Australia and New Zealand represent a very significant contribution, indeed.
We should remember that there had been a struggle over irrigation for a long time before this scheme was mooted. The Lloyd barrage at Sukkur was amongst the largest irrigation dams in the world, and it was completed as long ago as 1932. Since that time, the wheat area served by the dam has more than doubled, and the cotton area has more than trebled. It is not expected, under the scheme we are now considering, that full development will be reached until 1963. The total area of that development will be 5,500,000 acres, which is equal to the total area of irrigated land in Egypt. The struggle for irrigation is not beginning with this Indus scheme; rather is it drawing to its completion with the scheme. In Sind, there are 30,000,000 acres of land, and only 6,000,000 acres are under cultivation.
The honorable member for Parkes mentioned a conversation he had had with me, in which I had told him about Lord Boyd-Orr, who was at one stage the leader of the Food and Agricultural Organization, and who is a world authority on nutrition and on agricultural practices as they affect nutrition. Lord Boyd-Orr invited me to lunch in the House of Commons diningroom simply because he had heard that I came from Western Australia, and he wanted to tell me that in Pakistan the ablest men he had working were Australian advisers, and especially those from Western Australia, because they had learned so much about the techniques of dry farming, which it was necessary to understand fully in the non-irrigable area of Pakistan.
There is, however, another aspect of the problem in this area which is to be irrigated that needs special attention. Pakistan at the present time produces 850 lb. of rice per acre, but in Australia we produce 121 bushels of rice per acre. Each bushel of rice weighs 42 lb., so that Australia produces 5,082 lb. per acre, compared with Pakistan’s production of 850 lb. If the yield per acre in Pakistan could be brought to the Australian standard, the 5,500,000 acres that are to be cultivated would become the equivalent of 33,000,000 acres at Pakistan’s present rate of production. It would represent a sixfold increase. If every existing acre of cultivated land in Pakistan could be brought up to Australian production standards, the amount of rice grown in that country would be six times the amount at present being produced.
– You are using the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area figures, are you?
– Yes. Quite dose comparisons can be made between conditions in Australia and Pakistan in certain respects. The study by Norton Ginsburg, “ The Pattern of Asia “, and the work by Sir John Russell, “World Population and World Food Supplies”, draw parallels between the salting up in the Murray valley and the salting up in Pakistan due to excessive use by unskilled farmers of the waters made available by the irrigation schemes. Norton Ginsburg, referring to Pakistan, wrote -
Other problems beset farmers in the Punjab. The size of holdings has decreased because of the sub-division of land in each successive generation. Tenancy has resulted from the loss of land through indebtedness to moneylenders.
I suppose if there is anything that western farmers ought to be grateful for, it is for the circumstance that western feudalism followed primogeniture and we developed a banking system. Where every son inherited and sub-divided the land inefficiency of cultivation followed and, of course, when moneylenders have operated the farmers have, within a couple of generations, been hopelessly in debt. To return to the publication of Norton Ginsburg -
The most serious problem in the irrigated land of the Punjab, however, is rapid deterioration of soil from salt accumulation due to excessive seepage from unlined canals, and from the sandy loam soils typical of the cultivated tracts. The water table, which was 25 to 80 feet deep before irrigation of the inter-fluves, has risen. Actually in some spots the soil is waterlogged and salts have encrusted the surface, making the land unfit for crops.
How close a parallel that is to what has happened in places in Australia. Sir John Russell, in speaking of the Murray valley area in the work I previously mentioned, said -
As commonly happens in irrigation systems, some waterlogging of the land has resulted from excessive or careless watering or from seepage from the canals. This in places has caused salt to rise to the surface, with destructive effects.
Just as Australia has contributed expertise in wheat farming and in the development of the cattle industry in Pakistan, it could, I think, give assistance to Pakistan by teaching farmers in that country the techniques which have given us such a high yield of rice per acre, as well as the techniques for coping with waterlogging and salting.
I should say two things about this scheme, in view of what was said by the honorable member on the government side who spoke before the suspension of the sitting. The first is this: I take it that we are not in this scheme to compete with anybody, or to pretend that we are more generous than somebody else, or to use our participation as a means of gaining influence or control over men’s minds, or to look for gratitude. There is only one motive that is worth while behind our participation in this scheme; that is that we desire the survival of the Pakistani people because they are human beings, irrespective of whether they will, in the future, agree with our points of view.
The second thing I would like to say about this measure is this: While we have something to teach, we also have something to learn from people who cultivate in the way that Pakistanis do. We often think of their agriculture as primitive, but in fact when there have been famines in Pakistan and the people have had to rely on imported grains, they have been unable to live on them, although they are quite able to live on their own grains. Very often we are told that this is due to the fact that their grains are grown only with the aid of natural fertilizers, and that they have a very high protein content and therefore become a real food, whereas the grains they have had to import in famine periods have been grown with artificial fertilizers and do not always have the same high protein content or the nutritive value. It is important, I think, for us in Australia to realize that the important feature of the grain we export is its nutritional value. We have developed, in the wool industry, the concept that what we are exporting is a quality material which will make a quality cloth. We do not have there the absurd concept of an f.a.q - a fair average quality - as we have in the case of wheat. We do not throw all our wool together regardless of whether one man might evolve a high quality of wool in his breeding of sheep while somebody else has a poor quality, thus destroying the incentive to produce a superior quality. But we have done that in the case of wheat. Very often we think we have achieved something if we export a certain weight of wheat, and we do not ask whether we are exporting that weight of nutrition.
This country has many opportunities to assist some of these other countries with some of the commodities which we waste, because to a considerable extent in the past we have wasted the highest protein-value substance that exists. I am speaking of dried, skimmed milk powder which has 36 units of protein compared with 19 units in first-class steak. I do not want to get on to this subject, because it is not relevant, except to say that in all forms of assistance to these people what is most urgently needed is both the protein that they can produce themselves and that which we can export to them. The late Sir Ian Clunies Ross, formerly head of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, is quoted by Sir John Russell, when speaking of Australia, as saying this -
The skimmed milk from butter making is at present fed to pigs, which, however, convert only 8 or 9 per cent, of its protein into human food. If, instead, it was evaporated, it would furnish more first-class protein than is contained in all Australia’s production of beef and mutton.
I understand there is a developing powdered milk industry in this country; and that can become one way in which protein can be exported from this country in a form which does not run up against religious convictions or any other form of custom in India or Pakistan in the same way as protein in the form of beef in India or pork in
Pakistan would. So I think that if this measure is going to be part of a total attempt to assist the people of Pakistan in solving not merely the agricultural problem of water supply - not merely to assist them in irrigation - but also to assist them to lift the whole standard of nutrition in that area, it will be a masterstroke by this country, more than self-interest, although it would be a masterstroke of enlightened self-interest. It would be a masterstroke if the motive underlying it were a care which would lead to a continuing policy that we value these people as people and desire their survival on this planet and desire to see them survive on this planet with constantly rising living standards.
.- 1 think that on this problem, the settlement of the Indus Basin dispute, both sides of this House for the first time are in agreement. Rivers have always been of great importance and all populations, from time immemorial, have moved along river beds. The Indus is one of the most important rivers in history, and is no exception to that rule. To-day we are settling a plan which is a decision on a question which has caused a very bitter dispute between two nations of the British Commonwealth since the time of their violent partition in 1947. The Indus is a mighty river and has a flow twice that of the Nile. We remember that in 1948 India wanted to divert more water to its own country in the basin, and that brought about the drying up of Indus water in Pakistan. That was a period, one remembers, when there was great tension, and the very excitable Pakistanis, who were downstream on the dry and arid parts of their country, clamoured for war. Their argument was that it was better to die quickly than by thirst and starvation. This settlement of the troubles arising from the partition of India and Pakistan-
– India has been very generous, you know.
– Yes, very generous. The trouble to which I have referred has been one of the major sources of the intense antagonism which has long divided these two nations. It is not only the Indus which has caused trouble between these nations which we hope will always be our friends; there is also the long and bitter dispute over the settlement in Kashmir, which has the elements of a very long conflict.
When we regard the result of this settlement in a very great period of tension between these two countries, which are divided also on the religious side, it throws great emphasis on the brilliant and painstaking negotiations of the World Bank. I think the President of the World Bank, Eugene Black, is to be congratulated on the result of his work which has for the first time in seven years brought together the leaders of these two nations who are signing this agreement. This has become an immense project, with a complex series of dams, barrages and canals. I think, on the monetary side, it is probably greater than our Snowy Mountains scheme. What it does is to ensure water for the dry and arid parts of Pakistan in the winter which before always dried up. The plan will be put into operation under the care of the permanent Indus Commission, consisting of one representative appointed by each government, who will have the general responsibility of carrying out the provisions of the treaty and who will seek to reconcile any points of disagreement. They will also have an arbitrator, a neutral expert who is a very highly qualified engineer, in any technical questions which might crop up.
– Does he act as a sort of referee?
– Only on technical questions. This plan has resulted from the co-operation of eight nations and, which is of great interest to me, this is the first time that West Germany has taken part in the settlement of an international question on the economic aid side. I think her contribution there is of great importance, particularly if one remembers that at the present time there is concern about her lack of interest in giving economic aid in spite of the building up of her enormous overseas balances. This scheme makes available for use, in Pakistan alone, some hundred million acres of land - an area the size of Italy - and the produce from it, when the scheme is in full operation, will probably raise the agricultural production in
Pakistan alone by anything between £30,000,000 and £50,000,000 per year. The people served by this river have always lived on a dreadfully depressed standard of living. The waters will also provide for Pakistan some 300,000 kilowatts of electricity. So we see that in this part of the troubled world there will be the prospect of raising the standard of living of many people.
That is one of the bright parts of this settlement - that two nations, so divided on the religious side and divided also in history, are getting together and are starting to live together by mutual co-operation. Pakistan and India are at the present time spending too high a proportion of their income on defence. It is possible that if they can remove the tension of Kashmir, much more could flow from this plan than actually appears on the surface. I am glad to associate myself with something in this Parliament on which honorable members on both sides of politics agree.
.- The purpose of this bill is to enable the Australian Government to appropriate funds for its contribution of £A6,965,000 under the Indus Basin Development Fund Agreement. The Opposition is pleased to be able to support the Government’s proposal. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) have outlined the technical details in the scheme and have made worthy contributions to the debate, but I wish to devote myself to a discussion of the great human and social problems that exist in India and Pakistan.
This scheme is something to be proud of because it is a kind of f food-for-peace scheme. There should be more such contributions, which would be the basis of goodwill between nations, rather than the present immense expenditure upon armaments. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development has played a major part in bringing about agreement between Pakistan and India. To obtain peaceful co-operation between those two nations is a matter of great consequence. We know the problems that followed when Great Britain relinquished control of India, as it then was, and most people who love world unity were disappointed that such a nation had to be partitioned, but the powers that be in those days decided that a division was necessary.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), with whom I am pleased to agree on this occasion, referred to the problems confronting Kashmir. Possibly the co-operation between India and Pakistan under this agreement could be the first step towards a solution of the Kashmir problem. We hope, for the sake of world peace and for a feeling of goodwill between men, that the vital Kashmir problem can be solved peacefully.
One feels great hope for the world when one learns about this scheme. In his second-reading speech the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) informed the House of the contributions that will be made by various countries. The honorable member for Fremantle has pointed out that the grants will be made in the currencies of the contributing nations. So that honorable members can more readily understand the contributions that will be made, I shall refer to the amounts in Australian currency. Australia will contribute £6,965,000; Canada £10,157,000; Germany £13,490,000; New Zealand £1,244,000; the United Kingdom £26,153,000; and the United States £78,903,000. In addition the United States will make a loan of 70,000,000 dollars, repayable in rupees, to Pakistan and will contribute to the fund as grants or loans to Pakistan an amount in Pakistan rupees equivalent to 235,000,000 dollars. The International Bank will also make up to 80,000,000 dollars available in a loan to Pakistan. Pakistan undertakes to make available to the fund £440,000 sterling and an amount in rupees equivalent to £9,850,000 sterling. India will also contribute £62,500,000 so honorable members can see that this scheme will be a major contribution to peaceful co-existence and goodwill between India and Pakistan. It has been said that without the cooperation of those two countries in this major and vital undertaking, many thousands of their people would starve.
Australia’s contribution of just under £7,000,000 will be spread over a period of twelve years. Our contribution of £180,000 in the first year will be increased to a maximum of £1,000,000 in the fifth year and then decline over the following seven years. A grant of £7,000,000 spread over twelve years is not very large. Although we have many problems within our own country to be solved, we must realize that the real problems of the world exist beyond our shores. In truth, £7,000,000 spread over twelve years is a very small amount - a mere drop in the ocean. I do not wish to be over-political on this subject, but for a long time I have been referring to our wasteful expenditure on armaments. In the last eleven years we have spent about £1,966,000,000 on defence, but in the same period we have contributed only £35,000,000 to the Colombo Plan. Although I am critical of our huge expenditure on defence, I praise wholeheartedly our contribution of £7,000,000 to this foodforpeace scheme. I believe that that £7,000,000 will make a greater contribution to world peace than has the £1,966,000,000 that we have spent on defence, because most of that amount has been spent out of fear. Instead, we should have been trying to find some basis of goodwill between nations.
I should like to see more of these schemes which are designed to assist people in Asia because Australia has a vital role to play in that area. We should assist the underdeveloped countries of Asia to a far greater extern than we have. I am very pleased that on this occasion we are assisting our brothers in Pakistan and India. The honorable member for Fremantle has said that we should not seek to make any political ties with our contribution and that we should not seek any gain from it. We should make the grant with a good heart and in the hope that Pakistan and India, and their people, will prosper.
It has been said that because of differences of opinion between those two countries it has been difficult to settle this scheme. We in Australia should have a look at ourselves. Because of petty jealousies between States, it took 50 years to get the Snowy Mountains scheme operating. India and Pakistan have had their freedom for only a few years so we should not be too smug about the differences that exist between them.
This scheme will attack the real problems of Asia - hunger, poverty and disease - not the comparatively minor political problems. I have just returned from a visit to China, which is a good example of the benefits of co-operation. Putting aside political opinions for a moment, the Soviet is to be commended for what its technicians, and other forms of assistance, have done for China, particularly in relation to the development and control of the Yellow River. The Yellow River scheme is on a par with the Indus Waters scheme. It is wonderful to see a breaking down of differences between nations and one nation assisting another.
I commend the Government for taking the lead and making this contribution to the scheme which will be of great assistance to the people of Pakistan and India. I hope that further grants and other assistance will be made available to those countries. I hope that something can be done in relation to the Mekong valley scheme, which also would play a major part in overcoming the problems of hunger, poverty and disease that exist in Asia.
– We have done something about it.
– I know that we have made a contribution of £100,000, but that is only a drop in the ocean, just as our contribution of £7,000,000, spread over twelve years, is only a drop in the ocean. We must realize that contributions of this kind are a far better investment for Australia than is a wasteful expenditure on armaments. We want to help in the development of those countries and give greater assistance to their peoples without their having to regard themselves as under an obligation to us. In that way we shall gain their goodwill. As the honorable member for Fremantle <Mr. Beazley) said we shall do this because we want to help solve the problems of hunger, poverty and disease.
.- It is with great pleasure that I support the measure. One of its interesting aspects is that both sides of the House are of one mind in regard to it. I was rather disappointed in the reference made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) about the amount of money that the Government is spending on armaments. I know there can be differences of opinion about the value we are getting for the money we spend on armaments, but surely anybody with a real sense of the international situation to-day must realize that this Government, or any government which has regard for the security of the nation it is governing could take no action in regard to defence preparedness other than we have taken since we have been in office.
I say without hesitation that the present expenditure on armaments by Western countries is not of their choice. It has been forced upon them by reason of the Communist attitude. Anybody who has any doubts about that need only recollect the behaviour of Mr. Khrushchev at the last meeting of the United Nations, and the Soviet Government’s refusal to meet its financial obligations to the United Nations in respect of the United Nations police action in Congo. Any talk in this Parliament to the effect that we should not spend what is necessary on armaments is completely off the beam.
Such measures as the present bill are the kind of things that will unite us with our colleagues in Asia and the countries to our north, which appreciate our efforts to help them. If the people in those countries look at our record they will realize that we are genuine in trying to help them. The honorable member for Reid mentioned the Mekong valley project. We have sent experts to advise and give other assistance on that project. We are only too glad to help, and will continue to do so. Australia’s record of assistance to Asian countries under the Colombo Plan and in other ways allows us to say that we have nothing of which we need be ashamed in that regard.
As I represent a rural constituency I am conscious of the importance of primary production, and of the valuable contribution that primary production can make to the development and progress of any land. The development that will be carried out in the Indus Basin will, I am sure, result in a great uplifting of the standards of living of the people of India and Pakistan. There is perhaps a closer association between Australia and India and Pakistan than there is between Australia and other countries we have helped under the Colombo Plan, since both India and Pakistan are fellow members with us of the Commonwealth of Nations.
The financial contribution being made by the International Bank makes us realize that this bank is not merely a building in and out of which flow certain amounts of finance, but is an organization through which, because of the co-operation of its member countries, assistance can be given to undeveloped countries so that their progress may go forward.
I think it is a good thing that a degree of emphasis has been placed in recent months on the use of food resources to promote peace. If we can help undeveloped countries to increase their food production we can help them to increase their standard of living and thereby we will make a valuable contribution to peace and show that we believe in at least one of the bases of our Christian way of life - the duty to help those in need.
The amount of money that Australia is contributing under this bill is proportionately a major contribution, but the most important contribution made is not a material one. Our most important contribution is that we, with other countries, are standing by the nations of Asia and are prepared to help them during their period of development until they are able to take their rightful places in the world.
Like some other measures this bill has the support of both sides of the House. I think it is too frequently overlooked that quite a number of measures that pass through this Parliament have the support of both sides. No doubt the reason for this oversight is that opposition to a measure is more newsworthy than acceptance of it by both sides without demur. The fact that so many measures are passed with the support of both sides of the Parliament proves that what takes pride of place in the minds of members of this Parliament is the advancement of Australia’s development and the continuance of the contribution that we are making to the development of countries in this part of the world. I hope that this measure will be only a beginning, and that further co-operation by Australia and other countries, as well as by the International Bank, in helping the progress of underdeveloped countries, will be a feature of the years to come, that thereby we may show that not by words alone, but by deeds, we are prepared to play our part.
T do not want to say a great deal, because much has already been said by other honorable members in regard to this matter. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill and in congratulating the Government and the Parliament on the part they are playing in bringing the measure to fruition.
.- The spirit of Australia is made manifest in this legislation. We as members of the Australian Parliament have the privilege this evening to be able to discuss, and to pass, a bill with a broad humanitarian appeal. Perhaps this is an historic occasion, for the Parliament of Australia is being invited to ratify an international agreement aimed at the well-being of two Commonwealth countries. We accept the principle of “ One World “. We accept the principle that we are our brothers’ keepers, that we have a responsibility to see that people are happy and contented, that those who are in distress are helped, and that we should play our part in overcoming the great social difficulties that exist in the world, to the removal of which members on this side of the House have dedicated themselves. Consequently, we find considerable satisfaction in supporting this measure introduced by the Government, for this is a splendid example of international co-operation and Commonwealth unity. There is a new basis of understanding between India and Pakistan which will strengthen the unity of the Indian subcontinent. That is an important matter.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has said that we seek no gain. We are to contribute this sum of £6,965,000 which we have taken from the pockets of the taxpayers, because we fervently believe there is a cause to be helped and there is a need for us to assist. The Labour Party is pleased, therefore, to support the measure and extend its sympathy and fellow-feeling.
The statement by the Prime Minister also shows that this is not only a British Commonwealth plan, because it has also an international flavour. Among other nations, West Germany will play its part. The United States of America will contribute £78,903,674. It might be said that Australia’s contribution is small in comparison, but when we compare Australia with the United States of America and recall that we are a new and largely under-developed country, we- realize that our contribution is substantial. The Opposition supports this plan because we think much good can come from it. Reference has been made to the Kashmir problem, but our prime consideration now is not how the world is going to deal with international political problems. We are moved by the thought that people who are in need and in distress will derive from the life-giving waters of the Indus basin food to sustain them and help them to develop as we ourselves would wish to progress. The utilization of the soil in this region will undoubtedly play an important part in the development of the sub-continent.
Australia has a good name abroad. Consequently, it is wholesome to find the Parliament prepared to vote this money unanimously. This will help us to retain the traditional mateship and friendship which is characteristic of the Australian people. Australia has a good name particularly in the Asian countries. We are respected throughout the world. Some time ago it was my privilege to visit a number of Asian countries, and everywhere I visited from Thailand to Indonesia our name ranked very high indeed. I found we were respected. The people of Asia regarded us as a colonial people who had grown up and had found our place in the world. They knew we were developing our country, building up a way of life and establishing standards that they might worthily follow. In this matter, we are indicating to the world that we are prepared to vote money for those in need without any thought of a bribe or receiving something in return. Our work as a partner in the Colombo Plan is well known and respected. In that regard, I think that the gifts that have been made by the Australian Government on behalf of the Australian people are superior to certain gifts of other kinds that have been given by other countries under the Colombo Plan. We must remember that we are helping human beings. We must select gifts and donations that will be acceptable to our Asian friends and neighbours, and useful to them in their villages and communities. We must give them something tangible for use in their daily lives. I found in my visit to some of the Asian countries that what we had given for the use and sustenance of the people was greatly appreciated. The fact that we have given horses and helped in the production of anti-snakebite serum was also appreciated by the Asians. The Australian Government has been to the fore in making these gifts. This is an answer to those who are concerned with evil machinations to cause ill-will throughout the world.
This plan for the development of the Indus waters will be accepted not only in Asia but also throughout the world as one of the outstanding projects of the present day. Altogether £139,913,000 is to be provided as a direct gift. It is pleasing to note that India will contribute £62,500,000 sterling towards the cost of construction works in Pakistan during the transition period of the replacement works. This is a fine gesture by India, and I only hope that this generous measure of co-operation will be continued. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) put his finger on the core in this matter. This is the humanitarian gesture. Might I say to the House that if we could go ahead with the major works required in Australia to develop this country, we would be able to produce much more and our donations and gifts to other countries would be considerably multiplied. This is a magnificent gesture when we think of the challenge confronting our own country. We are largely under-developed. What are we doing about the problems at home? Our task for the development of Australia is present and real, and I can only hope that our work here will be appreciated overseas. We who sit in this Parliament, and the people of Australia who address themselves to the urgent need for the development of Australia, ask what is being done about the Burdekin River in Queensland, the Roper, Adelaide and Victoria Rivers in northern Australia, and the Ord and Fitzroy Rivers in north-western Australia? These are tangible questions and they are worthy of an answer. Despite the great task that we have to do here, we are proceeding with this project.
It disheartens me at times when I find we can play our part - and rightly so - in a plan of this sort for the development of the Indus Basin to serve Pakistan and India while essential work of a similar kind in Australia is left undone. What about the dead heart of Australia? What about the Channel country which has been in the toils of a drought, and the area represented by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) where cattle have died in tens of thousands? We have closed our eyes to stark tragedy in this country and have done nothing practical about it. Waterholes are dried up and the soil blown away. All these things are happening in our country and yet we are giving nearly £7,000,000, and rightly so, to an international plan. While we do these things in charity, we should remember that necessity compels us to face the challenge of our own country.
Again I say to the Government, whilst we are doing these things are we going to be content with a few pilot farms in the Northern Territory as envisaged in a proposition made to this Parliament by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck)? With the exception of the Snowy Mountains scheme are we to be content with allowing our country to remain as it has been, a waterless and unplanned land? That is not good enough for me and it is not good enough for the people of Australia. We have to do better than that. The challenge is ours. If this country is to advance and be secure, if we are to play our part fully and rightly in the councils of the world, being a big brother, as we ought to be a big brother in all these things, we have to get on with the challenge in Australia - the challenge of the development of this great and wonderful land of ours. If we do these things the measure of assistance and cooperation that we will be able to afford other countries will be multiplied one hundredfold. Let us get on to the task of doing the things envisaged in this bill before us.
I heard one or two honorable members running off the names of the rivers of Asia, particularly of India and Pakistan. The names fell from their lips, almost as if they were natives of the country concerned. Let us, in future, use the names of Australia’s rivers just as freely. Let us proceed with water conservation schemes in those rivers so that our empty north and our waterless centre will receive the attention that they rightly deserve.
.- I join in this debate because I believe that the constituents of my electorate, like all other Australians, are proud to know that they are taking a part in this international operation to accept the challenge of world poverty. Some 2,500 years ago Alexander the Great stood on the banks of the Indus and wept that there were no fresh worlds to conquer. Now, we have found that there are fresh worlds to conquer. This involves, not the conquering of human beings, but the creation of better living conditions for human beings. I believe that members on both sides of the House have made a valuable contribution to thinking on this matter. In answering the call of humanity, nic Australian Country Party, the Liberal Party and the Austraiian Labour Party find themselves on common ground. Of course, we have to find more effective measures to overcome the difficulties with which we are confronted. The area to which we are giving attention is one of the most densely populated areas of the world.
I am staggered by the fact that some 450,000,000 people live in a country a little larger than Western Australia. Its resources have been depleted by years of neglect and by over-use. Therefore, one is sometimes inclined to think that, perhaps, nothing can be done about this matter. The population of the Indus Basin is about 50,000,000 people - five times that of Australia - and one is inclined to wonder whether there is anything that ordinary human beings can do to overcome the problem that is involved. But Europe is one of the most densely populated parts of the world and some small countries there carry a very high population. The situation in the Indus Basin is illustrated in the map which was attached to the copies of the second-reading speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) circulated to honorable members. There is an area of about 400 miles by 500 miles - perhaps 200,000 square miles - to cater for the needs of 50,000,000 people. By comparison there are about 40,000,000 English people in an area perhaps a third that size. When one considers the high standard of living that has been achieved in Great Britain and in other densely populated European countries such as Holland and Belgium as a result of the development of the resources of those countries, one is encouraged to believe that it is possible, by the co-operation of the nations of the world, to overcome the difficulties of India.
Since the Indian and Pakistani people have achieved independence I believe that we have been guilty of neglect, not because we have not responded when there has been a call for international financial assistance, but because there has been an obsession with another great Asian power, China. We are inclined to forget that the Indian people are attempting to overcome by democratic means the problem that China is attempting to overcome by more authoritarian methods. Therefore, philosophically and politically we are much more akin to the Indian people. With some regret, one looks over the record of the last ten or eleven years and finds that we have not given the kind of encouragement that the Indian people deserve.
This is an almost magnificent moment in history. The nations involved in this agreement include the Federal Republic of Germany, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States - nations which only fourteen years ago were fighting one of the most furious wars of history, and a war in which one of the participants in this agreement was on the opposing side. So there has been a magnificent change in the world scene over the last fifteen years.
I agree with the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren). I do not think that it was striking a discordant note to suggest that disarmament was the need of the world to-day, and that the expenditure on armaments could better be directed to this kind of undertaking. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) put the point quite clearly. We are not interested in converting these people to our way of life. We are not terribly concerned whether they accept a different political viewpoint to ours, or whether they will always agree with us in the United Nations. We are concerned with the call of humanity. That is why this event is of such international significance. I believe that we are very fortunate to be living through this great change in history.
The recent meeting of the United Nations where the leaders of the world gathered to try to hammer out their problems - some of them more brusquely than others - represented, I believe, another great change. These few years - the last couple and the next three or four - may well see a breakthrough towards the harmony of nations. I do not expect that all international problems will be resolved without some struggles and without some breaches of the peace. But I believe that we have arrived at the stage at which the nations of the world are gathering together to help themselves. Of course, it is not only to the construction side - the engineering side - that we must look for a solution of our problems.
The food problems of the world can be assisted by increasing production on the home ground of the densely populated countries such as India. As the honorable member for Fremantle pointed out, the use by India and Pakistan of Australian technical knowledge in agricultural production would give those countries five or six times their present production in rice alone. So, in their own homeland, people must find some solution to the problem of food production. But we must also find more satisfactory methods by which to distribute food and to get rid of the surpluses of the food producing countries.
One disappointing feature of Australia’s development during the last few years is our decreasing ability to export food. We are maintaining something like a constant supply of foodstuffs such as wheat, but we are not expanding production absolutely in accordance with our expansion of population. As our population increases and we consume more of our own food, we are able to export a smaller proportion. So, we are taking a relatively less important part in overcoming the world’s food problems. For instance, in Australia, the acreage under wheat has dropped in the last few years. In 1949, the area under production in Australia was 12,500,000 acres. I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as a member of the Country Party, will be vitally interested in these statistics. In 1957-58 the area under production was 8,900,000 acres, a decrease of almost 30 per cent. The figures show that wheat production itself stood at a more or less constant level, so that the Australian farmer has increased his productive capacity by about 30 per cent, but, unfortunately, because of a decrease in the acreage devoted to the growing of wheat, we have not got that extra amount to export.
That is a tragic circumstance in a world that needs our food.
The production of less useful foods such as sugar and tobacco has increased, but the production of the vital foods which the world needs, foods such as wheat, about which Australia has great technical knowledge
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Chaney).
Order! The honorable member is getting a little wide of the bill. He may refer to production in the area in which this scheme is being developed, but he should not devote too much time dealing with production in Australia.
– This bill is related to what is an international project, and I should think it would be relevant to consider some of the other fields in which we ought to be able to find agreement. Australia ought to be one of the leading food-producing nations of the world, and I am pleased, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you have noted my remarks. I can only hope that the party to which you belong may be able to overcome some of the particular difficulties which we encounter.
The point I wish to stress is the role of India in the world to-day. It has tremendous population pressure; it is faced with great problems of development and it is not without significance as a neutral nation which is more or less under-armed. There is a great deal more than money involved in an international agreement such as this. For instance, if we can raise the living standards of the people of India we shall create in the world another body of people who can add to the stability of the political structure of the world. Australians can be gratified at the fact that they are taking part in this project. The people of India need our assistance, as indeed do our closer neighbours, the people of Indonesia. But I believe that India, because of its long association with the British Commonwealth, has more call upon our immediate consideration. Again, the people of India have made greater advances in the field of education and have produced more of their own technicians than have the people of Indonesia.
This international agreement is symbolic. Our contribution of £6,000,000 is not meagre. It is a large sum in anybody’s language. But I remind honorable members that it is only a little more than the cost of two Boeings. We shall be dealing with a bill relating to that subject later this evening. But we do not want to be churlish about these matters. We should apply ourselves with great vigour to assisting the underdeveloped countries of the world. At its last conference held in Victoria, the Australian Labour Party resolved that a fair standard for Australia to contribute to under-developed countries was 1 per cent, of our national income. I emphasize that every one of the 400 delegates to that conference understood the significance of that resolution in pounds, shillings and pence. They knew that it would mean about £60,000,000. Up to the present, the Colombo Plan, the Indus Waters Agreement and our assistance to Papua and New Guinea have cost us something between £25,000,000 and £30,000,000, or £2 10s. per head of the Australian population.
I hope that the Government will accept this bill as connoting acceptance of the principle that Australians are prepared to accept readily any challenge that is put fairly and squarely before them. I recall that during the war the Australians voluntarily reduced their butter consumption to help allied peoples. There is no difficulty when these matters are placed fairly before the people of Australia. I hope the Government will be encouraged by the fact that on this side of the House as well as on its own there is complete agreement with the aims of the measure, because it is a clear indication that the call of humanity transcends any political consideration nr demand on our national sovereignty.
– This has been an interesting debate on an important subject. The importance which the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) attach to this bill has been demonstrated by the fact that the Prime Minister himself introduced it. He has had to leave the debate in other hands, and I am concluding it. The facts have been stated fully. There is no disagreement on either side of the House as to the nobility of purpose that lies behind this scheme, nor is there any disagreement on the great hopes which it holds for the people of the part of the world affected by the scheme and especially the hope of wider agreement and understanding between them in the future. It is most satisfying to be able to take part in the passage of a measure of this sort which commands the unquestioned support of both sides of the House.
In the course of his able speech the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) warned us not to be complacent about the sum of approximately £7,000,000 which we are agreeing to spend. I agree with him. We have nothing to be complacent about, but on the other hand - and I mention this only in case what the honorable member for Fremantle said may be misunderstood - it is no inconsiderable sum. When we look at the amounts to be spent by the other subscribing countries, we see that Australia is making a very substantial contribution. The amounts to be contributed by the different participants are £7,000,000 in Australian currency by Australia, £10,000,000 by Canada, £13,500,000 by West Germany, £1,250,000 by New Zealand, £26,000,000 by the United Kingdom and £78,000,000 by the United States of America. No matter by what yardstick it is measured, whether it be the size of the population or the quantum of the national wealth, Australia’s contribution pro rata on either basis is certainly not less than that of the other contributors.
Several times during the course of this debate it has been said that this generation is faced with many tasks related to the development of our own country. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) gave a long list of projects on which we might embark in the future. No doubt future generations of Australians will undertake these tasks, or some of them, but I think one of the most significant points about the present period of Australian life is that our people have accepted responsibilities that go far beyond the bounds of our own country. We have accepted a responsibility to contribute as well as we are able to the welfare of other countries in our own part of the world at the same time as we accept responsibility for the rapid development of our own country and the expansion of its population. The unanimity of feeling which has been expressed on both sides of the House in this debate, in particular, and the bill itself are to my mind significant examples of the acceptance by this present generation of Australians of a responsibility that extends far beyond the bounds of our own country.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to contribute briefly to this debate. This Indus basin waters project, which is of such immense dimensions, brings the story of the Good Samaritan to international affairs. It lifts the story that we know so well out of its Palestinian context and on to an international plane where Pakistan and India take the place of the man who lay broken on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho and the eight nations which are contributing to this scheme take the place of the Good Samaritan who brought the broken man out of his misery and saved his life.
One may ask, looking at a scheme of this magnitude, “ Is the pen mightier than the sword? Are food and economic security greater than armaments and recurring crises? Is water conservation more vital in this world than the stockpiling of hydrogen bombs?” I have no hesitation in answering “ Yes “ to all those questions. If this world were spending on schemes of this kind only a quarter of what it is pouring out on armaments that are out-dated within twelve months, world peace would be a reality instead of a mirage that appears always just ahead of us.
– Peace could be perpetual.
– Peace could be perpetual if it were sought by methods such as these and if it were promoted by cooperation of this kind on an international level.
In my opinion, the contributions being made by many nations to this Indus basin waters scheme will plant a strong tree of international peace, understanding and tolerance in Asia by helping to bring together two nations which as neighbours have had very great difficulties with one another in recent years. This scheme is the biggest single international water conservation scheme ever financed by many nations together. There are similar national projects of equivalent or even greater dimensions, such as .the Tennessee Valley
Authority scheme in the United States of America and the Yellow River project in continental China, which is truly one of the greatest water conservation schemes ever attempted in the history of man.
– It is the greatest.
– As my colleague, who has been to China and seen the scheme, says, it is the greatest of its kind in the history of man. But that, too, is a national and not an international scheme, great as it is. Then there is our own Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, which is entitled to be numbered among these national projects of great dimensions. There are also the hydro-electric schemes in Japan - some of the biggest projects that the Japanese people have ever undertaken for the conservation of water.
Somebody may ask, “What about the Colombo Flan as an example of international co-operation? “ The objects of that scheme go far beyond the conservation of water. We send quite a lot of aid to Asia under the Colombo Plan, but its emphasis is over a field much wider than is that embraced by this Indus basin waters scheme. Until the Colombo Plan was initiated, no international project of its magnitude had ever been contemplated. We are now considering a water conservation scheme which is the greatest international scheme of its kind that has ever been envisaged. It represents a massive attack on poverty, starvation, privation, malnutrition and deserts. The spectre of all these things haunts so many countries to-day. If only we could bring water to the deserts, what a veritable Garden of Eden could be brought into being even in our own country. If we in Australia put into operation the Bradfield scheme, which was envisaged by Dr. J. J. C. Bradfield, we should have a project comparable with the Yellow River project in China and the Tennessee Valley Authority scheme in the United States. Some day, some government will have the courage to initiate Dr. Bradfield’s scheme and transform millions of acres of desert into a veritable Garden of Eden.
I believe that the Indus basin waters scheme really confirms the prophecies given to us by the Prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament when he said that streams shall break out in the desert and, again, that the desert shall blossom as the rose. Those prophecies may have sounded idealistic in Isaiah’s day, but they are now becoming a reality in our time through the genius of man. We can take our minds back also to the days of the Pharaohs in Egypt when Pharaoh told Joseph, who was his prime minister, “ Give my people bread “, and Joseph worked out a plan by which the Egyptians were able to get their bread. In the Indus waters scheme, we are to-day bringing to fruition a similar noble enterprise. The people of Pakistan are in a position very similar to that of the Egyptians in the days of the Pharaohs. They are crying out for food and sustenance. They are calling on other countries for help. In this project we have a scheme that will answer their call and meet their needs.
At the present time, in the Indus basin, there are 50,000,000 people who have a very frugal standard of living indeed. Ten years will be needed to bring the scheme to fruition, and when it is fully developed, the population of the basin can be expanded to 70,000,000 in a few years. And those 70,000,000 will live not in penury and semi-starvation but in security. They will make a notable contribution to the economic stability of India and Pakistan and they themselves will have a standard of living that has never before been envisaged in those countries. They will have a standard of diet and health higher than has ever been known by the Pakistanis and Indians in this area.
This scheme will do much to prevent the tragic waste of water that has been going on for millions of years and is still going on throughout the world. The genius of man has made possible the conservation of water in order that it may be used in time of drought or diverted to dry desert areas to produce food and other things for the benefit of mankind. The wasting of water on the massive scale on which water runs to waste in this country is criminal in a world in which so many human beings are near starvation. How selfish we are in this country! How utterly complacent are most Australians about the starvation of other people! From time to time, members of this Parliament go to South-East Asia on parliamentary business. I have had the privilege of visiting that part of the world myself, although not on a parliamentary mission. I discovered that ;there were 123,000,000 people homeless in South-East Asia. We in this country have a home to go to at night and we hardly ever think of the millions who are without homes. We eat three good meals a day. Admittedly, in this building, we now have to pay more for the meals that we get here. However, millions of people in Asia are lucky to get even one meal a day. This great Indus waters scheme will ensure that very little water from the Indus River and its tributaries goes to waste in the future. The stored water will be used for the cultivation of rice-fields on a scale that the Indians and Pakistanis have never seen before. And rice is life to the Asian people.
Another interesting feature of this scheme is that it goes beyond the boundaries of race, religion and colour. Anything that can break down those barriers deserves our support. Our own great problems, which were outlined by my colleague, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), should not close our eyes to the dire needs of a less fortunate people resident in another country. Parochialism - so many Australians are guilty of this - when others need help is almost inhuman. I feel that in this measure our gunsights are being lifted to cover a new field of international aid, and this scheme should bring blessing to Australia and to the nations that will be helped as a result of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is for an act which is to approve an agreement for the sale of the aluminium undertaking of the Australian Aluminium
Production Commission at Bell Bay, Tasmania. The agreement also provdes for the expansion of the undertaking when sold. The agreement is scheduled to the bill. The parties to the agreement are - The Commonwealth of Australia, the State of Tasmania, Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited, the Australian Aluminium Production Commission and Aluminium Production Corporation Limited.
The Australian Aluminium Production Commission was set up by an agreement dated 18th April, 1944, between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Tasmania. That agreement was approved by the Commonwealth and State Parliaments in 1944. It was amended and the amendments were approved by the two Parliaments in 1952. The Commonwealth legislation is the Aluminium Industry Act 1944-1956.
The commission when first established comprised two representatives of the Commonwealth and two of the State. Under the 1952 agreement, this was changed to four representatives of the Commonwealth and one of the State. The commission was set up to undertake the production of aluminium in primary form. This enterprise was planned during the war years when the Commonwealth considered that manufacture in Australia of aluminium ingot was of great importance for defence.
The Bell Bay aluminium undertaking of the commission was completed in 1955. It comprises both an alumina plant and an aluminium reduction plant. It has a productive capacity of about 12,000 tons of aluminium ingot per annum. In 1959-60, it produced 1 1 ,952 tons of aluminium metal.
Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited is a company well known in Australia, and is concerned through its associates and subsidiaries in the mining and refining of lead and zinc and in other industrial activities. Aluminium Production Corporation Limited - Apco - is a company, incorporated under Tasmanian State law, which has been formed by agreement between Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited and the Tasmanian Government. The undertaking will be sold to Apco. The Tasmanian Government is to hold one-third of the shares of that company; the remainder will be held by Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited, or by the new joint association which has been announced between that company and Kaiser Aluminium and Chemical Corporation.
As was announced in another place on 31st August, 1960, the Governments of the Commonwealth and Tasmania accepted an offer by Consolidated Zinc that the plant would be bought by a company to be formed by Consolidated Zinc and Tasmania. Since then, the announcement has been made of the partnership between Consolidated Zinc and Kaiser Aluminium and Chemical Corporation. I shall refer again to this later; I only say now that our transaction remains with the same parties as was contemplated in August.
This bill is to obtain parliamentary approval to the agreement. Complementary legislation has been placed before the Tasmanian Parliament during its current sittings. I shall deal first with the terms of the agreement itself which is scheduled to the bill. The date of completion of the sale is to be 3rd January, 1961. The purchase will include all land and other assets of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. But it will not include any rights of the commission in relation to bauxite deposits outside Tasmania. The land involved is set out in the schedule. The company is to take over the liabilities of the commission.
The purchasing company undertakes to enlarge the plant at Bell Bay from the present annual capacity of 12,000 tons to 28,000 tons. This is expected to cost some £9,000,000 and to take about four years. The present programme of expansion from 12,000 tons to 16,000 tons becomes part of the new larger plan. The company declares its objective of later expanding to more than 40,000 tons annual capacity, if and when this is economically practicable.
The purchase price of £10,980,000 will be payable to the Commonwealth, which will pay to the Tasmanian Government its share, fifteen one-hundred-and-twelfth parts, or £1,470,000. Tasmania is also to get ordinary shares in respect of £175,000 which the State has advanced for the current expansion programme to 16,000 tons capacity.
Payment will be made as follows: -
The deposit is to be paid on 3rd January, 1961, and the instalments on 31st December of each year, with the final instalment being in 1976. The company will pay interest on the balance of the purchase price outstanding at the end of each year, provided that the enterprise is yielding a sufficient profit.
In any year when the net profit of the company exceeds 6fr per cent. - after tax - on its paid-up share capital, the company will pay interest on the amount still owing to the Commonwealth. The maximum rate payable will be 5 per cent, but will be limited to the excess of the “ operating surplus “, as defined in the agreement, after paying the 6i per cent, return, after tax, on the share capital. Insofar as this is insufficient to pay the full 5 per cent, to the Commonwealth the deficiencies will accumulate. In any year when the “ operating surplus “ is more than sufficient to meet the company’s 6i per cent., after tax, together with 5 per cent, interest to the Commonwealth, half the balance is to be paid to the Commonwealth in reduction of the accumulated deficiency of interest. All liability of the company to pay interest terminates, with one minor exception, when the principal is fully paid off.
The calculation of the interest payable under these principles is provided for in the third schedule to the bill. Safeguards are included against certain contingencies that might prejudice the Commonwealth’s rights to a fair assessment of the fund out of which its interest is payable. I refer particularly to clauses (a) to (e) in the definition of “ gross operating surplus “, and to clauses 7, 8 and 9 of the third schedule.
Provisions are made to allow for further expansion of the plant beyond 28,000 tons capacity without disturbing the quantum of the profits figure on which the Commonwealth’s interest depends. These provisions have added some complexity to the interest formula.
As I have said, before interest is payable to the Commonwealth in any year, the company is entitled to 6£ per cent, on its share capital after tax. For this purpose, so far as the company’s borrowings for its 28,000-ton programme are concerned, tax includes any additional amounts of tax which the company incurs on account of the Government’s new taxation proposals affecting the deductibility of interest paid by companies. If changing circumstances render inapt the interest formula, there is provision for its adaptation to those circumstances by agreement between the company and the Commonwealth.
It is the common objective of the company and the Government that the aluminium industry in Australia should aim to be competitive with, and have no need of protection against, competing imports. This principle assures the Australian user of aluminium, supplies of his basic material at world prices - a matter of no small importance to our economy in view of the growing importance of this metal. The Government, however, does recognize that the new company needs some protection during the first four years while it is enlarging capacity to 28,000 tons a year. This protection may take the form of a tariff as may be recommended by the Tariff Board, and will cover refinery shapes and aluminium alloys. The protection will be designed to ensure to the company a selling price equivalent to £271 a long ton, in the case of standard-grade ingot, delivered at mainland ports. This was the selling price on 1st November, 1960, of the commission. The landed cost of imported aluminium ingot was at that date £232 10s. a ton. The company has, however, undertaken not to seek tariff or other protection after the initial four-year expansion period, unless it reaches a position from factors beyond the control of the company where it cannot earn 61 per cent, after tax on its issued share capital and does not seem likely to do so, or in other defined abnormal circumstances.
At the present time, the Bell Bay plant uses bauxite imported from overseas. The company intends to supply the plant with alumina from Weipa, probably beginning in 1966. To ensure that supplies from Australian sources are available, a collateral contract is to be executed, giving the company certain rights to supplies from Weipa.
The commission’s assets which go to the company include also certain rights to obtain supplies of bauxite or alumina from Gove in the Northern Territory. It is expected that the Gove mineral lease will shortly be taken over by British Aluminium Company Limited. It will be taken over subject to this obligation.
The agreement contains provisions to protect the employment, superannuation, leave and furlough benefits of the employees of the commission. It provides that all persons who are employed by the commission at the time of the completion of the agreement will be offered employment by the company. This offer by the company is to be made not later than 1st December, 1960. The salaries or wages to be offered must be not less than those paid by the commission immediately prior to the date of sale.
Clauses 24 to 27, inclusive, of the agreement deal with superannuation. The commission has 763 employees, of whom 220 are salaried staff. Of those 220, 136 are already contributors to the superannuation fund, and eight are contributors to the provident account. It is expected that before the date of completion approximately 30 more may be admitted as new contributors.
The scheme of the superannuation clauses of the agreement is broadly as follows: - The company’s offer of employment to commission employees may be made conditional upon those employees electing for their existing superannuation to be taken over by the company. The company will take over the existing superannuation of transferred employees on the basis that they will continue to possess the benefits which, at the date of transfer, and at the salary they then enjoyed, they are entitled to expect. For these benefits the company may not require them to pay more than the fortnightly amount of contributions they were making at the date of transfer. The company is to establish a trust fund to secure their rights This is provided in clause 24.
Section 39 of the Commonwealth act states that a person whose service is terminated because there is no work for him, within ten years of commencing employment, shall be deemed “ discharged “. In this case, he receives as a lump sum only the contributions paid by him. If he has been employed for over ten years he is deemed to be “ retrenched “, and receives in addition the corresponding Commonwealth contributions. However, in justice to employees of the commission who might reasonably have expected to continue in its employment the Commonwealth benefit is being paid into the fund in respect of all former contributors whether or not they have been ten years with the commission.
Disputes on the operation of clause 24 are to be determined by an ad hoc tribunal. This is provided in clause 25. In relation to any increased salary which transferred employees may get in the future in the company’s employment, the company undertakes to provide them with superannuation on a basis consistent with the basis on which it is provided for its other employees. This is provided in clause 26. There are two qualifications on this.
The first qualification is that the transferred employee may elect whether or not he wants his prior service with the commission to count in relation to superannuation benefits he will get in relation to increases in salary. If he decides he wants it to count he may be required by the company to contribute to the extra cost involved on a basis which is defined. This is provided in sub-clauses 3 to 6 inclusive of clause 26.
The second qualification is that the company at any time in the future has the right of establishing a superannuation scheme for all its employees notwithstanding that the scheme does not accord with the above quoted provisions of the agreement - that is, especially, does not treat transferred employees on the same basis as new employees - but only on two conditions, namely -
An industrial agreement was made in 1959 between the Amalgamated Engineering Union and other unions and the commission. The sale agreement obliges the company to continue to observe this industrial agreement as if it were a party to it in place of the commission. The company will grant to transferred employees not covered by the industrial agreement leave or pay in lieu of leave for recreation and sickness to the same extent as these are afforded to other employees of the company. But leave which has accrued through service with the commission will be carried over by the company.
Long service leave, that is, furlough, will be granted by the company to transferred employees in accordance with the Long Service Leave Act of Tasmania, but subject to important qualifications which preserve the accrued rights of transferred employees. The point here is that the rights which employees of the commission enjoyed under the Commonwealth rules are more generous than those they will enjoy under the Tasmanian law. Tasmania undertakes to legislate to protect the interest of the employees under the agreement, as regards the industrial agreement and as regards leave.
In the agreement of sale it is recited that the new company, Apco, has been set up by agreement between Consolidated Zinc and Tasmania. Consolidated Zinc and Tasmania undertake that Apco will be provided with sufficient capital to enable it to carry out its obligations under the agreement; in the case of the State this undertaking is subject to special qualifications in sub-clause 2 of clause 6 with regard to the need for appropriation of funds by the State Parliament. Apart from these provisions we are, under the agreement, essentially dealing with Apco as the purchaser. Consolidated Zinc and Tasmania, in its purchasing capacity, come very little into the picture in our dealing.
We do, however, understand that the finance that Consolidated Zinc and Tasmania will provide will be provided partly as ordinary share capital and partly as loans raised from the shareholders, and possibly from other sources. This finance will be provided by Consolidated Zinc and the Tasmanian Government in the ratio of two to one, subject to the proviso that the
Tasmanian Government will not be under an obligation to find more than £3,000,000 up to the completion of the 28,000-ton stage. This is subject, as I have already mentioned, to the arrangement that the Consolidated Zinc interest will in due course be taken over jointly by that company and Kaiser Aluminium.
The covering bill provides for the future of the commission. The intention is that as from the date of completion of the sale the commission’s only functions will be the giving of effect to the. agreement and the winding up of its affairs. We expect that within a month after the date of completion, the commission will have been able to do most of what has to be done in this regard. But there will be the possibility for some considerable time that something may emerge from the past business of the commission in respect of which some action needs to be taken in the commission’s name. With this in mind the services of the present commissioners will be terminated as from 1st February, 1961, but the commission will thereafter for an indeterminate period be kept in formal existence in the person of the Secretary to the Department of National Development. Eventually, when it is considered safe to do so, the Aluminium Industry Act will be repealed, the commission will cease to exist, and any residual rights and obligations remaining to it will be vested in the Commonwealth. Other provisions of the bill are essentially of a machinery nature, to give effect where necessary to the provisions of the agreement, for example as to superannuation.
I have described the principal provisions of the agreement of sale and the covering bill. I turn now to the reasons why the Government has entered into this agreement. The purchasing company has accepted an obligation to expand the undertaking. The Commonwealth Government has been very much concerned, as has the State, with ensuring that such expansion would take place. The two Governments have provided capital funds for the present plant totalling £11,200,000- the Commonwealth having contributed £9,700,000 and the State £1,500,000. However, the profit of the commission on this total of £11,200,000 was only at the rate of 1.4 per cent, in 1958-59 and 1.1 per cent, in 1959-60. It has been obvious for some time that, if the undertaking was to be placed on a sound economic basis, substantially larger plant was necessary.
The. Government has also had in mind the need for expansion of the plant from the point of view of the requirements of the Australian market. Australian consumption of aluminium is now at about 38,000 tons per annum, and it is steadily increasing. Imports of aluminium to make up the difference between the commission’s production and our requirements are costing us in the region of £6,000,000 in foreign exchange. The expansion of the plant involves very considerable finance - of the order of £9,000,000- to go to 28,000 tons. It is not, in our view, the proper role of the Commonwealth to find this finance at the taxpayers’ expense. There are more than enough calls on the Government’s resources for purposes which are the prime responsibilities of Government. We therefore look for private finance for our national development. If it comes from abroad it has the additional attraction of assisting our balance of payments.
The commission has achieved the purpose for which it was set up, namely the establishment of the nucleus of an aluminium industry in this country. But conditions have changed since the setting up of the commission. We have found that Australia has great natural resources of bauxite, particularly at Gove in the Northern Territory and at and near Weipa in Cape York Peninsula. We have, therefore, been anxious to see the development of the industry on a scale which would make good use of these very large resources. We must expect that, with the development of these resources, competition - and probably quite keen competition - will become the order of the day in the aluminium market in Australia. The Bell Bay plant will need to participate in this competition. It is not, in the opinion of the Government, appropriate that the Commonwealth Government should be involved in this as a party. This is especially the case because the Commonwealth may well have to discharge in relation to Bell Bay and its possible competitors the proper function of Government, which is to be impartial in the interests of the public and of the developmentof the nation’s resources. It is for these reasons and against this background that the Commonwealth has been desirous of disposing of its interest in the Bell Bay plant to private concerns which would undertake to develop it energetically.
We are very satisfied with the agreement we have secured both in relation to the policy ends that I have outlined, and also from the narrower point of view of the bargain that we have been able to make. We have achieved a sale by which we have recovered virtually the whole of the Commonwealth’s original investment of £9,700,000 though, admittedly, on the basis of granting time to pay. If the rate of profit which the commission has been able to earn in the last two years is considered, honorable members will appreciate that we could not have expected to get anything like £9,700,000 in cash. But in addition to the purchase price which we are getting firm, we will, should the company be successful, get interest on our money at up to 5 per cent. per annum. We thus get both a good firm price and the chance of an additional benefit in the event of the company’s success.
Finally, 1 would say a word about the relationship of this transaction to the announcements that have recently been made of the intention of Consolidated Zinc, in association with Kaiser Aluminium Company, to undertake large developments in the aluminium industry in Australia and New Zealand. These developments include, besides the expansion of Bell Bay, the establishment of an alumina plant at Weipa with a 360,000 ton capacity and of a 120,000 ton aluminium smelter in New Zealand. The companies have made it clear that these are only the first and firm instalments of their general intention to push on with a very large scale industry in this part of the world. The Government welcomes these developments and regards the sale and promised expansion of Bell Bay as a timely and appropriate part of them. The development of our extensive bauxite resources could hardly, as is abundantly clear, be accomplished without the introduction of major blocks of overseas capital. Moreover, it could hardly be accomplished without the participation of concerns having access to world markets for alumina and aluminium. Our own Australian market is not nearly big enough to match our wide resources of the raw material. With this sale the Government has placed itself and the private companies concerned in the right relationship for the full and economic development of this industry.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Barnard) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Defence Forces Special Retirement Benefits Bill 1960.
Wool Use Promotion Bill 1960.
Cattle and Beef Research Bill (No. 2) 1960.
Meat Export Control Bill (No. 2)1960.
Wool Research Bill 1960.
Without requests -
Wool Tax Bill (No. 1) 1960.
Wool Tax Bill (No. 2) 1960.
Debate resumed from 18th August (vide page 188), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is very trivial. It is not the bill which the Auditor-General foresaw would be presented to the Parliament promptly after the presentation of his last report in August. There can be no objection to the bill itself. It merely carries out the recommendations contained in the report of the Public Accounts Committee completed last January and presented to the Parliament last March. The bill seeks to repeal subsection (2.) of section 36, and paragraph (f) of section 51 of the principal act. Section 36 (2.) is in these terms - (2.) The Minister of each Department shall within thirty days after the close of the financial year prepare and transmit to the Treasurer a statement of all claims in respect of the services of hit
Department outstanding at the close of such year which might by law have been paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund during such year.
Section 51 states -
The Auditor-General shall forthwith examine such statement and prepare and sign a report explaining such statement in full and showing -
As I have said, this minute bill seeks to repeal those two provisions.
– We were urged to do it.
– The Government was urged to do it by the Public Accounts Committee in its 46th report which it signed on 21st January last and submitted to this House on 10th March.
In his annual report for last year, which was tabled on 17th August last, the Auditor-General stated -
Pending formal repeal by the Parliament, Treasury obtained Cabinet approval that the statements required under section 36 (2) be dispensed with for the financial year 1959-60.
You will note, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the obnoxious terms of the Auditor-General’s report. Cabinet authorized Treasury to break the law “ pending formal repeal “ of the sub-section by the Parliament. It is something new, even for this Government, when the repeal of acts of Parliament becomes a formality. The Government cannot always assume that the other place will acquiesce in things that this House wants to do. If in fact Cabinet told Treasury that it could break the law pending formal repeal of the sub-section by the Parliament, Cabinet was acting with a good deal of presumption, even for a Cabinet such as we have now. If the AuditorGeneral volunteered the term “ pending formal repeal by the Parliament”, it was sheer impertinence on his part. Nevertheless, there can be no objection to the repeal of these sections even if there is objection to the assumption that the law would be repealed, and therefore that it would be safe for the Treasury to disregard the law this year.
The more important thing about this bill is that it is so trivial in the light of the job that has to be done in amending the Audit Act. Substantial and numerous amendments of the act have been sought by the present Auditor-General and by his predecessor since 1952, and the Government has promised to make those amendments. The seven amendments of the act since 1952 have all been as trivial as this one.
In his report for the year ended 30th June, 1952, the then Auditor-General, Mr. Brophy, stated -
The Audit Act originally received Royal Assent on 7th August, 1901. In the intervening 51 years it has been amended on many occasions, but it has not received the comprehensive examination which the passage of time has indicated to be necessary.
This general question has been taken up with the Treasury and the Attorney-General’s Department. The Parliamentary Draftsman has indicated that he is in entire agreement with the suggestion that a complete review of the Audit Act should now be undertaken.
An extensive list of suggested amendments involving more than two-thirds of the 91 sections of the Act has been submitted by me to the Treasury for consideration.
In the 1957 report the Auditor-General said -
Recently, the Treasury advised it is anticipated that amendments to the Act will be ready for consideration of the Parliament in the autumn session, 1958.
In September, 1958, I asked the Prime Minister why he had not persevered with those amendments which the AuditorGeneral had advocated in their reports every year since 1952 and which he himself promised, in November, 1952. He promised to give me a reply. Later, in answer to a question which I put on notice the Treasurer agreed, on 7th April, 1959, that successive Auditors-General had advocated a review of the Audit Act in every annual report since 1952 and that the Prime Minister himself had promised to amend the act in 1952. He told me how much work had to be done.
He told me how many things, apart from the act, had been done - such things as Treasury regulations, Treasury instructions, overseas account arrangements and so on. Then he came to the point and said -
A major section of the Audit Act, namely, that relating to the Trust Fund, has been the subject of intensive inquiry by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts which completed its Report in November, 1957.
Nothing, Sir, has yet been done about amending the act in accordance with that three years old report of the Public Accounts Committee. This present bill flows from the Public Accounts Committee’s next report, and it follows with comparatively commendable promptness.
Not only did the Prime Minister himself in 1952 promise a review of the Audit Act, but in September, 1954, one of the seven amendments which- have been made to the act since 1952 extended the term of office of the Auditor-General for a year after his reaching the retiring age of 65, and the reason given was that the AuditorGeneral’s continued services were necessary to prepare the legislation and pilot it through. Sir Eric Harrison said -
The present Auditor-General has had a life-long association with the accounting work of the Commonwealth, and during his period as AuditorGeneral has completed a comprehensive review of the Audit Act. His suggestions for alterations in, Treasury according procedures are now under examination, and during next year it is hoped to bring down legislation embodying substantial amendments to the Audit Act. It will be of considerable help to the Government during the consideration- and- drafting- of this, legislation- to have available the continuing services of the. Auditor-General to advise on the alterations which it proposes to make>
Mi: Brophy completed his additional year and the Government still had not brought in the amendments which he had advocated and which the Government had approved and promised.
Then, in the report which we received from the Auditor-General on 17th August last in respect of the financial year which ended on 30th June last, the Auditor General reported as follows: -
Reference has been made in annual Reports over the past seven years to the need for a comprehensive review of the Audit Act.
The Treasury recently conferred with my office on certain of the suggestions which have been made over the years by Audit and by the Public Accounts Committee.
Conclusions having been reached on a number of items, the Treasurer recommended to the Government the early introduction of a bill to amend the Audit Act 1901-1960. Approval was given and action is proceeding accordingly.
The proposed amendment of the Act will effect considerable progress towards remedying unsatisfactory features reported over several years.
It is quite clear that this bill with which we are dealing is not the bill which the Treasury and Audit conferred on, which the Public Accounts Committee recommended, which the Treasurer himself in turn recommended, which the Government approved, and about which the Auditor-General said, “ Action is proceeding accordingly “. When are we to receive the bill which has been in hand for over eight years?
I said earlier that there have already been seven bills to amend the Audit Act since this review was completed eight years ago, and the amending bills have been as trivial as this bill. They have reflected two things - the Government’s banking policy and the Government’s policy of inflation. I shall take them in sequence.
The sole provision of the Audit Act 1952 was to increase the salary of the AuditorGeneral from £3,250 to £3,350. In 1953 the act was amended consequent on the banking legislation of that year, so as to refer to the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia in addition to the Commonwealth Bank- of Australia. In 1954 the act was amended to increase the. salary of the Auditor-General from £3,350 to £3,500, and to extend his term, of office so that he could complete his review of the act. In 1955 the act was amended to increase the salary of the Auditor-General from £3,500 to £4,500. In 1957 the act- was amended to increase the salary of the AuditorGeneral from £4,500 to £5,000. In 1959 the act was amended again, this time to delete the reference to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and to insert references to the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth’ Development Bank of Australia.
Earlier this year the act was amended for the seventh time and this time, Sir, you will be interested to learn, it was amended to increase the salary of the AuditorGeneral from £5,000 to £5,900. In all this-, time - eight years- there were constant consultations between Audit and Treasury, promises by the Prime Minister, promises, by the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Vice-President of the Executive Council, who is at present the High Commissioner for Australia in the United Kingdom, to amend the act, and references in every annual report by the Auditor-General to the imminence of those necessary reforms. And now, the Treasury agreeing to them finally, the Treasurer recommending them finally, Cabinet approving them finally, and the Auditor-General reporting that they are promptly coming down, what do we have? We have the repeal of two sub-sections retrospectively permitting the Treasury to disobey the law, and for the future changing the law, as recommended and agreed to by all of us.
When are we going to get the amendments of the Audit Act which everybody agrees are necessary, which all the officials have been urging and have been agreed upon for years past, which the Government has promised for so long? I do not know a clearer example of the Government’s dilatoriness and futility and its failure to carry out its promises or provide efficient administration.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam.) has left himself wide open by coming into this debate and trying to make out a case that the Government is due to be berated because this bill proposes only one small amendment of the Audit Act when he, at this stage, would like to see many others. It is quite apparent that it is desirable, when an act of this kind is being amended, that all recommendations for amendments be dealt with at the one time. It is only on the rare occasion that it becomes necessary to take one amendment singly. If this were not the normal practice in the amendment of legislation we in this House, and people in other houses of legislature, would constantly find amendments being proposed singly, when preferably they should be grouped. What the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has overlooked is that the activity of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts proceeds through virtually every month of the year, and that there are recommendations going forward to the Parliament and then to the Treasury and the Government for various amendments. So whilst there have been references in the annual reports of the
Auditor-General to the fact that certain, amendments have been recommended, and that action is in hand by the Treasury for amendments to be presented to the Government, there have been additional amendments. But the point I really wanted topress at the beginning of my short contribution to this debate was the flexibility of the Government in this very amendment to which we are directing attention.
First, let me say I am concerned that my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), is not with us to-night, because I know it was his wish to make his contribution which has been valuable in debates of this kind. I am sure that every honorable member is concerned to know that our friend and colleague is again indisposed; and that accounts for his absence. But my intention was to contribute briefly to this debate because of certain important principles that are involved. The first I want to deal with is that this bill refers to outstanding claims; and perhaps it is wise for me to qualify the term “ sundry creditors “ which has been used because in the accounting expression, sundry creditors invariably brings tomind all liabilities at a certain point of time and all liabilities at the end of the financial year. That understanding is not linked inthis amendment which deals only with outstanding claims received by departments upto the end of the financial year. I want to underline that the intention here is only to deal, as the previous speaker said, with the amendment of two special sections of the Audit Act.
But the next principle, upon which I have already touched is this: I believe theaction taken by the Government here is a good example of the flexibility of the Government and Treasury officials. While I believe there are an accumulating numberof amendments to the Audit Act to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has just referred and that theseare pending for attention, the particular amendment now before the House has beentaken singly due to the fact that all investigations relating to this amendment have been completed. A report has been presented to this Parliament by the Public Accounts Committee, and also it was- apparent to the Treasury officials and to the Government that there should be no further delay in respect of this one amendment; otherwise, the Commonwealth would incur unnecessary work and very considerable expense. Now, there is the justification for taking a single amendment which we now have before us. I think that indicates the flexibility that we as a Parliament at all times should be prepared to prize.
To validate the aims of this work which has always been carried out in strict conformity with the acts each year, this amendment distinctly prescribes that the act shall operate as from 30th June, 1960. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has criticized this retrospectivity. He has suggested that this is a slur upon the Parliament. He talks of this formal repeal as being an expression which is undesirable. I want to bring an assurance that the Parliament’s interests have been meticulously observed as we can demonstrate from the wording of the report presented to this Parliament by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. It is good to see a commonsense attitude of this kind adopted. There could have easily been a decision to leave the act alone until the complete revision of the Audit Act was ready. If that had been done - and, in fact, that is what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked for - there would have been unnecessary work and considerable expense incurred. But I will at least be fair and temper the praise I have given the Government by saying that a reminder is necessary about the importance of all amendments to the Audit Act. I would support the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in saying that these are matters that should not be shelved. Here, there has been a sound decision to take one amendment and implement it in this way, and I do hope that in the autumn legislative programme of the House, we shall find further amendments will be presented by the Treasurer.
But another principle attaches to the very activity which we see here in the amendment. The amendment disposes of a cumbersome piece of accounting which the Public Accounts Committee, after full inquiry, found served no really useful purpose. I do not intend to read again the two sub-sections because the preceding speaker did that. It was apparent from his reading that there was a two-fold action. There was a requirement upon all departments to prepare lists of their outstanding accounts or claims against them as at 30th June, and as a corollary there was a responsibility on the Auditor-General. These are the two sub-sections which are now repealed.
It is interesting to note that the reference to the Public Accounts Committee of this proposal was in accordance with an understanding, or an earlier agreement, that the committee’s opinion might be sought in respect of any major alterations to the Audit Act. I believe that the members of the Public Accounts Committee appreciated that general understanding, for the Audit Act is constantly referred to in our negotiations with the Department of the Treasury. The Auditor-General, who comes as an observer to all public inquiries of the Public Accounts Committee, is constantly relating his actions and his reports to this important Audit Act, as we saw in the report referred to a few moments ago. I think it is a very reasonable proposition that the Joint Committee of Public Accounts might be given the opportunity, on all matters other than minor amendments, to express an opinion and to place a report before this Parliament so that the action of the Government might be in general accordance with that report.
The committee naturally turned to the history of the existing legislation. It was informed that the section which is now being repealed was taken from the New Zealand legislation. A second-reading speech on the Audit Bill in 1901 in this Parliament included the following explanation by the Treasurer of the day: -
In this Bill therefore we have adopted what is called the cash system, by which accounts are absolutely closed on the 30th June. But to prevent a practice which might be adopted of carrying forward payments to the next year, so as to avoid having too heavy an expenditure in any one year, it is provided in a clause taken from the New Zealand Act, that any claims outstanding at the end of the financial year must be shown to the Auditor-General by the Treasurer. The various Ministers have to furnish the Treasurer with the information, and that information is put before Parliament by the Auditor-General in his annual report. So that Parliament has an opportunity of knowing whether the Treasurer is endeavouring to hide a deficit by carrying forward considerable payments to the following year . . .
Thus it can be seen that the two reasons for this provision in the act which will face repeal were to prevent a practice which might be adopted of carrying forward payments to the next year so as to avoid having too heavy expenditure in any one year and, secondly, to disclose to the Parliament whether a deficit was being hidden by carrying forward considerable claims to the following year. It was also revealed in the inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee that varying interpretations as to what constitutes claims had been given from time to time. This, no doubt, was mystifying to the various departments of the Commonwealth.
The committee, in its forty-sixth report on this particular subject, presented some of the actual evidence and the views of the departments, lt is interesting to note various test checks carried out by Audit Department representatives had disclosed a considerable difference between correct claims outstanding on 30th June and the figures revealed by some departments to the Treasury in accordance with these particular provisions. I believe, therefore, that I am justified in saying that evidently many of the lists which had been produced at the cost of many hours of work by many of the clerical staff, supervised no doubt by senior personnel, were not an accurate record and reference to them could have been most misleading by those who may have sought the information.
It is important, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to recognize, as we face this amendment repealing this provision, that all the authorities consulted by the Public Accounts Committee were unanimous that this particular provision in its existing form was unnecessary. It was unnecessary because no one had sought the information. The Treasury observer came before the committee and could give no evidence at all of any inquiries made to the Treasury as to those lists submitted by all departments and referred to by the Auditor-General in his annual report.
The Treasury observer also advised the committee regarding the keeping within departments of registers of accounts. We were interested to find that the registers of accounts maintained, which were always under the scrutiny of the Auditor-General’s representatives, were, in effect, a list of every account or claim made upon a department. It is interesting to quote from the report of the committee on this point. It says, referring to the representative of the Treasury -
He did not think that the departmental statements of outstanding claims had any value administratively and explained that departments were required to keep a Register of Accounts which contained, in chronological order of receipt in the department, claims received for payment;
The evidence that we received on that point indicated that here, in a standardized form, was the information which virtually was being repeated at the end of each financial year.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) spoke as if the interests of the Parliament were not being fully considered. In the forty-sixth report of the Public Accounts Committee the specific interests of the Parliament were stressed. I think it should be recognized by the House that this statutory committee is a parliamentary committee and that its reports, in every case, must be tabled in this House. Perhaps it is wise for it to be enunciated again that this committee is the custodian of the Parliament’s interest in many fields of activity. In chapter V. of its report, setting out its conclusions, and particularly and specifically referring to this amendment, the committee said -
Your committee have shown . . . that the Treasury and other departments consider that sections 36 (2.) and 51 (f) might, with advantage, be repealed. But this is the outlook of the administration only and it remains to be considered whether the interests of the Parliament - one of whose functions is to exercise a control over the administration on behalf of the people - will suffer by the deletion of those clauses.
The committee went on to say that it did not think that they would. It stated -
We consider those interests can be protected as effectively by other means without the administrative effort involved under the existing legislation.
Continuing further it said - it reasonably can be expected that there will be a substantial number of claims on hand in departments which cannot be paid before the close of the financial year. But this is unimportant and of little interest to the Parliament. What is important and, what should be disclosed, is any large-scale and deliberate withholding of payments at governmental or departmental direction: there could be occasions when it would be advantageous to a government or a department to defer payments . . . But any such action on a substantial scale by governments or departments would, we suggest, be apparent to the Auditor-General and his officers in the course of their normal check and we would expect that they would be disclosed to the Parliament in the annual report of the Auditor-General. Any such report could then be pursued further by the Parliament or your committee.
I do not think, therefore, that I need to stress any further the importance of what is a very small piece of legislation but a piece of legislation which is based upon those important principles to which I have referred. The measure may be small but it is of great import because of the principles upon which it is constructed. I therefore support the bill for the reasons I have indicated.
– I do not intend to speak on this bill at length. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) has read from the report of the Public Accounts Committee, showing what the committee considered could happen, namely, that amounts owing at the end of the year could be hidden from the Parliament. But we must face the facts and consider not merely what could happen but also the interest that has been taken in this matter. As the AuditorGeneral pointed out, and as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) mentioned in his speech, when the accounts are sent in by departments the Auditor-General has to mention them in his report. We, as members of Parliament, want to receive the AuditorGeneral’s report as quickly as we can for the discussion of the Budget.
So many departments have not fulfilled their obligations under the act to provide their list, that if the Auditor-General had waited for the lists to prepare his reports we would not have had his report in order to enlighten us in our discussion of the Budget. Throughout, we have not been able to find anybody who has been interested in bringing up any matter in connexion with the lists that should have been prepared. So, after evidence was taken, we recommended the deletion of the two provisions concerned.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) said that the Government had authorized the Treasury to dispense with the statements required under section 36 (2.) of the Audit Act pending formal repeal of that provision by the Parliament as recommended by the Public Accounts Committee. I think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was pointing out that the Government had taken action which the Parliament might not endorse. However, I think it is only fair to state that the Public Accounts Committee had no objection at all to the Government acting in the way that it did. We felt that section 36 (2.) of the act required the departments to do something which was really not worth much and that the practice should not continue. I do not want to refer to that further because I think that the correct action has been taken and I support the bill as it is.
I want to refer to one or two other matters to which the honorable member for Swan referred at length in reply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. When the Public Accounts Committee was reconstituted in 1952 the then Auditor-General, Mr. Brophy, gave us a lot of useful information. I thought that he was a very valuable man. The Auditor-General is one of the most important officers that we have, but he has power only to report to Parliament. He has no power to enforce his recommendations. The Public Accounts Committee is in much the same position. It can hear evidence in connexion with any matter and make a report to the Parliament, but it has no power to take any specific action. Unless Parliament decides to take action, the work done by the Public Accounts Committee may not produce any great results. But, as a general rule, the impact of that committee’s reports on public opinion is so great that the departments concerned endeavour to remedy any fault that the committee may find. I remind the House that Mr. Brophy’s term of office as Auditor-General was extended for one year to enable him to complete the preparation of what were considered to be desirable amendments to the Audit Act, but so far they have not been brought before this Parliament. When the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee presented the last report of the committee he said that some departments had not done certain things as quickly as they should have been done. The committee’s report also criticizes the Treasury for not doing certain things which would enable the various departments to carry out their obligations in a satisfactory manner.
My experience as a member of the Public Accounts Committee since 1952 has been that departments have failed to do what they should have done on many occasions. Only recently the Auditor-General referred to payments that were being made without legal authority, yet, when the committee recommends that regulations be prepared to rectify faults such as this, it is told that the drafting work will have to wait its turn and that it might be months before anything can be done. My experience all through has been either that the departments have not enough qualified men to make decisions or one department is being delayed in carrying out its functions because of delay occurring in another department.
I am wondering why so .many years have been allowed to elapse without any important amendment being made to the Audit Act. I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) that the Public Accounts Committee should scrutinize the suggested, proposals, but I repeat that if this Government considered six years ago that it was so important that the Audit Act be brought up to date as to warrant the extension of Mr. Brophy’s appointment for one year to supervize the preparation of amendments, I am at a loss to understand why nothing has been done as yet. Let me emphasize here that I speak now as an individual not as spokesman for the Public Accounts Committee.
I think this bill is a good one and that it should be approved by this Parliament. I realize, as I said earlier, that if at the end of a financial year certain accounts have not been finalized, it will not be possible for honorable members to know the true budgetary position. I appreciate, too, that a government could delay payment of accounts until after the end of the financial year in order to show a balanced Budget instead of a deficit, but I do not think that is likely to happen, especially when we remember that the Auditor-General controls these matters very carefully.
I support the bill, but I do hope the Government will consider the suggestions made by the Auditor-General. I emphasize again that the Auditor-General can only report upon matters and make recommendations. He has no power to compel departments to do certain things. That is entirely the prerogative of the Government. But when either the Auditor-General or the Public Accounts Committee submits reports to the Parliament suggesting certain alterations, the Government should take definite action. It should see to it that the defects reported upon are corrected.
We have been asked why the Treasury does not see to it that defects reported upon by the Auditor-General are rectified. I point out that the Treasury can argue that so many important matters are coming to it all the time for consideration by its senior officers that it has not time to police these irregularities. The position at the moment is that either the Auditor-General or the committee recommends that certain things be done but no one has authority to require them to be done. The Auditor-General does his part, and I believe that it is high time the Audit Act was brought up to date to ensure that these defects are remedied.
.- I hope the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) will answer the questions that were put to him directly, forcibly, and clearly by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam).
– Sit down and I will.
– That will be an interesting experience because this bill, simple as it is, and in itself probably commendable, is, to my mind, an example of the two abiding principles of this Government - presumption and procrastination. In the first instance, it is presumed in a report that the Parliament will do something to render legal that which is in fact illegal during the course of its commission. I am disappointed in the honorable member for Swan, whom I find from the notice-paper is one of the custodians of the public purse, nominated by this Parliament to a position on what is part of the public watchdog system. He said he was prepared to support the general principles that have prevailed in this instance.
I understand that the simple history of the matter is that eight years ago the Auditor-General-
– I will explain the history.
– That, too, will be interesting, because there have been so many procrastinations. I refer, for instance, to the Darwin High School, the National Library, and the Audit Act. They are in every field of government.
– I rise to order. What happened eight years ago has absolutely no relationship to this bill, which deals with a specific repeal.
Order! There is no substance in the honorable member’s point.
– As is customary, the honorable member for Swan, whose nomination to a position as one of the Parliament’s people in this field has been supported by this House, wants to support executive government and bureaucracy. Eight years ago it was suggested by the then Auditor-General, to whom all on the Government side paid high tribute, that there ought to be some 60 amendments to the Audit Act. After eight years, we have had, apparently, seven amendments. Two of them have related only to a change in the title of a bank and five of them have had something to do with the AuditorGeneral’s salary.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has already said all this.
– But the Minister has not given an answer, and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), who is his principal back-stop, ignored it completely. I want to know why there is so much procrastination over what ought to be simple administrative manoeuvres, even for this Government. One has only to turn to “ Hansard “ to see what undertakings have been given. On 2nd September, 1954, Sir
Eric Harrison, who was then Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for Defence Production, as reported at page 878 of “ Hansard “ of this House, said-
The present Auditor-General has had a life-long association with the accounting work of the Commonwealth and during his period as AuditorGeneral has completed a comprehensive review of the Audit Act. His suggestions for alterations in Treasury accounting procedures are now under examination, and during next year it is hoped to bring down legislation embodying substantial amendments to the Audit Act. It will be of considerable help to the Government during the consideration and drafting of this legislation to have available the continuing services of the Auditor-General to advise on the alterations which it proposes to make.
– On a point of order: Must the House be subjected to this process of tedious repetition, Mr. Speaker? The extract from a speech by Sir Eric Harrison which the honorable member for Wills has just quoted was read to the House by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition only about half an hour ago.
– I think the honorable member for Wills is in order.
– There is a standing order about tedious repetition, you know, Mr. Speaker.
– I should be grateful if that standing order were continually enforced, Mr. Speaker. The Treasurer would be forever silent if it were. On 7th April, 1959, the right honorable gentleman answered a question on notice about the Audit Act which was in the following terms: -
Has a review of the Audit Act been advocated by successive Auditors-General in every annual report since 1952?
This was more than eighteen months ago, and the Treasurer of that time was the same right honorable gentleman who sits opposite us this evening and who does not like these things to be repeated. I do not think it can go on the record too often that this Government is the epitome of procrastination. The question asked in April, 1959, which I have just read to the House, brought from the Treasurer this reply -
Yes . . .
The legislation will be brought before the Parliament as soon as possible.
– When was that?
– On 7th April, 1959- more than eighteen months ago. That was in the very early days of the present Parliament. What has been the history of the last few months? This bill was introduced in the middle of August, and this evening, in effect, as soon as I rose to speak, the very people on the opposite side of the House who have been responsible for the extraordinary delay which has occurred made it plain that they did not want us to say anything about it.
I am concerned about two things. The first is the question of parliamentary supremacy. I expect the honorable member for Swan to be just as ardent an advocate of parliamentary supremacy as I am. The second thing about which I am concerned is the procrastination which has bedevilled every field of government throughout Australia for the last eleven years. While this Government remains in office that procrastination will continue to bedevil us. If the Treasurer can satisfactorily explain the extraordinary delay in these matters, I shall be very happy to listen to him, whether he repeats himself tediously or not. I hope that we shall receive an adequate explanation of these things.
– in reply - Mr. Speaker, I do not propose to express myself at length on this ‘matter. If Opposition members are trying to imply that there are a lot of lazy loafers in the Treasury or in the Parliamentary Draftsman’s office, I suggest-
– They are too slow.
– They are not slow-witted like the honorable gentleman. All I can say is that my personal observation and experience indicate that the officers of both the Treasury and the draftsman’s office are among the most heavily worked people in the service of the Commonwealth. They give great service to this country. I think that, instead of sneering cheaply at them and their labours, we should acknowledge the debt that we owe to them.
– Do not shelter behind your officers.
– That is an unhappy turn of phrase, is it not? I think the honorable member ought to change his record. It is time he l-.dd an original thought on these matters.
I can assure the House that this matter has not been neglected and that a great deal of work has been done on it. Indeed, I expected that had the Parliamentary Draftsman not been as heavily engaged in this session as has proved to be the case, the more comprehensive measure which has been mentioned would have been introduced during this session. It is certainly my expectation that such a measure will be introduced in the autumn sessional period.
– Always something is to be done in the sweet by and by.
– Let us see what happens. If it appeals to the honorable member’s temperament to sneer, he may have the satisfaction that he seeks by sneering in twelve months’ time if the task has not been accomplished. A great deal of progress has in fact been made. Many amendments to the Treasury Regulations have been decided on and are already in the hands of the Parliamentary Draftsman. The whole of - the Treasury Instructions have been revised and re-issued, and the overseas accounts arrangements have been made and now provide the legal framework for the Commonwealth’s financial transactions overseas. A number of important parts of the Audit Act itself have been discussed with the .Public Accounts Committee and the nature of important changes in the regulations .has been clarified. Discussions with the Audit Office on a list of items which the Auditor-General regarded as the more important ones requiring change have been completed. Several other sections of the Audit Act require further historical research, and that is proceeding.
– That has taken more than eight years.
– Maybe so. I wonder how comprehensive a review of the Audit Act would be found to have been made during the eight years in which the Labour Government was in office if the honorable .gentleman bothered to take his researches back to that time. I cannot recall an occasion when that Government submitted to this Parliament proposals, for a review of the Audit Act. 1 could be mistaken, but I do not recall such an event.
Knowing that we should not be able,, in the time available to us in this session, to bring forward a comprehensive bill, we thought that we should at least respect the wishes of the Public Accounts Committee, and at some inconvenience to ourselves we have introduced this measure only to see, as has been evident this evening, the Parliament’s time taken up at considerable length in dealing merely with this one point. Despite the inconvenience, we felt that we had an obligation to both the Parliament and the Public Accounts Committee to adopt the course that we have followed. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has made a mountain out of this minor issue. Knowing that the Public Accounts Committee had recommended repeal of the provision which has been under discussion, we took the practical course of recommending to departments that they refrain from involving themselves in a very considerable amount of work which they would otherwise have had to do. For that now to be made a ground of complaint against and criticism of us shows, I think, either that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is far more pettifogging and petty-minded than I would have accused him of being, or that the Opposition is so reluctant to face up to the major issues that confront it as to feel compelled to divert its energies to the trivia which it finds about the place.
We are not disposed to ignore the views of the Public Accounts Committee; nor are we disposed to defer indefinitely the introduction of the comprehensive legislation which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and, apparently, some of his colleagues would like to see us put before the Parliament. For my part, I shall endeavour to see that that legislation is before the Parliament in the autumn sessional period, and 1 shall await with interest the constructive and helpful contributions which, in the light of this evening’s performance, we ought to be able to expect from Opposition members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Aborigines - Poisoned Water Supplies.
h asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
There shall be applied to the articles or to the covering or container thereof, as the case may be, in conjunction with the marking referred to, wherever such marking appears, and in conspicuous and legible characters, a definite qualifying statement in the English language indicating the country in which the articles were made or produced.
The item provides that the Minister for Customs and Excise may direct that the application of the qualifying statement to any particular article, coverings and containers is unnecessary in which case the statement shall not be required. I have given no such direction in relation to the automotive spares in question. Certain spares or their containers have been marked in the English language so as to indicate that they are for use in cars of particular makes such as Ford, Morris or Austin. Action has been taken by my department in terms of item 2 to ensure that the parts are properly marked as to country of origin before release from customs control. As notices under the Trade Marks Act in accordance with section 103 have not been given in respect of Ford, Morris or Austin trade marks, no action can be taken by my department under the Trade Marks Act to prohibit the importation of parts marked Ford, Morris or Austin. I understand that it is open to owners of trade marks to take action to protect their interests under other provisions of the Trade Marks Act. I might mention that this problem has been discussed with officials of the Japanese Embassy in Australia. The honorable member may be assured that my department is keeping a close watch on importations of this nature.
Importation of Books.
e. - On 23rd November, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) asked certain questions regarding the book “ Lady Chatterley’s Lover “. The Minister for Customs and Excise has now SUPplied the following answers to those questions: -
The unexpurgated version of the book which was banned some 30 years ago is still deemed to be a prohibited import under the Customs Act. The question of continuing the ban is at present being examined. This examination will take in all aspects of the matter including the views expressed by various sections of the community.
Australians undertaking Training Courses in Moscow.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 December 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19601201_reps_23_hor29/>.