25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether his attention has been drawn to the urgent need for more cargo shipping space for Tasmania, especially to lift Tasmanian products to the mainland. Does the honorable gentleman know that recently 900,000 super, feet of timber was ready for export from Hobart but shipping space was available for only half of that amount? Is the Minister aware that Tasmanian timber producers are losing good sales to the mainland because there is an alarming shortage of shipping space? May I point out that two years ago Tasmania had timber for sale but the credit squeeze had destroyed the markets; to-day we have the markets but inadequate shipping space for the timber. Will the Minister investigate the possibility of the Australian National Line supplying another cargo ship to carry the products of our island?
– Mr. Speaker, very shortly there will be a quite considerable addition to the total tonnage of shipping plying between Tasmania and the mainland. At least two new private enterprise ships and one new Australian National Line ship will be added. I suggest that we wait to see how these vessels cope with the cargo offering before we make any further decisions about new ships.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. During the past three years some young men and women from the Territory of Papua and New Guinea have attended the Outward Bound school at Fisherman’s Point on the Hawkesbury River. As it is now proposed to establish youth training courses in the Territory, will the Minister examine the possibility of arranging with the Outward Bound Movement to train instructors and youth leaders for these courses?
– I know that some soroptomists’ clubs in Australia have endeavoured to sponsor a course for two young Papuan women. The only part the Territory Administration has in this arrangement, to my knowledge, is the selection of these two young women, and I understand that the sponsors are responsible for the other arrangements.
– I wish to ask the Minister for the Navy a question. Has his attention been directed to a report beaded “Our Bath Tub Fleet”, which says we have seven admirals for fourteen ships? Is this true and, if so, does it not look a bit like having too many chiefs and not enough Indians?
– I certainly did see that article and another one which followed it. Furthermore, I saw a little more than that because on the 7th of this month I noticed that the same paper carried a list of its articles for the next day, one of which was titled “ We Sink The Navy “. I noticed also that the same paper, which is noted for a certain standard of journalism, did not hesitate to accept an advertisement from the Navy for recruits, which occupied a full page opposite one of the articles in question.
– 1 ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: Has there been a drastic falling off in the rate of work on the Sydney waterfront over recent months, particularly in the loading rate of wool? If this is so, is it due to a deliberate campaign on the. part of the Waterside Workers Federation to force the employment of more men in the hold? What effect has the poor rate of work on the turn-round of vessels, and does it further aggravate the present waterfront position caused by the shortage of labour?
– I think the House will know as the result of some documents which have been published recently that there has, over the whole of Australia, been an improvement in the loading rate over the last six or seven years. But there has been a falling-off in the loading rate for wool - something like 7 to 8 per cent, over those years. As to recent months, I have been informed, unofficially, that there has been a falling-off in the loading rate for cargoes, particularly wool. I am having this checked by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority because the facts are not readily available, and I hope to have the figures shortly. What I can say is that the number of strikes and the loss of manhours in Sydney are twice as great as for the rest of the ports in Australia put together. I think this leads to the conclusion that there is a deliberate attempt by the Sydney branch of the federation and by the job delegates of that branch to stop effective work on the Sydney waterfront. This is a matter not only for the Commonwealth but also for the steamship owners and the stevedoring companies who have the major share of the responsibility. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission also is involved. The stevedoring companies have the right to approach the commission in order to see that their rights are properly maintained. As to the future, I can tell the honorable gentleman that recently the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority decided to increase the port quota of Sydney by 600 men and that of Melbourne by 300 men. Recruiting is proceeding. It is my present hope that the first of the new workers will be registered on 23rd of this month in Melbourne and shortly after Easter on the Sydney waterfront.
– - My question is directed to the Treasurer. When a person is injured while on voluntary military training and receives the full entitlement to compensation prescribed by the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, can an ex gratia payment be made to reimburse him for the difference between the net payment received and the amount of the salary that he would have received in his private occupation but lost as a result of his injury?
– I do not know whether the honorable gentleman has in mind any particular case. If he has, I would prefer to examine the details and then give him a reply rather than attempt now to comment on what is in essence a policy matter. If the honorable member will give me the details of any case that he has in mind, I shall give him the best answer I can.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Interior. Following on the excellent results obtained by the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology in giving warning of the Macleay River flood, for which the bureau deserves high praise, does the Department of the Interior intend to extend this warning service to States other than New South Wales and, in particular, to the Pioneer River, at Mackay, in Queensland, where severe floods regularly have caused loss of life and/ or property?
– I should like to say how pleased I am that the honorable member has observed the success achieved by the hydrology section of the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology in warning of floods on the Macleay River. The extending of this service to other areas of Australia depends on the availability of finance and of staff, including meteorologists and engineers, whose numbers are limited. Where local government authorities apply for an extension of the service, each case will be considered on its merits and priority will be given according to those merits. If the honorable member should get one of the local government authorities in the catchment area of the stream concerned to write to me, I shall have the matter examined.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that the Australian Army is training Malaysian officers? Is it a fact also that Indonesian Army officers are being trained in Australia? Is this in conformity with the Government’s policy on Malaysia, or is the Government playing safe and betting each way?
– The Australian Army has been training Malaysian officers in various Army schools for some time, just as it has been training officers of the armies of a wide range of countries in South-East Asia. Currently, two Indonesian army officers are doing a course at the Australian Staff College. They were admitted after consideration of a request made some time ago. We would consider on its merits any future request by Indonesia for the training of army officers.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. I should like to congratulate him on the beautiful and distinctive new stamps depicting birds. As all the denominations of these stamps are Id. above the most common rates of postage now current, I ask for the Minister’s assurance that this does not mean that postage will be increased in the near future.
– I am pleased to give the honorable member such an assurance.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I ask: How many educational requisites or items of stationery that are used by school children and other students are subject to sales tax? Are items such as rulers, exercise books, pencils and ball-point pens subject to sales tax at rates ranging from I2i per cent, to 25 per cent.? Does the Minister consider that the imposition of sales tax on these items is reasonable when they are used exclusively for educational purposes? Has he been requested by representative bodies to abolish sales tax on such items? If so, is he in a position to make a statement on the matter?
– I am sure the honorable gentleman will appreciate that the items he mentioned are used not only by school children but are widely used also by many people in the community. There are some practical problems about eliminating sales tax in respect of school requisites and at the same time maintaining the tax on the items, for revenue purposes, when they are purchased for use by other members of the community. The matter has been examined. Many members of the Parliament have made representations about it and it is one of the matters that are studied at Budget time with a view to their inclusion in any tax relief that we are able to give. So far the Government has not felt persuaded that sales tax on these items should occupy a higher priority than do items that have been given relief. However, I shall see that this matter continues to be brought forward for our consideration.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. In view of the criticism of certain aspects of the criminal law in the Australian Capital Territory has any consideration been given to bringing the law more into line with modem thinking?
– There have been criticisms of the criminal law in the Australian Capital Territory. The most recent of such criticism, I think, was in this House during the consideration of a bill in the last Parliament. I am able to tell the honorable member that my distinguished predecessor, the honorable member for Parramatta, asked the Law Council of Australia whether it would set up a committee of experts to formulate a criminal code that could in the future be enacted for the Australian Capital Territory and other Commonwealth Territories and, for that matter, possibly be adopted as a uniform criminal code throughout Australia if it should appeal to the Attorneys-General and Governments of the States. The Law Council of Australia has agreed to set up the committee of experts. As I understand it, the council will meet next month in order to appoint the experts. The Attorney-General’s Department proposes to make a professional officer available to the committee and will provide typing facilities for it. I believe that the matter is at this stage in good hands.
– I desire to ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. Is it correct that television stations TCN-9 and GTV-9 hold a lease from the Postmaster-General’s Department for a period of two years to use a channel between Sydney and Melbourne for certain programmes? I understand that this deal was arranged through Sir Frank Packer. Will the Minister inform the House of the terms of the lease, particularly the fees that are being paid for the use of the channel?
– It is true that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has leased two lines in the recently installed coaxial cable for Channel 9 in Sydney and Channel 9 in Melbourne, I answered a question that was on the notice-paper, I think, only yesterday, and gave a good deal of information about this matter. I do not think I gave the amount that is payable for the lease. I suggest that the honorable member look at the answer I have given. I think he will find there most of the information he requires.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Interior. Has the Minister received a request from the Australian Water Resources Council that a site for a national hydraulics laboratory be reserved adjacent to Lake Burley Griffin? If so, has the request been granted, and where is the selected site?
– A preliminary approach has been made to the National Capital Development Commission for a site to be reserved adjacent to Lake Burley Griffin for use by the Australian Water Resources Council. At the moment the council’s exact requirements are not known and until further discussions take place a decision on the location of the site for the proposed laboratory cannot be made. I assure the honorable member that when all details of this matter are known every consideration will be given to allocating an appropriate site to the council.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman will remember saying last October, in answer to a question in relation to the acquisition of new aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force -
At this stage some person lacking in elementary honour obviously -conveyed to the press the content or the substance of the cable from my colleague. It appeared in the press.
The Prime Minister to-day will have read reports in that same press which give detailed accounts of alleged Cabinet discussions last night on the possibility of acquiring a small force of Phantom supersonic fighter-bombers instead of the B-47E as an interim replacement for the Canberra bomber. Has the Prime Minister investigated this leakage of defence .information and has he ascertained who was responsible for it?
– I have seen in the press the statement referred to by the honorable member: I am not prepared to discuss a matter that is under examina tion by the Government; but if the honorable member seeks to tell me that we still have more than a reasonable supply of dishonorable people, I would agree entirely.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say whether he has received from the solicitors acting for the relatives of the late Lieutenant Price of the Royal Navy, who was officer of the watch on board H.M.A.S. “Voyager” at the time of the collision which led to her sinking, a request that their costs of appearing before the current royal commission should be met from Commonwealth funds? If the honorable gentleman has received such a request will he say what decision, if any, has been made about it?
– I have received from the solicitors who act for the widow of the late Lieutenant Price a request along the fines indicated by the honorable member and have given the matter very serious consideration. I learned that apparently the late Lieutenant Price was officer of the watch and was on the bridge of H.M.A.S. “Voyager” at the time of her collision with H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “. The honorable member will know that a decision has already been made by the Commonwealth to meet the legal costs before the royal commission of the widow of the late Captain Stevens of H.M.A.S. “Voyager”. I had in mind the fact that counsel has been appointed to assist the royal commission. Counsel assisting the commission has a duty to ensure that all relevant facts are before the commission and to assist the commission to reach a proper conclusion on the facts and acts placed before it. Accordingly I had some reluctance in agreeing to meet the costs of the widow of the late Lieutenant Price. However, reference to naval regulations made it clear that in the case of the late Lieutenant Price a special interest arose which was not likely to be matched by the interests of any other person involved in the collision. In these circumstances and after some discussion on the matter I have agreed that the Commonwealth should meet the costs of representation before the royal commission of the widow of the late Lieutenant Price, but only costs <>f representation’ which is essential to the interests of the late Lieutenant Price.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. In view of statements by two of his supporters in this House in the last few weeks alleging that there are Communists in the Australian Labour Party, will the right honorable gentleman ask the Australian Security Intelligence Organization for the names of any members of the Australian Labour Party who are known to be Communists? Will the right honorable gentleman make the names available to honorable members by making a statement on the matter in the House?
– Do I understand the honorable member to refer to members of the Australian Labour Party, as a large organization in Australia, or to honorable members in this House?
– In this House, or in Australia.
– If the honorable member refers to members of the Labour Party in this House, my answer to his question is “ No “.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, follows a question that I asked the Minister for Primary Industry yesterday. Can the Minister tell me whether any action has been taken to expedite the loading of ships in Sydney and Melbourne so that the very strict programming of ships carrying export fruit from the port of Hobart can be adhered to?
– Towards the end of last week I received a report from the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, informing me that the port quotas in Hobart and the other Tasmanian ports would be substantially filled and, consequently, no difficulty in loading the Tasmanian apple and pear crop was likely at the moment to be experienced. Surprisingly to me, the chairman of the stevedoring companies’ association asked me whether I would see him on Monday. I asked’ the chairman of the A.S.I.A. to be present at’ the meeting. I was informed that due to hold-ups of ships in Sydney and Melbourne the tight schedules would not be maintained and that some of the fruit might be left on the wharves.. That surprised me, because I had not heard of it previously, although I am in frequent contact with the ship-owners and the stevedoring companies. I asked the chairman of the authority whether he had been informed of it previously and he said that he had been informed only on the preceding Friday.
I then instructed the chairman to see whether he could persuade the stevedoring companies, which have the responsibility for the allocation of priorities in the use of waterfront labour, to give priority to ships that had to load the apple and pear crop. But I understand that the stevedoring companies were reluctant to do that although recently they did give a degree of priority. Early yesterday afternoon I instructed the chairman of the authority to continue trying to obtain the co-operation of the stevedoring companies for higher priorities. I communicated with him again last night and asked him to contact the chairman of the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour to see whether the employers could ensure that higher priorities would be given to the loading of ships in Sydney and Melbourne in such a way that the strict schedules could be maintained.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, I ask it in the light of the answer that he gave to an earlier question about who instructed counsel in the basic wage case. Can the Minister say whether he, the Department of Labour and National Service or the Treasury instructed counsel appearing before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the current basic wage case to argue on behalf of the Commonwealth that concentration on the productivity factor in the Australian economy would destroy, for all practical purposes, the capacity-to-pay concept? Has the Government now thrown overboard the plea that it has made for nearly fifteen years, namely, that wage increases should match only productivity increases? If it has, what is now the Government’s policy on this all-important question?
– It is the Government which has acted in this matter and which takes complete responsibility for the presentation of the Commonwealth case before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is of no use to try to single out one or other of the departments. My department, the Treasury, the Department of Primary Industry and other interested departments were involved in the preparation of the instructions. Frankly, I do not understand what the honorable gentleman Ls getting at in asking this question.
In reply to the second part of his question, I say that ever since the abolition of the concept that wages were based on the family unit of a man, his wife and two children, or whatever the concept happened to be, and the adoption of the concept of capacity to pay, we have consistently argued that all the ingredients of capacity to pay have to be taken into consideration - not productivity alone. We still regard that as the position. It was the Commonwealth that gave the instructions to counsel in this matter, and in my opinion that was the right method of approach.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Army who no doubt will agree that the more practical experience Army engineers obtain in road construction the more efficient they will become. To give the people of the Riverina and northeastern Victoria direct access to holiday resorts in Gippsland, and to give auctioneers, graziers and stock transports a direct route to store stock markets, will the Minister consider favorably permitting the Royal Australian Engineers ot Southern Command to gain some practical experience in tough road-building by allowing them to cooperate with the Victorian Country Roads Board in constructing the necessary sevenmile road link at Mount Skene, thus completing the highway from Maffra to Mansfield?
– I can assure the honorable member that the Royal Australian Engineers receive adequate experience in road-building. Indeed, Army policy is to rotate the regular field units through New Guinea, where they undertake road con.struction, as well as other important works, in co-operation with the Administration. As the honorable gentleman will realize, the engineers have other important tasks to perform in the construction field. The honorable member was good enough to give me notice of this question so I had a careful examination made of the particular project that he has in mind. Although I fee] sympathetic, I am bound to tell him that the engineers are fully occupied at present and we are unable to meet his request.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. Did the Prime Minister recently receive, from a Minister in an important Asian city, a cable which referred to the Minister for External Affairs? Were copies of that cable subsequently recalled to the Prime Minister’s Department and destroyed? If these are facts, can he explain why the cable was sent and what reply was made to it on his behalf?
– I have become quite accustomed to fiction. There is no truth whatever in the statement. There was no such cable. Neither the Prime Minister nor I has ever heard of it. Nor was any cable recalled or destroyed; nor do I quite understand why the story was invented.
– I ask the Treasurer”: What progress has been made by the Commissioner of Taxation in providing regulations acceptable to the Government relative to depreciation on mill buildings and employee housing in forest areas? The right honorable gentleman will recall that this matter was covered by an amendment to the taxation legislation last year. Will he endeavour to expedite these regulations and to ensure that adequate scope will exist for the timber industry of Australia to obtain the benefits intended by the Government?
– I shall refer the honorable gentleman’s question to the commissioner and shall supply him with a reply from the commissioner.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral’s attention been directed to a recent statement by the New South Wales Minister of Justice to the effect that the continuance of appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is an archaic procedure and that the High Court of Australia should be Australia’s final court of appeal? Does the Attorney-General agree that that statement is consonant with the overwhelming sentiment of the Australian nation? Will he inform the House of the number of constituent countries of the Commonwealth of Nations which have acted on the lines of the suggestion of the New South Wales Minister of Justice, and will he take appropriate action to bring Australia into line?
– I have seen a reference to the statement by the New South Wales Minister of Justice. 1 must say that I do not share the view expressed by the honorable member in his question that the overwhelming sentiment of the Australian nation is that appeals to the Privy Council should be abolished. Quite apart from that, I suggest that the honorable member cast his eye over section 74 of the Constitution, when he will see that it would not be a simple matter to eliminate appeals to the Privy Council even if he and the Australian people wanted to do so. Apparently the honorable member and his party have never forgotten what happened to their bank nationalization legislation at the hands of the Privy Council.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. It concerns a recent statement in the Belgian Senate by that great European and world socialist leader, Paul-Henri Spaak, in which Mr. Spaak said he opposed recognition of Communist China because to recognize it would be to present Communist China with a great diplomatic victory, and would merely encourage Communist China’s present policy, which is designed to foment revolution in Africa. Does the Minister consider that there is a difference between the realism of Mr. Spaak’s approach to this question and that of his socialist confreres in Australia?
– I did read Mr. Spaak’s statement. I agree with the honorable member that Mr. Spaak is a very great and responsible statesman, and that his approach to the question of the recognition of mainland China was a singularly responsible one. Honorable members may remember that I have pointed out in this House, not only in the statement I read the other evening but also in debate, that to recognize red China would involve our departing from policies which many of our Asian friends are entitled to expect us to continue, to follow. I have said that there would be very severe repercussions in SouthEast Asia if we allowed the Chinese Communists to enjoy a diplomatic victory, as Mr. Spaak calls it, or if the South-East Asian countries were allowed to feel that they had been abandoned.
The honorable member invites me to contrast Mr. Spaak’s realistic attitude with what I have heard from socialist leaders in Australia. The contrast is, of course, very noticeable. Incidentally, I noticed that a day or so after General de Gaulle had announced his intention to have diplomatic relations with Peking the Leader of the Opposition said that this showed that all the talk on the Government side of the House to the effect that it was impossible to recognize red China without abandoning the people of Formosa was, in short, a lot of nonsense, and that General de Gaulle had apparently found a way in which to recognize red China without abandoning the Formosans. The honorable gentleman was, of course, just a couple of days too soon in his statement, because within two days Peking said emphatically that it would not have diplomatic relations with a country which also had diplomatic relations with Formosa. As I pointed out in my speech the other night, it went further and said that it was not a mere matter of diplomatic relations, because mainland China claimed the right to have Formosa returned, as it were, to the Chinese fold, and to compel Formosa to return by any means that mainland China thought fit to use. I should have thought that the statement of the Leader of the Opposition clearly highlighted the difference in sense of reality and responsibility between such a great statesman as Mr. Spaak and the Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask a question of the Attorney-General, supplementary to the question asked him by the honorable member for Cunningham. Since all the judges of the High Court are members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council,
I ask the Minister whether arrangements have been made for Australian Privy Councillors to sit in Australia to hear appeals which lie from State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council.
– I will make inquiries about this matter and see that the honorable member is given a suitable reply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. I ask the honorable gentleman whether his department is able to estimate with a reasonable degree of accuracy the numbers of aboriginal pensioners on each of the Government settlements, church missions and large pastoral properties in each State. Is it a fact that in many cases the payment of the whole or portion of a pension is made to persons or institutions on behalf of an aboriginal pensioner? If so, does the department know which aboriginal pensioners are affected? If the department does not know the numbers involved, how does its office in each State calculate the amount required to be forwarded to each settlement, mission or property for distribution? If the department is aware of which aborigines are affected, why has the Minister refused to give me that information in reply to a question on notice in relation to certain places in Western Australia?
– The honorable member should know, as other honorable members know, that social service benefits are paid to Australian citizens who qualify for them and no record is made of their ethnic origin. So it is not possible for the department to give the information that is sought by the honorable member.
– I ask the Treasurer whether .he is aware that many independent traders are being seriously affected by extremely fierce competition from large chain stores. Is he aware that one of the problems of small traders is that they do not always have ready access to suitable long-term finance to enlarge and modernize their business premises? Will the honorable gentleman consider altering the constitution of the Commonwealth Development Bank to create a special department - for example, a department similar to the Small Business Administration in the United States of America - for the purpose of making finance available to small independent traders?
– As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, I am not aware that the processes of competition are working any more harshly now than has been the case for many years. Competition usually means that the superior competitor fares rather better than the inferior competitor. The question of the provision of adequate finance for businesses which have developmental potential has occupied the attention of the Government from time to time. Many years ago legislation was directed to giving aid to small businesses, and subsequently the Commonwealth Development Bank was established to give financial help where the trading banks were not disposed to lend to particular borrowers. Whether there is a need to give assistance along the lines recommended by the honorable gentleman is a matter on which I would not give a categorical answer at the moment. I shall study the honorable member’s question and discuss it with the chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation.
– On 27th February I asked a question of the then Minister for the Navy who has now the full-time job of Minister for the Army. I direct my question now to the new Minister for the Navy. I ask: Why are the Navy jetty and installations at Thursday Island being scrapped? Does the Government consider that the naval installations which are suitable for use by torpedo boats are not required at this entrance to the Arafura Sea?
- Mr. Speaker, a rather detailed reply to the honorable member’s question has been prepared. I understand that the jetty to which he refers is not a naval jetty and has been under the control of the Department of Shipping and Transport for some time. A detailed reply should reach the honorable member within a few days.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Is the honorable gentleman aware that the present New South Wales Government, of which the present Minister of Justice has been a member for some time, has, on occasions considered suitable by it, resorted to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as a party appellant?
– I am very well aware of that procedure. It shows that there are occasions when what is said publicly is not necessarily the view which is held privately.
LOAN (QANTAS EMPIRE AIRWAYS LIMITED) BILL 1964.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the borrowing of 25,000,000 dollars or about £11,200,000, by the Commonwealth on behalf of Qantas Empire Airways Limited. The bill contains an appropriation of the Loan Fund to enable the proceeds of the borrowing to be advanced to Qantas. It also includes an appropriation of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to enable the Commonwealth to meet payments of principal and interest and other charges associated with the loan. Funds to meet these latter payments will be provided by Qantas, so that there will be no net cost to the Commonwealth.
The borrowing is being made by the Commonwealth in order to assist Qantas in purchasing three Boeing 707-338C jet aircraft and related equipment in the United States. The new aircraft will increase the Qantas frontline fleet to cope with expected increases in traffic. The additional aircraft will bring the company’s Boeing fleet to sixteen, and are expected to be delivered between February and September next year.
The arrangements for the borrowing are similar to those approved by the Parliament in May, 1963, when the Commonwealth borrowed 9,000,000 dollars- £4,000,000 -on behalf of Qantas, and 11,000,000 dollars- £4,900,000- on behalf of TransAustralia Airlines. The entire proceeds of the borrowing will be made available to Qantas by the Commonwealth on terms to be determined by the Treasurer. These terms will be the same as the conditions under which the Commonwealth itself has borrowed the money. As Qantas will be required to meet all charges as they become due under the loan agreement, the Commonwealth assumes a function similar to that of guarantor of the loan, and there will be no net charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Including the present loan, the Commonwealth has now borrowed 85,400,000 dollars in New York for the purchase of aircraft since 1956, of which 69,400,000 dollars has been for Qantas Empire Airways Limited and 16,000,000 dollars for TransAustralia Airlines. Of the earlier loans totalling 60,400,000 dollars, an amount of only 30,000,000 dollars, or less than half, remains to be repaid. In addition, a further 39,200,000 dollars has been borrowed for aircraft purposes from the International Bank and the Export-Import Bank of Washington, of which 28,900,000 dollars is still outstanding. These loans have contributed significantly to the fleet extension, modernizing and re-equipping which Qantas Empire Airways Limited and TransAustralia Airlines have undertaken in recent years.
The loan is being made by Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York, the Chase Manhattan Bank, Irving Trust Company, and Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago. The text of the loan agreement is annexed as the schedule to the bill. The average interest cost over the life of the loan is slightly less than 5 per cent. Virtually the whole of the cost of the new aircraft and equipment is to be met by Qantas in the United States, and the favorable offer made by the lending banks was therefore accepted.
The loan will be drawn by the Commonwealth at the request of Qantas as payments for the new aircraft are required by the manufacturer. Drawings on the loan will commence immediately after the parliamentary approval has been obtained to the bill, and are to be completed by 30th
September, 1965. Until that date, interest is payable at the rate of 41 per cent, on amounts drawn, and a commitment fee of 1 per cent, is payable on the undrawn balance. As the loan is drawn, the Com- Imonwealth will issue a series of interim promissory notes to the lenders. On 30th September, 1965, the interim notes will be exchanged for a series of notes of approximately equal value which are payable half-yearly between June, 1966, and December, 1972. The notes repayable in 1966 and 1967 will bear interest at 4i per cent., those repayable in 1968 and 1969 will bear interest at 4J per cent., those repayable in 1970 will bear interest at 5 per cent., those repayable in 1971 will bear interest at 51 per cent., and those repayable in 1972 will bear interest at 51 per cent. Other provisions in the loan agreement are similar to those included in earlier agreements negotiated by the Commonwealth in the United States for borrowings for aircraft purposes, except for the provision in section 7 of the loan agreement requiring the Commonwealth to pay the lenders any interest equalization tax that may be levied on the transaction. Although we have received an assurance that this transaction will not be subject to interest equalization tax when the American measure providing for that becomes law - this is one of the types of transaction which, in our understanding, is excluded from the operation of this legislation - the lenders sought its inclusion on this occasion. A provision of this type has become the normal practice in oversea loans made by United States commercial banks since the announcement of the proposed tax.
The terms and conditions of the borrowing have been approved by the Australian Loan Council, and the borrowing will be additional to the Commonwealth’s programme of £49,900,000 for housing approved at the June, 1963, meeting of the council. As with previous loans arranged on behalf of Qantas Empire Airways Limited and TransAustralia Airlines, the Commonwealth is acting only as an intermediary, and the borrowing will therefore involve no net call on the Commonwealth’s resources. I commend the bill to honorable members.
– Mr. Speaker, before I move that the debate be adjourned. I ask: Would it be possible for the Treasurer to give the House some information on the
American interest equalization tax. I have not been able to find any details of it, and I would be interested to get some information on the legislation?
– As it happens, Mr. Speaker, I have secured some information on this matter in quite recent hours, because I expected that there would be some interest in the matter in this House. The latest information we have available - this is the advice to me from the Treasury - is to the effect that that bill was passed by the House of Representatives in Washington early this month, as reported in the press on 10th March, lt now has to go to the Senate, where it is expected to be referred to the Senate Finance Committee for further examination. The London “ Financial Times “ reported recently that there was some expectation that the opponents of the bill would endeavour to wage a last-ditch stand in the Senate Finance Committee. Accordingly, it is not clear how soon the proposed measure will become law.
In its present form the legislation is designed to impose a tax on any American resident who purchases securities issued by a foreign borrower. Foreign borrowers include governmental as well as private borrowers. The tax will not apply to securities issued for less than three years, but operates in the form of an ascending percentage, depending upon the term of the loan. For example, lenders offering loans of three to three and a half years would pay a tax of 2.75 per cent, on the value of the debt obligation and this would rise to 12.25 per cent, at twenty years and 15 per cent, for over 281 years. The effect of this tax - and I think this is the important point for the House to grasp - is to increase by approximately 1 per cent, the interest cost to foreigners of obtaining capital in the United States, assuming that the effective after-tax rate required by the American investor will remain the same as before the tax was imposed. The tax is designed to operate retrospectively from 17th July, the date on which President Kennedy announced a comprehensive series of balance-of-payments measures to Congress, one of which was the interest equalization tax. The measure is designed to apply to borrowings by the 22 countries listed in the bill, but not to borrowings by “ less developed “ countries. The 22 countries include most European countries, Japan, Canada and Australia. The effect of the measure has been quite dramatic, as indicated by the following table of longterm capital outflow during the four quarters of 1963. The table is as follows: -
The Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington reported that the 30,000,000 dollars raised in the final quarter of 1963 was borrowed by corporations and that there were no offerings from foreign governments. It will therefore be seen that, although the measure has not yet been adopted as law in the United States of America, the effect is already apparent to a quite remarkable extent. The main exemptions from the tax, apart from the fact that it does not apply to borrowings of less than three years, are that it does not apply to loans by United States commercial banks in the ordinary course of business, or to loans for the purchase of equipment manufactured in the United States and it is on this latter ground that the proposed Qantas loan will be exempt. The President is also given power to exempt borrowings by the 22 listed countries if, in his opinion, there is a potential threat to a country’s monetary system arising from the fact that it is faced with higher borrowing costs in the United States. Only Canada, which depends very heavily on the New York market, has been given this exemption, although it has been reported in the press than Japan has made attempts to have the exemption applied to its borrowings in the United States. The draft bill provides that the tax .will not apply to borrowings made after 31st December, 1965, but we cannot say with any certainty what the future situation will be. No doubt it will be affected by the experience of the operation of the legislation at the time it becomes law.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 17th March (vide page 574), on motion by Mr. Roberton -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Government is to be congratulated upon the introduction of this very beneficial piece of legislation. The bill is designed to achieve three objectives: first, to help those with large families; secondly, to assist in giving parents an opportunity to give their children higher education; and, thirdly, to assist institutions which are caring for children. The bill proposes an increase of 5s. a week in child endowment for each child of parents who have three or more children. It proposes also - for the first time - to provide child endowment for parents with children between the ages of 16 and 21 years who are undergoing fulltime education. It provides also for the payment of 15s. a week to institutions caring for children.
I think it is important that, before examining this bill in detail, we examine the essential nature of child endowment. It does not create any more wealth in the community, but represents simply a transfer of income from one section of the citizens of Australia to another section. Insofar as the effect is simply the transferring of money from the rich to the rich, the process could be described as being somewhat futile. Any bill that baldly provided for us to tax a person an additional 10s. a week in order that we might give him back 9s. 6d. a week would be laughed to scorn. So far as child endowment represents the transfer of income from the poor to the poor, the effect is equally unsatisfactory. Therefore, child endowment legislation can be justified only if it is based on a transfer of income from those with the broadest financial shoulders, as it were, to those who are in need. Unless need can be established, there is no justification for a transfer of income in the manner provided for in the child endowment scheme.
I believe that we ought to look at the history of child endowment, Sir. It was introduced in 1941 as a result of a basic wage hearing in which the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, as it then was, came to the conclusion that the economic position of the country at that time did not justify any increase in the basic wage. At the same time, the court found that the basic wage was inadequate to enable a large family to maintain itself according to reasonable Australian standards. At the time, the Chief Judge of the court said -
I regard the present basic wage as adequate for a family unit of three persons, but think it offers only a meagre existence for a family unit of four-
That is a man, wife and two children - - when the unit gets beyond four hardship is often experienced.
Therefore, what I may describe as a compromise was arrived it. Child endowment was introduced to remedy this difficult situation in which a general rise in the basic wage would have been unwise although the circumstances in which large families had not sufficient to maintain themselves according to reasonable Australian standards could not be allowed to continue. To finance the scheme, the government of the day introduced the pay-roll tax. I think it was overlooked at the time that this, being a tax affecting the cost of production of goods, obviously would have the effect of increasing prices in a very short time, thereby placing the burden of finding the money for child endowment most heavily on the shoulders of those with large families. This was appreciated after a number of years, and child endowment ceased to be related to the pay-roll tax, which became one of the ordinary taxes of the country. From then on, child endowment was paid out of general revenue accumulated from money collected from various tax sources.
When we consider the question of whether child endowment rates should be increased, we have to consider how the money out of which the higher rates will be paid is to be raised. If it is raised by a regressive tax - a tax that bears most heavily on large families - child endowment could be a complete sham. For example, if we told large families that we would provide an extra 5s. a week for each child but that they would be taxed the equivalent of 6s. a week for each child to pay for the increased endowment, the scheme would be a sham. We have to consider not only the needs of those who receive child endow ment but also the means of collecting the revenue out of which the endowment is paid.
Insofar as the revenue is collected by means of income tax or company tax, we can say that the levy is made according to ability to pay, and consequently the whole scheme really involves a transfer from the middle and higher income groups to large families in the lower income groups. This, of course, is not always the case in individual instances, but it represents the overall result. Similarly, insofar as taxes are levied on luxury commodities, we can say that those who have excess money to spend on luxuries, and who have the ability to pay, are paying taxes in order to provide funds for transfer to large families in the form of child endowment.
As I have pointed out, the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was concerned about large families and endeavoured to suggest a means of remedying their situation. Likewise, this Government, when about to go to the people at the last general election, concerned itself with the same problem. We were not simply anxious to curry favour with a section of the people by offering a hand-out to those with children. In any event, the money would have to be collected from the people generally before it was handed out in the form of endowment. In effect, the Government said: “ A certain section of the community is suffering. This section is composed of two main groups made up of people with large families. We shall help them by providing an additional 5s. a week for the third and subsequent children. In the main, the money needed to pay the additional endowment will be collected by means of taxes levied, as is usual in Australia, according to ability to pay, and partly on luxury goods.”
The Government also acknowledged the need for better education and more technical skills. It realized that the parents of large families often were forced by economic circumstances to take their children from school and deny them higher, education. Simply because families could not afford to keep children at school any longer, the children had to leave school and go to work. So, in this bill, the Government has made provision that every parent who wishes to keep his children at school or at university undergoing full-time education between the ages of sixteen and 21 shall receive endowment at the rate of 15s. a week for each such child.
The additional 5s. a week for the third and subsequent children under sixteen years of age will assist 520,000 families and 900,000 children. It will cost £12,100,000 a year. I venture to say that this will be most beneficial because the overall effect will be that those most in need will receive assistance. The second part of the proposal, which relates to child endowment for children undergoing full-time education, will cost £5,600,000 a year. These are large amounts, but they are amounts that are well worth spending for the very beneficial results that will be achieved. The third arm of the proposal deals with mainly unfortunate children whose parents for some reason are unable to care for them. They find themselves in institutions and the institutions have the greatest struggle to maintain the children on the amounts that they are able to collect. The increase in the rate of endowment to 15s. a week for each child in an institution will be a considerable help to the institutions.
I want now to compare the very beneficial results that will flow from this bill with the ill-considered proposals put forward by the Australian Labour Party. In its policy speech for the last election Labour announced that it proposed to increase child endowment to ils. a week for the first child, 19s. a week for the second child and 22s. a week for the third and subsequent children. Labour proposed to increase endowment for the first child from 5s. a week to lis. a week. This would have cost £24,000,000 a year and in the main would have simply transferred money from the rich to the rich or from the poor to the poor or from people who needed it to people who did not need it.
– Whose policy is this?
– This is Labour’s policy. Let us examine the position. The average wage in Australia to-day is between £22 and £24 a week. That, we can say, is the amount received by the average man. Labour’s proposal would have given the average man an extra 6s. a week for the first child at a cost of £24,000,000. That £24,000,000 . would have been collected from the general taxpayer. In many instances, it would have been collected from people on the basic wage with three or four children. The overall effect of the payment of the extra 6s. a week would have been, in many cases, to transfer money from people who were in need to people who were not in need. It was the most futile proposal that any party has ever put forward in this country. It would have had a most detrimental effect on the economy and would have set the country back rather than advance it. Labour’s next proposal was to increase endowment for the second child from 10s. a week to 19s. a week. This extra 9s. a week would have cost £23,600,000. The total cost of these two proposals would have been £47,600,000 a year. Once again, the effect of the proposal in the main would have been to transfer money from people who were in need to people who were not in need. The third proposal of the Australian Labour Party was an extremely miserable one. It proposed to give to the third and subsequent children £28,000,000. This is all that the people with large families would have received and must be compared with the £47,600,000 that would have gone to the people with only one or two children and with far less need.
– You are giving them about £6,000,000.
– We are giving them £12,100,000, but you proposed to give £47,600,000 to people with one or two children. Let us look at Labour’s proposal in relation to student children. The need is greatest for parents whose children become sixteen and who wish to send their children to a university for a full-time education. All that Labour proposed to do for them was to give them £3,000,000 a year, but we propose to give them £5,600,000 a year.
– Is the word “ give “ quite right?
– We are transferring it from one section of the community to another section. We .think it is completely, justified when, it is being transferred from? those not in need to those in need. We say, as the Chief Judge said when child endowment was introduced, that the people who need assistance are the people with large families and the people who wish to give their children a higher education, whether at school or at a university. I think the Government is to be congratulated on this bill. It is a bill that has a sound basis of economics and it will be of tremendous value to the people of Australia.
An Opposition member asked, by way of interjection, “ What about a means test? “ The imposition of a means test for child endowment has been given a lot of consideration. It would be much more sensible to introduce a means test in relation to the first child instead of proposing, as Labour did, that the rate of endowment for the first child be increased. However, as I have often pointed out to the House, a means test creates all sorts of anomalies and injustices. I need not repeat them; they are well known. Therefore, I think the Government has been wise in intimating that it is prepared to pay this very substantial additional amount without the imposition of a means test, and I wholeheartedly support the Government’s action. It is true that under our proposal some people will receive additional child endowment that they do not need. But those people are few in numbers compared with the masses. It is common knowledge that people with large families have a very great need of additional income. It is common knowledge also that people providing fulltime education for their children have a great need of additional income. The Government has avoided the necessity of imposing a means test and has instead decided to measure need according to general categories. Generally speaking the greatest need arises in the case of parents with large families or those whose children are receiving full-time education. Accordingly the benefits have gone to those people.
Last night in this House the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) made a most extraordinary speech. One could not help but feel that he has lost his dash, if I may refer to him in that way. The honorable member’s speech was illconsidered. He accused Government supporters of failing to support on other occasions the completely unsound and uneconomic1 proposals of the Labour Party.
I have already pointed out how unsound it would be from Australia’s point of view to increase child endowment for the first child because to do so would simply mean that parents would pay their own child endowment less administrative costs. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said that no honorable member on this side of the House would have the courage to condemn Labour’s proposals. I accept his challenge. I condemn Labour’s proposal to pay an extra £24,000,000 out of the pockets of the taxpayers in child endowment for the first child unless a means test is imposed; and I do not advocate that. Labour’s proposal is completely unsound and uneconomic. Little wonder that the people of EdenMonaro gave the honorable member the fright of his life last November and reduced his majority substantially. If he continues to make speeches like the one he made last night he will soon cease to be a member of this House because he will not have the support of his own people. I do not propose to deal further with his speech. His arguments were so economically unsound and so lacking in logic and commonsense that they are not worthy of further discussion.
This bill is soundly based. It is supported by history. It is based on the original reasons for introducing child endowment. It will help those families most in need of help. It will add to the economic strength of Australia. Last night the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) referred to a statement made by the Treasurer when the child endowment legislation was first introduced into this Parliament. What the Treasurer said on that occasion has equal force to-day. This is a good bill and I commend it to the House.
.- May I preface my remarks by congratulating the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and other speakers from my party on the contributions they have made to this debate. They have given by book, chapter and verse the history of child endowment in Australia. They destroyed the pathetically weak and pedestrian advocacy of Government supporters who attempted to justify the paltry, parsimonious and pinchpenny legislation that has been presented to the Parliament for our approval.
After reading the second-reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) I can construe his introductory remarks as nothing more than an exercise in self-deception. No person with average intelligence in this year of enlightenment would expect anybody outside a political kindergarten to agree that complete credit for the introduction of child endowment should be given to this Government for the action taken by a government of similar political colour in 1941. The history of child endowment is well known and 1 propose to refer to it in some detail. The Minister, with great unction and considerable eclat, has informed us that the millennium is here. The Liberal Party - its members are liberals in name only when spending money - and its allies have opened the bowels of their compassion so far as the children of the average worker are concerned and propose to give a princely 5s. a week to the third child. The Minister poses - 1 suppose he is entitled to do this if he wishes - as a lord bountiful dispensing largesse to the tune of 5s. a week for the third child in every worker’s family. He calls on the heaven, the sun, the moon and the stars to witness his contribution of 15s. a week towards the fulltime tertiary education of the children of working class families. If ever he was to increase this sum to £1 a week I suppose he would expect the very planets to halt in their courses. Like Alexander seeking new worlds to conquer and in the rolling sweep of his prose he stated that with so much achieved - by inference, in matters of widows’ pensions, age pensions and the like - the opportunity now arose to introduce the millennium - I assume in child endowment. Truly we have seen a mountain in labour and it has brought forth the proverbial mouse.
In this year of grace we are faced with grim and stark realities. We do not hear any of the kind of talk from honorable members opposite about the affluent society which we heard in other debates. We do not hear references to Australia’s record balances overseas, record bank deposits, the need to mop up surplus liquidity and the allegedly affluent society that exists in this country. We do not hear about any of those things. In this debate we get down to stark realities - to the niggardly, parsimonious, grudging, miserable, insignificant and paltry bribe of 5s. flung contemptuously to the third child in every family. There is no question to-day of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) standing in front of a television camera, slipping into his familiar act before a captive audience, and, after an appropriate number of takes, saying, “ Trust me; you have never had it so good.” I submit that the truth is that the people have never been had so well. I have no doubt that the average worker’s wife in my constituency will preserve this bill. She will hand it on to her children saying: “ There you are my child; there is your charter of emancipation. After fourteen years of delay we were able finally to get this remarkable and munificent sum of five whole shillings a week for every third child.”
What does 5s. a week amount to - at least in the sovereign State of New South Wales? At present-day prices it amounts to the cost of exactly three 2-lb. loaves of white bread, or a little more than the price of 1 lb. of butter which incorporates an amount which enables us to subsidize the export of the cream of our butter and its sale overseas at reduced prices. It amounts to half a loaf of bread a day for six days for a family of three children. After they have stuffed the crumbs down their gullets for six days, I assume that on the seventh day they all mortify themselves and contemplate the parsimony and niggardliness of the present Government.
The records show that the first attempts at the introduction of child endowment were made by the Holman Government in New South Wales in 1917. Of course, they were defeated by the reactionary Legislative Council - the stronghold of reaction incarnate, the arch exponent of conservatism. In 1921 another attempt was defeated by the same people. That attempt was made by the Storey Government. It was not until 1927 that the Lang Government, with the support of the Labour movement and the trade unions, was able to thrust child endowment through. The present Government and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) have attempted to extract some exiguous credit and vicarious glory from the statement that the anti-Labour parties were responsible for the introduction of child endowment in 1941. That is nonsense. In fact, it is worse; it is a deliberate attempt to mislead this House and the people of Australia.
The introduction of the 1927 child endowment legislation in the New South Wales Parliament provoked one of the most bitter and acrimonious debates in the history of that parliament. Slurs were cast by the conservatives of that day on the chastity and character of the women of New South Wales. It was suggested that the legislation would foster illegitimacy and that prostitutes would produce children in order to obtain the wonderful 5s. a week, which even then - nearly 40 years ago - was considered to be inadequate. What changes have occurred since that time in the cost of living, wages, income and the wealth of this country!
What are Australia’s greatest assets? As I see the position, they are the children born in Australia, whether they are born of old Australian parents or new Australian parents. If children are born here they are good Australians and they are our best assets. I suggest that honorable . members on the Government side of the chamber, instead of saying that too much money is being paid out, should take a broad and national point of view. That is the point of view that I take. It is the only one I am prepared to accept. Any child who reaches adulthood and works for 45 years will produce, at current rates of pay, productivity and prices, between £110,000 and £130,000 worth of wealth. In return for his labours, he will receive about £40,000, again at present prices and values according to the current indices. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), who cast aspersions on the Labour Party for its alleged irresponsibility and over-generosity, might pause to consider the fact that for a family of three children the increases of child endowment proposed in the last policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) would have aggregated £1,000 over a period of sixteen years. I give great credit to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) for his assessment that Australian mothers have been robbed of £400,000,000 by the present Government’s failure to increase child endowment in conformity with increases in the cost of living. Hundreds of thousands of children have not been born because people were not prepared to bring them into a life of penury caused by the fact that the Government was not prepared, in the national interest, to accept its proper responsibility to subsidize parents in the rearing of their children.
What is the lot of mothers to-day? I speak for the mothers in industrial areas. After a mother has endured the pangs of childbirth three times She is told that she can receive 15s. a week for the third child. After she has sweated, slaved, skimped, scraped, patched, darned and made do by passing clothes down through the steps and stairs of the family, this Government tells her that if she succeeds in rearing a child and keeping it at school until it is sixteen years of age she will receive 15s. a week so that it may complete its secondary education.
What is the choice before a decent young married couple from working-class families? It is a simple choice, but it is also a stark and nasty one. They can either save to get a home for themselves - most of them cannot get one other than by purchasing one - or rear a family. They cannot do both. They have to make their choice out of a national average income of £22 a week. If Chey are particularly fortunate that will be their income, but the average income of an unskilled or semi-skilled labourer in my constituency is closer to £17 10s. a week. They have to pay between £5 and £5 10s. a week in rent for a housing commission home, and fares and fuel. The alternative is that they can commit themselves to the purchase of a house at a cost of £3,500 or £4,000. Their repayments will be about £7 or £8 per week, particularly if they have a second mortgage. If a couple choose to produce children and give hostages to fortune, this Government will give them 5s. a week extra for the third child.
If the wife of a worker wants to supplement the family income, she has the choice of going endlessly to a cash order company or a hire-purchase company, always with the threat of disability to the breadwinner being caused by accident or ill-health and the family being thrown back on the resources of charity, or on the dole or whatever you like to call it. But the Government still offers only 5s. a week extra for the third child. Prices of commodities have been uncontrolled and uncontrollable. The only limits have been the ability of buyers to pay and the greed and rapacity of the sellers. Since 1953 the basic wage has been frozen; there have been no quarterly adjustments. It has been a case of catch as catch can. The matter is still being argued. The cost of medical and hospital treatment and medicines has never been higher, thanks to the very remarkable national health scheme introduced by this Government.
Let me refer to another field in which the Government is hiding behind the skirts of the working women. The average mother to-day, after she has borne a couple of children, has to go out to work. Last Tuesday’s issue of the “ Australian Financial Review “ shows that at the present time 20 per cent, of all married women have to go out to work. They are not going to work in order to buy luxuries; they are going to work in order to buy necessities. That is a shame and a disgrace. In a country such as this the wage paid to the breadwinner should be adequate to maintain him and his wife and family. Instead, there is no alternative but for the women to go out to work. Consequently, to-day the ratio of females to males in employment is one to three. I repeat that at present 20 per cent, of married women are going out to work. According to the projection of the writer of this article in the “ Financial Review “, 33J per cent, of married women will be working by 1971, again I emphasize, not to buy luxuries but to buy the stark necessaries of life and to supplement the deficiencies of incomes of their husbands.
I listened with great interest to the comments of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle), who suggested that our scheme of child endowment was the wonder and admiration of the world. I should like the honorable gentleman to accompany me to Greater Wollongong, which has a population drawn from every one of the major countries of Europe. There I will introduce him to groups of migrants from Great Britain, Holland, Denmark, Sweden or any other European country. They will tell him of their scorn and contempt for the paucity and parsimoniousness of our present scheme of child endowment. Never let it be forgotten that it is to the great credit of a Labour government in Great Britain, and of social democratic governments - in other words, Labour governments- in Holland, Denmark, Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, that social service schemes, which in every case provide benefits far in excess of ours, have been introduced.
We have missed the main point in this debate. We should not be arguing and scrabbling in the dirt for a few paltry shillings. We should be thinking in terms of stimulating the growth of population, of building up this country and of filling its vast empty spaces. There is no better way to do that than by granting marriage loans. We bring to Australia a migrant family of, for instance, a man, his wife and three children. They make an immediate impact on our economy, because public utilities and housing must be provided for them, the total cost of which is of the order of £6,000 made up of from £3,000 to £3,300 for a house and land supplied by a housing commission, £700 for the electricity supply - 7 kilowatts of power are required for the average homer at a cost of £100 a kilowatt - £300 for the provision of portion of a hospital bed for the family, £150 for the provision of school facilities for each child, and so on. You can take my word for it that the total is £6,000. And we consider that a good investment. It is a good investment because we bring in a man in the prime of life who is capable of full-scale production according to his ability, trade and training.
In the case of an Australian child, at its birth there is no immediate strain on the economy of the country, but there is an immediate strain on the economy and the finances of the particular family. That is the point I make. I believe that we should do something for that family. I have always considered that, subject to a means test, any young couple of good health and good character should be given £1,000 when they marry. If three children are produced within five years the loan should be wiped off completely. Give them a flying start. We will get back our investment, not tenfold, but a hundredfold.
Now let us examine the political implications of this legislation. May I remind honorable members that contrary to usual practice the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) presented his policy before the Prime Minister. And it was indeed a very good policy! It gave the Prime Minister reason to think furiously. And he did think furiously and carefully and, with characteristic callousness, he came up with the correct answer. He said to himself: “ I shall not attempt to bid against it. I have blotted my copybook. I have not the remotest hope of getting now the votes of those people who for so many years have been denied adequate child endowment.” Mark you, Sir, despite the paeans of praise which honorable members on the Government side have bestowed on themselves for the terrific landslide, only 2 per cent, of the electors of Australia changed their minds at the last election. Only one person in every 50 - no more - changed his mind.
The Prime Minister set out to get the votes of that small group of electors, and he got them with an unholy trinity of promises. He knew that the upper income group would provide the majority of students who would benefit most from tertiary education. Far be it from me to deny to those students their rights, but this is the point that I make in all sincerity: The cost of the Government’s election promises for students from 16 to 21 years should have been a charge on education funds, not on child endowment. The Government’s proposal will be used - in fact, I fear it is already being used - as a convenient pretext for the abandonment, at least for this year, of the remarkable system of scholarships which the Prime Minister proposed. Immediately after the Leader of the Opposition announced his policy came the counterblast - “We will pay child endowment until a full-time student reaches the age of 21 years”. The necessary percentage of additional votes was won by that promise, which was supplemented by the second member of the unholy trinity of promises, the promise of a housing grant of £250. In itself, this may be a very good thing, but how many young men and women starting off in life can accumulate £750? The somewhat upper income group was again the Government’s legitimate political prey.
The third member of the unholy trinity was the offer of a housing loan of treble the income of the borrower up to a limit of £2,000. If we take the argument of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), who preceded me, the average worker can thank the Government for nothing. He receives only £1,100 a year, and treble that is £3,300. But the housing loan limit is already £3,500. Votes were bought back from people who had swung away from the Government in 1961, and that is how the election was won. Funds have been diverted from their legitimate use - to feed the children in large families and the people who need it most - to provide a system of what is virtually education scholarships and is related in no way to the principle of child endowment.
I thank the House for its tolerance. In conclusion I say, shame on the Minister for introducing such a bill and a plague on the government which could conceive and support it.
.- I rise at this stage to make some comments on this legislation, principally because of the features that were introduced into the debate by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) when he presented the bill to the House. As the Minister quite properly pointed out, the bill deals with three main issues and gives effect to three promises that were made to the people of Australia by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in his policy speech in 1963. The effect of this legislation is to honour those promises.
The first promise was to increase child endowment for the third and subsequent children under the age of sixteen years to 15s. a week. The second promise was to apply that increase to children in approved institutions, and the third was to provide endowment at the rate of 15s. a week for full-time students aged between 16 and 21 years. The Opposition has no quarrel with the Government in respect of these three matters. We certainly do not oppose the passage of this legislation. Our quarrel with the Government results from our contention that the legislation most certainly does not go far enough and, during my speech, I shall demonstrate what I mean by that remark.
This bill was introduced by the Minister for Social Services, who now sits at the table. We all heard the Minister’s secondreading speech and witnessed his performance at the table. I venture to say that there would not be one honorable member in this House, whether on the Government or the Opposition side, who would not, having listened to that speech, have come to the conclusion that the Minister now believes that nothing constructive can possibly be put forward on this issue by any member of the House. I have never ceased to wonder at the complete disregard displayed by the Minister for the suggestions made by honorable members in debates on social service legislation. He completely overlooks any points made by honorable members on this side, and he generally ignores any constructive criticism from honorable members on his own side. We believe that the Opposition has every right to criticize the Minister’s actions. We all remember that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) last night replied on behalf of the Opposition to the Minister’s second-reading speech. The honorable member requested that certain matter be incorporated in “ Hansard “. That request was refused. A most unreasonable attitude was displayed by the Minister.
– The Minister had nothing to do with it.
– As I say, a most unreasonable attitude was shown by the Minister who now appears to be taking some notice of the debate. In these circumstances, the Opposition believes it has every right to adopt the kind of tactics adopted by the Minister in dealing with honorable members on this side of the House. I have already said that we do not oppose the passage of this legislation. Indeed, we congratulate the Government on being prepared to accept some of the principles that have been expounded by honorable members of the Opposition during many parliamentary sessions and which, indeed, were placed before the people of Australia by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) during the recent election campaign.
What the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) said a few moments ago contains a great deal of substance. He pointed out that the Prime Minister, after listening to the policy speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition towards the end of 1963, decided immediately to grant some increases in child endowment. We should now ask the Minister for Social Services, having regard to his comments in the second-reading speech, why the Government had to wait fourteen years before increasing child endowment payments, when throughout that period representations were continually made to it to increase those payments and to extend some measure of justice to people receiving this benefit who had suffered because of increases in costs and prices.
Throughout the whole of that period of fourteen years the Minister has remained adamant that increases in child endowment payments were not necessary. We can only assume that if the Prime Minister had not decided to offer such increases during the general election campaign the Minister for Social Services would have been the last person on the Government side to advocate any increases in child endowment payments.
– That is not correct.
– That has been demonstrated in this House time and time again. When the Opposition moved an amendment during the Budget session last year with a view to having child endowment payments increased, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) was one of those who voted against it. Now, only a few months later, honorable members opposite rise in their places, as did the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) a few moments ago, and applaud the Government for making the first increase in child endowment payments for fifteen years. We believe that the Government richly deserves the criticism that it is now receiving from the Opposition with regard to this measure.
I want to refer to some of the benefits that the Minister completely ignored in his second-reading speech. He appears to take a great deal of credit for social service legislation in this country. I will not deny that the Minister himself has been responsible, during his period of office, for introducing legislation from time to time to amend the Social Services Act in one way or another; but we on this side of the House know only too well that the Minister is the most unsympathetic of social service Ministers. I say quite emphatically that this legislation has not been brought down as a result of the Minister’s efforts but because his Government decided that some action was necessary when it had to face a general election.
Let me turn to some of the benefits to which the Minister did not refer, and which have been brought to the attention of the Government from time to time, not only by honorable members in this Parliament, but also by interested organizations outside it. The first of these is the funeral allowance. This has remained unchanged since 1942. Surely the Minister must realize that the funeral allowance is worth a good deal less in 1964 than it was worth in 1942. If he simply considers the way in which the basic wage has increased between 1942 and 1964 he will realize to what extent the value of the funeral allowance has declined. Why has not the Government accepted the proposition that this allowance should be increased? The Government has simply ignored that suggestion. It has also ignored the arguments advanced by the Opposition in 1963 for an increase in the maternity allowance.
I have mentioned two of these benefits. There are others to which I could refer. One social service that I have mentioned many times in this House is the issue of medical entitlement cards. The Minister must be quite familiar with the regulations governing the issue of these cards to various people who receive social service payments in one form or another. I do not accept the argument advanced on occasions by the Minister that this is a matter for the Department of Health. If you go to the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) on this question he will refer you back to the Department of Social Services. The fact is that a great number of recipients of social service benefits are denied medical entitlement cards. But the Minister did not once refer to this matter during his second-reading speech. He knows the circumstances that apply. He knows only too well that large numbers of pensioners are denied the issue of medical entitlement cards simply because the Government adopts a completely unrealistic policy. It has continuously applied a means test to prevent the issue of medical entitlement cards to people who have income in addition to social service payments.
We are told by the Minister that the Government has done practically everything that needs to be done for social service recipients. How wrong he is! After the last Budget he was told quite forcibly of the extent to which the people were incensed with the Government which, for the first time in this country, applied a means test of marriage. This is the first Government ever to do so. The people are still incensed. Representations have been made to the Minister in recent months for increased social service payments for those people who were ignored in the last Budget. I refer to the great mass of pensioners who are married and for that reason did not receive pension increases in the last Budget.
Many of those pensioners are denied the issue of medical entitlement cards because of the restrictions of the means test applied by the Government in 1955. We were told then that the means test was introduced because the British Medical Association, as it then was, had requested it, but the fact remains that the means test which applied in 1955 should not apply in 1964. Consideration should be given to the difference between the basic wage of 1955 and the basic wage of 1964. The 1955 means test on medical entitlements operates so as to exclude those single pensioners who receive £2 a week income in addition to their pensions. Married pensioner couples are excluded by the means test if they receive, in addition to their pensions, income exceeding £4 a week. The term “ income “ includes superannuation payments, war pensions and annuities - forms of income which should be disregarded in deciding whether medical entitlement cards should be issued.
I feel very strongly about this subject and I would like to refer to one or two anomalies. Married pensioner couples who held medical entitlement cards prior to the introduction of the means test in 1955 were allowed to keep them even though their income from sources other than pensions may have exceeded £4 a week. Married pensioner couples who have applied for medical entitlement cards since 1955 have been subjected to a means test.
I refer honorable members to another anomaly. Married couples who apply for age pensions or some other form of social service payment, who have -deposits of less than £418 in the bank and no other assets but who have additional income between them of £7 a week from part-time occupations are excluded from the issue of medical entitlement cards. However, honorable members know, as the Minister knows, that if the income from part-time occupations ceases and the couple are in receipt of no income other than their pensions, they are immediately upon application issued with medical entitlement cards. A few weeks later the couple, or one of them, may be offered another position from which earnings of £5 a week are obtained. The medical entitlement cards would be retained. I submit that no more stupid piece of legislation has passed through this Parliament than that for which the Minister for Social Services is responsible.
Motion (by Mr. Howson) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clause 1 (Short title and citation).
.- Subclause (3.) of clause 1 reads -
The Principal Act, as amended by this Act, may be cited as the Social Services Act 1947-1964.
I submit to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) the suggestion - in connexion with the principal act as amended - that his department should re-draft the bill because, as will be seen from the measure we are discussing, section 95 of the principal act is to be eliminated and replaced by another section, and this will make a radical change in the structure of the act. Further, the measure we are discussing will amend section 94 of the principal act. Not only section 95 is to be repealed, but also section 103, section 103a and section 103b, and certain new sections are to be inserted. The point I wish to make is that the principal act, as it will now read, will be exceedingly difficult to understand even for people skilled in the art of studying and interpreting acts. I suggest to the Minister that, in order to assist not only members of the Parliament but also the public generally-
– Order! I remind the honorable member that clause 1 relates only to the short title and citation, and its consideration does not allow him to speak on the subject-matter of the bill generally.
– I am guided by your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I just ask the Minister to consider submitting the bill we are discussing to the committee in a way similar to that adopted by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) from time to time, by setting out what is in the principal act and then, in heavy type, setting out the amendments proposed to be made to it. I suggest that the Minister give consideration to that the next time a bill such as this is to be presented and when amendments of this kind are involved. I defer to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, and I regret that I cannot elaborate further on the point at this moment. I will do so at a later stage.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
.- Subclause (2.) of clause 2 reads as follows: -
The remaining sections of this Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the fourteenth day of January, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-four.
This clause provides for the backpayment of increases in child endowment to 14th January of this year. As the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has always indicated on previous occasions that he was violently opposed to retrospective payments to age and invalid pensioners, I ask that he take this opportunity to explain to the committee why he has had this sudden change of mind and is now providing for the retrospective payments proposed in the legislation. The Australian Labour Party has endeavoured, on numerous occasions in the last thirteen or fourteen years, to have other social service payments back-dated to 1st July, the beginning of the financial year. But on each occasion the Minister has refused to accept the amendment moved by the Opposition, and members of both the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party have supported him in that attitude. If it has been good enough, for thirteen years or so, to follow that principle, surely this committee is entitled to be given an explanation of why there should be a change of front on this matter.
There is no legitimate reason at all for the back-dating of this legislation when this has not been done for the sick, the aged and the infirm of the community in previous years. We have as much time as the Minister cares to take, to listen to his explanation. I feel that he is going to find it difficult to explain his previous attitude towards amendments moved by the Labour Party in an endeavour to back-date social service payments, in view of the attitude he has now adopted. I think he owes an explanation to the committee and to the country, and particularly to age and invalid pensioners who, year after year, have submitted requests to him and to members on both sides of the Parliament for the back-dating of social service payments. I should very much like to hear the Minister explain away this complete change of attitude, not only on his own behalf but also on behalf of members of the Liberal Party and members of the Australian Country Party in this chamber, because time and time again they have, as a body, voted against amendments moved by the Australian Labour Party with a view to securing retrospective payment of social service benefits.
– I am indebted to the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) for having raised this question. I wanted to deal with it during the secondreading debate but, out of respect for the arrangements entered into between members of the Opposition and members of the Government, I wanted to give honorable members on both sides of the chamber the maximum amount of time in which to take part in the debate on the second reading. Because of that, 1 bad no opportunity to give an explanation in the course of the debate.
– Mr. Chairman, I rise to a point of order. Might I advise the Minister, through you, Sir, that no arrangement whatever was made in regard to this debate? The Minister’s statement is completely untrue.
– Order! There is no point of order involved.
– For the particular benefit of my friend, the honorable member for Lang, I make this explanation. The
Australian Labour Party created the precedent that social services measures shall not take effect until the first pay-day after the royal assent is given. The Labour Party having created the precedent, and there being very sound reasons for it, the present Government, up to this time, has never seen any need to depart from that precedent - again, for very good and sufficient reasons. Obviously, social services measures involve the expenditure of vast sums of money, and it is the manifest duty of the Treasurer to ensure that the required funds can be provided. For this reason, the Labour Party found it necessary to estimate the costs involved, and therefore confined the operation of the provisions of amending legislation within specified limits by stipulating that the provisions should come into operation only after a certain time. The Labour Party having done that, the pattern so set is followed, there being no valid reasons for any departure from the precedent.
The circumstances relating to this measure are entirely different. I direct the attention of the honorable member for Lang to the announcement made by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) in his policy speech in these terms -
Child endowment will be raised to 15/- per week for third and subsequent children. Having in mind the educational responsibilities of parents, 15/- per week endowment will be paid in respect of all full-time student children from 16 to 21.
That announcement was made in November of last year, towards the end of the scholastic year. Obviously, assuming that the necessary legislation would be passed by this Parliament, if there had been no announcement about the date on which these new provisions would take effect, countless thousands of children would have stood in grave danger of losing an entire scholastic year. The announcement that the Government proposed to introduce this measure having been made, parents wondered whether the endowment would become available before they had to decide whether to terminate the secondary education of their children at the end of the last scholastic year. They wondered whether an announcement would be made in time for them to be sure that the endowment would be available if they decided to continue the secondary education of their children or to let them advance into tertiary education of any kind in the current scholastic year. For that reason - and for that reason only, Mr. Chairman - the opportunity was taken to make an announcement as soon as the Government was returned to office by the people. The Government announced that, subject to the passing of this measure, the increased rates of child endowment would be available to the parents of eligible children as from 14th January.
That did not involve retrospectivity in any way. The decision was made to assist parents and children in deciding whether children should continue secondary education or undertake tertiary education in any of its many forms. I consider that the announcement of a date in this manner has been of very great value to the Australian community as a whole and especially to countless thousands of parents who, immediately the Prime Minister had announced the Government’s policy, communicated with the Department of Social Services and with me asking for an early announcement about when the proposals would take effect.
As to the other provisions of this measure, I again direct the attention of the honorable member for Lang to the precedent established by the Australian Labour Party. This Government has not broken that precedent, which will be followed with respect to those provisions of the bill not relevant only to the date of payment that I have mentioned. The other provisions will come into operation after the royal assent has been given.
Sitting suspended from 4.58 to 8 p.m.
Address-in-Reply: Presentation to the Governor-General.
– I desire to inform the House that, accompanied by honorable members, I waited to-day upon His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House, and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the Opening of the First Session of the Twenty-fifth Parliament, agreed to by the House on the 10th instant.
His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply: -
Thank you for your Address-in-Reply which you have just presented to me.
It will be my pleasure and my duty to convey to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen at once the Message of Loyalty from the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, to which the Address gives expression.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 599).
– Before the suspension of the sitting for the evening meal we were being entertained by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) with what I can only assume was a Scottish joke. He was speaking about an arrangement which he claimed had been entered into by the Opposition with the Government to end the discussion on this bill at a certain time. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) was prompt to assert - and he was supported by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) - that no such arrangement had been entered into. I have made further inquiries during the suspension of the sitting and I now have to tell the committee that the Minister completely misled it by that statement. No arrangement of any kind has been made between the Government and the Opposition as to the time at which the discussion on any stage of the bill should terminate.
– It is a pity you did not refer to the discussion on this matter between the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It was quite clear. What you are telling us is a complete untruth.
– The firm statement has been made by the Opposition that no arrangement of any kind was entered into and the Government Whip, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson), will find no member on this side of the committee to support his statement that he had an arrangement with any one of them. His statement is completely without foundation. The arrangement existed only in the imagination of the Minister for Social Services and (he Whip. ‘
– That is why he is Whip.
– That, as my friend and colleague has said, is why he is Whip. The Minister proceeded to engage in an even more extraordinary flight of fancy than this fictional arrangement he claimed to have with the Opposition, when he proceeded to answer my colleague, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), who had asked him to explain why the Government is now agreeing to make these social service provisions retrospective when on every previous occasion during its fifteen years in office it has refused to make social service provisions retrospective.
The answer the Minister gave to the committee was that the Government, in refusing for fifteen years to make social service provisions retrospective, had simply been following the precedent set by a Labour government in this matter. Of course, there is no such precedent and there is no truth whatever in that statement. I remind the committee that the precedent in .this matter was created by the present Government, or rather its Liberal-Country Party predecessor, in 1941. Commonwealth child endowment was initiated by a LiberalCountry Party government and the legislation set out that the first payment should not be made until after the bill had been passed and on a date to be proclaimed. When the Minister makes this rather sad excuse that in doing what he has done for fifteen years he has been simply following a precedent set by a Labour government he shows himself to be completely at sea.
The Minister then proceeded to claim that there was no valid reason for departing from the rule that social service legislation should not operate retrospectively. In fact, he said that it was proper, because of the responsibilities of the Treasury and the very large sums -of money at stake in social service legislation, that the legislation should not come into effect until after it had been passed by the Parliament. All this when he was supposed to be answering the request of the honorable member for Lang to explain why he was to-night making his legislation retrospective!
Finally, the Minister came to the argument that on this occasion, and on this occasion only, payment had to be made retrospective to 14th January because, he said, if parents had not known that they would receive this 15s. for their student children over sixteen years of age they would not have been able to continue their children’s education for this year. I do not suppose that any honorable member has ever heard such a nonsensical suggestion as that. The Minister suggests that an amount of £6 or £6 10s. - £3 a month for two months, which would have been the time before this legislation was brought to the Parliament - would have been sufficient to determine whether a parent would be able to continue the full-time education of a child right through 1964. I imagine that when we realize how spurious is the excuse given by the Minister for his departure from his practice of so many years past we come more irresistably to the conclusion that this provision was made restrospective, and was announced in advance to be retrospective, for one reason only. That, of course is because the Government was facing a by-election in Denison and, because it had a long record of having broken its election promises, it had to give an immediate assurance to the people that this promise at least would be honoured. Accordingly, it had to give a date from which the increased child endowment would operate. I can find no other reason for the Minister’s proposal.
However, I am glad, and I imagine that every member of the Opposition and many members on the Government side, although they cannot say so, will be glad that at last this principle of retrospectivity has been adopted in social service legislation and that we will never again have the situation that this Government has perpetuated for so many years. While increases in pay for public servants, for judges and for members of the Parliament have all been back-dated, increases in pay for the recipients of social services - including pensioners and others living on a comparatively few shillings a week - have never been back-dated. This is the first time this has been done, although we have moved fifteen amendments over fifteen years to try to get the Government to do it. At last the Government has done it, and I hope that, having done it for the first time, it will now continue to do it and thus give to pensioners and recipients of other social services the same sort of justice as we give ourselves and as is given to public servants, trade unionists and even High Court judges when their payments are increased. On all previous occasions the Minister has told us that this simply could not be done; that it was impossible to do it. But that excuse will no longer stand; he has now done it. Having at last done the right thing, I hope that for the remainder of his period in office he will continue to do the right thing by the social service recipients of Australia.
.- I would not rise at this stage of the debate if I did not feel compelled to refute some of the deliberate untruths that have been stated by members of the Opposition. When he refers to fictional arrangements the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) should for once attempt to tell the truth in this place. I am very glad to see the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) enter the chamber. From his inquiries during the suspension of the sitting for dinner the honorable member for EdenMonaro formed the opinions that led to the remarks he has just made. All I can say is that whoever his informants may have been, they were afraid to face the truth.
– I rise to order. Would I be in order in inquiring at this stage to which clause the honorable member is relating his remarks?
– Order! I ask the committee to come to order. Dealing with the point of order raised by the honorable member for Bass, I point out that the Chair is capable of controlling the proceedings. If the honorable member had been listening to the debate earlier he would have noticed that the Chair allowed this matter to be raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro when replying to remarks made by the Minister for Social Services. I suggest at this point that there has been sufficient discussion about an arrangement, or otherwise, made at a time when the committee was not in session and which, therefore, could not have anything to do with the committee. I suggest now that both sides of the committee come to order and discuss in a manner befitting the Parliament the matters before it in relation to the bill.
– I thank you, Sir, for your indulgence. Although the honorable member for Eden-Monaro .vociferously, as. usual, gave his interpretation of the Government’s policy and told us what he thought the Government should do in respect of the clause under discussion, he nevertheless stated that arrangements made between the Opposition and the Government were fictional. I state categorically that what the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has told the committee is a deliberate untruth.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Phillip to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark and say that in relation to this matter the truth is that an arrangement-
– I rise to order. The honorable member has not withdrawn the remark.
– I understood him to withdraw it.
– I refer to clause 2, which relates to retrospective payment of child endowment. This gesture on the part of the Government will be appreciated by everybody. I am glad to hear that the Opposition is also of the opinion that this is a matter which affects many families in Australia. But I point out that an agreement was made with the Opposition in relation to a time-table for the debate on the bill.
Motion (by Mr. Jones) negatived -
That the honorable member for Phillip be not further heard.
– I will not delay the House much longer. I want to make it clear that the honorable member in charge of the bill for the Opposition, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), agreed that the bill would be passed by 4.45 o’clock this afternoon.
– I rise to order. That is a deliberate untruth.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Grayndler to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it and say that the honorable member’s statement is incorrect and that he handles the truth recklessly.
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member for Phillip remember what the Chair said earlier. The matter to which he is referring has nothing to do with the clause before the committee. He is referring to something which did not happen in the committee.
– I think I have made my point. In this matter the Government can hold its head as high as anybody can. The arrangements were definitely made. I am rather disappointed that some honorable members opposite have not the honesty to abide by the agreement made with their Deputy Leader and their Whip.
– I ask for leave to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Docs the Deputy Leader of the Opposition claim to have been misrepresented? The honorable gentleman has not yet spoken in the debate.
– I have been grievously misrepresented. References have been made to an arrangement-
– You have not spoken.
– In that case I will speak on the clause before the Chair.
Motion (by Mr. Howson) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority .. ..17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Interpretation).
.- Clause 3 is designed to amend section 94 of the principal act, which deals with the definition of “ child “ for the purposes of child endowment. The new definition broadly makes provision for two classes of children. First, “ child “ will mean a person under the age of sixteen years. The second class, which is very important, includes people over the age of sixteen but under the age of 21 years, who are receiving full-time education at a school, college or university and who are not in employment or engaged in work on their own account.
Our objection to this definition is that it excludes many people between sixteen and 21 years of age who we believe deserve assistance and who in fact are in need of assistance. The Minister told us in his second-reading speech that this definition specifically excludes teacher trainees, cadets, apprentices and nurses. As I tried to indicate in my second-reading speech, teacher trainees in fact are full-time students. I think that is accepted generally. Many of them are in receipt of allowances or scholarships which amount to less than the assistance that is provided for university students who receive Commonwealth scholarships and the Commonwealth living allowances that go with those scholarships.
The only ground that is given for excluding teacher trainees is that they are bonded; that they are engaged to serve a future employer - one or other of the State departments of education. The Opposition maintains that at this stage teacher trainees are not in fact employees; they are nothing more than students. The fact that they happen to be bonded to some future employer does not seem to warrant their exclusion from the provisions of this bill. These people receive no kind of compensation coverage. They are not covered by any system of superannuation and in no way can they bc regarded as being normally engaged in employment. They are in fact full-time students. The Government has taken advantage of the fa:t that they happen to bo bonded to exclude them. In those circumstances we must suspect that the Government was trying to reduce the number of eligible persons, even though it is trying to pretend to us that this part of the measure was introduced particularly to give encouragement to young people to continue their educational pursuits, and to their parents to let them do so.
I think it is accepted in the community that we need many more teachers. This is a dire need. In fact, it is the whole essence of our problem to-day. School buildings and teaching apparatus are important, but every one recognizes that the main need in our educational system to-day is well-trained youngsters, and that the more we can get the better it will be for the future of our country. Yet in this bill they are excluded from any consideration. 1 do not think anyone can even pretend that because these students are bonded they have some additional prospect over and above that which other students who are covered by the bill have. A teacher trainee has no better prospects than has the youngster who goes to a university and who has been academically successful enough in his secondary schooling to qualify for a Commonwealth scholarship. I maintain that that student has even better prospects of success, having received his university training, than has the ordinary teacher trainee. There does not seem to be any reason, other than parsimony, why the Government should want to exclude this category. I understand that at present we have about 19,000 or 20,000 youngsters in teachers’ colleges. Most will not be continuing their education until they reach 21 years of age. More often than not they will finish their traineeship when they are about 18 or 19. They do not represent the continuing expense that other categories mentioned in the bill will represent.
To a lesser extent - it is only a matter of degree - I think a case could have been made out for the inclusion of apprentices at least until they reach 18 or 19 years of age. As the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) quite properly pointed out, most apprentices, at least until the end of their second year, do not receive a wage that is in any way comparable with that received by trainees on Commonwealth scholarships, having regard to the living allowance which is included in the scholarship, subject, as I said before, to a means test.
The same might be said of nurses. In their first and second years nurses would be in an inferior position to the students who are provided for in this bill. Who will say that we do not need more and better qualified nurses? There is a demand for nurses throughout the Commonwealth, particularly in some of the specialized fields such as psychiatric nursing. Advertisements appear in the press day after day appealing to people to join the nursing service in those specialized fields. The care of paraplegics has just come under notice. That is another of the specialized categories. On every hand we hear the complaint that not enough young women are entering these specialized fields of nursing. Here was the Government’s opportunity to act in a responsible way, in an encouraging way and in a helpful way to increase the flow of young girls into nursing, and particularly into the special fields that I have mentioned. Probably the same remarks apply to cadets, but I shall not dwell on that now.
The reference to “ college “ engages my attention. Paragraph (b) refers to students receiving full-time education at a school, college or university, but there is no explicit definition of “ college “. I hope that the Minister will tell us what it is. What kind of college has the Government in mind? Some come to mind readily. I suppose we can readily accept that students attending full-time courses at a technical college, who are not indentured or under any kind of bonding to some prospective employer, will be covered by this definition; but what- about those who go to private commercial colleges? Will they be covered? Will any authority be set up to make recommendations to the Minister or to the Government as to what kind of colleges will be accepted and what kind of colleges will have credentials so far as the operation of this clause of the bill is concerned.
These are two points which have not been cleared up either by the Minister or by the bill. I hope that the Minister will give some attention to this aspect because it is now wide open. All kinds of institutions could go by the name of college - a dancing college, a commercial college or some institution covering a wide range of activities. It is up to the Government to indicate the limits of acceptance in this definition.
I come finally to the aspect of employment. Whilst students who are engaged in part-time education are excluded from benefit under the bill, there is provision in this clause for students who work during vacation periods to be included. It is left to the subjective judgment of the DirectorGeneral of Social Services to say what kind of work and what degree of work will be accepted as enabling a student, who ordinarily would be eligible for benefits under this bill, to qualify for them. In this wide field the purely subjective judgment of the director-general will determine eligibility. Will the Minister tell me what limits will be placed on this kind of subjective judgment?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– If the committee requires some explanation of clause 3 let me say that this clause makes a number of amendments to section 94 of the principal act which is concerned with definitions and interpretations for the purposes of Part IV. of the act. Sub-clause (a) extends the existing definition of “ child “ to include either a child under the age of sixteen years, as at present defined, or a person aged 16 to 21 years who is receiving full-time education at a school, college or university - it does not matter what kind of school, college or university, but it does matter that it is full-time study - and is not in employment or engaged in work on his own account.
Sub-clause (b) inserts two definitions. The first defines a “ student child “ as a person referred to in paragraph (b) of the new definition of “ child “. The second defines “ training agreement “, and the effect of the definition, when read in conjunction with the new sub-section (1a.), will be to deem a person other than a secondary school student to be in employment if he enters into or is subject to an agreement or an arrangement which requires him to undertake a course of study or training as a condition of his employment or future employment. The definition includes any agreement or arrangement which has a similar purpose or effect.
The new sub-section (1a.) provides that a person other than a secondary school student who has entered into or is subject to a training agreement shall be deemed to be in employment for the purposes of the new definition of “ child “.
The new sub-section (1b.) permits the director-general to give a direction that the employment or intended employment of the student child shall not be taken into account for the purposes of the definition. Matters to be taken into account in determining whether he should give such a direction are the nature of the employment, the time occupied therein and the amount earned. The sub-section will enable employment that is not incompatible with full-time studies to be disregarded.
The new sub-section (lc.) will have the same effect as the previous sub-section, except that it will apply to a class of persons as distinct from an individual person. Its purpose is to avoid the necessity of giving a large number of separate directions in relation to individual persons who are all of the same class of persons. For example, the director-general may direct that the employment of all student children during the recognized vacations of the academic institutions they attend should be disregarded.
The new sub-section (1d.) gives the director-general power to revoke or vary directions under either of the last two preceding sub-sections. For example, a direction may be revoked or varied when there has been a change in thecircumstances relating to a person or a class of persons.
I can assure all honorable members that this legislation will be interpreted in the strict terms of the intention to give fulltime students the kind of encouragement that they not only richly deserve but also urgently need.
.- Mr. Chairman
Motion (by Mr. Howson) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . ..17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Child endowment).
.- Clause 4 is the clause that provides for an increase of 5s. a week in the rate of child endowment for the third and subsequent children and also introduces for the first time a payment of 15s. a week for a student child. The Australian Labour Party, during the last general election campaign, said that if it were given a mandate to form a government it would increase the rates of child endowment from 5s. to lis. a week for the first child, from 10s. to 19s. a week for the second child and from 10s. to 22s. a week for the third and subsequent children. These amounts were worked out on a certain basis. The procedure used was to express the child endowment paid in 1950 as a proportion of the. basic wage of that time, and then to increase the rates to the amounts that would be required to make them similarly proportionate to the present basic wage. In 1950 the basic wage was £6 18s. a week; it is now £14 8s. a week. The figures used by the Labour Party at least had some basis, but the increase of 5s. to be granted to the third and subsequent children is an amount which has been taken out of the blue. I ask the Minister to explain to the committee how he and his advisers arrived at the amount of 5s. No comparison has been made with the basic wage or with the consumer price index. If it is a figure that was plucked out of the air - as undoubtedly it was - why did the Government not choose 4s. Hid.? Why take 5s.? Why not 7s. 6d.? Why not take some figure other than 5s.?
The same argument applies to the payment of the endowment in respect of student children. Why fix 15s.? One would think that the figure would have some comparative basis but again it seems that it has just been taken out of the air. If so, why was the Government not really generous? Why did it, not grant endowment of £1 a week instead of 15s.?
I should like to know also why student children have been put into a special category and why provision is made for them in an act relating to child endowment rather than in an act relating to scholarships, where I feel it more correctly should be made. The Government’s proposals bristle with anomalies. For example, up to the age of sixteen years a first child receives endowment of 5s. a week. As soon as he reaches the age of sixteen years and one day, provided he is a full-time student, his endowment will be raised to 15s. a week. Why did the Government not decide to continue up to the age of 21 whatever rate of endowment was payable prior to a child reaching the age of sixteen years? The only explanation that occurs to me is that Government supporters believe that children between sixteen years and 21 years who become full-time students are most likely to come from families that support the Government. Otherwise payment of endowment to students would have been granted at the rate applicable before they turned sixteen years of age.
Perhaps the Minister will explain these points to me. In particular, why was the amount of 5s. chosen for third and subsequent children? Has it any relationship to the basic wage or to the consumer price index? Why was the amount of 15s. chosen to be paid to student children?
– Again I am indebted to the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) for his help. Those of us who were present last night and heard the shameful attack by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) on the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) must realize that this is not the first time that the Government has granted payment of 15s. to children. Indeed, it is the eighth occasion - the ninth occasion in certain instances - although the honorable member for Eden-Monaro claimed last night that on every occasion the honorable member for Corangamite had refused to support any proposal for making payments to children.
May I remind the honorable member for Lang and all other honorable members that the Social Services Act contains provision for the payment of a dependant’s allowance to the non-pensionable wife of a pensioner. Traditionally, payment of 9s. a week was made for one child. No additional payment, was made for a second or any subsequent child. If a non-pensionable wife of a pensioner had one child she received an allowance of 9s. a week in respect of that child. If she had ten children she still received only 9s. a week. But when this Government was elected that position, as with many other things, was completely transformed. Payment for one child rose to 15s. and for each subsequent child a further 15s. was allowed. The present position is that in such a family an allowance of 15s. is received for each child, child endowment at the rate of 5s. is paid for the eldest child, child endowment at the rate of 10s. is paid for the second child and child endowment at the rate of 1 5s. is paid for the third child. So, for the third child at least the total payment is 30s. a week.
Similarly, when widows’ pensions were examined by the present Government it was discovered with some consternation that although a class A widow - that is, a widow with one or more children - received a pension for herself, no payments were made for her children. In 1949 she received the munificent sum of £2 7s. 6d. a week. This amount has since risen to £5 15s. a week. The allowance for children in 1949 was nil. The socialist party - the Labour Party - in 1949 believed that a class A widow was not entitled to any payment at all for her children. The present Government, including the honorable member for Corangamite, who voted for the measure, granted payment of 15s. a week not only for the first child but for every child of a class A widow up to the age of sixteen years. In addition, of course, the children are entitled to endowment at the rate of 5s., 10s. or 15s. a week. 1 haveleft out of consideration altogether the fact that since 1949 a mother’s allowance of £2 a week has been paid to a class A civilian widow.
I come now to unemployment and sickness benefits. The Labour Party in 1949 made some provision for the unemployed and for the sick and for one child of the unemployed or sick. Provision was not made beyond the first child. The second child did not count, nor did the third, the fourth or the fifth. They were of no possible importance to the Labour Party. That is true not only of 1949 but also of the years that preceded 1949. Not until this Government was elected was it discovered that whilst an unemployment or sickness beneficiary received an allowance of 5s. a week for the first child, no payment was made for the second, third, fourth or any subsequent children. That situation was immediately altered because of the votes of men like the honorable member for Corangamite. Payment for one child was increased from 5s. to 15s., and for second and subsequent children from nothing to 15s.
The honorable member for Lang will appreciate that there is a precedent for selecting 15s. as an appropriate figure. The same position is true of a variety of other provisions that need not be mentioned here. It was the honorable member for Corangamite and others who sit with him, Mr. Chairman, who increased the allowable deductions for income taxation purposes for all children. It was he who supported the introduction for the first time in our history, and subsequently the increase of, the allowance for education.
Whatever else can be said, this Government has a proud record of assistance to families with children. Fifteen shillings is 15s. more than nothing, and three times more than 5s.
Motion (by Mr. Howson) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Endowment to cease in certain circumstances).
.- This clause, Mr. Chairman, does to the legisla-. tion what I indicated earlier in the committee, and in relation to which you said I was out of order. The first paragraph of clause 5 reads as follows: -
Sections one hundred and three, one hundred and three A and one hundred and three B of the Principal Act are repealed and the following sections inserted in their stead: -
I point out that that provision takes a full page out of the principal act relating to child endowment. That brings me to the point I made earlier - that this legislation should be redrafted and presented to this Parliament in better form. Clause 5 is one clause which makes that necessary and there are others upon which I have not spoken. I point out to the Minister the necessity to redraft this legislation and particularly to incorporate in it all amendments, bring it up to date and make it more comprehensible for honorable members.
Any bill is difficult to understand and interpret when it is complicated, as this one is, and has to be related to the principal act. I suggest to the Minister that all members of the Parliament would appreciate the drafting of a consolidated act to incorporate all the amendments that have been made over the years and to make the legislation much more readable for those who have to study it. One provision in this clause is so important that it should be clarified for the committee. I refer to proposed new section 103 of the principal act, which provides- (1.) Subject to section one hundred and four of this Act, and endowment payable to an endowee in respect of a child ceases to be payable if -
What is the definition of the word “ temporary “? Is a temporary absence restricted to an absence of three years, two years, one year or only a month? Just who will decide what is a temporary absence under the terms of this provision? This is a terribly important matter, because the Government will be giving away the magnificent sum of 15s. a week to some people, and it must know whether they are entitled to it if they are absent from Australia for a day, a week or a year. Great sums of money will be expended and many individuals will share in the benefits paid. The Government boasts about how generous the payment of 15s. is, and we should know precisely the meaning of “ temporary “ in this provision.
For instance, what will be the position of a child attending a United States university as a full-time student, undertaking a course spread over four or five years, perhaps commencing at the age of 16 and finishing at the age of 21? Will the child’s absence from Australia for five years be regarded as a temporary absence, or will the Government decide to save 15s. a week and deprive that child’s parents of the endowment? I point out that that is possible under an administration like this. The point that 1 raise is of interest to many. I suppose that there are thousands of Australian students studying at universities throughout the world who will be denied benefits under this provision if they are away from Australia for more than a few months. After all, a student at the Sydney Teachers’ College - right at the heart of Australia, as it were - will not receive the benefit of the 15s. a week under this Government’s policy. What does the Government propose to do with respect to temporary absences from Australia? There may be many Australian men and women studying in Europe and elsewhere whose studies overseas will keep them there for a few years.
It is of no use for the Government to say, “ We shall administer this provision in a just and good way “. Nobody trusts this administration to do justice in the paying out of money. We know that this Government gives only the minimum possible amount for the very minimum time and makes no concessions. One has only to study the social services legislation generally _in relation to all benefits, whether it bc child endowment or pensions, to see this. One cannot get justice from the present Government.
So I ask the Minister to clarify this point. Of course, it is unlikely that he will reply because he knows that what he says is not accurate in any event. When he does reply to honorable members on this side of the chamber, he usually gags the discussion immediately he resumes his seat. I ask the Minister to explain to us the meaning to be given to the expression “ temporary “. This is of particular importance to many people in my electorate. It is of great importance to families all over Australia. In the interests of the people generally, the meaning of this provision should be clarified in this Parliament.
Another matter has been brought to my attention by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). Proposed new section 103 of the principal act provides -
. an endowment payable to an endowee in respect of a child ceases to be payable if -
What about a child in the country who is taking a correspondence course? Will he be denied this magnificent sum of 15s. a week just because he is not close enough to a town to attend a school or college? Will he be regarded as receiving full-time education? This is a point that must be clarified. The matter cannot be left to officials or to the Minister. The meaning intended must be written clearly into the measure so that all who are entitled to benefit may do so. I should like to know what correspondence students throughout Australia will receive under the terms of this bill.
Another remarkable provision in proposed new section 103 of the principal act has been brought to my attention by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. The proposed new section states - an endowment payable to an endowee in respect of a child ceases to.be payable if -
- w» i
What a monstrous thing it is to get married! A child who marries will lose 15s. a week under this Government’s proposals. Why should a boy or girl attending a school, college or university be denied 15s. a week simply because of marriage? After all, there is a legal age for marriage, and it is under 21. If a child, with the permission of his parents, decides to get married, why should he be denied this endowment? This point raises the question brought up last evening by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), who cited a case in which a grandmother could be custodian of a student child and would receive endowment of 15s. a week, although a child of that student would attract endowment of only 5s. a week. Apparently his assessment of the situation was not quite correct, because the Government evidently intends to deny the custodian of a student the endowment of 15s. a week if the student marries.
Does the Government want students to concentrate on their studies full-time and have no time for the joys of marriage or anything else? Does any member of this Parliament suggest that a person who is married cannot study? Would anybody suggest that any person should be denied a social services benefit simply because he had married? I should like to hear the Minister in particular explain on behalf of the Government why a student who marries is to be denied this benefit? This matter is terribly important.
– What a lot of drivel!
– Honorable members opposite interject in a quite disorderly fashion, Mr. Chairman. Why do they not defend these provisions in the bill? The simple fact is that not one back-bench member opposite can be trusted to defend certain provisions in this bill. That is why the Minister, again and again this evening, has gagged the discussion. Many honorable members opposite were not consulted about the measure, and particularly about this clause, before the bill was introduced. The details of the bill were never discussed with them in their party rooms. Therefore, the Minister has to compel them to silence by using the gag. No doubt, there are in the electorate represented by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) many students who are anxious to have him defend their interests in this Parliament.
I do not wish to address myself to this clause further. I ask the Minister to clarify the points that I have raised, particularly in relation to temporary absence from Australia and students who marry. The matter relating to country children, who are neglected by members of the Australian Country Party, will be ably dealt with by the honorable member for EdenMonaro and other members on this side who represent country electorates. I put before the Minister the points that I have raised in the hope that he will clarify them. I trust that he will not be too frightened to allow some Opposition members the right to express their opinions on this great social issue and to reply to him. That is a right that has been denied to many honorable members this evening.
.- Mr. Chairman, in 1947 the Labour Government-
– Mr. Chairman-
– Mr. Chairman, as the Minister is standing his ground, I take a point of order. You had given the call to the honorable member for Sturt. I heard you call him and I heard him begin to address you.
– I should like to move, “That the honorable member for Sturt be heard “.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Lucock).Order! The Minister has resumed his seat. The honorable member for Sturt may proceed.
– Mr. Chairman, in 1947 the Labour Government introduced the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947, which amended and consolidated various acts dealing with social services. Section 103 of that act, which, I emphasize, was introduced by the Australian Labour Party - the party to which the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) belongs - provided -
The word “ temporary “ has been in the act for more than sixteen years, and the honorable member for Grayndler now says, in effect, “ I should like to know what this word that was used in the 1947 act means “. lt is ridiculous for him to waste the time of the committee with such nonsensical questions as he has asked about the clause that we are now considering. If he has any knowledge at all, he knows that there is a difference between temporary accommodation and permanent accommodation, and between temporary visits overseas for holidays and permanent visits overseas to take up employment or for any other purpose. The definition of the word “ temporary “ is well known. Successive Directors-General of Social Services, in making decisions in marginal cases, have shown over many years that discretion is exercised wisely and generously in favour of persons entitled to benefits.
I want to deal with proposed section 103 (1) (g) (iii), which provides that endowment for a student child shall cease if he engages in employment. I appreciate that to provide child endowment for student children who are trainee nurses, apprentices or law students taking up their articles would go far wider than the proposal contained in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). However, I would suggest to the Government that the object of this clause is obviously to help meet one of Australia’s needs at this time and that is to obtain mae skilled personnel and more trained people. If that is the object, as I believe it is, of paying child endowment to the parents of student children, surely the test should be whether the children are undergoing full-time education. If they are, in my opinion the parents should receive child endowment. If, for example, a clever and energetic student of very poor parents is undergoing full-time education and for financial reasons decides to take full-time employment at night out of working hours, I would not think that this is justification for depriving the parent of child endowment.
The bill has been introduced to implement an entirely new policy - a policy enunciated by the Prime Minister. The bill receives the support of every member of the committee. It is a money bill. It cannot be amended, even if we wish to amend it, and therefore any suggestion of an amendment to widen the terms of the bill or increase the expenditure would be simply playing politics. I expect that certain Labour members ignorant of political practices, who will follow me, will ask whether I will support an amendment moved by the Opposition with the object of increasing the benefits and providing child endowment for students who are in employment. The answer is that the Opposition cannot move an amendment to the bill. The bill has been brought in to carry out certain objectives and the Constitution prevents it from being amended. If honorable members look at. the first page of the bill they will see the letter “ M “ on it This is a money bill introduced on a message from the Governor-General to carry out the policy announced by the Prime Minister and no amendment designed to increase the expenditure is permitted. Therefore, any suggestion that we make can be only a suggestion for future consideration.
I congratulate the Government for introducing for the first time a benefit for the parents of students, but I suggest that the Government should ask itself whether what we are trying to achieve is not more education. In other words, we are trying to get more people to undergo full-time education sp that Australia will benefit from their additional skill. If that is our objective, what does it matter whether the students receive money from employment? I ask the Government to have a look at this aspect. I am concerned about the law students who spend three years full-time at the university and then are compelled by the curriculum to be articled to a legal man. During the period they are articled they receive purely a nominal amount. In my day we received nothing; we actually paid to be articled. But now these students receive a nominal amount. However, they are deemed to be in full-time employment. Their course of studies requires them to be articled and because of this they are not entitled to child endowment. Trainee nurses and apprentices are in a similar position.
I believe that this reform is so good and will be of so much value in increasing the number of skilled persons in the community, which is just what the country needs, that we should not hesitate to pay child endowment to the parents of people who are prepared to become skilled, whether or not they earn money. While whole-heartedly supporting this clause, I would like the Government to consider my suggestion as a future reform which will help us to secure the skilled personnel that we so urgently need in Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Howson) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority .. .. 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Endowee to notify the occurence of certain events).
– The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) owes to the committee an explanation of the alterations to be effected to the principal act by the insertion of new section 104a by clause 6 of this amending bill. I trust that the Minister will have an opportunity to make an explanation to the committee without being gagged by the Government Whip. I shall refer to some of the points on which I trust the Minister will give a full explanation to the committee. Proposed new section 104a, which is inserted by clause 6 of the bill, states, among other things, that when a child dies the mother shall within a fortnight notify the Department of Social Services accordingly. Failure to notify makes the mother liable to a penalty of £20. What consideration (is given to a mother who has just suffered the loss of a child when this legislation imposes on her such a harsh obligation that in the midst of her grief and the trouble arising from the death of that beloved child she shall be required to notify the department of the event within fourteen days or be hailed to court and fined £20? This surely is not the kind of provision which a humane Minister would care to insert in legislation or which this Parliament would care to see continued in legislation of this kind. I ask the Minister either to delete this provision or to extend the time allowed to the mother to notify the department. Failing that will the Minister explain to the committee why this quite cruel provision should be continued in the child endowment legislation?
Will the Minister explain how on earth he can impose on a mother the obligation to notify a director of social services within fourteen days that her child has married? Failure so to notify carries a penalty of £20. How can a mother be held responsible for informing a director of social services that her child has married when even the mother may not know? Under this legislation endowment may be paid to persons up to the age of 21 years if they are full-time students. Such a person may easily marry without his or her mother’s knowledge, yet under this proposed new section if the mother does not notify the authorities of the marriage within fourteen days she may be hailed before a court and fined £20 for something for which she cannot possibly be held legally responsible.
I direct the attention now of the Minister to a matter raised by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) in relation to an earlier clause which is pertinent also to the clause now .under discussion. This clause refers to children receiving fulltime education at a school, college or university. The restriction that the education must be received at a school, college or university is quite contrary to the Minister’s intention as evidenced by his second-reading speech when he said that the 15s. a week will be paid to a child if after reaching sixteen years of age the child will be continuing full-time study. The Minister said nothing about the studies having to be made at a university, school or college. As every honorable member who represents a rural electorate will know, many students cannot attend a university, school or college but they still pursue fulltime studies. I am sure it was not the intention of the Minister to exclude such students from the benefits of this legislation.
I trust that he will give heed to the plea that I now make. I know that at this stage it would be very difficult for him to amend the legislation in this place, but I ask him to assure the committee, particularly members who represent rural electorates, that he will favorably consider amending this provision in another place in such a way as to ensure that the benefit is payable to all genuine full-time students, even if they are correspondence students or students living in outback areas whose parents cannot afford to keep them in a city where they could attend a school, university or college but who are nevertheless continuing their full-time studies.
I direct the Minister’s attention to a case that exists in my electorate. An invalid pensioner has two children, one aged twenty and the other a little over sixteen years of age. The child aged twenty attends a university in Sydney, which is greatly to the credit of his father. The child aged sixteen is pursuing full-time studies for the leaving certificate this year as a correspondence school student. All of his education has been received by correspondence. He lives far from a full high school. The nearest secondary school, which is many miles away from his home, is only an intermediate high school. There is no means by which this child may continue his full-time education, in view of the limited income of his invalid pensioner parent, except by continuing full-time studies at home as a correspondence school student. I therefore particularly ask the Minister to give to the committee an assurance that he will rectify this matter. If the Minister’s assurance is not immediately forthcoming I hope that other honorable members from rural electorates will raise this matter, because it is not a party matter. This is a matter of great importance to the constituents, for example, of the honorable members for Hume (Mr. Pettitt), Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) and Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). It is a matter that vitally affects the constituents of every honorable member who represents a rural electorate. Each of them now will know that a severe injustice will be done to children in outback country areas whose parents are endeavouring to continue their full-time education if they are excluded from this new benefit simply because their parents are unable to send them to a school, college or university.
I particularly trust that the Minister will give us an explanation on that point and, while doing so, also will give us an assurance that he will review the cruel provision, as I think it is, that a mother, in the midst of her grief over the loss of her child, must remember to notify the department of the child’s death within fourteen days or to be taken to court and fined £20. That is a rather horrible penalty and a rather horrible procedure to impose on her so swiftly after the death of her child. The Government should also remove from her the obligation, which definitely should not be placed upon her, to notify the department if her child marries.
– She must know because she must give her consent.
– Not at all. The honorable member does not know the law on this matter. I will be very glad if he will rise to his feet and speak on it. I would welcome his assurance that he will speak. It is quite possible that, the father would know and the mother would not know.
– No, it is not. Both parents must consent under the Marriage Act.
– Do rise and speak on this matter. I am afraid that you will not do so, but I hope you will. I hope the Minister will look at this matter and see whether legally this obligation should be placed upon the mother, because the marriage could be kept secret from her for much longer than fourteen days,
Those are the matters on which I should like assurances and explanations from the Minister in respect of this clause. I repeat that if he does not rise immediately and give those assurances, I trust that my colleagues from other rural electorates will not allow this clause to pass but will continue to press the Minister until this injustice to country children is remedied.
– It is well known that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) is the funny man of the Opposition. This evening he and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) are having fun and games as they have never had them together before. But there is nothing funny about this legislation. It affects 900,000 children in homes and 25,500 children in institutions, and is of the very greatest importance to more than 520,000 families in our community. So these two honorable members are having fun and games here; but there are no fun and games in more than 520,000 homes throughout Australia.
– Mr. Chairman, on a point of order may I ask you to request the Minister to relate his remarks to clause 6. Evidently, he thinks he is making a second-reading speech.
– In regard to the point of order raised by the honorable member-
– The Minister is being positively offensive.
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor will remain silent. In regard to the point of order raised by the honorable member for Grayndler I point out that the Minister’s remarks are as relevant to the clause under . discussion as were the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in relation to this matter. I point out that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro asked the Minister for an explanation.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman; I take the utmost exception to your remark because I am sure you will agree upon reading the “ Hansard “ report, that every word I said- was in direct relation to this clause. I did not deal with anything except the clause. I dealt with it seriously, and I hope I dealt with it in an earnest and helpful manner.
– I point out to the honorable member that at one stage in the speech that he made on this clause, he spoke about the payment of endowment in respect of children who study by correspondence. The clause refers to the obligation of an endowee to notify certain events in respect of children who have been attending schools, colleges or universities and who cease to receive full-time education at these schools, colleges or universities and does not deal with the payment of endowment. The honorable member devoted part of his speech to the situation of children in country areas who do not attend schools.
– That is right. I was seeking the deletion of certain words from the clause. My remarks were highly relevant.
– The honorable member went outside the scope of the clause.
– I am quite prepared to give explanations of these clauses as they arise, so long as the application that they deserve can be given to them by the honorable member for Grayndler and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. This is not a fun and games affair. Honorable members opposite know full well that a great many children in country areas are educated through correspondence schools. Correspondence schools are in exactly the same position as any other schools. They are called schools and a full-time student at a correspondence school is in precisely the same situation as a full-time student anywhere else.
The clause under discussion inserts a new section 104a requiring an endowee to notify a director of social services within fourteen days after the occurrence of certain events which cause, or may cause, an endowment to cease to be payable. Some such events do not require notification by an endowee -for example, a child’s attaining the age of sixteen years - as the department already has the necessary information. However, unless the endowee notifies an event of the kind specified in the proposed new section, an over-payment is likely to occur, and without the authority to require the endowee to notify the event the department has no legal means of enforcing repayment. Many such over-payments have occurred already, and for some time the Commonwealth Audit Office has sought the insertion of a provision of this kind for child endowment purposes.
I am sure the honorable member for Eden-Monaro will be interested to hear that similar provisions already exist in the principal act for the purposes of age, invalid and widow pensions and unemployment, sickness and special benefits. The need for such a provision in connexion with the new endowment for student children is selfevident. The department generally will be obliged to rely on the endowee for advice where a student child ceases to be a fulltime student or commences employment.
I remind the House that this special provision will be paid three months in arrears and there could be great embarrassment to a family if, inadvertently, an overpayment were made.
Motion (by Mr. Howson) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Endowee qualified on date before date of Royal Assent.).
.- As a preface to my comments on this clause I should like to say that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and I are particularly interested in the 2,500,000 children in the 1,000,000 families who, through the Minister’s instrumentality, have been deleted from consideration under this legislation. As the Minister has stated, 900,000 children will benefit as well as an additional 25,000 children in institutions. That is commendable, but he has easily forgotten the other millions who should come within the scope of the act.
The Government has seen fit to backdate the application of this legislation. Clause 7 (I.) (a) is in these terms -
Where, under the Principal Act as amended by this Act, a person, other than an institution, becomes qualified to receive an endowment in respect of a student child as from a date before the date on which this Act receives the Royal Assent, the endowment is payable-
where the person becomes so qualified as from the fourteenth day of January, One thousand nine hundred and sixtyfour, and lodges a claim for the endowment within six months, or such longer period as the Director-General allows, after that date - on and after that date;
It then goes on to state certain aspects of the claim. We would like to know how the Government decided upon 14th January as the date of application. Why was the legislation not back-dated to 2nd December, the date the Government decided should apply in the case of the proposed housing grants? Why must the children suffer for a month or six weekswhile other sections of the community benefit by the other legislation being back-dated to 2nd December? It all gets back to the point which we on this side of the chamber have made continually - that this was an election sop by the Government which as an afterthought decided to back-date the payment. The fact of the matter is that by this clause the Government is placing the children of families which desperately need money in a different category from people who receive greater benefits such as housing loans. No time was wasted in introducing the legislation for the payment of the superphosphate bounty. That was very important for some very wealthy people in the country. So why does the Government now deny to children this miserable pittance for about six weeks after the date on which it will make grants for housing? Why was not the same date selected? Surely this requires an explanation.
How did the Government guess the amounts provided in this legislation, 5s. and 10s.? How did the Government arrive at the date of application? I know that the Minister said that the date is a fortnight prior to the date of commencement of the school term, but what has that to do with it? Why should not the parents of these children receive the increased allowance from the same date as the Government set for its housing loans? Simply because the school term commenced on 28th January is no reason why the benefit should be denied for six weeks. If the Government wants to look at it in that way, the children were at school for a fortnight in the middle of December, so while they were at school they were also being denied this benefit because the Government, for no good reason, chose 14th January as the commencing date.
The rates which have been decided upon and the date selected for their application require a full explanation by the Minister. Will he tell us how the Government arrived at the rates and why 14th January was the date selected? I do not accept the explanation contained in his secondreading speech that 14th January was selected because the school term commenced on 28th January. That reason was given without thought. The real reason is that the Government decided upon this whole proposal at the point of a gun, as it were. In desperation it has granted the minimum allowance possible and has set the latest possible date for its application so that it can claim that it is fulfilling its obligations.
There is another aspect on which I should like the Minister to state his views. The clause provides that persons must lodge a claim for the endowment within six months of 14th January. Is it necessary under the legislation for every person who wants to obtain the benefit to apply for it? If such is the case, what publicity will be given to the matter so that people will know that they must apply for this benefit? Many honorable members receive representations from time to time from constituents complaining that they have not received their entitlements because they lodged their applications too late, or for some other reason. This applies to sickness and unemployment benefits and to other benefits for which application must be made. If it is necessary for a family or an institution to apply for this new benefit it is essential that the widest possible publicity be given to the way in which it may be obtained.
Through what channels does the Minister intend to bring this matter to the attention of the public? Will the section relating to the requirement to apply within a specified time be administered in a sympathetic way if and when some person overlooks the requirement? Acts of Parliament are very rigid in setting out dates of application. We constantly have cases of people being denied benefits because they have failed to submit their applications within a specified time. Will the Minister explain, first, whether it is essential for every family and institution to apply, and secondly, in the case of a family or institution failing to apply within a specified time, whether it will be debarred from the benefit for the period before the department learned of the entitlement to it?
I hope that the Minister will reply to these questions in a courteous manner and not in the arrogant way in which he has conducted himself in his handling of this bill. It is important to us to know what is happening not only to the 900,000 children involved but also to the 2,500,000 young Australians who will receive no benefit from what was just an election sop by the Government in the hope of winning votes. What does the future hold for them?
– I am sure that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) can obtain all the detailed information that he requires from the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart). I have already explained why the 14th January was selected as the date for payment of this new benefit. I explained in some detail that to be of the greatest possible assistance to the family man and the family woman it had to coincide as closely as possible with the end of one scholastic year and with the beginning of the next. It happens that 14th January was the commencement of a normal fourweekly endowment period. Since the payment of child endowment is a vast task in the physical sense of the term, involving the making of payments for about 3,500,000 children, it is quite obvious that for the convenience of the department a date should have been decided upon which would fit in with the normal paying procedures. That is the complete answer. Schools were still in recess but, to my certain knowledge, it was of the greatest advantage to thousands of parents that they be assured, first that their children would qualify for the student child endowment and, secondly, that it would be paid as early in the scholastic year as was physically possible. That was done. I have no cause, I think, to answer anything else in this connexion.
– What about the making of an application?
– Obviously it will not be necessary for the parents or guardians of children at present receiving endowment to make application for the increased amount for the third and subsequent children. That will be paid automatically in respect, as I have said, of some 925,000 children. But it will be necessary for the parents of student children above the age of sixteen years to make application. Child endowment payments in respect of those children would have terminated at some time iri the past and the Department of Social Services would not know whether those children were continuing their secondary or tertiary education. For that reason, and that reason alone, it will be necessary for the parents, or for those who have the custody, control and care of those children, to make application to the department.
– What publicity will you give these matters?
– We have already given them publicity in a wide variety of ways. I have issued regular statements to the newspapers and those statements have all been published. In addition, statements have been made over the radio and through the other media at our disposal. Information has been disseminated in this way and it will continue to be given out. There will be no difficulty about that.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh)
Motion (by Mr. Howson) -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I wish to oppose the third reading of this bill. I do so because we are about to give a third reading to a bill which will deprive 2,500,000 children and 1,000,000 families of the benefits of increased child endowment payments.
I am opposing the third reading of the bill because it proposes no increase at all for the second and third children of families. No increase has been granted for the first and second children for nearly a generation. I believe this is a travesty of justice and is a good indication of the attitude we can expect from the Minister on any matters appertaining to social services. There is no doubt at all that had not the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in his policy speech made child endowment a major point of Labour policy, the Government would not have increased child endowment by a single penny. Because the Government was egged on and forced to do something-
Motion (by Mr. Howson) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 11th March (vide page 508), on morion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– For the first time in the history of this Parliament this House has before it a measure designed to make funds available to a State government for the purposes of flood mitigation and soil conservation. The amount of £2,750,000 is to be made available for the State of New South Wales and is intended only to augment local and State funds for flood mitigation works in six prescribed valleys in New South Wales. 1 propose to show that the last two speakers from the Government side in this debate - the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) and the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson) - did not enhance their prestige in the National Par liament by their approach to a national problem. Either they did not know their subject or they deliberately played politics of the worst order. These new members should understand quite early in their parliamentary careers that half-truths are more sinful and more sinister than deliberate falsehoods. By littering halftruths about the flood mitigation and soil conservation works that are being undertaken in New South Wales the honorable members render a great disservice to New South Wales as a sovereign State, to this Parliament, and to their own parliamentary standing.
Let us look first at some of the things said by the honorable member for Evans. As I noted his remarks, the honorable member said -
We do not wish to speak in terms of sheer politics, of why the New South Wales Government only recently has interested itself in this situation. The last eight years would cover all the interesting or valuable action that has been taken in that State.
The honorable member should have learned before speaking in this debate that this is the silver jubilee year of flood mitigation and soil conservation in New South Wales. He spoke of such works as being of recent origin and so disclosed that he had not studied the subject. The honorable member said -
What happens in New South Wales? After serious floods the State Government bestirs itself and begins sporadic activity . .
That statement is far removed from fact. It is much worse than a half-truth and should be kept in mind having regard to some of the things I propose to say later on. The works undertaken in New South Wales have not been equalled in any other State. The honorable member also said that all New South Wales does in this sporadic activity after floods is to start an inquiry through its departments and commissions and councils except, of course, in relation to the Hawkesbury. I wonder what he knows about the Hawkesbury. If he had made a study of the subject he would have known two things: He would have known, first, thatone of the reasons why we do not have so much difficulty with flooding on the Hawkesbury is that 140 years ago Governor Macquarie directed that the towns of Camden, Richmond and Windsor be shifted back from the riverside so that they would not become towns of desolation such as we have on the Macleay and other northern rivers.
The honorable member tried to draw a comparison between the situation in New South Wales and the position in the Tennessee Valley in America. Does he not understand that in 1933 a great movement was commenced on ‘ this level in America to give work to the unemployed there? That was something quite different from what the anti-Labour government did in New South Wales and in other parts of Australia at the time when the Tennessee Valley was being exploited by the Americans because they had the manpower available. The anti-Labour government in New South Wales made men march 50 miles before they got their 10s. dole. That was the difference between what the antiLabour government in New South Wales did in 1933 and the American approach to the kind of problem with which we are dealing to-night. The honorable member went, on to say -
What has been investigated in the Macleay Valley so far? In 1951-52 the New South Wales Government obtained what is known as the Jacka report.
I wonder whether the honorable member looked at the Jacka report because, if he had, he would not have gone on to say that this was an inspection rather than an investigation. Let us look at the Jacka report, a copy of which I have in my hands. Time will not permit me to go through the volume, but let me refer to two or three pages of it. The second paragraph on page 1 states -
On 30th March, 1951, the Minister, on the recommendation of the Conservation Authority and with the concurrence of the Premier and Minister for Public Works, approved the appointment of the Committee with personnel and Terms of Reference as set out elsewhere.
What for? It was to deal with the Macquarie Valley and the problems of the Macleay. That was thirteen years ago and the honorable member talks about sporadic activity by the New South Wales Government after floods. On page 5 of this report the honorable member will find recorded the methods adopted by the committee in 1951 in respect of the Macleay. There was an investigation of drainage problems, a survey in connexion with bank erosion and river regulation in the tidal section of the river, a survey of the river system for location of possible flood mitigation dam sites, an investigation of forest and vegetable cover of steep timbered lands on the catchment area and an investigation of soil erosion in the hilly tablelands of the upper catchment area, resulting in siltation of tributaries and streams. This was all available to the honorable member if he had any real interest in the subject which he rose to deal with. But, of course, he wanted to come in here and play politics the moment he hit this chamber, because he thinks that if he can play politics low enough and bad enough it will have some effect on the State electorates in his area. Let me tell him that the people in those State electorates will bring about his downfall when they have their next opportunity to have a say, if that is the kind of contribution he proposes to make in this chamber.
At page 20 of this document there is set out what has already been recommended by this authority, although the honorable member said nothing was done. It shows that the recommending authority before 1953 - not eight years ago; not after the last flood - recommended the expenditure of £1,090,000. If the honorable member had looked at the following page of the document he would have found that the worst floods of the Macleay were back in last century. The history of this was in the hands of the anti-Labour government, which was in office in New South Wales, in the depression years from 1927 to 1940. There is only one thing for which we have to thank the anti-Labour government in New South Wales, and that is that it had one outstanding member, the late Roy Vincent - a member of the Country Party - who in 1938 put forward the proposition that there should be an authority to deal with this situation in New South Wales. From that came the great movement launched by the McKell Government in 1941-1943. The summary in this document - I will read two brief extracts - states -
The cleared tableland parts of the Macleay River Catchment Area comprise an area of approximately 1,220,000 acres.
Causes of erosion and excessive run-off are overclearing, overstocking, burning of coarse pasture growth, exploitative farming practices, unwise drainage and rabbit infestation.
The summary continues -
Soil conservation as a flood mitigation measure can only be effective if carried out on an extensive basis.
All this information was available to the honorable member. He should have looked at it instead of making the vicious statement he made against the Labour Government of New South Wales with respect to the work of that State in the Macleay River valley. The honorable member, should know better. He came into this place after ten years in the New South Wales Parliament, with this information at his elbow, and look at his contribution to the debate. He said - if I have his words correctly - r think that it is a dreadful reflection on this
Parliament that there should have been an intrusion of party politics into this debate.
Almost before he had taken another breath he went on to say -
I believe that a great deal of credit must go to those governments which came from the political parties which now comprise this side of the National Parliament. But what they did was not followed up in the period from the immediate postwar era until now.
That is what the honorable member for Cowper said, after coming from the State electorate of Casino in New South Wales. With all this, and other information which I propose to use directly, at his elbow, he came into this House prepared to play politics of the worst order, instead of being concerned about national development and the welfare of the people who have settled in the tidal river areas and other parts of New South Wales. The honorable member knew of the bill of 1938 and of the McKell Government’s attitude in 1941, if he had any political nous while he was in the State Parliament. The honorable member can have no interest in the country’s welfare when he comes here misrepresenting the Country Party. Let me remind him again that this is a jubilee year. The next thing the honorable member said was -
I hope that, if there is to be any detailed analysis of the history of this matter, Opposition members will not fail to do a little soul-searching - that they will not fail to recall the sins of omission and commission of the New South Wales Government
He said that after what he had said at the commencement of his speech! What are the sins of omission of the Government of New South Wales? What are the plans and what are the policies? It is clear that any honorable member - and particularly one who spent ten years in the New South Wales Parliament - knows better, because the honorable member for Cowper is not altogether ignorant. His speech indicated that he has some brains if he would use them. It indicates, in addition, that he came here prepared to play politics of the lowest type I have seen in this House, when people are suffering from one end of the country to the other as a result of devastation by floods and the like. The policy and general principles laid down in New South Wales have been laid down since before the 1950’s. They were laid down as the result of the work of 1941-43. The policy was there, clearly laid down for the honorable member if he had the honesty of purpose to rise te his feet and announce it.
The primary reason why we are in difficulty in these six river valleys is that, in the coastal belt especially, losses are caused by periodic floods in townships and on farms that, of necessity, are established in the natural path of the flood waters. As I have indicated, floods occurred in 1875, and even earlier. Indeed, earlier floods reached higher levels than those recorded in 1939 and 1954. Yet people went to the areas that had been flooded and established towns such as Kempsey and Lismore. Lismore is perhaps the classic example. High ground was available immediately behind the present town, but those who established the town chose to build in the valley. As a result, flood waters regularly overwhelm the town. The existing sites were chosen in the knowledge that floods occur.
Let us face it: Great floods occured in our river valleys before white settlement began. The risks were accepted in order to establish communities and agricultural pursuits on the flood plains and river flats of our great rivers. Why was this? lt was because the land in those places was conveniently flat, transport was easy and water supplies were available. The flooding had made the valleys fertile. Let me illustrate by reference to the Austral Eden district adjacent to the Macleay River. This is one of the richest areas in Australia. It has good soil to a depth of 40 feet. All this soil was deposited by siltation. Austral Eden is one of the districts on the Macleay River worst affected by floods. Between 1941 and 1943, an investigation of the situation in New South Wales was undertaken and a firm policy on flood problems was laid down.
– How long after 1941 was that policy laid down?
– This information is taken from a document that has been available to the honorable member. If he really wanted to do something worth while to improve production on the land and help the fanners - people who really count in New South Wales and throughout Australia - he could study documents such as this. That rs what he would do if he approached the matter honestly and refrained from playing politics. Four main approaches to flood mitigation are set out in a report on the flood problem in New South Wales made in 1955. They are stated as follows -
In the early 1950’s, a fifth was added. It is a social approach and is stated in these terms - . . the removal of towns and cities such as Maitland from the Hood plain.
– What have the New South Wales authorities done about any of those things?
– They had in mind the approach of Governor Macquarie more than 140 years ago. It is not easy to persuade people, even though they fear that every flood may be their last, to do what is required. From about 1928 until the early 1940’s, there was no flood of any magnitude that caused damage’. I discuss this matter with a personal interest because I was born and reared in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales and have seen the streams there in flood. I suffered in the flood of 1932 on the Hastings River. That flood did not affect the Macleay River, but it broke some farmers on the Hastings - the next river to the south. Even in the big flood of 1955, one tributary of the Macleay River did not feed one additional gallon of water into that river, because rain had not fallen in the catchment area of the tributary. One of the worst floods that ever occurred on the Macleay River saw very little water fed in by the upper tributaries.
The history of flooding and flood mitigation has been studied very closely. I have in my hand a report by the New South Wales Department of Conservation published in June, 1962. This was available to the honorable member for Cowper. A later report published in 1963 has since become available. I think that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) may have something to say about it later. Let me just make brief reference to the 1962 report, which outlines some of the difficulties that have to be faced, and have been faced by the New South Wales Government. Indeed, that Government faced these difficulties alone until the introduction of this measure. The report states - . . the difficult task of flood mitigation may include the provision of a flood mitigation component in a dam, river training (riverbank stabilization, channel improvement, etc.), soil conservation works and measures to reduce and retard water run-off in the catchment area or river basin, and the maintenance of adequate forest cover on the steeper lands.
– That was known twenty years ago.
– When my honorable friend was a member of the New South Wales Parliament, he was supposed to be taking care of the matters that affected his electorate. Had he been doing so, he would have found, commencing at page 5 of this report by the New South Wales Department of Conservation, a special section dealing with flood mitigation on the coastal rivers. Special mention is made of the Hunter River and the work of the Committee of Advice on Flood Mitigation. The report points out that that committee had submitted eight reports up to June, 1962, and goes on to state what is necessary for flood mitigation on the Hunter River. It mentions a proposal for the re-siting of Maitland, and flood mitigation proposals at Gilgandra. I wonder whether the honorable member for Cowper knows where Gilgandra is. There are bigger flood mitigation problems in some, parts of the west than there are on the north coast. The report also mentions proposals for flood mitigation works at Warren, Wagga Wagga and Walgett, and proposals by the Soil Conservation Service of New South Wales for the mitigation of flooding in the Hunter valley. All those matters are covered in this report. It goes on to deal with flood mitigation on the Clarence, Richmond and Tweed rivers. It points out that recommendations made would involve an expenditure of approximately £900,000 on the Richmond River and £530,000 on the Tweed River. These works were to be financed by the New South Wales Government paying £2 for every £1 provided by the local people, or £3 for £1 for works on the Hunter River.
Let me now turn to another document, Sir. I do not want to discuss it at length. This also was available all the time to not only members of the New South Wales Parliament but also members of this Parliament if they wished to get the information that is available as a result of the great work that has been done in New South Wales.
– What about the Hawkesbury River?
– The honorable member has just blown in. I have not time to repeat what I have said. If he will read the report of my speech in “ Hansard “, he will learn what I have already put before the House. Some honorable members opposite talk about the Hawkesbury River and say that dams on the headwaters of streams are the answer to floods. They are not. Many people thought that the Warragamba dam on the Nepean River would help to prevent flooding on the flat land on the lower reaches of the Hawkesbury River, especially near Richmond.. But what happened? Less than two years ago, the water in the dam reached danger level and some of the incoming flow had to be released over the dam. As a result, Richmond experienced the worst floods that it had seen since the original town was moved to the present site by Governor Macquarie. This was because the dam had not sufficient capacity to take the tremendous volume of water that flowed into it. In the interests of safety, the height of water in the dam had to be reduced by eighteen inches. So dams on the headwaters are not the answer to the problem.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– Let me tell the honorable member for Evans something. The proper use of dammed water is for irrigation. If water is dammed for irrigation, the dam remains three parts full or perhaps more, and when a flood comes seme of the flood water has to be released over the dam.
– The honorable member is talking about the wrong thing altogether.
– In effect, the honorable member for Evans says, “ What nonsense!” The other evening, he talked about engineers. But he flies in the face of the great engineers who are working on these problems. They are the greatest authorities on this matter in Australia to-day. The honorable member denies the truth of what they say.
– I quoted what they had said.
– If the honorable member wants to know something about what has been done, he can find the information in a report entitled “ Soil Conservation in New South Wales “, published in April, 1963. Perhaps I should take time to read some of it. The report states -
Concurrently with the establishment of the Research Stations, a detailed erosion survey of the Eastern and Central Divisions was undertaken during 1941-43.
The honorable member may not know that there are 62 soil conservation research stations in New South Wales. Indeed, I suppose that he does not know where any two of them are. The report continues -
These Divisions embrace nearly all the cultivation lands of the State and support 90 per cent, of the livestock.
The report continues -
In summary, slightly more than 56,000,000 acres was found to be affected by erosion, including 1,188,000 acres which probably was beyond economic reclamation. Only 51.7 per cent, of the Eastern and Central Divisions was considered to be free from accelerating erosion at the time of the survey.
That was the situation at the time the McKell Government took office after years of anti-Labour government. The antiLabour governments did not do one single solitary thing from 1927 until they left office in 1940. Let me refer to a pamphlet issued by the Soil Conservation Service of New South Wales. It is called “ Silver Juilee “ and is being distributed at the Sydney Royal Easter Show this year. It is intended to help the country people understand their problems.
– It is just another report.
– It is just another report! That is the type of thinking that brainless . people indulge in, Mr. Speaker. The pamphlet contains the following statement -
New ground was broken in 1938 with the passing of the Soil Conservation Act which authorised the constitution of the Soil Conservation Service of New’ South Wales, and created the Catchment Areas Protection Board.
This was the first legislation of this nature approved by any Parliament in Australia.
Now let me tell the House what has happened since 1941-43. A survey at that time of the Eastern and Central Divisions showed that these areas supported 90 per cent, of the livestock and that they presented a tremendous problem that had to be solved. What did this Government do? It knew that the individual farmers could not possibly meet the situation confronting them. The New South Wales Government established 62 survey stations to help the” farmers and it provided machinery costing more than £700,000 and the services of technical officers who knew how to use it. The farmers appreciated this. Some 12,700 applications have been received from farmers from one end of New South Wales to the other for the use of this machinery. The plant includes 92 crawler tractors and the farmers have spent £2,000,000 on the hire of the machinery. The 62 stations provide the services of more than 100 skilled men who are ready to advise the farmers who have problems. Visits to properties now total 10,000 a year and inspections have been made of erosion problems on 22,400 rural properties.
Let me round off my argument on this question. In the last few days the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has told us that our employment situation is good. I wonder whether he realizes that between Maitland and the Queensland border, according to the report that was made available this week, 2,232 people are on the dole. In the towns of Maitland, Cessnock, Taree, Kempsey, Grafton, Lismore and Murwillumbah we have 2,232 people who, instead of being unemployed, would rather have a job on flood mitigation work.
– How many females are included in your figures? Do you want to put young girls to work on the roads? You should wake up to yourself.
– Now that the honorable member raises this question, let us look at the figures for Lismore. In 1926, 484 people were unemployed there; in 1963, 502 were unemployed; and at this very hour 422 are unemployed. Does the honorable member suggest that a great many of these people are not timber workers anc the like who have been displaced as a result of the credit squeeze?
– They are not.
– Like everything else, you would not make a study of this issue. You would not understand it.
– He is laughing about it.
– Yes, he laughs because he does not understand the problem. This is the kind of thing that sometimes make me have second thoughts about honorable members opposite. We are paying big sums of money to people on the dole and we have been for three years. To-night we are paying more than £2,000,000 to assist with flood work in New South Wales, but there is no cooperation between this Government and the local government authorities and other bodies who must undertake the work. The Government should not run down the local government authorities, because they are rendering a very great public service. They are ready to organize the work force in their’ areas, and the work could proceed if this Government did not still have the same narrow outlook that the LiberalAustralian Country Party Government had during the depression years. It did nothing whilst the great works in the Tennessee Valley, about which the honorable member for Evans spoke, were being built. At this stage, the Government is still following the same pattern; it will not make the necessary money available and it will not co-ordinate the work as between the State and Commonwealth Governments so that advantage can be taken of the manpower that is available. Men and women who are at present unemployed could be given full-time jobs doing useful work.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am surprised to hear the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) depart from his usual standard of debate. He. seems to have been beating himself into a fury about the fact that the Commonwealth Government is now providing £2,750.000 in a very constructive approach to the problem of flood mitigation on the coast of New South Wales. He exhibited a lack of knowledge of this subject, and this is quite surprising for the honorable member for Blaxland. I have listened to him with respect in the past, and I am very sorry that he has put this speech on record in this place. His speech had little to do with the bill. If it did anything, it seemed to try to show that the Australian Labour Party is responsible for what the Menzies Government is doing now. Because his case was not proven, he became very excited, put a great deal of heat into his speech and used words that in fact meant nothing.
The debate on the provision of these funds seems to have deteriorated into a dog fight about who is responsible. Opposition members have said that the councils started the work - and they did - and that the New South Wales Government became interested at a later stage. Many of us have bitter memories of the lack of interest shown by the New South Wales Government. Indeed, the reports referred to by the honorable member for Blaxland reveal this lack of interest. Three or four rivers are mentioned on each page of the reports and this shows how little information was available about them.
I well remember the late Right Honorable Sir Earle Page taking a flying boat to the Clarence River after having gone through the Gorge area and the upper Clarence. He landed on the Clarence River and was met by the dignitaries from the local government authorities. These people were very disappointed when the New South Wales Minister for Conservation, Mr. George Weir, did not arrive. I recall that the mayor and the town clerk looked through the empty flying boat and asked, “ Where is George Weir? “ But George Weir was not there. That meant curtains for years for any attempt by the people on the Clarence River to have flood mitigation dealt with by the State authority.
It is interesting to review the attitude adopted on this subject by that towering figure amongst the minnows of the Labour Party, the late Mr. Chifley. I think all of us could profitably spend a moment or two listening to what the late Mr. Chifley said on this subject because it will be recalled that honorable members opposite who have spoken so far in this debate have chided Government supporters for saying that this is a matter primarily for the States. On 14th June, 1945, in answer to a question about flood relief raised by the late Mr. Anthony, who was then honorable member for Richmnod, Mr. Chifley, who was Acting Prime Minister at the time, said -
The general attitude in the past has been that these visitations are mainly the responsibility of the State Government concerned. . . .
On 29th June, 1945, in answer to a question by Mr. Mountjoy of Western Australia about flood damage in that State, Mr. Chifley said -
However, as I have already pointed out, local troubles of this kind come within the province of the State governments and the Commonwealth Government does not usually intervene in other than a great national disaster.
That was the position as the leader of the Labour Party saw it in those days. The situation is not exactly as the honorable member for Blaxland indicated, because these floods have suddenly become exceedingly dangerous and of great importance due to deforestation, siltation and blocking of the mouths of the rivers and the extreme flooding of the flood plain areas. On 17th June, 1949, the water level reached 20 feet in the main street of Maitland. It reached approximately the same level on the same date - 17th June - in 1949, 1950 and 1951. I am detailing these .facts because since 1950 I have been the Commonwealth representative on the New South Wales Flood Relief Commitee. I have for many years farmed on a flood plain and have experienced eight floods in one year. On 29th June, 1949, just twelve days after the big flood in Maitland, Mr. Chifley, speaking in a debate instituted by Mr. Abbott, said -
The construction of dams is a matter for the State Government in the first place. Its proposals for works of that kind can be submitted to the Commonwealth -
I want the House to note this carefully - through the Loan Council or at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers . . . Other Prime Ministers and Treasurers have pointed out, as I have done on many occasions, that any catastrophe that occurs in only one State can be dealt with in the first -place only by the Government of that State.
There can be no doubt about the views held by Mr. Chifley, who was Prime Minister and Treasurer in the last Labour Government. Speaking in the debate on 29th June, 1949, Mr. Chifley further said-
I asked them to inform local government bodies in those areas, or other interested parties, to make representations to the New South Wales Government.
He further said -
The procedure followed -
Can anybody deny this procedure - when a State government and this Government decide to join in providing relief in such instances is that the State government sets up a committee of expert officers who are used to dealing with questions of relief, and some of whom can offer expert advice in addition to their administrative ability. That has been done in previous instances in every State.
The debate in 1949, which was the last year in which the Labour Party was in power in Canberra, continued in that vein. On 8th September, 1949, the late Sir Earle Page directed to Mr. Chifley, who was then Prime Minister and Treasurer, a question about the provision of assistance to New South Wales for flood relief. In answering the question Mr. Chifley said -
The right honorable gentleman will realize, of course, that these matters fall within the jurisdiction of the States and that the Commonwealth can assist only as the result of representations by the State governments.
All that is true and as plain as a pikestaff. That is the only procedure that has been adopted by Commonwealth governments in this matter.
What has been the history of grants for flood relief? In 1955, the New South Wales Government began to make grants but it did not submit its plans to the Commonwealth. There were telephone calls from Mr. McGirr to the Chifley Government and letters from Mr. Heffron to the Menzies Government asking for assistance, but it was not until 31st July, 1963 - .less than nine months ago - that the New South Wales Government actually began to make coherent representations to the Commonwealth Government. In other words, it was not until July of last year that the New South Wales Government actually made a case in this matter. That case was prepared by the councils concerned from the Tweed to the Shoalhaven. The case was read by New South Wales departmental engineers and was sent to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth approved of the approach made and acknowledged that much painstaking work had been put into preparing the case. The Commonwealth stated that in its view the engineering principles involved were sound and that in accepting some obligation in the matter a dividend would accrue to all people con cerned. The Commonwealth stated that in its view the people of the rivers concerned who had undertaken so much and who had increased their rates in order to raise finance should be helped. It felt that the Commonwealth and the States could benefit from the proposals. After a few days’ consideration the Commonwealth accepted the proposals put to it.
Early in June last year the honorable member for Casino in the New South Wales Parliament, who is now in this Parliament, the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson), told an historic meeting in the Clarence River County Council rooms in Grafton that the only way to get things done was to present a case from the councils to the State Government and the Commonwealth -Government. He said that any attempt to deal with the matter in any other way was bound to fail. The honorable member for Cowper was correct. After that meeting a case was prepared by men who worked day and night, week in and week out. They forfeited their annual holidays. They were led by Mr. Jim Salter, Town Clerk of the Macleay River County Council. Their case went to the New South Wales Government and from it to the Commonwealth Government, which immediately agreed to it. In other words, where the correct procedure was adopted immediate actions followed.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has said that this legislation is exceptional in that it is a break-through. It is the first time the Commonwealth has come to the aid of a State on flood mitigation. This bill, therefore, is an historic and constructive one. This is the first time that the Commonwealth Government has done what ought to be done about floods in Australia,
Exhortations to emulate the work of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States of America were pointless until the New South Wales Labour Government put this matter before the Commonwealth Government. According to what the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said and according to my information, the New South Wales Government had been paying a subsidy of £2 for £1 for some years before an approach was made to the Commonwealth Government. In other words, the State Government fell down on the job. Immediately it began to pay the £2 for £1 subsidy, or even before that, it should have approached the Commonwealth. There is not the slightest doubt about that, because immediately it approached the Commonwealth, the Menzies-McEwen Government agreed to participate in the scheme and money is to be paid over immediately.
We have seen exhibitions of a different practice. We saw the rather desperate, panic-stricken former member for Cowper, Frank McGuren, stand up here and engage in a stunt. Had he bothered to read what Mr. Chifley said, he would have known that he would fail. He must have known that he was putting on a phoney stunt in front of his constituents. He knew that because of the tragic death of Sir Earle Page in 1961, he was temporarily representing a Country Party electorate and would not be able to hold the seat. He thought his only chance was to put on a stunt. He actually told the people of Grafton that members, of the Liberal Party and the Country Party would not go there, and when we went there he tried to stop us. He said that we would be too late.
In my opinion that was really playing low-down politics iri a situation in’ which the people of that area - the Clarence River area - and of the other northern river areas had to be served. There had to be a correct approach. Solid, painstaking and hard work had to be done by engineers trained by Professor Crawford Munro, who was associated with the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) in the University of New South Wales. The honorable member for Evans referred to the professor’s work in the very intelligent speech that he made last week. We thank him for his constructive speech which really went to the heart of this problem of flood mitigation.
The names of the men who signed the case should go on record. The case was presented to the New South Wales Government and then came before the Federal Government. It was agreed to immediately. Those men were the president of the Tweed Shire Council, Councillor Lundberg; the president of the Richmond River County Council, Councillor Yabsley; the chairman of the Clarence River County Council, Councillor Gordon McCartney; the chairman of the Macleay River County Council,
Councillor O’Dell; the deputy president of the Shoalhaven Shire Council, Councillor Joe Calcraft; and James Salter, the county clerk of the Macleay River County Council. As the co-ordinator, James Salter gave untiring and dedicated service to the task of preparing this case. A tribute should be paid to him for his work, because this is a magnificent case. I am delighted to see that the benefit of modern printing was given to the case. It commences with these words -
Hie councils making this submission represent an area of 5,621,852 acres having an average annual production of £9,169,000 . . .
I think these figures were mentioned by an honorable member opposite and incorporated in “ Hansard “; so there is no need for me to read them all. The objective of the request to the Federal Government for assistance in flood mitigation is set out clearly in the case and will bear repetition. The- case states -
The principal objective of our planned works is the prevention of what are commonly called “nuisance floods”; the preservation of the valuable river bank lands and the reduction to a minimum of the period of inundation. In many instances these works will also prevent major flooding and in all instances even when not preventing major flooding will reduce their severity and the- period of inundation.
The case goes on to deal with different types of floods and how many of them can be obviated. This flood mitigation work has changed previously held ideas, such as that afforestation work should be done and dams should be built on tributaries. It means that the flood plains are to be drained; the water is to be taken off as quickly as possible, and the land is to be put back into production. In other words, the work is to start where the highest costbenefit ratio will be achieved from the work of the engineers.
I have had a look at the work ot the councils since this case was presented. The Shoalhaven Shire Council has an efficient engineering department. It has more oi less taken its flood mitigation responsibilities in its stride and its design work is ahead of the availability of funds. The New South Wales Public Works Department is particularly pleased with the progress on that work. The Macleay River County Council has a very big job to do. It might have to obtain extra staff. The work in the Clarence River area is up to and ahead of schedule. The
Clarence River County Council is carrying out its jobs with very low costs for design and construction. Other councils would profit from looking at the work that the Clarence River County Council is doing. The Richmond River County Council expects to be up to about 90 per cent, of its budget. The Tweed Shire Council is in a similar position to the Shoalhaven Shire Council. It is taking its flood mitigation responsibilities more or less in its stride.
The major emerging bottle-neck in this work is the hydro-meteorological recording and forecasting of floods. This work was taken over by the Federal Government when the Department of the Interior began its hydro-meteorological section. The Macleay River County Council has been fortunate enough to have the first of these jobs done in its area. The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) is in the chamber. He took the Government Members’ Food and Agriculture Committee to the north coast of New South Wales. He was responsible for our visit which resulted in the case being presented quickly and the Commonwealth Government agreeing to it. I am grateful to the honorable member for doing that.
The hydro-meteorological work should be expanded rapidly and widely. The work on the Macleay River is going well, but the work is spread too thinly over the other areas. In order to avoid loss of life, stock and property, the important thing is to know that a Mood is coming. In many cases lives are lost, first, because accurate information is not forthcoming or, secondly, because inaccurate information was provided previously and the farmers, householders and other people living on the river banks are inclined not to take any notice of information that is provided. Accurate information must be sent out quickly. The floods must be accurately forecast. There must be no mistakes. The people who listen to the reports must know to within an inch the height to which a flood will go.
It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to provide that information. This hydro-meteorological work comes under the Department of the Interior. It must be proceeded with. More money should be provided for it. This work should be done immediately. We should not wait until another flood occurs. Now is the time to do it.’ It should be done in the dry weather when serious floods are not likely to occur. This is our chance to put in recording stations. This is our chance to do all this work. In my opinion, the Commonwealth should proceed with this work urgently.
These flood mitigation works are designed to drain the flood plains after floods. All the damage has been done before these works come into operation. They protect the river banks, drain the water off and get the lands back into production as soon as possible. This has nothing to do with loss of life or with damage to roads, bridges and buildings which occurs when the flood travels at high speed.
The honorable member for Blaxland referred to the Warragamba dam and lauded the distinguished engineers there. They are charged with supplying water to the metropolis of Sydney. I have appealed to them over and over again to do something about flood mitigation. Years ago a chairman of the water board in Sydney, who was a very great engineer, told me that his job was to provide water for Sydney. I said to him: “ You have recording stations on your streams; you know the amount of water coming down; you know the forecast; you know when the water will go over the dam; you know the height at which it will go over the spillway; so can’t you please let some water go in advance because this will flatten the peak of the flood? “ If you get some water away first you level out the flood and you do not have the high peak which causes the damage. I received the reply: “ Our job is to supply water to the metropolitan area of Sydney. That is our only job. We are not here to do flood mitigation work.”
– I think that has since, been changed.
– I hope it has, but the evidence is not very convincing. To be fair, my questions were not put to Mr. Haviland, the present chairman, but I have not seen anything to make me believe that there has been, or will be, a very big change.
I want to know why the Hawkesbury River has been excluded from this bill. The Hawkesbury is the historic river on which were the historic floods we learned about at school, when the early settlers thought that they would have to give up because their food supplies were destroyed. I have been told that the New South Wales Government has been asked repeatedly to state a case for flood mitigation work on the Hawkesbury. I have contacted the shires on the upper reaches of the river. I would like to co-operate with the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin) and go with him to Richmond and Windsor and hold a meeting there to see what can be done to bring the Hawkesbury within the purview of this work. I cannot understand why it and other rivers have been excluded. Apparently the local authorities on the rivers which have been included were enterprising and painstaking. They realized the seriousness of the position and did the necessary , engineering work. One of the small shires on the north coast increased its rates within a very short time from £6,000 a year to £66,000 a year. In other words, the people taxed themselves to the limit of their capacity to provide funds for flood mitigation work.
The case which has been presented to the Commonwealth Government is the result of the effort made by those people. They have done a most praiseworthy, a magnificent and a most painstaking job. They could not obtain engineers without providing attractive salaries. Professor Crawford Munro, of the University of New South Wales, has trained engineers who, supported by the local people, have done this job with great distinction. The job simply had to be done because of the urgency of mitigating the effects of floods.
This legislation is the break-through. This is the first time that the Commonwealth Government has taken on such a national job. In fact, this is the first time that the Commonwealth Government has had the opportunity to do so. Even Mr. Chifley said repeatedly that this was a matter for the New South Wales Government in the first instance. ‘ It was up to the State Government to put a case to the Commonwealth. That case was put to the Commonwealth Government only after the local authorities on the six rivers put their heads together. The application was studied by the State Public Works Department and then was forwarded to Canberra. The Commonwealth Government agreed immediately with just the merest-
– You are pulling your own leg.
– Well, this document is dated 31st July, 1963. It went to the State Labour Government, which could have done something five years ago, and immediately upon receipt by the Commonwealth Government agreement was forthcoming. Now in March, 1964, the legislation is before us.
– Because there was an election.
– The honorable member says that the Commonwealth Government acted so quickly because there was an election. All right, we had an election and the people were the judges. Who disappeared from this place? The former honorable member for Cowper and the former honorable member for Mitchell are no longer with us. The people knew that this was a phoney stunt by the Labour Party.
.- The excuses offered by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) for the delay in the Commonwealth Government accepting its responsibilities to assist the people of the north coast of New South Wales and of the Shoalhaven area will not be accepted by this House. The honorable member knows full well that the Government was well informed on this matter and that there were numerous visits to the area by members of the Government parties and by committees representing the Opposition and a combined visitation during one of the worst flood periods. The fact that the Commonwealth Government failed to do anything about this until election time came around is sufficient to condemn the Government. But of course tardiness has always been a habit of the Government. It has never been in a hurry. There has never been any urgency in any matter.
This is one of the most shameful things in the history of our nation. Those of us who have seen the floods devastating the countryside, carrying livestock out to sea, covering the pastures of the rich river flats and generally bringing desolation to the countryside, could not help but be appalled by the Government’s failure to take action. I regret very much that it is necessary for me this evening to speak with some feeling about this subject.
This bill is welcomed by the Opposition. It will bring a measure of satisfaction to those engaged in the work of flood control and mitigation. County councils and other local authorities will regard it as a victory not only in the fight against floods but also over the Government’s inertia and indifference.
The bill provides for a grant to New South Wales of £2,750,000 over a period of six years commencing this financial year. This grant will match grants by New South Wales for flood mitigation work on the Tweed, Richmond, Clarence, Macleay, Shoalhaven and Hunter Rivers. The State already provides £3 for £1 for work carried out by the Hunter River Trust and £2 for each £1 spent by the other local authorities on the rivers that I have mentioned. The fact that the Hawkesbury River has not been included in the list is, perhaps, something for which this Government ought to answer. If it answers the question fairly it may say that one of the reasons why action is not being taken in respect of the Hawkesbury River is that a local committee has not been established in the way that the county councils have been established to cover the rivers on the north coast of New South Wales, or similar to the trust that operates in respect of the Hunter River. In any event, the responsibility to answer for that is the Government’s, not mine.
A good deal has already been said about the work that is involved in this proposal. The total cost of the works will be £12,900,000. An amount of £7,500,000 will be spent on the Hunter River and £5,400,000 on the other rivers. I may be allowed at this stage to pay a tribute to the leaders in the various communities who have acted as pioneers. Whatever we may say in this Parliament in trying to apportion blame, let us be reasonable and just, let us pay credit where credit is due, and let us acknowledge the work of those leaders of the community in the various county councils who have been prepared, not only to come together and discuss these matters, but also to levy themselves to provide the nucleus of the funds necessary for this important work.
The history of the county councils is not a very long one. The honorable member for Macarthur, who has gone back into the days of my predecessor in the electorate of Macquarie, the late Ben Chifley, knows that these county councils were not in existence in those days. Because they were not functioning, funds were not available to match a grant either from the State Government or the Commonwealth Government. Of course, the honorable member neglected to tell us that this was so. Instead, he spent his time in making excuses for the failure of the Commonwealth Government to make adequate contributions over recent years and since the establishment of these county councils.
The county councils on the Clarence River came into being about seven years ago, following suggestions made by the Deputy Premier of New South Wales, the Hon. Jack Renshaw. He suggested to the people in the areas concerned that they should get together and form these county councils so that, the State governments could match their payments. This was what the State Government did initially, although later it doubled its contributions to the county councils of the northern rivers. The Macleay River County Council was established before the Clarence River County Council, and repeated efforts were made during that period to obtain aid from the Commonwealth. The State Government itself made representations over and over again to the Commonwealth, but the Commonwealth Government turned a deaf ear because in those days the Menzies-Fadden and Menzies-McEwen administrations enjoyed large majorities in this Parliament and the issue was not as politically vital as it is now, although floodings were the order of the day. The late Sir Earle Page had repeatedly urged in this Parliament that action be taken. He made many speeches about the gorge scheme, in which he championed the need for water conservation as a means of dealing with floodings. Ail his speeches are on record. But no action was taken by the Government; his voice was not heeded.
I would like to point out to the House that while a good deal has been said about what the Commonwealth should do in this -matter, no one has gone on the record to give the words of the late Sir Earle Page, as I intend to do this evening. Let me tell the House that the proposals in this bill follow closely the suggestions made to the Parliament by Mr. Frank McGuren, the former member for Cowper. This bill might well be called the Frank McGuren Flood Mitigation Bill. If it were so called, credit would be given to a man who rendered faithful service to his electors and who was a champion in this place of the local point of view. But honorable members on the Government side, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has said, have been content to follow the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). When the Prime Minister turned a deaf ear on suggestions that the Commonwealth should help in flood mitigation work, the members of the Australian Country Party and of the Liberal Party, despite their sympathy for the people who suffered from flood devastation, were not prepared to vote in this House in favour of measures designed to assist in flood mitigation. They would have nothing to do with them because the Government was not sympathetic towards them. But when the Prime Minister changed his tune the members of the Government parties were glad to climb on the band wagon.
I have referred to the work of Mr. Frank McGuren, the former member for Cowper. It would be a very poor type of person in this Parliament, utterly uncharitable, unjust, untruthful and unkind, who would not give a measure of thanks to the former honorable member for his work in this field. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle), when speaking on the Appropriation Bill on 30th April, 1963, said-
The honorable member or Cowper (Mr. McGuren) persists in his representations concerning flood mitigation. I give him full credit for doing so, and just as he persists in his atttiude, I propose to persist in deploring strikes.
As an honest man he gave credit where credit was due. Looking through the records I find that, over and over again Mr. Frank McGuren, as the honorable member for Cowper, repeatedly raised this matter in the Parliament. I have here a sheaf of excerpts from “ Hansard “, in which Mr. Frank McGuren has referred to this matter. I find, for instance, that on 16th May, 1963, Mr. McGuren proposed a matter of urgent public importance for discussion, in these terms -
The need for work, subsidized by the Commonwealth Government on a £1 for £1 basis wilh the States, which will mitigate and control the frequent and disastrous floods in Australia, preserve valuable production, and prevent the heavy economic losses which follow these floods.
How those words resemble the words used in this bill. It is for these reasons that I have seriously suggested that the bill might very well be described as the Frank McGuren Flood Mitigation Bill. Perhaps we may be able to submit that proposition when we reach the committee stage. I have many other excerpts here from “Hansard”, all dealing with flood mitigation proposals put forward by Mr. McGuren.
On 22nd August, 1963, he supported an amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in relation to this matter. He asked questions of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on flood mitigation. On 4th October, 1962, during the debate on the Estimates, he again laid the basis for the proposals contained in the bill now before the House. He moved by way of amendment that a subsidy of £1 -for £1 should be provided to match the contribution by the State of New South Wales. I think I have indicated clearly the action that was taken by Mr. McGuren in this matter.
The Treasurer (Mr; Harold Holt) stated in his second-reading speech -
Despite the fact that the financing of flood mitigation works is normally entirely the responsibility of the States and State local government authorities, we came to the conclusion that the provision of special Commonwealth assistance was warranted, because of the great national benefits, particularly in terms of increased production, that would result from speedy implementation of the flood mitigation programmes of the local authorities to which I have referred.
What a difference there is between those words used by the Treasurer and the words he used in 1962 when Mr. McGuren moved the amendment to which I have referred. At that time, the Treasurer said -
No one can deny that in our federation the division of responsibilities has placed the matter of flood mitigation within the jurisdiction of the State governments. That is clearly understood. By proceeding as they have done to-day, honorable gentlemen opposite say in effect that they do not believe in a federal system.
I ask honorable members opposite: Have you now abandoned the federal system? The Treasurer went on to say - the Labour Party is proposing what is, in effect, a censure motion on the Treasury estimates, on a matter not within those estimates and not even within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government.
I ask the House: If this matter was outside the competence of the Commonwealth Government prior to the general election on 30th November, 1963, how does it become constitutionally correct to proceed with it now? Clearly, the Treasurer was speaking with his tongue in his cheek and did not inform the Parliament fully at that time.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has been promoted and is now Minister for the Interior. Naturally, we wish him well in the work that lies ahead of him, but I hope that he will be more realistic in his approach to that work than he was in his approach to flood mitigation. In relation to the amendment moved by Mr. McGuren in 1962, he said -
When the honorable member for Cowper rises in this chamber and says that the Commonwealth should enter this field, he is only trying to create a diversion. He is trying to pass the buck onto the Commonwealth Government, although this is a State responsibility. What is the difference between the State, undertaking flood control and building dams such as the Glenbawn dam and the Keepit dam?
The Minister for the Interior was not alone in adopting that attitude. The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock), who is the Chairman of Committees, said in the Parliament on 4th October, 1962 -
Does the honorable member for Macquarie mean the Commonwealth Government should increase taxes in order to finance a project that should be financed by that State Government?
He was referring to the Government of New South Wales. I have no evidence that taxes are to be increased to finance the grant that is to be made to New South Wales for flood mitigation. Yet, that was the excuse used by the honorable member for Lyne in opposing our suggestion that flood mitigation should be accepted as a vitally important matter. He went on to say - as the Commonwealth Parliament we cannot, and should not, blithely throw money away to the States without a sense of responsibility.
Does he say that by voting money to the State of New South Wales on this occasion we are throwing it away in a spirit of reckless irresponsibility? When we consider this matter coldly and dispassionately we may ask ourselves: Which members of the House should advocate the provision of money for flood mitigation? The answer must be: The honorable member for Lyne, the honorable member for Richmond, who is now the
Minister for the Interior, other honorable members whose electorates have suffered the disastrous consequences of floods over the years and, in fact, all members of the Parliament who sympathize with people who have suffered grievous loss through floods.
The question of responsibility in this matter has been raised during the debate. I have quoted the views of the Minister for the Interior and the honorable member for Lyne, and to-night we have heard the honorable member for Macarthur. Reference has been made to the efforts in the field of flood mitigation of the late Sir Earle Page who was Prime Minister of this country for a short period and also Treasurer, Minister for Health and Leader of the Australian Country Party. He was the member for Cowper for many years. According to the “ Hansard “ report of 29th September, I960, at page 1548, the revered and respected right honorable member for Cowper said -
Therefore, I say that the time has come when we must devise some permanent machinery to put capital into major water conservation works. I believe we should look around and see what other countries are doing in this regard. We should make certain that the money is available.
I ask honorable members to heed the following words spoken by Sir Earle Page: -
Since the introduction of uniform taxation, there has been no opportunity for the States to tax incomes even if they desired to impose taxes to obtain money for this purpose. The Commonwealth has taken over the whole field of income taxation and has also reduced other levels of taxation by imposing customs duties, excise duties, pay-roll tax and so on. It is up to the Commonwealth to find the money for this work.
That is what the Labour Party has been saying. Apologies and excuses such as those made to-night by the honorable member for Macarthur are not acceptable to the members of the Opposition. Sir Earle Page went on to say -
I hope that it will find it in the same way as it finds the money for the federal aid roads scheme. We should assist them, but not as we are doing at present.
Sir Earle Page was a man of great national stature. In his last years in the Parliament he referred repeatedly to the need to tackle the problem of water conservation and flood mitigation in a major way. He directed attention to the need for the gorge scheme to store water and preventing flooding in the Clarence River valley.
In this dry continent the Commonwealth Government should have done much more than it has done. Its activities in relation to the Australian Water Resources Council are very helpful but I should like to think that there will be some positive and dynamic planning on a national basis. All the river systems offer in their own way different and special problems for those who will be called upon to deal with the storage and reticulation of water and the need for flood prevention. The Burdekin and Fitzroy Rivers of Queensland are big rivers that ought to receive the attention of this Parliament. Action has been taken at the Ord River in a modified way. but 1 want to see all our river systems taken into a broad national water scheme, not only to overcome the problem of flooding but also for the purpose of applying life-giving water to our national development.
I have referred to the late Sir Earle Page. I wish to refer also to a statement by Professor C. H. Munro reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald” of 24th August, 1962. The professor is reported to have said at the Congress of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science in Sydney that a national water resources plan was called for. He spoke at length on this matter and emphasized the urgency and importance of it. Honorable members realize that Australia is a dry continent with two outstanding and urgent problems - the supply and control of water, and good means of transport. I cannot deal now with transport. Many people have referred to water control and flood mitigation, and among them is a person who is well known in the Australian Country Party organization. I refer to Mr. Ulrich Ellis of New State fame. He put forward a plan for flood mitigation for the New England area. That is another worthy proposition which has not been included in the measure before us.
I do not think it is good enough for us merely to say what the State Governments and local authorities ought to be doing. Surely the responsibility of leadership and planning resides here in the nation’s capital. If we do not accept that responsibility, to whom shall the people turn? The responsibility belongs to the nation and to this Parliament.
On 10th July, 1962, an editorial appeared ia the Adelaide “Advertiser” under the heading, “Need for a National Water Plan “. It stated-
To take a leading part in development projects in other countries is bound to help an Australian to see more clearly the needs of this partlydeveloped and relatively dry continent. Commander Sir Robert Jackson, former Secretary of the Australian Ministry of National Development, gained such experience in Ghana, India and Pakistan.
The editorial goes on to quote this eminent authority on the need for a national water plan.
I would be happy if the Parliament could rise above petty talk about what has gone on in the past. Let us go forward. Let us acknowledge the work of the people who have done a good job; let us acknowledge the leadership of the experts who write so well in documents such as the reports of the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission and the Department of Conservation of New South Wales and publications such as the “ Living Earth “ and “ Men of the Land “. These publications by experts are worthy of the utmost respect and consideration of honorable members. More attention should be paid to the wise words contained in them. Sir Earle Page is reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 10th January, 1958, as urging a plan to cut drought and flood losses. How wise and how sensible that statement was, but it fell on the unreceptive ears of those in charge of the government at that time. It was left to the positive and dynamic actions of Frank McGuren and the critical ingredients of an election and a government in peril to bring about a change. Sir Earle Page stated that floods on the north coast of New South Wales caused losses amounting to £40,000,000 in eight years. Yet until now the Government has not been able to find £2,750,000 as a modest contribution to the work of flood mitigation in that area of New South Wales and on the Shoalhaven River.
Let this nonsense be ended. Let us go on henceforth with a clear and positive policy on the important matters of water conservation, irrigation, flood mitigation and our national development. These tasks ought to be supported by every person worthy to be called a good Australian.
.- I have a very keen desire to enter this debate for a number of reasons. In fact, I have been involved in every debate on flood mitigation that has occurred here since I came into the Parliament. I enter this debate in order to express the appreciation of the people of my electorate and the people who live on the north coast of New South Wales of the money to be made available by the Commonwealth to the State Government for flood mitigation. I also am eager to enter the debate in order to counter some of the political propaganda that still seems to be associated with flood mitigation. Each time the subject has been debated here during the past two years it has been overloaded with political propaganda.
– I do not think that is quite fair.
– I hope in the course of my speech to prove that what I am saying is absolutely correct. I find it necessary to counter some of the accusations that have been made against me. It has been said that I have changed over a period of time my opinion and attitude towards flood mitigation and the responsibility for such works. I have not changed my attitude and I hope to show that I have steered a straight course. I hope to show also that the people who now fully understand all the facts appreciate my attitude of the past two years.
After listening to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) I thought he had tasted the flavour of sour grapes. His reference to the work of the previous member for Cowper sounded very much like a political obituary. I do not want to be uncharitable to the former member for Cowper but it is only natural that, representing the area he did, he had a duty to speak for flood mitigation. However, I found reason to censure him on a number of occasions for the way he politically slanted his speeches, sometimes to an extent which sickened members on this side of the House and sickened the general public when the facts were known. This was proved by the results of the election campaign in his area. Flood mitigation was canvassed throughout the campaign and it was not until the latter end of the campaign that the public was made aware of the facts associated with the flood mitigation finance that was eventually given. I have said already that I entered this debate in order to express the appreciation of this measure by the people of the north coast of New South Wales, who desperately need assistance to mitigate disastrous floods and to mitigate personal suffering, stock losses and crop losses. I am pleased to be able to say that the people of that area are taking great heart from the fact that the flood mitigation work will be completed within six years. One of the pleasing features about the Commonwealth coming into this matter and contributing on the basis of £1 for £1 with the State is that the burden on the local people will be reduced by 40 per cent. Under previous arrangements, by which the State contributed £2 for every £1 provided by the local authorities, the local people had a heavy burden to carry. They will now have to provide only one-fifth of the cost.
The time limit is a very pleasing feature. With the amount of money being made available by the New South Wales Government, it had appeared that fifteen to twenty years would be required to complete these projects, but now they are to be completed within six years. Another thing that is appreciated very much is the agreement by the Commonwealth Government to make payments retrospective to 1st July, 1963. This has enabled the local authorities to carry out their flood mitigation works this year at the maximum possible speed. Had this bill not been brought before the House, the local authorities would have had only £200,000 this year for the work.
I have said all along that flood mitigation is the responsibility of the State Governments, and I believe that that is so. With their sovereign rights, the States have a responsibility to undertake flood mitigation works. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) tried to make out that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) had said that this grant was unique. I agree that it certainly is something different. This is the first time that the Commonwealth has made a direct grant to a State for flood mitigation work, which, as I have just said, is primarily a State responsibility. Other States, such as Victoria, have accepted full responsibility for carrying out flood mitigation work. As I have said before in this chamber when debating this subject, the Victorian Government gives to local authorities a contribution at the rate of £5 to £1 for this work, but I accept that the New South Wales Government might find it difficult to provide the necessary money. It was for that reason that the Commonwealth Government, realizing the urgency of the work and the suffering and hardship that was taking place, decided to make a contribution. This action is unique because the money is allocated for a specific period of six years. It is unique also because the grant differs from other special grants in that it is provided for developmental work in an area which is heavily populated. Special grants have been made for developmental projects such as *e Ord River project, the beef roads scheme, the Blowering dam, the Chowilla dam and the Mount Isa railway, but those projects are in areas which are very sparsely populated, and it is only natural that the State governments would not be able to find .the money. In this area of New South Wales, in which there are these five rivers, a population of between 300,000 and 400,000 is involved, yet the State Government says that it cannot find the money necessary for this work.
– That is right.
– Do not let us argue about that. The main thing that we want to do is to get on with the job for which this unique grant is made. The grant is unique also because the Commonwealth, with the State, is contributing £1 for £1, and this is associated with a local government contribution. The Commonwealth Government contributes £2, the State contributes £2 and the local government authorities find £1. No other grant has ever been made by the Commonwealth on this kind of formula. The grant is unique also because it is for flood mitigation works in an area which is consistently flooded and consistently suffers extreme damage.
I doubt whether there is another area of Australia from which, for an investment of £5,000,000 - it may be more - we will get a better return. It has been estimated by the five local government authorities which compiled this report that an expenditure of £5,397,000 will help to prevent flood damage over an area of 5,621,852 acres. The annual production from the area at the moment is valued at £9,169,000, but with the flood mitigation work carried out as a result of this £5,000,000 capital investment the annual production will be worth £18,242,000. In other words, the annual production will increase by 100 per cent. There will be an increase in productivity of £9,000,000, for an investment of £5,000,000.
– That is purely hypothetical.
– Is there any other project in Australia that could give such increased productivity to the nation? For that reason also, this grant is unique. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) apparently has not seen the report to which I have referred. I assure him that it is very detailed. I accept the figures in the report as being quite authentic and I am sorry that the honorable member has seen fit to challenge them.
I want to go back to the time when this matter was first raised in the House. That was during the Budget debate in 1962. The then honorable member for Cowper came into the chamber at the beginning of the debate on the Treasury estimates and, without having informed anybody on this side of the chamber, moved that the estimates be reduced by £1 - a traditional way to propose a censure motion against the Government. He did this without previously informing people such as myself, the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) and the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), who were vitally interested in this problem. Because we voted against that proposal it was claimed that we voted against flood mitigation. How stupid! Did honorable members opposite expect us to vote the Government out of office? It would have taken only one of us to do it. Furthermore, we on this side of the chamber do not believe that the Commonwealth should hand out money to the States for a project which has not been carefully examined as to its economic or engineering aspects.
Honorable members opposite, at election time and in the course of this debate, charged that we were voting against flood mitigation. That charge was nothing but hypocrisy or a political stunt. Anybody who follows politics closely, and everybody in this chamber, knows that it was a political stunt, but unfortunately it takes a long time for people outside to realize what tricks the Opposition will try in an attempt to win votes or in the hope that it will get electoral support in an electorate which, by some accident, it happened to win. Unfortunately for honorable members opposite, they over-played their hands. They sold themselves down the drain, because the public realized what they were up to. Their attempt did not succeed, because the honorable member for Lyne and others in this House managed to expose the weaknesses of their charge.
In the first debate, in the charges levelled at me it was suggested that I had changed - my attitude. I have referred to the censure proposal moved by the then honorable member for Cowper, without any honorable member on this side of the Chamber previously knowing about it. I replied to those charges, and I shall repeat what I then said. I knew that honorable members opposite would say, “ Ha ha! “ However, I want to point these things out and I will quote from volume 36 of “ Hansard “, page 1158. I said- 1 am very sensitive about this matter, because the county councils are being hoodwinked into thinking that they should press the Commonwealth Government for money, although they should be addressing their requests to the State Government. This approach only causes delay. When the councils are led to believe that the Commonwealth may give assistance, they decide to press the Commonwealth instead of pressing the State Government. Of course, the State Government encourages them to do this.
The State Government encouraged them to do this because it wanted this political play to carry along until election time. Almost nine months later we had another debate in this House when a matter of urgent public importance was brought before this chamber, again by the then honorable member for Cowper, Mr. McGuren, seeking a grant to the State of New South Wales on a £1 for £1 basis. There had been no detailed submission from the Government of New South Wales requesting such a grant, but the matter was brought up in this House because it made good political play and was given plenty of publicity in the papers to the effect that the honorable member was fighting for the cause of the people concerned. I accept that. It was the honorable member’s job to look after his constituents, but there was no need to try to discredit honorable members on this side of the House when they tried to point out the facts. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition the other night quoted me as having said -
I have never considered that the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren) has done a service to this country by trying to create a situation in which people believe that they may come to the Commonwealth Government and ask for aid on a £1 for £1 basis. The responsibility for flood mitigation rests squarely on the State Government.
Unfortunately, that is where the honorable member stopped, but I will carry on and quote the rest of my speech. [Quorum formed.] I will quote the final sentence of what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was quoting, in order to show how he was trying to distort what I was endeavouring to tell the House on that occasion. I said -
The responsibility for flood mitigation rests squarely on the State Government.
I then went on to say-
If the State Government cannot find its way clear to provide money for this work, it must come to the Commonwealth Government and submit a detailed plan for help. This approach has been adopted by other State Governments.
After Western Australia submitted a detailed plan to the Commonwealth, this Government provided assistance for the Ord River scheme. The Commonwealth has provided assistance to Queensland for beef roads, the Mount Isa railway and development of the brigalow lands and ports. But, with New South Wales all that has happened with regard to flood mitigation has been that the Commonwealth received, in 1960, a letter from Premier Cahill, asking only that the Commonwealth provide a matching grant to a maximum of £300,000 a year. No details were given to the Commonwealth and no minimum yearly amount of grant was specified. No definite period of time was fixed during which the grant should be given. The proposals were completely vague and indefinite.
I went on to describe how, at that very time, the county councils were getting together to submit a detailed engineering and economic plan to the State Government and said that if the State Government could not see fit to find the money it was the State Government’s responsibility to come to this House.
If one reads the rest of my speech it will be seen that I made it perfectly clear that that was the proper approach and, as time has proved, the local authorities got the money they needed. If any one is to be blamed for the tardiness in the finding of this money for the local government authorities, I place the blame fairly and squarely on the Government of New South Wales and on members of the
Opposition. That might sound very unfair, but those are the facts in this case. Honorable members on this side of the House, particularly the present honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson), when he was member for Casino, tried to tell the local councils that their approach must be to the State Government and that they could not come straight to the Commonwealth Government; that it was constitutionally and traditionally incorrect to approach the Commonwealth direct; and that when an approach was made to the Commonwealth it must be made through the State Government and must be in the form of a detailed submission which we could examine. But honorable members such as the honorable member for Cowper kept on saying to these people, “ Go straight to the Commonwealth Government. Bring a deputation to Canberra and we will fix it up and if we cannot fix it up it will be because of that nasty government, which is so mean and does not care about flood mitigation and does not worry about the sufferings of the people to which it is responsible.” It took us a considerable time to get into the heads of the local government authorities that there was a correct approach to be adopted. No correct advice was given to them by the Government of New South Wales or by members of the Opposition. I believe that the Opposition wanted to make political play of this matter when the next election came along. It could then say, “ The member for Cowper has been fighting for this, but what has the Government done? “. We have given these people money. Let us retrace the history of this matter. The first break-through for these local government authorities was in January, 1963, when the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Country Party, Mr. McEwen, went to Coffs Harbour and gave an address during which he spoke on flood mitigation and said that if the local government authorities felt that they needed help from the Commonwealth there was a traditional and constitutional way of going about getting it. They must submit a plan to the State Government. Following on this, the present member for Cowper - then member for Casino - and other members of the State Parliament representing that area, got together and arranged for all the county councils to meet in Lismore on 9th April. This was the turning point of the whole project and they agreed that they would go about preparing a detailed submission. That submission has now been printed and is an excellent document. The county councils deserve great credit for the way in which they prepared that excellent case. Nothing assisted the case more than the way in which they presented this document. On 20th May, 1963, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) went to Casino. That was at the time when the Clarence, Richmond and Macleay Rivers were flooding and serious damage was caused. Naturally the Prime Minister was questioned about this matter and he made a somewhat famous remark. He said that he expected that in due course he would hear from the State Government about this matter. He certainly did and it was not very long before the county councils submitted this document to the State Government which, in turn, submitted it to the Commonwealth Government. There was one very marked difference between this document and the one that came to the Commonwealth Government. This document covered five rivers - the Tweed, Richmond, Clarence, Macleay and Shoalhaven Rivers - whereas the document which reached the Commonwealth had included in it the Hunter River. The local government authorities and councils had been putting up a strenuous fight, but the State Government, without advising those authorities, dragged in, as it were, the Hunter River too, because it is a very big river.
– What about the Shoalhaven?
– The Shoalhaven is mentioned in this document.
– What about the Hawkesbury?
– The New South Wales Government apparently did not have enough interest to include the Hawkesbury. The reason it included the Hunter was because there was a major project coming up which would cost £7,500,000. This whole programme was going to cost only £5,397,000. I believe that the New South Wales Government included the Hunter River for one of two reasons. Either it thought the Commonwealth Government would reject the proposal and a political play could be carried on right up until election time, or it wanted to chisel more money out of the Commonwealth Government. If it was able to chisel more money out of the Commonwealth Government, I say good luck to it.
I am very pleased that the people of the Hunter River are to benefit because they need the money to help with flood work. However, I caution the local government authorities there to watch carefully the amount of money they get. The amount for the five projects will be £5,397,000. They have already spent £1,018,500. That means that they need a balance of £4,378,500 for their projects in six years. But we know that the Hunter River project is to receive a contribution at the rate of six to one instead of four to one as in the case of the projects of the other local government authorities. We know that the Hunter River project is to cost £7,500,000. Unless these five local government authorities get the £4,300,000 which they need (heir job will not be concluded within the six years. Therefore, I caution these local government authorities to make sure that they get the amount of money they need, instead of allowing the State Government to channel a large portion of it into the Hunter River scheme which, in the first place, was not meant to be included in the submission to the Commonwealth Government. The local government authorities certainly were not asked for any advice as to whether the Hunter River project should be included.
The Commonwealth Government has always tried to help flood victims. When a flood occurs it unhesitatingly gives whatever support it can in every direction, and rightly so.
– Who collects all the money?
– Order! The honorable member for Lang will cease interjecting. He is also not in his own seat.
– The honorable member’s interjections only help me to bring out the points I wish to make. When the flood occurs, if air support for the dropping of food supplies, clothing, blankets or fodder for stock is necessary, the Commonwealth Government acts immediately. If help can be given by the Postmaster-General’s Department or the Army it is given. The Government pays also relief money on a £1 for £1 basis, for food, clothing, bedding and furniture, in conjunction with the State concerned, when requested by that State. It does this hardly questioning the amounts asked for. When roads are damaged in flood areas the money used to repair those roads is always supplied under the Commonwealth aid roads legislation. State Governments do not find any money for this from their own resources; it comes from the Commonwealth aid roads money.
At present the Commonwealth is entering a new field in trying to help mitigate floods. I refer to the field of flood forecasting. The hydro-meteorological section of the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology is setting up a flood forecasting system in various areas. The first is to be established in the Macleay River area. The second area, in which this forecasting system is to be established is the Hunter River Valley. I hope that as time goes by these systems will be installed in other river areas, and that this precise type of equipment will give the people in these areas warning of when floods are likely to occur and what the height of the floods may be.
I hope that during the course of my speech I have helped to correct some of the misinterpretations that the Labour Party has put on what has been said by members on this side of the House. I hope too, that I have given some good advice to local government authorities about ensuring that they get the amount of. money that they need. I know too that when I express the appreciation of the people of the flood areas of northern New South Wales, I am not underestimating their feelings.
Thursday, 19th March, 1964.
– The House has just listened to a dissertation from the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) lasting half an hour, in which he completely revealed himself to be anti-New South Wales and opposed to permanent flood control. He tried to talk away the Commonwealth’s failure to provide funds for permanent flood control, and showed clearly that he approved of the failure of the Government over the past fourteen years to do anything at all, up to this time, about flood mitigation. He did this notwithstanding that there have been in his own area on the north coast of New South Wales more than fourteen floods in the last fourteen years, seven of which were major floods, two of them in the Macleay River occurring within ten months of each other.
The people from “hillbilly corner”, the members of the Australian Country Party, need to look at the real picture and listen to the real story about floods. Issues of the Macleay district press tell the story of devastation and flooding in these areas. After reading these accounts, if the honorable members to whom I have referred can still agree that the Commonwealth Government should not enter in any way into the field of flood mitigation, let them stand up and be counted. At this late hour to-night I would not have spoken, but as, I understand, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) and the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin) want to speak on this matter, there is no harm in my having a say as well. Had it not been for the crocodile tears that have been shed by the honorable member for Richmond, the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) and the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson) the other night, I would not have bothered to speak on this measure.
I believe that flood mitigation is so important in the northern part of New South Wales that it is time something was done to impress on the Commonwealth Government, irrespective of what the honorable member for Richmond has had to say, its responsibility in this matter. Water will not run uphill. The rivers of northern New South Wales have become clogged with silt. No mater what anybody says, something of a permanent nature has to be done, and big money has to be spent.
Two phrases amply describe this measure - *’ Too little too late “ and “ Better late than never “. They fit this bill to a nicety. Only a token sum is to be made available. It will not be enough to solve the problems of the flood-devastated areas. But it will at least open the way for the much greater financial help that will be given when Labour finally takes office. The short title of this measure is “ New South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Bill 1964 “. The bill is designed to mitigate the disastrous flooding that recurs on the major rivers in northern New
South Wales. This is to be done by assist. ng local government authorities financially in their fight to repair the damage to roads, farms and the community generally caused by severe flooding of the streams in the north of New South Wales. My opinion, Mr. Speaker, is that the ineptitude of Liberal and Australian Country Party governments, both State and Federal, and their stubborn refusal to apply the physical and monetary resources of the nation to the work of preventing siltation and of flood mitigation are responsible for the present state of our rivers. The neglect of our streams has been almost criminal, and the cost to the country cannot be estimated. Already, it runs into hundreds of millions of pounds.
If we are to determine the door at which the blame is to be laid, we must consider the periods during which Labour and Liberal-Country Party governments respectively have been in office in the Commonwealth sphere. I have a keen awareness of the deterioration that has occurred in the river system of northern New South Wales over the 63 years since federation. In that time, Labour has been in office in the Federal Parliament for less than seventeen years, under Prime Ministers Watson, Fisher, Hughes, Scullin, Curtin, Forde and Ben Chifley. Seven of those years were war years when money, man-power and materials could not be diverted from the war effort. Therefore, Labour can hardly be blamed for the present state of our rivers. The Liberal Party of Australia, under either that name or other names, and the Australian Country Party have sat on the treasury bench for more than 46 years since federation. Yet, until now, they have done nothing at all to protect cities and towns and rural and other industries from the ravages of floods and from virtual economic destruction.
Every Australian who has any knowledge of the river system of this country knows full well that the economic value of our rivers has been virtually destroyed by our neglect to use them for water transport. Practically no use is made of our rivers for this purpose to-day. I lay the blame for the deterioration of our river system at the door of Liberal-Country Party governments and their architects and engineers who have been responsible for the building of training walls, breakwaters and harbours, since it is apparent to-day that they knew nothing about currents, tides, winds or water flow. I am sure that really expert engineers could have constructed training walls and breakwaters that would have kept the entrances to our rivers open.
– Whose opinion is that?
– Whose opinion it is does not matter. If the honorable member is so ignorant as not to be prepared to study our river system and find out what has caused the entrances to our streams to become blocked, it is time he was no longer a member of this Parliament.
One thing I do know, Mr. Speaker. That is that, during my life-time, all the rivers that will be affected by this bill have been at some time navigable by merchant shipping, some of them for 20 to 40 miles from the sea. Yet, to-day, they all are closed to merchant shipping. One river that will not be affected by this measure is the Manning River. I thought that the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) would have been straining at the leash to take part in this debate and to tackle the Government on its failure to make provision in this bill for works on the Manning River, but that does not seem to be the case. One must assume that the honorable member has not much interest in the Manning River. That is a glorious stream, though it causes great havoc in flood time throughout its entire length. This is because its outlet to the sea has long since been clogged by silt and sand and the flood waters cannot escape. On behalf of my many friends in the Manning River district, I protest at the exclusion from this bill of reference to that river.
If Government supporters were concerned about the welfare of the people who live and work in the towns and cities situated on our rivers, they would not now be arguing, as they are doing, a case in defence of governments, whether Liberal or Labour, that have failed over the years to provide the finance, labour and materials needed for works that would have kept our river system open to shipping and, I am sure, prevented the disasters of the past 50 years.
I support the remarks made by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones). He has told the House of the great efforts of Frank McGuren, who, during the two years for which he represented the Cowper electorate, tenaciously demanded that this Parliament provide practical help and assistance by making available finance, material and equipment for the work of flood mitigation throughout Australia, and in particular in the electorates of Cowper, Richmond and Lyne. This bill, indeed, can be said to be a monument to the work of Frank McGuren, as he was the architect of this proposal for the first direct Commonwealth financial assistance for flood mitigation in Australia. Many of us who are still in the Parliament have failed in years gone by to move the present Government out of its lethargy.
It is true that Frank was supported in his demand for help by the honorable members representing electorates to the north and east of Cowper. But their assistance was only lukewarm compared to his uncompromising attitude. Once he had been elected to the National Parliament and had had an opportunity to raise the issue here, he demanded immediate action by the Government to prevent recurring floods. I say to the House: Let us compare McGuren’s work, as the representative of the Cowper electorate for only two years, with the work of the tragic Treasurer, the late Sir Earle Page, who represented the electorate in this place for 42 years, and of the Anthony family, which has represented the Richmond electorate for the past 27 years. Then we have the honorable member for Lyne, who, in 1952, succeeded the late Jim Eggins as the representative of that electorate. Yet, only in 1964, has the Federal Government recognized that flood mitigation is beyond the financial resources of a State government. Only now has the Commonwealth Government finally agreed to provide token financial assistance for flood mitigation. The fact that the bill will provide only £2,750,000 over six years is proof that the contribution is only a token one. In my view, the Government is to be condemned for the paltry amount that it is providing. This bill should have provided at least £2,750,000 every year for the next twenty years if something real and permanent were to be achieved.
– Does the honorable member now suggest that the job should take twenty years?
– The honorable member will not represent the people of Cowper in twenty years, because they will toss him out long before. Need I remind honorable members opposite, who are always making excuses for the failure of their Ministers or Cabinet when they are brought under fire by people like Mr. McGuren, that there is not to be found anywhere in the electorates of Cowper, Richmond or Lyne, plaques or tablets which would indicate that their predecessors had ever been responsible for any major attempt to establish the machinery for flood mitigation. But “ Hansard “ does show many references to the Government’s refusal to provide major help for flood devastated areas.
To advance a little further the evidence of the value of Mr. McGuren’s work in flood mitigation, let me mention a few of the positions that Sir Earle Page held during his 42 years as the member for Cowper without his ever being able to convince his colleagues in Cabinets of the need- to do something practical to alleviate recurring floods. Sir Earle Page was Prime Minister for a short period, Leader of the Australian Country Party, Commonwealth Treasurer for seven years, chairman of the Australian Loan Council for six years, and Acting Prime Minister on four occasions. Yet in the whole of that time, nothing was done by the Federal Government that might have helped to defeat or mitigate recurring floods. I wonder whether honorable members opposite think that Frank McGuren would have held the positions that were held by Sir Earle Page without having a crack at his government for funds to alleviate the flooding of his electorate? Of course he would not.
– Did Frank McGuren write this speech?
– Of course not. He might have written some for the honorable member if he had asked for them. If he had done so, they would have been much more intelligent than those he has delivered.
– Cut out the commercials.
– The Minister for the Navy should cut out his own commercials. The present honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson) would have the House and the people living in flood areas believe that section 96 of the Constitution is some thing new. I hasten to assure the honorable gentleman that it is not something new. In fact, it has been in the Constitution since federation. I say to the people of Cowper and to those living in every other flooddevastated area that what the Government is now acceding to could have been granted as far back as the Maitland flood of 1908. The honorable member for Cowper, who slated the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Newcastle because he considered that they made political speeches on the bill, must surely rank as a master of political guile, for his speech was political from start to finish. Further, while condemning the Government of New South Wales for its alleged insincerity on flood mitigation, the honorable member praised himself for what he claimed to have done for flood mitigation. For the record, I shall mention some of the statements made by the honorable member in the course of his speech last week as it reveals the real type of gutter-sniping politics he is prepared to indulge in. He condemned the former member for Cowper for fearlessly pleading the cause of his* electors and at the same time gave himself a pat on the back for having allegedly stood over the New South Wales Government for not having done enough for the people of the flood-stricken areas of that State. While he was doing all that, he lauded the Federal Government for having kicked out an amendment which Mr. McGuren had moved during the consideration of the estimates of the Department of the Treasury on 4th October, 1962, just ten months after he had been elected as the member for Cowper. Yet there is no record of the Parliament showing that any other honorable member had proposed a similar amendment or motion with the object of having money allocated to carry out flood control work. The honorable member for Cowper then said that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had made a cheap comment when he stated that according to his inquiries, the “ Hansard “ records of the New South Wales Parliament showed only two references to the honorable member’s personal concern in the matter of floods. The honorable member then proceeded as follows: -
I did not choose to get up and move in the Parliament of New South Wales motions of a nature which would contribute nothing to the progress of this important work … I did not choose a course of action which would amount to nothing more than playing politics with this issue. Nevertheless, I was able to do no small amount of work in connexion with this important matter. My intention was to adopt a course which would produce worthwhile results in the field of flood mitigation.
Later in his speech the honorable member said -
This measure is a means of tackling the first stage of one of the greatest problems which we, in this country, face. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) indicated, in his second-reading speech, that the Government recognised that the work proposed in this measure will not eliminate floods but merely mitigate the effect of flooding on the rivers where the work of flood mitigation is to be assisted financially under the provisions of this measure.
He indicated that the State Government refused to do anything beyond work to the extent of about £300,000, but he indicated also that this was one of the greatest problems this country faced. The honorable member contradicted himself. He condemned flood mitigation on one hand, and on the other hand he indicated that this was the greatest task to be faced. These references show how the honorable member is prepared to use this House for his own political propaganda rather than defend the resources and the property of his electors in an all-out attack on the Government for its failure to heed the pleas of Frank McGuren and earlier those of Sir Earle Page, who sought finance for years to have something done of a permanent nature in the Clarence Valley and elsewhere to mitigate recurring floods. I cite the gorge scheme to mitigate the flooding of the Clarence as an example.
Section 96 of the Constitution which is the vehicle now being used by Government supporters to illustrate the Government’s concern for flood mitigation is only a. front to cover up the Government’s failure and its refusal to do something about flood mitigation ever since it has been in office. The most disastrous floods of our time have occurred in and about the lifetime of this Government- in 1949, 1950, 1954 and 1955, for example. Mark my words, in the absence of dredging and river bank improvement works along every river in the north, flooding will become ever so much more disastrous and damaging in the future. Even a juvenile knows that water will not run up a hill nor can any one obtain a fast Sow of water from a vessel the spout of which is blocked. This applies also to a river.
Some years ago I advocated th& setting up of a Commonwealth-State commission with unlimited powers vested in it to restore our rivers to what they should be. For example, such a commission could be charged with the deepening of the rivers by dredging over long distances, restoring river banks, reclaiming vast areas of swamp land and the resumption of low unused uneconomic land whether owned by the Crown or by individuals. At Newcastle alone, thousands of acres of swamp land is available for that purpose. Land resumed for that purpose, of course, would be offered back to the owners from whom it was acquired.
Only last Sunday I rode over an area of country between the Pacific Highway at Hexham in the electorate of the honorable member for Lyne (Mr, Lucock), and on to Williamtown and in that area alone there is sufficient land which if filled with silt, either from the harbour or its foreshores or from the river itself and the bay, would be sufficient for more than 100 highly productive farms which could be put into production within a few years. In the mangrove swamps themselves, couch grass is at present growing to a height of about 12 inches. This is indicative of what could be done in that area. From Newcastle Harbour alone, more than 400,000,000 tons of silt is being dumped at sea each year at a cost of something like £1,000,000 to keep the port open. Yet the Commonwealth Government is too stupid to try to rectify the position. A perusal of “ Hansard “ will show that the Menzies Government has no general interest in flood mitigation work for it has always refused to do anything or to adopt positive proposals that could reduce the danger and destruction that follow recurrent’ flooding.
To illustrate what I mean, on 3rd March, 1955, following disastrous floods, the then Acting Prime Minister, Sir Arthur Fadden, said -
The magnitude of the reconstruction problems facing local authorities in the flood devastated areas of New South Wales has prompted suggestions that the Commonwealth should providedirect financial assistance to local authorities in these areas.
I need hardly say that the Commonwealth is prepared to play its part in assisting those who are suffering as a result of the present tragedy . . .
So far as the work of reconstruction is con.cerned, it is already clear that all three governmental authorities (Commonwealth, State and Local) are confronted with a major task in restoring their respective works and services in these areas. I have no doubt that this task will bear particularly heavily on local authorities and that, in some cases at least, this task will be beyond their own financial resources. If this proves to be the case, the appropriate course for these authorities is to take the matter up with the State Government rather than to seek financial assistance direct from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has no power to grant financial assistance direct to local authorities. Under the Constitution, local authority affairs are the responsibility of the State Government under whose laws they are formed. In any event, the Commonwealth is obviously not in a position to make informed decisions as to the manner in which any financial assistance should be distributed among particular local authorities. If any coordinated system of assistance to local authorities is to be devised, the responsibility for that task obviously rests with the State Government.
That was the view in 1955 of the then leader of the Australian Country Party. Sir Arthur Fadden said that the Commonwealth had no constitutional authority to provide finance for flood mitigation. The Constitution has not been amended in the meantime, so how is it that section 96 of the Constitution, upon which Government supporters now rely, enables the Commonwealth to do what it proposes to do in this legislation? Sir Arthur Fadden did not hesitate to show in 1955 that the Commonwealth did not intend to step out of line with previous custom and accept responsibility for flood mitigation in any form. Section 96 of the Constitution, which Government supporters now rely on, existed then. The Government’s responsibility in flood mitigation has been more pronounced since 1942 than it was prior to that time because the Commonwealth is now the only taxing authority whereas prior to 1941 the States also levied taxes.
In dealing specifically with the Hunter Valley area I remind the House that any progress and development in the Hunter Valley does not stand to the credit of the Commonwealth Government but of the New South Wales Government, in association with the initiative of the member organizations of the Hunter Valley Research Foundation, which have contributed not only money but time and energy as well. I pay a special tribute to the foundation for the work that it has performed over recent years.
The Hunter River rises in the mountains north-west of Newcastle, possibly 160 miles or more from its mouth. It is fed by a series of rivers and their tributaries in its race to the sea. The major rivers which feed into the Hunter and whose waters cause so much havoc and destruction in flood time are the Pages River, the Goul- burn River, the Cockfighter River and Woolombi Creek, which flow from the south, and the Paterson and Williams Rivers, together with their tributaries, which flow from the north. In a general flooding of the whole catchment area I doubt whether it would be possible to estimate the water flow. Untold damage and destruction are caused as the waters of the Hunter River gather momentum on their way to the sea. Yet last week the House listened to the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) state that floods were not common only to Australia. He posed the question: Where are we to get the skilled staff to tackle the work of hydrology and hydrometeorology? The honorable member pointed out that the finance provided under this bill is for the purpose only of combating floods with a frequency of one in ten. The honorable member said that only a very small amount of mitigation was required for what is known as a one in one hundred flood but I remind him that the flood of 1955 was so big in the Hunter that it was placed by experts in the category of a one in two hundred flood.
– Your facts are wrong. I said the opposite to what you have stated.
– I do not have my facts wrong. If the honorable member for Evans wants to know what he said he may read what has been reported in the newspapers. Irrespective of his learning and the exalted positions that he has held, he is now barking up the wrong tree. Billions of tons of silt move with a flood on the Hunter. For years that silt has been deposited along the length of the river and in the harbour at Newcastle. The same thing has happened with other rivers along the coast. In the Macleay River at low water the bed of the river in some places is higher than low water level. Is it to be wondered that Kempsey finds itself cut in halves when there is excessive flooding?
Permanent control over all of these rivers, financed by a joint Commonwealth and States commission to cover all phases of flood mitigation, is the only answer to the disastrous floods that recur year after year in northern New South Wales.
.- The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) and the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) gave the greatest exposition of advocacy for new States that I have heard. I fully support the bill. I congratulate the local government authorities on the rivers referred to in the bill on the preparatory work that their engineers have done in drawing up plans and designs for flood mitigation. I also congratulate the authorities in awakening the New South Wales Government from its lethargy.
It is astonishing how the statements of some speakers in this debate have varied. We had a diatribe from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), who addressed the House for almost one hour and made not one constructive statement. This is a great pity. The honorable gentleman is a friend of mine and as a new member in this Parliament I was looking forward to something worth while from him. It would appear that I will have to be charitable. I will have to take him in my care and teach him how to influence people and win votes.
Another honorable member spoke about sheep and the wool industry on the north coast. The honorable member for Blaxland said that there were no records in relation to the Hawkesbury River. I can tell the House that records about the Hawkesbury River exist since 1799. Though not elaborate they are nevertheless extensive. The exclusion of the Hawkesbury River from the provisions of this bill is, to say the least, regrettable. The House has been assured by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) that so far as the Government is concerned the Hawkesbury has not been included in the bill because the New South Wales Government did not include it in its proposals. That is why the Hawkesbury is not included. [Quorum formed.] The New South Wales Government did not include the Hawkesbury River area in its proposal when it requested that the Commonwealth match its subsidy to the authorities mentioned in the bill. ,l’ can assure thiS. House that the New South Wales Public Works Department has given much thought to flood mitigation works and prepared reports and plans for them as recently as last year. Since 19S4 Dr. Scholer has prepared for the New South Wales Government all this information that I have in my hand. These graphs and diagrams have been prepared by one of the greatest men in this field in New South Wales. Yet the Government of that State has not taken any notice of that report, which went before the New South Wales Cabinet last year. Why is the Hawkesbury River area not included in this scheme? It is not included because the New South Wales Government forgot about it.
– Mr. Speaker, I rise to order. I regret to take a point of order on the honorable gentleman who describes himself as my friend, which designation I reciprocate. But his comments are wide of the bill. It is quite plain from the bill that the grants to be made under it can be made only to the State for the purpose of subsidizing local authority expenditure.
– What is the point of order?
– Mr. Speaker, he is making a political speech.
– The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) correctly stated the reason for the Hawkesbury River area not receiving a grant; that is, that there is no county council for that area which has sought a grant. There is a county council in respect of every other area for which a grant has been sought and is made under this bill.
– Order! The honorable member for Mitchell, being a new and inexperienced member, may have drifted a little from the measure, but he is not the only honorable member who has offended in that respect. I call the honorable member for Mitchell.
– Honorable members opposite were a little astray in regard to Governor Macquarie’s time, when they talked about shifting a town from where it had been located. I have the relevant standing order of 1810 in front of me. The move was made only for the purpose of building homes and stock-yards and not in order to move the farms away, as honorable gentlemen opposite suggested.
I know that I cannot get a promise from this House, but I am sure that, if the Hawkesbury River flood mitigation committee submitted a proposal through the New South Wales Government, the Commonwealth Government would consider matching the State Government’s contribution, as it has done in regard to the other areas. It is useless to tackle flood mitigation works in the Hawkesbury River area piecemeal. The number of constitutent councils makes it very difficult to adopt an overall scheme. We in the Hawkesbury River area thought the New South Wales Public Works Department was doing such a tremendous job that the State Government would have made representations on behalf of the people of the area who, since 1954, have been putting up a big fight through the flood mitigation committee and the Richmond and Windsor councils.
The Hawkesbury River area and its surrounds may not be as vast as the other areas, but in the Windsor, Richmond, Wilberforce, Freeman’s Reach and Pitt Town areas very intensive farming is carried on. Sydney derives a large proportion of its vegetables from the area, and dairying and citrus fruit growing are carried on extensively. Other than a small area at Canley Vale, this is the only area near Sydney with eighteen square miles of rich alluvial flats. It has a permanent and important place in the supply of fresh vegetables to the Sydney markets.
Flood relief is not the answer to this problem. It assists at the time of need. But had the money expended on flood relief over the years been expended on flood mitigation, most of the farmers’ worries about floods would have been over. I am in hearty accord with the bill. I have much pleasure in supporting it with the good wishes of the settlers in the Hawkesbury River area who have missed out on this occasion.
.I am sorry that I have to rise to make a speech at this early hour of the morning; but I believe that I have had as much experience of floods as any one in this chamber and more experience of them than any other honorable member opposite. It grieves me very greatly when I hear honorable members opposite make a political football of a bill which represents a very humane effort by the Government to assist people who at various times are beset by misery because of inundation by water. As the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin) said, we have sat here and not heard one constructive word from any Opposition speaker. I sense a callous disregard for the plight of the people of the north coast of New South Wales.
In my view, members of the Opposition have slavishly followed the line of party aggrandizement. They are desperately trying to get some political kudos from this bill. They are desperately trying to improve their party’s image, which is very sadly blurred1. In my opinion they have failed miserably in their attempts. The people of Cowper, in particular, indicated how much they thought of the propaganda which the Opposition attempted to attach to its candidate for that seat in the last election, Mr. Frank McGuren. The people of Cowper threw him out and elected to this Parliament a man who is worthy of the people of that area.
I have known Frank McGuren over a long period of years. Quite frankly, when I first knew him he was a very decent fellow. Unfortunately, he fell into bad hands. He fell into the hands of the Australian Labour Party. I say quite definitely that members of that party did their very best to use him for their own ends. We hear a lot of claptrap about Mr. Frank McGuren and all that he did in the interests of the people of Cowper.
– You have nothing to say; so sit down.
– I have plenty to say. This bill deals with a very human issue, but not in the way that the Labour Party tries to deal with it. I give my very strong support to the bill because it will give fresh heart to the people of the northern rivers area. It will be a great morale booster and certainly will lift the very strong feeling of despondency that has settled on the people of that area.
One of the great things that this bill will do is encourage young people to stay on the farms instead of going to the cities. They have been despairing of the opportunity to earn a livelihood in the farming industry on the north coast, because of the frequency of floods and the great devastation, that the floods have caused. So I say that the grants that are to be made by the Commonwealth Government, and which I strongly support, will be an added encouragement to young people. What is more important, they will certainly relieve the intolerable financial burden which has weighed heavily on the farmers who have had to meet local government taxes to pay for the work involved in flood mitigation.
I am familiar with the floods that occur on all the rivers mentioned in this bill, from the Hunter to the Tweed. I had years of residence in Lismore and I saw the Richmond in flood when it was just a sweeping torrent many feet above its normal height, causing great damage. I once read that a farmer sat in flood water up to his navel, astride a horse. I cannot say that I stood in flood water up to my navel, but certainly it was up to my thighs when I stood on wharves when I was associated with the shipping industry. The North Coast Steam Navigation Company was in operation at that time, and I was assisting the employees of that company to ensure that as the flood waters receded the stinking mud was carried off the wharves, into the river and out to sea. I have stood in flood water watching the flotsam going by, sometimes a house, sometimes a cow or a horse. I have seen all manner of things carried away by flood waters, even on one occasion the body of a human being who had been drowned.
The catchment areas of these northern rivers are in steep, mountainous country, which naturally produces a rapid run-off of water. The water pours into the rivers, and the river valleys quickly become inundated as the river banks are broken. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) made some reference to dredging the rivers. I remember when the North Coast Steam Navigation Company’s ships operated along the Richmond River, making four trips a week. The passage of those vessels caused a movement of the river bottoms which kept the mud moving, so that there was always a certain amount of depth maintained in the river. After the ships were taken off the coastal trade, in about 1951 or 1952, there was none of that movement in the river to keep the scour going as before, so that the river shoaled. After that time the floods, particularly on the Richmond, became much more severe, and in 1955 we had one of the most devastating floods ever experienced in that area. Significantly enough, after the North Coast Steam Navigation Company went out of operation - due to competition from other forms of transport and militancy on the part of seamen and waterside workers - we experienced the devastating flood of 1955, in which all the wharves and other facilities used by shipping were destroyed.
Let us take a look at the human aspect of these floods. One can quickly appreciate the tremendous ravages. We see battered river valleys, crops laid low, drowned livestock, mud and silt, both stinking and unhealthy, business in towns at a standstill, with stocks removed to high land, while for the people themselves only heartbreak, anguish and despair. The people of the north coast - and I do not remember anyone else making much mention of this - are of a pioneering stock. They are people of great courage and tenacity. They have fought for many years against tremendous odds to try to maintain their properties. The fact that this money is to be made available by way of matching grants and by way of assistance to local government authorities will go a long way towards relieving the burden of these people on the north coast.
The losses from floods on the north coast during recent years have run into many millions of pounds. The grant of £7,250,000 by the Commonwealth Government over a number of years takes no account of the fact that many of the people in these areas have been subject to severe losses through floods during recent years. Of course this has nothing to do with flood mitigation.
From the national point of view I consider that this Commonwealth contribution will help to reduce the loss of our national product. It will certainly do much to lift the morale of the people on the north coast. I have before me a copy of the Grafton “Daily Examiner” of 22nd June, 1963. It mentions some very well-known people in this House, such as the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) and also the present honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson) - significantly, they are all Liberal Party and Country Party people. Mr. Frank McGuren’s name does not appear anywhere. In fact, on the occasion of the visit to
Grafton of the Food and Agriculture Committee, Mr. McGuren did not appear, despite the fact that he was invited to attend.
– Is that so?
– Yes, it is quite true that he did not attend at all. Despite the fact that Opposition members have said that Mr. McGuren did such a wonderful job in Cowper, the fact is that he did not turn up at this gathering. One wonders why he did not do so. However the editorial in this newspaper said -
The visit to Grafton yesterday by the Commonwealth Government Food and Agriculture Committee, accompanied by members of the State Opposition from North and South Coast electorates, could represent the big breakthrough for which the coast has long waited.
Federal and State Members of Parliament were unanimous that the problem of flood measures, whether they be in mitigating the consequences or controlling the cause, was beyond the financial capacity of local and State Governments. They agreed that a need existed for substantial Commonwealth aid and that this aid would be forthcoming when a properly prepared case was presented for that aid through the proper channels.
There was no mention there of Mr. Frank McGuren. You will note the insistence on a properly prepared case. It was the first occasion on which any suggestion was made about a properly prepared case, and it was not made by Mr. Frank McGuren, but by the members of the Food and Agriculture Committee, ably assisted by Mr. Jeff Bate, the honorable member for Macarthur, and also by our colleagues in the State House.
This committee did a very good job on behalf of the people on the north coast. It impressed upon the local authorities that in order to get Commonwealth assistance they must first of all have plans prepared which would be submitted to the State Government. They said that then the State Government would pursue the matter through the proper channels to the Commonwealth. The people of Grafton, when they were told of this matter, said, “ We have never heard of the programme before. Why did not somebody tell us about it? “ Of course, somebody should have told them, and that somebody was Mr. McGuren, their representative in the Commonwealth Parliament. Whether he had not seen fit to do so I do not know, but the fact that the people were unaware of the position rather suggests to me that he was only out to make political capital on behalf of the Labour
Party. It did not help him much, because he fell by the wayside. He lost his seat. We now have a member of the Australian Country Party once more representing the electorate of Cowper.
I have heard statements in this place to the effect that not sufficient money is made available for flood control. An honorable member has suggested that floods can be prevented. Such a contention is ludicrous; but floods can be controlled to a degree. It is possible, by means of engineering and other work, to mitigate the effect of floods. Professor P. K. Linsley, who is head of the engineering department at the Stanford University, Connecticut, is one authority who holds the view that floods cannot be prevented. On 8th September last, in Canberra, he said -
No matter how big your works are there will always be a flood that will overtop the system.
There is much more that I could say in connexion with flood mitigation, but I shall content myself with an observation regarding the statement by honorable members opposite that little is being done in the field of flood mitigation by people on this side of the House. Although I was not a member of Parliament in 1939, I was a member of an organization in Lismore which was most active in this field. I served on committees and attended meetings, at which Sir Earle Page was present, when discussion took place on methods to be adopted to reduce the effect of floods. At that time we did not have the benefit of the studies which have since been made in flood mitigation and control. I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, that I have not more time to devote to this subject. As the hour is so late I shall conclude by saying that I give my wholehearted support to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– The comments of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) in disparagement of the honoured name of Frank McGuren were certainly unworthy of him and completely out of character -
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I submit that the honorable member is not in order in pursuing such a line at the third reading stage.
-Order! The honorable member for Macquarie is in order.
– I make this protest because on other occasions the honorable member for Warringah has praised Frank McGuren and paid compliments to him. Frank McGuren is no longer with us. We should honour his name and let it be known that he has been thanked by the Clarence River County Council for the work he did during the time he was here.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a.third time.
House adjourned 1.15 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Conference, held in Copenhagen in October, 1963, to urge that governments should legislate to restrict the operations of goods motor transport on statutory holidays and at weekends, which are times of maximum private motor traffic?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows:: -
y asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Trade and Industry has advised as follows: -
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. While the flow of traffic over the road from Bega and to Canberra has, no doubt, been increasing for a variety of reasons, it does not follow that the Bega-Nimmitabel section of this road should therefore be defined as an “access road “ in the same sense as other roads that have been so defined.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The department has always allowed what are called “ approved attachments “ to be made to its services where the subscriber has some special reason for requiring an instrument or attachment which the department does not feel called upon to supply as a standard fitting. Under this procedure, many special items have been provided by various firms. For example, loud speaking telephones, telephone answering machines, and similar specialized items. In addition, private automatic branch exchanges are provided by private firms and connected to the department’s lines. If the department attempted to provide all of these services from its own funds, it would mean that many other portions of the department’s programme would be reduced to that extent.
Overseas Investment in Australia. (Question No. 2.)
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the percentage of outflow of capital to inflow of capital during each of the past fifteen years?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Statistics relating to the flow of capital to and from Australia are contained in the Annual Bulletin of Overseas Investment published by the Commonwealth Statistician. The following details of the net annual flow of official and private investment between Australia and overseas countries have been obtained from table 18 of the bulletin for 1961-62.
Details for 1962-63 are not yet available from the Statistician’s Survey of Overseas Investment.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Statistics of company profits in Australia are published in the white paper on National Income and Expenditure, presented each year with the Budget. Details of income payable overseas are obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician’s Survey of Overseas Investment, and are published in the Annual Bulletin of Overseas Investment. Figures for income payable overseas in 1962-63 are not yet available.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2-
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 March 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640318_reps_25_hor41/>.