25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I move -
That the Government deserves the censure of the House for the succession of naval disasters and misfortunes for which it is primarily responsible.
When the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) initiated the debate on the “ Voyager “ disaster last week he sought to minimise its importance and significance with the observation that there had been similar happenings in other navies in recent years. But as this was not the only disaster which has befallen the Royal Australian Navy in the past few years, the Prime Minister’s explanation, if it can be designated as such, is not, and cannot be, accepted by the Australian people. There is more than human error involved in all these misfortunes; there is ministerial neglect evident all the time in the conduct of the affairs of the senior branch of our defence services.
Although the incidents that preceded the sinking of the “ Voyager “ were not of the magnitude and did not involve such heavy loss of life, they were each significant and serious, and for each of them the Government must accept the blame. The “Voyager “ case is the latest and most convincing proof of all that all is not well, and has not been well for a considerable time now, in the Royal Australian Navy. I shall quote the other instances to which I have referred presently, and then proceed to show that on. the face of it each of them indicates neglect and inefficiency traceable back through the Naval Board to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) and then to the Government, where the final responsibility must rest and must be accepted.
And whenI speak of the present Minister for the Navy. I do not refer to him, as his leader did, as “ a poor wretch “. Indeed because he was not a Minister of State when the “ Voyager “ was lost he is not culpable at all for anything that preceded the events of 10th February last. The guilty man is in another place; but even Senator Gorton is not the only one who is blameworthy. The major share of the blame for whatever is wrong in the condition and the position of the Royal Australian Navy today and yesterday rests squarely on the shoulders of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues. This is the only responsibility the Prime Minister cannot shuffle off on to others. When things seem to be going right with the Ministry the Prime Minister grabs the praise, but when things go wrong he tries to shirk the blame.
In moving this censure motion the Opposition bases its case on four grounds. First, we believe it is our duty to voice the grave concern felt by all Australians that the pattern of naval accidents in recent years points to serious deficiencies in naval administration. Secondly, we believe the Australian people are appalled and sickened by Government complacency in this matter. Thirdly, we maintain that Parliament should assert its rights as the supreme authority to which all departments, including the armed services, are answerable through the Executive. And, fourthly, we insist that the Government alone must acceptfull responsibility for whatever short-comings may exist in the Navy and its administration.
The Minister for the Navy made the Government’s attitude on these questions quite clear in his regrettable performance last week. In effect, he not only questioned the capacity of any member of the Parliament to discuss any Naval matters, but virtually denied the right of the Opposition or of any Government supporter to discuss them at all. That was an attempt by the Government, through the Minister, to intimidate the Parliament, the press and the public. The Prime Minister accused the Opposition of wanting to conduct a man hunt. There was absolutely no basis for this charge. None of the speeches or statements made by any member of the Opposition, inside or outside Parliament, at any time since the disaster happened could, by any stretch of the imagination, be so interpreted. The Prime Minister was using his usual debating technique of demolishing arguments which were never used. Why then did the Prime Minister pursue this Une of argument? Plainly, it was to inhibit debate, to plant the idea that those who tried to do their duty by inquiring into the state of the Navy were vindictive and small minded.
The Minister for the Navy tried a different line of argument. Claiming te speak for the 12,000 men of the Royal Australian Navy, he had the impertinence to suggest that any criticism of him, or of the Naval Board, or of any aspect of Naval administration, or of his Ministerial colleagues, was an attack on the officers and mcn of the senior service. This is the opposite of the truth. We do not intend to be deterred by this hypothetical nonsense. We proposed, whatever the difficulties, to indict the Government before the bar of public opinion. It is high time also that Ministers and their supporters realised that the pretence they practice that they have a monopoly of patriatism or honour for the fighting men of Australia is false, fatuous and foolish.
The Minister spoke as if he were the personal proprietor of the Navy. Let me remind bini and his Prime Minister and all their colleagues that the fighting forces of Australia exist for the defence of eleven million Australian citizens. It is for them all that the Labour Party speaks now and at all times. Replying to the temperate exposition, delivered with dignity and persuasive eloquence last week, by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson), the Minister for the Navy said -
I resent the charge which ls implicit in the honorable member’s speech, namely that something is wrong with the Navy and that it needs a considerable shake-up.
What has the Minister’s personal feeling of resentment to do with a matter of such vast and tragic importance as this. It is his responsibility to examine and, if he can, answer the charges so trenchantly made by my distinguished colleague. That is what the people of Australia are interested in. They are not concerned with the private pique of a junior Minister. Neither are they concerned with the attempt of a Prime Minister to avoid his share of blame. The people know that the names of all the Ministers concerned will be forgotten long before the tears of the mourning mothers, widows and orphans of the “Voyager” disaster have been wiped away. Our reply to the Minister is simply this: We do believe that something is wrong with the Navy. And we believe that anything wrong in the Navy is entirely and absolutely the fault of the Government which is responsible for the administration of the Navy.
In other words, we accept in its entirety the invitation offered last week by tha Prime Minister when he said -
The Opposition can attack the Government lo its hearts content. It can attack the Minister for the Navy, poor wretch . . . but I simply will not succumb to the idea that we ought to have here a port-mortem, a sort of informal courtmartial, with respect to the people involved in this matter.
I accept that, and I repeat: The Government and the top Naval administration alone are on trial at this moment. The Royal Australian Navy has, indeed, a proud record built up in war and peace since it was founded by the Fisher Labour Government in 1911 despite the opposition of the Tories of that day. But it cannot be denied that in recent years a series of misadventures has created widespread public concern over the quality of Naval administration. These are the other instances on which we rest our case against the Government.
In July 1958, H.M.A.S. “Vendetta”, the sister ship of the ill-fated “ Voyager “, crashed into the dock gates at the Williamstown Naval Dockyard. For a few minutes, the frigate “ Quickmatch “, which was in dry-dock at the time, was imperilled. Inquiries later revealed that the incident followed misinterpretation of orders from the bridge. In September i960, H.M.A.S. “ Anzac “ holed H.M.A.S. “ Tobruk “ during gunnery exercises. There were no casualties, but 14 feet of water rushed into the engine room of “Tobruk” before the pumps brought it under control. On 11th September 1960, two sailors died when the ammunition carrier H.M.A.S. “ Woomera “ exploded 20 miles off Sydney when dumping obsolete ammunition. Twenty-five crew members were rescued after leaping overboard from the blazing vessel. In May ] 963, the frigate H.M.A.S. “ Queenborough “ and the British submarine “ Tabard “ collided off Jervis Bay. In October 1963, five young naval officers from H.M.A.S. “ Sydney “ lost their lives when a whaleboat tried to sail round Hook and Hayman Islands off the Queensland coast. In the “ Voyager “ inquiry, whaleboats appear to have been assumed to be unsuitable for open sea. In the “ Sydney “ inquiry, they were assumed to be suitable to go under sail among 16 foot waves. In January 1964, H.M.A.S. “Supply”, the Navy’s new 15,000 ton tanker, almost sank, stern first off Garden Island. Part of the tanker flooded when an engine room outlet valve was left open. In February 1964, H.M.A.S. “Melbourne” and H.M.A.S. “ Voyager “ collided during exercises. Eighty-one officers and men and one civilian died.
The Government apparently accepts all these incidents, accidents and disasters as part of the hazard of maintaining a navy. The Prime Minister attempted to show last week that the Royal Navy and the United States Navy had suffered more accidents than ours. He carefully avoided mentioning the accident rate among navies which are many, many times the size of ours and thus rendered his comparisons valueless. We of the Labour Party say simply that most of the accidents in the Royal Australian Navy were avoidable accidents, and that their frequency is sufficient to draw the conclusion that a pattern of inefficiency exists. And if it does exist, the Government is responsible, because the Government alone, through its Ministers and advisers, is responsible for the administration of the Navy and the efficiency of the Navy.
From the mishaps of the past few years, it becomes clear that maintenance, provisioning, training and administration in the Navy are defective. In the case of the “ Woomera “, maintenance was defective in ammunition handling, and maintenance was also defective in the case of the open valves on the “ Supply “. Maintenance was defective in the case of the numerous boiler explosions which occurred in the “Voyager” prior to the February disaster. Supply was defective in the lack of hatch spanners. Training was defective in the loss of five midshipmen from the “ Sydney” engaged in an obsolete sailing exercise in craft totally unsuited For the task those boys were asked to accomplish. Yet these repeated mishaps, forming, as we maintain, a definite pattern of inefficiency, could not shake the Government and the Naval Board out of their lofty complacency.
And then came the dreadful night of 10th February 1964. The question that we must ask, painful though it be, and to which
Australia demands an answer is: Did inefficiency in Naval administration, or flaws in the system, materially contribute to this disaster? The views of the Opposition have already been expounded by the honorable members for Batman, Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns). The questions they posed have not been answered by the Government. No attempt has been made to answer them.
The honorable member for Batman raised three vital questions with grave implications. First, my colleague, who is undoubtedly the most experienced seafarer in this House and a man with distinguished maritime service in war and peace, is of the opinion that a wrong signal was given from the bridge of the “Melbourne”. Having had no practical experience I do not pretend to be able to follow my distinguished and gallant friend through his technical explanations. But the serious aspect of this matter is the light it throws on the attitude of the Minister for the Navy and of the Naval Board. The honorable member for Batman wrote to the Minister in May outlining his views. The Minister obtained from a Naval Board a reply to the honorable member’s observations. But neither the Minister nor the Board took the obvious course of referring such an important question, central to the whole tragedy, to the Royal Commission. The point was never considered by Mr. Justice Spicer for the simple reason that it was never raised before him. Does the Minister suggest it was not worth investigating, coming as it did from no negligible source, but from a member of this Parliament, and from one whose views on these matter must carry weight?
The honorable member for Batman then made the point that Captain Robertson was inexperienced in handling a ship of the size and type of “ Melbourne “. He further drew attention to the absence of the Flag Officer, Admiral Becher, who was ashore on the fateful night. The Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy seem to have deliberately misunderstood, and they have certainly misrepresented, the Opposition’s references to Captain Robertson’s inexperience. It is no criticism of a naval officer to say that he lacks experience in performing a certain type of duty. The criticism lies against those who place the inexperienced officer in such a position. The simple fact is that Captain Robertson had no previous experience on an aircraft carrier doing night flying exercises and had never before been in tactical command of a carrier and destroyer working together, until the exercises during which the collision occurred.
– Neither had Captain Benson.
– Well, Captain Benson is not under discussion here, but he has had a very distinguished career in the Navy. He can answer for himself if any Minister or any honorable member opposite likes to lay any charges against his efficiency in war or in peace.
When the question of why there had been no familiarisation course for captains before they took over new commands was raised at the Commission, the Naval Board, through its counsel, Mr. Jenkyn, Q.C., said that such a system would make the Royal Australian Navy the “ laughing stock of the world “. Counsel assisting the Commission, Mr. Smyth, Q.C., said on 24th June that his suggestion that Captain Robertson should have been given a familiarisation course had been rejected out of hand by the Naval Board. Yet, as Mr. Smyth pointed out, this was the very thing which had happened to Admiral Gatacre when he first took command of “ Melbourne “. Is there not in this attitude of the Naval Board a hint of contempt for the layman who might presume to put forward any suggestion whatsoever, no matter how reasonable? Certainly this sort of contempt was displayed by the Minister for the Navy, who patronisingly suggested that the views of the honorable member for Batman were of doubtful validity because much of his experience was gained in the merchant service. The Minister conveniently ignored the honorable member’s distinguished naval service in both war and peace.
If the present Minister for the Navy and the Naval Board see nothing wrong with a system which placed Captain Robertson In such a position, at least one of the Minister’s colleagues does. And that person is none other than the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), himself a former Minister for the Navy. He is et complete variance with his colleague, and with the members of the Board over which he once presided, for he said last week during the “Voyager” debate - “ I must confess that I personally have had some misgivings about the appointment of officers to high command after a long period ashore. It is my view that if one or other of these officers had had any experienced and operational officer beside him during the course of the working-up exercises, this accident might not have occurred, that this collision and the subsequent loss of the “ Voyager “ might not have happened.”
The Minister for Labour and National Service said that, and he has not repudiated it since. He may have a chance to explain himself later, if he can.
The Minister who made this astonishing confession had every opportunity to institute the system which he now thinks is so desirable, a system which might have saved the “Voyager”. Why did he not do so? Why subsequently, as a senior Cabinet Minister, has he never urged the Navy to do so? Is this not a perfect example of the complacency, the procrastination and the sickening indecision which typify this woebegone administration? Captain Robertson’s inexperience in this type of command makes the question of Admiral Becher’s absence all the more relevant. Admiral Becher told the Commission that had he been in command, he would have acted sooner than Captain Robertson did.
We have been told that Admiral Becher was attending a conference at Canberra. Yet he is the highest ranking sea-going officer in the Navy, and the “ Melbourne “ is his flagship. The “ Melbourne “ and the “ Voyager “ were performing that night’s exercises to a programme which he had approved, and which had been drawn up ny Admiral Peek of the Naval Board. On the findings of the Commission, the principal officers of the flagship “ Melbourne “ were inexperienced in this type of ship and this type of exercise. The crew was inexperienced and was performing a dangerous exercise at high speed at night. Both ships had just undergone extensive refits, and, apart from short sea trials, had been at sca for only four days. What was the nature of the conference which was so vital that the Admiral of the Fleet had to leave his flagship at such a time, under such circumstances? It was certainly not a conference which required the presence of the then Acting
Minister for the Navy because he was in Adelaide that night.
– He was not.
– The Press reported that you were in Adelaide. You certainly were not with Admiral Becher, so far as Press reports and the information given to this Parliament show. Where you were you can explain later because you, like the former Minister for the Navy, the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Prime Minister and the present Minister for the Navy are all on trial in this matter.
The Minister claims that the Navy must perform its duties on a war footing. Is it efficient, war-like practice, to have the Admiral of the Fleet in Canberra, while inexperienced officers and an inexperienced crew perform this type of exercise? Arc we to be content with a system which permits such arrangements, and are we to allow Ministers to shrug it off as if it were heaven ordained and therefore immutably wise and correct? We criticise the system and the Government which allows ils top Naval advisers to permit and perpetuate such a system. In the words of Mr. Smyth, before the Commission - li seems a strange system that a Captain, however good a seaman he is, is suddenly transferred from a destroyer or in this case, three years ashore, in lo command of a vessel like an aircraft carrier.
Yet the Government has given no indication that it proposes any radical changes in this system. Instead, the former Minister for the Navy, Senator Gorton, in a blatant attempt to cover up for himself and his colleagues, asserted last night in another place that this Mr. Smyth, Q.C., whom the Government appointed to assist the Commission, had deliberately misled the Commission. If this is so, the Commissioners report is to that extent rendered more or less valueless.
The Commissioner makes it quite clear in his report that there is inefficiency in the provisioning of ships. On the night of the collision, eleven safety hatches on the “ Voyager “ were without spanners. The Commissioner says on page 31 of his report -
A requisition for further spanners had been made but not met.
The Minister for the Navy now makes the astonishing claim that the requisition order had not left the “ Voyager “ and had not been received at the Navy Office, ff words mean anything, then the Minister is clearly contradicting the Commissioner. Indeed, he comes perilously close to condemning those who can no longer speak for themselves. The requisition may not have reached the Navy Office, but where is the evidence that it never left the “ Voyager “? The “ Voyager “ is at the bottom of the sca, and the Minister’s explanation takes no note of that fact. But the Minister’s assertion does suit the Government’s convenience.
The Commissioner also found that some of “ Melbourne’s “ boats were nol in working order, that life jackets were locked in a store, that the men were untrained in the use of life saving equipment, and that many could not swim. The Commissioner assures us that no lives were lost directly as a result of these deficiencies. Wc pray it was so. But do these matters, in combination, indicate a situation which affords room for the Government’s complacency and satisfaction? Or rather are we not bound to accept the weight of the charge levelled by the honorable member for Batman of “ unpardonable negligence “ - I quote his words - in Naval administration?
Further, the Minister has failed to give any explanation of the conflicting opinions within the Navy Office of the seaworthiness of whalers. The Navy told Sir John Spicer that the whaler and sailing dinghies aboard “ Melbourne “ were for recreational purposes only, in calm water. Yet Naval spokesmen claimed after the inquiry into the loss of five midshipmen from H.M.A.S. “ Sydney “ last year that these craft were “ unsinkable - even with both plugs out “.
One curious aspect of that tragedy is that Captain Dovers was censured by the “ Sydney “ inquiry, and later promoted. Captain Robertson was exonerated by the “ Voyager “ Royal Commission, and demoted.
The case I am presenting falls thus info two sections. Firstly, the Opposition maintains that before the “ Voyager “ disaster, serious flaws in naval organisation and administration had appeared, and required urgent action by the Government. No such remedial action was taken, or even proposed. Ministers seemed to know nothing and to care even less. Secondly, the “ Voyager “ disaster - the latest and worst in a series of mishaps - exposes further grave defects in the system, but no action which would really get to the root of the troubles is yet proposed or contemplated by the Government.
The Prime Minister made a long statement to the House last week which was notable for its attempt to obscure the real issue with a long apologia for the Government’s defence programme, such as it is. Why this occasion should have been used to defend what Rear Admiral Oldham recently described as an inadequate Navy, an immovable army and an impotent Air Force is beyond my comprehension. It was certainly improper. The Prime Minister then proceeded to outline some proposals which the Naval Board says it will take - after the “ Voyager “ tragedy. These proposals seem to be elementary precautions that should have been taken long ago. The Government and the Board cannot expect to be congratulated for acting now. They must be condemned for not having acted earlier. There should have been no need for a royal commission to tell the nation what is wrong and what needs to be done. It is the duty of the Naval Board to advise the Government from time to time on the state of the Navy. It has not done so and, even if it did, would this have mattered? Would the Government have acted? I do not think so and I am not alone in that thought.
We learn that all ships are to be inspected to ensure preparedness after a refit. But this is to happen only after the “ Voyager “ tragedy. Staff officers will increase their visits to ships during working-up. But this has been decided upon only after the “ Voyager “ tragedy. Sailors are to be trained in helicopter rescue - after the “Voyager” tragedy. They are to be taught to swim better - after the “ Voyager “ tragedy. We have an assurance that the next disaster survivors will be flown home - but this concession is granted only after the “ Voyager “ tragedy. Life jackets are to be stowed in accessible places, sailors are tj be taught to inflate life rafts. And these elementary reforms have been made only after the “ Voyager “ tragedy.
The Prime Minister’s list of things to be done is long. Indeed, it is an impressive indictment of past failures in administration and organisation during the fifteen years he has been Prime Minister. But the more general reforms adumbrated by the Prima Minister are totally unsatisfactory. The Government proposes to establish a standing naval committee, and a ministerial committee. These are intra-Navy committees. How can such committees be expected to be objective in their review of Naval affairs?
The ministerial committee will be presided over by the Minister for the Navy - the same Minister who refuses to admit the slightest possibility that something might be wrong with the Navy. This is the appeal from Caesar unto Caesar. In practice, the Naval Board will sit in judgment upon itself. Far from being an instrument for reform, it will merely bolster the Minister in his obstinacy, and the Government in its stupid complacency.
And this brings us to the central issue. The decline in the Navy is not primarily the result of inadequate machinery; the fault rests with the failure of Government policy. It is a failure of leadership, and leadership should start here in the Prime Minister’s chair. The real weakness of the Navy is the weakness of the Government. Ours is a Navy without a sense of its destiny, because the Government has failed to define its true role. A Navy cannot live forever upon its traditions, even when the traditions are as noble as those of the R.A.N. A Navy should be proud of its past; ours can be, and is; but it must also be confident of its future. Ours is not, and cannot be under this Government.
For the defence of 12,000 miles of coastline, we have a fleet of one aircraft, five destroyers, seven frigates and six six coastal minesweepers. The flagship of the fleet, the “Melbourne” itself, is a monument to Government indecision and inactivity. The Fleet Air Arm has not the slightest confidence in its future, because the best hope that the Government holds out for it is that it will survive until it literally wears out. As Admiral Burrell has pointed out, this suspended death sentence is sapping the morale of the service. I know that, with his usual exquisite courtesy, the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes), described this former Chief of the Naval Staff as an “old hasbeen” but there are others of us who will accept the Admiral’s views with respect.
Thus the Government has failed the Navy, and failed Australia, on every level, lt has ignored warning after warning that the efficiency of the Navy was being impaired by faulty administration. It presumably failed to call for, and palpably failed to obtain, a shake-up of the administration at the top level, beginning with the Naval Board. It allowed an inefficient system to persist until it culminated in the frightful disaster of the “Voyager”. Only now has it instituted some elementary precautions that should have been insisted on long ago; and even now, the overhaul of naval administration and methods so badly needed is to be withheld. It has failed to produce a defence policy which would give the Navy the proud and effective role it deserves, and which the nation’s safety demands.
It is clear then that this censure motion is abundantly justified.
Failure after failure went uncorrected; mishap followed mishap, and the Government did nothing. A system of command which was inherently dangerous was allowed to persist, despite the belief of a senior Minister, who was himself responsible for the continuation of that system, that a change might have averted the “ Voyager “ tragedy. Yet the system is still to continue, because Ministers and admirals must salve their pride, and cannot bear to admit that they could possibly be wrong. Now “ Voyager “ lies broken on the ocean bed, having taken to honorable but untimely death 82 of our best and bravest. That loss can never be repaired. But if the nation’s grief and dismay could be converted into a determination to forge a new and better Navy, it might seem less futile. Yet the Government, in its pride and arrogance, shows no such determination. Therefore we of the Opposition call upon the Parliament to censure the Prime Minister and his colleagues. And while they may dragoon their majority as they will, they have already incurred the just and lasting censure of the people of Australia.
– Perhaps I ought to say at once that we will vote against this motion. That, I think, is necessary to be said for technical reasons, but I want to say something about the motion and the way in which it has been put. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), of course engaged in his usual personal abuse of me, an abuse which has characterised all his speeches since the- last election but was not normally to be found in them previously. He also allowed himself some liberties with the facts. He said that in my statement last week I accused the Opposition of engaging in a manhunt. Sir, this statement is just ridiculous. The Opposition had not spoken when I made my statement. No views had been expressed by the Opposition, so far as I know. My own statement was not a debating statement; it was designed very, very carefully to be a fair and accurate summary of the report and the matters that had been done in relation to it. I venture to say that 99 people out of 100 would think that the statement I made last week was a fair statement, and fair to all concerned.
The honorable gentleman, at the end of a speech in which he picked up and said something about every incident or misfortune that has occurred in the Navy so that there would be no risk of any doubt that we have had a series of these incidents, permitted himself, as usual, a few rhetorical flourishes. Referring to the incident of the whalers, he said that Captain Dovers had been convicted but was promoted. This he knows to be untrue. The fact was that Captain Dovers, with two other officers, was put on court martial after the incident of the whalers and that he was sentenced to be reprimanded. An appeal was taken lo the Naval Board, which obtained the expert advice of the lawyer who is now the Judge Advocate General for the Navy and who was formerly a judge in the State of Victoria. He advised the Board that there was no evidence upon which such a conviction could be sustained. Therefore, the conviction record ;d against Captain Dovers was wiped out. So to say now that Captain Dovers wai convicted, or whatever the word was-
– Yes, censured - and then promoted is to do a very grave and reckless injustice to a distinguished officer who, as it turns out - I have just mentioned the simple facts - wa» completely cleared of the allegations made against him in relation to the loss of the young midshipmen.
The Leader of the Opposition, who dearly loves rhetorical balances, went on to say that Captain Dovers was promoted and that Captain Robertson was exonerated and demoted. I do not think that we ought to bandy words about without considering what they mean. The Royal Commissioner did not find that “Voyager” was the sole cause of the collision. He said that it was the primary cause of the collision. Rightly or wrongly - I do not sit in judgment on that question - he offered quite substantial criticisms of the conduct of those on the bridge of “ Melbourne “. In these circumstances, it is a misuse of language to say that, in effect, the judge convicted those on the bridge of “ Voyager “ and exonerated those on the bridge qf “ Melbourne “. In these matters, let us have justice all round. The case for “ Voyager “ has never been put, because the people who were on her bridge are not here to put it. We do know the case for “ Melbourne “. All I am saying to the House - I say this with no thought of stirring up more controversy on this matter - is that it is not correct to say that the sole responsibility for the collision was put on those aboard “ Voyager “. If honorable members look at the criticisms made of those on the bridge of “ Melbourne “, they will see that the criticisms were substantial, although stated, very properly, with great moderation.
It was all this that I had in mind when I said: “Let us in this House not engage in some sort of private court martial of our own of the people involved in this collision. Let us not be led off into some kind of manhunt.” After all, the great truth about this incident, which happened in a very limited period of time, is that it is all very well to sit down months afterwards and work out everything step by step and it is another thing to be in the middle of the events at the time. I have always believed, and I am sure all honorable members will believe, that it is not quite just, nor is it very wise or decent, on our part to say to people who have been engaged in an incident thai has arisen in some haste and in difficult conditions: “ We sit in judgment and we blame you. We criticise you.
We attack you.” That is why I made my statement in the terms chosen last week. I repeat that it was not a debating statement or a statement that protected against criticism anybody in any particular - the Government or any other party.
– It was a whitewash.
– I knew somebody would say it was a whitewash. Of course, you would have been happier if it had been a blackwash and if I had taken the opportunity, which I suppose I might have done, of attacking a great number of people. I am sorry to disappoint you. The whole purpose of the exercise was to make a fair and objective statement on what had been done and on the inquiry which had been conducted. While I am saying that, let me point out to honorable members that there has been some suggestion that before Captain Robertson was reposted there should have been some discussion with the Naval Board and some investigation by the Naval Board of the events of that night. We at no time asked the Naval Board to investigate the events of that night. Those events had been investigated for weeks and weeks. Whatever Captain Robertson had ro say he had said, and said under crossexamination - sometimes very strenuous cross-examination - over a period of weeks. He had made reports, he had made reconstruction diagrams. All the people who were involved in this had had the opportunity of giving their evidence publicly before the Royal Commission. I venture to suggest that it would have been an impertinence on the part of any higher naval authority to say: “Well, we will now have a little private inquiry of our own, and if we disagree with the Royal Commissioner, that is all right, we will act on our own view “. This would have been criticised from one end of the country to the other; yet some people have talked as though this is what the Naval Board should have done. I know that the honorable gentleman regards this as an opportunity for displaying his lack of confidence in this Government. This is his opportunity for attributing these defects to me or to a Minister - because there have been defects, and there always will be defects.
– While you are :he Prime Minister.
– If you ever become Prime Minister, my friend, there will bc no defects, because there will be jio Navy. The whole course of the Opposition’s case is to take a series of incidents - - and I will mention two or three of them -and to say that these exhibited defects of skill or of equipment or of judgment, and for all these things the Naval Board must be responsible, and because the Naval Board must be responsible the Minister must be responsible, and because the Minister must be responsible the Government as a whole must be responsible.
Sir, it is the most remarkable proposition in the world that anybody should suppose that a navy - any navy in the world and, believe me, our Navy has as good a record as any other navy in history - should have ils standards determined by saying that from the very beginning of a ship’s life everything must be perfect, there must be no fault in machinery, there must be no accident with the engines and there must be no error of judgment on the part of the officers or ratings aboard the ship. This is a standard of perfection, and if you find that this ridiculous and impossible standard of perfection is violated every now and then because somebody makes an error - an officer fails to do that, an engineer fails to inspect something or other and something occurs - this is a reflection on the whole administration of the Navy, or so we are told. If we are going to impose or set standards of that kind, then it will be difficult to persuade people to come into the naval service. To impose such standards would mean to require of Naval men, particularly Naval officers, right from the time they are midshipmen or even before, standards of perfection that we do not require of ourselves and of other people. They are not supposed to be perfect. They arc supposed to be honest and intelligent and competent and brave, and I see nothing in any of the instances that have been referred to to suggest that these Naval men have not lived up to those standards right through.
The honorable gentleman said something, just before he sat down, about not correcting defects. I thought his case was that the Naval Board had done this, because on each occasion on which an investigation was held and a cause was discovered it took steps to make corrections promptly and satisfac torily. Should it not have done so? Or should the members of the Board have done so saying to themselves: “ The fact that we are making changes will be used as evidence against us “? Thank heaven they have not adopted that attitude.
Let me take two or three of these cases that have been referred to. I cannot go through all of them but I will mention the ones on which most play was made. The “ Vendetta “ drove into the wall of the Williamstown dock in 19S5. An investigation was held. It turned out that the order given from the bridge was correct but that it had been misinterpreted twice by the rating below whose duty it was to pass it on. What the Naval Board did after that investigation was stated in the Senate in May last in answer to a question. The answer appears at page 1094 of “Hansard” in these terms: -
The layout of the wheelhouse of the “ Vendetta “ was altered subsequent to the destroyer “ Vendetta” hitting the dock gate at the Williamstown dockyard. As an additional safeguard arrangements were made to fit telegraph repeats on the bridge of the “ Vendetta “. Similar modifications were made to the other Daring class destroyers. Modifications were made to sights in gun turrets-
I shall come to that matter in a moment As to the “ Vendetta “, there was an incident entirely explicable. People do make mistakes and the Naval Board cannot be with every one of the members of the Navy all the time to see that mistakes are not made. As I say, people do make mistakes, and when a prompt and competent investigation reveals that a mistake has been made one expects the Naval Board to ensure that, insofar as the mistake arose from some defect of equipment or something of that kind, the defect will be rectified. That is exactly what the Naval Board did. It would have been thought very odd if it had not. But now the fact that these changes were made after an incident occurred is used against the Naval Board, on the footing that the incident should never have occurred. I am not prepared to impose such a rigid standard on any servant.
Then there was an incident involving the holing of “ Tobruk “ by “ Anzac “ in a throw-off shoot. That was investigated and it was found that the order was accurately given, that the turrets were pointed in the right direction for the throw-off shoot but that there had been some defect in the mechanism so that accuracy was not achieved and one vessel was hit by the other. This is not unique in naval history. I have in my time heard of remarkably similar incidents in other navies. But following that incident steps were taken to issue special instructions and impose special responsibilities for checking machinery to make sure that, an order being accurately given and the turret being accurately pointed, there would be no repetition of the incident.
The right honorable gentleman mentioned the case of the “ Woomera “ blowing up. He gave this as another example of a failure of the Government, through the Minister and the Naval Board, to maintain a competent Service. It was decided after the “ Woomera “ incident to take certain steps which were set out in the reply given in the Senate, to which I have already referred, in these terms -
Following the sinking of “ Woomera “ steps were taken -
To create a new position of safety officer to maintain a detailed surrey of safety aspects in the dispersed areas of the armament supply organisation in New South Wales and appoint a suitably qualified officer to this position.
To have members of the directing staff as distinct from foremen to be on duty whenever explosives are being handled.
To issue a concise and consolidated source of information which was available to any ship concerned with the dumping of explosives or warlike stores.
I ask honorable members to consider the position as if they themselves were in control of the Navy. Would they regard it as some grave reflection on them that, some incident having occurred which revealed a weakness somewhere, not necessarily in the organisation but perhaps in an individual, they took steps at once to rectify it, to ensure against a repetition of it? Would they like to feel that if they did this admirable thing they would some day be called to stand up and be accused of having failed in their duty?
The truth of the matter is that in all these matters the Naval Board has done its duty. What I said in the course of my statement the other night was not that there had been a series of incidents, because I thought everybody knew this. What I said was not that the occurrence of these incidents showed that there were defects in the
Navy; what I said was that having in mind all these incidents culminating in this terrible “ Voyager “ disaster we had decided that there ought to be a close examination made by us of the organisation, its systems of promotions and so on, so that if there were any improvements to be made in the light of special Australian conditions we should be able to have them made. The Leader of the Opposition says this is most unsatisfactory because, he says, it will represent an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. He says that this will be an investigation by the Navy itself. The answer is that it will not. It will be an investigation by the Cabinet itself. The Cabinet will have on hand, of course, the Chief of the Naval Staff- it would be a strange proceeding if it did not - and it will have access to the best Naval intelligence that it can find in Australia - it would be a very strange thing if it did not.
I know the honorable member left this aspect obscure but does he really suggest that we ought to bring somebody in, some naval authority from another navy, to investigate the state of our Navy? I cannot understand such a suggestion, because nobody has any reason to suppose that whatever its defects may be our Navy is less competent, man for man and ship for ship, than the other navies of which we know. You cannot have this kind of thing both ways. If - and 1 accept the proposition - the ultimate responsibility is that of the Government and, if you like, mine as the head of the Government, then it is the Government itself that must satisfy itself as to whether any changes are needed and ought to be made. We are not going to offload that responsibility and, as I have stated, we are setting up - in fact I have set up - a committee of Ministers to perform this task. The members of the committee will all be Ministers; the committee will make its reports to the Cabinet and the Cabinet will take the responsibility for whatever decisions are made. Now, Sir, is that unreasonable? I find it hard to believe that anybody should think it unreasonable. On the contrary, it is eminently proper, because we are ultimately responsible for the general shape of the Navy. But to say that any government or any naval board is responsible for every individual error of judgment or incident of this kind that occurs in the Navy is to talk utter nonsense. Whatever the theory may be, you cannot in fact conduct an important armed service on that basis.
Sir, I am not prepared to labour this matter. I listened with loving care to the long recital made by the honorable member. If the honorable member can find any instance in which some incident has occurred and no investigation has taken place, I would be glad to know about it, because, so far as I can discover, always there has been an investigation and always appropriate steps have been taken. Before I part from it, I might say that it is almost entertaining - if one can find anything entertaining in a debate or occurrence of this kind - to find that the Leader of the Opposition is so enthusiastically prepared - to quote my old friend, Sir Henry Burrell, who, after all, was the First Naval Member for a substantial part of the period that is involved in this censure motion. That seems to me to be a little odd, and again seeking to have it both ways.
I am sorry indeed that any occasion should be taken to denigrate the Navy, because, believe me, the mere publication with emphasis of these various incidents is calculated - and I rather suspect deliberately calculated - to lower the reputation of the Royal Australian Navy. Whatever gimmicks you may want to employ to have a go at the Government, I say to honorable members: Let us remember in the whole of these discussions that the matter of supreme importance is the quality of our Navy, the spirit of our Navy, the efficiency of our Navy, to do its vital work for us, and that we should be very careful not to encourage any criticisms which can have no other effect than to weaken the morale of our servicemen.
– Get out of the bilge water.
– Oh! Oh! You arc coming up for the third time. Apart from what I have already said, everything I wanted to say about this matter 1 said in my statement to the House. I therefore conclude by saying that this motion should be completely rejected.
.- Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) ended on an unworthy note. For too long he and his colleagues have relied on the decent discretion and natural reluctance that honorable members show in discussing incidents concerning the Navy or the other forces. Honorable members realise that a discussion of these matters may undermine morale in our forces, and may disclose weaknesses to other nations, but the Government for too long has relied on members’ reluctance and discretion, lt is now revealed that with too many of the Ministers and those behind them patriotism has become the last refuge of incompetence.
The Prime Minister challenged the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) to state any incidents where no inquiry had been held. The Prime Minister referred to the inquiries which had been held into the incidents - about half a dozen of them - which the Leader of the Opposition mentioned, nearly all during the tenure of Senator Gorton as Minister for the Navy. The Leader of the Opposition did not refer to the occasion when the boilers of the “ Melbourne “ broke down on a South East Asia Treaty Organisation exercise. Was an inquiry then held? As honorable members in another place have been told, during the same period of Senator Gorton’s term of office there have been 30 other incidents involving ships of the Royal Australian Navy.
The Prime Minister also challenged the Leader of the Opposition to say where, as a result of any inquiry, remedial action had not been taken. There is a very clear and recent instance. Evidence was given in the court martial of Captain Dovers concerning the seaworthiness of the whalers. We now know that the position of the whalers was not corrected, because they were still there during the “ Melbourne “ and “ Voyager “ collision.
– Would you explain that?
– Honorable members have already heard on several occasions during the last week the reference that the Royal Commission made to the whalers. They were inadequate. They were not safe.
One sank. They even failed in the conditions of fair weather obtaining at the time of the “ Voyager “ disaster.
I shall refer to the first two points made by the Prime Minister. First, he said that the Leader of the Opposition had referred to him denouncing a manhunt in this matter. The right honorable gentleman did in fact use this phrase about a manhunt. He used it on Wednesday of last week at question time when three of my colleagues had asked questions about the “ Voyager “. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) asked about payments under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) asked questions concerning the Prime Minister’s statement that a court martial was precluded by a royal commission. Then out of the blue - and honorable members will recall the terms of drama which the Prime Minister used - the honorable gentleman said -
I thought last night that everybody in this House was anxious not to engage in a manhunt but was anxious to discuss the broad problem. I hope we can continue in that way.
There was nothing in the questions of the honorable members for Hindmarsh, Dalley or Fremantle, which in any way would give rise to the suggestion of a manhunt. It came from the Prime Minister. He interpolated and originated the idea.
For about five minutes the right honorable gentleman analysed in quite some detail the reference by the Leader of the Opposition to the different treatment extended to Captain Dovers and Captain Robertson. It is true, as the Prime Minister said, that Captain Dovers was on subsequent legal advice re-instated and went to the position to which he had previously been appointed. The difference in Captain Robertson’s case was that he was temporarily relieved of his appointment during the currency of the Royal Commission. After the Royal Commission made no adverse findings against him, he was not sent back to that appointment; he was sent elsewhere to encourage the others.
The other point - which the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) made by way of a question - is that Captain Robertson at no time knew what was the attitude of his peers and his superiors to his record and to his future in the Service. Captain Dovers knew what was the attitude of his peers and his superiors. There was a difference of treatment between these two captains. Captain Robertson did not proceed to the appointment he had before the Royal Commission. Captain Dovers did proceed to the appointment that he had before his court martial.
Then the Prime Minister fabricated an allegation by the Leader of the Opposition that the “Voyager” was solely responsible. The Leader of the Opposition at no time said that at all. He quoted from the report of the Royal Commissioner-
– I am sorry; I did not say that. I said that the Royal Commissioner at no time had said that the “ Voyager “ was solely responsible. That was the point I made.
– I agree that the Royal Commissioner did not say that. I thought the Prime Minister implied that the Leader of the Opposition had said that.
– Well, that clears that up. The Leader of the Opposition, right from the beginning, has urged a wider inquiry in this matter. I believe that the public desired it and still desires it. Only a week ago the Prime Minister said at a dinner in Sydney that Australians had never lived in a state of greater risk. No-one listening to him today would have any confidence that the Royal Australian Navy is being brought to a state of morale, equipment or recruitment to meet that great risk to which he referred. At the time of the appointment of the Royal Commission my leader suggested that the Royal Commissioner should consider not only the “ Voyager “ disaster itself but also the wider field of naval operations and efficciency. The Prime Minister rejected that suggestion. The publication of the report of the Royal Commissioner, subsequent events and public disquiet, have demonstrated the need for the inquiry to have been on the much wider basis. The Leader of the Opposition said that right from the beginning. The truth of what he said has been demonstrated by all subsequent events.
The Prime Minister asked: Does this mean- that somebody should be brought in from another navy? The Leader of the
Opposition has not suggested that, although it has happened in respect of various Australian Services in the past - and to their advantage. We make a point of the fact that the Australian forces are being equipped and trained to co-operate with other forces. Is there anything particularly wrong in the suggestion that advice might be sought from the Royal Navy and the United States Navy, with both of which it is proposed that our Navy will be cooperating?
The Prime Minister has appointed a ministerial committee. That is humiliating for the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) in all conscience. There have been 10 Ministers for the Navy during the term of the Menzies Government - the last 1 5 years. Most of those Ministers have been new Ministers. They have never been other than junior Ministers. Some of them have had other portfolios as well.
– What about the Labour Government?
– The last Labour Minister for the Navy is still a member of the House. He is the Minister who establish*! the Fleet Air Arm, over the dissolution of which Senator Gorton was appointed to preside. Senator Gorton was Minister for the Navy for a record term of more than five years. All the incidents mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition occurred during his term of office. In another place last night that Minister showed the same attitude as the present Minister for the Navy showed in this chamber last week - avoiding responsibility by blaming other people. He made the monstrous charge that Mr. Smyth had made completely untrue statements to the Royal Commissioner. Docs that mean that counsel appointed by this Government to assist the Royal Commissioner misled the Royal Commissioner? Is that what Senator Gorton is implying? That is a monstrous charge.
It is true that Mr. Smyth’s conduct at the Royal Commission did shake the Naval Board up. Let us recall that until this year the Navy, alone among the Services, did not have a Judge-Advocate-General. All the inquiries which the Prime Minister mentioned, except the court martial of Captain Dovers, were in private. Thus, frankly, it did the Navy good for a competent and public inquiry to be held. After the “ Voyager “ disaster, nobody could proceed on any assumption that admirals are always correct and that Ministers always rely on the best advice that is available. Let me quote what Mr. Justice Spicer, the most experienced of all Federal judges in maritime matters, had to say about Mr. Smyth. He said -
I was fortunate to have before me Senior and Junior Counsel of considerable competence all of whom devoted themselves unsparingly to the task in hand, and in particular I have to thank Mr. Smyth, Q.C., and Mr. Sheppard-
Mr. Smyth’s junior for their diligent efforts to ascertain alt the facts and circumstances relevant to the reaching of sound conclusions.
The Minister for the Navy throughout the period in which all these incidents occurred behaved just as deplorably as did the present Minister for the Navy. When it comes to the efficiency of the Navy, the public is concerned. The public is largely concerned because of the incidents which were revealed at the first competent and public inquiry that has been held into the Navy.
The ministerial committee will rely principally on the advice of the Naval men who have been responsible for these incidents. It will be remembered’ that Rear Admiral Peek drew up the exercises which led to this disaster. Honorable members will recall that he was captain of the “ Melbourne “ at the time when it almost procured a collision at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. It is very interesting to note that the Royal Commissioner saw the flimsies of Captain Robertson and the other officers concerned, and commented favorably upon them. It might have been of advantage if he had seen the flimsies of the members of the Naval Board. The Royal Commissioner said -
The programme in this case was drafted initially by Captain Peek, as he then was-
– Why don’t you say what you mean by that statement?
– The name is spelt P-e-e-k, not p-i-q-u-e. The Royal Commissioner continued-
It was completed by Captain Robertson and approved by Rear Admiral Becher, the Flag Officer commanding the fleet. It seems to have followed the pattern of similar work-up programmes of the past.
The two admirals should have been aware of the state of preparedness of both ships. The Prime Minister did not refer to these facts, although the Leader of the Opposition did. I will repeat’ them so that subsequent Government speakers may deal with them. The Royal Commissioner said -
Both ships had recently undergone extensive refits . . .
Shortly prior to the completion of the refit of each vessel, there was a considerable change in complement. In particular, substantial changes took place in the identity of a number of the officers on each ship.
The two admirals must have known that. They must have known that Captain Robertson had not been to sea for three years and had nol commanded an aircraft carrier before. They must have been aware of the inexperience of Acting Sub-Lieutenant Bale. With a slower work-up, there is no doubt that the ships and crews could have performed at a high level of efficiency. But one gets the distinct impression that the work-up had not been thorough enough to enable the ships to carry out the exercise with proper efficiency and due regard to safety. The Royal Commissioner also said -
On this night the only turns in which the vessels participated were at the range of 1,500 yards and the speed of 20 knots. The Royal Commissioner added - . . some similar exercise by the vessels in daytime might, with advantage, precede an initial touch-and-go exercise at night.
There was obviously considerable pressure on the ships to complete their programme. They went to sea on 6th February. Some exercises were carried out individually, and some were carried out together. On parts of 9th and J 0th February, the ships were in Jervis Bay. Yet they had to be ready to take on planes which, during the refit, had been stationed at Nowra. The Royal Commissioner stated -
Tt was contemplated that the aircraft would be taken on board on 12th February 1964, that is two days after the collision.
Last night, Senator Gorton said that it is not usual for an admiral commanding the Australian Fleet to go to sea when ships are exercising. But this officer is the Flag Officer commanding the Australian Fleet. His is a sea-going appointment. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned - but the Prime Minister again omitted to mention - a very crucial matter. Admiral Becher was experienced in this type of operation. He was the officer who had had the most recent t experience of any great extent in this type of operation. On the night in question he was called to Canberra by Admiral Harrington to discuss urgent naval matters. How urgent were those matters? Why cannot honorable members be told? The Acting Minister for the Navy was not present. Therefore, it could not have been so urgent as to require his presence.
– What qualifications have you to say whether it was or was not?
– Well, you know no better than 1 do. We are not being told. I would have thought that you were entitled to be told, just as much as honorable members on this side are. Where was the Acting Minister for the Navy at that time? He says he was not in Adelaide. The matter in Canberra was apparently not sufficiently urgent to require his presence. But Admiral Becher did come to Canberra, lt was not difficult to move an officer about, because on the night of the occurrence he was taken back to Jervis Bay and landed on the carrier by helicopter in a matter of a few hours. It is easy to transfer him back and forth.
– It is easy to be wise after the event.
– Of course Admiral Becher should have been wise before the event. Where was he? What was he discussing here in Canberra? Admiral Becher did say that if he had been on the bridge of “ Melbourne “ he would have acted more quickly than Captain Robertson did. The inference is that if Admiral Becher had been on the bridge this incident would not have occurred. He knew the regulations and the position which would have applied if he had been there. Is it not usual for the commanding admiral to go to sea?
– It used to be, before your Government came into office.
Admirals in general arc credited with the wish, after they have been on land for some time, to get back to sea, but the one who was in command, the seagoing admiral, was not on the job. Why was he not on the job? A week ago the Prime Minister said that to obviate such positions in future it had been decided that there would be a reorganisation of the staff of the Flag Officer Commanding the Australian Fleet which would enable increased visits by staff officers to be made to each ship while working up, thus enabling an additional check to be made and remedial action to be taken if necessary. The Minister for Labour and National Service, a former Minister for the Navy, embroidered that statement later the same night by saying that - when working-up operations are to be carried out in this way specially appointed stall officers of high rank . . . will be available to the officers carrying out the working-up operations.
Does this mean that in future they will be there the whole time, or will they merely make, as the Prime Minister said in his prepared and shorter statement, increased visits? What are increased visits - longer visits or more frequent visits, or what? Does the Minister for the Navy mean, in the light of the statement he made two hours and a half later the same night, that they will be there the whole time, because if they had been there this accident would not have happened.
– How can you say that?
– That is the inference to be drawn from Admiral Becher’s evidence. These men were not used to the operation. None of the men in charge were used to the operation with which they were entrusted.
The Naval Board consists of the men responsible for all these operations. New blood is needed on the Naval Board. Let us remember that in the last war 76 per cent, of the people in the Navy were reservists. No reservist is represented on the Naval Board, but there is representation for the Citizen Military Forces on the Military Board, and there used to be representation, on the Air Board, of the Air Force Reserve until it was abolished. Some younger captains from smaller ships should bc seriously considered for this position. After all. Drake had singed the King of Spain’s beard - that was before mutton chop whiskers became fashionable - before he had reached Captain Robertson’s age. Nelson had swept the Mediterranean and the Atlantic and had died at Trafalgar before reaching Captain Robertson’s age. In addition, a civilian with long experience in mercantile shipping would be invaluable as a check to the remoteness and exclusiveness of the present members of the Naval Board.
In officer training there is far too much segregation - even in the training of officers at Jervis Bay. Even today young officers are trained in the same way as they would be at an exclusive English boarding school. There ought to be more familiarisation with actual conditions of life, including life in the Service. The basic difficulty in which the Government finds itself is in its naval policy. What sort of navy do we want in the circumstances applying in Australia? We have modelled our Navy on the antisubmarine character of the Royal Navy. We do not have a merchant marine. Our Navy is being trained to guard the ships of other nations which are trading here.
But the submarine menace is not the primary one here. The greatest submarine power in the world which might be operating against us - Russia - would not be operating primarily in this area, and other nations which might be primarily interested in the Pacific Ocean or Indian Ocean are not primarily submarine powers. In our circumstances a fleet air arm is essential. In 1959 the Government said it would dissolve the Fleet Air Arm by the middle of 1963. In 1963, however, it was found that there was another four years’ life in the existing aircraft. No proposals- were made to order new types of aircraft, and they still have not been made. We have not even ordered aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm as far ahead as we have ordered them for the Royal Australian Air Force. The Fleet Air Arm is to be allowed to die.
The operation which resulted in the loss of the “ Voyager “ was a Fleet Air Arm exercise. How, in these circumstances, can we expect the maximum competence or enthusiasm when it is known that this arm of the Services is to be dissolved?
The concluding, matter that I wish to mention about the Government’s attitude towards the Navy relates to shipbuilding. The late Minister for Defence, Mr. Townley, gave as his reason for the new frigates being built at Bay City in the United States of America that it takes eight years to build ships for the Royal Australian Navy in Australia. He said that he had the highest regard for the work done by the artisans in the Australian shipyards, but that it took eight years to build the ships here. This has been true under this Government, and I found out the reason when I visited Bay City last July. We could have built these ships in very little more time than that taken in the United States, but under this Government the Navy has never been given sufficient appropriations to build ships in less than seven years. The Navy has had to make in each financial year an appropriation of one seventh of the cost of constructing any particular ship. Accordingly, the construction of every ship has been spun out over seven years.
The advantage that we have achieved by ordering these frigates in the U.S. is that the U.S. Government has undertaken to pay the instalments as they fall due and, however quickly the ships are built, they will be paid for. But the U.S. Government will accept reimbursements from the Australian Government over seven years. So those are the reasons it has taken so long to get ships from Australian shipyards for the Royal Australian Navy - fiscal reasons, not technical reasons at all. It has never taken so long to get merchant ships from Australian shipyards. It never took so long to get Royal Australian Navy ships from Australian shipyards during the I940’s under a Labour Government.
In all respects the Government has just concealed the position and fobbed the public off. Last June the strength of the Navy was 12,500. In May last year the Prime Minister said the approved total would be raised from 13,900 to 14,300. In whatever way one looks at it - training or recruitment or equipment or planning - the present Government’s record is disturbing, and the only way really to correct this and to restore the morale of the members of the Navy and to restore the confidence of the Australian people in the Navy is to have a broad, open and vigorous inquiry into the administration of the Navy, an inquiry such as we were given in respect of the last but most tragic of all the misfortunes which have affected the Navy in the last six years.
.- I feel that the censure motion which is before the
House has some right on both sides of the chamber. I find myself in an awkward predicament. I feel like a small rowboat with or without a rudder in the midst of a couple of large fleets. I would like to say that I feel that the censure motion would have been better if it had read: “ That the Parliament deserves the censure of the House for the succession of naval disasters and misfortunes for which it is primarily responsible.”
I feel that I should explain my situation. There has been much conjecture over this incident. If the Opposition had moved a motion of censure against the Government because of the conduct of the Royal Commission and on the events flowing from it I would, without hesitation, have voted with them. But for the Opposition to come forward and say that the Government is responsible for every accident that has occurred in the Navy is, I think, quite ridiculous. It has been said that I have made statements in regard to certain things. Indeed, I have.
I have the highest regard for the Navy, for all its officers and men and for all officers and men of the three Services. I do not think it is realised by honorable members, nor by the public, that these men volunteer to serve their country in war, that they are prepared to go anywhere at any time and to be away from their families. They do this for little money and for next to no extra conditions over and above those enjoyed by the civilian population. One soldier said to me a short time ago: “ There is only one difference between me and a civil servant and that is that I can be sent out to die tonight.” I think that this House has little reason to praise itself. I feel there is responsibility falling on the Government side and on the Opposition side. Before I became a member of this House I used to hear Opposition members get up and talk of the top brass of the Navy, of the conditions in the Service and of the uniforms that personnel were given. In other words, they did everything to belittle the Services. But at that particular time we were at peace.
You cannot belittle the Services, you cannot write them down, you cannot attack them and - from the Government’s point of view - you cannot fail to give them support and then expect to get the right types into the services, or the numbers that are necessary, or the technical officers required to man the ships and the various electronic components of the Army, Navy and Air Force. This is something which all honorable members should remember and, indeed, something which the people of Australia should remember. For too long after wars have the Services been the happy hunting ground of parliaments and of certain people in the community. Certain people in the community belittle the serviceman and say: “ Look at him. He is wearing his uniform. He is going off to a parade. Doesn’t he look stupid?” This attitude is something which has grown up in Australia and is something which servicemen have had to put up with. 1 think this Parliament has a responsibility to do something about correcting this attitude.
As far as the “ Voyager “ tragedy is concerned, and all the other incidents, I say that the people and we, the Parliament, should bc most grateful that these men have been prepared to go out in the service of their country and have even been prepared to die. When I hear some honorable members speaking in this House I have the feeling that they are like a praying mantis waiting to see if it can leap onto a fly - they are waiting to get some political advantage. This is not true of everyone but 1 do feel that politics come into these matters and it should not.
There is a heavy responsibility on the Government to ensure the defence of Australia. Over a period of years - and I am not talking of the period since the increase in defence expenditure - the defence vote stood at the same figure. For too long the salary content of the defence vote went up and for too long the equipment provided did not match the requirements. Without any doubt, all honorable members have to accept responsibility for this. I think it is a matter that the public could also look at. The Services cannot be run efficiently unless there are efficient technical officers and these men have to be obtained from the high competition areas of civil employment.
This is a problem found not only in Australia. It is a problem found in the Services in the United Kingdom and in the United States of America. I recently saw an article in an American magazine which dealt with military careers. It referred, not only to the Army, but to the Navy and the Air Force. The article stated -
In the officer area we are retaining only about 41 per cent, of our young officers beyond their minimum obligated tour of duty. In some scientific and engineering areas the retention rate is as low as 7 per cent.
So this problem is not occurring only in Australia.
To accuse the Government because of small incidents which may have occurred because some individual made a mistake and to condemn the Naval Board and the Royal Australian Navy and to drag it down is completely ridiculous. I think it is also ridiculous to give emphasis to the words of some honorable members who may, for certain purposes, be set up as experts. I say this against myself. Last night I was set up as a defence expert. This is quite ridiculous. For the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) to be set up as a naval expert - with respect to him - is also ridiculous. I think the honorable member will admit this.
However, there is no doubt that Navy morale has fallen. I do not blame members of that Service for this. They have been set up as a sitting shot for so long by the newspapers, by Parliament and by other people that their morale has come down. I think it is time that honorable members realised - and that the public realised - that we have to provide the Services with the best of equipment, the best of material and the best of conditions in order to encourage men to join. If we do not do this Australia will find itself in trouble. The Government must take the responsibility for this.
Frankly, my opinion of the “ Voyager “ Royal Commission was that it was abused and was not correctly conducted. Furthermore I do not think a Royal Commission should have been held. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), while on a visit to the United States of America - I hope I do not embarrass him - was asked by officers of the navy in that country: “ Why are you dragging your Navy through the dirt? “ Another honorable member, while visiting another Asian country, was greeted by a senior Navy officer who said: “ I have been waiting to find an Australian parliamentarian to whom I can convey my opinion of the way the Royal Australian Navy is being treated.” I have spoken to United Kingdom officers who feel exactly the same way. I have no doubt that the Royal Commission was set up in the best interests of the people. But I think it was wrong to set it up. I think there should have been a Naval inquiry and I think that when its findings were complete they should have gone to a court martial which could have been held in public. This was not done. In my opinion, it was not only necessary that justice should be done over the “ Voyager “ incident but that it should appear to be done. I am not completely happy about it and never will be.
Let me say this whether I incur displeasure or not: I do not agree with judges being appointed from this House; and I do not agree that former Ministers of this Government should be appointed to take command of inquiries into matters in which the Commonwealth is vitally concerned. The “ Voyager “ incident did have, without doubt, a political content. Following the incident involving H.M.A.S. “ Sydney “, and other incidents, there is no doubt in my mind that this Government was concerned. The Government appointed Mr. Justice Spicer to head this inquiry and I think he did the job well and to the best of his ability. But to say that laymen can understand the high technicalities of the Navy and can understand the incidents which took place on that particular night is beyond acceptance.
I think reference has been made to conduct during the inquiry, particularly that of the assistant to the Commissioner. I do not know who appointed him. I understand that he is a yachtsman and as far as I can ascertain that was his’ only qualification in relation to knowledge of the sea. I personally resented the way the inquiry was conducted and the way in which the evidence was led by him. I am sure other people resented it. During the inquiry, a young midshipman was accused of falsification and lying; all the personnel on the bridge of the “ Melbourne “ and, indeed, the entire crew, were accused of getting together to conceal evidence. It appeared to me that at no time was Mr. Smyth ever checked. Even the Criminal Investigation Branch of the New South Wales Police Department was called in to investigate this matter and at no time does it ever appear to me that an apology was ever made to the Navy personnel for the treatment to which they had been subjected. I think the treatment suffered by these people will be resented by the public and by the Navy for quite a long time. I come now to what has happened since and here I feel that I should make reference to the Naval Board. As honorable members probably know, Captain Robertson is related to me by marriage, although I did not know this relationship was close until this incident happened. But let me state emphatically now that I feel that I would have said what I am about to say on behalf of anybody. I say to all honorable members of this House that unless we are prepared as individuals to stand up occasionally on behalf of a particular person, unless we are prepared to take an interest in what happens to an individual when the big machine appears to be against bini, we have no right to be here.
The Prime Minister has said that the Royal Commission did not exonerate Captain Robertson. I have the feeling, whether rightly or wrongly, that if the accident had gone the other way, if the “Melbourne” had been sunk and the “ Voyager “ had survived, we would be facing an exactly similar situation. It is important to remember that counsel for the Navy, who, I presume, acted on behalf of the Navy, who, I presume, was advised by the Naval Board and who, I presume, was advised also by the Government, made certain comments about the three matters in connection with which Captain Robertson was mentioned by the Commissioner. To the first, counsel for the Navy said that it would be unjust to Captain Robertson. To the second he said it would be unfair, unreasonable and unjust, and to the third, he said, “ It is absurd “. Last night, in another place, a former Minister for the. Navy (Senator Gorton), referred to what he thought were wrong practices engaged in by Counsel assisting the Commissioner. On reading the Royal Commission’s judgment, I note that of the 14 points put to the Judge by Counsel assisting the Commissioner, the Judge accepted only two. I also note that the assistant to Counsel assisting the Commissioner is thanked for assisting in drawing up the judgment. Perhaps that is the right procedure, but I feel that this whole matter did have a political content.
T feel that Captain Robertson has been treated badly. The Prime Minister suggested that there was no reason why he should appear before the Naval Board. I first heard the suggestion that Captain Robertson was going to Watson on 30th June. I wrote to the Minister for the Navy on 1st July and 1 spoke to him over the telephone on the 3rd July. In that telephone conversation, I said to the Minister: “If you think that this is going to be acceptable, I think you will be surprised.” From that time onwards, I heard no more. I did receive a letter in which it was stated that everything was temporary. In fact, the postings have all the way through been temporary. Let me ask the Minister when Captain Stevens was appointed to the “ Melbourne “ permanently. Let me ask h’m also when Captain Robertson was relieved of his command of the “ Melbourne “ permanently.
I revert now to the Naval Board. It has been suggested that the Board did not consider that Captain Robertson could add anything to what had been said in evidence. 1 point out to the House that, in his address to the Commissioner, counsel for the Naval Board had this to day -
I have said that we realised that there was need for a careful examination. However, in pressing this examination some aspects that can be explained simply and honestly have been given a somewhat sinister appearance: missing pages from textbooks, critical appraisals of log entries, additions to reports. We submit that nothing of any real value came out of these enquiries and they only served to put efficient and honest officers under a cloud of suspicion.
He goes on to say that in his opinion many matters were still under a cloud. Is the Naval Board lacking in interest? Does it wish to find out what actually happened? Does it consider that a Judge who is a layman, and a Queen’s Counsellor, who also is a layman, both lacking in experience of Naval matters, could fully understand the technical procedures on the night in question? I do not suggest that we are as brilliant as Queen’s Counsellors, although I sometimes think that we have more ability, but I challenge any honorable member in this House to say that he fully understood all that is recorded in the transcript of the inquiry. In fact, I go so far as to say that I doubt whether many honorable members of this House have read the full transcript of the proceedings. 1 have done so, and, after reading it, I have the feeling of great disquiet.
Let me emphasise, here, that although I am naming Captain Robertson, I am not speaking on his behalf alone. I am speaking on behalf also of Commander Kelly and Sub-Lieutenant Bate. Each has had a cross marked against his name on the record. As I have said, I do not claim to be an expert but I do point out that, according to the evidence, the Navy does not think that these men were responsible for the accident or that they should have been found guilty. Therefore, if this Parliament does have any control over these matters, if it is to accept its responsibility, it should have another look at this matter.
When the findings of the Commissioner were published and when the actions of Captain Robertson were outlined, a number of people were embarrassed because they had not allowed that Captain Robertson was a man of honour, a man of high moral courage and a man of principle. Quite frequently these things are overlooked. Captain Robertson is not giving up all the things that he is about to lose purely out of pique. He feels that a principle is involved. That principle relates to the effect that his transfer could have on junior officers in the Navy, and I must say here that I am proud to be related to Captain Robertson, although I have some hesitation in saying that I am proud to belong to this House at this particular time.
Let me read to honorable members the definition of “ moral courage “. It is -
Moral courage is readiness to expose oneself to suffering or inconvenience which does not affect the body. It arises from firmness of moral principle and is independent of the physical constitution.
Let me now make one further plea. The Prime Minister mentioned the “ Vendetta “ incident. The Prime Minister - once a leading barrister - has told us that the Navy has made certain alterations to the bridge of the “ Vendetta “. Captain Robertson was captain of that ship, but the captain could have been anybody else, and I do not discuss this as a personal issue. I am interested in the circumstances. When the Captain gave the signal for half speed astern .the ship went half speed ahead. When the driver of a motor car puts it into reverse gear and the car moves forward, he thinks that a mistake has been made and changes gear again. In the same way, on a ship, if it moves in the opposite direction to that intended, the order is repeated. In this case, the order for half speed astern was repeated and again the ship moved forward. I presume that the design of the bridge of the “ Vendetta “ had been accepted by the Navy, yet, I understand that, there were no indicators on the engine telegraph installed on the bridge. I understand that, normally, when the telegraph on a ship is moved to, say, half speed astern, one can read “ half speed astern “ on the indicator; and the correct order is repeated below. There was no such indicator on the telegraph of the “ Vendetta “, but after the incident alterations were made to all Daring class destroyers.
Why is Captain Robertson the only one at whom scorn is directed for that incident? I have not heard that the Naval Board or the member of the Board who was responsible for shipbuilding has been censured or that any action has been taken against him. Indeed, when the Royal Commission was reading Captain Robertson’s flimsies it came out that his counsel wished to lead on this particular question. Immediately he attempted to do so, Mr. Smyth said, “ If you do that, I will have to make some comments “. Why he should lake that attitude, I do not know because I do not see that it had anything to do with him. It seems to me that in this case, where an officer was undergoing the great ordeal of close cross examination, these points should have been brought out.
Let me talk of another matter in which the honour of Captain Robertson was impugned. This is the question of his going to see Admiral Becher. If I intend to put the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) into the witness box the next day and I intend to go to see him, you can bet 100 to 1 that I will give him a telephone call first. But let us understand that the judge had said to Captain Robertson, who, as a serving officer of the Navy, was appearing on his own behalf amongst a bevy of Q.C.’s, that he had the same rights as had counsel appearing on behalf of other interests. Let it be understood, as I read the ethics of the New South Wales Bar, that he therefore had the right to interview witnesses. But let me put it another way. If Admiral Becher did not want to see Captain Robertson, he should have said so. He was the senior officer. He should not have gone into the witness box in the way he did, in my opinion, and he would not have done so if he had had any morale fibre. I am not suggesting that in other matters he has not, but in this matter I think he was a little weak. He should have accepted the responsibility and not put the blame on Captain Robertson, and he should not have said that Captain Robertson was unwise.
Many other points have come out of this incident. It is a tragedy. I think that we in this Parliament have a duty to see that the three Services are given what they require. Let both sides of the House at all times take an interest in these matters and do something to bring our Services up lo the standard that they should attain. 1 have no hesitation again in saying that I think the Navy is the highest and the finest Service, except for the Army. But I believe that dishonour has been brought upon it. The Government has some responsibility for what has happened, and the Opposition also has some responsibility. I can only thank God that the Navy has produced gentlemen and officers such as Captain Robertson and those who served with him.
.- The naval collision that occurred on the night of 10th February 1964 at 8.56 p.m., with its attendant loss of 82 personnel and the Daring class destroyer “ Voyager “, was the worst disaster suffered by any of our armed forces in time of peace. The announcement of the happening set in train a public reaction of sympathy with the relatives of those who were lost, and caused anger and dismay that even the holding of a royal commission and Government statements and actions have failed to allay or satisfy.
Before proceeding, I wish to make some comments on the statements of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess), who preceded me in this debate. I propose to deal later in some detail with the statement of the Prime Minister. The honorable member for La Trobe attempted to make a case that Opposition members are lacking in appreciation, have no sense of responsibility on matters of defence and are always attempting to denigrate the armed services. Of course, everybody knows that this is nonsense. We have done much in the past and will continue to debate these matters when the estimates for the Service Departments are before us and on other occasions when the opportunity arises. However, I think I should inform the honorable member that in the war years the Australian Labour Party was responsible for the Government of this country. In those years it set up a Advisory War Council. Members of the Opposition of that time, including members of the Liberal Party, served on the Council. Two of these members were the late William Morris Hughes and Sir, then Mr., Percy Spender, who is now a I udge of the International Court of Justice. J think it is worth while to tell the House that, notwithstanding the fact that the nation was at war, a certain Minister of high rank told his party that if those two members did not withdraw or resign from the Advisory War Council he would move for their expulsion from the Liberal Party. As we know of these events and of the pattern of behaviour of the Opposition at that time we are not impressed by the statements by the honorable member for La Trobe. 1 return now to the motion before the House. The Royal Australian Navy has a record of magnificent achievements. It is the possessor of collective and individual records of heroism and devotion to duty which, ship for ship and man for man, compare very favorably with the navies of other nations. Whilst the record of the Royal Australian Navy shows incredible acts of attainment, endeavour and heroism it unfortunately cannot be denied that incredible acts of folly have resulted in losses of life and of ships. The loss of the “ Voyager “ is one of these incredible losses. Another is the loss of the “ Sydney “, which was sunk by the German raider “ Kormoran “ off the coast of Western Australia during the war years, with the loss of its entire complement of over 900 persons. It is interesting to know that the commander of “ Sydney “ at the time was undertaking his first sea command after being ashore for three years. That is a striking and amazing similarity.
From the very beginning, since the unfortunate loss of “ Voyager “, the Government and the Navy authorities have acted in a manner that could result only in this censure motion being launched. The time at which the collision occurred is officially recorded as 8.56 p.m. From here on follow happenings which can only fill people with astonishment. At 11.15 p.m. naval authorities in Canberra confirmed the rumours that were flying around that there had been a collision between the two ships, but they refused to give any further detail. At midnight there was official confirmation that the * Voyager “ was badly damaged. This was the time when the afterhalf of the destroyer sank. The forward half sank almost immediately after the collision, which occurred over three hours earlier. At 1 a.m., official confirmation of the sinking was given. When survivors were being admitted to the naval hospital at Balmoral, no information was forthcoming. I appreciate and accept the fact that there are very good reasons for not releasing the names of the dead or missing before the next of kin have been advised. The Navy has given reasons for the delay, but they are not very convincing.
On the following day, 11th February, some time after midday - that is, over 15 hours after the collision - the then Acting Minister for the Navy (Dr. Forbes) officially released details of the happening that had occurred 20 miles out to sea from the Jervis Bay naval base. During the morning of the same day, 11th February, 1964, - I do not know the hour - the Prime Minister made a Press release. I will read this statement, because it is important to certain of the observations that I intend to make later. The Prime Minister said -
My colleague, the Minister for the Navy, is making a statement about the sinking of the “ Voyager “ and the great loss of life which has occurred. lt is a shocking disaster unparalleled in the peacetime history of Australia. The Government and the Naval Board extend their very deep sympathy to the bereaved families who have sustained so sudden and tragic a loss. 1 want to announce at once that there will be a prompt and thorough investigation into this tragedy. 1 have decided that the normal machinery for naval investigations is inadequate for the present purposes. There will therefore be a full public investigation conducted by a judge. I e.wnot, of course, yet say who the judge will be. 1 will also discuss wilh my colleagues whether he should bc assisted by naval experts acting as as.ses.sors. But the main thing I want to make clear at this early’ stage is that the investigation is to be prompt, thorough, public and conducted by a judge.
I ask the House to keep in mind that press statement made by the Prime Minister. Never at any time since the day after the happening has he or any other member of the Government made any reference to, or attempted an explanation of, the incredible bungling that marked the release to the public of the news of this tragic happening. lt is most important that, not only in this instance but in all matters, justice should be done and should also appear to bc done. I submit that the Government deserves to be censured because of its constant changing of ground. It has destroyed completely any appearance that justice ‘ is being done.
No-one in this House can match the semantics of the Prime Minister, but I propose to give to the House a few illustrations of attitudes and opinions that repudiate some of the reasons that he gave in support of the Government’s thinking on this matter. Honorable members will recall that 1 asked the right honorable gentlemen, among other things, what would be the Government’s position if the royal commissioner had held that those on the. bridge of the “ Melbourne “ and not those on the bridge of the “ Voyager “ were the cause of the collision. The omission to clarify this point constitutes a most grievous failure on the Government’s part, and no misrepresentation of me or any other honorable member by the Prime Minister or other Ministers can conceal the seriousness of this omission. Mr. Smyth, Q.C., who assisted Mr. Justice Spicer, made certain submissions to him, emphasising all the time that it was the prerogative ot the Royal Commissioner to accept or reject them. His address occupied three days. In that time, he extensively presented all submissions as they affected both the “Voyager” and the “Melbourne”. The “ Voyager “ was found to be at fault. The “ Melbourne “ could easily have been in this position. Since this was a possibility from the beginning, the Government has not yet satisfactorily answered this serious omission to clarify the matter.
History will show the “ Voyager “ responsible for the accident and the “Melbourne “ free from blame. In view of recent developments, I have no doubt that Captain Robertson would have much preferred a court martial to the ignominy heaped on him by the action of the Naval Board in failing to restore him to the command of his ship. Instead of being returned to his seagoing command, he was given a shore based command. No matter how much Government supporters may attempt to explain this action, it represented a demotion. Captain Robertson has been found quilty by implication. Yet the Government has the effrontery to talk about courts martial and privilege. In the light of what has happened to Captain Robertson, a doubt has been created in my mind about the future of Sub-Lieutenant Bate and Command;r Kelly. Will they, at some future date, be treated as Captain Robertson has been treated? 1 state categorical^/ that I and many other people hold these fears and that for this both the Government and the Naval Board aTe responsible.
The two factors that have bedevilled Naval affairs in this country for the past 15 years have been, first, lack of interest and policy on the part of the Government and, secondly, the inability of the Naval Board itself to formulate a firm and decisive programme. It. is of interest to recall that the Prime Minister, when speaking in this House last week, back dated his outline of Naval developments to 1959. This gives the impression that the previous tcn years were of no consequence and. I may add, a dead loss. For the past 13 . years,- especially during the consideration from time to time of the estimates for the Department of the Navy, Opposition members have continually expressed alarm and concern at this disturbing state of affairs. Time and time again, the Opposition has made suggestions about what we consider the Naval Board should be doing. I recall that one of these suggestions is that the Board should stop slavishly following the concepts of the Royal Navy and do something that will establish the Australian Navy as an effective force in its own right. We have expressed alarm at the Board’s failure to realise - and to act on the realisation - that the responsibilities and possible involvements of the two Navies are distinct and different and that the need for the Australian Navy to accept these changed circumstances and to act accordingly arose a long time ago. Never at any time has any reply to these suggestions been made in this chamber, but about three years ago the Board itself issued a public statement on the matter.
The Navy has been regarded in a very poor light by this Government. It has been treated as the Cinderella of the forces. The Government’s inability to set a firm policy as to the ro!e the Navy should play, and its failure to provide funds adequate to permit a real and effective Navy to be established, effectively prove the culpability of this Administration. The Naval Board believes that it can absolve itself of responsibility by pointing to the fact that the Government limits expenditure on the Navy. This may be so to some extent, but it is not completely true. For many years, it has been well known that a division exists among the members of the Board on the relative merits of aircraft carriers and submarines, to mention just two aspects of Naval affairs. The Board has never presented a firm policy. Its policy has always been interim.
The statement by the Prime Minister concerning the future programme of the Navy still fails to allay criticism. The Government is purchasing three Charles F. Adams class destroyers in the United States of America, but they will not be in service for another two years. It is well to point out that destroyers of this class are not the most modern that the United States builds. It has more modern and much more effective destroyers. In recent days, a former Chief of the Naval Staff, who is now retired, has expressed serious doubts about the ability of these destroyers and has emphasised that their capabilities are limited as judged by more recent developments.
For many years, the Opposition has been pleading for a more effective role to be played in the Australian Navy by submarines. Some years ago, 1 suggested that the Government consider acquiring submarines of the type equipped with Polaris missiles. My suggestion was ridiculed and dismissed on the ground that the cost precluded its adoption. A Polaris equipped submarine costs about £30 million. Now, however, the Government has decided to spend £60 million on three Charles F. Adams class destroyers. In my view, two submarines of the type equipped with Polaris missiles would strengthen our defences immeasurably. The acquisition by Australia of four Oberon class submarines to be delivered between 1966 and 1968 presupposes that the future role of the Navy will be to attack merchant ships and warships after the manner of World War II. These are not hunter killer submarines designed for operation against other submarines. Nor do they represent a Polaris deterrent. Their acquisition is just another sign of the lack of clarity in Naval policy and represents preparation for the last war.
On this question of submarines, I mention also the Government’s action some years ago in closing the anti-submarine school at Balmoral in Sydney. The consequences of such an act were pointed out at the time, but the Government decided that this was only another aspect of interim policy and proceeded to close the school. I assume that, after the purchase of these Oberon submarines of conventional type, the school will be re-established. However, I believe that it will not bc easy to acquire the force of skilled workers and Naval men required. This episode is another example of the manner in which the present Government falls down very badly on defence issues.
Now T repeat a point that I made earlier. I believe that the Government’s action in appointing a royal commission to inquire into the “ Voyager “ tragedy, which, of course, precluded any appearance of justice being done in the real sense, calls for censure. I asked the Prime Minister a question last week, following which a further question was addressed to him by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) about whether he was aware that the holding of a royal commission would virtually preclude any subsequent court martial proceedings. I think I should read to the House the reply of the Prime Minister. He said -
The answer is that I was not. I had given no thought to that matter. I think the honorable member should know that the morning after this disaster occurred the question arose, after some discussion in the Naval Board, whether the investigation ought to be on normal naval lines or whether it ought to be by a royal commission, with complete publicity. I decided instantly that it ought to be by a royal commission, and with all the attributes of publicity. I hope the honorable member will pardon me, but 1 gave no thought at that time to whether what came out would be admissible or not admissible against somebody. 1 was dealing with a very urgent matter.
He concluded by saying -
I would have said at once, as I did, that there must be an open public investigation by a royal commission.
I have already read to the House the statement that the Prime Minister made on the 11th February, the day following the collision. He then made no reference at all to a royal commission. He said that he was still considering setting up a board of inquiry, that he had not yet decided who the judge would be, the terms of reference or the character of the inquiry. Yet, in reply to a question asked last week in the House, the Prime Minister stated that he instantly decided that a royal .commission would be set up. The Prime Minister announced on 13th February, and not the date following the announcement of the collision, that a royal commission would be set up.
I think it is very important to point out to the House that this matter was not as rushed, and the Prime Minister did not act in such a hasty manner, as he attempted to convey to the House last week. In the light of these two things - first, his statement on the morning of 11th February and, secondly, his statement on 13th February, when he finally set up the Royal Commission - it is very hard to accept his statement about making a snap decision on the spot. No matter what can be said or what explanations can be given, I repeat that that decision precluded justice from being done, and because of that I feel that the Government is deserving of censure.
I come back to a comment the Prime Minister made during the course of his statement to the House. He dealt with the question of collisions which have occurred in various navies throughout the world. I thought it would have done more justice to the case had he presented to the House facts relating not only to collisions which have occurred in other navies but those which have happened in our own Navy.
The picture then would have been completed and presented more equitably. The Opposition had to find these facts out for itself. I suppose it is accepted as a good debating point to present only your own point of view. The Prime Minister said, for instance, that in the calendar year 1960 the Royal Navy had 17 collisions at sea and 25 groundings. He gave no information at all as to the history of the Australian Navy. From his statement one would be justified in saying that the Prime Minister appears to be better informed of what is happening in the Royal Navy than of what is happening in the Australian Navy.
Later in his statement, when dealing with the question of open inquiries which, he said, created a precedent, he concluded by saying -
This is not the normal practice in other navies.
It might not be the normal practice in other navies, but it does happen, and I remind the House that a public inquiry was conducted by naval men - and its findings have not yet been released, although the terms of reference were far more extensive and enabled the inquiry to go far deeper than our own Royal Commission - into the sinking of the American submarine “ Thresher “. That inquiry was held in public, and as a result of its wide terms of reference many things regarding naval operations were brought out. It is well known that our Royal Commission was severely limited in its terms of reference. In view of some of the developments - fortunate or otherwise - which occurred, the Government could have allayed any public uneasiness by making the terms wider. It is well to inform the House that one of the facts that emerged from the “ Thresher “ inquiry was that 27 per cent, of the parts that were being supplied to the American Navy by private contractors were defective. These are factors of interest not only to the public but also to the House. The Prime Minister says that a public inquiry is not the normal practice, but public inquiries are held.
The Prime Minister said that he regards it as an insult that it should be suggested that somebody from outside this country investigate our Navy. Let me put it straight that the Opposition has never suggested such a course. However, it is interesting to contrast the attitude of the Prime Minister on this matter with his attitude on other matters. When he made this statement I thought that at last he was coming around to thinking of appointing an Australian as Governor-General. This has not always been his attitude, however. On 16th July 1951 he appointed an Englishman named Basten to prepare a report on “The Turn-Round of Ships in Australian Ports “. The terms of reference were -
To inquire into and report on the factors affecting the turn-round of ships and congestion in Australian ports, and the measures that might bc taken on both a short and long term basis to effect an improvement.
If the Prime Minister is willing to do this on matters affecting the waterfront, why his reluctance to do it with the Navy?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 12.43 to 2.15 p.m.
– In addressing oneself to this debate on a censure motion, a controversial issue, a political issue, we are not to forget that it has the background of human tragedy. But in addressing oneself in a practical sense to a parliamentary censure motion which, in the nature of things, deals with high policy, administration and responsibilities, one cannot and, I think, should not, intrude the emotional aspects of this human suffering although, nevertheless, one should not forget them. Having said that, I do not propose to refer any further to that aspect of the matter.
I speak now after the third spokesman from the Opposition side has made his contribution. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) delivered a very considered speech, but a speech which in one important aspect astounded me. I presume that we are discussing what might be correct policy, what is in a proper sense an assumption of responsibility or what might be a correct understanding of or proper expertise in Naval administration. The honorable member for Dalley said amongst other things - and, I am sure, said thoughtfully - that we would do better, instead of getting the two Adams class destroyers that are on order, to order two Polaris submarines. 1 am not an expert in these matters but my understanding is that the Polaris submarine is designed to carry exclusively weapons with nuclear warheads.
– Not exclusively.
– I know that it can mount weapons with conventional warheads, of course. But who is going to purchase an expensive Polaris submarine to fire a weapon with a conventional warhead 1,000 miles or so? This kind of submarine is designed especially to carry weapons with nuclear warheads. Does this suggestion of the honorable member for Dalley show a change in the policy of the Opposition, which until now has envisaged a nuclearfree Southern hemisphere, or does it merely show a complete lack of expertise in a chosen spokesman of the Opposition? Having recorded those remarks I pass from the subject.
This is a censure motion and the debate should be confined to matters in respect of which the Government or the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) or the Naval Board carries a real responsibility. The issues involved are big issues and identifiable issues. Anyone who has listened to the debate throughout knows that none of those who have spoken has fired a heavy projectile. They have all used scatterguns, concentrating on a score of small issues. This certainly serves to produce a debate, but it docs not serve to concentrate the attention of the House upon great issues of policy or great issues of governmental or Ministerial responsibility.
I want to make one other observation and then pass on. My friend, the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) has spoken in this debate and I think he also has the matter out of perspective, if I may say so without being offensive. When the honorable member said that if this censure motion - and I hope I am not misquoting him - had been for the purpose of censuring the Government for appointing a royal commission or for events since the investigation by the royal commission he would have voted in favour of it. then I really think he had completely out of perspective all the great issues of public security and public responsibility. When the honorable member said that during the currency of this affair he had intervened and written to the Minister for the Navy in relation to the posting - promotion or demotion as it may be - of a naval officer, again I say that this has nothing to do with the function of a member of the House of Representatives.
– He is, after all, a member of the Parliament.
– Oh, yes, he is; but if all the members of the Parliament were to set out to bring influence to bear as to who should be promoted and who should be demoted, or where persons should be posted - and if one member has the right to do this we all have it - then God help the military Services. I have said that I am finished with it. However, it is pertinent to this whole debate. Those who speak in the debate, and particularly those who promote it, ought to have a sense of perspective and a sense of responsibility of their own as well as demanding that the Government, the Minister and others should have a sense of responsibility.
Let me return to the censure motion itself, lt is in such general terms and the speeches have been of such a character that it appears quite correct to assume that the Labour Party is arguing that there should bc no misadventure, that there should be no accident in the Navy, and that if there is the Government is responsible, the Minister is responsible or the Naval Board is responsible. I say with great respect, and I hope I will not be misunderstood, that life is not like that, in the Navy or in any other human organisation or in any mechanical arrangement. Accidents do happen, and the totality of human experience and human knowledge is very largely based on the fact that accidents have happened as well as on the fact that successes have been achieved. In retrospect there have been assessments of the accidents and the successes, the knowledge gained from which has been added to the totality of our knowledge in whatever sphere we operate.
I think it is quite proper for the Opposition to propose a censure motion. I say this not for the first time. I think it is not merely the right of the Parliamentary Opposition to criticise what the Government is doing; as I conceive our Parliamentary system, it is the duty of the Opposition to criticise what the Government is doing, what Ministers are doing and what Government instrumentalities are doing. I concede the Opposition’s right and 1 affirm its duty. But when the House is invited to vote upon the motion there must be an assessment of whether the Opposition has made its case or not.
I said that this has been a scattergun debate. No really sharp issue has been brought forward in which it has been claimed that the Government or, I am sure, the Minister, has been deficient in discharging responsibility. Whilst the Government has a tremendous, embracive responsibility, it is nonsense to say that the Government should be censured because there were no spanners in a particular hatch or because the lifebelts were not stored in the right place. To suggest that the Government is responsible for these items of detail, important as they are, must be to imply that the Government has a comprehensive knowledge of these matters, of the whole range of Naval organisation - and of course it has not. The Government’s responsibility is to devise policies that are proper, to see that there is an organisation which carries out these policies down the line and that there is a chain of responsibility right through, finally reaching to the Government but not conveying the responsibility for every item of detail finally to the Government.
The honorable member for Dalley mads the point that there was delay in announcing that there had been a collision and the nature of the collision. The fact is, as I understand it, that when this collision occurred all channels of communication were closed against anything but those messages which had to do with rescue. Was this not proper? It was, of course, highly proper, and it explains some delay; but criticism that is offered of this delay shows clearly a lack of knowledge on the part of those who are setting out to teach the Navy its business. I return to the point that there is no perfection in this world. I have ‘ had a message from you, Mr. Speaker, that as soon as this debate is over we shall have a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee to discuss, I presume, whether we have anything to learn from the inadequacies of the Standing Orders as we have known them in the past. Are we to condemn the Parliament and say that the Standing Orders have not been constructed in a manner which is perfect for all time? No. This is the way life goes on, whether in Parliament, government, departments of State, business, the design of machinery or structures, the union movement or political parties. I would not claim that my political party is perfect. Does the Labour Party claim that it is perfect? If it is not perfect, should there be a censure motion on those who have been at the helm?
Opposition members. - Yes.
– You have made my point for me. lt is the same, of course, with the military Services. I think no-one would misunderstand me if I said that this is the character of the military Services, designed as they are to operate in circumstances of danger and with the greatest expedition, not primarily for safety but primarily for ultimate success. The evolution of the art of war is proceeding no faster anywhere than in the military Services. What may be called imperfection is really not in itself imperfection, except in the comparative sense that something has been discovered to be better. In the nature of the training of the military Services - and I do not mind going on the record as saying this - I cannot imagine an efficient military arm which is so dominated by the concept of safety or fear of accident that it is possible to achieve at the same time the maximum precaution against accident and the maximum capacity to deliver what the Services expect to deliver in times of emergency. The very art of war, which is the backdrop to all we are talking about, as we understand it, is the outcome of the unceasing study and experience of war, whether in respect of tactics or strategy - the unceasing study to discover why something led to success and something else led to failure. By this study a lesson is learned in the art of war and is better comprehended by those who are in charge.
This is what the Navy and the Naval Board are doing. This is the sphere of the Navy where it has expert knowledge and where, within limits, it ought to be left alone. I have used the words “ within limits “. It is not for us as parliamentarians, with all the background we have, to decide what are the correct administrative procedures, what is the correct book of rules, what is the correct approach to discipline. This is the essence of a highly specialised Service. For my part, I am quite unafraid to say that there is an area within which the military people are so superior to civilians in their experience and knowledge that they ought to be left to manage their own affairs.
– How qualified was Spicer on military forces?
– He had command of all the advice. His position is analogous to the position of the Government. The Government is in command of all advice.
– It needs it, you know.
– Yes, of course it does. How silly would I be if I were to claim that the Government does not need advice. I cannot think of anything that would be greater nonsense. I hope that the honorable member, if he lives long enough to arrive at this side of the chamber, will not think that he does not need advice. I think he does. The Opposition seems to make the point that the Minister for the Navy - to take an example - ought to have intervened to a certain extent, whether in the posting of Captain Robertson or to ensure the attendance of the Minister of the day at the Naval conference attended by Admiral Becher. May I say that the Minister for the Navy is the political head of the Department of the Navy and is primarily responsible for policy. He is not a Naval officer. If he is to operate as a Naval officer, is he to operate as a junior Naval officer or the most senior Naval officer? Probably he has no training whatever as a Naval officer, but is he to stand in judgment of the decisions of the men who have given their lifetime to the profession? This is the basic misconception of the Opposition party. The political head of a Service department is not a professional in that Service. He is the civilian head, under a democratic form of government, of one of the arms of the military Services. He is there, having taken advice and having worked with these people at the level of policy, to advise the Government on policy. It then becomes the responsibility of the
Government to accept, reject or modify the policy advice given to it, and, finally, for the Government to take the decision on policy. At that point it returns to the Minister, whether it be myself as Minister for Trade and Industry, or the Minister for the Navy. Policy having been decided, it returns to the Minister to see that the structure exists, that the activities proceed and that that policy is carried out.
It is not the job of the Minister for the Navy to inspect and determine whether there are enough spanners, important as spanners may be. That is the job of the professionals, of the Navy people. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the whole debate has served to bring out this misconception of function on the part of all of those who speak against the Government and what the Government has done. The Government has a complete sense of its duties and responsibilities and is endeavouring to discharge them. Perfection? No. I would be the last to say that we will ever get perfection. We will do the best we can and take the best advice we can obtain. To the extent that any incident reveals deficiency, we will learn from it. This is the highest concept of duty, as I understand it, and the highest level of effectiveness that I hope to attain. The argument advanced by honorable members opposite is comparable to saying that the Minister for the Navy should give orders and decide these naval issues, to say that the Minister for Health should decide matters in respect of health and of medicine. Of course he does not. Or to saying that the Minister for Works or the Minister for Supply should sit in judgment on the design of the Jindivik. Those situations are completely analagous, and it is nonsense to regard the responsibilities of the Government or the Minister from that aspect. It is completely wrong.
The Government has acted along the lines I have described as my concept of its duty. We have had a series of accidents and misadventures in the Navy, as we have had in the Army and Air Force. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has announced, pursuing this very correct idea, that if an accident occurs your first duty is not to pursue someone and charge him; your first duty is to find out what caused the accident to happen and to learn from that sufficiently to ensure that given thi same circumstances again the same accident will not happen. That is vastly more important than identifying someone as the scapegoat and punishing him. The Air Force has set up a standing air accidents committee. The Prime Minister has announced that henceforth, in comparable circumstances, the Navy will have a standing committee which will have the responsibility, when an accident occurs, not of pursuing a person but of studying the cause of the accident so that both the Government and the Service may learn from it.
– Do you think Captain Robertson feels that he has been pursued?
– No, I do not think so; but it would be wrong for me to try to interpret Captain Robertson’s mind. I hope that the honorable member will not do that. Let us leave it to Captain Robertson to state his own mind.
– I was wondering whether the Government had any thought at all for his state of mind.
– We will evolve our policies and, at the ministerial level and the departmental level, we will see to it that those policies are carried through.
Then, in regard to this armed Service, which is so critically important to the security of the country, the Prime Minister has announced that we will, as an evolutionary process, do something further. We will have a standing committee of the Cabinet which will have under constant review everything that is pertinent to the effectiveness of the Service and, with the best professional advice, will be prepared to examine whether at any time there is scope for improving the effectiveness of the Service. The Prime Minister has not suggested that the committee of the Cabinet will be the ultimate judge or will carry the ultimate responsibility in this matter. It will be a committee of. the Cabinet, and the Cabinet will be the ultimate judge and will carry the ultimate responsibility.
That being the attitude and record of the Government, and the case put by the
Opposition being a multitude of small issues - each one important, no doubt, but not by any means an issue for which the Government or the Minister for the Navy can be held ultimately responsible - I say that the Opposition has completely failed to make the case that it set out to make, and that the motion ought to fail.
.- I say, first of all, that it is a pleasure to follow the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) in this House. At no stage docs he reflect upon the party opposite him or on people in that party. At no stage does he dispute their right to question what the Government has done. I hope that other speakers on the Government side of the chamber, particularly the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), will take a a lesson from the standard that the Minister for Trade and Industry sets.
The right honorable gentleman has claimed that the case made by the Labour Party is somewhat in the nature of a discharge from a scatter gun, which has not served its purpose because it has not reached the Government, has not touched its responsibility. I think his analogy is an interesting one. By the use of the term “ scatter gun “ he admits that there have been hundreds of hits. According to the right honorable gentleman, the evidence submitted to the House by the Opposition has consisted of hundreds of hits that have reached the target. The scatter gun has been effective to that extent. But he says that it does not affect the Government because none of those shots has penetrated through to the Government.
The reason for that is that the Government chooses to stand behind its advisers and officers and to say: “Yes, the charges that have been made - the hundreds of them - have hit our advisers and officers, but none of them has reached us; none of them has come through to the Government”. The right honorable gentleman in effect, claims that the Government had no responsibility for any of these things; that what happened on the day of this fatal accident and what happened on the days of the other incidents that have been mentioned, are not responsibilities of himself or his colleagues - not at all. He says that they are the responsibilities of the officers involved, the men on the spot, the men who were taking the risks; but they are not the responsibilities of this Government, which reaches, in its own opinion, a standard of perfection that one has to witness to believe. But each fault, each mistake, each defect has been linked by the Opposition through to the Naval Board and to the Government. The Government is responsible for what has happened, and this motion says so.
We are asking the House to vote in accordance with the facts. Let us have a look at one of them. The Government says that it has not any responsibility in this matter. But what has it done since it has been in office? I understand that in the last tcn years it has had ten Ministers for the Navy.. One of those Ministers lasted for five years, so the other nine had four years between them, or a little more than six months per Minister. The Minister for Trade and Industry said that the Minister for the Navy could not be expected to go around and see that there were spanners on ships. This Government has never given its Minister for the Navy - with one exception - time to go around and do anything. It has given its Ministers for the Navy a little more than six months per Minister; and the Minister for the Navy is the link between the Government and the Navy. The Government has chosen to move its Ministers for the Navy on at the rate of one for every period of a little more than six months. What purpose does it have in appointing Ministers for the Navy? ls this portfolio some peculiar kind of short term apprenticeship for the inner Cabinet - the Minister for the Navy has always been in the outer Cabinet? Or what is the explanation of having ten Ministers for the Navy in ten years and nine Ministers for the Navy in the space of five years? The Minister for Trade and Industry left mc feeling that he had reached the point of saying that there should be no censure motion because mistakes are inevitable and we should accept them all. In effect he said: “ Do not censure the Government because mistakes are what we learn from . . . unless we make mistakes we cannot learn “. That is his position, but it is not ours.
The honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) made a very fine speech this morning. I appreciated it, not just because it was a criticism of the Government, but also because he needed courage to do what he did. I do not think he receives much appreciation on his side of the House for doing the kind of thing he did this morning. 1 do not think anyone there does. He said that the Parliament was responsible. In some ways the Parliament is responsible, and in some ways the Opposition has to share the responsibility for what has happened. But the Opposition in this Parliament, as distinct from most other Parliaments that 1 know anything about, has very little power. As far as I was able to count, 520 amendments have been moved in this place in the last nine years and, as far as I know, not one of those amendments have been accepted by this Government. Members of the Government - the Prime Minister in particular - act as though they know all and will govern forever; and generally, when this implication comes up honorable members on the Government side of the chamber grin with satisfaction.
But perhaps the Minister for Trade and Industry is right when he says that the Government does not believe that it is completely perfect, although some members of the Government give the impression that they think they get pretty close to perfection. Indeed, they go further and say that the Opposition cannot be trusted. They say that we criticise the Navy in order to harm it. Unfortunately, I think the honorable member for La Trobe got pretty close to saying that this morning. In any case, do they give details of these charges? No. The honorable member for La Trobe made a generalisation this morning, but he did not stop to give any particular instance. The Opposition does not criticise the Navy with the intention of harming it. The Opposition criticises the Navy because it knows that an efficient Navy is essential for the future of this country. The Opposition criticises the Navy because it knows that the kind of foreign policy that is necessary in order to make friends for Australia in Asia demands a strong Navy and Air Force and demands the effective defence of Australia as a continent.
The Prime Minister said that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) chose to attack him personally. Again he did not bother giving examples; he just made the generalisation. What kind of case could the Opposition make in attacking the right honorable gentleman personally if it really wanted to get stuck into it? What kind of things could the Opposition refer to, in the way of personal criticisms of the right honorable gentleman, if we really wanted to make a business of it? There is a wide range to select from. The right honorable gentleman, who rarely docs the House the honour of staying to listen to these debates, and rarely even of interjecting, as he is doing now, adopted his usual technique of giving his version - a misleading or false version - of the case made by the Opposition and then taking it apart piece by piece. I will give one example of that. He cited the case of Captain Dovers. He said that the Leader of the Opposition had presented the argument that the Government had treated Captain Robertson differently from the way it treated Captain Dovers. That argument remains completely true. But in order to avoid debating that point the Prime Minister, as is his habit, decided to change the grounds. He said that the Leader of the Opposition had said that Captain Dovers had been convicted. The right honorable gentleman made great play on this point and said that Captain Dovers bad merely been censured. The right honorable gentleman was perfectly right; but he had received from the Leader of the Opposition a copy of the Leader of the Opposition’s speech three quarters of an hour before the Leader of the Opposition commenced to speak.
– I am sorry; I received it. at 25 past 10.
– Well, five minutes before, but presumably you read it - otherwise you would not have made the criticism. You chose to use the word “ convicted “ rather than “ censured “ and you had the speech before you on this table.
I do not think the Prime Minister ever worries very much about the particular point that he chooses to attack. Does the right honorable gentleman know that the basis for his argument is not accurate in this case, whether he had a copy of the speech for five minutes or three quarters of an hour to enable him to examine it?
Or does he not care whether the basis for his attack is accurate or otherwise, so long as, according to his judgment, it is effective? This is not the first time that the right honorable gentleman has put on a performance of this type in this House. He is ready to attack the Opposition and to see it attacked without any inquiry or any trial or any concern for the evidence, or to see attacked, for instance, those associated with a peace congress outside this House. He is concerned to attack or to support an attack on a person such as Mr. Smyth, Q.C., and he is prepared to leave Captain Robertson in a position equivalent to that in which he would have been had he been charged and convicted. He is willing to see these things occur, but not an attack on the Naval Board, on his Ministers or on himself. He has two standards in all these things. I think the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) put his finger on it the other day when he said, by interjection -
It is a strange contrast. Justice in the mind of the Prime Minister for the big people . . . for those on his side . . . but McCarthyism for others.
The thing about McCarthyism in this country is that it has the great respectability of being led by the Prime Minister; it is not left to the fringe irresponsibles as it was in the United States.
The administration of the Navy is seriously questioned in this motion now before the House. There is disquiet, and it has been admitted. It is not the result of one incident, but of many. I shall illustrate a number. There was, in July 1958, the “ Vendetta “ running into the dock gates at Williamstown. In September 1960 the destroyer “ Tobruk “ was holed by the destroyer “ Anzac “. In October 1 960 the ammunition carrier “ Woomera “ blew up and sank. In May 1963 the frigate “ Queenborough “ and the submarine “Tabard” collided. In October 1963 five lives were lost in a whaler from the aircraft carrier “ Sydney “. In February 1964 the “ Voyager “ was sunk by the “ Melbourne “. It is worth noticing that all except one of these incidents occurred during the term of office of the only Minister for the Navy who has served for five years. I suggest that that gentleman has more responsibility for what has happened than any other member of this Parliament.
How does the Prime Minister answer these questions? How does he answer these events? His answer lakes two forms. He says: “People do make mistakes; even I make mistakes “. But we want to know how many mistakes are going to be made before this House and the people of this nation are prepared to question the people responsible for the making of the mistakes. The Prime Minister takes pride that something has been done, but it is always something done after the event. Do we not need a naval board and a government that can do something before the event? A bit of intelligent anticipation could be expected from a clever fellow like the Prime Minister. One would expect him to value intelligent anticipation, but his attitude is that the supreme value in these cases - and the Minister for Trade and Industry joins him - is that we learn from our mistakes. What great knowledgeable people they should be. But of course the Prime Minister docs not even suggest that he wants a naval board or a minister who can work out that something is going to go wrong, before it does go wrong.
Let us take some examples. I refer, first, to the “ Vendetta “. We have now been told that as a result of the “ Vendetta “ running into the dock gates at Williamstown the position of the wheelhouse was changed. Certain changes were made on the bridge. Was it not possible for somebody somewhere to have anticipated that the wheelhouse position on the “ Vendetta “ and what was happening between the bridge and the engine room would sooner or later cause trouble? . The honorable member for La Trobe went a bit further, and I think his statement is important, because he is in close touch with Captain Robertson, who was in charge of the “ Vendetta “ at the time. If I followed the honorable member exactly, he made it appear as though the fault was not with some seaman somewhere who had made a mistake about transferring the order from the bridge; he gave the impression that on the “Vendetta”, when you gave an order on the bridge for half speed astern it was transferred to the engineroom by the mechanical devices as half speed ahead. He said that this was a result of some mechanical defect on board the ship. I want to know a little more about this. Has the Prime Minister talked to the honorable member for La Trobe to see whether he knows how these things can be reconciled? Of course, we have had nothing upon that. But surely something was known about that before the accident.
I refer next to the “Woomera”, which exploded. Safety officers were appointed afterwards. In respect of any civil transport of explosives on land or sea there are very carefully worked out regulations which have to be obeyed, and there are officers to inspect the transport of explosives by land or sea. But not so in the Navy, before the “ Woomera “ exploded. Then, after the event - an event which has been anticipated in every case of civil transport of explosives - something is done about it. This is another example of the Navy being too slow to do obvious things. There are many others. If this had happened in the civil transport of explosives it is pretty clear that the persons responsible would have been responsible civilly for unlimited damages, and perhaps would have been held criminally responsible.
These examples, and many others, multiply, but the Opposition puts the case this way: There is to be no manhunt so far as these events arc concerned, says the Government. But there has been a manhunt, and Captain Robertson has been caught. Perhaps Commander Kelly and Sub-Lieutenant Bate and others will be caught, too. It is no good the Prime Minister getting up in this House and saying, as he chose to say this morning, that there is to be no manhunt. There has been a manhunt, and the system that the right honorable gentleman was responsible for putting into operation has hunted out some men and has very effectively caught them. The Opposition says that the responsibility does not lie with Captain Robertson or with any of those people. The Opposition says the responsibility lies with the Government and the Naval Board, and the motion puts that quite clearly to the House.
I shall give some examples. These are only a few that time will allow. The Prime Minister is, I think, the most guilty. At page 1075 of “Hansard” of 15th
September, the Prime Minister is reported as saying, when talking about this very important subject, the working-up of the “Voyager” and the “Melbourne”-
We have examined the Naval Board on this point.
It is a very important point, because if the working-up of the “ Voyager “ was made too short, if it was not adequate in its various stages, this must have contributed substantially to the causing of that accident. The Prime Minister said -
We have examined the Naval Board on this point. Their answer as experts is that the work-up programme was a full one involving many exercises more complicated than the manoeuvre required on the night of 10th February, The programme stretched over four or five weeks.
This is a completely incorrect statement if one can rely on the report made by the Royal Commissioner - and I am sure that we can. To prove that it is an unreliable statement and that the Naval Board has misled the Prime Minister or that the Prime Minister has misled the House, let mc refer to the report of the Royal Commissioner. First of all, the “ Melbourne “ was undergoing a refit from 16th September 1963 (o 6th January 1964. “ Voyager “ was undergoing a refit from 12th August 1963 to 16th January 1964. Then the “ Melbourne “ went to or remained in Sydney and the “Voyager” came up from Port Phillip. The Commissioner’s report states -
The ships sailed from Sydney on 6th February 1964.
The collision, of course, was on 10th February -
Each had done certain post refit trials and “ Voyager “ had come up from Port Phillip to Sydney beforehand. Apart from this, however, the vessels, as then officered and manned, had not previously bees to sea.
Where is there room for the four or five weeks of working-up that the Prime Minister referred to? We are told that the ships went to sea on 6th February. AH right, what happens then? Both ships were at Jervis Bay from midday on Sunday, 9th February, to the early morning of Monday, 10th February, so there were no exercises during that time. What did the ships do after going to sea on Monday, 10th February? The Commissioner said, at page 26 of his report, that they sailed from Sydney on 6th February and went to Jervis Bay, staying there until 10th February. The Commissioner then said - lt may bc said, however, that it involved, up to that time, the ships carrying out some exercises individually and some in company. . . .
The exercises that the two ships carried out together involved in the main:
The replenishment involves a heaving line transfer from one ship to the other for the purpose of transferring mail, or something of that kind . . .
This was done at speeds of not more than 12 knots in the day time. We have no evidence, in fact, that these vessels carried out any such replenishment exercises, but they could have been done. I repeat, there is no evidence before this Parliament that the ships ever carried out a replenishment exercise at this stage.
Then there were the early warning exercises, which did not bring the ships together at all. The Commissioner then referred to the radio sea trials. He said -
The radio sea trials involved a number of turns together of 360° for the purpose of calibrating certain radio direction finding equipment on “ Melbourne.” These trials were carried out wilh the ships four or five miles apart.
How was there anything done in the few clays these ships were together which justifies the statement of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said -
We have examined the Naval Board on this point. Their answer as experts is that the work-up programme was a full one involving many exercises more complicated than the manoeuvre required on the night of 10th February.
This manoeuvre on the night of 10th February was one in which the ships were required to work close together at over 20 knots in the darkness. Of course there was nothing in the working-up programme which had this effect. There is no evidence that the programme went on for anything like four or five weeks, rather than a matter of a few days. We are told at page 26 of the Commissioner’s report - lt will be seen that up to the night of the collision “ Voyager “ had not previously been required to act as plane guard . . .
Despite this the vessels engaged in this exercise at night at over 20 knots. This working-up exercise was thoroughly expedited beyond reason. The Tule that a destroyer is not allowed to take part in plane guard work in daylight is a rule that .ought to be altered. It is obvious to common- sense that this duty should first be done in daylight and not in darkness. The Royal Commissioner’s report says that destroyers do not take part in plane guard work in daylight.
– In daylight?
– Yes. Apparently the former Minister for the Navy is not aware of that.
– Read it out.
– I will find it for you and give you the exact reference. The Royal Commissioner’s report says that precisely, and we will have a very close examination of it in a minute. The Prime Minister’s statement to the House is completely inaccurate, I submit, and this ties down to the Government the responsibility for these many incidents - each a shot in the scatter gun of the events that have occurred. This is an example of the kind of thing that ties down responsibility to the Government. Did the Naval Board tell the right honorable gentleman what in fact he says it did? The Prime Minister says, referring to this statement by the Naval Board -
This seems to us to bc reasonable.
Did the Naval Board tell the Government that which the Government found to be reasonable? Did the Government make any check on this statement? Does the Government accept statements by the Naval Board without any check whatever? It appears that in this case it did precisely that - it did not make any check whatever. The question that flows from this inquiry is: Will the position be any better in the future? The Government says -
Steps will be taken constantly to review procedures . . .
How trite that sounds. How often have we heard this statement made to cover a situation in which no new action, no new idea, no new proposal of any sort is ever put forward? “ Steps will be taken “. But by whom? By those who have been responsible for the old procedures? Steps are going to be taken in the new procedures by those who were responsible for the old procedures. I submit that there is no evidence that there will be any change. There has been criticism of Rear Admiral Becher in this situation. Perhaps it has been forgotten that he took over as Flag Officer only four or five weeks before this collision. Further behind him there is another admiral who is a little more responsible. Vice Admiral McNicoll was in the position of control for a couple of years, I think, before Rear Admiral Becher. Before that Vice Admiral Harrington was in the same position. These two gentlemen are the men who are now going to be responsible for putting a new look into the situation. They are the people who are far more responsible for anything that has happened than Rear Admiral Becher and Captain Robertson is. The Government above them is responsible and deserves the censure of the House.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Although this motion before the House concerns a succession of naval accidents and seeks to censure the Government for these, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) this morning devoted some time to three points for which he said no explanation had been given following the speech of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) last Tuesday night. The first one, which seems to concern the Leader of the Opposition deeply, was the absence of the Flag Officer commanding the fleet from H.M.A.S. “Melbourne” on the night of this collision. As is known, and as has been stated in the House, the Admiral had been summoned to Navy Office in Canberra for important discussions. This meeting, which was convened by the Chief of the Naval Staff, was between all the flag officers of the Royal Australian Navy to discuss a number of important subjects relating to naval policy. For reasons obvious to most honorable members it is not possible for me, or for anyone to itemise the detailed topics listed on the agenda for that meeting or, indeed, for any meeting that is held by top level people in our defence Services.
I might add for the information of honorable members that it is not at all uncommon for periodic discussions by senior officers of the Service to be held in order to consider matters of the highest policy affecting the Service. Such gatherings are held by the chiefs of the other two Ser vices and I have no doubt they will continue to be held as the need for them arises. There is really no significance in the absence from the “Melbourne” of the Flag Officer commanding the fleet. His administrative duties cover all the units of a widely dispersed fleet, and it is appropriate for him to operate from wherever it is most convenient at the time. Even if he had been on board the “ Melbourne “ that night, it would have been perfectly proper for the captain of “ Melbourne “ - Captain Robertson - to have been in tactical command of the two ships without any supervision by the Admiral. Any captain is liable to be called upon to be officer in tactical command, and the only way that experience can be gained is by practice. It was quite proper for a captain of Captain Robertson’s seniority and experience to be in tactical command on this occasion, and it is interesting to note that quite often when combined operations take place the Flag Officer in charge of the fleet is at maritime headquarters on land with perhaps an Air Force senior ranking officer.
The Leader of the Opposition also referred to Captain Robertson’s lack of experience of the duties imposed on him on the night of the collision. He stated also that he thought the remarks of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) on this point had not been answered. I would refer all honorable members to this passage from the speech by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on 15th September, which, incidentally, preceded the speech made by the honorable member for Batman -
In fairness to Captain Robertson it should be stated that he bad in fact been the executive officer and second in command of an aircraft carrier for 16 months, during which he was, as part of his duty, understudying the Captain.
The Prime Minister then went on to cover the practices in other navies of which we have knowledge, and he concluded by saying -
Of the general capacity, not only of Captain Robertson but of Captain Stevens, there cannot be any real doubt. Each had a splendid record and very considerable Naval experience.
I repeat that this statement was made before the honorable member for Batman made his speech.
The third point mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition was .(hat there had not been any reply to the remarks made by the honorable member for Batman concerning the order given on the type of turn to be used during the manoeuvre. As has been stated, this question was the subject of correspondence between the honorable member for Batman and myself whilst the hearings of the Commission were proceeding, and I would remind the House that I did comment on this matter in my speech on 15th September. I refer honorable members to page 1094 of “Hansard”, on which the point was fully covered.
Apart from that, the Leader of the Opposition also complained that this matter had not been brought before the notice of the Royal Commission. This is not true as, on page 4171 of the transcript of evidence taken before that Commission, it is stated -
Otic of the hares that was started in the early stages of this case was this turn should not have been u turn together but should have been a min in succession.
The matter was then subsequently discussed.
The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the requisitioning for wheel spanners from H.M.A.S. “Voyager”. Evidence on the demands for wheel spanners is to be found at pages 3257 and 3258 of the transcript of evidence where Chief Naval Shipwright Maine of “ Voyager “ states -
I did put in an order for replacement and this would have been done after we got back to Sydney.
No requisition was received in the naval stores in Sydney or anywhere else in the Naval organisation, and it is undoubtedly true that the order referred to by Chief Naval Shipwright Maine had not left the ship. In fact, his own evidence supports it.
Outing this debate, attention has been focussed on, a number of incidents that have occurred in the Royal Australian Navy, each one of which has given rise to concern in the Service itself. These events culminated in the tragic collision between the “ Melbourne “ and the “ Voyager “ - a disaster which shocked the nation, lt is understandable that the shock would be great in a country like ours that is not accustomed to such tragedy in its peacetime history. The Navy, of course, has been deeply concerned at this and other occurrences and has examined and reexamined the causes to see if such incidents can be prevented.
No one could, I hope, disagree with the proposal made by the Prime Minister in his statement to the House on 15th September that the Government proposed, through a ministerial committee, closely and regularly to consider ways and means of reviewing Naval organisation, procedures and methods, so as to make improvements where these arc found to be desirable, and I feel certain that those people concerned in this consideration will see that their efforts are directed in the best interests of the Navy to achieve the objectives stated in that speech - to remove any discoverable impediments to the full effectiveness of the Navy.
I think it would be salutary at this stage if 1 briefly analysed for the House the various accidents prior to the “ Voyager “- “ Melbourne “ collision to see what did take place in each case and what caused it. I know that these things have been mentioned during this debate, but I believe that they bear mentioning again for reasons which I shall try to point out before I conclude. This will put us in a better position to ascertain whether some common pattern is discernible which can legitimately be ascribed to any failing on the part of the Government or the Naval administration. The incident in which the “ Vendetta “ was involved at Williamstown dockyard in. July 1958 was due to a mistake in the transmission of orders from the wheelhouse to the engine room, with the result that the starboard engine, instead of going half astern, went half ahead.
The holing of the “Tobruk” by the “Anzac” in September 1960 was caused by the malfunctioning of gunnery fire control equipment. This had the effect of neutralising the angle of throw-off which had been set correctly before the firing commenced. The inquiry revealed some failure by personnel to comply fully with the normal safety precautions which had been ordered.
The accident to the ammunition carrier H.M.A.S. “Woomera” in October 1960 was due to the mishandling of flares during a dumping operation and the non-observance of the established safety measures for such operations.
The tragic loss of five young officers in October 1963 due to the capsizing or swamping of a whaler from H.M.A.S. “ Sydney “ off Hook Island in North Queensland, led to court martial proceedings. Three of the “ Sydney’s “ officers had to answer charges - two that they had failed to keep themselves informed of the progress of the whaler, and three that they had failed to institute a search for it.
The flooding of the engine room of H.M.A.S. “ Supply “ in January 1964 was caused by the faulty operation of a valve when the main circulating system was open for repairs.
Another accident on the Australia station involved a Royal Navy submarine operating with the Royal Australian Navy for the purpose of anti-submarine training. The submarine “ Tabard “ collided wilh H.M.A.S. “Queenborough” in May 1963 during an exercise. This occurred as a result of a screen penetration manoeuvre attempted by the submarine at the same time as the frigate was altering course to pass over the submarine. As 1 said, it was a Royal Navy vessel manned by Royal Navy personnel.
J suggest that this brief analysis shows clearly that these various mishaps, which we all sincerely deplore - none more so than the Naval authorities - cannot be properly attributed to some common pattern of deficiency or failure on the part of administration. The circumstances and the causes were quite different in each case. The only pattern discernible is that of human errors - errors of judgment or omission by individuals of varying status in widely differing sets of circumstances. It is worth recalling, without wishing to elaborate, that Naval mishaps did occur when the Opposition was last in government.
Requests have been made for information comparing the accident rate of the Royal Australian Navy with the accident rates of other navies over a period of years. Some criticism was offered of the figures that were supplied. It was suggested that they did not give a true picture because they did not relate to the number of ships. The reason why that information is not supplied is that it is not possible to supply it since other navies do not release statistics relating to their accident rates over a period of years. I do not want it to be thought that the Government or the Naval Board seeks to shelter behind this, or that they do not seek to do everything that is possible - I shall show later that they do - by way of training, introduction of new procedures, improvements in techniques and equipment, to avoid accidents. As to the various mishaps to which I have referred, thorough and comprehensive - investigations were undertaken at the time, and appropriate disciplinary and remedial action was taken as necessary.
A great deal has been made of the question of the seaworthiness of a whaler. In fact, there is nothing inconsistent in the Navy’s statements on this matter, in spite of what has been said during this debate. I repeat that a whaler, with its bouyancy tanks, is virtually unsinkable. Tn the case of the tragic Hayman Island incident, it will bc recalled that, although swamped, the whaler was still afloat when it was found. No-one told the Royal Commissioner that whalers were not suitable for use in the open sea. The Commissioner has not said that anyone told him this. The fact is that the whaler in H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “ on the night of the “ Voyager “ collision was on board solely for recreation purposes. For this reason, it was not stowed for rapid launching into the water. This and not its seaworthiness was the reason it was not used in the rescue operations. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) charged that the presence of a whaler on board the “ Melbourne “ implied that the Navy did not take note of previous experience and inquiries. Actually, as the House had already been informed, whaler trips away from the sight of any of H.M.A. Ships have been suspended, but whalers are still used for recreational purposes within these limits.
Without wishing to excuse any errors or deficiencies that are shown to exist, I merely wish to emphasise that life at sea has its hazards and that in the Naval Service the opportunity for human error is probably as great as it is in any other calling. In this connection, I should like to read to the House an extract from an unsolicited letter of sympathy received in the Navy Office shortly after the “Voyager” tragedy from the then Second Sea Lord of the Admiralty. He said -
Collisions at sea can seldom be completely explained; with all the care and attention that we give to the training of our officers, they usually seem to be “ impossible “. Yet with relentless regularity they crop up in the best trained fleets. The fact is that ours is a dangerous calling and every now and again fate extracts a penalty.
But messages such as this from whatever source do not mean that the Naval Board and the Government are not deeply conscious of their responsibility towards the men in the Service. They are doing everything possible to see that the men get the necessary equipment and training to fit them for u life at sea. The censure in this resolution is primarily of the Government, but it is the Naval Board and the Minister who arc responsible to the Government for carrying out the policy as agreed upon from time to time in a series of programmes which, as honorable members know, are announced in this House.
Has there been a lack of planning, a lack of training or a lack of equipment over the period under discussion? In 1962, because of the changing needs of the Service, a complete examination was made of the training of all ratings in every branch of the Royal Australian Navy in order to ensure that their training was good enough to meet present day and future requirements. This examination was extensive and thorough. It is not necessary to state all the changes that were made, but there is every reason to believe that the training syllabuses for ratings and the equipment used in their training meet the task. This is not to say that the syllabuses will remain fixed or that new training equipment will not be required. Both are under continuous review in order to meet the requirements of the future, ranging from the entry of recruits to the production of highly skilled technicians. As honorable members know, the Navy is dependent to a large degree for its officer training on the Royal Navy, and personnel follow the same courses and achieve the same standards in all branches of seamanship and engineering in their various specialisations as their Royal Navy counterparts do.
Lest anyone should think that the promotion of officers in the Navy is a casual or haphazard business, I would like to give honorable members some facts. Promotion to commander and to captain is done by the full Naval Board by selecting those officers who are the most suitable to fill vacancies in establishments. The selection is based on comprehensive fitness reports which are rendered periodically and begin on every officer from the time he is an acting sub-lieutenant. The system is so detailed and so embracing that it is probably unparalleled in most walks of life. Currently, investigations are being made into the possibility of a greater degree of training in Australia for junior officers. During the debate, one honorable member mentioned the desirability of this course of action in the Royal Australian Navy. I mention these matters only to show the continuing review that is being carried out and to answer the charge implied in the censure motion that the Government has not met its responsibilities in changing times with a changing Navy.
We have become accustomed in Australia to reading ill of the Navy. Apart from the mishaps and misfortunes that have been mentioned, this could well have prompted the Opposition in its decision to censure the Government today. I think, therefore, that the House should be aware that the Royal Australian Navy in its state of readiness to accept its responsibilities is not without praise from sources outside Australia. The captain of the U.S.S. “ Enterprise “, a ship which so recently impressed this nation, said of the Australian frigate “Derwent”, which was acting as a daylight rescue destroyer for the carrier -
We have always had great respect for the thoroughness of the training in your ships and “ Derwent “ gave us another demonstration of Australian made know how. We found her to be an excellent ship, extremely efficient and seamanlike in her work.
Another important point, of course, if the Government has been remiss in its responsibility to the Navy, is whether the equipment that has been obtained in the period under discussion is fit and proper for the purpose. It has been the policy of the Government that, when ships are commissioned, they should be fitted with the most modern equipment available for their operational role. In one part of his report, Mr. Justice Spicer said -
I conclude therefore that the ships and their equipment were in a proper state of preparedness for the exercise.
The experience not only of the Royal Australian Navy but also of the navies of other friendly powers is carefully evaluated to make sure that our Australian ships are equipped to the most modern standards and are operationally compatible with the most advanced ships of our allies with whom they frequently and effectively exercise. I can assure honorable members that administration and management in the Navy are not static but are subject to continuing review. Changes and improvements covering the whole field of naval activity are introduced with the minimum of delay whenever they are found to be necessary. The machinery whereby the Naval Board is kept fully informed has been developed and tried over many years of naval experience.
In another place last night, the Leader of the Opposition there (Senator McKenna) called for the dismissal of the Naval Board and the former Minister for the Navy. Senator Gorton, I believe, quite capably handled his own case, but I would like to remind honorable members that the organisation of the Naval Board is similar to that of the Military Board and the Air Board and the members of the Naval Board have probably had the same sort of training and experience throughout their naval careers as the members of the other Boards have had in their respective Services. Therefore, the question arises: Does the Opposition want to replace the members of the Naval Board or does it want to replace all the members of all the Service Boards? The members of the Naval Board have each had at least 36 years of Service experience in war and peace. They have not reached their present positions by influence or any indirect means but by ability and hard work. Furthermore, they carry out their duty, which is to give the best advice they can to whatever party is in power.
As honorable members are aware, I became Minister for the Navy after the occurrence of the events that are the subject of this censure motion. However, I have been concerned greatly for the morale of the Service, for there has been continued criticism of the Navy, some perhaps justified but a lot of it in some sections of the Press unjustified. The Flag Officer in charge of the Australian Fleet, Admiral Becher, informed me on his return from service in Far East waters that he found the morale of the men at the highest level he had experienced in the whole of his career in Navy. It is essential, of course, that this should continue. But it is equally necessary that the morale of the wives and children of the officers and men of the Navy should also remain at a high peak. Nobody challenges the right of the Opposition to move such a motion of censure of the Government, which the Opposition says is primarily responsible for the misfortunes and disasters that have occurred. But I hope the House, taking due cognisance of the facts, will reject the motion and so help to achieve the objective I have stated.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 1473) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) - by leave - agreed to -
That the following Orders of the Day, Government Business, be discharged -
No. 9. Loss of H.M.A.S. “ Voyager “-Ministerial Statement - Motion to take note of paper - Resumption of debate upon the motion, That the House take note of the paper;
No. 10. Loss of H.M.A.S. “ Voyager “-Report of Royal Commissioner - Motion to take note of paper - ‘Resumption of debate upon the motion, That the House take note of the paper.
Consideration resumed from 22nd September (vide page 1392).
Department of Civil Aviation.
Proposed expenditure, £20,071,000.
Department of Shipping and Transport.
Proposed expenditure, £24,596,000.
.- When the estimates for these two departments were being debated a year ago the Opposition moved, and the Government defeated, the following proposition -
That the amounts be reduced by £1 - As an instruction to the Government -
to enable Trans-Australia Airlines to participate in as much intrastate trade as the subsidiaries of Ansett Transport Industries Limited;
to permit the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission to establish, maintain and operate shipping services between the Commonwealth and other countries and between New Guinea and other countries;
to make full use of Australia’s shipyards in building ships for her overseas, island and Tasman trade and her scientific and trade missions; and
to draw up a national roads plan in time for the next period of the Commonwealth aid roads grants.
In the intervening 12 months there has been some progress along these lines with at least three of these propositions. In intrastate aviation the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) had done nothing in the 27 years since the failure of his 1937 referendum, then, after the Ansett companies were rebuffed by the Privy Council, it took him less than 27 days - in fact, it took him 24 days - to do something about the matter.
In shipping, however, our great trading country, which depends on sea and air for all its trade, still has no overseas ships. It cannot fetch its imports or deliver its exports. It must rely on its competitors and its customers to render these services for it. Freight on imports, payable to foreign carriers, has risen in the last 10 years from £72 million to £127 million, as appears in an answer given by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) to my colleague, the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) on the 22nd of this month. The deduction from export income for freight payable to foreign carriers rose similarly in that period.
Thirdly, in shipbuilding, tankers - the largest and fastest-growing item of our coastal shipping - are now to be built in Australia. To achieve this objective the former Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Opperman) and the present Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) had both to be overruled by their ministerial colleagues. Still, however, the Government has refused permission t the Australian National Line to build, operate and man tankers. This would be a desirable measure to ascertain the cost of transport of oil around the coast and to provide some competition. Again, the Government still rebuffs the New Zealand Government’s proposals to join in establishing a Tasman shipping service.
Fourthly, a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads has now been established. Here again, the former Minister for Shipping and Transport was overruled by bis ministerial colleagues. The preparation of a national road plan will not take place as we proposed a year ago for the present quinquennium - to use the Prime Minister’s term - but it will be in time for the next quinquennium in 1969. The Bureau will undoubtedly see that road funds are more equitably and economically employed in Australia. More money will be spent in cities, more money will be spent in the eastern States, more money will be spent on roads to ports, and more money will be spent on roads between the States.
The estimates for these departments, which should be combined in one Department of Transport, provide our only opportunity to discuss the co-ordination of transport in Australia as a whole. Our railways are all in the hands of governments both as to the provision of facilities and the operation of those facilities. It is worth noting, however, that the railway facilities provided by the Commonwealth are the most profitable and most efficient in Australia. It is also worth noting that it has taken Commonwealth initiative to bring about all the standardisation which has taken place in State railways for the last 40 years.
All road facilities are provided by governments, the Commonwealth providing an increasing amount of money but the States still carrying out all the construction. On the other hand, all road services, except city buses, are in private hands. In sea transport the port facilities are all provided by State Governments, although the Commonwealth is providing more and more of the ancillary services in ports. Shipbuilding is wholly subsidised and regulated by the Commonwealth. Of shipping operations, half are in the hands of a Commonwealth Government instrumentality and half in the hands of private companies. In civil aviation, all the aerodrome, weather and navigation facilities are constructed, financed and operated by the Commonwealth. Half the interstate services are provided by a Commonwealth instrumentality and half by the Commonwealth’s chosen private operator. Nearly all the intrastate services are in the hands of that chosen operator.
The most urgent requirement for modern co-ordinated transport services in Australia is in connection with wharves. The stevedoring industry should be nationalised. Ports are of greater importance to Australia than they are to practically any other country. We have 90 of them. They are administered by 35 different authorities. The criticisms of our ports made by Mr. Basten 12 years ago are still valid. Labour relations have improved very little indeed. Employers owe loyalty not to the industry as such but to the shipping companies. The stevedoring industry is the least efficient in
Australia. The costs can always bc passed on to the customers, lt is clearly time that the States referred to the Commonwealth jurisdiction over ports, or, alternatively, that the Commonwealth made an offer to the States. It need not be made to all the States. The arrangement I suggest could operate in any State which accepted the offer. The Commonwealth could offer to provide the money and management for these port properties, which are all owned by the States, to be operated by a joint stevedoring board, which would have permanent employees and modern equipment. The Commonwealth already provides the ancillary services in ports throughout Australia in immigration, customs, taxation, quarantine, explosives and navigation. When it ratifies some more martime conventions, the Commonwealth will bc able to do as much for sea transport on a national basis as it now proposes to do in civil aviation.
The next most urgent requirement in transport concerns the railways. In this field the Commonwealth could at last appoint the Inter-State Commission which, with the Parliament, the High Court and the Executive Council, would make the fourth of the great instruments of our Federal system, established in the Constitution. The Inter-State Commission could put an end to the centralisation which is fostered by all State Governments through their railway systems. It is unconscionable that it costs so much less to transport goods between Kempsey and Sydney than between Kempsey and Brisbane, between Mildura and Melbourne than between Mildura and Adelaide, between Mount Gambier and Adelaide than between Mount Gambier and Melbourne. In each of the three cases I have given the journeys are of equal distance, but in every case the State in which the provincial centre is situated has seen that freight rates are very much lower to the capital of that State than to the capital of the neighbouring State. The Commission could provide for the transition to the time when railways are in fact run by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has provided all the money for over 40 years to standardise railways on the mainland. The Commonwealth has also provided the money to modernise equipment in South Australia and to rebuild railways in. Queensland. National control of railways is inevitable and it should be easily accomplished in the five mainland States and the two mainland Territories. The best railways in the world are in Western Europe, where the six European Economic Community countries plus Switzerland and Austria virtually operate an integrated service. Such a system should be capable of establishment in Australia even if the Government boggles at Commonwealth ownership and operation of railways.
Then 1 come to the matter of roads. The great difficulty in respect of roads is that there is no co-ordination between road systems, even where the Commonwealth provides most of the money for them. Western Australia has decided to improve the Eyre Highway and bring it to a good standard, while South Australia is doing nothing about this road. The Commonwealth maintains the Barkly Highway to a good standard, while Queensland does little in respect of the continuation of that highway to Camooweal. Again, there is no coordination between road and rail. What form of communication is there to be between Port Augusta and Alice Springs? Arc we to have a first class road or are we to have a standard gauge railway from Marree to Alice Springs or will we re-route the railway through Kingoonya? Nobody does anything about co-ordinating projects of this kind. There are different Commonwealth departments and there are different State instrumentalities, and nobody gets down to the job.
What was regarded as a very bold proposal in some quarters, and by some an impertinent proposition, has been made by the Premiers of Victoria and New South Wales. They have asked for aid in respect of urban rail transport in the building of the Melbourne underground railway and the Sydney eastern suburbs railway. Ideas of this kind are far too revolutionary for members of the Menzies Government although they appeal to the political parlies of different complexions which have formed the Governments in the two States. In the United States of America it is frankly admitted that the great troubles in respect of transport, telephones and all forms of communications are to be found in the cities. This kind of proposal would be accepted in that country. The things that are said about Federal systems in Australia would be regarded as archaic and anomalous if expressed today in the United Slates of
America. Let mc read to the committee what the late President Kennedy said three years ago -
Nothing is more dramatically apparent than the inadequacy of transportation in our large urban areas. The solution cannot be found only in the construction of additional urban highways - vital as that job is. Other means of mass transportation which use less space and equipment must be improved and expanded. Perhaps even more important, planning for transportation and land use must go hand in hand as two inseparable aspects of the same problem.
In the Housing Act of 1961 the American Congress showed its concern with the problem of urban transportation in general and mass transportation in particular by the creation of three programmes designed to assist communities in improving their regional transportation systems. The programmes included grants for mass transportation administration projects, loans for mass transportation facilities and equipment and grants for urban transportation planning.
As more and more of the population is coming to live in cities, a plan for urban living linked with transport planning is becoming critical. On the grounds of social priorities and economic planning it is becoming more and more important to consider the position of the cities. We cannot achieve any improvement in any field of transport in our Federation, any more than it can be achieved in the American Federation or in any other trading and industrial country, without the initiative of the national Government. I trust that in the few minutes that are permitted to a member to debate, the estimates for these two departments I have made plain the objectives which I think should lie before the national Government in Australia. There is the objective of nationalising the wharves, of having Commonwealth control of the railways, of having Commonwealth planning of roads in the same way as there is already Commonwealth planning of airways. In air transport alone the Commonwealth Government spends more - it now subsidises every airline passenger ticket to the extent of more than £3 - than is spent by all the State Governments in Australia underwriting losses on public transport. The Commonwealth indulges the form of transport which carries the least freight and which mainly benefits passengers on expense accounts and governmental accounts. It does very little indeed, comparatively speaking, about the other forms of transport, and it does nothing at all about . co-ordinating them.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I shall not delay the Committee very long. There are two or three points in the field of civil aviation I wish to make in answer to statements made in the last day or two during discussions on these estimates. May I say first to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), in answer to his complaint that there is no aerodrome on Lord Howe Island, that I am informed that the features of the island - of which I am sure he is more aware than I, as I have not been there - make it particularly difficult to build an aerodrome there. I believe that there are two methods which could be used for the construction of an aerodrome on the island. One would bc to build a runway along its length, but this would interfere seriously with the residences of the people living there. The only alternative is to -build it across the island from the sca and into the lagoon. In order to construct an aerodrome capable of being used for the operations of Friendship aircraft it is necessary to have a runway of about 5,000 feet. A Friendship flying to Lord Howe Island would be flying long distances over the sea and would need to carry sufficient fuel to fly to an alternative aerodrome. It seems that the cost of such an aerodrome would be over £500,000. This is not to say that the scheme is ruled out; in fact, it is under active consideration at the moment by the Department of Civil Aviation and the New South Wales Government. However, honorable members will realise from what I have said that it is not an easy project.
It may be possible in the future, with the development of aircraft which can take off and land in short distances, to build an aerodrome with a runway of about 3,000. feet, but this is certainly some years ahead. The Caribou aircraft, used by the Services, can take off and land in particularly shortdistances but, of course, it is not entirely suited for civilian use. At present the air service to Lord Howe Island is operated only by flying boats, which are very expensive to run. As the honorable member for West Sydney stated, it is more expensive to fly from Sydney to Lord Howe Island - comparing distances - than it is to fly to
Brisbane. There arc two reasons. One is that the flying boats are more expensive to operate, and the other reason is that Brisbane is on a main air route. Therefore there is no difficulty in operating a regular service to Brisbane with aircraft which are almost filled on each flight. The Commonwealth Government subsidises the air service to’ Lord Howe Island to the extent of about £3 10s. on every single ticket, over and above the amount paid by the passenger. The Government provides about £24,500 a year in an attempt to reduce the cost of this air service. I am not sure whether the honorable member for West Sydney was in the chamber when I said that the possibility of developing an aerodrome on Lord Howe Island is still under very active consideration, but it appears at the moment that costs are excessive in proportion to the demand.
The second point I wish to discuss arises from questions asked by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and, I think, the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). Reference was made to the desirability of extending the north-south runway at Kingsford-Smith Airport beyond 8,500 feet as at present planned. Work is proceeding on this project at present. I think the honorable member for Mackellar suggested that while work is proceeding there we may as well add an extra 2,000 or 3,000 feet to the runway. I point out to the honorable member that a runway of 8,500 feet will be sufficient for the use by Qantas Empire Airways Limited of the Boeing 707-138. That aircraft can take off from a runway of 8,500 feet with a maximum load of passengers, a maximum luggage load and maximum cargo, and still carry sufficient fuel to fly to Singapore, Djakarta or Manilla. It seems to me that there is no point in the expenditure of a great sum - I do not know, but perhaps it would be about £2 million or more - on extending the runway further than 8,500 feet, when Qantas will be able to operate from it over long distances with aircraft carrying all that can be put into them.
It has been said that we may require a longer runway at Kingsford-Smith Airport when the new supersonic aircraft come into use. This is not known. The requirements of supersonic aircraft, such as the Concorde, have not yet become known. It may be that they require a longer take-off run. or they may require a shorter run. In these circumstances it seems to me that it would be rather silly of the Department to spend about £2 million on extending the runway when the extensions will not be required, at the very earliest, before 1971. There is every possibility that it may be longer than that. I think we are quite correct to retain the length of the Kingsford-Smith Airport north-south runway at a maximum length of 8,500 feet. If in future it is necessary to extend the runway, this will raise no difficulty. We should realise that there are many demands on the Department of Civil Aviation. Many of us come from country areas which we feel are not fully serviced by airlines. I would not like to see unnecessary expenditure on an airport at Sydney when country services were delayed because of the inadequacy or unsuitability of conn i ry aerodromes.
The last point I wish to make is in reply to the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor), who yesterday asked me a question about the aerodrome at Wollongong. I said that I believed there was an aerodrome at Wollongong because I could remember landing there some years ago. I have made inquiries and have discovered that the aerodrome is about 1 1 miles from Wollongong. At one stage it was used by Trans-Australia Airlines for a service. Later a person called, I think, James, ran a service from there. Both services ceased because there was insufficient demand for them. The aerodrome is available at any time to be used by people who believe they can run a service from it. The Department of Civil Aviation would be only too pleased to see the aerodrome used. However, it is obvious that until there is a sufficient demand for a service from Wollongong, operators cannot be blamed for not supplying it.
.-] regret that I was not able to speak before the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn), because he may have answered some of the questions I have to pose. I direct the Committee’s attention to the manner in which this Liberal-Country Party Government has specifically prevented any real expansion of the Australian National Line. When it caused the enactment of the Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement
Act of 1956, giving shipping monopolies control of all Australian overseas cargo movements, and extended the right for overseas ships to carry cargo and passengers interstate on the Australian coast, causing a depletion of Australian cargo and passenger ships, it gave to overseas ship owners a monopoly of all our seaborne trade at the expense of the Australian economy. Australia can break this stranglehold only by passing legislation to expand our own shipping line and by using that line in overseas trade.
Vessels other than Australian owned vessels for the year 1963-64 transported exports from Australia estimated to be worth £1,370 million, and imports worth £950 million - a total cargo worth about £2,320 million - on which freight charges alone reached astronomical proportions. The Commonwealth Statistician has estimated that the total freight charges on imports for 1963-64 at about £127 million. An estimate of freight charges is rather difficult however, as the Commonwealth Statistician does not include the amount payable to overseas companies for the carriage of Australian exports. This amount has been estimated probably very accurately, at about £200 million, so that the total freight charges on cargoes to and from Australia for 1963-64 probably greatly exceeded £300 million. Over the past 10 years payments on our imports alone have amounted to £1,005 million. As our exports greatly exceed our imports, we must go much further than doubling that amount to obtain a true picture of the total cost on imports and exports. In my opinion, a low estimate would be about £2,500 million over that period of 10 years.
It is true to say that practically the whole of that huge sum of money is lost to the Australian economy. It is equally true to say that this Government, by its actions in disposing of the old Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers at bargain rates to overseas shipping monopolies and in enacting specific legislation to prevent the Australian National Line from competing with those monopolies, has very effectively prevented Australia from joining the competitive field in freight rates and from having any say in the exorbitant freight rates which are charged to transport our commodities. This outrageous position is a barrier to Australian trade expansion, which is so necessary to the wellbeing of the Australian people, and can be altered only by the repeal of the existing agreements and acts and the introduction, in their stead, of an act to launch a line of modern Government owned and controlled ships and by the utilisation of the existing Government owned ships competitively against overseas shipowners as a means of breaking the stanglehold on the Australian economy.
On the last occasion on which this vital matter of establishing an Australian owned overseas shipping line was raised by members of the Opposition, without exception we were met by fierce opposition from Government supporters and Ministers who staled quite frankly that many great shipping nations were running their ships at a loss. The then Minister for Shipping and Transport had this to say -
The socialisation of the shipping industry is not practicable.
He went on to say -
The United States Government is far from convinced of the economic merit of subsidies that it has paid.
Yet the Americans are still building “ Sun “ class ships for the Australian run. Those ships have a speed of 26 knots and have a dead weight of 13,300 tons. It has been said that those ships have the appearance of being a defence feature. Whether that is so or not, we members of the Opposition would be very pleased if Australia had just a few similar vessels to transport Australia’s goods and to give a defence feature to this country.
On the occasion to which I have referred, the then Minister for Shipping and Transport went on to praise the efficiency of our A.N.L. and to congratulate it on the service that it had given. On the one hand, nationalisation was not practicable; but on the other hand the Minister said that the A.N.L. was doing a good job. Irrespective of whether the Minister was just as mixed up on that as he was in regard to the American lines, we can be sure of one thing; that is that the American mercantile fleet will remain healthy and strong in numbers. It is equally certain that the United States Government will continue to see that the American mercantile fleet remains so, because, unlike us, the Americans had to go through dependence on other nations for shipping and transport only once.
The United States admits to having been, prior to 1914, under the domination of English and other foreign owned merchant shipping to the extent that, although it had grown into a financially sound nation, it still needed government shipping to meet the challenge of world commerce. The American exporters found that trade follows the ships. They found that when a British ship transported American goods the British naturally used the opportunity to note American marketing contacts. They also found that foreign owned ships were not always available to catch peak marketing prices. There were holdups in deliveries and their rivals were able to cut prices and to assure a more regular shipping service. Mr. Tudwell Denny, a well known American tycoon of the time, when dealing with the Anglo-American conflict in “ America Conquers Britain “, had this to say -
The merchant marine under the national flag of the exporters is one of the chief weapons in the extension of foreign trade. This accounts in part for Britain’s past success as a world merchant. Establishment of American ship lines was a major factor in the increase during the period 1914-28 of Yankee trade with South America of 277 per cent, with Asia of 380 per cent., and with Africa of 335 per cent.
Commissioner Sandburg of the United States Government Shipping Board in 1928 stressed the disadvantages to American exports because of the maritime strength of competitors. He said-
It is true that when it is convenient and profitable for our competitors to carry our products for us they will place their ships at our disposal, but our competitors will not build up and develop our foreign market. This we must do with ships of our own.
Vice-Chairman Plummer of the United States Government Shipping Board went further. He said -
The transport of our goods in foreign bottoms has been taken advantage of by our competitors to learn details of our trade connections.
The disabilities to which the American spokesmen referred apply with equal force to Australia. So does the following declaration which President Herbert Hoover made at Boston on 15th October 1928 -
There is only one protection of our commerce from discrimination and combinations in rates which would impose onerous charges on us in the transportation of our goods to foreign markets - that is, a merchant marine under the control of our own citizens.
If the United States, which accounts for more industrial production than do the rest of the non-Socialist countries combined and which has accumulations of private capital never equalled in history, is compelled to rely on government shipping, government aid and government intervention against foreign competitors in order to protect its trade, then how much more necessary is government action in a far weaker country such as Australia? Australia, unlike the United States, does not have the mighty accumulations of investment capital - Australia is a capital importer - the colossal productive power or the local market of 180 million people and the Canadian hinterland to absorb the bulk of local production. If government shipping was a necessity to the American economy when only a fraction of American production had to be exported, then it is a matter of desperate urgency for a country which has to export the bulk of its rural and mineral products.
Thirty six years ago the United States realised that it must place itself in a position in which it could command freight rates. It has done that. Now it is one of the countries which are telling us what we must pay. In the national interest, the commonsense solution would be to follow the American line and set up a Commonwealth line of ships, with proper safeguards, to provide adequate services to remote parts of the Commonwealth. The line should be set up as a separate trading organisation and along lines similar to that very efficient and profitable enterprise, Trans-Australia Airlines. If that were done, Australia would be in a position to tell the Australian Overseas Transport Association, which at present fixes our freight rates, what we were prepared to pay for the import and export of secondary and primary products. The present freight charges, which are engineered by that Association, bear no relationship to a fair or just price.
I must remind the Government - I believe that this needs to be repeated because the position has not altered - that a committee of inquiry, which it set up in 1954 to inquire into the stevedoring industry, reported that the principle of charging freights is based on what the traffic will bear. In relation to the 22 British and Continental companies which are members of the Australia-United
Kingdom-Continent Shipping Conference, that committee said -
Shipowners engaged in this trade, reviewed as a group, have had, in effect, a monopoly of the trade, and the conditions are conducive to basing the freight on what the traffic will bear.
A spokesman for the graziers’ association at that time said -
Let us get out of A.O.T.A. and attack it from the outside. The shipping interests have the game sewn up, and we might as well admit it.
The representative of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures said-
Australian manufacturers are the greatest single users of imported goods, and also represent a vast, growing export-earning medium. They have an interest second to none in discussions on freight rates. Yet they do not have a voice on Australia’s freight-negotiating body, A.O.T.A. . . . The situation is urgent It calls for immediate, very definite action on the part of responsible authorities.
A Commonwealth overseas line with ships built in Australia would represent no drain on overseas reserves. The money spent on wages and materials would be retained in the main by the Australian economy. Commonwealth line ships would be manned by Australian crews, a great portion of whose wages would be remitted to families in Australia. The ships would be mostly provisioned and repaired in Australian ports. Whereas the conference lines cause a dead loss to the Australian economy, the Commonwealth line would assist and invigorate many sections of it, particularly those industries associated with shipbuilding and rural exports.
We are all aware of the continuing fierce competition for world trade. From time to time we send a trade ship to display our products in the ports of other nations. We congratulate the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) on the success of the recent trade mission to six Asian ports which won sales of Australian products to the value of £500,000. We consider such trade missions are an excellent method of advertising our Australian goods. What we are gravely concerned about, however, is that although each ship had blazoned in large letters on its sides “Australian Trade Fair “, on each occasion we were advertising not just Australia and Australian goods but also the fact that we could not deliver the goods in our own vessels; for aft of these vessels, for all the world to see, were the names of the ports of registry - one ship was the “Delos,” registered in Sweden; another was the “ Straat Banka “ registered in the Netherlands; another the “ Chandpara “ registered in Britain; and the “Centaur” which was, I think, from Liverpool. So we will have proved two things: First, that we have the goods; secondly, that we have no wagons in which to take the goods to market.
For Australia to lose control of any real say in freight charges is completely wrong. That this is so is evidenced in a reply that the Minister for Trade and Industry provided me with on 10th October1963. Honorable members will recall that that was at a time when the American meat producers were making representations to drastically reduce at least Australian imports of meat into the United States. So one could be. excused for thinking the freight increase was some kind of lopsided embargo.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, I want to bring to the notice of the Committee-
Motion (by Mr. Aston) put -
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. E. D. Mackinnon.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
Proposed expenditure, £14,135,000.
Department of National Development.
Proposed expenditure, £25,699,000.
– Mr. Chairman, I desire to acknowledge the presence at the table of the new Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn), and may I express the hope that while he has this portfolio there will be spectacular development in Australia. I should like to say “ thank you “ for the courtesies extended by him to the Parliamentary Labour Party’s Committee on National Development and Fuel. We on the Opposition side appreciate the new order and the better understanding that seems to have come since the change of Ministers.
The estimates for the Department of National Development spell out the Government’s indifference to the urgent need to develop our natural resources. The unrealistic vote for national development reveals that the increase is mainly for salaries. This proves beyond any shadow of doubt that whilst we have a new Minister, the Treasury approach to matters of national development has changed very little. Looking through the estimates I see that estimated expenditure for the Department of National Development this year is £25,699,000 as against £25,100,993 spent last year. When one considers that this vote covers general administrative expenses, administration and field operations of the Bureau of Mineral Resources, the Forestry and Timber Bureau, the Joint Coal Board, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, and the River Murray Commission, all one can say is that the vote is pitiably inadequate. The vote is unrealistic and does not face up to the urgent need to develop Australia at the present time.
The Australian Labour Party believes that encouragement should be given to the Department of National Development to go ahead and do the man sized job which needs doing in Australia today. I pay tribute to those associated with the Department - it has many most competent officers - but I feel that the Minister himself should have a free hand to recruit top industrialists and other outstanding men in Australia in order to advance the work of the Department in the coming years.
There has been a growth in population in Australia over the years and a growth in industry, but in the main this growth has been confined to our capital cities and selected coastal centres. Throughout Australia many country towns have suffered a loss of population and industries. The Commonwealth Government has done nothing to halt the drift from the country towns to the cities and the seaboard generally and these estimates do not contain one pennyworth of hope for country development and the decentralisation of industry. There is nothing in them to preserve one country industry. That is to be deplored.
Whilst Sydney and Melbourne grow and boom, the north of Australia is neglected. There is ample scope for the Minister to act in this direction. In Australia the countryside cries out for development. This needs leadership; it needs the Minister’s special assistance. There is a clamour throughout the Press - the anti-Labour Press as well as the pro-Labour Press - for more to be done in the way of development. Every metropolitan journal has drawn attention to this need. The “ Australian” has referred to it in an article, “The Lost Ten Years”. All these Press reports should surely alert the Government to the need to take action. If the Government cares to look back to 1945 it will find a blueprint for the development of Australia contained in a report submitted to the Government of the day following consideration of secondary industries by a commission and subsequently by a ministerial conference. The blueprint divides responsibilities for this development between the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments. There is a need for a further ministerial conference to be held for the purpose of going into these matters in a detailed way. It is no use passing the buck. The Government should not accept all the credit and the kudos when things are right and then blame the States when difficulties arise.
I have with me a publication - a very good one - issued by the Department of National Development in 1962, and entitled “ Major Development Projects “. I notice listed in it the water projects under construction by various authorities, including the State Governments, local governments and water boards. The Commonwealth Government has had nothing to do with most of these projects, in planning, conception or anything else, but this book has been put forward as showing the Government’s programme and what it has accomplished.
There has been a lack of action on the part of the Commonwealth in dealing with the north of Australia. Recently I asked a question about water supply and storage and sought information about any programme north of the 26th parallel. I was given the type of answer I expected - there are no plans for water conservation north of the 26th parallel. It is true that the Ord River diversion dam and ancillary works are being wound up, but the money promised for a major scheme for the Ord River is not forthcoming as we would have hoped. It is not my intention to deal with this matter. It will be dealt with by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) and other Opposition speakers but this project is one that should go ahead. The only way we can develop our northern areas is by establishing a northern Australia authority to do this specific job. What is contemplated by the Government at the present time in an effort to work out some plans for the area, however laudable, is totally inadequate.
I would like to point out to the committee the opinion of Mr. John Kelly, an expert on northern development. In the “Australian” on the 28th August he concluded a most interesting article by stating -
The crucial need of northern development is for a representative, competent authority to coordinate the disjointed thinking and piecemeal planning that characterises efforts to develop the north.
The constitution of a Northern Australia Authority should no longer be delayed. Therein lies the effective solution to the problem of northern development.
Along with that authority there should be appointed a Minister for the north whose responsibility would be to deal specifically with that area. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) can do something but I intend to refer to his Department when we consider another bracket of estimates at a later date. I intend to refer also to the division of ministerial responsibility. We need a northern Australia authority and we should go forward with decentralisation because Australia needs balanced development.
How can we get balanced development when there is a situation such as we have in Australia today where people are moving from the country to the seaboard? Our local government bodies are battling to find the necessary finance for orderly development in their respective areas. Headlines in the “Blue Mountains Advertiser” of the 27th August are a typical example of what is happening. They read: “Less loan money - so less work “. Beneath the headlines was an article dealing with the problems facing the Council of the City of the Blue Mountains. That is only one example of the problems facing the development of this country at the present time. Another urgent and most important matter that requires immediate attention is the establishment and implementation of a national energy policy to deal with all the energy resources in this country and so ensure the best use of our latent wealth for the development of the country. Our coal, oil, natural gas, hydroelectric power and atomic power all ought to be brought into proper balance and, for national development purposes, our economy ought to be based on our latent wealth.
The need to implement a national energy policy surely is obvious. There are many people who support this point of view. The leaders of the coal owners, the unions engaged in the coal mining industry, and many thoughtful people have put forward this particular point of view. The implementation of a national energy policy based on the utilisation of Australia’s natural resources has been delayed for far too long. I can only hope that the Minister will give immediate and earnest thought to this matter.
In the policy speech which he delivered prior to the last general election, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) promised that there would be an adjustment in petrol prices to aid development in country districts. I remind honorable members that the general election was held towards the end of last year, yet no legislation has come forward to deal with this important matter. This is a critical subject. Surely, a promise made by a responsible person such as the Prime Minister should have been capable of implementation long before the expiration of nine months after the election. But the election has receded into the background and no action has been taken by the Government to give attention to this matter.
Another urgent problem confronting Australia relates to our mineral resources. We ought to be doing more prospecting for minerals. The shortage of fertilizers is one of the most urgent and pressing problems facing the nation. Substantial rewards ought to be offered to prospectors who will go out and seek the phosphate rock and other fertilizers necessary for the enrichment of our soils and the development of our country.
Water is another vital and urgent matter. Whilst we dither, tarry and play around with the question of water supply, we are supplied with evidence that other parts of the world are doing what we are not doing. In “ Overseas Trading “, a publication issued by the Department of Trade and Industry on August 9th last year, I read a most interesting article on the development of water resources in Ceylon. Amongst other things, the article states -
The valley population has risen from 1,200 in 1949 to 100,000 in 1963.
That is the sort of development we want in Australia. Surely there is a challenge in what these people are doing. I remind honorable members of the revival that has taken place in West Germany, Japan and elsewhere. Development works in those places have been carried out with efficiency and great success. Surely similar things can be done in this country if we are loyal to ourselves and if we are prepared to apply our manpower to this work.
I have before me a report on the State mines in Limburg in the Netherlands. It is a most interesting and fascinating publication. It is rich and well produced. Its cover is made from coal. It deals with the development of the coal industry in that country. It points out that the coal industry there has developed into one of the 40 largest industries in the European Economic Community. This is the sort of development we want in Australia, but it is not the type of development that has been taking place. I can only hope that continuing pressure will be brought to bear upon this Government by the Opposition and by good Australians outside this Parliament to see to it that finance and assistance are provided by the Commonwealth Government for people who are prepared to help themselves.
– The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) will persuade few Australians that the development of this country in the last few years has not been extremely active and undertaken with a vigour which has not been matched previously in our history. I want to make one comment on a suggestion which he has made and which has been made repeatedly. He suggested that, because of the urgent problems of the north, a north Australia development authority should be established. I cannot help feeling, when people put this suggestion forward, that they have in mind a false comparison with the Snowy Mountains Authority. The Snowy Mountains Authority was established because there was a specific task to be undertaken. The uses to which the power and the water would be put were known when the authority was given that job to do. I suggest we would have great difficulty in finding an equivalent task in the north of Australia. To say that a north Australia development authority would solve the problems of the north is in fact only suggesting a delegation of the responsibilities that should rest with this Parliament. There is no clear-cut task in the north and no clear-cut solution of the problems of the north at this stage. Therefore, to say that the establishment of such an authority would solve all the problems of the north is doing little more than begging the question.
In case what I am about to say may be misunderstood, I want to emphasise that the most rapid development that we can achieve and sustain is of very great importance to this country in terms of the number of people we can support, the number of industries, both primary and secondary, that we can establish, and what is equally important, I wish to emphasise the national strength we can achieve as a result of that development. At the same time, we have to recognise that there are limits to our rate of development, and, especially at this time, there are limits in terms of the number of people we have in the country and the number we can attract here. There are also limits - not at the moment but at certain times - to the overseas funds available for development and to the capital funds available to the Government or obtainable by the Government for the development of Australia. [Quorum formed.] Within the limits of which I was speaking it is plain that the Australian Government must strain every effort to achieve the most rapid development possible. But we must also realise that we do not pursue development merely for development’s sake; that we must undertake development which we consider will do most to make Australia secure in the future. Therefore, I suggest that we should judge all developmental projects in the light of the security they will afford Australia. It is probable that this is not always done not only in terms of secondary industries but also in terms of primary industries. We need not go very far to think of some primary industries that are not entirely economic in terms of world standards or world costs, and it may well be that our initiative and capital may have been better devoted towards other ends.
If security is a criterion against which any development project should be judged, we should ask what kind of development will add most to Australia’s security. It is my belief that in doing this we must keep in mind the shortage of people and the limitation of capital funds available to governments. It is plain, I think, what the answer should be. The Governments should use the capital available in areas that will stimulate the greatest possible private investment and so enable the greatest number of people to be established under Australian conditions. By this I obviously mean that labour intensive industries should, where possible, be avoided and we should also look to those industries that can add to our export funds and not to those industries that cannot compete very well on the world markets. It is extremely doubtful whether all projects meet these criteria.
It is fashionable to talk about the Kimberleys and the Ord. I want to take an example from the Ord River development and compare it with what could be done in the south. The figures I use are, of course, estimates and are liable to wide fluctuations, but they are the figures that I have been given. I am advised that by the time the Ord River project is completed, something like £40 million of Government expenditure will have taken place. This figure would be much greater if related research were taken into account. I am also told that the project will increase the population in the area from 1,500 to about 20,000. This will result in a rural production of about £17 million, with production from related industries adding another £34 million in one way or another. This gives a gross product of about £50 million. We have to keep in mind the possibility that continual subsidies will be necessary to sustain activity in the area. I do not say that subsidies will definitely be needed, but this is a possibility, and I do not think at this stage it could be doubted.
Let us compare this with what could take place in some other area. If £40 million of Government funds is available to be spent to assist development in one field or another, let us assume that the Government decides that a flat subsidy of £10 will be paid for every acre of unused virgin land that is brought into production throughout the productive areas of Australia, and there is a great deal of this kind of land. This would mean that the £40 million would be spread over 4,000,000 acres. In the high rainfall areas in which this could take place, it would not be unrealistic to assume that the land could support three sheep to the acre or 12 million sheep overall. This plainly works out, on the basis of 5s. a lb. for wool and 10 lb. per sheep, at an income of some £30 million a year as against the income of £17 million from the Ord. In addition, 20,000 people would be involved directly in this expansion and there would be a consequent expansion of the number of people hi the related secondary and tertiary industries. The expansion would also occur in industries that would not need to be subsidised.
It may be said that the economics of such development are irrelevant because we are comparing something that should take place in the north with something that may take place in the south and that there are special circumstances in the north that make the comparison irrelevant. I believe that from time to time we have fallen for the lure of northern development and as a result the economic tests or any tests that we may apply are perhaps looser for the north than for other regions. I think we have also tended to regard northern development as synonymous with the greatest addition to our security. I am extremely doubtful that this is so. Development adds to security most when it attracts the greatest private investment and enables the greatest employment to take place, thus leading to the greatest population growth. For those of us who are bewitched by the romance of northern development - I admit I am one - it may be hard to accept the fact that more rapid primary and secondary growth in certain areas of Australia that are quite well settled may make a greater net addition in terms of Australia’s security. This does not mean that we will never develop the north. But with 11 million people, we must concentrate on areas where we would get the greatest returns in the manner that I have mentioned.
If it is argued that an empty north provides a lure to our northern neighbours, it could equally well be argued- [Quorum formed.] If it is argued that an empty north would provide a lure for our northern neighbours, it could equally well be argued that a developed north would be even more attractive to them. I cannot believe that a few thousand people, or even tens of thousands of people, would provide any short term deterrent of the kind that people talk about. If we are talking in terms of security and the defence of this country, we would find that the greatest addition to our security comes from a vitally developing people with some ability to defend themselves with the help of friends. There is no real logic in saying that northern development adds to security more than would the expenditure of an equivalent amount in the south, which adds more to our productive capacity and more to our ability to support our own people.
Commonwealth power in these matters is quite limited. The power lies mainly with the States. Apart from the criteria I have suggested for judging any particular project, I would like to make one specific suggestion which I suspect has not been adopted up to the present. I believe that, so that development projects can be judged alongside each other and not in isolation, the Government should set aside one or perhaps two periods in the year in which Cabinet could examine carefully and together all development projects that have been submitted. In these circumstances, a development project that may sound and look quite good in its own right may fall to the ground when judged alongside other projects that have come forward. Rather than examine any particular project as it comes forward, as I suspect is done at present, I would like these projects to be judged together by Cabinet in one period, or perhaps two periods, of the year so that perhaps some greater balance could be arranged in these matters. It is my firm belief that in development projects we must use the people who are here and the people who can be attracted to Australia in ways that will mean the greatest gain for Australia’s security and strength. Development projects should be judged in this light.
– I want to say a few words about northern development. It is quite obvious that honorable members on both sides of the chamber agree that something should be done to develop our north. The only difference between us seems to be on the speed with which this job should be done. We on this side of the Committee believe that the manner in which the Government is undertaking the job will mean that development will not take place in the time it should. First of all, I tell the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) that I and all other Opposition members would like to see northern development receive the attention of a Minister full time, not just part of the time. Northern development raises mighty problems concerning activities that are vital to Australia, and the job is a colossal one. It is too much to ask any Minister to carry through this task while he has to devote a good deal of his attention to other matters.
The Government’s approach to the subject indicates that its support of northern development is not so wholehearted as is that of the Opposition. It is true to say that the policy of developing northern Australia was originally promulgated by the Australian Labour Party. We forced the issue, which became so prominent politically, particularly in Queensland, that this Government was forced to take an interest in it. However, out of its forced interest we have been given only this half baked scheme to be administered by a division of a department under the control of a Minister who devotes only part of his time to the problems of northern development. I offer no criticism of the public servants who have been appointed to the Northern Division of the Department of National Development to do the job of developing the north. I believe that they are first class men. Incidentally, they all came originally from Queensland, and that constitutes a further recommendation for them. Since they come from Queensland, they have a personal knowledge of the problems with which they will have to deal, Mr. Temporary Chairman.
The north of Australia must be developed, and it must be populated. Development is required not only because population is needed in northern Australia but also because defence considerations demand that we develop that part of the continent. My mind goes back to 1939, and I cannot help comparing the defence situation then with the situation today. Between Geraldton and Townsville, defence provision is less adequate today than in 1939, except perhaps for the few Sabre aircraft that were sent north a few days ago. That, however, is another story. Teeming millions of people live to the north of us. Last year, Dr. J. B. Condliffe, an American economist on the staff of the Stanford Research Institute in California, was engaged by the Australian Development Research Foundation to prepare a report on the development of Australia. In that report, which is entitled “The Development of Australia”, referring to the development of northern Australia, Dr. Condliffe stated - as long as the empty spaces remain on the map they can be represented as rich potential resources withheld from the teeming masses of Asia by a dog-in-the-manger policy of racial exclusion.
That American economist recognised that defence considerations are bound up with this subject of northern development. The issues are not only political but also moral.
When we consider what has been done about the development of northern Australia in the last 20 years, we find that a series of maps has been prepared and partly published, some geological surveys and surveys of the beef cattle industry have been made, a few beef roads have been constructed and a few minor inquiries have been made into other matters. In brief, all these inquiries indicate that there has been no large scale investigation on a national basis up to the present time. We have had, not planning, but just haphazard minor inquiries. The only Federal development schemes planned on a national basis are the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme and the immigration scheme, both of which were instituted by the Labour Government. The present Government cannot point to one national project or scheme of nation wide application that it has begun during its period of almost 15 years in office Is it any wonder that the people of northern Australia have no confidence in this Government’s handling of the problems of their part of the continent? As I have said, the Australian Labour Party instituted this policy for the development of northern Australia.
Surely what is happening in the countries to the north of us ought to indicate to the Government that development of the north is vital and that it should be put in hand as a matter of urgency. This is not a problem that can be dealt with by a Minister who devotes only part of his time to it. Northern development should receive the very closest consideration on the part of the Government. It is plain stupid to suggest that there is any proper planning in the north at present. As I said earlier, the job of developing northern Australia is a colossal one and it must have the full time attention of a Minister. We should appoint a statutory authority similar to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority for the purpose.
The principal development work in northern Australia in the postwar years has been related to the copper resources at Mr Isa, the uranium field at Mary Kathleen, the bauxite deposits at Weipa and the sugar industry, which has expanded as a result of events that have occurred in Cuba and Java. But all these development activities have been undertaken by the expenditure of private investment capital. None of the capital invested has been government capital invested as a result of national planning. All the planning has been purely and simply private. The development of our mineral resources is of vital importance. But we have to remember that once these resources are removed from the soil they cannot be replaced. So mineral development is based on the quarrying of resources. Japan is one of our best customers today, and Asia represents the greatest potential market for our exports. At present, Japan may appear to be a little reluctant to take an interest in our iron ore. But, with the consumption of iron ore doubling every 17 years, it will not be long before Japan will find it essential to obtain supplies of iron ore from us. This is the sort of thing about which we want information.
It is clear that real planning and proper development of the north will cost millions of pounds. This money will have to come from the taxpayers. Since they happen to be the electors, this Government is afraid to spend the necessary millions and to step in and act as the Chifley Government did when it undertook the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. I remind honorable members that when the first sod was turned at the inauguration of that scheme, the ceremony was boycotted by members of the parties that now sit on the other side of the chamber. The Government must be prepared to undertake the work of northern development, not on a piecemeal basis, but on the basis of national planning. It need not worry about the electors. They will support proper national planning for development.
If northern Australia is to be developed, the population there must be expanded. This means that work must be provided, and therefore development projects will be needed. However, those who provide the money needed for such development projects want to see a return on the investment. Planned development of the north will make a tremendous contribution to defence as well as to the expansion of our national resources. A proper development policy for northern Australia requires a detailed and extensive survey of our geological, mineral, pastoral and water resources in that part of the continent. Any planning undertaken should be given plenty of publicity so that the Australian people may know what is being done and may feel that they are joining in the work of progress and development. The development of northern Australia calls for additional investment in all kinds of industries in the north, particularly those related to transport and the provision of fuel and power. It requires also planned migration to provide the workers needed for the many projects that will have to be undertaken. This means that housing schemes will be needed to provide accommodation for the workers and schools will have to be provided for their children.
A central planning authority is absolutely essential, even though it may have to be on a scale much smaller than the Australian Labour Party would like. Such a planning authority would first have to survey the resources of the north and establish an order of priorities for the work to be undertaken. It should be allocated ample funds to enable it to undertake proper planning. It is true that beef roads are now being constructed and that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has undertaken pasture improvement work for the benefit of the cattle industry. But other research and development projects are urgently needed, particularly to promote the more efficient use of underground water resources and to enable us to tap the run off of streams. This is only some of the work that ought to be put in hand A tremendous job waits to be done.
Much of the development of the north has been by accident. The Weipa bauxite was found by a company boring for oil. Mount Isa was discovered by Campbell Miles, a bushman, who happened to chip a piece off the right piece of stone. He recognised it as being like the ore he had seen at Broken Hill. Mineral surveys must be made. Let these start where the old geological and geophysical surveys finished. Australia is the driest continent of all, yet we know very little of the waters of the north. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) spoke about comparing the Snowy with the north. We know little of the waters of the north. Knowledge of stream flows and underground reserves must be closely examined. We know the boundaries of the artesian basin and we know that more water flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria than pours, into the Southern Ocean. We also know that 70 per cent, of Australia’s fresh water lies north of the 29th parallel.
I want now to quote from an editorial in the Sydney “Daily Telegraph” of 31st August, headed “ Australia’s future is in the North “. It states -
If the Australian nation hopes to survive tomorrow, the resources of Northern Australia must be developed today.
The warning has been given before but not often with such practical logic as in Sir William Hudson’s paper on the vital part of water in the development of the North.
Sir William Hudson, of course, is connected with the Snowy Mountains Authority. The article continues -
On the other side of the 26th parallel, in an area half the size of Europe, there are fewer people than go to a race meeting in Sydney.
Yet with irrigation and development, Sir William Hudson says, this land would support three million people and create employment for a further five million elsewhere in Australia. lt is an area which contains three-quarters of the surface run-off of all Australia’s rivers.
In the south-east of the continent, which gets only a fifth of the total stream-flow, we have long ago become used to the miracles of irrigation.
More than half a million Australians are living there in prosperous areas as a result.
I say to the Government that this problem is too big to be mucked about with and played about with. Sir William Hudson, who is administering the Snowy Mountains Authority, gave some indication of the potential of the area. My final words to the Minister are: “ Don’t play with this “. As one writer has said, give us a crash programme of research and investigation, with 50 per cent, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation experts in the north for a given period to make up for lost time and to achieve intelligently and scientifically planned development. Let us act now while there is still time. Tomorrow may be too late.
.- I rise to compliment the Government on what it has done in north Queensland and particularly in my electorate. I point to the great brigalow schemes which are going on in my electorate and which, together with the access roads, have brought about a new look in this area and will make a substantial contribution ultimately to the country’s wealth, and together with the expanding coal exports from Moura and Baralaba must finally be of some indirect benefit to all towns in the Callide and Dawson Valleys from Biloela to Monto and Eidsvold right through to Wowan and back to Rockhampton.
I remind the House that the first big scheme which was commenced in Queensland was started by the Commonwealth Government - the Mount Isa railway. This Government provided substantial funds for the strengthening of the Mount Isa railway in order to handle the production from this great mine - one of the largest of its kind in the world and rated in the international field as of exceptionally high efficiency. The other great contribution that this Government has made to the north has been, of course, the construction of beef roads. This magnificent conception, which has been so ably administered by the Queensland Main Roads Department, will go down in history as one of the greatest contributions ever to be made by any Australian government to a particular area. We are getting the results from this at present.
Although a lot has been done, undoubtedly there is still a lot to be done, but a great step forward has been made by the Government in establishing a northern development authority under a dedicated public servant - a Queenslander, Dr. Patterson. I had the pleasure, during the last recess, of welcoming the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) to my electorate at Mackay. The Minister was accompanied by the head of his Department, Sir Harold Raggatt - another dedicated public servant who has a big mind and who looks well into the future. I am sure we will obtain great results from his work, the work of Dr. Patterson and from our able Minister who took a keen interest in our problems. He took time off to go through the area to find out on the spot just what is the position. It is very difficult for a busy Minister to give up time like this, but I know that he returned to Canberra with far more knowledge of what is needed and of the problems of the area than he had before he went on tour. I feel sure that the Department is realty going to get its teeth into the problems facing us, but I point out to the House that the most modern abattoir in Australia is nearing completion at Mackay. To service this abattoir properly some beef roads will have to be provided in the beef growing areas near Mackay.
Another major scheme I would like the Department to undertake would be the provision of additional water storage over and above what the Commonwealth and State are providing. Incidentally, they are doing a magnificent job. An examination is urgently required of the Callide and Dawson Valleys and of the Mackay district, and I commend this sincerely to the Government. I also ask the Government to give direct financial aid in providing further water storage in the area.
I thank the Minister and his party for coming to north Queensland, as it is only these on-the-spot visits, when they can meet the people, that will bring home to the Department our real problems. It is through meeting people who work in the area and who own properties that have to be developed and who need these extensions that an understanding of the problems is obtained.
Up to the present the greatest expansion in north Queensland has been from the sugar industry. I think I heard an honorable member opposite say that the Commonwealth Government never helped the sugar industry. The Commonwealth Government docs help the industry by providing ports with bulk handling facilities. It certainly helps the industry with a five-year protective Commonwealth sugar agreement, which is the greatest thing the sugar industry has to fall back on in times of stress and strain. In my opinion this Commonwealth Government has always had a generous approach to the sugar industry, knowing that it will expand in the north provided it is well looked after.
The development of the colossal bauxite deposits at Weipa, together with the expansion of the sugar industry, are serving to increase the population in the northern areas, but further development is needed in this comparatively sparsely populated area, and I think this development can be brought about only by direct financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government. I believe that since this Government has made moves in cooperation with the Queensland Government - and it is well to realise that only comparatively recently has a Queensland Government been prepared to co-operate with the present Commonwealth Government - we have made great strides. With the planning that has been carried out and the developments that are taking place I believe .that within the next decade the whole of north Queensland will have a completely new look, not only along the seaboard but also in the inland. I am looking forward to the day when this comes about. I am hoping that in ten years’ time north Queensland will be as heavily populated as central or southern Queensland. As I am reminded by my friend from Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), we will have to keep the present Governments in power in both the Commonwealth and the State, because if we change them we will certainly see no more progress.
I would like to break away from this subject and say something about the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. I have a very definite interest in scientific research and am in fact, and have been for many years, a director of a large research organisation wholly owned and financed by the sugar mills of Queensland excluding the four Queensland mills of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. As is well known to all members, the C.S.I.R.O. undertakes scientific research in connection with or for the promotion of primary and secondary industry in Australia and in my opinion has given a tremendous fillip to the economy of this nation. In this modern world no country can keep growing, expanding and competing on world commodity markets unless it carries on an adequate research programme. The scientist has really come into his own. His work, followed through to the field of production, results in untold wealth for future generations. I am firmly convinced that we cannot do too much in the way of scientific research and that we will be richly rewarded for the research work we undertake. During the last financial year the amount spent on investigations by the C.SI.R.O. was nearly £14 million, of which a little more than £2 million was provided by the Wool Research Trust Fund. I commend to every member of the Parliament the annual report of the Organisation. It is a very valuable document and well worth reading. If any honorable members have connections overseas and want to show them how Australia is producing in a scientific manner, I suggest that they get extra copies of this document and send them.
In the industry with which I am most closely associated, the sugar industry, many millions of pounds are poured into research each year. The results have been extraordinary, particularly over the last 10 years. I have told the Parliament previously how we have brought about enormous increases in the production of cane per acre, and also how we have dramatically increased the milling rate, which has again improved during the present crushing season. This has resulted in our being able to compete with any country in the world in efficiency, which finally means that we can compete with any country on a price level. This has resulted purely from scientific research. We are now in such a commanding world position that scientists and technologists from every sugar producing country of the world visit us to try to learn how we do it with our high wage structure.
Although the sugar industry conducts its own research independently and at its own expense, the C.S.I.R.O. is carrying out. exactly the same work in a larger field with, in many cases, financial help from particular industries. I commend the work that the Organisation has done in the past 16 years and I look forward to continued progress by this magnificent Australian organisation during the next 16 years. The more we support it the more Australia will grow and the better we will be able to compete with other countries.
– I want to refer particularly to the Northern Division of the Department of National Development and its possible effectiveness in dealing with the problems of development in the north. When the formation of this Northern Division was first announced by the previous Minister for National Development I said that I thought the Division lacked the teeth necessary to fulfil the task allotted to it. This contention was supported, of course, by the Premiers of Western Australia and Queensland, who advocated the proposal of the Australian Labour Party to set up an independent authority.
It was interesting to hear the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) criticising the speech of my colleague, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), who suggested that an independent authority was the kind of body to undertake a task of this nature. The Premiers of Western Australia and Queensland advocated just such an authority. Sir Warren McDonald, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, has also suggested that this is the kind of authority to tackle the task. Professor Baxter agreed with this, as did John Kelly, another authority. These people have all been solidly behind the proposition that what was needed was a separate authority with certain powers, responsible to a particular minister. They believe that this is the way to get results in an area in which results have been sadly lacking in the past. The Premiers have had to be satisfied with this Northern Division of the Department of National Development. Undoubtedly they have been told by the Commonwealth Government that it is a case of this Division or nothing at all, and so they have accepted it.
I doubt that this Division will be effective. First, I question the motives of the Government in setting up this Division. Is this a sincere effort to develop the north, or is the establishment of this Division merely a stalling and delaying operation so thatthe Government may continue in the future as it has in the past? I noted with satisfaction that there has been a shift in the Government’s thinking. I am much happier to see the present Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) in charge of this very important Department than I was to see the previous Minister in charge of it. I feel that under the previous administration no progress at all would have been made, but with the present Minister at least we have a chance of breaking through.
– It would be better with a Labour Minister.
– Yes, but if we cannot have the whole loaf we will have to be satisfied with half. I am completely satisfied, as my comrade from Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has said he was satisfied, with the officers appointed to control the activities of the Division. I know only some of the officers. I know of the work of Sir Harold Raggatt and Dr. Patterson. It has been first rate. If the standards of the officers of the Division can compare with the standard of those officers we shall have a Division adequately staffed with brains.
What will the Government do after its deliberations and its decisions? What will happen to the proposals that are put up to the Government and to Cabinet? This will be the testing time of the effectiveness of the Division and of the sincerity of the Government in its professed desire to develop the north. I wish to refer particularly to the place of the Northern Territory in the work of the Division. I believe that the Northern Territory - a territory of the Commonwealth - might miss out in the deliberations of this body. I ask the Minister to inform us of the proposals put forward on behalf of the Northern Territory so that it may receive its share of the money allotted for northern development. I have no doubt that the Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia will keep their cases very much to the fore. Because of the voting power of those States it seems to me that they may get a major share of the moneys to be allocated. We have only to consider the money that already has been allocated for northern development. The honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Shaw) has every reason to be satisfied with the programme of developmental works in his electorate. The Queensland programme includes the brigalow land and the Mount Isa works. In Western Australia the Ord River scheme is proceeding, financed by the Commonwealth Government, plus works along the Western Australian coast. The development works financed by Commonwealth funds in the northern Territory make a pretty significant and disturbing contrast.
The Commonwealth Government is not looking after its Territories. I want to know what is happening to the proposals that must have been put up in the past. At this stage we have the prospect of investigations into all sorts of things. What has happened to the investigations that have been conducted in respect of these matters in the 15 years this Government has been in office? It is only at this stage that the Northern Division of the Department of National Development is beginning to re-investigate the matters that must have been investigated in the past. There must be volumes of reports on the files of the Department. It is an indictment of the Department of Territories that it is only at this stage, after it has been in existence for 15 years, that any thought has been given to making a move towards development.
I ask the Minister for National Development, who is now at the table, to enumerate some of the projects which the Department of Territories has informed the Division have Al priorities in the development of the Northern Territory. One subject that has been referred to is the high cost of freights. I know that a committee at the present time is investigating freight charges in the north. Why was not an investigation conducted 15 years ago, or even earlier? The effect of freight charges on the development of a country seems to me to be elementary knowledge. I do not think that genius is required to work out the effects of high freight charges in a developing area such as the Northern Territory. Freight charges double the costs of goods landed in any part of the north, whether they are fencing materials or fuel or whatever they might be; but not until now has an investigation proceeded into the possible effects of freight charges on development. Any secondary school child in the Northern Territory can tell you of the effects of freight charges on the cost of living. Agriculture and mining, to name two activities, are hindered by high freight charges. Why has not the Commonwealth Government acted on this matter before?
Substantial deposits of minerals are to be found in the Northern Territory and these could be developed if assistance were given to mining companies. Mining companies want to be sure that the deposits are sufficient to sustain all the types of ancillary works it is necessary to build. I refer to townships, ports and railways. Surely the Commonwealth Government, if it will not actively participate, could provide assistance. At Gove Peninsula are the first bauxite deposits discovered on the Australian mainland. Although they were found during the last war, only now are we getting around to examining their potential. A British company received a lease of the first areas to be investigated. As a result, these areas were tied up for some years. A French group of companies was theo allowed a concession and the same thing happened. The original leases have been forfeited by the British company and they are now the subject of negotiation with other interests. Mining is so vital to the speedy development of the north that one would have thought that the Government would have gone flat out to bring about the development of the mineral deposits there. The Mount Isa interests have held the rights to the McArthur River deposits for some years. Territory Enterprises holds the rights to the mineral deposits alongside Rum Jungle. The deposits have been proved, but their economic value is marginal. With the assistance of the Commonwealth Government, I think they would be productive and very prosperous concerns. Why does not the Commonwealth Government subsidise some of these ventures? The Victorian Government has subsidised the establishment of the alumina refining industry in that State. The Queensland Government has subsidised the establishment of alumina refineries at Gladstone. But the Commonwealth Government does not seem to care about the establishment of projects within the borders of its Territories. It could provide impetus to mineral development and bring about a rapid influx of population. In turn, the establishment of the mining industry causes other development to follow in its train.
I turn now to the classic example of beef roads. Who controls the planning and construction of beef roads? Is it the Department of Territories or the Northern Division of the Department of National Development? The main beef road in the Northern Territory, running from Top Springs to Katherine, was taken out of the Estimates this year and we have no funds for it. The road is essential to the meat worKs at Darwin and Katherine, if they are to operate. Without it, the future of these recently established meat works - the only significant industries to be established in the Northern Territory in the last 15 years - could be placed in jeopardy, as the cattle could not be brought in to allow them to operate. These things have been known for a long time, and one would think that the Government would immediately allocate one, two or three million pounds in order to have these roads brought up to standard. At the present time we do not know whether the fault lies with the Department of Territories or whether another investigation is to be made by the Northern Division. There are many other matters that I will not be able to discuss because of the lack of time. I ask the Minister for National Development to give the Committee some idea of the projects that the Division of Northern Development has in mind foE the Northern Territory, how many projects have been put forward by the Department of Territories, and what the results have been.
.- The Labour Party appears honestly to believe that we are not developing northern Australia. First of all, the Labour Party is not a development party. Being a Socialist party, it seeks to divide up the spoils without providing more spoils. One of the big differences between the Labour Party and the Liberal Party is that the Liberal Party is a development party and the Labour Party is not. The Labour Party, not being a development party, apparently has missed out on understanding what is happening.
On 1st August 1959, eleven members of the Government parties, together with a representative of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Mr. Alban Gurnett Smith, and some other experts, went to the north of Western Australia. Up to that time the words “ northern development “ had never been uttered in this chamber. Some people, including the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn), have been unkind enough to tell me that the members of that party should not make certain claims; but we will continue to make those claims. We made the first foray into the north. Some years later, when there appeared to be pretty good publicity in visiting the north, a gentleman in another place took a number of Labour members of the Parliament to the north. I believe that they used to go and meet members of the branches of the Labour Party and be properly done over. That occasion in 1959 was the first time the Labour Party had heard of northern development or the Ord River. After about four years those words came into the vocabulary of members of the Labour Party.
Let us recall what has happened. What was the situation in the world on 1st August 1959? Sukarno was in Indonesia. The Dutch had West New Guinea. Malaysia had not been formed. The Red Chinese were not coming down into South Vietnam. Laos and Cambodia were having their own deliberations. The people of those countries were being left to their own governments; they were not being interfered with by outside people. That was the position a little more than five years ago. If we dared to mention the northern part of Australia, we were told that it did not pay to go there; that it had a bad climate; and that it was not a place for white people. Honorable members, if they are honest, will remember that that was the situation in 1959. Today all of that has changed. Even schoolboys are going through the north and people, in their Holdens with their bed rolls on top, are penetrating everywhere except the Cape York Peninsula, where they cannot go because there is not a road. [Quorum formed.]
The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), with a sob in his voice, talked about the speed of northern development. I think he believed what he said. He was very emotional about it. He said that the north is not being developed speedily; yet his electorate includes Mount Isa, and no less than £30 million, of which £20 million is being provided by the Commonwealth, is being spent on the reconstruction of the Mount Isa railway.
There are two sections of national development - northern development and Australian development. When people get hysterical about northern development, they forget the rest of Australia. The development of southern Australia must proceed apace, but it can be carried out from the large sums of money that are available for it. Northern development must be begun by the Government. Let us look at some of the things that are happening. The Government has established the Northern Division inside the Department of National Development. Dr. Patterson, a noted economist and developer from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, is the head of that Division. The Commonwealth has been fortunate in its relations with Queensland and Western Australia. The Queensland Premier, Mr. Nicklin, and the Western Australian Premier, Mr. Brand, have seen the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). They have set up co-ordinating bodies; one under Sir James Holt, a distinguished gentleman from Queensland, and the other under Mr Parker of Western Australia. In addition to the development which has begun already in Queensland and Western Australia, a great number of proposals are coming forward.
The Ord River scheme is well under way. It has the diversion dam. It is hoped that in a few weeks the Government will agree to the implementation of the full Ord River scheme and that work on the big dam will commence. It seems to me that the Government has gone so far with this scheme that it would be knocking itself if it said: “ We made a mistake; we will not go on with it “. The Prime Minister’s speech at the opening of the Ord River diversion dam was enough to show that Australia has proceeded further in the field of tropical research than has any other country ami that the research in relation to the Ord River scheme represents much more than any other tropical research that has been done in Australia. The Prime Minister made that clear when he said-
Whatever America has done, Australia proved with their research, ingenuity and enterprise they can do also.
That is the keynote of the Government’s approach to northern development. Work on the jetties at Derby and Wyndham is proceeding.
This Government removed the embargo on the export of iron ore, which had been left by the previous Labour Government. That led to iron ore becoming worth something instead of being merely as valuable as the rest of the countryside. In other words, now iron ore is worth more than dirt. Great concentrations of iron ore have been found at the Hamersley Range, Mount Goldsworthy and many other places. Already the Commonwealth has approved the export of very large quantities of iron ore which are enumerated in a paper which has been distributed by the Minister for National Development. It refers to approvals for Mount Goldsworthy Mining Associates to export 64 million tons of iron ore, to Mineral Mining and Exports (Western Australia) Pty. Ltd. to export 500,000 tons of iron ore pellets anually from low grade deposits at Scott River, and to the Western Mining Corporation Ltd. to export 10 million tons from the Koolanooka-Tallering Peak area. There are six very large schemes for the export of iron ore at present.
I turn now to Queensland. Very large sums of money - up to £100 million - will be spent at Weipa and Gladstone, which will have a bauxite refinery. I can see the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) looking through the door. At one time he said that we ought to spend £60 million on northern development. We have now gone very much further than spending that amount. On that occasion we charged the Leader of the Opposition with not knowing what £60 million would represent and with just plucking that figure out of the air. These are very real figures and they mean something. Some of us went up to the Fitzroy basin in Queensland. I think at one stage it was denied that we had been asked to go there, but we were asked. Now the Government is involved in a £7i million development scheme in the centre of the great brigalow area which will go into production of huge quantities of beef for which there is a never ending and increasing market in the world today. Incidentally, by the use of machinery which has been developed this land can be cleared for as little as £1 an acre. Land which was almost worthless can be brought into production for not more than £1 an acre, and can be brought to the ploughing stage for £7 an acre. My friends from Victoria - that cabbage garden State - would wonder about any land that you could get for £7 an acre because they pay up to £300 an acre. Theirs is almost a landlocked State. But here we are in the wide territories of Queensland with land coming into production. The Belyando area is now under consideration by the Queensland Government for development and Commonwealth assistance will be sought.
Irrigation schemes are costing £30 million. Assistance to Gladstone for coal loading is being given. Gladstone produces the cheapest coal in the world and Gladstone coal is sought by the Japanese. The coal is produced by the open cut method, which is not favoured by the Labour Party, which believes in deep mining because the coal mining unions want this. There is a long list of development that is going on.
Natural gas has been discovered at Mereenie and there have been discoveries of natural gas where the exploration has been paid for by private enterprise and encouraged by the far sightedness of this Government through the Department of National Development. I believe that £11.2 million has gone out from this Government for the purpose. Natural gas is very important. I have been told that when the economics are completed, it will be shown that the cost of electricity for fuel and power will drop by as much as 20 per cent, per annum when natural gas has been pro perly harnessed. Of course, the natural gas will also make a contribution to the use of coal gas. Already plans have been made for piping the natural gas into the mains of the coal gas producers because the natural gas is so much hotter and it has so much in it. It contains propane and butane and these other things which can be extracted and used in petrol and sold at 4s. a gallon. The development of natural gas is the result of a forward-looking policy on national development.
I come next to the production of oil. At last we have got over the bogy that we have no oil in Australia. All the knockers said that we had no oil or that the companies were trying to stop it being produced. Now we are finding quite a large percentage of the wells have oil in them. First we had the breakthrough of finding oil. Now we are getting quite a number of wells which are producing oil, so we are on the way with this rich black gold - flow oil - in Australia. It is just nonsense, and I implore the Labour Party to change its thinking, when two honorable members opposite say that nothing has been done. Let them consider what has been done. There has been much talk about flood mitigation in New South Wales and the Commonwealth is to expend £6i million on this work. The Western Australia water scheme will cost £5 million. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) or the honorable member for the Northern. Territory (Mr. Nelson) - one of them - said that nothing was being done about water.
– Hear, hear!
-“ Hear, hear! “ they say, but the Water Resources Council has started its work and this year £767,000 is to be provided for the first three years of a 10 year programme for stream gauging in Australia. This is a breakthrough of which I am glad, for the sake of the Leader of the Opposition, because he is known as a patriot. He likes to hear these things, but he must get his followers to believe that we are developing Australia and that it is worthwhile to go out into these widely scattered areas. The township of Exmouth is to be started by the Commonwealth and the Government of Western Australia. The replacement of the Derby jetty is to proceed. That was a very prickly one, because at one stage it was thought that it would have to be located elsewhere. Coming further south, there is the railway through to the uniform gauge in South Australia from Broken Hill. The Chowilla reservoir will bring water into the border lands of South Australia, and this will avoid Sir Thomas Playford demanding water from the Hume reservoir and give more water to Victoria and New South Wales. This story goes on apace, but the most exciting thing about it is the new proposals which are coming forward from the Queensland group and the Western Australian group.
However, we are disappointed that the Northern Territory proposals have not got through to the Northern Division. There must be a new look at this because we want to see the development going on in the Northern Territory in co-ordination with Western Australia and Queensland. We ask the Government to look at this and to make certain that in the demarcation of departmental activities the Department of Territories will take part with Queensland and Western Australia in this activity.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- There has been an interesting contrast recently from two speakers from the Government side of the chamber. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) gave us what appeared to be a very erudite speech this afternoon in which the main point that he seemed to be pressing in relation to northern development was that northern development was completely uneconomic and that it would not pay the Government or the nation to proceed with a programme of northern development. Now we have had another gentleman who sits just in front of him - the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) - who has attempted to prove the very opposite and not only to prove that northern development would be an extraordinarily economic and well justified activity but that this Government has the finest record of any Government in the history of Australia. I think this contrast between the honorable member for Wannon and the honorable member for Macarthur is a stark contrast indeed.
Where is the Government going in relation to its policy when you find such a significant member as the honorable member for Wannon adopting the attitude that he expressed. I understand that he is a significant member and that in the next reshuffle of Cabinet positions he will be very close to coming in. Does this indicate that the Government regards his argument far more highly than that of the honorable member for Macarthur. The conviction of the honorable member for Wannon that northern development is completely uneconomic is in contrast with the view of the honorable member for Macarthur who said that it is economic and justified. This contrast is interesting because the honorable member for Wannon came here in 1955 and he is just at the very point of becoming a Cabinet Minister, whereas the honorable member for Macarthur has been here since 1949 and some people think that he is now much further from becoming a Minister than he was in 1949. Does this indicate that the honorable member for Wannon is so much more highly regarded by the Government than the honorable member for Macarthur is? Let me look a little more closely at what the honorable member for Macarthur said - the honorable member who has made such a dramatic exaggeration of what has happened under this Government. I think it is pretty true to say that from 1949 to 1959 - a period of 10 years - the series of Menzies Governments did nothing about northern development.
– The honorable member for Macarthur admitted that.
– Yes. I do not think even the most biased advocate - and the honorable member for Macarthur is perhaps the most biased advocate for the Menzies Government - would say that the Government had done nothing in the 10 year period from 1949 to 1959. But the honorable member gave us the impression that the Government had suddenly come alive to northern development in 1959 and, in the space of the last five years, had achieved a wonderful record. That is the first point. For 10 long years, even on the admission of the honorable member for Macarthur, the series of Menzies Governments which were inflicted upon this country in that period did practically nothing about northern development. But what has been done since? Even in this new period, this new awakening since 1959, what has been done? The honorable member for Macarthur said that a terrific amount was being spent. One example, he said, was the Gladstone scheme which was to have £100 million spent on it. The actual figure, I understand, is £51 million, not £100 million, and it is not going to be spent in one year, two years or three years but over quite a long period of years.
I took the trouble some weeks ago to try to add up the various items put before this House since 1959 that really relate to northern development. The total does not come to even i per cent, per annum of the gross national product. It comes to something less than £30 million a year and that figure gives the Government the full benefit of the doubt in every respect. If northern development is to mean anything to Australia, more than i per cent, of the gross national product must be spent on it. Perhaps somebody might say that we should compare present expenditure with what has happened in the last century and a half in Australia. Certainly, if you do reach a judgment about the Menzies Government you have to send your mind back a century and a half because it is in that century that the right honorable gentleman finds himself most at home. If you stretch your imagination that far or think back to the depression and the pre- 1959 period and say: “Well, i per cent, or thereabouts at the most optimistic estimate is a creditable performance in national development”, then let us have a look at the other side of the coin.
Whilst there has been increased expenditure in the field of national development, on roads, and on schemes like the Ord River project and others relating to water supply, and whilst there has been some increase in public development, there has been a plundering of resources by private enterprise. Private enterprise not only has been allowed or encouraged, but has been encouraged to plunder many of our basic resources. The Government has arranged to give private companies - and they are enormously large companies - rights over our bauxite, lead, tin, zinc, uranium and copper for years ahead. Having right of ownership these companies now have a decided policy for the future and as far as possible they do not intend to process any of these raw materials in the northern parts of Australia but will carry them away for processing elsewhere. A significant part of them will go outside Australia altogether.
The recent Condliffe report, in some senses, was a very excellent survey of Australian resources. The author of the report came to the conclusion that there would be no possibilities for real development in the north unless resources - very largely basic resources - were not only mined in the north but were processed there. The report said that this was the only way in which any significant number of people could be employed in that area, thereby increasing the population. What is happening under this Government, which simply grants private ownership rights to the companies, is that the raw material is being sent overseas to other countries for processing where there is cheap labour or cheap water supplies.
The honorable member for Macarthur made a fuss about the oil industry in Australia. What is happening in that regard is that although small companies are spending money actually to search for oil - and some of these are foreign companies - once it is discovered it has to be piped or transported away from the fields. In almost every case the owners of the piping or transport system are large companies and they are foreign companies. It has been demonstrated all over the capitalist wor’ ‘ that the control of oil supplies lies in the piping or transportation of the raw fuel. That is where the bottleneck occurs and that is where a few people get control of the industry. This is happening in Australia and it is a further example of the way in which our resources are being plundered. This policy is a complete offset to any development that the Government at long last - since 1959 - has been forced by public opinion and circumstances to adopt.
The remarks of the honorable member for Macarthur are in strange contrast to those of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser). Each worked in different directions. The honorable member for Macarthur over-stressed the public side of what is happening in the north, because it does not amount in fact to more than half per cent, of the gross national product at the best and ignores altogether the way that private enterprise has been allowed to plunder the resources there by refusing to develop the industrial processes required to bring about national development. The general performance of the Government is shockingly poor in this respect.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting 1 have been discussing national development. I had contrasted the remarkable difference of opinion that existed between the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) and the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), both Government supporters. The honorable member for Wannon took a very erudite attitude towards northern development. He argued that it was very uneconomic, that it could not be proceeded with with any economic justification. But the honorable member for Macarthur took the view that it was a vital necessity and of great economic value to the nation. Those two strikingly conflicting views coming from two members of the Liberal Party go some of the way towards explaining why the attitude of the present Government towards northern development has been so mixed and unsatisfactory.
I had also looked at the rather exaggerated view taken by the honorable member for Macarthur of the Government’s record in northern development. He himself admitted that practically nothing had been done in the 10 years between 1949 and 1959. The best he was able to say -and I am afraid he rather exaggerated - was that something less than one half per cent, of the gross national product was allocated to northern development through the public sector of the economy. That is very little indeed. He omitted to say that on the private side of the economy there had been nothing less than a plundering of resources in northern Australia. Large private companies have been permitted to get control of bauxite, lead, tin, zinc, copper and, now, oil and are doing their best to dig out, as it were, Australia’s wealth. Those raw materials are being transferred to other parts of Australia, or overseas, for processing, in direct conflict to the recommendation by Dr. Condliffe who was appointed some time ago to investigate the situation. Dr. Condliffe clearly recommended that if there was to be development the commonsense procedure would be for these raw materials to be processed in northern Australia and not taken elsewhere. Neither the honorable member for Macarthur nor anyone else on the Government side has given adequate attention to this problem. Sooner or later, a government that is concerned with the development of northern Australia will have to give attention to it.
That brings me to the final point I wanted to make at this stage. It is that an effective programme of national development needs a national economic policy and the institutional means of putting it into effect. The honorable member for Macarthur made the rather ill-founded remark at the beginning of his speech that those who took the socialistic view were not interested in development. Everybody knows that all over the world socialist economies - some of them are authoritarian and to that extent undesirable - have in fact given first emphasis to development. We know also that in the United States of America the economists of the new frontier are saying that there must be basic economic development in the United States of America if that country is to hold its own with the forces of Communism and of emerging nationalism in the world. Men like Galbraith, Heller and David Bell are arguing that there is a conflict between affluence and the basic needs of development, that this conflict must be solved, and that it can only be solved by the development of new forms of institutions to give effect to a national economic policy.
The Australian Labour Party stands for the new frontier view that is so significant in the United States of America. I regret that Australian economists on the whole give very little emphasis to this. I find it difficult to understand why Australian economists are not so fully aware of the problem as are the economists of the new frontier in the U.S.A. This is not a vastly radical or revolutionary proposal. It is simply a suggestion that some positive steps must be taken to allocate resources to essential fields if we are to get the essentials. A predominantly free enterprise economy cannot achieve this. The performance in Australia of the predominantly free enterprise economy over the last few years, with booms being checked by credit squeezes and falling back into relative slumps, has shown that the proportion of resources devoted to the development field has not risen significantly. This performance has had a cyclical effect. In fact, the percentage of gross national product in the essential field at the end of the period was not appreciatively greater than it was at the beginning.
The reason for this is that the present Government has an unsatisfactory economic policy. All it can do is watch the boom gathering, as it is gathering today in the Australian economy, and then bring on a credit squeeze which tends to stop expansion in the places where we need it, and which tends to let expansion go in the uncontrolled sectors of the economy. This kind of policy does not introduce control into the economy; it makes controls responsible to public and national purposes. This is the challenge of the new frontier, the challenge of development which this Commonwealth Government has to meet and the challenge which has been met much more effectively in the much more predominantly free enterprise economy of the United States of America. This puts Australia a decade or more behind most modern developments in a free enterprise economy. Nothing can be achieved by a government that has the attitude towards economic policies which has been revealed by this Government over the last 15 years. New ideas have to come into practice and they can come in most quickly through the election of a Labour Government.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I, too, wish to devote my short time to the Department of National Development. In following the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) I find, strangely enough, mat in some respects I agree with the views put forward by him, especially those which he submitted to the committee before the suspension of the sitting. He did agree that there had been an increase of Government expenditure on national development,, particularly in the north. He said that the Government had spent a good deal more money on roads, on the Ord River project, and on water conservation. That is true. He also said that because of the fact that we have overseas capital invested in many of the mining companies throughout Australia it is a bad thing for those companies to be exporting the good earth of Australia to be processed overseas. I agree with his contention that processing should take place in Australia.
It seems to me that there are many Australians who believe - the Australian Labour Party certainly believes it - that so long as no beneficial results flow to the people who invest here, the investment of overseas capital in Australia is a good thing. For instance, they believe that if overseas investors in the search for petroleum in Australia are drilling dry holes, the more they spend here the better; but, as soon as oil is found, the interest of some people here is awakened and they say that the companies concerned should become Australian owned.
I think the committee should be reminded that up to the end of 1963 the overseas capital invested in oil exploration in Australia was £63.5 million or 62.9 per cent, of the total investment of capital in oil exploration here. Australian investment in this field amounted to £37.4 million or 37.1 per cent, of the total investment. In other words there is quite a large amount of investment of Australian capital in oil exploration in Australia and Australians will ultimately derive benefit from that exploration.
In devoting my time to national development, I want first to congratulate the Minister of the Department of National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) who has shown initiative and energy which are good for the Parliament and for this country. Right at the outset of his achieving the portfolio he travelled through the northern parts of Queensland, through the Northern Territory and through the northern parts of Western Australia to familiarise himself with potential projects in those areas. No doubt when propositions are put to him by the newly created Northern Division of the Department he will have first hand knowledge of the projects. I think all honorable members must concede that in the past the Commonwealth Government has done a good deal for the development of Australia; but not sufficient has been done for the development of the northern parts of Australia. In the past, the Commonwealth has given assistance in association with the various States. Here again I would like to think that the newly created Northern Division of the Department of National Development will ultimately be able to bring forward its own projects so that the Commonwealth Government can do something directly and not be dependent on the advice and assistance given by the various States.
I believe, with the honorable member for Yarra - I use different words - that we need a national purpose in our development. We have only to look at Table No. 5 on page 1 8 of the “ Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure “ for the year ending 30th June 1965 to realise that the Commonwealth will spend a good deal of money in this financial year on projects of national importance. I will mention a few. In Queensland we have the beef cattle roads on which £2,710,000 will be expended this year and on which expenditure last year was £2,047,000, and brigalow lands development on which £1,135,000 will be expended this year. In Western Australia, the replacement of the Derby jetty will cost £150,000, and a grant of £1,284,000 has been made for northern development. Then we have coal handling works in both Queensland and New South Wales and many other projects that will be financed from Commonwealth resources. The types of projects are so varied that a real national purpose is not evident for the development of Australia itself. The projects are as divergent as the six States.
In addition to the projects I have mentioned, many large and important projects, fostered by the Commonwealth Government, are about to commence in Australia. Most of the large works are associated with water conservation. The total cost of the Chowilla dam on the Murray River, at the junction of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, will be £14,000,000. Of this, 25 per cent, or £3,500,000 will be found by the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth will lend another £3,500,000 to the New South Wales Government so that it may meet its contribution to the cost of the dam. The Blowering dam will be constructed on the Tumut River in New South Wales at a total cost of £22 million. I think the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) mentioned flood mitigation. These works in New South Wales will cost £2,750,000. The comprehensive water supply scheme in Western Australia will cost £5,250,000. And so it goes on. A proportion of the cost of all these projects will be found by the Commonwealth and the balance will be provided by the States concerned with the projects. 1 agree with the sentiments already expressed that the work already carried out on the Ord River Scheme in Western Australia should be followed through to a conclusion. A country of the magnitude of Australia with a limited water supply should follow up water conservation schemes such as that to be found at Kununurra in the north west of Western Australia. Australia needs many more water conservation schemes, because water is the very essence of the future of this country. The Commonwealth and the Western Australian Governments have spent some £8 million on the diversion dam on the Ord River and I believe that the additional £30 million required over the next four or five years should be spent to ensure water conservation in that area for agricultural purposes. This is the only water conservation scheme of any magnitude being undertaken above the Tropic of Capricorn,
The total amount to be spent on development in the next 12 months is £106,985,000 or approximately £2 million a week. Australia has some four million taxpayers. This means that development in Australia is costing each taxpayer 10s. a week. I believe that this is a reasonably good effort for a country such as Australia. The development that I have mentioned does not include the Snowy Mountains scheme, on which some £280 million has already been spent and some £20 million was spent last year. A similar amount will be spent on this magnificent project as the years go by. The reconstruction of the Mount Isa railway will continue to completion, as will the standardisation and construction of the railway between Koolyanobbing and Kwinana, which is associated with the iron ore project in Western Australia.
As I see it, in the past money requested by the States for these projects has been approved by the Department of National
Development. The projects have gone ahead provided approval has been given by the Commonwealth, but, as I said earlier, I would like to see a national purpose in our development. I would like to think that the Commonwealth Government had a plan to ensure that development went hand in hand with the progress of Australia. All the development projects I have mentioned have ‘been associated wilh primary industry - water conservation and the like. Yet, through the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics, we have found in the last three or four years that our mineral wealth is tremendous when compared with that of most other countries. We have enough high grade iron ore in Australia to last us for 1,900 years, even if we use only the resources in the Hamersley Range.
Let me mention bauxite, the ore that is processed into alumina and ultimately into aluminium. Of the world’s known resources, 40 per cent, is in three areas in Australia - Weipa, Gove and the Darling Range in Western Australia. I agree with the honorable member for Yarra that this mineral wealth should be processed in due time in Australia. Rather than huge amounts being spent on brigalow lands development and other similar developments, I believe that long term loans at low interest rates should be given to those investors and entrepreneurs who are prepared to establish processing works at Weipa, Gove and the Darling Range. As most honorable members know, bauxite is sold for £2 a ton. If we sell 100,000 tons from Weipa, we use 50 working men. If we process the ore into alumina - the costs are fairly tremendous - we can sell the 50,000 tons of alumina we produce from the 100,000 tons of bauxite at £25 a ton and instead of using 50 men we would use 1,000 good Australians for this processing. In the next phase of the processing, if we converted the alumina into aluminium, we would use a further 1,000 men. I believe that part of the national purpose of the Commonwealth should he to investigate the possibility of giving loans to those private entrepreneurs who are prepared to establish manufacturing units in . these areas.
This applies also to the processing of iron ore in the Pilbara or Hamersley
Range of Western Australia. I find it difficult to believe that all this iron ore will be processed in Japan, England or the other countries to which it is taken by overseas ships, thus giving employment opportunities to the Japanese, the British, the Americans and so on. The processing of the iron ore in Australia would ultimately give employment opportunities to Australians and at the same time these areas would develop at a much faster rate than they would if we concentrated on primary industries, as we are doing at Kununurra and in the brigalow areas.
I find it difficult not to think that the company conducting the alumina processing operation in Queensland is frustrated because its alumina plant will be established at Gladstone on the southern part of the east coast of Queensland, whereas the company wanted the plant to be established at Weipa where the bauxite is obtained. If one looks at the map and studies the situation at Weipa, on Cape York Peninsula, one appreciates the problems that exist. The bauxite will be loaded at the wharf built by the company on the stream dredged by it and shipped round the top of Cape York Peninsula some 2,000 miles south of Gladstone, instead of being processed on the site at Weipa. Furthermore, the double handling at the wharfs at Weipa and Gladstone confronts the company with problems of the kind that face all manufacturers, processors and handlers of material that passes across wharfs. That is the problem of holdups caused by the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. This kind of trouble would be avoided if the bauxite were processed at Weipa instead of being shipped to Gladstone, in the southern part of Queensland, for treatment.
I believe that the new Northern Division of the Department of National Development should look into matters such as this and ensure that the processing of our mineral wealth takes place where the minerals are mined. If the new Division functions in this way, by this time next year the Minister for National Development will have a good story to tell to the Parliament.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I am sure that all honorable members thought that, with the exception of some of the concluding sentences, the speech just made by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn) was admirable. He pointed out very convincingly and factually that the development of northern Australia and, indeed, the prosperity of the whole of Australia depend very largely on the processing by Australians themselves of the resources now found to reside in this continent. Not sufficient emphasis is placed on the timetable of industrialisation for the processing of our products, particularly those of the tropical parts of Australia. The proposals made by the honorable member for Balaclava are very greatly inhibited by the attitude of too many of his colleagues, who seem to believe that Australia must await development by private investors. The Government recently considered re-naming the Department of National Development as the Department of Natural Resources. The lesson learned throughout the world is that no tropical country has ever achieved substantial or balanced development by relying on private enterprise to develop its natural resources. Some crops or some minerals may be developed to a certain stage in a tropical country by private enterprise, but no tropical country has achieved the proper processing and marketing of its mineral and primary products without the exercise of an initiative by national governments on their own account or in consortia with private investors or with foreign governments.
In the northern part of Australia, we are handicapped not only by these residual North Atlantic concepts of industrial development but also by our Federal system. More than 50 years ago, South Australia surrendered to the Commonwealth the portion of that State north of the 26th parallel of latitude. Clearly, Western Australia should surrender the part of that State north of the 26th parallel. The development of the continent is hindered by the circumstance that the three largest and most sparsely settled States - Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia - were the States which had the fewest resources to develop their tropical parts. This is the largest tropical country in the world except Brazil. The whole of Australia’s resources are required to help develop the tropical part of this country. It is beyond the resources of Western Australia and Queensland, as it was beyond the resources of
South Australia, to develop the northern parts.
There is no economic or scientific reason for the State and territorial boundaries which apply in northern Australia at present. The Ord River scheme is a clear illustration of a development scheme in which water resources, if they are to be fully utilised, must be used in the Northern Territory as well as in Western Australia.
– They will be.
– There is no such commitment yet and there are still no plans. The Northern Territory Administration has not yet co-operated with the Western Australian Government in proposals to use the water which will be impounded by the main dam on the Ord River. This may not seem urgent, because the Commonwealth still delays any commitment to complete the dam. There is no provision for the work in this year’s Estimates, although the construction of the barrage was begun only because the Commonwealth undertook the responsibility so largely. The investigation has now been completed. We know what can be grown in that area. But we are marking time. We are not going ahead with the main dam. The economics of the main dam will depend, as to about 30 per cent., on what use is made in the Northern Territory of the water provided.
Again, there has been no co-ordination of the beef roads in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. This Parliament learned of some of the deficiencies in the Northern Territory because the road situation there was investigated by the Public Works Committee. Presumably, there will now be an opportunity for the proposed Commonwealth Bureau of Roads to investigate beef roads in Western Australia, although the Parliament will not be told what the Bureau thinks about the situation, any more than it was told what the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Australian Meat Board thought about beef roads 10 or 12 years ago.
The main part of my remarks will be devoted to the estimates for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Sir. In January last, at a meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, Sir Frederick White, Chairman of the C.S.I.R.O., said that Australia needed a national strategy to clarify thinking and integrate the interests of science, industry and government. It is a pity that the report of the Organisation tabled in this chamber recently did not show similar boldness. The advancement of science is critical for the future of Australia. Atomic power, electronics and automation can bring undreamed of changes in the next 20 years if we can harness them in the service of the community. That is a responsibility of governments.
In Australia, there is an almost total lack of strategy or policy on science. We spend less than £50 million annually on scientific research. Of this, only about £8 million is spent by industry. Industrial research in Australia is extremely weak. Expenditure by industry on research in this country is only about .3 of 1 per cent, of the value of net industrial output, compared with 3 per cent, in the United Kingdom. We are very short of scientists. Many leave Australia to conduct research elsewhere. It will be remembered that Sir Howard Florey went to England, but that country did not take up his research. He then went to the United States of America and developed penicillin. So we all have to pay royalties on something developed overseas by an Australian scientist who did not have the resources to carry out his research or develop its results in his own country. Imported scientific knowhow was estimated to cost £50 million in 1962.
By any international comparison, our expenditure on scientific research is pitifully inadequate. I shall give four yardsticks. First, in the United States, expenditure on scientific research amounts to 3 per cent, of the gross national product, in the United Kingdom 2.5 per cent., in Canada 1 per cent, and in Australia .7 of 1 per cent. Secondly, scientists and engineers represent 7 persons per 1,000 of the population of the Soviet Union, 4.5 persons in the United States, 2.6 persons in Britain and 2.7 in Australia. Thirdly, the chemical industry in Switzerland spends on research more than is spent by the whole of Australia. Lastly, each of the Bell Telephone, du Pont and General Electric companies in the United States employs more scientists than are employed in the whole of Australia. In the light of this serious situation, and in the light of statements by the Australian Academy of Science and distinguished scientists like Sir Mark Oliphant and Sir Frederick White, we should examine these estimates of the C.S.I.R.O.
This year there will be an increase of £3.3 million available to the Organisation compared with the amount expended last year, but despite this, there is insufficient provision in the estimates for the growth of scientific staff. Last year the C.S.I.R.O. had 1,678 personnel, classified as research officers, experimental officers, scientific services officers and draftsmen. This year the number will be increased by only 34, an increase of 2 per cent. The annual increase should be at least 5 per cent., and preferably 7 per cent., if the Organisation is to carry out its existing activities properly and embark on new projects.
Another feature of these estimates is the tendency of the C.S.I.R.O. to rely on outside grants to bridge the gap in its finance. Last year £3.44 million was obtained from outside funds, and this year it expects to receive £4.02 million. Most of these outside funds are received from the Wool Research Trust Fund and various other funds connected with primary industry. These outside funds are very welcome and the Organisation returns very good value for the money spent from these funds. However, the tendency to rely on outside funds is not desirable if it leads to undue emphasis on applied research in new projects. To be fruitful, pure and applied science must proceed hand in hand.
Yet another feature of proposed expenditure is that the ratio of expenditure on primary industry to that of secondary industry remains about two to one. As I mentioned before, there is a critical need to spend more on industrial research. The Country Party, of course, will be asking, “ Are you going to reduce what is spent on primary industry? “ What I am saying is that more should be spent on the whole lot, and the present ratio of two to one is not what is required if we are going to develop our resources properly - if we are to build up our trade and employ our population, particularly to make the best use of our trained population. The late Dr. Bastow, a member of the C.S.I.R.O. Advisory Council, recently said that Australian manufacturers have practically no appreciation of the great need for basic research. He said that in most Australian companies directors thought that scientific research was something the other fellow does. He said: “Your typical Australian director, on hearing the words ‘ scientific research ‘, will cough politely, take a quick look at the length of your hair and change the subject.”
The C.S.I.R.O. should have sufficient finance to undertake more industrial research. But just as important, manufacturing industries should themselves be undertaking more research. One factor limiting what they do in this field is the number of them that are controlled from overseas. The Government should give tax concessions to encourage industry to conduct more research. Canada has provided tax concessions which have given material incentive for industrial research. Despite requests by industry and many scientific bodies, the Menzies Government has rejected any such taxation inducement. In the long run the Government would get far greater benefits from a tax scheme to promote research than from the present scheme to promote exports. The Government should also examine the possibility of abolishing payroll tax on research staff. It should also consider the high duties on imported scientific equipment which we do not make ourselves.
Tt is clear from these estimates that the Government has little intention of increasing substantially the amount spent by the C.S.I.R.O. on research. Perhaps the Government has in mind spending more on the universities when the committee brings down its report on tertiary education. They certainly need more money for research, but where will the Ph.D. graduates resulting from the expenditure get jobs if the Organisation does not expand? Expenditure on research needs to be greatly increased right throughout the whole field of scientific activity - governments, universities and industry.
At present the C.S.I.R.O. is very restricted. Any organisation like this should have a special fund for the executive to deploy at its discretion to start off research into new fields likely to be significant to the nation. Since this would be an initiating fund it need not be very large, but it could speed up the process of getting new developments off the ground. There is also a clear need for C.S.I.R.O. expenditure to be planned over a greater period. We plan for universities over a triennium; we at least ought to plan for the Organisation over such a period. It is five years since the computer laboratory was mooted within C.S.I.R.O. Such a time lag should be cut down.
There are several other specific points which one could comment on in these C.S.I.R.O. estimates. The whole increase in works and services appropriation goes on computing equipment. Building and developmental expenditure is down £50,000 since the last appropriation and similar expenditure by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works on behalf of the C.S.I.R.O. is down £30,000 - this at a time when the Organisation’s annual report stresses the need to increase accommodation. It states -
When viewed in relation to C.S.I.R.O.’s overall requirements, the progress being made in alleviating the general critical building situation is small. To provide sufficient additional accommodation to relieve overcrowding for the existing C.S.I.R.O. staff would cost .about £3 million. Moving the National Standards Laboratory and the Chemical Research Laboratories would cost about £6 million.
In the light of the present critical position of science in Australia, these estimates give no grounds for encouragement. The Government is adopting a quite short sighted approach to expenditure on scientific research. The Australian people are justifiably proud of the work of the C.S.I.R.O. The organisation should, however, be more forthright in its annual reports in putting its point of view and pointing out to the Parliament the critical state of scienitfic research in Australia, not only in its own institution but throughout the community.
At present Australia is seriously lagging in scientific research. We are too dependent on other countries. In these estimates the Government shows how little it appreciates the need for that science strategy for which the Chairman of the C.S.I.R.O. called last January.
.- First I congratulate the new Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) on his appointment. Like other honorable members, I expect big things from him, and I am quite sure we will get them. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) in bis usual destructive manner put forward propositions to try to show the Commonwealth Government as being negative in many of its approaches to research. He does not try to add something constructive, or even to thank the Government for the attempts it has made in this field. He commenced his remarks by attacking the Federal system to which, of course, the Australian Labour Party generally is opposed. Honorable members opposite are unificationists as a whole, and he is probably the core of the unificationists in the Labour Party. He claimed that the Federal system retards progress in developing the north. It may have been a slowing down factor in the past, but recently the Premiers of Queensland and Western Australia met with the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to discuss problems associated with the north. To my mind there is more chance of getting further development through co-operation in this way than by setting up some statutory authority which is completely unanswerable to anybody - unanswerable to the Parliament or to the people of Australia. However, this is what the Labour Party wants.
I intend to devote my time this evening to discussing the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Department of National Development. I first went into the north two years ago with the Government Members Food and Agriculture Committee. On that occasion we had with us the Western Australian Minister for North West Development and representatives of the C.S.I.R.O. and other organisations. I was very impressed with what I saw. We visited the Organisation’s station in the Kimberleys and saw experimental plots of cotton, safflower, castor oil and mustard. We were informed that there seemed to be no agricultural problems at all with these crops - that cotton and safflower will be the main crops and castor oil and mustard quick cash crops. In fact, I have some good photographs of these crops in their experimental plots. No crop diseases were known in the area. There was no sign of the cotton boll weevil or of Prodenia litura which affect cotton so badly. The expected production of cotton was to be about 3,000 lb. seed cotton. There were no harvesting problems. The long dry season allows one harvester to harvest, more or less at leisure, more than one farm.
At that time it seemed to me that everything in the garden was rosy. I came back an advocate for the Ord River scheme- and I still am. But I revisited the Ord River only a few weeks ago when I was in Darwin with the Public Accounts Committee and I was very disappointed to learn of some of the failures that have occurred there. Being a farmer myself I am well aware that agricultural troubles can arise when least expected. I was sorry to learn that safflower, although an excellent crop on the research station, was attacked by Prodenia litura when put out on the pilot farm and failed to pod. The same thing happened with the castor oil plant and with mustard. These crops can no longer be grown in the area. Trouble was also experienced with cotton, which was attacked by the cotton boll weevil and also by Prodenia litura
As with all crops grown in a new area for the first time, such things are to be expected, and I have no doubt that the research and extension work being carried on will eventually overcome the problems. I went back to the C.S.I.R.O. station on this occasion and I noticed that sugar cane is now being grown there. I do not know anything about the economics of sugar cane growing, but it seems to me that £30 million or £40 million is a lot of money to spend on the Ord River scheme to try to grow sugar there when in Queensland there are probably thousands of acres available for growing sugar if a greater quantity is required. It also amazed me to find that maize was being grown at the research station. I said to the manager, or whoever the officer was who met the party: “What are you growing maize for when the export price is only about 9s. a bushel? I do not think it could be economic.” He said: “ We are not growing it for export but for horse feed “. I said: “ I do not know that there will be many horses here, for a start, and, what is more, horses founder if you feed them maize”. This is the kind of thing that is bad for schemes of this nature, and I would suggest to the C.S.I.R.O. that it is not a good thing for its officers, when showing people around the research stations, to make statements of this kind and to talk on subjects about which they have not sufficient information. However, as I have said, I have faith in the potential of the area. It is quite apparent that with the sprays that are available for use, even though it costs £13 an acre to use them, the problems can be overcome. A ginnery has been established in the Ord River district and I believe that cotton will be the basis of the development of the district, so that we will be able to do without the more exotic crops in any case.
When the seed is removed from the cotton staple, what is left makes good feed for cattle, and I would like to see the development of more balanced farming methods. I would like to see farmers growing cotton and also having some land in the Kimberleys to fatten a number of cattle. This would make for a better production balance and would help the farmers out when they experienced a bad season either for the crops or for the cattle. I think that the C.S.I.R.O. could expand its research work in this area. Having regard to the failure of the mustard crop and the castor oil plants, and particularly the safflower crop, and having in mind the result of research work on cotton at the research station and the later experience with growing in the field, I believe there should be a closer link between research work at the station and extension work in the field. It is disappointing to find that although cotton was yielding 3,000 lb. of seed on the research station, in the first year in which it was grown in the field the yield was reduced to 1,000 lb. It is obvious that the work fell down somewhere along the line. The Commonwealth Government has a heavy financial interest in these developments and the system should be looked at more closely, so that when the research station work gives’ way to more practical growing on pilot farms there will he a greater possibility of accurately forecasting the result.
In Australia we spend about £11 million annually on research. I have been at some pains to discover what kind of liaison exists between the various organisations that spend money on research. As far as I can discover, the C.S.I.R.O. spends about £4 million on agricultural research; the Commonwealth industry research schemes, which handle contributions by farmers in the wheat, wool, dairying and other specialised fields of agriculture, account for about £4.5 million; the State Governments spend about £4 million. What liaison is there between these various organisations? I have had great difficulty in discovering any liaison organisation apart from the Agricultural Research Liaison Unit of the C.S.I.R.O. It does good work in its own way, putting out pamphlet after pamphlet on the work that it does, but this does not satisfy me that a State department, for example, is not doing exactly the same work in a particular field as the Organisation is doing, and that there is not some rivalry between organisations in the various fields. Competition in these kinds of activities can be very expensive for the Commonwealth. We spend a lot of money on research, and I think there should be much closer liaison between the organisations than there is at present. The publication of literature in itself is not enough. The Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) could help in this direction. He might establish within his own Department some sort of liaison committee to help in co-ordinating the work of the State Departments of Agriculture, which do a very good job in their own way, the universities, which also spend a lot of money on research, and the C.S.I.R.O. I am quite sure we would get much further much more quickly if we could cut out the duplication of effort.
Let me give you an example of the kind of duplication that I suspect exists. I visited the Northern Territory Research Station just outside Darwin, where the Director of Animal Industry, Mr. Goff Letts, a very able and conscientious fellow, had some bantang cattle. He had obtained these from the archipelago north of Darwin. He had brought them to the research station as calves in a Land Rover and there they had grown up. He was in the process of joining them with different breeds of cattle, trying to develop a suitable type for the north. I also saw the Belmont cattle station in Queensland a couple of years ago, which is run by the C.S.I.R.O. There is probably not a better equipped or better organised station in Australia. But I sometimes wonder whether the work being done with the cattle at the Darwin research station is perhaps being duplicated at Belmont. I wonder whether the results obtained at Belmont are readily available to the Director of Animal Industry in the Northern Territory and whether the results of the work of Mr. Goff Letts are available to the C.S.I.R.O. at Belmont. Again I say that close liaison between these organisations could make a big difference.
In the two or three minutes left to me I want to turn to the problem of centralisation. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) mentioned it this afternoon. In this large Australian continent, with 12,000 miles of coastline, we are developing in such a way as to have a few complex cities and a vast area very sparsely populated. I know that as the Constitution stands this is a matter that comes mainly under the jurisdiction of the States. Commonwealth activities in this direction are limited. But I do suggest that the Minister for National Development might consider the possibility of establishing a division of decentralisation in his Department, and ascertain what kind of co-ordination can be achieved with the various States so that we may possibly overcome some of the problems associated with the kind of growth that is going on in Australia. It is incredible to think that in another 10 years, if we continue to develop in the way we are developing now, more than half of the population will be concentrated in two major cities. I shall be obliged to the Minister if he will take note of the points that I have brought forward.
.- I wish to speak to the estimates for the Department of National Development. First I direct attention to the very unsatisfactory position caused by the attitude of the Government towards the allocation of finance for the continuation of the Ord River project, which the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) has been booming up. Apparently nobody is prepared to say whether finance is to be made available for the construction of the main dam on the Ord River. Finance is the major requirement of the project. Answers given recently to questions both in this House and in another place have left me in considerable doubt whether the Government will make available more than the amount for which it is already committed.
The construction of the main dam must be completed as soon as it is physically possible to do so. There should be no hedging at this stage on whether the money is to be provided. Sufficient funds must be made available to allow the job to be com menced almost immediately and to be completed without interruption. I understand that it is well over six months since the Federal Government received a request from the Western Australian Government for finance for the dam. Yet at this late stage we do not know whether the request is to be granted. On 13 th August I asked the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) whether finance was to be made available for construction of the dam. He replied -
The matter referred to by the honorable member is, as he knows, a very large matter in which very large expenditures are proposed. All I need say is that the matter is still under examination by my Government and that is why no decision has so far been announced.
To me that answer is completely unsatisfactory and avoids the issue. It suggests that the Government only recently has become aware of the magnitude of the project. Everyone, including the Prime Minister, knew that it was to be a big job, long before the diversion dam was built. It was known that the construction of the main dam would cost several million pounds and would take a long time to complete. Surely the Government has kept abreast of developments since then.
The Ord River project is not a scheme that has been thought of only in the last four or five years. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) referred to the first move in 1959. I point out that the scheme originated at least as long ago as 1941, when Sir Russell Dumas submitted a favorable report on the feasibility of building a dam on the Ord River. Examinations continued until 1949, when the first request was made to the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance to build a dam. In 1956 and early in 1959 further approaches were made. Late in 1959 approval was given for the first stage. I should like to inform the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) that a Labour Government did the ground work on this project. Had it not been for a Labour Government the scheme would have remained a dream.
At least 23 years ago the project was first mooted. From that time until th3 defeat of the Labour Government in 1959, Western Australia Governments continued to press the Commonwealth for assistance. Surely those proposals receive*, proper consideration. Or did the Commonwealth Government reject them without examination? If the Commonwealth Government was really interested, it would have made certain since then that at least it would be kept properly informed, particularly when it was known that a request for finance for construction of the main dam would be forthcoming in the near future. I find it very hard to appreciate that the Federal Government, many months after the request was made, should be giving it consideration. But only yesterday the Prime Minister told the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) that the matter was
Still receiving consideration and that no decision had been made. If it does require examination now, it simply highlights the slapdash methods which have been applied to northern development and the Government’s refusal properly to approach the project.
The Government’s failure to give an assurance that financial assistance will be given is disturbing the minds of many people, particularly those people who have invested all they have in land or some other venture in the area. The answer given by Senator Paltridge on behalf of the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) must have further disturbed these people. 1 know that it worried me. On 2nd September, Senator Paltridge said -
Taking the last part of the question first, I am sure the honorable senator is well aware that the diversion dam on the Ord River, financially supported by this Government, is already completed and that plans for the construction of a main dam would, if carried to fruition, make water available not only for the Kimberley area of Western Australia but also for an important seclion of the Northern Territory.
The Minister’s reply makes it pretty clear that in his mind there is some doubt whether the main dam will ever receive the blessing of this Government. Otherwise, why did he use the words “If carried to fruition “. If he was sure that the money would be made available, surely he would have said “ when completed “, or “ after completion”, or words to that effect. As the Minister has doubts, it is not surprising that many other people are becoming disturbed and are asking whether the Prime Minister and his colleagues have joined the ranks of the knockers. I refer to those people who claim that it is not an economic proposition. I hope that the Minister for National Development, who is now at the table, will make the position quite clear during this debate.
At the Ord River an enormous area of land - about 175,000 acres - is suitable for irrigation. The diversion dam will serve about 29,000 acres, but until the main dam is constructed and brought into operation the balance of 146,000 acres - or about 85 per cent of the total area available - cannot be placed under irrigation and cultivated. I suggest that shows how important it is that the job should be pushed ahead as rapidly as possible. The Government must have known what would be the approximate cost of the second stage of the project before k agreed to finance part of the first stage. It has certainly had ample time since then to consider all its ramifications. It is difficult to believe that the Government has left it until now to examine the economics of the project. I would like to know why the Government is sidestepping the issue. What is the need for the delay? This stalling must cease and the public must be told exactly what the Government intends to do. The position must be made perfectly clear. If the Minister for National Development is not in a position at present to give a definite answer, I ask him to give the Prime Minister and the Cabinet a shake-up to impress upon them the urgency of the matter and the need to make an early and favorable decision.
I turn now to other matters of northern and national development, as I believe it is an appropriate time to place a few proposals before the Minister. The far north is not the only area which requires examination and early attention. In Western Australia the area north of Geraldton can be made the source of considerable wealth and security, when it is properly developed. With this aim in view, I suggest to the Minister that to cover fully the development of the north of Western Australia the programme should commence as far south as Geraldton with the deepening of the harbour so that ships may enter and load to full capacity. At present, because of the shallowness of the harbour, many large ships either do not call there or, if they call, load well below their capacity. The result is not only a loss of shipping but higher freight charges on the cargoes that are lifted. For want of a better name Geraldton could be described in relation to shipping as the gateway to the north, lt is the port from which could be shipped the iron ore, manganese, lead and other minerals which will play a very important part in northern development. The mineral ore to be found within hundreds of miles of Geraldton could be shipped from that port, either overseas or interstate, because of its position and facilities. If the ships arc unable to load to full capacity, it will mean that the ore deposits will become less attractive because of added shipping costs. We will lose not only revenue but also substantial development. Unfortunately, the hardness of the rock bottom and the considerable sea swell at Geraldton makes the deepening of the harbour and its approaches very difficult. Such work would cost quite a lot of money. There is no doubt that the work can be done. Therefore, it should be done.
The Liberal Government of Western Australia wanted to throw in the towel on this project when it received the first opinion which expressed some doubt about whether it was possible to do the job. It was only the very strong advocacy of the Labour member for Geraldton, Mr. Sewell, and the outcry from the people of Geraldton, which forced the State Government to have another look at this proposition. Now that Government has called tenders, apparently without any knowledge of how the job should be done or what it is likely to cost.
I suggest to the Minister for National Development that this is a matter, of national importance and therefore this Commonwealth Government should . step in and make a proper examination of the possibilities and requirements. This matter is far too important to be left for decision by the Liberal State Government which apparently is not very concerned about it. It means so much in terms of national development that if the job is physically possible this Government should ensure that it is also made financially possible. Therefore, I respectfully suggest to the Minister that one of his first moves in regard to northern development in Western Australia should be to examine the value of deepening the harbour and approaches at Geraldton.
The next proposition that I want to place before the Minister relates to Carnarvon, which is 600 miles north of Perth and therefore surely can be considered as being in the north of Western Australia. Carnarvon is on the coast. That is very important from the shipping angle, lt also has a bitumen road to Perth. That is another important factor. It has been well and truly proved over the years that the land along the Gascoyne River, which empties into the sea’ at Carnarvon, is very suitable - in fact, excellent- for growing tropical fruits, vegetables and the like. It is reliably reported that from 900 acres of land fruit and vegetables to the value of over £1 million are produced annually. That is an average of more than £1,100 an acre. That is a pretty considerable amount. One realises the great importance df this district when one remembers that it is so far north of the metropolitan area.
Unfortunately, Carnarvon has a very serious problem in relation to possible expansion and increased production. The growers have to rely on irrigation, which can be carried out only very close to the Gascoyne River from which the water has to be pumped. Except when the river runs, which is only after very heavy rains in a particular inland area, the bed is dry. The water has to be pumped from basins beneath the surface, which do not have what could be termed an unlimited supply. Therefore, the extent to which the land can be placed under irrigation is. severely limited. There is no fear in relation to markets. Carnarvon would certainly expand very considerably if there was a sufficient water supply. That can be provided simply by building a dam upstream on the Gascoyne. This is a proposition which the people of Carnarvon have been advocating for many years.
It is very’ discouraging for them to read comments from the Premier of Western Australia such as those contained in the following report, which was published on 18th June of this year -
Premier, Mr. D. Brand, M.L.A., on June 8 said that the prospects of building a large dam upstream from Carnarvon in the immediate future were not bright . . .
He said he did not think there was any real answer to Carnarvon’s water supply problem except over many years. A dam at a suitable site upstream would provide the answer, but it would cost many millions of pounds.
I would not like to guess what an assured and sufficient water supply would mean to Carnarvon in terms of increased cultivation, production, income and population.
The increases certainly would be very considerable. But the article from which I have quoted makes it quite clear that if it is left to the Liberal Government of Western Australia to carry out this development and make the decisions, it is not likely to happen for many years.
Therefore, because the expansion of Carnarvon is so very important in any plans for the development of the north, I suggest that the Commonwealth should step in and do what is necessary. The Western Australian Minister for the North West said that a dam would cost about £4 million. If that is so, it is not a large amount when weighed against what would resu.lt from the expenditure of that amount. So, I hope that the Minister for National Development, who is at the table, will take some heed of the remarks that I have made in relation to national development in the northern part of Western Australia and will have them examined as early as he possibly can.
– First of all, I join with other honorable members in congratulating the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) on his appointment. As the appointment affects the electorate of Angas, the people are very happy with it. We are looking forward to seeing him in the region of the Chowilla Dam one of these days not far into the future. I cannot very well comment on the arguments advanced in this debate on national development. I would be rather brash if I were to do so, as I have not seen many of the places that have been mentioned or had the opportunity to see them up to this stage. However, I express my confidence in the Minister and the Government. I am confident that they will not be slap-dash in regard to developmental projects. I am quite confident that, with sensible planning, they will develop the country in a practical fashion.
My purpose in speaking in this debate tonight is to comment on the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. First, 1 should like to go on record as saying that I believe very firmly in the importance of the fundamental research that is carried out by the Organisation. Australia owes a great deal to it for the work that it has carried out up to now. That work obviously has been of vast importance lo many industries, not all of which are in the agricultural sphere. The work must not remain stagnant, but must be stepped up considerably over the years.
I am not very well qualified to speak about field research or the extension of ideas from the Organisation through to the farming or industrial community. But I wish to comment briefly on three matters on which 1 believe work should bc done in the next few years. The first one is fruit fly. I appreciate that this problem affects several States other than South Australia; but perhaps it does not affect those other States in quite the same way as it affects South Australia. In our State we have not had outbreaks in any fruit growing areas. We have had outbreaks in the metropolitan area of both the Queensland fruit fly which comes through with travellers from the eastern States, and the Mediterranean fruit fly which comes with travellers from Western Australia. It is worthy of note that the South Australia Government has worked very valiantly to prevent the introduction of fruit fly into the fruit growing areas. Since 1947 it has cost a great deal of money in South Australia to make quite certain - in spite of all the experts who said that we would get it sooner of later - that our fruit’ growing areas, which are very important to the State, would remain unaffected by either of these two flies.
I should like the C.S.I.R.O. to double its endeavours to find some method of eradicating this’ dreadful scourge of the horticultural industry. I believe that over the next few years it will be possible to make a breakthrough in this matter. Many experiments have been conducted already. Radiation treatment has been used to produce sterile males which compete with fertile males and have the effect of making female fruit flies lay unfertile eggs. That is one method. There is also the male lure, which is a form of trap and which is partially effective at present. I hope that over the years we will perfect a method which will remove this scourge from the industry. I imagine that I speak for people in several States other than South Australia when I express my hope that a method will be perfected.
I wish to touch very briefly on the problem of crop forecasting. Many methods of crop forecasting have been adopted by different organisations, and forecasting is becoming far more important because of moves towards orderly marketing on the one hand and towards stabilisation schemes on the other, with the resultant orderly flow of goods on to the market. In South Australia during the last twelve months the forecasting of crops has, unfortunately, been somewhat erratic, which has made it very difficult - in fact impossible - to assess the crop and determine the flow . of the products on to the market in anything approaching an orderly fashion. I believe that work is being done in Mildura by an establishment of the C.S.I.R.O. in terms of crop forecasting on types of vines. I believe that the main successes have been with sultanas, where bud counts are the basis on which such crop forecasting is carried out. I hope that the technique of crop forecasting, particularly in horticultural crops where the forecasting is at present somewhat erratic, will be improved over the years by the C.S.I.R.O. 1 should like to refer briefly to one other matter. While overseas seven years ago the main talking point in terms of agriculture was the fact that mutations would soon be forced and that they would have the effect of introducing into agricultural and horticultural areas completely new species of vegetables and fruit trees and that such new varieties would give more economic crops, better crops and . heavier crops. I raise this matter merely because I have heard nothing over the last seven years to indicate that this type of mutation ‘has been successful. The type of mutation to which I refer is one forced artificially. It is achieved by. a bombardment of gamma rays to force mutation, such as the mutation which produced the navel orange, which happened by. means of a natural mutation. I hope that eventually the agricultural industry in Australia will benefit from crops of completely new vegetables, fruits, and even shrubs and flowers. Although I believe that this is possible, I have not heard of any results. I wonder whether this is not one area which the C.S.I.R.O. could profitably conduct research with advantage to the agricultural community in general.
I .believe I absorbed quite a deal of what the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), said about the application of science in future years, not only to agricul tural industries. He asked for an increase in the appropriation of funds for the C.S.I.R.O. for industrial use. Although 1 am not a member of the Country Party, to which he referred, I do represent what is primarily a country area. I trust that this does not mean that I am at all narrow in my outlook. Nevertheless, in my view what the honorable member said was quite true. I hasten to point out, as rapidly as did the honorable member for Werriwa, that there should be no decrease in the appropriation for agricultural research. I believe, getting away from the realm of agriculture, that a great deal of work must be done in Australia in many ways to streamline industry. I believe that a great capital input is necessary in many industries to put them on an efficient fooling.
Finally, may I reiterate the point that I made at the beginning of my remarks when I said that the C.S.I.R.O. fulfils a vital function. One of the most important functions it fulfils is in the field of fundamental research. I believe that within nine months the Government must assess the method of distributing or diffusing information of a fundamental nature through various channels, through the farmers in the case of primary industry and through industry itself in the case of secondary industries. I know that this Government is sufficiently enlightened and experienced in these fields to achieve the desired effect in this respect. It was purely to raise those matters that I spoke. I support this division of the Estimates.
!- At the outset I wish to indicate my strong and earnest support for the remarks made by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles) and by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’ (Mr. Whitlam) in respect of scientific research in Australia. As one who had the opportunity just recently for the second time to look through the Northern Territory and other parts of the north of Australia, I have developed an even greater appreciation of the tremendous work that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisaton docs for Australia. I want to leave that subject aside for a moment and refer to some other matters.
I want, to say straight away that I heartily support what, was said by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) about the Ord River project. He suggested that the Government should not be lax in any way in carrying through the whole of the Ord River scheme by building the main dam that has been projected. Apart from the fact that this dam will make a great contribution to our wealth, particularly through rice growing, cotton growing and sugar cane growing, the scheme will obviously be a success. The main part of the scheme is an urgent necessity. It has been pointed out that the new scheme, when completed, will provide a dam that will hold about 31 million acre feet of water - more than seven times the volume of Sydney harbour.
When one secs during the wet season this great stretch of water, the Ord River, belching billions of gallons of water out into the sca wastefully - water that could bc used to develop the agricultural content of this area - one is impressed by any proposals that would harness this water which is so sorely needed. But apart from that, the main dam needs to be constructed to protect the efficiency of the present dam. The scientists tell us that the second dam is needed as it will help to reduce the floods that carry downstream millions of tons of silt. If this silt is not checked by the building of the main dam, ultimately, in not too great a length of time, silt will choke up the diversion dam that now exists. The building of the second dam is not a matter that we can delay. It would be false economy to withhold action on the construction of the main dam.
Other benefits will flow from the construction of the main dam. Apart from increasing the area of irrigated land from 30,000 acres to 200,000 acres on which can be grown the crops that I have mentioned, the main dam will incorporate a hydro-electric power station which will be used to provide electricity for Kununurra and Wyndham, and I presume for the populations in that area. It has been estimated that when the greater Ord River project has been completed .it will support a population of possibly 20,000 people who will be directly or indirectly associated with agriculture in that area. Whatever the pros and cons of the economics of this project, I believe anybody who goes into the north of Australia must get one thing quite clear: The people in that area, on the frontier of our nation, are feeling very isolated. They point out that it is only half the distance from Darwin to Djakarta - in fact, I believe that is only a quarter - that it is from Darwin to Sydney or Canberra. They feel that they are much closer to other countries than they are to their own national capital.
There arc other considerations apart from those relating to economics. There is the moral right to be considered; whether we have the moral right to retain this great expanse. There are other people to the near north in their millions upon millions, multiplying each year by more than our total population. So there is the moral right to be considered apart from the threat of any military conquest in this northern area of Australia. Therefore, I think we have to accept the burden - we, the people of the southern part of this continent. It is up to us to develop the north; it will be our money and we will have to carry on this work for some considerable time
I want to leave the Ord River scheme for a moment although I am particularly impressed by it. I am also particularly impressed by the research work of the C.S.I.R.O. and the Northern Territory Administration research organisation. I think those two organisations have done a pretty good job. There have been some mistakes made, but I think they have done a very good job in regard to the pilot farms set up in northern Australia. On the Ord farms not only the best cotton crops are being produced but the largest crops. I am also told that they are producing the best quality cotton grown in Australia and that it is comparable with any grown in any part of the world. What great prospects will open for Australia if we can satisfy our own cotton requirements in the future.
Rice, of course, will be an important commodity produced in that area which we will be able to sell to our near-northern neighbours as well as satisfying domestic requirements. I believe a fair proportion of the rice crop goes to Papua and New Guinea and a fair bit goes further north than that. The overall impression I gained when looking over this great expanse in the north, north east and north west of Australia was that there is a fair deal of development going on. I think that this work should be acknowledged.’ We, as Australians, ought to be proud of what is being done in that area. I saw the jetties already built or being built at Wyndham, Derby and Broome. I saw meat works being built, and a new one being opened at Broome. I had already inspected a sizeable abattoirs at Derby and another at Wyndham and I saw a new one built by private enterprise - the Hooker group - at Katherine. These developments are most impressive and are a boost to the cattle industry, which is an important part of the economy of Australia and not only that of the north.
One has to be impressed too, by the amount of activity in regard to minerals in this area. The mining industry in the northern areas has big prospects and will play a big part in Australia’s ultimate wealth and development. There are, of course, problems facing the mining industry and one aspect has already been alluded to by a previous speaker. Too much attention is paid to gouging out the raw mineral, the raw ore, and exporting it for processing by other countries. It is good to know that at least a sizeable amount of the bauxite from Weipa will be shipped to Gladstone, where a big refinery will be built.
But there are some things about the north of Australia, and there are some things taken for granted in this Parliament, about which I am not at all happy. Once the Government has allocated money for these projects in north Australia they are out of sight and out of mind. My main objection is that there is still far too much piecemeal development. There is a lack of co-ordination That in itself is not only wrong, but wrong economically.
I think what is obviously needed is the establishment of some sort of statutory corporation in the Northern Territory or somewhere in the north. There has to be some organisation up there in close and intimate touch with the development taking place. This is what the people of the north feel. They consider they are far too distant from the people who make the main decisions in respect of their interests and development. Honorable members know what country people say about city dwellers and what city dwellers say about the bush whackers. There is a lack of communication, between the two groups. This lack of communication is emphasised many times over in respect of the relationship of the people of the north with those who are located in Canberra and in the southern part of the continent. There is a need for a corporation somewhere in the north equipped with all the services of research planning, coordinated planning and co-ordinated development on the spot. That is the major impression I got during my visit to that area.
I will have to refer fairly quickly to one other important matter - beef roads. In theory they are a very good thing. In practice they are partially good. In some parts of the north expenditure on construction of beef roads is money down the drain. Other honorable members have spoken of their photographic endeavours and I also have some photos that I took while in this area. I, invite Ministers - in fact, all members of the Government and its supporters if they like - to .have a look at some of the photographs I and some of my colleagues took.
– What sort of a photographer are you?
– You be the judge. You will see what kind of a road builder the Government is. You will see photographs of some of the newly developed beef roads in the Northern Territory and, as a result of the recent cyclones and wear and tear, you will see holes in them in which,’ without exaggeration, you could drop a small car. The holes are as big as that. I have photos to show this and so have other people. The Australian Broadcasting Commission in Sydney has some; The roads are crumbling up. My own firm impression - and the one which I would like to. stress to the Government more than anything else - is that to build other than sealed roads in the north is absolutely a colossal waste of the people’s money. The beef roads have been churned .up. As a matter of fact the Government might be more convinced if I. quote to it the words of Mr. Richard Condon, the General Manager of Northern Meat Exporters. Pty. Ltd.- not another Government corporation. This is what he said -
Over 90 per cent, of our cattle are hauled by road train,’ over impossible roads, from distances approaching 500- miles in instances. Our major problem is the lack of sealed roads, and although we appreciate’ the recent decision on the beef road From Katherine to Top Springs, we point out that immediate work should begin on this road, to have it completed prior to April, 1965.
I do not think it is even in the Estimates yet.
Already this year we have lost four days’ kill through transport conditions on these roads. This costs £800 per day. The turn round from V.R.D.-
That is Victoria River Downs - is taking up to 46 hours, with tracks being continually smashed up, and in one week one operator had 17 tyres at £70 each either blown out or tipped to pieces. Similar conditions exist on all other roads, except the main North South Highway.
That road has been kept in repair. I spoke to people who are operating these road trains and what they have to say about what has happened to these beef roads is nobody’s business. It is not good enough for the Government to send research workers to decide where roads should bc and what sort of construction method should be adopted. What is needed is a follow-up to the construction of the beef roads. This development is not finished once we have allocated the money.
Before we spend any more on beef roads in the Northern Territory we need a full scale inquiry. Do not take my word for that - I do not want you to. But before, the Government spends many more, thousands of pounds, or more millions of pounds, I think that in the interests of the Australian taxpayer there should be a full-fledged inquiry as to what is happening about the beef roads in north Australia. Money being spent on them is largely money down the drain. We are all up in. arms about the King’s Bridge in Melbourne or the Opera House in Sydney if something happens to those projects. There is a first class colossal scandal going on in north Australia but it is out of sight, out of mind. The Press does not see it and so it is not reported. It is no good coming into this chamber and saying how many millions are being spent on those roads. What we want to know is how good the roads are and what purpose they are serving. I notice that the allocation for repairs and maintenance of roads in the Northern Territory a’one is 50 per cent, more than what it was last year. As a matter of fact, I am told that at times most of these beef cattle roads ure no more than quagmires and at other times they are shrouded in bulldust fogs. I am told that at times controls have to be put on to stop the beef cattle trains for half an hour or an hour so that traffic which is perhaps miles behind them will have a chance to find its way through the fog of fine dust rising from the roads. I earnestly ask the Government to make a thorough investigation of the area before spending any more money. If it does it will realise that the construction of anything but sealed roads in the north of Australia is a colossal waste of the Australian taxpayer’s money.
– First I thank all those honorable members on both sides of the Committee who have congratulated me on my new position. I only hope that in a year or two they will be saying the same nice things about me that they have said today. I shall speak for only a short time tonight, as the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. McMahon) is sitting very close and is watching me. We know that there is only a limited amount of time for discussing the Estimates and I recall that when I was a private member I did not like Ministers usurping time which I thought should be available to private members.
I shall take this opportunity to reply to. a few of the points that have been raised. Unfortunately, as honorable members will realise, it would be impossible for me to reply to all the speeches and to all the matters that have been mentioned. I shall select as many as I can at random. I know that my colleague the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), who represents the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research (Senator Gorton) will pass on to his colleague in another place all representations relating to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
Let me first say a quick word to the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) about his final remarks relating to beef roads. As I said to him once before in answer to a question the actual construction of beef roads is carried out by the constructing authority in the particular State or Territory concerned. For instance, in Queensland, it is carried out by the
Department of Main Roads. In Western Australia, it is done by the Main Roads Department. In the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth Department of Works carries out road construction. The Northern Division of the Department of -National Development is responsible for assessing where the roads should go. It is necessary to examine figures relating to cattle population in order to decide the order of priority in which areas should be served. This is necessary to ensure that these beef roads are built to the best advantage.
I must say that when I was in the north recently I heard none of the complaints about the quality of the roads about which the honorable member for Barton spoke. In fact, 1 found when travelling over one of them, that the people spoke very highly of its quality although, undoubtedly, they would sooner have a tarred road. Who would not? It is a question whether we should spend £16 million on 2,000 miles of earth road or on less than half that length of tarred roads. I do not doubt that eventually all the beef roads of Australia will be tarred. It is for the constructing authorities to decide how the money can be best used.
I know that there have been problems with cyclones, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Barton. Recently, cyclone “ Dora “, which I believe was one of the worst cyclones recorded for a long time and in which the winds reached a velocity of 140 miles an hour, swept over the north-west coast of Western Australia bringing torrential rains and damaging some of the newly built roads which had not consolidated. But I suggest that to say that this is the general state of roads over the whole area is exaggerating the position. Nevertheless, I shall speak to my colleague, the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) and get a reply about this matter for the honorable member.
He also mentioned, as did the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) and one or two other honorable members, the request made by the Western Australian Government for funds to complete the Ord River scheme. It is true, that six months ago the Western Australian Government asked the Commonwealth Government for £30 million to complete the main dam and other major works of the Ord River scheme. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie asks what we are doing about it. He asks why we did not give the money to the Western Australian Government straight away. Heavens, I do not think that just because somebody asks for £30 million we should say, “Yes” immediately. There are some people, even in Western Australia, who believe that the scheme should never be completed. I think Professor Davidson is one.
– Do you think that?
– I certainly do not. But I have made it perfectly clear that I believe that we should wait until we have adequate information on which to make a decision. I said previously that I was waiting for two returns. One of those has come in. It relates to the results achieved by the farmers in the first year. I have already given honorable members particulars of some of those results. They were remarkably satisfactory. They showed that from quite small acreages the gross cash receipts of five farmers who had never grown cotton before ranged from £25,000 to something over £30,000 in the first year. On the average, I think the net returns ranged from about £7,000 to £11,000 for the first year, and I suggest that is remarkably good. However, as I have said, I feel that we cannot submit a proposal like this, which asks for enormous resources from the Government, until we have sufficient information.
The second return for which we are still waiting is a report from the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. which has undertaken to report on the growing of sugar cane in the Ord River area. Because this is fairly vital to the general scheme, I think it is right that we should wait for the report. I do not think we should rush into these things and make decisions before we have all the facts at our command. As soon as we get the report from the C.S.R. the Government will consider it, and whether the money is provided will depend on whether the Govern. ment thinks the scheme is satisfactory.
I promised to speak for only six minutes but I have already spoken for that time. There is one matter which I would like to mention briefly to my friend the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn). Both he and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) spoke of the desirability of processing in Australia as much of our mineral resources as we can. 1 agree entirely with that. In fact, that is part of the Commonwealth’s policy on development. In two cases recently, that relating to the special mining lease at Gove Peninsula and that relating to the granting to the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. of a manganese lease on Groote Eylandt, the Government specifically insisted upon a condition designed to ensure processing of the maximum possible amount of minerals within Australia. I think that, in all circumstances, the Government will try to carry out that policy to the utmost. There are, of course, certain cases in which this cannot be done. For instance, it could not be done with relation to iron ore. As we know, in Western Australia alone we have discovered deposits of about 15,000 million tons of iron ore. Obviously we will never be able to process the whole of that ourselves.
– Can it not be pelletised?
– Some will bc, but there will still bc a considerable amount sent overseas. It cannot all be processed locally. The same position applies with relation to bauxite. We will use large quantities of bauxite at Gladstone and we hope to use large quantities in an alumina plant at Gove Peninsula and possibly in an aluminium plant which we hope will be built at some future date if it is decided to use atomic energy there. But at Gove Peninsula alone, if bauxite were extracted at the rate of 1,000,000 tons a year there would bc enough bauxite to last for 250 years. And the deposit at Gove Peninsula is only about one-third of the size of the deposit at Weipa. Naturally there will be large quantities available for export and I think that the two activities should go hand in hand.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) tried to wish a few more jobs on to me. These were decentralisation and liaison in rural extension. I was very interested in his speech, but quite frankly I have only just discovered what I have under my control already and I think I will wait a little longer before I look for anything else to do.
I would like to mention the Northern Division. I was very pleased to hear honorable members on both sides of the Committee speak so highly of the head of the Division, Dr. Patterson. This Division is actually a day younger in the job than I am. It was set up finally on 1 1 th June and I took this portfolio on 10th June. It has been set up, first, to assess the requests of the States for assistance. Under an arrangement we have made, Queensland and Western Australia have a liaison officer. Western Australia has appointed Mr. Parker and Queensland has appointed Sir James Holt. We are working closely with these two officers. In time, a similar arrangement will be made with respect to the Northern Territory. The Department of Territories will appoint a liaison officer and the Northern Division will work closely with him. We believe that we will be able to co-ordinate policy in the north and supervise the requests for Commonwealth assistance on major matters. The Territory Administration will, of course, still remain responsible for any of the items that it can undertake out of its own budget, but for major developmental projects such as beef roads the Northern Division will be the assessing authority.
The second function of the Division will be to assess the resources of the north, lo ascertain which are not being used and to determine what can be done to ensure that they are used. Thirdly, we are responsible for the policy of the north, particularly any policy that affects the northern areas as a whole. I have in mind such matters as a policy on taxation or a policy on transport. As honorable members know, a committee is investigating transport problems at the moment. It has toured through Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory and has taken evidence in these regions. It is composed of some very able people in the transport field. We hope that it will be possible for them to make recommendations that will assist in solving what is probably one of the biggest bugbears in the north and that is the cost of transport. As I say, I do not want to speak any longer. One could say much about what is happening in the north. It is an exciting story. Unfortunately, one hears about it from both sides of the Committee and I think politics become mixed up in it. Some say nothing is happening; others laud what is happening.
– Will you ..speak about a national energy policy while you are on your feet.
– I would like to do so. As you know, I have given you some details of the proposals that are being put forward by the Department of National Development. All I can say at present is that this matter is under consideration. We realise that Australia is reaching the stage where it will have more and more forms of energy and it is essential that there should be some sort of decision as to which form of energy should be used in a certain area. We have coal, of course. We have some of the cheapest coal in the world and we are particularly fortunate to have it.
We have a problem with fuel oil. Some people claim that more fuel oil is produced out of imported crude than should be. Undoubtedly, it is correct that if the refineries were compelled to produce less fuel oil, either by a policy of financial encouragement or by some other means, they could produce much less. The average in Australia today, I think, is about 26 per cent, of fuel oil, or sometimes just a little higher, whereas it is possible to have’ probably half that amount of fuel oil produced from imported crude. Up till now,’ there has been only a very small impingement of fuel oil on coal. In fact, as the honorable member knows, this year coal has been produced in record quantities in four of the six States. Record quantities of black coal have been produced in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia and record quantities of brown coal have been produced in Victoria. Fuel oil may be making some slight inroads into coal markets in certain areas, but the markets for coal generally are expanding. In addition, we have natural gas coming forward. Undoubtedly in the next few years this will be one of the major sources of energy in Australia. Within a few years, electricity produced from atomic energy will be competitive in many areas. In fact, towards the end of this century I think we will reach the stage where almost all new energy production will be from atomic energy. This matter is being considered by the Government.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Department of Customs and Excise.
Proposed expenditure, £6,771,000.
Department of Trade and Industry.
Proposed expenditure, £5,531,000.
Department of Primary Industry.
Proposed expenditure, £17,616,000.
– The question is that the proposed expenditures be agreed to.
– I desire to raise a point of. order. 1 submit that the items you have, read for consideration by the Committee have not been listed on the official business paper circulated to honorable members today. The business paper for the House of Representatives carries this notation -
Tile following programme of proposed business is issued for the general guidance of Members, lt is not a formal document and the business lifted is subject to change.
It specifies that the business listed is subject to change. The business that has now been, called on has not been listed and I submit, therefore, that it should not be debated. I protest most strongly about the closure of thedebate on the previous estimates. This prevented six Opposition members from speaking on national development.
– Order! I suggest to the honorable member that the debate was not closed. The honorable member has said himself that the document to which he refers states that the business is subject to change.
– The business listed.
– You . will not interrupt me while I am on my feet. The point of order is not upheld.
– This business paper is absolutely meaningless and worthless.
– I also take a point of order. I think I have a right to take a point of order, though I was not allowed to speak on the estimates that have just been adopted. The estimates that you have just called on, Mr. Temporary Chairman, are not listed on the programme today. The honorable members for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), Cunningham (Mr. O’Connor), Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) and I could not speak’ although we were listed to do so. We protest vigorously at the action of the Minister in charge of the Committee, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). I hope for the benefit of this place that he will be relieved of his assignment forthwith and that this will be the last day he will be in charge of the business of this House.
-On t the point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman: 1 submit that the points taken by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) arc completely without substance. Honorable members opposite had every possible opportunity to speak when the previous group of estimates was before the Committee. There was no closure of the discussion on those estimates. The question that the proposed expenditures be agreed to was put and resolved in the affirmative. The gag was not used. It is true that the group of estimates that has now been called on was not listed on the daily business sheet - the blue sheet. But there is a notation, at the top of that sheet stating that the business listed is subject to change.
– - Order! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– These are bushranger tactics.
Th« TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN. -
Order! The honorable member for Wilmot surely is well aware that the blue daily business sheet, as circulated, is subject to change. There was no closure of the discussion on the previous group of estimates. I rule that there is no point of order.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I submit that the question before the Chair-
Is the honorable member canvassing the ruling of the Chair?
– I am. submitting another point of order. The whole matter depends simply on the meaning of words. This morning, honorable members were given notice of the business for the day by a document on which there is a notation that states quite distinctly that the business listed is subject to change.
– This is not a point of order.
– It is quite distinctly a point of order. 1 submit that the question is whether the business that is subject to change is the business listed or additional business that is not listed but is subsequently brought on. The Government is now submitting additional business, not changing the business listed on the daily business sheet. I suggest that there is a very significant difference between the two things. That is the question on which the matter depends.
– On the point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman-
I shall not hear further discussion on this point of order if the honorable member does not mind. I point out that the official business of the day is listed on the printed notice paper - the white document. 1 do not think there is any need to discuss the matter further. The question now is that the proposed expenditures for the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Primary Industry be agreed to.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I propose lo discuss the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry. At the outset, I wish to pay tribute to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), Mr. Maiden, the Secretary of the Department, and the excellent officers under him who perform the vital work of this Department.
– I wish to take a point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) rose three or four times seeking the call when the last group of estimates was before the Committee.
Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. I have called the honorable member for Corangamite.
– You started the discussion ‘
– The honorable member will resume his seat while f am on my feet. I have called the honorable member for Corangamite.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, may I suggest that some confusion has arisen because of the taking of various points of order since this group of estimates was called on. It is customary to give the call to the honorable member who first rises. In point of fact, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) rose twice at least to seek the call during the consideration of the previous group of estimates. Some confusion arose, and he, thinking that the moment was not appropriate, failed to rise and the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) rose and received the call. There is no question really about who rose first. It was the honorable member for Capricornia.
– No point of order is involved.
– No. I am just pointing out that it is customary to call the honorable member who rises first.
Order! I have called the honorable member for Corangamite. The honorable member for Capricornia may have his turn later.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I raise a point of order. I understand that under the practices of this Parliament speakers from the Opposition side and the Government side alternate. We know that it is customary for a Government speaker to conclude the discussion on a group of estimates, as happened at the conclusion of the consideration of the previous group of estimates. Therefore, I suggest that the fair thing, as well as the usual practice, would be for the Chair to call an Opposition speaker to begin the debate on the next group of estimates. Accordingly, I submit that in this instance the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) should have received the call,
– I point out to the honorable member that this is a new debate and that I have called the honorable member for Corangamite.
– In view of the disputation that has occurred, I feel a little diffident about continuing my address. I think your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman, is completely correct. I was surprised that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) should intervene at this stage and claim that the debate had been closed. He has been here long enough now to know that there is no opening and closing of a debate on the Estimates. The debate is not concluded by the Minister; it is concluded when the time allotted to the particular department expires or when the gag is applied.
We are now discussing - at least I propose to discuss them - the activities of the Department of Primary Industry. When I was rudely interrupted by honorable members opposite, I was paying a tribute to the Minister and his officers who, I believe, have not only contributed to the knowledge of honorable members in this place but have also- -
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. 1 object to the honorable member for Corangamite saying that he was rudely interrupted by honorable members opposite. He was not rudely interrupted by anyone.
Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honorable member for Corangamite will continue.
– I was trying to dispel some of the gloom that seems to exist in the minds of honorable members opposite. [Quorum formed.] I do not seem to have got to first base in this contest so far. I commence my remarks again by saying how much I appreciate the efforts of the Minister for Primary Industry and his officers, not only in assisting honorable members, which is a personal matter so far as we are concerned, but also in assisting the industries with which they are connected. After all, our primary industries are responsible for the major portion of our national income. This is a point that we should keep in mind.
Sometimes in this place we get very generous about giving out money and forget where the money is coming from. It was within the context of primary industry which produces our main exports and also I believe, our main income. Any falling off in the income will be directly reflected throughout the whole of the economy of the country.
Three major issues face people connected with primary industry at the moment. I do not propose to criticise or to discuss them, but I should like to mention them in
Committee in view of the decisions that will have to be made fairly soon. The first is the question of the marketing of our wool clip. This is a major problem in the whole Australian economy. We have had a recommendation from the marketing committee of the Australian Wool Board that a system of reserve price planning should be introduced into Our auction system. This matter is to be the subject of discussion at the Australian Wool Industry Conference - a body which nominally represents all Australian wool growers. I believe it is imperative that the growers themselves should be allowed the right to express an opinion on this vital matter which concerns them individually. 1 am very reassured by the remarks of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) about the time being taken on this matter. His statement supports my view that he believes it is imperative, and the Government has decided, that there should be in such a matter a reference to the growers in the form of a referendum. 1 believe it is essential if a referendum is to be held that all steps should, be taken to present the arguments for and against the proposal as fully as possible to the growers so that they can produce an informed vote at any referendum. I cast my mind back to 1951 when we had a referendum on this matter, and I believe that the facts were then presented fairly well. Since then the position has become far more complicated. We have had a great rise in the. impact of synthetics in the fibre content of our apparel wool in particular. I think we have to realise that this complication has arisen. In other words, the facts as known to the Wool Board should be well presented to the growers, even to my honorable colleague the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Maisey). I think it is essential, otherwise we cannot get a reasoned and balanced vote from the growers on the subject. This is, I think, a major point and I suggest to the Minister that that provision should be made and due time should be allowed so that the facts can be circulated and people be in a position to produce an informed vote on this subject which is vital not only to the growers but to the general Australian economy.
In the recommendation made by the marketing committee are two or three other proposals which require a certain amount of elaboration and substantiation so that those who are voting on them may know what is involved. The first is the question of the limitation of bale lots - the elimination of one bale lots in the selling process. The other point that I think would concern my friend the honorable member for Moore is the question of the elimination of private selling as recommended in the proposition put up by the marketing committee of the Australian Wool Board. These are two important points, and ones which have to be discussed. I have no doubt that the Minister will make due provision so that the facts will be available to the people who have an opportunity of expressing their views on the matter. [Quorum formed.] It is very unfortunate that when one is discussing one of our major primary industries the honorable member for Red China, or the representative of it should take this attitude of obstructing-
– I rise to order. I find the remark of the honorable member for Corangamite offensive and I am sure the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) does so as well.
– Order! There is no point of order involved.
– I find the statement of the honorable member for Corangamite offensive to me personally and I ask that it be withdrawn.
What was the remark of which the honorable member complains?
– The honorable member for Corangamite said I was the honorable member for Red China. That statement was offensive to me and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the remark entirely. I realise it was an exaggeration.
– It was a disgusting remark.
Order! The honorable member for Corangamite has withdrawn the remark and may continue.
– I was trying to discuss some points about the wool industry which is one of our major industries. I turn now to the meat industry. As you know, Mr. Temporary Chairman, with your vast knowledge of the meat export industry, we have been vitally concerned over the past two years with our export trade in meat and particularly with our exports of beef to the United States of America. I hope that after the United States presidential election in November any question about the application of what might be called sanctions against imports of Australian meat into the United States would be resolved. In other words, I would hope that we would reach a point where our exports of meat to the United States of America would be continued through the normal channels of trade and that we would retain at least our previous quota. Some wesks ago the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) made a statement about the application to the Australian meat trade of legislation passed by the United States Congress. From his remarks I gathered that we could expect an export quota for Australia of about 204,000 tons of meat. Would that be correct?
– That is right.
– I should think that provided we can retain our export trade to other markets, including the United Kingdom, we can expect to be in a reason? able position to sell all our export meat at a reasonable price.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- No debate on primary industry should be allowed to pass without some thought being given to one of the most unfortunate sections of primary producers in Australiathe tobacco growers. They are unfortunate for several reasons. Sometimes they are unfortunate because they cannot sell the leaf they grow. Sometimes they are unfortunate because they sell it but do not get enough money for it to carry on the industry.-
– What can you do about it?
– We are not in a position to do anything, but the Government is in a position to do something and it has done precisely nothing.
– That is not true, as the honorable member knows.
– I know the position, because I have tobacco growers in my electorate.’ I had 48 and now I have only seven, because 41 of them have gone broke. If the honorable member thinks that is doing something for the tobacco industry he and the Government should think the proposition out again. These people are unfortunate because they are not gathered together in any one place in sufficient numbers to make them politically significant. There are not enough of them to alter the vote, and so they get precisely no attention at all.
It is stated that talks arc going on with a view to stabilising the industry. This is true. But how long have they been going on? How long has the industry been in this position and how long has been the period during which something could have been done for the industry? lt is stated that the matter is in the hands 6E the States and that we have to get their co-operation before stabilisation can be brought about. But let one of these growers get caught trying to manufacture tobacco from the leaf he grows. There is no time wasted then in consultation; he is prosecuted immediately. The Government can do something about it at that stage.
The people who discuss this industry with a view to stabilising it arc, of course, themselves stabilised. State and Federal members of Parliament do not have any trouble about stabilising their industry, but these growers do. One of the settlers left in my area is a very good grower. Over the last six years he has never failed to secure a place between first and fourth’ in the Commonwealth tobacco competition. He has sold all his leaf this year. With what result? He has to get an overdraft from the bank to produce next year’s crop. This is no state to allow any section of primary industry to drift into.
It takes about 2£ lbs. of leaf to make 1,000 cigarettes. At an average of 9s. 6d. per lb., 2i lbs. cost the manufacturer £1 ls. 5d. If 20 cigarettes sell for 3s. 7d., the smoker pays £8 19s. 2d. Out of this the grower gets £1 ls. 5d., the Government £3 lis. and the manufacturer £4 6s. 9d. It would not be asking too much of the Federal Government, surely, to give the lis. to the primary section of this industry. It is not a bit of use raising the proportion of local leaf that the manufacturer is required to put into his product. It is 41 i per cent. now. You can make it 141 i per cent, if you like but all that will result in is that the industry will produce too much tobacco. We know this.
Stabilisation is absolutely essential along the lines that apply to the sugar industry in Queensland and northern New South Wales. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) is very familiar with the conditions of that industry. The sugar industry owes its prosperity primarily to its stabilisation scheme. A similar scheme must apply to the tobacco industry. It is not good enough to tell us simply that a stabilisation scheme is being considered. K is being discussed, of course. While the consultation takes place the patient dies and talks become merely a post mortem. It will not be any satisfaction to the growers who have been forced out of the industry merely to be fold why they had to leave it. They know this already. They know that they cannot get a profitable price for their product. It costs 10s. per lb. to produce tobacco and, at the present ruling prices for leaf the grower is left entirely without a net profit with which to carry on.
The auction system of selling tobacco, of course, is very little better than, a farce. Some of the Queensland growers have tested it by the very simple process of taking back to the farm a bale of tobacco that had been condemned as unfit for purchase, having it re-baled and returned to auction at a later date, when it was sold. It was quite acceptable in the second instance. This is not good for the farmer and it is not good for the reputation of tobacco sales. Tobacco is grown in my area, but at a decreasing rate, of course. If it keeps on decreasing, in about two years there will be none. The manfacturers, of course, could not care less if the primary section of the tobacco industry vanished altogether. They, can buy leaf much more cheaply abroad. The method of ensuring a content of 41-i- per cent, local leaf in tobacco is simply the giving of a concession to tobacco manufacturers. This concession, according to a former chairman of the board, amounts to about £30 million. The Government can afford to give this to the manufacturer, but nothing at all is done for the grower.
It undoubtedly is necessary for the Federal Government to consult with the State Government. It may be a further misfortune of the growers that tobacco is grown in almost every State. Undoubtedly it is very difficult to get all of the State Governments to agree, but the Federal Government has its methods. Tobacco is a commodity that can be grown everywhere. It could, perhaps, be grown in the Northern Territory. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Federal Government could control the home grown product if the States did not want to do this. If the States are not prepared to co-operate with the Commonwealth in the introduction of a system to protect the farmers, why should not the Federal Government go into its own Territory and do something about it?
We have heard tonight what can be done by the Department of National Development. Here is an opportunity, perhaps, for two departments to co-operate and do something for these people. Or is it the policy of this Government to stand by and do nothing while these farmers go out of production? I think that the Minister for Primary Industry, who is at the table, would agree that the smallness of the numbers of growers should not in any way affect the assessment of their importance to this country. There are not as many tobacco growers as there are sugar cane growers, wheat growers or wool producers, but this surely is not the standard upon which we will judge the need for assistance to these people. They are primary producers. They are producing an item for which there is a very large demand. They are entitled, just the same as any other group of producers, to earn a living in the industry in which they have chosen to work. Most decidedly, they should be encouraged. While we organise this industry and that industry to make sure that the cost of production is recovered, plus a reasonable profit for the grower, in the tobacco industry nothing at all is done. Whether or not a grower makes a living does not depend upon his efficiency. I have already stated that some of the most efficient tobacco growers in Australia are going broke. I am sure that honorable members will agree that something must be done, and that it must be’ done while, there arc people still there to help.
– What do you suggest?
– 1 suggest that we put into operation immediately some scheme of production which will enable us to ensure that the market is not over-supplied, and to bring this industry into a position where the Government can request or, if necessary, demand an increase in the locally produced content of tobacco and cigarettes. That is only, a reasonable proposition. We did not hesitate to protect the local sugar grower and we did not hesitate to protect the local banana grower. We do not allow butter to be imported. We protect the growers of those items, but when it comes to these primary producers who are too few in number to make any political protest, what do we do? We look .after those sections, of industry which, because of their numbers, are able to exert influence. J refer particularly to members of the Australian Country Party., If they are to justify their presence here and in. the .State Parliaments-
– They have already done that.
– tell that to the tobacco growers. If the Country, Party is to justify its existence here or anywhere else, it must consider every section of primary producers. Country Party members are not here simply to represent those who, because of the size of their industry, can demand that they be heard. We are all here, surely, to see that every section- of industry is considered and that obvious disabilities are rectified.
While the Commonwealth Minister for Primary Industry and the State Ministers for Agriculture debate the possibilities and probabilities of and the’ necessity for a stabilised industry, what happens? Each year there are fewer producers in the tobacco industry. What happened to the tobacco growers who went to Clare? They did not succeed in establishing themselves.
Were any steps taken to save the tobacco industry there? No. The growers were given sugar assignments. Why could they not have been given tobacco assignments? It could have been done without continued procrastination. If the Commonwealth Minister, the State Ministers and all the people concerned with the administration of the tobacco industry are men of goodwill, they will consider first the interests of the men who have invested their money in it. Some of them have invested £8,000, £10,000 and even £15,000. They stand to lose it all. Like most other growers, they hold on in the hope that eventually they can make their industry pay. They have had to wrestle not only with droughts, fires and floods, but also with disinterested officials and parliamentarians who apparently could not care less if the tobacco growers vanished off the face of the earth tomorrow. I appeal to the Minister for Primary Industry, who is now at the table, not only on behalf of the tobacco growers in my electorate but from all over the Commonwealth, to do his utmost to accelerate the introduction of some form of stabilisation in the industry While there is still an industry to stabilise.
Tobacco growers are entitled to security like anybody else. By stabilising the tobacco industry, we could help to expand primary industry. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) pointed out that all our wealth comes from primary industry, as we. all realise. Our cities, big as they are, would riot last three weeks if our farmers were not producing primary products. The least of the primary producers is entitled to just as ‘much attention in his industry as is the greatest.
– While I am not particularly satisfied with some of the statements made by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray), at least I endorse that portion of his speech in which he said that much of our present prosperity depends on the primary producers. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) should be complimented upon the way he has conducted his Department during the last 12 months. The present prosperity of Australian primary industry is due largely to’ his efforts.
The honorable member for Capricornia said that not much has been done for the tobacco industry. As I understand, the members of the tobacco industry are endeavouring to agree on a form of stabilisation. It seems to me that it is essential that the members of an industry should be the people to determine the type of scheme to which they shall subscribe. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) tonight referred to the wool marketing scheme and the necessity for a ballot to be conducted. 1 remind honorable members of the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilisation Act which we passed earlier this year. Whatever the industry, it is up to the producers to determine the type of stabilisation scheme they wish to adopt.
Our primary industries are now passing through a very fortunate period in terms of returns. Over the past 18 years we have experienced favorable rainfall conditions which have led to prosperity in spite of the fact that there have been considerable variations in our overseas markets. If it were not for the stabilisation schemes that have been introduced in industries such as the wheat industry, I am afraid that many of our primary industries would now be quite uneconomical. Because of the introdulion of those schemes it has been possible to expand considerably the production of many areas of Australia.
Earlier tonight We were talking about the development of the north. A tremendous field is as yet untapped for the development of primary production not only in the north of Australia but also in the high rainfall areas along the coastal belt of eastern Australia. In my area the application of superphosphate has wrought a tremendous change. I believe that that change will be advanced even further in the years to come. It is essential that the returns of the producer be secured for the future. One of the problems that have confronted the pastoral industry - the sheep industry and the beef cattle industry - has been the difficulty of determining from year to year the income that the producers will receive. Without adequate budgeting, it is almost impossible to run a property with any form of development programme. To my mind, developments in this direction have constituted one of the major achievements of this Government. I believe that in the future, particularly through the proposals that are being put forward by the Wool Marketing Com mittee of the Australian Wool Board, a great deal more can be achieved.
I endorse the statements of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) and- the Minister for Primary Industry that it is essential that the proposal for the alteration of the wool marketing scheme be submitted to the growers of Australia. Let the growers determine for themselves whether to accept the proposal of the Australian Wool Board. Let them determine whether private selling is to be eliminated. A few minutes ago I suggested to the honorable member for Capricornia in relation , to another industry that the growers themselves must take the initiative. The same thing applies to the wool industry.
I am concerned about the fact that some of the implications of the wool marketing proposals are not completely appreciated by many members of the rural community. The only way that I can see which this can be overcome is for a concerted advertising campaign to be launched by the members of the Australian Wool Board in an effort to publicise not only those matters that have already been publicised in the Board’s report but other matters as well. Let us see something about the economics of the proposals that have been put forward. It is difficult to work out in exact terms the effect of implementing a reserve price Scheme, because conditions might well be defferent in the future. However, a lot more statistical information could be made available to producers so that when the time comes for them to vote on this marketing proposal they will be able to do so in an informed manner and not just vote one way or another because their neighbours say it is the right thing to do.
There are a couple of other aspects of primary industry that are very important and which I should like to mention briefly. One of them is the present position of our meat industry. In the chamber tonight some mention has been made of the future and the possibility of expansion of meat markets. I believe that a great deal can and will be achieved through the reorganised Australian Meat Board. Under the present Chairman of the Board, Mr. Shute, a tremendous amount has been achieved in the past. I do not doubt that now that the Board’s powers have been extended a great deal more will be achieved. However, it i» unfortunate that in recent months there has been some variation of the terms of the meat agreement which was made with the United States. That agreement seemed to me to be a great breakthrough. It appeared that at long last the beef producers would be assured of a profitable market into the future.
At this stage it appears that Australia’s meat exports are not likely to be affected. Whilst that may be so, I am afraid that there certainly has been a reduction in the guaranteed quantity, as originally envisaged. It seems that, provided our European market remains sound, the Australian industry will not be affected; but should there be any reduction of the present price on the market in Europe, and particularly in the United Kingdom, Australia might well seek to export greater quantities to the United States and we might then run foul of these restrictive provisions of the meat agreement with that country. I trust that with the tremendous potential that lies in South East Asia and Japan we may be able to offset some of the effects which might otherwise occur iri the operation of our export meat trade.
I shall mention another aspect of primary industry in the short time that is available to me. Our great primary products are not only the ones that are produced on the land; they also include the things that come out of the land. In particular I mention the mining industry. In considering the estimates for the Department of National Development, honorable members mentioned the tremendous potential for mining that exists in the north. When we establish ari industry such as the one that has been established at Mount Isa everyone lauds what has been achieved when they see it; but when we open up the newspapers and see that industrial unrest is disrupting the present productivity of Mount Isa, as in the last few weeks, it horrifies me. It makes me wonder whether the people who are involved - not necessarily all the workers, but certainlythe union representatives - are responsible people. When I see, according to the newspapers, that the Mount Isa mine might bc shut down for weeks on end and today that it is operating at only 75 to 80 per cent, of its full productive capacity, I wonder whether members of the Opposition and the people who support them are sincere in their desire to increase productivity in the north. This appalls me. I believe that in industrial unrest and compulsory unionism we have two of the major problems that are likely to disturb future production in Australia. I am afraid that they are two of the major hurdles that we, as Australians, will have to face up to in the years ahead.
Another matter to which I wish to refer briefly is the potential for the development of productivity if only Australia had sufficient water. A tremendous amount has been said on this matter in the. past. Honorable members will be only too well aware of Dr. Bradfield’s schemes and of the tremendous support that has been expressed for those schemes. It was of interest to see in a rural publication in New South Wales - the “ Land “ newspaper of 27th August last - that a symposium on water resources was held in Canberra recently. At that symposium some of the potentialities of Australian primary industry were discussed. It was mentioned that Australia has had a fortunate rainfall pattern over the last 18 years and that the Australian average rainfall is only 16 inches a year. That means that something must be done on a great percentage of the Australian land mass to try to utilise the available - land to. the best possible advantage. Indeed, as Professor C. H. Munro has said, there has been a tendency in the past few years to glamorise nuclear physics, space travel, radio astronomy and the like to the detriment of the equally rewarding and, to Australia, the most important fields of conservation and the utilisation of natural resources, particularly water resources. This is a field in which a great deal of responsibility must be shared, not only by individual State Governments but also by the Commonwealth Government.
I was sorry that I did not have an opportunity to mention to the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) the border river dam scheme in New South Wales because there is a tremendous area in the immediate vicinity of the QueenslandNew South Wales border which can be developed. In that area there is between 80,000 and 100,000 acres of land which could easily be irrigated. The Commonwealth Government, I understand, has been approached on the basis that the Queensland Government will subscribe one third of the cost, the New South Wales Government one third and the Commonwealth Government one third. The whole project is envisaged to take place in two stages with £13 million to be spent in one stage and £7 million in another. I feel that the damming that is proposed of Pikes Creek and Molle River would enable the development of another great area of Australia and would enable a considerable increase in productivity in this region. I trust that this will be favorably considered. But it is not only in these lighter rainfall areas that there is a need for productivity; there is a need also in the high rainfall areas.
I was most interested to see in a newspaper that Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd. is apparently considering the establishment of a new £5 million acid and fertiliser works at Newcastle Island. The only matter about which 1 was disappointed was that it should have been once again in the vicinity of the Newcastle-Sydney-Wollongong complex. This would have been a golden opportunity to get out and, perhaps, to move into Iluka where it would not be necessary, 1 understand, for the New South Wales State Government to spend as much as the £4.2 million to be spent on this project in wharf construction, dredging of river channels and a turning basin for 20,000 ton ships. Surely this would be a glorious opportunity for the New South Wales State Government to establish port facilities in Iluka and there to establish the new acid and fertiliser works. With regard to the economics of the matter, I understand that the quantity of bulk rock and sulphur to be carted before processing is not as great as the quantity of the finished superphosphate.
Apart from anything else, by having the superphosphate works out in the country it would be closer to the point of consumption. This, 1 feel, would have been a golden opportunity for the establishment of a great industry outside this close metropolitan combine. I feel that the establishment of this industry in that area would have been of tremendous benefit to Australian primary industries in the future. I have no doubt that had this matter been in the hands of the Minister for National Development and in the hands of the Minister for Trade and
Industry (Mr. McEwen) a great deal more could have been achieved.
.–The honorable member for New England (Mr. Sinclair) spoke of prosperity in the rural industries. He said he was horrified at the activities of trade unionists. I think he might well have been horrified, also, at the activities of tobacco manufacturers and persons who have been manipulating the tobacco auctions. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) outlined the great difficulties which are confronting the tobacco growing industry. Despite the fact that I am a non-smoker, I am greatly aggrieved at the situation in the industry. Tobacco growers have not had a fair deal. They have not had a fair deal from the manufacturers and they have not had a fair deal from the Government. In fact they have been through troubled times for at least three and perhaps four years in this industry.
Tobacco farmers have lost their farms. Some have walked off and have lost everything - their whole livelihood and their capital. There has been violence at tobacco sales. Although I certainly cannot condone violence, it is understandable when people who for a whole year have spent 18 hours a day working on their tobacco farm, doing various jobs on the farm and investing every penny they have in the farm, go to the auction and see their leaf absolutely ignored by buyers representing tobacco manufacturers. It is no wonder that growers have been moved to violence. It is a great shame that the acts of violence and other goings on in the industry have not moved the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and the Government to some sort of action.
It is remarkable to contrast the position of the manufacturers on the one hand who, almost without exception make a profit in excess of 40 per cent, per annum, with that of the growers who have had to leave their- farms. Dozens and dozens of growers in various areas of Australia have had to leave their farms because of the refusal of the tobacco manufacturers to buy their leaf. T have had representations made to me by tobacco growers for some years past. I have had discussions with them, and in company with the honorable member for
Lalor (Mr. Pollard) on Tuesday last I visited the. tobacco auction sales at West Footscray in Melbourne. What I saw and heard there convinced me that all is not well in the industry. In fact, I believe that there is the strongest possible case for a royal commission into the ramifications of the industry, and into the activities of tobacco companies. Good Australiansin some cases new Australians - who are hard workers and skilled workers have lost their livelihood and everything they possess. There are others who are still in the industry because they cannot get out of it, but their homes and their farms are not worth anything like the amount they paid for them. They stay on their farms hoping that the industry will come good.
We have heard over a period of time allegations of discrimination. Beliefs are firmly held among growers that there is district discrimination by manufacturers as part of a campaign to reduce the production of Australian tobacco leaf. Year after year tobacco manufacturers pick out a district and discriminate against it, hoping that because of a lack of return for their product the growers will go out of the industry. This has happened. Several .years ago it was Western Australia.. Growersin that State have gone out of production. Last year it was the Gunbower district of Victoria. Thirty of more than 70 growers have left their farms. This year it is the Whorouly and Markwood districts.
Farmers who last -year sold their leaf at good prices are dismayed and staggered to find that they cannot get even a bid this year for tobacco of the same quality and of the same type. This district discrimination is discrimination at its worst. We find, of course, that as a result of this campaign by the manufacturers, production has fallen away in these districts. For instance, in the Gunbower district, where last year the. acreage was probably of the order of 1,050. acres, it is now £00 acres or thereabouts. About 250 acres have gone out of production because of this discrimination. Then there are the allegations pf individual discrimination. It appears that some people can rightly claim that there have been, isolated cases of individual .discrimination. A grower’s leaf, for one reason or another, has been completely ignored on the auction floor. .
I have a number of questions which the Government, . or the responsible Minister, might like to answer, Indeed, I suggest that there is need for investigation by a royal commission in order to obtain these answers. Perhaps the Minister can explain why leaf of a certain quality and type, which was purchased and used by manufacturers in other years, including last year, has been totally rejected this year. Perhaps he can explain why, for instance, a bale of tobacco for which an offer of 9 Id. was made at a previous sale, and which was re-offered at the series of sales commencing on Tuesday last, the reserve not haying been reached at (he previous sale, did not attract an offer. lt was worth 91 d. at the previous sale, but is. worth nothing now. Indeed, I brought along a sample from that very bale. This sort of leaf, which is regarded by appraisers and growers as fair quality leaf and which sold in other years, cannot be sold now. That is one of the questions which perhaps the Minister will answer.
There is another strange thing which perhaps the’ Minister can explain. A bale of leaf, rejected at a previous sale when it did not receive a bid, was sold for 120d. per lb. when it was hopefully re-offered by the grower on this occasion. How can the Government explain this- manipulation at the auction sales? This sort of thing is Australia wide. It happens in Queensland as the honorable member for Capricornia said. There is no pattern about it; it is completely baffling to the grower. He has no idea of what is going on. All he knows is that there is discrimination. There is a great deal of unrest in the industry and the grower is naturally irate about the situation, as he certainly should be.
My observation is that growers are completely at the mercy of the manufacturers. I noted at the auctions myself on Tuesday that the buyers - only four of them - walked along between the rows of bales with the auctioneer and made their bids when they felt like it. They passed rows of bales for which they did not bid at all-bales of leaf which people expert in the industry informed me was quite good and of a quality which, had been bought at other, auctions in other years the buyers just made a bid if they felt like it. If the bid did not reach the reserve price or if there was no bid at all the leaf was not sold. But following the auctioneers and the buyers, were representatives of the brokers, and the manufacturers, and they began bargaining and negotiating with the growers who, at that stage, were thankful to sell their leaf for almost anything. lt seems to me that these sales are a farce. There is a reserve price put upon the leaf, but the buyers know full well that if they do not bid, or if they bid below the reserve price, their representatives following behind will confer and negotiate a price well below the reserve. This is the type of thing that is happening in the tobacco industry at the moment. Any investigation into the industry will reveal that this Government is far from scot-free of blame in the matter. For at least three years, stabilisation schemes have been suggested but they have been vetoed by the manufacturers, of course. The Government is responsible for what is happening in the industry. So, too, is the Minister. Perhaps he is the nigger in the woodpile. We arc told he is waiting for an agreement to be reached. But how, in these circumstances, are we ever going to get agreement between the manufacturers on the one hand and the growers on the other? How can there be an agreement when the manufacturers have said quite openly that 25 per cent, of the Australian leaf is not usable - one-quarter of the production? That is what the representative of Rothmans has said. How can there be agreement between those people and the growers who know full well that, in other years, 97 per cent, of the Australian leaf was sold and sold reasonably well - only 3 per cent, was not usable. Can you expect agreement from these manufacturers? Of course you cannot. I suggest it is the responsibility of the Minister to do something about this situation in the industry and to take a positive stand. It is his responsibility to say to the manufacturers: “ These are the circumstances. We are going to institute this scheme. If you will not play ball, we will do something about it.” After all, the Minister has the weapon of import control at his hand. In a roundabout way he uses it now. The Government has the power to fix the percentage of Australian leaf which must be used in the manufacture of Australian cigarettes and tobacco if an excise duty rebate is to be obtained. The percentage now is 41 i. The Minister has this power, and by adjusting the percentage he can control tobacco imports. He can wave this weapon at the manufacturers.
I remind honorable members again of the circumstances that exist in this industry. The members of the Country Party are not very sympathetic towards these growers. They are little people, who are suffering and losing their livelihoods. The members of the Country Party are interested in the wheat growers and the wool growers because they have large numbers and are able to speak with a loud voice.
– We have been interested in the tobacco growers for years.
– If you have been interested m them for years, why have you not done something for them? These circumstances have been existing for years. Let us see some action in the matter. Of course, the manufacturers have vetoed stabilisation schemes. There is a scheme before the industry at the present time, but I doubt whether it will be accepted, because there are one or two substantial areas of disagreement. The manufacturers want to base the stabilisation scheme on a usage of 22 million pounds weight of tobacco, but the annual average production is at least 28 million pounds. The poor tobacco growers are going to find themselves in the same position as in the past.
In relation to the Government’s responsibility in fixing a percentage, they have been taken for a ride. The Government fixed the percentage at 4li per cent., and sales fell hopelessly short of the production of usable fair quality leaf. In 1962-63, the Government fixed the rate at 43 per cent, for cigarettes and 40 per cent, for tobacco. However, Rothmans, a giant manufacturer in the tobacco industry, got the ear of the Government and said: “We cannot purchase enough Australian leaf to reach this percentage.” What did the Government do? It reduced the rate to 40 per cent, for cigarettes and 37 per cent, for tobacco. It has, apparently, agreed with Rothmans and with other manufacturers that 25 per cent, of Australian leaf is not usable. The Australian Labour Party and the tobacco growers will not fall for that. The Minister is trying to interject. He will have his opportunity to speak shortly.
I believe that, in the interests of the growers and in the interests of the nation, the percentage of local leaf required to be used should rise. We could progressively increase the rate from 4H per cent., to 45 per cent, to 471 per cent., to 50 per cent, and so on. If we did so, we would get objections from the manufacturers saying that the Australian people will not accept this sort of tobacco or these sorts of cigarettes.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Might I suggest to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton), who seems to have got somewhat hot under the collar with regard to tobacco, to try smoking Kool cigarettes for a change. I seek to address my remarks to the Estimates of the Department of Customs and Excise. I emphasise at the outset that I do not intend joining Dr. Brissenden in any quixotic tilting at the Minister for . Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson). However, I would like to take this opportunity to bring forward two cases of my own constituents and by using those two cases to suggest two changes in the present law. The first, case concern’s a family of Dutch immigrants. They came to Australia and settled in my, electorate. They had a son who, unfortunately, was born crippled with toxoplasmosis This reduced the boy to the state of a paraplegic. When the relatives in Holland heard of this, they clubbed together’ and sent out to Australia as an unsolicited gift a wheelchair for this little boy. They were met by ‘ the Department of Customs and Excise1 with the following imposts, under the heading, in cold departmental language: “Invalid wheelchair of Dutch origin.”: Under the Customs Tariff Act, ad valorem duty at the rate of 47£ per cent., and under the Customs Tariff (Primage Duties) Act ad valorem primage duty at the rate of 10 per cent. But honorable members will be pleased to know that as it was a wheelchair it was exempt from sales tax under the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act. I bring this up merely to suggest that in this day and age primage duty - it was first imposed in 1934 - is obsolete. [Quorum formed:] Before continuing I should like to thank the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) for his unfailing courtesy in providing me with an audience. He does this frequently for members on this side of the Committee, and one is indebted to him for it. No doubt it is due to his desire to have a large audience for the remarks that I am addressing to the Committee.
Having addressed the Committee first on the case of the invalid wheelchair, and having pointed out that in this particular case there was no sales tax applicable, I wish to pass to a second case relating to one of my constituents. It relates to an unsolicited birthday gift. As honorable ‘members know, thousands of Australians go overseas every year. Naturally, they send home birthday gifts and Christmas gifts. The departmental view is that all goods entering Australia shall be regarded as importations. Therefore, sales tax is imposed on unsolicited gifts entering the country. I should like to suggest that there is no authority in the sales tax legislation for the imposition of this tax in such cases. I turn first to a Commonwealth publication entitled the “ Sales Tax Law “ in which the’ Commissioner of Taxation has this to say under the heading “ Nature of Sales Taxation “ - “Sales tax” is an expression which is applied to any tax which attaches to the sale of any form of property.
Clearly, there is no sale in the normal sense of the word when a person in Australia receives as a pleasant surprise an unsolicited gift from outside Australia. But, of course, in this place, we can define words as we please, as Humpty Dumpty did. I therefore looked to the appropriate legislation to see if “ imported “ is defined. The word is not defined in either the Sales Tax Act (No 5), or the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. ,5). Section 3 of the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 5) reads as follows -
Subject to, and in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the sales tax imposed by the Sales Tax Act (No. 5) shall be levied and paid on the safe value of goods imported into Australia by a taxpayer …
Nowhere in the Act, or in the series of acts, is the word “ imported “ defined. Therefore, we must fall back on the ordinary dictionary definition of “imported”. The definition found in the Oxford Dictionary for “ import “ was cited with the approval of Mr. Justice Higgins in the High Court of
Australia in the case of Wilson v. Chambers and Co. Pty. Ltd., and it is as follows -
To bring in or cause to be brought in (goods or merchandise) from a foreign country, in inter-, national commerce.
As I have said, the departmental view is that all goods entering Australia are importations. How can it be said that the recipient of an unsolicited gift brought that gift into this country or caused it to be brought into this country? 1 would like to support my view, which is directly contrary to the departmental view, with three other court decisions. “ Importer “ was defined in England as far back as 1822 in the case of The Matchless by Lord Stowell in the following words -
The importer of goods is the consignor, who sets the adventure afloat, who directs the port to which, and the person to whom it is to be delivered, and who can stop the goods in transit. ls it to be suggested that a person inside Australia who receives a gift from overseas comes within that definition of “ importer “? 1 pass next to another English case which was decided in 1866. This is the case of Budenberg v. Roberts. In that case, the Customs Amendment Act 1859 - an English Act - was being considered by the court. Section 6 of the Act laid down that any person who - shall cause to be imported goods of one denomination concealed in packages of goods of any denomination shall be liable to a penalty.
Section 8 of the Act provides -
The word “ importer “ in any act relating to the customs is to apply to, and include, any owner or other person for the time being possessed of or beneficially interested in any goods imported.
It was held -
That the interpretation of the word “importer”, in Section 8, is not to be applied to the phrase, “ cause to be imported “ in Section 6; but that these latter words are only applicable to a person who has ordered the goods, or otherwise in fact caused them to be imported.
How can it be suggested that a person in Australia receiving an unsolicited gift has ordered that gift or in fact caused it to be imported? The departmental view is, I suggest, with great respect to those who administer the Department, contrary to the ordinary commonsense definition.
I now pass to another Australian case. This is the case of Election Importing Co. Pty.
Ltd. v. Courtice. This is a more recent case; it was decided in 1949. Honorable members will recall that the then Minister for Customs was Senator Benjamin Courtice. Mr.. Justice Williams, in considering the Customs (Import Licensing) Regulations, said -
Regulation 3, so far as material, provides that the importation of goods into the Commonwealth is prohibited unless a licence to import the goods is in force and the conditions (if any) to which the licence is subject are complied with, lt was contended that the word “importation” in this regulation is not confined to the act of bringing the goods into Australia but includes the whole transaction of ordering and shipping the goods after a licence has been granted to import them as well as landing them in Australia.
The learned Justice went on to say -
But I can find nothing in the subject matter or content of the regulations to support this contention … I can find no justification for giving the word “import” in this regulation any other meaning than its ordinary natural gram-‘ matical meaning of bringing goods into Australia from another country.
Adopting the learned Justice’s words, I would say that I can find no justification for the Department of Customs and Excise departing from the ordinary grammatical meaning of “ import “ - that is, bringing goods into Australia from another country. What then is the justification for imposing a duty other than a customs duty on the subject matter of a gift when the donee is in Australia and the donor is abroad? To call an impost on a gift from a person overseas to a person in Australia a sales tax is completely misleading. If the Government wishes to impose such a duty - and it is for the Government to do as it wishes - it. should be described as a customs duty so that persons wishing to send gifts to relations or friends in Australia may know when they . inquire as to what duties are payable exactly what liability they are imposing on the innocent recipient of their gift. It comes as a great surprise to an innocent recipient who goes to collect a gift to find that it is subject to a sales tax. More than that, it is embarrassing to the donor overseas to find that what he intends as a gift will be assessed at a certain value, which will have to be disclosed, and that then the recipient will have to pay a tax on what is intended as a gift.
I have taken two cases that concern my constituents. I have attempted to bring them before the Committee in a constructive way and to suggest that the law as it at present stands has two anomalies. One concerns primage duty, which is an anachronism in this day and age. It was first introduced in 1934 and is gradually being whittled away. 1 ask the Minister to consider seriously removing this anachronistic impost altogether. Secondly, I suggest to the Committee that the Department has no authority in common sense or in law to adopt the practice it docs of applying a sales tax to an unsolicited gift coming into Australia.
.- I regret that the time for the discussion of the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Customs and Excise is so very limited.
– It is not limited.
– You will gag the debate later on.
– No; we will go on wilh it on Tuesday.
– I know. But at some stage you will probably gag if. You have done that already with the debate on other estimates that we have dealt with. I will not argue about it. I have made this remark because there are 30 or 40 subjects arising under the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry alone about which I could talk for half an hour. They are all worthy of discussion, but time does not permit me to mention them. I think I could use half an hour speaking about tobacco alone. 1 choose tobacco as my first subject because there is no doubt that the tobacco industry in Australia today is in a parlous condition. At a rough estimate, there are about 3,000 people engaged in the industry. Their problem is very great, but immediately Opposition members take up a case of this sort, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) gets a little irritated and says by way of interjection: “ Yes, but whilst there may be difficulties in the. marketing of tobacco today and the growers may be facing some problems, Labour paid them 27d. a pound during the war”.
Let us look at the facts. The figure of 27d. a pound appears to be low when compared with the reasonable price for tobacco today, but it must not be forgotten that in the period when this amount was paid the costs of production of tobacco were infinitely lower than they are today. Indeed, the costs of production of most primary products were then infinitely lower than they are today. An impartial survey of the dairying industry found that it cost only 2s. 2d. a pound to produce butter at that time. Because of the inflationary spiral that we have experienced, it now costs about 5s. 3d. a pound to produce butter. So there is really no point in comparing the amount received by tobacco growers today with the amount they received under Labour in the . wartime period and in the immediate postwar period under a marketing scheme. These are the facts. In 1942, the Labour Government granted the growers an increase of 10 per cent, on their j 941 prices. We had been in office for less than 12 months. In the following season, Labour . granted a further increase of 10 per cent, and prices were again revised in 1.946 and 1947. In 1948, further increases were made in the prices. These increases were paid as premiums at specified rates based on the appraised value placed on tobacco leaf. On leaf valued at 27d. per lb. and over, a premium of ls. per lb. was paid. So, in reality, the price per lb. was 27d. plus 12d.
– You were trying to keep up with the inflation that you had allowed to develop.
– No. The Minister for Primary Industry, on the one hand, complains that prices were not low enough. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme), on the other hand, says that in 1948 we were trying to keep up with inflation.
Let me continue with the details of the premiums paid. On leaf valued at 18d. to 26d. per lb. the premium was 9d. per lb. On leaf, valued at 15d. to 17d. per lb., the premium was 6d. per lb. On leaf valued at 6d. to 14d. per lb., the premium was 3d. per lb. That premium system was adopted to encourage the growers to produce leaf of higher grade and it was a quite satisfactory system. But here is the rub: The Government of the day intimated to the tobacco growers of Australia it was prepared to assist them to obtain the cooperation of the respective State Governments in putting into effect an Australia wide scheme for the orderly marketing of tobacco leaf. Almost immediately, certain State Governments announced that they were not prepared to play ball. The present Government appointed a joint committee of this Parliament to inquire into proposals for the amendment of the Australian Constitution. The report of the Constitutional Review Committee was received in 1959, but the Government has done absolutely nothing to give effect to the Committee’s recommendations. Had the Government done something to put the recommendations into effect, in all probability the difficulties that the Minister for Primary Industry probably is experiencing at present in having satisfactory stabilisation proposals approved by the respective State Governments would never have occurred.
What is the basic problem of the tobacco growers? I have mentioned the constitutional difficulties. The main problem of the growers is that four powerful tobacco manufacturing firms make up the bulk of the tobacco manufacturing industry in Australia. Quite apart from governments, those are the interests that, in the absence of powers for the control of prices and other economic factors by this Parliament, determine the prices that the growers shall receive for their leaf. These powerful manufacturing organisations treat the growers ruthlessly. They are in business to deal ruthlessly with sellers and to pay the lowest possible prices, and they will continue to pay as little as they can. Further more, these four companies have international affiliations. They are subsidiaries of firms based in the United States of America, South Africa, London and elsewhere throughout the world. I am sure that they have never wanted to see the Australian tobacco industry thriving and prosperous. Indeed, they do not want any leaf to be produced in Australia. Always, their story about Australian tobacco leaf is that it is unsuitable and not up to the required standard, and that it must be blended with huge quantities of overseas tobacco before it can be sold.
Let us have a look at what has been done over the last tcn or twelve years under the administration of the present Government concerning the arrangement that if a specified percentage of tobacco grown in
Australia is mixed with imported leaf a rebate of excise may be claimed. In about 1935, the Government of the day decided to adopt this system. At the beginning, a rebate of ls. 6d. per lb. was paid if the manufacturer blended the specified proportion of Australian tobacco. At that time, the proportion was fixed at 3 per cent. I suggest that it could well have been fixed at a higher level, but I do not criticise honorable members opposite because the percentage was not higher. Under this system of protection, the production of tobacco in Australia has risen by leaps and bounds, and. the smoker consumes more and more Australian tobacco. More interestingly still, Rothmans of Pa!I Mall (Australia) Ltd. advertises: “ Our cigarettes are supreme “. For generations, tobacco manufacturers have been saying that Australian leaf is not suited to the manufacture of cigarettes and tobacco. Yet now we hear the claim that it is supreme, because the manufacturers have no alternative to blending the specified proportion of Australian leaf with imported leaf if they wish to claim the rebate of excise and obtain some relief from the high cost of imported leaf.
Let me illustrate what happens. In 1953, due to the fact that the Commonwealth Government fixed an inadequate percentage usage of Australian tobacco to qualify for the refund, the tobacco buyers, particularly in Queensland, did just what they are doing today all over Australia. They simply refused to bid for tobacco. The industry got into such a parlous position that the present Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), who was then. Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, introduced legislation in 1953 - this indicates the . seriousness of the situation - , to provide for a guarantee to the Commonwealth Bank to cover the parlous circumstances of the growers in Queensland who were holding unsold leaf. At that time the unsold leaf amounted to no less than 400 tons which on today’s prices would be valued at a very substantial sum. That was usable leaf. ‘ In addition, there were 130 tons of unusable leaf.
As I have said, that measure of alleviation was introduced by the present Minister for Trade and Industry who was wholehog in his belief that all Australian tobacco of usable grade should be absorbed by the tobacco manufacturers in this country. In his second reading speech he said the idea canvassed to solve the problem of unsold leaf was to impose absolute compulsion o.n manufacturers to buy the whole, crop at prices satisfactory to growers. This involved suggestions of restriction upon imports of tobacco until the whole of the crop had been purchased but that was not the occasion to examine any such proposal in detail.’ He added that there were G.A.T.T. and Ottawa Agreement obstacles. The Government had doubled the percentages entitlement to a rebate of duty and the growers’ had said that that was not enough. He raised the problem of G.A.T.T. Was the problem of G.A.T.T. raised in the Budget that we have recently approved which provides for substantial increases in the tariff on tobacco? Of course it was not. An escape route was found.
The Minister indicated then and again on a bill in 1955, that Government members were whole-hog believers in the principle of using all Australian leaf. The intention was to use what was apparently a very satisfactory weapon - the percentage rebate weapon. But the Government has not used that weapon in an effective manner. Indeed, in a report of the Tobacco Industry Trust Fund, which is issued annually, we find that the Tobacco Advisory Committee had reached unanimity and had advised the. Government - for the first time, incidentally, since the creation of the Committee - that the usage figure should be 43 per cent. But, lo and behold, there were protests from Rothmans and from other manufacturers. It was then announced in August 1962 that the usage requirement hadbeen pulled back to 40 per cent, for cigarettes and 37 per cent, for tobacco - all. on the assertion of Rothmans and probably other manufacturers that the unsold leaf was unsatisfactory and that the quality of their cigarettes would deteriorate if it were used. All tobacco manufacturers incorporate. . in their products from time to time a. percentage of poorer quality leaf, and you get an average product, but you never find any substantial differentiation in the cigarettes that they sell. Not on your life! These are the things that have been going on.
In the following year, for which there was a fixation of 43 per cent, for both cigarettes and tobacco, lo and behold, on someone’s recommendation or on the request of some powerful commercial interest in this country, the Government pulled it back to 40 per cent, for both cigarettes and tobacco. Probably you were blinded by the blandishments of some of the commercial octopuses and profiteers, and you fell for it. Did you consult the growers? Did the Minister indulge in any publicity about this reduction in the percentage fixation which had, for the first time, been arrived at on the unanimous recommendation of the Tobacco Advisory Committee? Not on your life! The big fellow won. The big fellow exercises all the influence on the tobacco interests that back; this Government. The growers have never learned anything about that particular manipulation which was of a very serious character.
Acreages are increasing but the percentage fixation has not been increased proportionately. The rale fixed for last year was 41.5 per cent, and it is the same for this year. The Minister, in boasting one day about what the Government had done for the tobacco growers of this country, said: “ We have fixed a percentage usage rate of 43 per cent.”. I do not think he knew! anything about the alteration which had been made. It was a pretty phony show. The alteration was made at the request of a company which this year made a profit of 40.7 per cent, on ordinary capital and which, in 1962, made a profit of 38.8 per cent. If honorable members examine the reports of all the tobacco companies, they will see that the companies are waxing fat at the expense of the tobacco growers of this country.
With a colleague I went to the tobacco sales the other day and saw the process in operation. I had never seen a more farcical spectacle in my life, and I have been to a lot of auction sales. I am not indicting those who conducted the auction sale, but four buyers only were present to examine the products of about 100 inoffensive and hardworking tobacco growers. The buyers were joking over what they were doing with the bales of tobacco. They would look at the tobacco casually, smell it, throw it down and say: “ No bid “. This was tobacco which. in some cases, had been valued at over 100 pence by the growers’ own appraisers. This is a scandalous state of affairs. It is serious enough for the Government to appoint a royal commission to investigate the whole tobacco growing and manufacturing position in Australia. It is high time something was done. The Minister has confessed that he has a weapon which can effect a 100 per cent, increase -
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to say only a few words tonight. I was prepared to report progress before the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) spoke, but he seemed to want to speak tonight.
– You didn’t tell me that. That is a bit snide.
– I had no bad intentions. The honorable member spoke as though the Commonwealth Government is completely responsible for the tobacco industry. What he forgets - it is convenient to forget it, I suppose, when you are blaming the Government - is that it was the choice of the tobacco industry to sell its produce by auction. The industry still insists on that. When there was trouble with an excess quantity of tobacco in, I think, 1961, I called the manufacturers to Adelaide to meet the Australian Agricultural Council. ! also called the growers’ representatives there and we had a conference. The growers said that they did not desire to expand their production at that stage but that what they wanted was a stable period of at least three years; They have not complied with that. I am not necessarily blaming them, because seasonal conditions interfere.
I asked the six State Ministers who were present, and who had power of control, whether they would assist the tobacco industry by controlling production, but, irrespective of the parties they represented, the Ministers all said that they would not be interested in the matter of control. What honorable members have to remember is that tobacco growing today is conducted, in the main, in three Sta.tes only - Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Two of those States have given the growers State marketing boards. That is where, primarily, the responsibility resides. The Minister from the third State, New South Wales, intimated to me that he would be prepared to co-operate and’ give the industry in that State a similar marketing organisation to complete a link up between the State bodies. I advised the growers to talk to the three Ministers and they did so. We invited representatives of the manufacturers and the growers to meet the three Commonwealth Ministers concerned - the Ministers for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) and myself. We mct them and there was a difference of opinion on quantity and grades. We were there to help. I asked them to go back to the State Ministers.
As to the quantity that would be involved in a stabilisation scheme, the manufacturers said they would accept 22,000,000 lb. and the growers said they would accept 28,000,000 lb. Actually the production this year is 32,000,000 lb., a record. That does not suggest that tobacco growing is a dying industry. Sales this year will reach £16,000,000 because they total £15,500,000 to date. So in a general sense, it is not a dying industry.
– What about the carryover from last year?
– There will be a carryover of 41) per cent, of 10,000,000 lb., and the manufacturers have said that they will buy all usable leaf. They maintain that they will levy up to that amount. Do not think that I accept all that the manufacturers say. I agree with the honorable member for Lalor that they are to a degree playing ducks and drakes or in other words are choosing what they buy; but the season is not finished and we still expect them to buy all usable leaf.
Let us look at the figures for the year. The average reserve price put on by the growers’ assessors was 121. 2d. per lb. That was the growers’ own reserve price. The average realised for that quantity was 124.4d. So more was paid by the manufacturers than the reserve put on by the growers’ own assessors.
– What about the unsold leaf?
– What is left unsold is 11.6 per cent.,’ and that is not a true index of what is unsold. The figure is doubled in certain circumstances when what was unsold is brought back again for resale on certain days and is called unsold on those days, although it was included in the previous days’ total. That is the picture. You have to be fair.
– Do not tell me that it is a good picture for the growers.
– I am telling you the facts.
– They do not want the facts.
– No, they do not want the facts. The position is that this industry is the responsibility of the State Governments so far as marketing and production are concerned. That is undeniable. However, that does not excuse the Commonwealth Government, nor do I seek to be excused from taking any part and trying to help. We have helped the industry by the percentage system. It is a vastly different picture from when the Labour Party was in office. The percentage was so low that it did not matter very much.
– The percentage did not apply. They had a guaranteed price.
– I do not know that a guaranteed price operated, because I would like the honorable member for Lalor to read some of the speeches I made on the subject in those days. I sat where the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) is sitting today. The growers then were realising 27d. per lb. There was no guarantee. The honorable member for Lalor was a Minister in that Government and I asked repeatedly that the Government should guarantee the growers 30d. per lb. I got no sympathetic response at all. If you look at the Budgets of those years you will see that there was an allocation of £650,000 for the British tobacco combine as I called it in those days. What did the Labour Government do? A big nothing. The Government gave no guarantee and the growers had to take the responsibility and accept any old price. It was 27d. per lb. I do not care what the Opposition says about inflationary rates. When you consider a price of 27d. against nearly 122d., you see that inflation has been covered sixfold. We have improved the industry to that extent. Now let us get back to a consideration of what this stabilisation proposal is.
There was a dispute between the growers and the manufacturers concerning grade with a compensating price for a certain quantity to be set aside. I think the Ministers present intimated that if there was no other issue at stake the Commonwealth would set the quantity. I advised them to go and meet the manufacturers and get their assessment of grades and prices. They have had one conference. Now they are sitting down on the job instead of having another one.
– Who is?
– Both of them.
– What is the good of conferring with bushrangers? They would not give you any more if you conferred for 12 months.
– Wait a minute. Two of the manufacturers, including the one you have been abusing tonight, have played ball and set out their table of grades and prices. One of the others, one of the major ones, has not co-operated. The position is that somebody must keep the ball rolling. The growers are not following this matter up to my satisfaction. I have asked the State Ministers to meet me and it has been decided that we will meet on 8 th October, the first day on which the three State Ministers are available to meet me.
– The growers will all be insolvent by then.
– It is not a matter of being insolvent at all. It is clearly understood by all concerned - growers, manufacturers and governments - that the stabilisation proposal will not cover the crop almost all of which has now been sold. It is to apply from the next season. It is not too late for a stabilisation scheme to cover that season.
– What about the percentage arrangement?
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) answered that when he said tonight that it does not matter whether the proportion of locally grown leaf is 41 i per cent, or 14H per cent.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Capricornia, and he has just nodded approval. He said that whatever the proportion the growers would simply overproduce, and an increase would not be the solution.
– The proportion now fixed is not nearly in sight now, and you know it.
– The honorable member knows this, if he will only keep his mind clear on the issue: There are two ways of achieving control of this matter. The States refuse to control it by the powers they have. I am not commending them or blaming them. That is their decision. But there is another way of controlling the matter, and that is the way 1 recommend that the industry should adopt. There should be State marketing authorities in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. The New South Wales Minister has advised me that he will co-operate to see that there is a marketing authority so that New South Wales can work with the other two States. That is what I have been doing on this issue. Then the authorities can, by quota arrangement, determine the quantity that should be grown and allocate the quotas. This is the co-operative approach to it. We have done this in respect of other industries. I have had experience of this. The advances that are paid for a commodity will be paid on the amount of the quota, and if a producer grows in excess of that, which is possible in certain seasonal circumstances, he takes the risk of the market in respect of the excess. That is the only way to have a sensible stabilisation proposal.
So, while these people opposite are talking politics and doing no more than that, I suggest they should look at their own blank record. All the time they have been talking politics I have been working for the success of the industry.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- The restriction by the Government on the number of speakers on the estimates for the Department of National Development prevented me from bringing to the notice of the Parliament a very important matter. 1 refer to the plight of the employees of the Mount Sugarloaf Colliery in the heart of the Hunter electorate. It is a small mine, regarded as one of the most efficient and most economically conducted mines in Australia. It is virtually facing closure within the next week through the management’s inability to find a market for its small grade coal. The mine is able to place a substantial portion of the 1 , 926 tons of coal produced weekly, but through the management’s inability to dispose of the small grade coal, referred to as “ size 1 inch to 0 “, it virtually faces closure and it will have to suffer the loss of a substantial investment amounting to £30,000 on a preparation plant installed not long ago.
I assured the Whips on both sides that I would reduce my remarks to a minimum. I do urge the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) to take up, as a matter of extreme urgency, the problem now facing the management and employees of Mount Sugarloaf Colliery. They have recently brought the whole of their problems to the notice of the Chairman of the Joint Coal Board, Mr. Hartnell. I hope that the Minister for National Development will confer in the next few days with Mr. Hartnell with a view to avoiding the closure of this very economically run mine through its inability to find a market for the small grade coal which is accumulating at the rate of approximately 250 tons a day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.39 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated -
son asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice - .’
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1. (a) 277,681 square miles, (b) 506 square miles. 3. (a) There are 113,428 square miles which hays yet to bc investigated to determine suitability for leasing, (b) No freehold land, is available from the Crown in the Northern Territory except by conversion of certain agricultural and town lands leases.
Education in New Guinea. (Question No. 461.)
m asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
How many -
How many -
subsidised mission -
How many -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640924_reps_25_hor43/>.