25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that a delegation of six members of the United Kingdom Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, led by the right honorable F. J. Bellenger, is at present in the gallery of the House. On behalf of honorable members and the Commonwealth of Australia Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, I extend to the members of this delegation a very cordial reception.
Honorable members. - Hear, hear!
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation tell me whether any progress has been made in giving Lord Howe Island an airstrip? Is the Minister aware that 30 people were stranded at Lord Howe Island for over three weeks owing to a breakdown of the present transport service? Is the Minister aware also that many people are selling up their businesses and leaving the island because it is now going to be renamed “Robinson Crusoe Island”?
– I am sorry that I did not realise the plight of the residents of Lord Howe Island. I will see that the Minister for Civil Aviation is informed of this question and that a reply is prepared as expeditiously as possible for the honorable member.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. It has been reported that the West German Government has developed an efficient automatic letter sorting machine, thus conserving the use of labour on this operation. Has the PostmasterGeneral any intention of using similar machines in Australia in order to con serve the force of trained letter sorters in this country?
– I am not aware of the machine which, the honorable member says, is being used in Germany. The officers of my Department are continually investigating machines which are being developed in other countries. I am not able to give any indication of what may be happening or is likely to happen in Australia in relation to this type of new equipment.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman may recall that approximately one month ago I asked him a question relating to the startling fall in motor vehicle sales, with consequent dismissals in the motor vehicle industry, and the steep fall in approvals in the building industry. In his reply, the right honorable gentleman said that if I wanted precise information I would have to allow him to treat my question as a question on notice. I ask the Prime Minister now: When can I expect a full and precise reply to my question?
– There is at present before the Government a document of a highly factual kind about these matters. I therefore hope that soon either I or the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry will be in a position to say something about them.
– Has the
Minister for the Army seen a report in which shortage of manpower in the Australian battalion in South Vietnam is severely criticised? Is the battalion in fact stretched in performing tasks allotted to it? Do the men get adequate rest between operations or are they directed from one patrol to another without respite, as the report suggests?
– I have seen the report to which the honorable gentleman refers. I can assure him that senior Australian officers, both in Vietnam and in Australia - those in Australia who regularly undertake inspection visits to Vietnam - are of the opinion that the frequency and nature of the operations undertaken by the 1st Battalion are not such as to place an undue strain on the Battalion. Great care is taken to ensure that the men are given adequate opportunities for rest and recuperation. The nature of the operations in South Vietnam, as most honorable gentlemen will have noticed, involved <a short foray for a few days into Vietcong held territory, followed immediately by a period in the relative security and comfort - and I say “ relative “ advisedly - of the Bien Hoa camp. In addition, every man is given the opportunity of, and indeed is required to have, a period of rest and recuperation either in Hong Kong or Bangkok during his tour of duty, and other arrangements are made for local leave and recuperation. The suggestion made in the report was that in some way the lack of relief from operations influenced the casualty rate in Vietnam. Senior officers are of the opinion that the rate of casualties suffered by the Battalion is not inordinate, although, of course, we very much regret any casualties. However, they are not inordinate in view of the nature of the operations conducted, and a very heartening fact is that at least 50 per cent, of battle casualties that the 1st Battalion has experienced in Vietnam have returned to the unit fit for duty within 28 days, and more than half of these casualties have returned within a few hours. This has a considerable effect in keeping the morale of the units high.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. I refer him to his statement yesterday that an additional six patrol vessels will be built for the Royal Australian Navy. Are these six vessels to be of similar design to the 14 the order for which, placed with a Queensland firm, was announced about a month ago? If they are of similar design, has the order with the Queensland firm been increased or will fresh tenders be called? If fresh tenders are to be called, when does the Minister expect that they will be called?
– As the honorable member will realise, the announcement was made in the House only yesterday, and naturally nothing could be done until the Government’s policy had been announced. It is the Government’s policy in these matters that tenders shall be called by the Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board. That will be done as quickly as possible. There is no guarantee that the contract will go to the same firm, but the same type of vessel is to be built.
– Has the Treasurer seen a booklet published by the Australian Bankers Association Research Directorate entitled “ Banks and Rural Finance “ in which a call is made for more flexible monetary measures to allow continued availability of funds for rural finance? The booklet is also critical of the extent of Reserve Bank limitation on trading bank lending for rural industries. Will the Treasurer have the situation investigated as a matter of urgency?
– This booklet has not come in my direction, so far as I am aware. I will make some inquiries to see whether it has been received in my office. Last week I told the House that this whole question was to be canvassed by the Reserve Bank with the trading banks today - I think it is today that they are meeting - and that the Reserve Bank had notified the trading banks in advance that it would wish to discuss with them the availability of finance for drought relief lending purposes and the level of the requests being received for drought assistance through the banking system. In this and other ways the Reserve Bank tries to ensure that the banks are able to carry out tasks consistent with policies announced by the Government from time to time. I have no reason to believe that currently the banking system is inhibited in lending for rural purposes by any lack of funds. Indeed, this is the period of the year when the banks tend to improve their liquidity. Therefore, I believe that they would be in a position to lend when they thought the circumstances warranted a loan being made.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware of reports which declare that our road casualty rate represents double the number of casualties that Australia has suffered in all wars from the Boer War up to the present time? Is he further aware of a statement which was made recently by an American authority who visited this country, namely, that Australia’s road safety policy was inadequate and ineffective? In view of the alarming and grave rate of increase in our road toll, will the Minister give consideration to a proposal that the respective Commonwealth and State authorities be called together for the purpose of trying to bring into existence a more effective policy than the existing one?
– The number of deaths that occur on Australian roads is a matter for grave concern. They reach a total of about 3,000 a year. The jurisdiction to deal with this problem rests primarily with the State Governments. The Commonwealth has tried to exercise a responsibility by bringing representatives of the State Governments together from time to time to discuss what measures might be taken together. A continuing body - the Australian Road Safety Council - is in existence. It consists of representatives of the State Governments, the Commonwealth Government and individual transport organisations. I do not know what more the Commonwealth can do within its powers. The suggestion made by the honorable member is one that the Government has in mind. We are very concerned indeed about the high road toll. But, as I have said, it is primarily a matter for the State Governments.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen reports which suggest that a significant weakness has developed in the employment situation in Queensland? Can an examination of registered vacancies only give cause for painting this gloomy picture? Are not other indicators, such as the amount of overtime worked, where the Queensland figure is the highest of all the States, significant? Can the Minister guarantee that he will keep a close watch on all the employment indicators in Queensland, both in the metropolitan area and in outside centres?
– I have read some comments that there has been a significant change - possibly an unwanted change- in the employment situation throughout Australia and particularly in Queensland. We expected that there would be some reduction in tensions, and there has been. That has been in accordance with Government policy. There has not been such a significant change as to lead us to the opinion that, at the moment at least, we have anything less than full employment. The objective of policy is to maintain full employment. It is being maintained, although some of the tensions have been reduced.
I am glad that the honorable gentleman asked this question, because I am delighted to be able to say that there has been a strengthening of the employment position in Queensland and in Western Australia. That means that the Government’s policy of full employment in all the States has, at least at the moment, been achieved. It will be seen that the policies of the Government with, for example, railway lines in Western Australia, beef roads in Queensland, and other activities, have helped the Government in achieving its policy in these States.
If the honorable gentleman will look at the graphs that were published he will see that they show that the position in Queensland is now one of full employment. There is just about an equal number of job vacancies and people registered for employment. The honorable gentleman is very interested in Queensland and has raised this problem with me on several occasions. I give him my assurance, and the Government also would give an assurance, that the problem of full employment will always be of first priority. We will watch it carefully and do our best to ensure that this policy is maintained in practice.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy a question. Does the cancellation of the order for two minesweepers mean that the previous policy of ordering them was mistaken, or does it mean that a lesser role for minesweeping is envisaged for the Royal Australian Navy?
– I thought that I had pointed out in my statement that, due to the strategic situation at present obtaining, the Navy in its advice to tie Government said that the minesweepers which were being used on patrol and which had suffered damage as a result should be replaced by these patrol vessels which were coming forward. This left us with a deficiency in patrol vessels for other purposes and it was decided to order more to fill this gap. At the same time it was decided to get the present minesweepers, to put some of them in reserve and to rotate them with the two that were being used so that we could keep the minesweeping capability of the fleet alive.
– They are new ships, are they not?
– Yes, the ones that we have already, but we are not taking delivery of the ones that we said we would order under the three year programme. .
– My question, which is to the Minister for External Affairs, follows on a question that I asked yesterday relating to Tibet. The Minister may have heard references, such as. in a British Broadcasting Corporation broadcast this morning, that the Dalai Lama has made a second statement within a week about the situation in Tibet. Is the Minister aware that the latest news of the Panchen Lama is of his public degradation by the Chinese Communists and physical violence against him on his refusal to denounce the Dalai Lama? Is he aware also that the Dalai Lama intends to visit the United Nations to present a plea to the world conscience? I ask the Minister to do his utmost to see that this appeal does not fall on deaf ears, as indeed this may give an opportunity for the free world to make some amends for what I believe to be deplorably scanty concern at aggression and worse against a peaceful, dignified and ancient nation.
– In the pressure of new events happening in various parts of the world I think it is a sad fact that many of us have forgotten momentarily the events that happened in Tibet not so long ago when people who were trying to have their own national life and their own religious life were invaded and dispossessed and many of them were murdered. The plight of Tibet is one that must evoke the sympathy of the world, and in evoking sympathy must also make us conscious that, in the pursuit of national policies of aggression, China in this instance has shown itself to be completely ruthless and determined to gain her ends regardless of the suffering that is caused.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. As a matter of principle I refer to the case of a young English family, comprising a father, mother and two children, whose applications for assisted passages to Australia were all rejected because of the temporary illness of one of the children. I ask: Is this the normal application of departmental policy? If so, does the Minister consider it to be reasonable? Would it not have been fairer to require the payment of the ill child’s fare by the parents and grant assisted passages to the rest of the family? Finally, now that this family has firmly settled itself in this country and the child has quite recovered from its temporary illness, is there any possibility of the family receiving at least some refund of the full fares that they were compelled to pay?
– It is not the practice of the Department -to allow some members of a family to pay their fare and to provide the others with free passages. The free passages are granted to the whole family. If there is illness in the. family it is a matter of waiting until all the members are ready for departure for Australia. If they pay their own fares to come to Australia there is no means by which the fares can be refunded. Such cases are brought up from time to time, but people must go through the normal channels of the immigration process to obtain assisted passages.
– In order to explain my question to the Acting Minister for Health I refer to the annual report of the Public Service Board which gives the main reason for the increase of 352 in the staff of the Department of Health as recruitment of additional personnel for training in the automatic data processing and associated procedures for dealing with claims under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Can the Minister give an estimate of the annual cost to the public of the additional staff? Can he give an estimate of the cost of the automatic data processing machinery? As this expensive equipment is designed to replace the existing manual system, how can its purchase be reconciled with the recruitment of additional staff?
– I point out that in introducing a system of automatic data processing within the Department it is necessary to provide quite an elaborate system of training of the people who will operate the equipment. For that reason the Department has taken on approximately 180 persons to be engaged as operators and potential operators of the equipment. The annual cost of training these personnel depends upon the time taken by the individual to master the use of the equipment. The approximate cost per operator is £350. Until operators are adequately trained and the system is effectively operating it is necessary to maintain the existing manual system which, of course, will eventually disappear. The system is being implemented at various stages within the States and from State to State. When the system is fully operating a small increase in staff throughout Australia is expected. The new system will provide a much more efficient method of processing the approximately 50 million scripts that the Department handles annually. It is in order to provide more efficient means of processing these scripts, and also to enable more effective managerial control of the data involved in the scripts, that the automatic data processing equipment is being introduced. In fact, the control data 3600 computer that is being used by the Department of Health is at present held by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics and, consequently, no capital cost is incurred by the Department of Health. The equipment is used on a hire basis by the Department and the only equipment that the Department of Health has to introduce are the servicing machines. The punch paper taping equipment is hired under a contract initially arranged by the Bureau. In all, 297 paper tape punching and verifying machines will ultimately be on hire throughout Australia.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. This is just another abuse of question time by Ministers arranging questions and having prepared answers so that they can publicise themselves.
– Order! I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that a Minis ter has a perfect right to answer a question directed to him. I am not in a position to know whether or not questions are Dorothy Dixers.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether discussions in his caucus have proceeded far enough for him to say whether he will be able this year to introduce the shipping amendments to the Trade Practices Bill’ and whether the debate on the whole Bill will conclude this year.
– This matter is being considered by the Government and my present hope is that there will be opportunity for debate on the Bill in the very near future.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army. It follows on a question asked by my colleague, the honorable member for Wannon, concerning Vietnam. Statistics that have been published in the Press indicate that Australian casualties in Vietnam have been relatively much heavier than those of United States forces. Does the Minister agree that as the Australian forces have no supply troops of their own in Vietnam, and as the proportion of United States casualties is correctly calculated on the total, number of United States troops in Vietnam, including at least two supply personnel for each front line combatant, the statistics that have been published give a completely false picture of the proportions of Australian and United States casualties?
– The conclusion that the honorable member has drawn is correct. I am not in a position to say precisely what the casualty rate of the United States forces is, but it is true that there are at least as many administrative and logistic personnel in the United States forces in South Vietnam as there are combat troops. It is not reasonable to compare the casualty rate of Australian troops, who are virtually all combat troops, with that of the United States forces, which is based on the total number of United States personnel in South Vietnam. The best comparison that we are able to make relates to the 173rd Brigade, of which the Australian unit is a part. The casualty rates of Australian and United States troops in that Brigade are almost exactly the same.
– I ask the Acting Minis ter for Trade and Industry a question. Can he explain why permission is refused for the importation into Australia of Russian crude oil and Russian oil refined in Japan? Is this the result of a political decision made by the Australian Government or a commercial arrangement made by the head offices overseas of the Caltex, Vacuum and Shell oil companies?
– I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will realise that as a caretaker Minister in the Department of Trade and Industry I am not as familiar with details of this kind as the permanent occupant of the office would be. If the honorable gentleman will put his question on notice I will arrange for a reply to be given.
– I will not put it on notice but I will be glad of a reply.
– I will provide one.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. I refer to the statement made by the Minister for Civil Aviation in another place last week regarding Government approval for the acquisition of new jet aircraft and an expenditure of £8 million for airport development. Can the Minister say when details of the £8 million airport development programme will be available and whether this programme includes the redevelopment of domestic facilities at Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney airports?
– I am afraid I do not know the details that the honorable member requires. I shall get in touch with the Minister for Civil Aviation and see that the honorable member is supplied with a reply as soon as I can obtain one.
– Can the Postmaster-General say whether married ex-servicemen are entitled to concessional rates for television and radio licences if they are no longer in employment but are receiving the war pension of £6 a week plus a wife’s allowance of £2 6s, a week, the total income from all sources being less than £9 a week for both the husband and the wife? Further, can the Minister say in what other circumstances television and radio licences are available at concessional rates to recipients of war pensions and also whether any merged means test is applied when such ex-servicemen apply for radio and television licences at concessional rates?
– If they satisfy the requirements of a means test, service pensioners are entitled to concessions in relation to telephone rentals and television and radio licences. Totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners are entitled to those concessions without having to undergo a means test. A war widow is entitled to a concession in respect of telephone rental but is not entitled to a concession in relation to a television and radio licence.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question. Earlier this afternoon, in answering a question about the stresses and strains undergone by Australian troops in Vietnam, the Minister said that they were able to go on leave to Hong Kong. When it was first announced that Australian and American troops in Vietnam were to go on leave to Hong Kong were threats issued to the Hong Kong authorities by Peking, as a result of which, according to newspaper reports, the British authorities asked that Australian and American troops be not sent on leave to Hong Kong? What is the present position?
– There was a momentary discontinuance of the practice of sending troops on leave to Hong Kong. I understand that this was done because of a. temporary lack of United States aircraft, which we depend upon in this respect. The interruption to the practice of sending troops on leave to Hong Kong was of short duration and the practice was resumed soon afterwards.
– I ask the Treasurer: Is it true, as I assume it is, that the Commonwealth does not pay sales tax on goods purchased for governmental use through departments and other government agencies? Will the Treasurer consider investigating the extent to which the Commonwealth is required to pay sales tax in relation to large construction projects that are carried out by private contractors under government direction? In particular, will the right honorable gentleman ascertain the extent to which sales tax is required to be paid in relation to the preparation of plans and specifications by privately engaged architects and in the printing of the myriad plans that must be in the hands of the contractors in order to carry out even one large construction job? Having obtained these figures, will the Treasurer ascertain whether the Commonwealth might find means by which to avoid paying sales tax on these things?
– I shall try to secure the information sought and supply it to the honorable gentleman.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry a question. I refer to the recent statement that the Japanese Government had approved the importation of 500 tons of butter for the immediate future. Will Australian trade authorities ensure that all possible action is taken to secure as many orders as possible for Australian butter in Japan as a consequence of this decision?
– I assure the honorable member and all those who, like him, are deeply interested in the dairy industry, that the Department of Trade and Industry, in concert with the Department of Primary Industry, will use its utmost endeavours to get the maximum possible sale of Australian butter.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Would the next of kin of a national serviceman killed in an accident involving commercial aircraft operating in Australia be entitled, under the provisions of the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Liability) Act, to compensation of up to £7,500? Would the next of kin of a national serviceman killed in similar circumstances while returning from service in Vietnam not be entitled to compensation? If so, does the Treasurer agree that an anomaly exists in relation to these matters?
– I am not able, offhand, to answer the question. I shall examine it and supply the information to the honorable member.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. I ask: Has his attention been directed to an allegation made by the head of an African state which is fully accredited to the United Nations that a number of his Ministers had engaged witch doctors to cast evil spells over him? Can the honorable gentleman say whether the allegation has substance and whether the practice is widespread? Finally, in view of the imperturbability of the right honorable gentleman who is the political head of Australia can the Minister say whether the Australian Ministry has not been susceptible to the practice or whether there is a natural resilience here to sorcery in all its forms?
– I have seen some newspaper reports of the statement mentioned. I do not know whether the honorable gentleman asks whether the practice is widespread in Africa or whether it is widespread throughout the world. I can speak with confidence only of this side of politics in Australia. So far as I am aware, on this side there is no resort to witch doctors or sorcery. There is only that happy comradeship in which we all bask.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Is he aware that two United States companies are bidding vigorously against each other for possession of the shareholding of Cresco Fertilisers Ltd. and that yesterday the value of the company’s £1 shares rose by lis. to 80s.? Will he ensure that the Government takes such steps as are necessary to deal with this competitive bidding for shares, which will inevitably increase the price of fertilisers?
– The only information that I have about this matter is what I, like the honorable member, have read in the newspapers. Naturally the Government is interested in the availability of supplies of fertilisers to meet all requirements and in fertiliser prices. I shall adopt the honorable member’s suggestion and look into the matter to see what can be done.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. Does he recall that last Wednesday, when answering a question about the flow of water in the River Murray, he said that it was certain that owing to the low water levels in the storages some restriction on the use of water by irrigators was certain to be imposed by the River Murray Commission? Did he state that water from the Hume Weir could be supplemented by. 500,000 acre feet from Lake Victoria and 60,000 aerie feet from the Menindee Lakes but that restrictions would still be necessary? As the statement anticipating restrictions will cause concern to irrigators and those who require water for domestic and stock supplies, I ask: Can the waters of Lake Eucumbene be used to maintain the River Murray at its normal level and so avert the need for restrictions?
– I did say in the
House last week that it was almost certain that restrictions on the use of water from the River Murray would be required this summer because of the low levels in the storages. I am afraid that the rains last weekend have not altered the position materially. Discussions have taken place between the various members of the River Murray Commission and I think that fairly shortly an announcement will be made by the Commission. Any restrictions that may be imposed will not be severe. I understand that Victoria has storages on tributaries of the Murray, particularly the Eildon Weir, from which water may be released into the Murray. As a result, Victorian irrigators will be able this summer to obtain all the water they require. However, there will be some slight restrictions on the use of water by irrigators in New South Wales and South Australia. Regarding the honorable member’s inquiry about whether water could be diverted from Lake Eucumbene to the Murray River, I regret to say that this will not be possible until about April or May of next year, though water could be diverted into the Murrumbidgee. The level of water in Lake Eucumbene is fairly low. It is only just on target. So we are not able to assist in the way envisaged by the honorable member.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services. Is it correct that the Department of Social Services does not know even approximately how many Aborigines are receiving age or invalid pensions or where such recipients are usually domiciled? Could it be correct that some Aborigines, particularly in the north, are entitled to benefits under the Social Services Act but are not aware of their entitlements? If so, will the Minister arrange for officers of his Department to go out among the Aborigines to explain to them the provisions of the Social Services Act in a similar way to that in which officers of the Commonwealth Electoral Office went out to explain the system of enrolment and of voting at Commonwealth elections?
– In every sphere of its administration this Government makes no distinction against Aborigines. The Department of Social Services keeps no statistics relating to the races of persons who are receiving benefits. It is for this reason that there are no accurate statistics available to members of this House as to the number of persons of a particular race who are receiving benefits. I shall look into the suggestion concerning Aborigines throughout Western Australia and the north of Australia who possibly are not receiving their entitlements; but I cao assure the honorable gentleman that every effort has been made by the Department in the past to bring to persons who are eligible an awareness of the benefits to which they are entitled and of the manner in which they should apply for them. I do not know whether anything further can be done in this direction. I shall look into the matter and see whether additional assistance can be provided.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Works and I refer to a statement by the Minister for Works that a new wharf is to be erected at Darwin, to cost the public purse £500,000, without examination by the Public Works Committee. Is this another flagrant example of the recent tendency to prevent examination of projects by the Public Works Committee, under a variety of subterfuges? Will the Minister take the opportunity of an impending amendment of the Public Works Committee Act to tighten up the procedures by which this Committee will be requested to examine proposals for the expenditure of public moneys - a require, ment designed by this Parliament to safeguard the interests of the taxpayer?
– I am not aware of the exact circumstances surrounding the case mentioned by the honorable member. I shall refer his question to the Minister for Works and obtain an answer for him. The Public Works Committee Act lays down that public works costing over a certain amount must be examined by the Public Works Committee unless the Parliament itself authorises dispensation of the examination. If they are defence works, dispensation may be authorised by the Governor-General in Executive Council.
– I ask the Treasurer: Is it a fact that at present Australia’s external funds are being exhausted at the rate of well over £300 million a year, even allowing for seasonal factors? Will he say whether, if that is an accurate statement of the rate of exhaustion, the Government considers that the funds will continue to decline at that rate in the future? If this rate of decline is expected to continue, what steps does the Government intend to take to deal with the situation?
– The figure quoted by the honorable member is very much in excess of the estimate formed by the Government at the time when the Budget was under consideration. My latest check on the matter with the Treasury suggests that, having regard to the high level of capital inflow and a possible - in fact, a likely - decline in the level of importing, the decline in our reserves in the current financial year will be somewhat lower than we had anticipated at Budget time.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Navy concerning the refitting and alteration programme for H.M.A.S. “Melbourne”. On 10th November last, the Prime Minister stated that “ Melbourne “ was being converted to an anti-submarine role. He also said -
The main functions in which modernisation is required are the operation of anti-submarine aircraft in all weather by day and night; long range detection and height rinding radar . . .
The Prime Minister added that those proposals would add substantially to the antisubmarine capability of the Royal Australian Navy, etc., etc. The Minister yesterday stated that it was decided now that the complete refit would not take place and, indeed, we were to purchase new fighter bomber aircraft for the carrier “ Melbourne “. Does this mean that the anti-submarine potential of the “ Melbourne “ has been lessened? Could the Minister explain to the House what is the difference in the strategic situation which no longer requires a heavy anti-submarine role but more strike aircraft or protective fixed wing aircraft in respect of the carrier? Does it mean we need a new carrier for fixed wing aircraft in addition to the antisubmarine carrier “ Melbourne “?
– What my statement means in effect is that the anti-submarine potential of H.M.A.S. “Melbourne” has been increased and not decreased as the honorable member said. The difference here is that instead of the long mid-life refit taking two years which was proposed, the professional advisers of the Government suggested, and the Government agreed, that the refit be shortened to six months because this would mean that, at a time like this, the carrier would be in operation. My statement simply means that the acquisition of the Skyhawk aircraft does not turn H.M.A.S. “ Melbourne “ into anything else but a better antisubmarine carrier.
Speaker, I have received and I present to the House the ninth annual report by the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission furnished to me in accordance with section 70 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1965. Copies may be obtained from the Clerk. In his report, the President has made interesting observations regarding the working of the conciliation and arbitration system. In particular, he has directed attention to the-
– Order! Is the Minister making a statement?
– I am presenting the report. This is the normal way in which it is done.
– If the Minister wishes to make any comment on the report, I suggest he seek leave to do so.
– If that is so, I will restrict my remarks to the presentation of the paper. But I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that in every year I have been here this is the way it has been done.
– That does not say that that procedure is in order.
– I present the following paper -
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Ninth Annual Report of the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for the year ended 13th August 1965.
– by leave - Mr. Speaker, The Government has completed its review of the allowances to be paid to members of the Forces serving in Vietnam, Borneo and Ubon, Thailand. This has followed an inspection of the areas by a joint TreasuryServices team which was asked to have particular regard to the costs experienced by the personnel concerned and the nature of the expenditures they find it necessary to make. The Government has decided that allowances at the rate of 17s. per day for officers and 15s. 6d. per day for other ranks should be paid in all three areas. The House will appreciate these are allowances quite distinct from the normal pay. These rates will apply to all single personnel and to married personnel whose dependants are in Australia. Married personnel with dependants in Malaya, who are posted for service in Borneo or Ubon, will retain their Malayan allowance and receive in addition a flat rate of 12s. per day.
The interim allowances ranging from 7s. 6d. to 14s. per day paid to members of the battalion which proceeded to Vietnam in May were determined on the understanding that they would be subject to review in the light of costs and conditions in the area and that any increase subsequently approved would operate with retrospective effect. Accordingly, the new rates of 17s. and 15s. 6d. per day in Vietnam will be applied as from 26th May 1965. These rates will extend to members of the Army Training Team and Royal Australian Air Force Caribou Flight as well as to the battalion and its supporting units. Increases for personnel serving in Ubon will apply from 1st September 1965. Although, of course, in most instances, the effect of these general rates will be to produce increased payments, the application of the general rate in the three areas could lead, in a few instances, to a situation where a lower rate might apply now. This is in the case, in particular, of some of the officers. So, we are making provision for non-reduction in respect of those members whose allowances otherwise would be reduced for the remainder of their tour of duty. The Government, which has given close attention to this question of rates of allowances for Australian servicemen in these areas, believes that those now decided will be generally recognised as satisfactory and appropriate.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) on the ground of public business overseas.
Motion (by Mr. Hulme) proposed -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business tomorrow.
.- Mr. Speaker, the Opposition opposes this motion. Last week, the Grievance Day debate, or Private Members’ Day, was set aside to meet the convenience of the Government. It is understandable that this should happen periodically, but it looks as if it is to happen continually. The Australian Labour Party believes that the subject matter put on the notice paper by its representatives and relating to the findings of a committee of this Parliament, which had been created because of a petition from Aboriginal people, is important, and should not be brushed aside.
The report of this committee was presented to the Parliament two years ago. I do not want to canvass its merits or demerits. But it was a unanimous report of the representatives of all parties in this House. It was a report which arose out of a grievance of the Yirrkala Aboriginal people. We believe that the continual brushing aside of the debate on this vitally important matter, involving as it does the ignoring of a specific appeal for protection by the Yirrkala people and coming at a time coincident with the renewal of the development of their land in the Yirrkala area, is wrong. We are anxious for the debate. We are anxious for a clear statement of policy from the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), who was one of the members of that committee who subscribed to this report. We are concerned about the fate of these people. We are concerned to know what has happened. We do not think that the response of this Parliament to a petition from Aboriginal people should be continually postponed. The whole matter has not been the subject of any action over the last two years. A clear statement of the Government’s attitude towards this report has not been made. It has simply been received. Because of the importance of the subject matter of the debate involving human rights, we do not believe that it should again be set aside for less important Government business.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 14
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Worts Committee Act 1913-1960, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Erection of a migrant hostel at Randwick, New South Wales.
The proposal involves the provision of a migrant hostel to house approximately 1,000 persons at an estimated cost of £1,955,000. The project comprises the erection in twostory permanent construction of three accommodation blocks with communal washroom and toilet facilities; an amenities building containing migrants’ lounge, kiosk, and child minding centre together with dining room, kitchen and boiler house. A two-story staff block and three managers’ residences are also proposed. All construction is to be in load bearing brick with reinforced concrete floors and cement tiled or aluminium deck roofing. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 26th October (vide page 2219).
Department of Labour and National Service.
Proposed expenditure, £3,579,000.
.- In rising to speak to the proposed expenditure for the Department of Labour and National Service I express my disapproval of the late tabling by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) of the annual report of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. We are halfway through the debate on the estimates of the Department of Labour and National Service and the Minister comes along and tables this annual report. No honorable member will have the oppor tunity, before the debate ends, to peruse that report or deal with any of the matters contained in it. Those honorable members who spoke last night had no opportunity of reading or debating any of the contents of the report. I hope that in future the Minister will make all the information possible available to honorable members at least 48 hours before the debate on his Department’s estimates commences, and preferably a week beforehand.
The matter I wish to deal wilh is the shortage of tradesmen today and the failure of the Government to do anything constructive to overcome this problem. We have heard numerous plans outlined by the Minister, A scheme was introduced two years ago which provided that boys who had gained the Leaving Certificate and had passed in certain subjects - mathematics and science - could have their apprenticeship period reduced by upwards of 18 months. In all, they would serve an apprenticeship of between 3 and 3i years. I want to bring before the Committee what some people in industry think of this scheme. I shall quote from the Newcastle “ Morning Herald “ of 8th October 1965, a report on the Shortland County Council, which is the second largest electricity reticulation authority in New South Wales. What the Council’s chief electrical engineer, Mr. Donaldson, thinks of the Department’s scheme for shortening the term of apprenticeship is shown by the report. Referring to Mr. Donaldson the report reads -
He would not be happy to sign the indentures of a boy who had been with the County Council for virtually only two years and a few months under the shorter system.
He did not think that time was sufficient to produce a tradesman competent in each of the varied fields of activity found at the County Council.
The newspaper report of Mr. Donaldson’s comments also stated -
Shortland County Council was told yesterday that Leaving Certificate-trained boys had generally not proved themselves better than Intermediate Certificate boys in apprenticeships.
The Chief Electrical Engineer (Mr. Donaldson) said this was contrary to general opinion.
But the council had found boys with Intermediate Certificates, coming in younger, usually had better attitudes to their jobs.
The scheme envisaged by the Minister for Labour and National Dervice was intended to produce a large influx of apprentices. But that just has not eventuated. First of all, boys are not particularly interested in the scheme. Secondly, the boys who are interested in it are not measuring up and are not as good as the boys who complete the Intermediate Certificate examination and then undertake a five years apprenticeship.
Notwithstanding all of the ideas that the Minister has put forward in attempts to increase the number of apprentices, the latest figures that are available from the Apprenticeship Commission in New South Wales disclose that this year, up to the end of September, only 7,380 apprentices had been indentured, compared with’ 7,699 in the same period of last year. In other words, 319 fewer apprentices have been registered with the Apprenticeship Commission in New South Wales. It is pretty obvious that something is wrong with a system of apprenticeship training which cannot attract sufficient boys to meet the requirements of industry. I believe that several factors contribute to this position. First of all, the margins paid to tradesmen when they complete their apprenticeships are not sufficient inducement Parents will not put their children through apprenticeships knowing that when they finish their time the remuneration for the skill that they have acquired during their apprenticeship will be insufficient. For this reason, not enough parents are putting their children into trades today.
The Government itself is not carrying out its responsibilities. With the concurrence of honorable members, I incorporate in “ Hansard “ a table setting out information that I have received from the Ministers in charge of the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Commonwealth Railways, the Department of Works, the Department of Supply, the Department of the Navy, and the Department of the Interior. The table sets out the number of tradesmen employed, the number of apprentices employed, the number of apprentices who could be employed and the difference between those last two figures, in respect of each of those departments.
The table shows that in 1964 and 1965 the Commonwealth Government could have employed another 2,508 and 2,148 apprentices respectively. I appeal to the Minister for Labour and National Service, whose Department controls or has some say in the flow of apprentices, to make a greater effort and to bring greater pressure to bear on the Ministers in charge of the departments referred to in the table. I have spoken to some of the people who are in charge of those departments. They are quite open and frank in saying that they are not prepared to increase the number of apprentices that they have in their employ at the present time. So the position is very clear. The Government is not carrying out its responsibility of ensuring that additional apprentices are indentured and trained each year. The figures in the table give the true picture.
I believe that we must consider several factors in relation to the shortage of apprentices. As I mentioned earlier, one of the problems is the rates of pay. In 1937 a tradesman received a margin of £1 10s. over the basic wage of £3 8s. This margin represented 44.1 per cent, of that, basic wage. Today the tradesman’s margin represents 34.4 per cent, of today’s basic wage. The tradesman receives a margin of £5 6s. There should be an immediate increase of at least £1 9s. 6d. in that margin. Recently, when the metal trades unions asked the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for an increase in margins, their application was rejected. If this Government and industry as a whole honestly want more tradesmen in industry, they must offer sufficient inducement.
There is a weakness in the present system of determining margins. Every time there is an increase in the fitter’s margin - the one on which all margins are determined - people at the top of the scale receive increases of anything up to £300 and £400 a year. Some years ago we saw the ludicrous position of the tradesman receiving an increase of £1 a week in his margin and the tall poppies, including the members of the Commission, receiving salary increases of as much as £900 a year. This relativity should be eliminated completely. The Commission should deal with the tradesman’s margin on its own. It should fix that margin and not relate the margins of everybody else to it. At present the members of the
Commission realise that if they increase the tradesman’s margin there will be an immediate spiral of marginal increases for everybody else. If we want to attract tradesmen to industry, we will have to isolate them, deal with them as a group and not relate the margins of everybody else to their margin.
I have some figures in relation to the union of which I am a member. They give some idea of the way men are leaving the trade. Between 1954 and 1964 that union admitted 22,591 members. In the same period 10,224 full members and 216 apprentices left the trade. Those figures do not include men who died. A total of 10,440 men left the trade.The relevant figures for this year are similar to those for last year. I have not time to give all the figures. The position is very clear. If the Government and industry want more tradesmen, they have to be prepared to offer sufficient inducement in the form of weekly wages.
Furthermore, I do not believe that the Government has done enough about attracting female labour into industry. I refer not only to skilled labour but to labour in general. The shortage of unskilled labour is just as serious as the shortage of skilled labour. That statement was made in April of this year by the General Manager of the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. I believe that the Government should make an effort to get additional females into industry and particularly into the skilled trades. Young girls who have completed their third, fourth or fifth year at school are just as capable of going into industry, of serving apprenticeships and of working in trades as young boys are. Even in industry today women are operating machines and lathes and are doing process work. There is no reason why that type of tradesman’s work cannot be performed by women as well as process work can be performed by women. Government Departments and the Department of Labour and National Service should be making a greater effort to induce industry to accept additional female labour. They should be setting the pace. Commonwealth Government Departments should be apprenticing young women ja their own Departments. In this way they would be able to give a lead to industry. There is any number of young ladies available for employ- ment. For example, the latest employment figures for October for the Commonwealth show that there are 3,986 junior males and 7,070 females unemployed. In my own district 151 junior males and 624 junior females are unemployed.
The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) has, on a number of occasions in this chamber, brought to the attention of the Minister the serious number of unemployed women, and young women in particular, in his electorate. The same thing applies in my electorate. I believe that these people could be induced into apprenticeships and would make excellent tradesmen. There is another matter on which I believe the Government has fallen down on its responsibilities. I refer to its failure to attract sufficient skilled migrants to Australia. If the Minister for Immigration and the Minister for Labour and National Service believe for one moment that tradesmen in the United Kingdom, or Germany and other European countries, can be attracted to Australia with the prospect of having to live in hostels they have another think coming. I believe that the Government should make special housing grants to State Governments or, preferably, that the Commonwealth should build houses for immediate rental to skilled tradesmen in selected trades, conditional on the tradesmen remaining in the cottages for two years. At the end of that time they could either buy the cottages or move on to wherever they wanted to go. I believe that if the Commonwealth instituted some system of this type by which it could offer accommodation it could attract skilled tradesmen to Australia. A fellow will not leave his home in the United Kingdom to come to Australia if he will be required to live in a hostel. The hostels are reasonable, but they are anything but good where migrants must share community meals and community living with everybody living in everybody else’s backyard. I believe that if the Government wants to do something about inducing tradesmen to come here, one way in which it can go about doing so is by offering suitable accommodation to the tradesmen that it brings in from overseas.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to speak very briefly in this debate. The subject under discussion is one of considerable importance from a national point of view. Having listened to the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) I feel that there is a need to place some real emphasis on what is in fact the pattern of employment and the pattern of progress in Australia today. The honorable member for Newcastle spoke of the need for apprenticeships and claimed that there is a lack of remuneration and that there has been insufficient action in this field to attract young people into apprenticeships. I suggest to the honorable member that if he compares what has been done in this field by this Government with the actions of past governments he will see that there is an unchallengable record of action of a worthwhile nature by the Government. The Government has introduced a scheme of apprenticeship which has encouraged a tremendous improvement in the standards of employment througout the nation. The records speak for themselves.
In Newcastle the industrial undertakings today employ a wide range of trained personnel, people who have had the benefit of what has been done by the Government to build up the apprenticeship system and to make possible a situation in which there are trained people to work as important units in industry. This has completely altered the work pattern in Australia. The emphasis on appreticeship has been such that we see today a clear understanding on the part of parents and young people of the need to undertake an apprenticeship and to equip themselves with a worthwhile job in order to fit themselves to go on into life in a fashion that will stand them in good stead for employment. In all of this the contribution of the Government has been large. I would say that in New South Wales under a Labour government, the State was lax for years in enabling apprenticeships to be extended in certain fields. I can recall very clearly examples in the country where it would have been possible for additional people to undertake apprenticeship had it not been for the attitude of the New South Wales Government. Let us look for just a moment at the overall picture of employment in Australia. We see a situation in which unemployment is down to a level of about .8 per cent, in a work force of more than 4 million. This is a remarkable record when we think in terms of the problems of finance and of the trading situation in which we find ourselves as a nation, and also when we compare Australia with similar countries. Canada is one country that we can take for a comparison with our situation.
Having regard to population and productivity, in Australia we have been able to maintain a situation of employment that is unequalled anywhere in the world. This is the record of a government that has been determined to ensure not only that there are jobs for the people but also that the jobs are of a sort that will be a continuing requirement. In other words, the Government has been able to manage the financial needs of the nation in such a way as to give security of employment. This is a difficult thing to do in a primary producing nation. It is difficult for the reason that there are seasonal factors which inevitably arise, factors of seasonal employment in a wide range of fields. I refer to employment in such undertakings as meatworks, and in such industries as the cane industry and the fruit industry. Despite all of the problems of the seasonal need and the tapering off which comes in these industries, we have been able to establish in Australia a system that has resulted in a fairly even situation of employment. In instances where there has been some need for a boost for employment and a seasonal occupation has come to an end, there has been a definite approach to the problem through the provision of financial assistance to State and local authorities so they might provide special avenues of employment. This is a matter that has been given a great deal of attention by the Government in discussions at Premiers’ Conferences and Loan Council meetings. I think we should have regard to the importance of this when we review the employment pattern in Australia.
The Department of Labour and National Service has been able to organise a very useful system of job finding and also a very useful system of advising people in regard to employment. When we note that the relevant figures show that today those registered for the unemployment benefit number fewer than 10,000, when we see listed a definite job vacancy situation of 52,000 and when we relate this to the overall national employment, surely we recognise that we have a unique record. Yet the pessimists in this debate talk of a fall in employment in the motor industry. They talk of problems that are supposed to exist, but their case is so weak that they turn their attention to talk of the need for more employment for married women, the need for more employment for people in categories other than those already providing work for the nation’s work force.
There has been a great deal of reference to Wollongong. When we look at the figures we see that the unemployment situation there is such that about 330 persons are registered. This was the subject of much comment by members of the Opposition in recent times. In fact, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) recently spoke in Wollongong and expressed great concern at the failure of the Government in that part of New South Wales to provide adequate employment and to find jobs for a range of people. Statistics, of course, completely contradict this picture. I think it is a pity that the Opposition should tend to speak disparagingly of the situation as it really exists, because this is no encouragement to young people or to people who should be given a lead by those in responsible positions - by members of Parliament in particular - urging them to think in terms of security and of working where their own welfare is a matter of pride rather than something to criticise.
There are many factors that must always be on the employment horizon. I have referred to the Department of Labour and National Service as a government instrumentality that is doing a useful job of work. We must also bear in mind that there are other matters to which the Department can turn its attention in the future. I think of problems in rural areas where there is a need for more employment in specialist fields and where there is a lack of opportunity for young people to work in industry because there are no widespread industries outside the metropolis or large areas like Newcastle. This is something that we should think about nationally. There is a need to try to boost country centres beyond the 20,000 population level. If we had country cities of up to 100,000 population there would be a far greater chance for unified development rather than development in concentrated areas of Australia. This requires much ingenuity and I hope that the actions that are being attempted day by day in this direction will gradually bring useful results. About 50 years ago in the United States of America there was a similar problem, but it was gradually overcome. It is our task in the national Parliament, just as it is the task of persons in other places, to do what we can to solve this problem.
Of course, the Department does try to encourage industry to assist workers. Recent activity under the productivity group scheme indicates what can be accomplished between management and those working in an industry. We see a useful result from bringing people together to foster a better understanding of the work in which they are engaged. This is something that the Government, under the leadership of the Minister, has been able to initiate. Remarkable results have been obtained. I believe a word of praise from the Opposition would be a good thing. In view of the 1 million man days that have been lost in the last few years through unauthorised stoppages and the actions of people who are not actuated by thoughts of developing the nation or of furthering the interests of the employees themselves, but have occasioned much unrest, efforts to overcome the problem should be commenced. I believe that the legislation introduced recently in relation to the waterfront is a major step forward in overcoming this type of problem. However, the problem extends far beyond the waterfront and it is for all of us to try to assist those who are keen to do a good day’s work and who, as a result of doing a good day’s work, will see benefits flowing directly to themselves as well as to the industry they serve. If we can encourage such thinking we will be in a better position to meet the problems that arise and the situations that occur as a result of an economic climate that must from time to time produce some employment disabilities. These disabilities would be lessened if we could see a definite reduction in the number of man days lost in the overall work pattern of this nation.
As a national Parliament we should try to move in this direction, because every man hour lost means that industry is less able to carry the burden when some problem results from trading difficulties or other factors. If we think in terms of the current situation in Autralia - the result of a serious drought - we realise that a little more reasonable behaviour on the part of all concerned could mean that fewer people would ultimately suffer from the effects of economic difficulties that inevitably arise, from a drought, flood or other form of adversity. In conclusion, I emphasise that the work of the Department of Labour and National Service goes beyond the mere matter of employment. Its activities are an important contribution to encouraging young people to find a useful way of life. I have been most impressed with what I have seen of the officers of the Department in various parts of New South Wales. They not only tell a person where he can get a job, but they supply him with details and encourage him to find the sort of work for which he is best suited. This is a wonderful contribution to Australia and I believe the officers of the Department who do this work are to be commended. [Quorum formed.]
– I do not intend to occupy a lot of time during this debate because I think talking in this debate is rather like worrying - it gives us something to do, but it does not get us anywhere. I wish to deal mainly with the effects of the Government’s national service policy on some people in the sugar industry of north Queensland. One could be forgiven for believing that a government of the political complexion of this Govenrment would have thought a little deeper about the effects that the calling up of young men would have on some rural industries. I believe that when the Government wanted to send troops to Vietnam, or anywhere else outside Australia, raising an expeditionary force for that purpose would have been an easy matter. The average young Australian, as most of us know from experience, would regard this sort of thing as an adventure, and 1 have no doubt that whatever number the Government wanted to send overseas would have been readily available. Had this been done all that we could have argued about would be the policy of involvement, because if a person is free, 21 years of age and wants to volunteer that is his own business. What I object to in the callup of 20 year olds is that, as a result of statements made by Ministers, parents know that their sons can be sent overseas, and this fact is weighing heavily on the minds of many parents whose sons are involved. To my mind it is most unfair and quite unnecessary, and 1 think the Government will find this out for itself as time goes on.
Conditions in the sugar industry today, as most honorable members know, are not good. The world market price for sugar is extremely low. At the moment I think it is £23 a ton. The industry experienced a boom in 1963 when the price of sugar rose to more than £100 a ton, and unfortunately at that time the Gibbs Committee recommended an expansion programme. From that rime onwards things went wrong. The price of sugar started to fall, and people obtaining assignments evidently imagined they had won Tattersalls sweep and bought land at prices up to £100 an acre and took on heavy commitments. The fall in the price of sugar, accompanied by excessive rain in some areas and drought in others, soon had the new growers in trouble.
The expansion was accompanied by a labour shortage which was brought about by farm labourers - not all paid farm workers in the true sense but farmers* sons who worked on their parents farms - getting assignments of their own. The result was that the farms of the parents required labour, while the young men who had obtained assignments also had to employ labour to help them get going. As a consequence the labour pool, or such of it as was of any use, dried up. Even the shire councils could not get labour and in order to keep the men they had they were forced to give them an extra half day on Saturdays at double time. As honorable members know, local authorities are unable to pay more than award wages.
It was against such a background that young farmers were called up for national service training. In most cases deferment was refused even for the six months or so that would have enabled them to harvest their crops. In one case a young lad whose parents owned a hotel was put on a farm which was held by a partnership, he being the manager. I have raised this matter before but 1 think I should raise it again. The hotel in question is at Ingham. Because of the amount of money involved the lad’s parents decided that it would not be prudent - and I agree with them - to put the farm completely in the son’s name. They could have done so and defeated the provisions of the National Service Act because the farm was purchased at a time when, if it had been placed in the son’s name, it would have been possible for him to apply for exemption. But I do not think anyone would be criticised for not handing a £50,000 farm to a 20-year old lad, with no check on him at all. Yet it was because of this reasonable and prudent approach to the situation that these people have ended up in the mess in which they now find themselves.
The farm I am speaking of is in the Ingham area and it supplies cane to a mill on the Burdekin, some 90 miles away. The cane must, of course, go by rail and not on tramlines, as it normally does when a farm is close to the mill it supplies. The cane from this farm has to be hauled out, carted to the railway and loaded at whatever time is laid down in the railway timetable. This is often 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. Now the lad has been called up and the Government merely says that alternative labour should be obtained, but where are these people to get alternative labour? It is impossible, for the reasons I have stated earlier. There is just no labour available. Now this poor man - I do not mean that he is poor so far as money is concerned - ‘has to run his hotel and look after the farm at the same time. Looking after the hotel in itself is a rat race because there are lots of cutters and mill workers in the district who like to enjoy themselves after they have finished their work. No one can convince me that there is not a good case for some give and take when the administration of the legislation causes hardship of this kind. I am sure, from what I have seen, that the magistrates in these areas were given instructions to exempt no one, so that no embarrassment would be caused to the Government. If such instructions were not given I cannot see how any sensible magistrate would refuse exemption in a case such as the one I have outlined, even if only for the time necessary to get the crop out of the paddocks.
Another case I want to mention is that of a young Burdekin farmer who with his brother took over the running of their father’s farm when they left school. The father, because of ill health, has been unable to work the farm for 10 years and it had been leased while the two boys were growing up. As honorable members know, such leasing arrangements are quite common in farming areas. After the two boys left school they ran the farm quite successfully. It is in the Burdekin delta area, where farmers rely on underground water for growing cane. A great deal more work is involved in farming this type of country than in working a dry farm where the water is supplied by rainfall. With the labour situation similar to that I have outlined in the Ingham area, one of these lads was called up and was refused exemption, even for the short time that would have sufficed to harvest the crop. He is now in the Army while his brother tries to manage alone and his father is beside himself with worry, which could eventually kill him.
I think the greatest farce about this National Service Act was the impression given by people who ran around saying: “This is a good thing. It will keep the bodgies off the streets and it will do some of these young chaps good to get into the Army.” From what I can see of the present position there are still plenty of bodgies around and every lad I know who has been called up has been a decent type, amongst the best types of young chaps we have in the country. As I have said before, the hardships that have resulted would never have been imposed had the Government gone about its business in the right way.
I know it is of no use writing to the Minister about these matters because the legislation is so framed that only a magistrate can make a decision and there is no redress available. But are not magistrates human and do not they have their own slant on these matters? I know that some of them would because they had bullets fired at them in a war, as I did and as a lot of other honorable members did. Those magistrates would not agree that everyone should be shot at. Then I suppose there is the pacifist type of magistrate who believes there should be no war at all. I agree with this in principle, but I fail to see how it could be made practical. However, a magistrate having that view would be inclined to let everyone off and have no national service training at all, so that the scheme would become quite unworkable. It is apparently for these reasons that the magistrates have been instructed to be as hard as possible. I could cite many more cases of hardship and give the names of those involved, but in order to avoid unnecessary embarrassment 1 shall refrain from doing so. I believe the decision to exempt a person from national service training or to defer his call-up should not be subject to the opinions and prejudices of any one man. I believe there should be a panel consisting of more than one man with set ideas - and in some cases they are very set. I think that the Government, in its endeavour to avoid being directly implicated in these deferment decisions has slipped very badly.
I will cite just one other case to demonstrate the odd results that can spring from the administration of this national service scheme. It concerned a young lad who had never been quite normal in the true sense of the word. He had suffered a fall at an early age as a consequence of which his brain was injured. He never attended school full time but was taught by his mother at home. As he grew up he became subject to fits. Having received his call-up he went along with other lads and underwent a medical examination. Although the examining medical officer was told that he had suffered from fits and dizziness and had been under constant medical care for most of his life, including treatment by two psychiatrists, one in Brisbane and one in Townsville, he was accepted for service and is now in camp. However, I hope something will be done to get him out. The Minister has the matter under consideration at the moment. I mention it in passing because I think it illustrates the anomalies of the scheme.
I have outlined three cases in which the persons concerned should never have been called up. We have been told that the wastage has not been as great as the Government had expected. In such circumstances why has no leniency been shown in the administration of the scheme? Why has there been no relaxation of the provisions of the legislation by magistrates in rural areas where hardship has been inflicted as a result of lads being called up? Why have they not at least been granted deferment until they could complete the harvesting of crops? I refer not only to the sugar industry; similar hardships have no doubt been inflicted in other primary industries. All these unnecessary hardships build up to a reaction of some kind, and I am quite sure that the Government in many rural areas will have to accept the consequences of its actions in these matters and others which come under the administration of this Department. I do not think they will be pleasant consequences.
Before concluding I would like to compliment the officers of the Department on the efficient and considerate manner in which they carry out rather a difficult task, having in mind the many ramifications of the Department’s activities and the persons with whom they have to deal.
.- I wish to speak of certain matters affecting the administration of the Department of Labour and National Service. I would like to comment on one or two remarks of the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson), who spoke a few minutes ago. In replying to the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) he said that the record of the Government in regard to apprentices was a good one. All I can say is this: If it has been a good record, why are we now so short of skilled men? If the Government had insisted on employers taking their full quotas of apprentices we would not now be short of skilled tradesmen. In Great Britain and France employers are fined if they do not take their full quotas of apprentices, but in this country no action seems to be taken to encourage or compel them to do so. Apprentices could be attracted to industry if they were paid higher wages. Suggestions have been made that apprentices should receive a percentage of the tradesman’s rate but, so far, nothing has been done in this respect.
The honorable member for Cowper referred also to the employment of women in industry, particularly in the Wollongong area. It is true that there is a good deal of unemployment amongst women in the Wollongong area but it is generally admitted that with the exception of some bad areas, such as Wollongong, there are many women in employment in Australia today. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) has himself commented on this matter recently. I regret that there is no provision in the estimates for the Department of Labour and National Service for the promotion of the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. The Minister has said that the addition of women to the work force had made a notable contribution to the development of this country. He said a few weeks ago in answer to a question that crises could have developed in industry but for the employment of women. The Labour Party does not object to the employment of women in industry but it does object to their employment at cheap rates. We on this side pf the chamber think that if women are doing work of the same value as the work performed by their male counterparts, they should be paid the full male rate. The increase in the number of women in employment has not led to a reduction in the price of commodities, notwithstanding that women are employed at reduced rates of pay. All that has happened has been that the employers of labour have made greater profits.
The Minister stands condemned for his failure to do something to promote the principle of equal pay for the sexes. I have pointed out on other occasions that the Minister and his Government have failed to honour recommendations flowing from the 1951 International Labour Organisation convention concerning equal remuneration for work of equal value. The Government has failed to ratify recommendation 1 1 1 relating to discrimination between the sexes. It has failed to implement the provisions of the vocational training recommendation of 1962 with respect to the employment of girls and women. In reply to a question that I asked, the Minister said that he would not agree to the establishment of a Status of Women Commission, as was done in the United States of America, but he blatantly and unashamedly urges the employment of more women in industry as a source of cheap labour. This is part and parcel of a deliberate campaign to reduce the living standards of the Australian worker.
Another aspect of the campaign may be seen in the Government’s action in supporting the deliberate pegging of the basic wage at a standard lower than in 1961 and 1964. Last night the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) drew attention to this matter and to the Government’s action in keeping the basic wage at a standard lower than in 1961 and 1964. The Government was guilty in 1965 of a flagrantly dishonest act before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is now adopting a similar attitude with respect to the employment of women. All that the Minister wants is cheap labour, and he does not care how he gets it. When the Government is challenged because of its failure to ratify International Labour Organisation decisions the excuse is given that some governments - meaning State Governments - will not agree to ratifification of those conventions. The truth is that the Commonwealth Government does not seriously support the decisions of the International Labour Organisation. I suggest that the Government is most anxious that convention 100 should not be ratified.
It is the Government’s responsibility to apply the principles of equal pay for work of equal value in respect of its own employees, but it does not do even this. In the Commonwealth Public Service, for example, men and women are working alongside each other, doing the same work, but getting different rates of pay. Whenever this matter is raised the Minister and his Department shelter behind the subterfuge that this is the responsibility of the Arbitration Commission. If the Government were genuine about equal pay for work of equal value it would endeavour to reach agreement with the States on this important matter so that a joint effort could be made to enact the necessary legislation. This is often done in relation to other matters which require the passing of legislation in the Commonwealth as well as the State Parliaments. It should not be difficult to reach agreement with the States on this matter because obviously the State Labour Governments would cooperate and the State Liberal Governments should do so because the principle of equal pay is part and parcel of the Liberal Party’s platform, although nothing has been done to implement it. The platform states that the Party accepts the principle of equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value. Is the Government two faced about this matter or is the Country Party tail wagging the Liberal Party dog? We all know that the Country Party is opposed to the principle of equal pay. The principle is embodied in the Liberal Party’s platform, but the Government has not done anything to give effect to the principle, despite the fact that the principle is the subject of an International Labour Organisation decision.
Just as this Government has assisted to keep down the purchasing power of the basic wage and to enable women to be employed at cheap rates despite increased productivity, so it intends to turn a blind eye to the higher productivity that will result from the introduction of automation. Why does the Minister hide his head in the sand when this matter is raised? He says that automation will not create any difficulties and that all of our work force will be aborbed. Why does the Minister think that, of all countries where automation is being introduced, Australia alone will escape the repercussions of its introduction? Automation has become a solid reality in the United States. It is an awesome fact of industrial life that worries the trade unions and some employers more and more. There is not the slightest doubt in the minds of Americans that automation, as the late President Kennedy said, represents the major problem of the 1960’s. The United States Department of Labour has estimated that 1.8 million workers in America are being replaced each year by new machines and computers and that an additional one million workers are no longer required in the labour market. Despite the fact that manufacturing output has increased by 40 per cent, in the last decade, employment in this field has failed to increase. In industry after industry there is a decline in employment, paralleled by increasing production. In America it is considered sound business to install expensive machinery and to dismiss the more costly workers, but the Minister seems to think that this will not apply in Australia.
Few industries can be immunised against the march of this new technology. Just as the 19th century industrial revolution revolutionised industry, the automation revolution has moved into American industry with explosive energy. There is, however, a difference between the two revolutions. At the time of the industrial revolution, workers’ organisations were weak; today they are strong. Unions know better than to believe that this new technology will create jobs. Automation is specifically intended to destroy manual labour. This has happened in the United
States and, as time passes, it will happen in Australia. The Minister is aware of these things, but he sits back, caring little about the effects of automation on the workers so long as additional profits can accrue to the people whom he and his Government represent in this Parliament. The machines of the first industrial revolution supplanted man’s muscle power. The new machines will replace, not only man’s muscle power, but his brains as well. The new machines and computers can work with precision and speed which no human being can match. You throw a switch and a computer does as it is told. It does not get sick. It does not ask for overtime or higher wages, lt does not need annual leave or long service leave. On the pressing of a button a machine can even translate from one language into another.
The trade union movement in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Australia is not opposed to automation itself. The opposition is to the methods by which it is introduced. That is why we say that this Government should be investigating this important problem and getting ready to take up the slack in employment that will ultimately be caused by the introduction of automation. Labour believes that just as an employer has a property right in his. plant and machines a worker with years of service has a property right in his job that cannot be ignored. What the unions fear most is what was described by the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in the standard hours inquiry in 1947 as “ the historic role of employers to oppose the workers’ claims for increased leisure “. The employers are not alone in this approach, of course. This Government’s attitude in the basic wage inquiry is typical of its attitude towards the claims of the workers.
As here, unions in the United States are demanding a 35 hour week. Some have already won this. The Electrical Workers Union, in fact, has won a 25 hour week for its new York electricians. The unions in the United States are also demanding at least a year’s severance pay for workers who become redundant, longer vacations and a reduction of the retiring age to 60. Major research is now being undertaken in that country and in the United Kingdom into the social and economic problems being created by automation. It is hoped to prevent the new technology from becoming a blight on human hopes and aspirations. The late President Kennedy put the problem well when he said that there is “ essential thinking and planning which we must do in order to make automation the servant rather than the master of the American people”. What planning is going on in Australia? None.
Claims are made that automation will not create unemployment. In some industries there are no outright lay-offs due to automation but the work force is gradually reduced. There is no question about that. In the United States this process is known as firing by not hiring. In this way the work force in a particular industry is gradually reduced. A common claim is that the new techniques will allow the production of new materials and thereby create employment. What happens, of course, is that hew materials replace the old with the use of less labour. An illustration was given at the International Congress on Human Relations. It was pointed out with respect to automation that the employment of labour on the production of tractors may improve the employment position in factories but this is more than balanced by the fall in employment on farms because of the use of tractors. I suggest to the Minister that he adopt the proposal of the Australian Council of Trade Unions which was stated in the following terms -
We are of the opinion there is need for a section of the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service to be established as a permanent organisation, equipped to deal with the effects of automation and mechanisation, and to co-ordinate remedial measures that must be taken to replace labour, and overcome the social problems involved.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, in speaking to the estimates for-
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to-
That the question be now put.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed expenditure, £10,301,000.
Australian Capital Territory.
Proposed expenditure, £9,580,300.
– The question is: “That the proposed expenditures be agreed to.”
– We opposed the motion that the question be put.
– You did not.
Order! There was no objection to the motion, “ That the question be now put “. That motion was agreed to and then the original question was put and agreed to. The proposed expenditures for the Department of the Interior and the Australian Capital Territory are now before the Committee.
– I rise to order. I want to know why the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen) was not allowed to proceed.
There is no substance in the point of order. The motion that the question be put was agreed to. There was no objection to it.
– The question was not put.
Order! The honorable member for Newcastle will resume his seat.
– I rise to order. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) moved that the question be put, but you did not put the motion, Sir.
The motion was put to the Committee by the Chair. If there is any objection to the ruling of the Chair, it may be raised in the proper manner. The question now is that the proposed expenditures for the Department of the Interior and the Australian Capital Territory be agreed to.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I propose to devote the time available to me during the consideration of this group of estimates to the discussion of educational needs in the Australian Capital Territory. For many years the people of this Territory were extremely proud of the schools that were being provided, and the Governments responsible had every reason to be proud of the types of schools being built at all levels and the equipment being provided in those schools. But in recent years there has been a very serious deterioration in the standard of school facilities being provided in Canberra. Whereas previously the schools of this city were regarded as being an example to the whole of Australia - indeed, I believe that the Commonwealth should build here schools that set an example to the rest of Australia - we find today many shortcomings not only in relation to the buildings themselves but also in the provision of equipment and the staffing of schools. Week after week there go to the Minister for the Interior, and are made public, complaints of gross overcrowding in infants’ and primary schools and indeed in some of our high schools. But there are not only complaints of overcrowding due to a shortage of classroom accommodation. There are complaints also about the inadequacy of the playground and recreation areas provided for schools.
There are complaints about these matters even in the newest suburbs of Canberra. It has become the practice of the National Capital Development Commission to develop what are now known as neighbourhood areas. These are planned to accommodate a population of, say, 4,000 to 5,000. The Commission estimates that the facilities provided are adequate to meet the needs of such a population. But no sooner is a new school opened in one of these areas than it becomes necessary for additional classrooms to be built. Delay inevitably occurs. So in this Territory, where the educational facilities provided were previously the envy of the States, we now have gross overcrowding, with classes being accommodated in corridors, libraries, general purpose rooms, sewing rooms and the like. These are places in which classes should not have to be held.
Representations on these matters have been made to the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, the National Capital Development Commission and the Minister himself. While I am speaking on this subject I want to pay tribute to the energy with which the present Minister is applying himself to the problems that he has inherited. I realise, that the present Minister has occupied his position only since the commencement of last year. He has inherited a National Capital Development Commission which, in my view - and it is the view of a large section of this community - is failing in its planning for the future of this city, failing to meet the present needs of the city and failing completely to envisage what the city will require, particularly in the field of education, in the years to come. Not only do complaints come from parents and citizens associations; they come from the Teachers’ Federation, from the secondary school teachers’ association and from the primary teachers’ association, all of whom are concerned with these problems.
We can look through newspaper after newspaper and see comments on this matter such as: “ School Forced to Refuse Pupils “, “Serious Problem at Curtin”, “Vigilante Unit Supported”, “School Science Needs Ignored, Teachers Claim “, “ Parents Want to See Action “. These references illustrate the need that exists in this community for much greater expenditure on the construction of schools in the new neighbourhood centres, on the provision of additions to old schools that are already overcrowded and on the provision of the equipment that should go with those schools.
I believe that the National Capital Development Commission is adopting a mistaken policy in relation to the areas it is making available for school playgrounds and for outdoor activities at schools. This is a matter that came before the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory some years ago. At that time the Committee expressed some concern to the Minister that the areas being allotted for schoolground purposes in the new suburbs of this city were inadequate. We had a reply from the National Capital Development Commission saying that it was working on the basis of seven to eight acres for primary and infants’ schools. That may well be the basis on which New South Wales operates. However whilst seven to eight acres may seem to be an adequate area for infants’ and primary schools, we find that, in order to enhance the aesthetic appearance of the suburbs, buildings are placed in the grounds in a profligate manner so that they take up an inordinate amount of the area available and thus deprive the children of the space for free play that is required in modern schools. This has happened in the suburb of Hughes, where the Minister himself resides, at a school where at least one of his children attends. The Minister has been able to effect some improvement there. I had word from him today that a strip of 50 feet in width will be added to the western side of the schoolground in order to provide an additional area.
But the point I want to make is that it is the planning that is at fault, not only in the provision of areas for schools but in the estimates of what the school populations will be. It is all very well for planners to parcel people into an area and say: “ This is an area in which 5,000 people will live. They will need so many shops and so many different types of schools “. How-, ever, the populations of these areas increase - for reasons not entirely within the control, I will admit, of the National Capital Development Commission; the school populations increase far beyond what the forecast has been, so that within a matter of months of a new school opening, there is an overcrowding problem. I made a brief reference to the problem of overcrowding at a school that opened only at the commencement of this year. It is already grossly overcrowded and needs additional classrooms.
Several weeks ago I mentioned in this House by way of question the case of one of our newest high schools, the Campbell High School. It was built to be one of the show places of this city. Literally thousands of pounds have been spent on beautifying the exterior of this school. I am told that £250 was spent on constructing a little stone wall round a gum tree in the grounds in front of the school. Everything possible has been done to make the appearance of the school attractive, but as I pointed out to the House - I was perhaps chided for raising this matter at question time - no flywire was provided at the school tuckshop and no flywire was provided on the domestic science block. I heard a master at that school say that there were 30 girls cooking and 3,000 blow flies in the room with them. This is happening in this modern, up to date city. This is a city that should be more conscious than any other of the need for providing adequate facilities for school training. That question was asked three weeks ago. The flywire has still not been provided. The blowflies are still there. These are not matters beyond the ability of the National Capital Development Commission or beyond the ability of this Government; but somebody, somewhere along the line,
Just is not up to getting on with the job and getting these things done.
Yesterday, at the request of the parents’ and citizens’ association, I visited one of our newest high schools - the Watson High School. I have conveyed to the Minister my view that this is one of the most ill designed, shoddily constructed schools that I have ever seen. And this is one of the newest schools in this city. I have asked the Minister, as has the parents’ and citizens’ association, to go personally and make an inspection of this school. I have told him that I believe he will be utterly shocked at what he sees in the design of the school. On the outside, the building is attractive, but on the inside one cannot credit the stupidity of design. I do not know where the National Capital Development Commission drags its architects from, but I am quite certain that they do not take into consultation the people who are concerned with education in this city. They do not seek the views of the teachers who must teach in these buildings. To illustrate what happens - this is only a brief illustration - a form master’s room is a room with bare brick walls and with one window 7 to 8 feet above floor level. In the classrooms there are steel framed windows with a plastic covering. They are supposed to slide along. I might have seen one room only in which the steel window frames had not been twisted. The others had become twisted simply because they were not adequate to the task they were supposed to perform. In other rooms, in order to provide some ventilation louvre windows have been put in 10 to 12 feet up from the floor, but there is no means of opening them unless one teacher stands on another teacher’s back or a senior pupil stands on another’s shoulders.
I want to make it clear to the Minister and to the Parliament that we are letting down the children of this Territory because we are failing to provide facilities for education in all fields. Certainly we shall shortly have an inquiry into the need for a college of tertiary education. That is a good move. But for years we have been asking for the establishment of a teachers’ training college. I would commend to the Minister - I do not doubt that he has seen the document to which I am referring - ‘an address given to the Advisory Council of this city only recently by Dr. A. C. Calwell in which he makes most pertinent comments on the need for the establishment of a school of education in this city. He points to the fact that it is estimated that within 10 years we will have an autonomous education system here; that is, we will be providing not only the buildings but also the staff, which at present is provided by the New South Wales Education Department.
I want to stress to the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), who is sitting at the table, and through him to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), that there is an urgent need to tackle the problem of providing facilities for education in the Australian Capital Territory, of providing additional classrooms and of providing the assembly halls that no high school should be without. Assembly halls are provided in what is called the third phase of the construction of high schools. Assembly halls are essential to high schools, yet they are not being provided. The Canberra High School got its assembly hall only after it had been in existence for, I think, some 27 years. The Lyneham High School, which is an example to the whole of Australia, was provided with everything at the time of its construction - with an assembly hall, a gymnasium, a change room and everything else that was required. There was the peak. There was the standard that should have been followed. But there is a standard that has been followed.
We have had delay in the construction of the new high school required at Deakin. The children from the southern and western suburbs of this city have to traverse long distances to attend the Campbell High School. This is the high school which has no flywire on the tuck shop or on the domestic science block. We were told last year that the Deakin High School would be ready for occupation towards the end of this year. Now, it may be ready for occupation by the commencement of the 1966 school year. We are falling behind on this work badly. I hope that the Minister for the Interior will take some action to stir up the people responsible. I hope he will take some action to get through to the National Capital Development Commission that, if it is designing schools, for God’s sake have a talk with the people who must use them and who know what must go into a school. The present architects can build something that looks pretty-pretty as blazes on the outside and damned ugly and almost useless inside. I am not using extravagant words when I say that. I hope that the Minister will accept the invitation that has been extended to him to visit the Watson High School to see what a shocking disgrace it is to a body which is lauded everywhere as being the great builder of a great national capital and which falls down on so many of the essential requirements of this city.
.- I rise to speak on the estimates relating to the Department of the Interior and to mention a problem which is a narrow one but one which affects a number of people in the Australian Capital Territory. This is the question of the compensation which is payable to rural lessees where the land is withdrawn from their leases by the Commonwealth. The Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory recently had occasion to inquire into the supply of residential blocks for Canberra. In the course of its inquiry, the Committee found that one of the sources for residential and business blocks was the group of rural leases, some of which were granted for 50 year terms. The Committee therefore directed part of its inquiry into that matter. It recommended that, where in fact the withdrawal clause was exercised and land was taken from rural lessees having a long term lease, just compensation should be paid. The Committee specified that compensation at least to the value, of the lease for probate purposes should be paid. I was not a member of that Joint Committee, but it comprised members of this House and members from the other place. It contained members from both parties. Its report was unanimous. I suggest therefore that this is a matter deserving of consideration by the Government.
The problem is this: When a lease of this type is granted by the Commonwealth Government, it contains a withdrawal clause. This provides that, if the Government should require for public purposes, the whole or any part of the land during the term of the lease, it may withdraw that land from the lease upon payment of compensation only of the value of the improvements affected by the lessee. A problem has arisen due to the fact that in 1956, when these leases came up for renewal, the lessees objected to the inclusion in them of the withdrawal clause. They were told, however, that’ if they did not agree to the insertion of this clause in the leases no further leases would be granted. They could take their belongings and move elsewhere. There was, however, some further negotiation which is described in the findings of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory presented on 1st September 1965. Paragraph 124 deals with the matter in this way -
The Department refused a request for leases in perpetuity for the safer areas and stated that it would offer lessees new leases of SO years’ duration after these areas had been carefully screened to see what areas might be required for Commonwealth purposes. Other lessees would receive a shorter term.
What that meant was that there were certain plans and certain expectations for Canberra. Careful assessment of the position was to be made and lessees who had land in areas, which would be described as safer areas, would be granted leases for a 50 year term. Others who were at risk would be given a shorter term. The fact is that these lessees, after a screening by the department, were content to take the 50 year term containing the withdrawal clause in spite of their previous opposition.
What has happened since is that Canberra has grown at a pace which neither the Department of the Interior nor the lessees anticipated at that time. Both sides acted in perfectly good taste. Both sides are found to have completely miscalculated with the result that Canberra has increased in size to a point where some of these screened and safer areas are being required for the development of the suburbs of this city. The withdrawal clause is being exercised not towards the end of the 50 year term but after the lease has run nine years only. In this situation it is found that lessees who are led quite genuinely to expect that they had some security of tenure, notwithstanding their consent to the withdrawal clause, are being required in many instances to move away. So much of their land is taken away that they are unable to work the rest of it on an economic basis. The whole or part of their land is taken away without any compensation beyond improvements which, of course, comprise fencing, dams and, perhaps, pasture improvement in evidence on the land. This does not give adequate financial compensation to the person whose business and living are interrupted in this way. which was quite unforeseen at the time when the inclusion of the withdrawal clause was agreed to. No blame is attachable to anyone. But the question does inevitably arise as to whether the Government should rely solely on the strict legal position which flows from the inclusion of the withdrawal clause leaving the lessees to carry the full burden of the miscalculation, or whether the Government should meet in some way a difficulty which has been created by the unforseen pace of the growth of Canberra.
There is one other aspect of this matter which was put to the Joint Committee and which is referred to in its report. Should one of these rural lessees die the Commonwealth Government requires estate duty on the full value of his property including the goodwill of his business, also taking into account the unexpired portion of his lease - in other words, the market value of his lease. It may be that the estate or the beneficiaries may have to bear this duty and, a short time afterwards, the withdrawal clause may be used by the Commonwealth to withdraw the land and to pay compensation only on the amount of the improvements carried out. This, again, is a position of unfairness which, I suggest, the Government should look at to see whether it should be allowed to continue. No serious financial hardship would be suffered by the Government in meeting the lessees to an extent with compensation. We know that the auction sales of these leases for suburban purposes have realised very substantial sums. In the case of one rural lease where 100 acres was taken, three adjoining shop frontages were sold for over £39,000 at auction. A nearby corner site for a service station was sold for £125,000. I make it clear that I do not advocate that rural lessees, having been given a lease with a withdrawal clause in it, should be entitled to any betterment increase in value arising by reason of any Commonwealth Government expenditure on Canberra. That is not the claim at all. I mention these figures only to show that it would not be difficult for the Commonwealth to meet the actual hardship of the rural lessees which flows from the miscalculation of the pace of expansion of Canberra. Of course, it may be said that the lessee agreed in 1956 to have the with drawal clause inserted and that he should stand by his agreement. It is true that he has no legal claim to compensation, but what is put forward really is that by reason of the mutual miscalculation a moral claim exists which is worthy of receiving- the consideration of the Government.
One other matter should be mentioned. At the time the rents were fixed in 1956 some discount or allowance was allowed for the fact that the withdrawal clause was included. One case may be mentioned, that of Mr. Bryan Hyles, who protested against the rent fixed. Mr. Fletcher, the Commonwealth Valuer, was called in the proceedings before the Land Court to indicate how he had fixed the rent. The evidence was that he fixed the rent on the value of the bare land at lis. 6d. per acre and that in arriving at that decision he allowed a discount of ls. 6d. per acre for the fact that there was a withdrawal clause in the lease. Where withdrawal takes place unexpectedly after nine years it does not give an adequate scope for adjustment or compensation to the rural lessee. But if it was thought that to some extent the rural lessee has had an advantage by getting a lower rent that could be taken into account by way of adjustment if that was thought to be fair.
This matter has been raised over a number of years, and I raise it now because of the report of the Joint Committee. In the course of its report the Committee had regard to this matter. Paragraph 127 reads -
Your Committee was informed that, in 1962, the President of the A.C.T. Rural Lessees Association discussed the matter of the “withdrawal clause” with the Prime Minister and the then Minister for the Interior.
He was Mr. Gordon Freeth -
It was stated in evidence that the Prime Minister said to the Minister for the Interior, “This clause cuts out just terms which the Commonwealth always pays. You will have to find a formula for compensation.”
It has been suggested that subsequently the then Minister for the Interior did offer a formula for compensation, but what took place was that he wrote to the President of the Australian Capital Territory Rural Lessees Association a letter which was received about 30th August 1962 offering to modify the present leasing system to the extent that a rural lessee holding a 50 year lease of land not likely to be required for Commonwealth purposes could obtain a fresh lease on different terms not containing a withdrawal clause. By no stretch of the imagination could this be called a formula for compensation for withdrawal, but it is obviously an alternative.
After that two applications were made. The first was by a Mr. Spiegal who had a lease of 1,200 acres about 8 to 10 miles from Canberra, at “Winslade”, on the Cotter Road. Mr. Spiegal was given an appointment to meet Mr. T. Taylor of the Department of the Interior at his office in Civic Centre. Mr. Taylor said to Mr. Spiegal that as his land was near the Mumimbidgee River, if he took an alternative lease, 300 acres would be taken off that lease in proximity to the river, and as he had a frontage on the Cotter Road 300 acres would be taken adjoining that road. He could have a fresh lease but it would be restricted to 600 acres and would be at an increased rental and for a term of only 10 years. Mr. Taylor then, according to Mr. Spiegal, said to him: “Well, will you go on with your application under those circumstances?” Naturally enough Mr. Spiegal said: “No”. In fact he asked to have his letter back. He reported the matter to the Association. It is not surprising that there was no application made to take advantage of the alternative.
Another application was made sub-‘ sequently by a Mr. Garran who said that he would put his block forward as a test case. He had a lease of 429 acres. On 9th July 1963 he wrote to the Department. The matter was not dealt with by the Department until May 1964, when Mr. Garran was informed that if he surrendered his present 50 year lease he could have a fresh lease for 20 years without the withdrawal clause at a rental of 26s. 9d. per acre instead of 13s. 9d. per acre. It is in these circumstances that the lessees say that this is not an alternative offer of a genuine character. I raise these facts only that they may be considered, because there has been a genuine miscalculation on both sides. I suggest that there is a serious case for considering whether some form of compensation - either that recommended by the Joint Committee or some other compensation formula - should be allowed by the Government to these citizens.
.- I wish to address <a few remarks on the estimates of the Department of the Interior, and more particularly to Division No. 318 which deals with the Electoral Branch. Honorable members will recall that legislation was passed by the Parliament early in 1962 giving Aborigines the right to enrol and vote as electors of the Commonwealth. The first Federal general election following the passing of the legislation, in which’ many of the Aborigines were able to exercise a vote for the first time, was held at the latter end of 1963. Subsequent to the passing of the legislation, but prior to the 1963 election, an officer or officers of the Electoral Branch in Western Australia - this may also have happened in other States but it certainly happened in Western Australia - went out into areas where numbers of Aborigines were domiciled, for the purpose of explaining to them the actual system under which enrolling and voting was carried out.
One officer of the Department apparently made a fairly extensive tour. He was obliged to travel long distances, and in some cases into rather isolated areas. No doubt the Department was involved in additional cost to meet the expenses of travelling, accommodation, out-of-hours duty and so on. Of course, if the officer was able to achieve what he set out to do, namely to educate the natives in the method of enrolling and voting, his travelling was warranted and the money was well spent.
I cannot recall any statement being made, nor have I noted any reference, about whether the Department made any detailed investigations, or whether it analysed the voting figures of the 1963 general election and the subsequent Senate election to ascertain whether the movements of these officers amongst the Aborigines was a success or otherwise, or whether some further education of the Aborigines was required along the lines carried out previously, or by other means. If after going to so much expense and to so much trouble nothing has been done to determine what was achieved, one wonders why. One also wonders why the work of these officers has not been followed up.
I know that one officer held mock ballots. I understand that the candidates were given the names of certain colours such as white, green and so on. One of the colours used was the name of a Liberal candidate in the subsequent Federal election. I am not suggesting that the use of that colour was deliberate, in fact I think it was purely accidental. In any case, at the time of the mock ballots the names of the candidates for the election would not have ‘been known, or at least would not have been known publicly. In any case I am sure that had the officer known that a man of this name was to stand he would not have used the colour in question.
My only reason for directing attention to this matter is because the name could have remained in the minds of the Aborigines and that might account for the fact that the candidate of that name at the election received a large number of their votes. For instance, at one particular polling booth in a place where, judging by the names on the roll, there were some 112 Aborigines entitled to vote, and where 127 votes were cast, the candidate with the same name of the colour used at the mock election received 114 votes. Of the .127 votes cast, most of which would have been cast by Aborigines, only seven were informal. So actually the candidate to whom I have referred received 114 of the 120 valid votes. He missed out on only six of the valid votes. By extensive inquiries that i have since made, I have been able to establish that practically all of those Aborigines could not even read or write. It must be remembered also that there were four candidates in that election and that the successful candidate - the one who received 114 of the 120 valid primary votes - was third on the ballot paper. So it is obvious that the voters did not start at the top of the ballot paper and work down in what is known as the donkey vote fashion.
That vote alone seemed to me to be a very interesting one, especially if those Aborigines had received any tuition. Perhaps it would have been even more interesting if they had not received any tuition at all. But, whichever way it was, one would have expected that election to have been of considerable interest to the Department of the Interior as a means of determining whether the result of the vote was due to tuition or to other reasons. Of course, the logical way to find that out, I would have thought, would have been to hold another mock election after that election.
But, as far as I can gather, there was not another mock election.
In another section, where a total of 174 votes were cast and where, according to the roll, the majority of the voters would be Aborigines, 85 votes went to the candidate to whom I have referred and who was third on the ballot paper. But the very interesting point in respect of this section was that in the total of 174 votes there was not even one informal vote. In yet another section, where it appeared that about 72 Aborigines would be entitled to vote and where a total of 149 votes were cast, the candidate to whom I have referred received 85 votes and only three informal votes were cast.
I was very interested, but also very surprised, to find such a small number of informal votes. I was quite certain that by far the majority of the Aborigines who were entitled to vote would not be able to either read or write. So it seemed to me that the people in charge of the booths had taken a great deal of trouble and had shown a considerable amount of patience in order to ensure that the Aborigines did cast valid votes. That may have been very commendable in some ways; but it did not necessarily mean that the tuition by the officers of the Department had been successful and that no further tuition was necessary. I felt that if the Minister for the Interior were really interested in the Aborigines he would have decided on holding another mock election or on some other way of proving just what the position was. Let me hasten to add that almost immediately after the last House of Representatives election there was a change of Ministers. The present Minister was not in charge of the Department of the Interior at the time of that election.
After examining the voting figures, I was interested enough to make a fairly thorough search of the roll. I found that in a section in which it seemed that between 475 and 500 Aborigines were entitled to vote, and in which a total of more than 1,600 votes were cast, only 46 of those votes were informal. I do not suggest, of course, that all of the Aborigines who were entitled to vote actually voted; but certainly a very large percentage did. In any case, the Department would have the means of ascertaining who voted and who did not vote. As I said earlier, I was quite certain that most of the Aborigines concerned could neither read nor write and, despite the tuition that had been given to them, would not have any great knowledge of what was required of them.
Therefore, at the last State election, in order to satisfy my curiosity and to find out whether I was right or wrong, I decided that it was only right and proper that on polling day I should be at a place where a fairly large number of Aborigines were expected to vote. So in order to be able to observe the proceedings as they went along, I arranged to be a scrutineer for one of the candidates. My experience at the booth proved to me beyond any doubt that, with few exceptions, the Aborigines require much more assistance at the booth than I believe is right and proper, if they are to cast a valid vote. That means, as I said earlier, that a great deal more tuition is required.
The returning officer at the booth was a person of excellent character and approach. He had an amazing amount of patience. He obviously wanted to give the Aborigines every assistance and opportunity to cast a valid vote that it was possible to give them. But I am afraid that as a result of his enthusiasm the relevant departments, both State and Federal, which surely would be watching the voting results with a great deal of interest in order to learn how the Aborigines are measuring up to their responsibilities, could gain the wrong impression. The fact that so very few votes were informal could convey the idea that the Aborigines have gained a good knowledge of voting, when actually they have very little idea of it.
After handing the Aboriginal voter a ballot paper, the officer asked whether he knew how to fill it in. Invariably the answer was in the negative. The next question was whether assistance was required. Usually the answer was in the affirmative and the returning officer was nominated to assist him. So far so good. But the next question was whether the voter knew who he wanted to vote for. In most cases the answer was “ No “. To my mind, that should have been the finish. If the voter did not know who he wanted to vote for. apart from how to vote for the person for whom he wanted to vote, he should have been told to put the ballot paper in the ballot box and leave it at that. To my mind, to go beyond that could be to influence him in one direction or another. To the best of my knowledge, that is not permissible.
But, as I said, the returning officer was doing what he thought was right and what was expected of him. He wanted to assist the Aborigines as much as he possibly could. So, as his next move, he pointed to the names on the ballot paper and asked the voter which one he wanted. In most cases the voter did not know because he could not read. However, some voters, who I am sure could not read, said “ Yes “ when the returning officer pointed out one name or another to them. And so their votes were recorded. As I said, in most cases there was no result. So the next question that was asked was: “ Which party do you want to vote for? “ I point out at this stage that there were only two candidates and consequently only two parties. In most instances the voter did not know which party he wanted to vote for. The next question that was asked was whether the voter wanted to vote for Smith or Jones. After some hesitation, this question usually brought an answer. But, to my mind, it was a case of achieving a result by way of elimination, which did not necessarily mean that the vote was an intelligent one or that the voter actually knew whom he wanted to vote for or whom he actually finished up voting for. In fact, as far as I could see, the voters did not know what it was all about.
In the election to which I have just referred, there were only two candidates, as I said. So when at last a decision was arrived at as to who should receive the No. 1 vote, the way was clear as to who should receive the No. 2 vote. But imagine the extent to which the returning officer would have to go and how his patience would be tried in order to obtain a result when there were four candidates, as there were in the previous House of Representatives election, or in a Senate election in which there might be 17 or 18 candidates.
I would think that, quite naturally, the Minister for the Interior and his departmental officers would have taken a very keen interest in both the House of Representatives election and the Senate election, and no doubt in the State election, too. All of those elections occurred fairly shortly after the tuition tour was made by the departmental officers. That being so, surely the Minister, having given this matter considerable thought, should be able to tell us what are his views on the results of Aborigines’ voting; whether he intends, before the next election, to pursue a course of further explanation or education by his Department for the Aborigines; or whether he is satisfied that they are now sufficiently acquainted with what is required of them and that there is no need to pursue the matter further.
I believe that if the previous mission of explanation of the voting system, as made by the departmental officers, was considered necessary and sound both financially and. otherwise - personally, I think it was - it should also be sound to make a follow up of that mission before the next election. It should also be necessary to put officers of the Department, or other government employees with a full knowledge of the procedure, in charge of all booths at which a number of Aborigines are expected to vote, not only to ensure that the legislative provisions in respect of the amount of assistance that can be given to Aborigines are abided by but also to ascertain what progress the Aborigines are making, whether they have or have not a sufficient knowledge of what is required of them in respect of voting and whether further tuition is required. Then a report can be made to the Department on those matters.
As the circumstances are at the present time, I believe that it is most unfair to put people into booths as returning officers if they do not have a clear knowledge of what they are permitted to do. Unless knowledgeable officers are in charge of booths, I suggest we will never know how Aborigines are measuring up to their responsibilities of voting and it will seem that we are not really interested. Surely by simply giving them the right to enrol and vote we do not end our responsibility to them. It is our duty also to teach them to use their vote in the manner in which they would like to use it. If we fail to ensure that these people are taught to record their vote as they want to vote, when their votes can determine the results of both Federal and State elections, we are failing in our responsibility not only to those people but also to the people of Australia generally.
In conclusion, I ask the Minister, if he has not already done so, to make an examination of the voting by Aborigines since the Act was amended. If he is not satisfied - I am sure that he will not be - regarding the ability of many Aborigines to understand the voting system, I ask him to arrange for some further tuition and also to give serious consideration to my suggestion in relation to the presiding officers at booths where so many Aborigines are entitled to vote.
.- In speaking to the estimates for the Department of the Interior I wish to raise a matter relating to members’ travel arrangements, and in particular with reference to air charter flights. In fact, I shall confine my rsmarks almost solely to that subject. I realise that this is a matter that does not affect every electorate. I speak from the point of view of a representative of a country electorate which, by some standards, or judged against the size of the electorate of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), is a small one. However, it is a very large electorate when compared with many city and suburban electorates. It covers an area of 7,700 square miles. To give some indication of my position I add that my home and my office are ideally situated for the service of the electorate. My home is only 10 or 11 miles closer to one end of the electorate than it is to the other and it is admirably suited as regards proximity to Canberra for travelling to and from work here.
It is of no value at all to the Committee if I state only one case, but I feel that I should cite my own situation. I know that there could be 30 or 40 other members in this place who feel as I do and who are affected even more adversely than I am. In my five years service in the Parliament I have travelled - I have kept a careful record of this - 25,000 miles a year on electoral business. In my case, 6,000 miles of this distance has been in travelling to and from Canberra, which means that the remaining 19,000 miles has been spent in travelling within the electorate.
– What sort of car does the honorable member use?
– I had better not go into that matter, but I buy one every two years and it will not last longer than that. I should point out to honorable members that, in stating those mileages, I have not pulled a figure out of a hat; they are figures that I have recorded. Some time ago I had cause to speak to members of my own party to ascertain what mileage they were travelling within their electorates and the figures I obtained varied between 18,000 and 24,000 miles according to the electorate. So mine is not an isolated case. To take this a step further, if I obey the normal speed limits - being a member of Parliament that is an advisable thing to do - and drive under normal conditions according to road surfaces, on anybody’s calculation I would have to spend between 11 and 12 hours each week at the wheel of a car. At present there is no other way to get about the electorate. That period of 11 or 12 hours a week is more than one quarter of a man or woman’s usual working time; it is almost one third of a working week. But that time is spent just in getting to and from places before I even start to contact people. This period of 11 or 12 hours is a time during which I cannot rest or read or catch up with the voluminous material that is given to us as members of Parliament. Nor am I able to write in that time. Apart from thinking, that time is a dead loss to the electorate.
I ask the Minister for the Interior to give consideration to granting some form of authorisation for the use, in certain circumstances, of private charter aircraft, where they are available, for use on electoral or Commonwealth business within electorates. I do not know whether this subject has been considered previously, but I make the suggestion now and I shall state my reasons. But, first, let me cite more examples. In my own electorate, where the major city is Orange, I consider that I am ideally situated to serve the electorate. To get from my home town and electoral office to Orange by commercial airlines, as I am entitled to do, provided there is no other suitable method of transport available, will cost the Commonwealth Government £18 2s. I may use this means of transport merely by writing out a warrant. I have not yet done so and I do not intend to do so, but I mention that as one means of travel. To get to Orange from my electoral office by car involves 5i hours’ driving time, which is a dead loss to the electorate. Let me point out here that in some of the more closely settled areas where there has been a terrific advance in aerial agriculture the air charter service has grown tremendously. There are any number of aircraft available. Practically every town has its own airstrip and practically every property has its own airstrip, as mine has. If an aircraft can take off from these airstrips carrying half a ton of superphosphate, it can probably manage to take off carrying a member of Parliament.
To fly from my home town .to the main city in my electorate would cost about £27 by air taxi service. That would involve the Commonwealth in an additional cost of £9. Is it worth to the Commonwealth an additional £9 to get a member to points in his electorate if it saves him overnight travel, an overnight stay, time spent waiting at Mascot and this dead loss of time while travelling by car? As another example I refer to Parkes, which is the second biggest centre of population in my electorate. By ordinary commercial airlines it costs £23 10s. to get to Parkes, but by air taxi it costs £19 or £21, according to the company with which one deals. Both services operate on the same rate but their headquarters are at different distances from my home town. In that instance there would be a saving of from £2 to £5 to the Commonwealth if that means of travel were available.
There are two arguments against my proposition which I see straight away. The first is the argument of expense. The expense could be limited. I believe that the Commonwealth or the Department of the Interior should balance against the additional cost to the Commonwealth of payments to members to enable them to get about the increased efficiency of the member when he gets to his destination. The other objection to my suggestion is the possibility of abuse. That is one objection that has been stated to me. But we are members of Parliament and I feel that I am quite prepared to be answerable, not to some official, but to the Minister or to the Parliament for the amount of time and the amount of money mat I spend in this way.
If honorable members want to kill the scheme stone dead I suggest that they bring in some scheme in which members must apply in advance for permission to use charter aircraft and must sign an application in triplicate and wait for someone to approve it. I believe that would kill the scheme. I emphasise to the Minister, the Press, the people present and the people generally of Australia who will foot the bill that I am not motivated by selfish reasons. Who would, by choice, travel around in a light aircraft in all weather and land on country airstrips of the type that I have referred to? I am seeking merely to serve my electors. Perhaps the expenditure could be limited to so much a session or so much a Parliament. The electors would get value from the expenditure through increased service from their members, increased opportunities to see them and better opportunities of expressing their ideas to them. After all, a member is elected to represent his constituents.
I should now like to deal with the question of obtaining secretarial relief when a member’s secretary is on leave. Our secretaries are entitled to three weeks annual leave. Some members have secretaries in the capital cities, but others have secretaries in offices in country towns in their electorates. All secretaries are entitled to annual leave, but the Department will not provide relieving staff or renumerate a member for his expenditure in obtaining assistance while his secretary is on leave. I think this situation is wrong, and I protest against it. We are told that typing facilities are available in the House. Let me pick some holes in that argument. I know that facilities are available here, but Parliament sits for only portion of the year. It may be suggested that a member should make sure that his secretary takes her leave while the Parliament is sitting, but is not a member’s secretary entitled to choose when she shall go on leave. She may be a married woman with children. She must make arrangements for her leave to fit in with her husband’s leave or with the children’s school holidays. These factors must be considered. Members do not get the opportunity to choose when they will have holidays, but their secretaries should have the chance to say when they will take their leave. Another aspect of this problem is that a member has his correspondence files and reference files in his electorate and not at Parliament House. A member arrives here on a Tuesday to find a heap of mail, but before he can answer it he must have access to his office files. He returns to his electorate at the weekend, studies the files, works Saturday and Sunday, and comes back to Parliament House to have his typing done. Trying to explain this to country people is not easy. One of the main criticisms a member receives relates to the delays in answering his correspondence.
There is far more to the job of a member’s secretary than being a stenographer and typist. She must be familiar with all sorts of legislation, particularly social service legislation, so that she can quickly solve problems that may seem small to us but are big problems for people in the electorate. It takes time to train a secretary to the stage when she can handle such matters. When my secretary goes on leave I have to advertise the closing of my electoral office because people in my electorate are used to ringing my office during business hours and being answered. It costs me about £25 from my own pocket to advertise in all newspapers in my electorate. I am not going to be blamed for not having secretarial assistance when my secretary is on leave. I have protested mildly at question time about the situation. I have raised the matter with the Minister on previous occasions. I am now protesting during this debate. This is a problem that applies particularly to country areas. I give notice now that I will continue to protest until one of two things happens - either that I leave the Parliament or we get relief assistance when our secretaries are away enjoying their well earned annual leave.
.- During the debate on the estimates for the Department of the Interior I wish to bring forward a new concept for national parks. I do so in this debate because the Department of the Interior has a large forestry commitment in the Australian Capital Territory and because there is no other section of the Estimates under which this matter can be raised. The Department’s allocation for its forestry commitments this year is £120,000 and for the Parks and Gardens Section £95,000. In Australia at present we have six national park associations operated in the States. There is no Federal organisation. I do not know why they were ever called national parks, because the word “ national “ applies to the Commonwealth and not to a State entity, but that is how they are named in the States at present. The work of the State bodies deserves the highest praise. One can examine the history of each State park and find stories of great devotion by pioneers who had a love of forests and who waged a tremendous fight with governments to have big areas set aside for national parks. I cannot speak too highly of these folk, most of whom have died. About 70 or 80 years ago they were in the forefront in the fight to have vast areas in Australia reserved as sacred, untrammelled, native, virgin areas. Over the years, piece by piece, as a result of the efforts of these pioneers, areas have been declared by law to be national parks.
Each State has a different system of park management. This is a great weakness, which has been exemplified in so . many other exclusively State controlled aspects of the economy. This arises from our strange setup - a Commonwealth Parliament and six State Parliaments. Because of the very name “ national park “ the Commonwealth should be vitally interested in this matter. There should also be a Commonwealth organisation with which the six State bodies would be affiliated. This may sound heresy to State Governments but I do not think it is heresy, and as I proceed in expressing my viewpoint honorable members may recognise some sense in my ideas. Through such a Commonwealth body much valuable assistance could be rendered to the State Governments in their battle to maintain and develop existing national parks under their control and to help them in extending the area of national parks throughout Australia. I suggest that the Federal body - a Commonwealth national parks association - should have its headquarters in Canberra and be attached to the Department of the Interior. This is the situation in the United States of America, which has the best parks system in the world. It would not be necessary to employ a large staff initially, but later, specialist assistance could be built into the Federal organisation and financial assistance could be allocated on an annual basis to the State bodies, many of which are starved financially.
One continuing enemy of the national park system is the greed of private enter prise. Each country, proud of its national parks, has to fight, continually, encroachment by private enterprise onto these sacred areas. We had the classic case in Queensland, where there are 60 national parks and 171 scenic areas, of a public company wanting full ownership of the Hayman Island national park. The Queensland Government, by vote in the Parliament and with the Government using its majority to force the issue through, granted Hayman Island to the private company. This was done in the face of vigorous public protest, led by the Queensland Public Parks Association - and the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “, to its everlasting credit. So Hayman Island was torn from the State’s national parks system.
– Torn for private profit.
– The honorable member for Hunter has said by way of interjection that this was the sacrifice of a park for private profit, and 1 agree with him entirely.
In New South Wales the national parks are under the control of the Department of Lands. When a new area is set aside as a national park, a trust is appointed of citizens living in the area. This is not done in any other State. It is an interesting way of handling the situation. These area trusts have the responsibility of developing the parks along established lines. They receive in total about £75,000 a year, which is quite inadequate for them to carry out their work. In my opinion, individual trusts, even with the best intentions, are not capable of fully developing these beautiful areas in the way that they should be developed. As much as one may admire the devotion and dedication of the members of these trusts, I believe they are inadequate for the jobs they have to do.
In Victoria the National Parks Authority has about £80,000 a year to spend on the 17 areas under its control, but tragic fires in national park areas create an impossible drain on the limited funds of the Authority when they have to cope with problems of restoration and reafforestation. In Tasmania, where the Scenic Preservation Board is the principal Government authority, coming principally under the Minister for Tourists, there are 120 parks and reserve areas, occupying more than half a million acres. Most of this is contained in eight major national parks, mainly in the beautiful high mountain areas. Here again, the funds available to the Scenic Preservation Board are grossly inadequate to establish effective control. In all States finance is so limited that facilities such as interpretive services, park chalets and other major facilities cannot possibly be provided. Sometimes I get the impression that after the States work out budgets for all their other services they look at what is left over and give that to their Scenic Preservation Boards or other park authorities. These bodies are the Cinderellas of State Government finance. One cannot really blame the States, because the problem is growing all the time as the parks are expanding. In all States the national parks suffer from lack of finance and inadequate legislative and administrative assistance. When compared with what is being done in European countries, in Canada and the United States, our national parks projects are definitely underdeveloped and understaffed, lacking numerous facilities that visitors to parks in other countries enjoy.
In my opinion, therefore, we need a Commonwealth concept in relation to our national parks system. I firmly believe that if the Commonwealth set up a Commonwealth National Park Association under the control of the Department of the Interior, with headquarters in Canberra, the State associations would be willing to affiliate with it. They would not lose anything and they would be assisted by such an organisation. Even the most ardent State-righter would surely not be afraid of anything that might result if the Commonwealth created such an organisation, designed purely to give financial help where it was needed and more facilities for visitors to national parks. This joint Commonwealth-State organisation would then, with Commonwealth financial assistance, be able to reorganise the facilities within our national parks and give a greater degree of protection to our untrammelled national heritage, including our fauna and flora. It would also provide protection from the encroachment of private enterprise.
At this stage I would like to congratulate the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) and his Department for setting up a flora and fauna reserve last year in the Australian Capital Territory at a place called
Tidbinbilla, 20 miles from Canberra. This venture is perhaps only in its infancy as yet, but it seems to represent a step towards the objective about which I have been speaking. If the Commonwealth establishes this kind of organisation in its own territories it is at least showing the way in which it is thinking about these matters. Why not expand those thoughts to encompass a Commonwealth organisation, with the States being invited to affiliate with it? I cannot see any reason why this could not be done.
Australia is far behind other countries in this field simply because there is no national organisation. It is time that the Commonwealth approached the States with a view to planning a national organisation. It is interesting to note that the first world conference on national parks was held in Seattle, United States of America, on 30th June 1961. It was attended by 324 delegates and observers from 71 countries. The Australian contingent consisted of Mr. Robert Carrick of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization; Dr. Max Day, also of the C.S.I.R.O.; Mr. Keith Jarrett of the National Parks Association of Queensland; Mr. Howard Stanley, Administrator of Parks and Reserves in New South Wales; and Mr. William Wilkes, Administrative Authority of Queensland National Parks. The Commonwealth of Australia was officially represented by Dr. Day and Mr. Stanley. The Commonwealth did not have its own national parks organisation, so that its representatives could be observers only, with no power to vote. If we had a Commonwealth National Park Association we would at all future world conferences of this kind have an official, top line authentic voice in decisions taken on a world basis.
I would like to give the Committee some rather fantastic statistics taken from a book entitled “The National Parks of the United States”, by Luis A. Bolin. The most perfect national park system of all is that which has been set up in the United States. In that country there are 30 national parks under federal jurisdiction. In 1961, 78 million people visited those parks, representing a daily average of 7,000 in each of the 30 parks. The importance of national parks is shown by the fact that in Spain, which we consider rather a backward country, the economy is boosted to the extent of no less than SOO million dollars a year simply because of the existence of the national park system. The United States system was established in 1872 as a federal system with headquarters in Washington. It is administered by the Department of the Interior. The national monuments of America have also been committed to the charge of the National Park Service. This is a very good idea, and many monuments in Australia could well be placed under the control of a similar establishment in this country. I have not time to read the charter of the National Park Service of the United States, but it is a very wide and allembracing one. It is much wider than anything v£ have here. I put my suggestion earnestly to the Minister and I believe it should be seriously considered by the Government and that at some future time the Government should undertake this venture.
In conclusion, I would like to make another suggestion to the Minister. I believe the police in Canberra should have their own tow truck for use at crashes and wrecks of motor vehicles around the city. At the moment the police have to rely on the various garages to supply tow trucks, but if they had their own truck they could bring it to the scene of the accident more quickly than can be done in most cases at the present time and so save vehicles from being stripped while injured persons are taken to hospital. The adoption of this suggestion would also solve another problem. Sometimes the police are wrongly charged with showing favoritism in calling certain garages to send tow trucks to accidents. If they had their own truck they could remove any opportunities for people to charge them with impropriety.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. -I wish to refer to one matter that is handled by the Department of the Interior. I make no criticism of the Department. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) and his officers are doing a first class job. We all know that the Department acts as an agent in some respects for other Commonwealth departments. It buys and sells on behalf of other departments. I pay a tribute to the splendid trained men in the Department.
Many of them are experts in their fields. Their qualifications are first class. They are first class negotiators, as I can state from personal knowledge. They are as good as any professional man in their field. I have no complaint about the operations of the Department, but I am concerned about the manner in which real estate is acquired and sold. I claim, advisedly, that over the years the present system of acquisition and disposal of land has cost the country millions of pounds.
I presume that all honorable members know the procedure in relation to the acquisition of land. A department requiring land works out its requirements and makes some preliminary investigations. The principal departments concerned with this practice are the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy and the Department of Air. Having decided on its needs and, perhaps, having examined some areas, the department concerned approaches the Department of the Interior. Eventually, if the Government approves, the Department of the Interior acquires the land. If we go back over the years we find that some very poor judgment has been exercised in acquiring land. On the other hand, at times good judgment has been exercised. On occasion, a department will seek to acquire land, thinking it suitable for its purpose, without paying any regard to the possible development of the area. As a result, all sorts of anomalies have arisen.
A similar procedure is adopted in relation to the disposal of land. I have no complaint about the operation of the present system where land is disposed of because it is surplus. We all know that when a department declares that certain land is surplus to its needs, the Department of the Interior negotiates the sale of that land and the proceeds go into Consolidated Revenue. But if a department does not wish to use a particular piece of land but wishes to use, instead, another piece of land in another position, the Department of the Interior is obliged, under the system, to dispose of the first piece of land, putting the proceeds of the sale into Consolidated Revenue, and then acquire the second piece of land and charge it to the current year’s appropriation of the department concerned. In other words, the department loses the benefit of the amount received for the land that was sold. This happens to a considerable extent in the cases of the Department of the Army and the Postmaster-General’s Department.
We know that all over Australia you will find areas occupied by telephone exchanges where a copper centre is established. It would cost millions of pounds to take it out. Commercial undertakings have developed around the area and the exchange should not be there because there is no need for a telephone exchange to be in a prime position in a growing commercial centre. But you cannot alter the situation except at considerable expense. Honorable members who have served on the Public Works Committee will remember cases that have arisen where it has been impossible to remove the copper centre.
In some cases a department will obtain land in anticipation of its future use, but as development proceeds in the area the department decides that the land is not in an ideal position and that it would prefer land in another position. The department is faced with the position that if it sells the land it will not receive credit for the amount of the sale, but the cost of purchasing other land will be debited against the department’s current year’s appropriation. This practice affects every department severely because the amount a department spends each year is rigidly controlled by the Treasury. This system has been in operation ever since Federation and has deterred departments from disposing of land and buying land in other more suitable locations. In other words, departments have hung on to land and the Commonwealth has lost the value of that land. This is bad. I have no objection to the proceeds from the sale of surplus land going into Consolidated Revenue but I deplore the fact that departments are discouraged from disposing of valuable land, urgently needed by a growing and developing community, and acquiring other more suitable land. Over the years this system has cost Australia millions of pounds.
I am not making any criticism in relation to recent discussions concerning land owned by the Army and I am not referring to land in any particular location. Some of the acquisitions of land made by the Army showed great foresight on the part of our forebears. Much of our Army land is excellently sited from the point of view of defence, but I am sure that some depart ments hold land that is too valuable to use for the purpose for which it was originally acquired. On one occasion when I was a Minister, we achieved a breakthrough in relation to certain property at Burwood, but there were special circumstances surrounding that matter.
I complain of the rigidity with which the Treasury imposes on departments the obligation to pay into the Consolidated Revenue Fund money received from the disposal of land and to include in the appropriation for the financial year provision foi the acquisition of other land. I believe that the Treasury and the Government could easily work out a system that would encourage departments to give proper attention to making better use of land and getting better value for it in the interests of departments themselves and of the community as a whole.
The present Minister for the Interior, who is young, may not have heard that only a few years ago the Department would go into an area, acquire land, construct buildings and do other things without even consulting the local council, the local branch of the Chamber of Commerce or any other local organisation about the prospective growth of the district. However, this kind of consultation takes place in many instances now. I know that it was entered into by the Department of the Army when I was Minister for the Army, and that Department still consults with local authorities on every occasion. I believe that this approach is now adopted by other departments also. The Department of the Interior now inquires from the local authorities in relation to projects that it proposes.
I suggest to the Government that it is about time the Treasury had a good look at the regulations relating to the acquisition and disposal of land by departments and encouraged departments to make the best use of the land they hold. I admit that under the present system the Government loses nothing. Money received for land disposed of goes into the Consolidated Revenue Fund and provision for the acquisition of other land has to be made in the particular department’s appropriation for the financial year. But this procedure acts as a deterrent to the best use of land by departments. This deterrent must be removed. Departments must be encouraged to survey the land that they hold and ascertain how they can use it most advantageously and get the best value from it. I submit this suggestion to the Government seriously. I have thought about it for a long time as I have watched the operation of present methods and seen how they work against the interests of the Commonwealth. I believe that the existing situation should be rectified. It cannot be rectified by the Department of the Interior, which, as I said earlier, does a first class job in the discharge of its functions. It can be rectified only by changes in the regulations enforced by the Treasury in relation to the acquisition and sale of real estate by Commonwealth departments.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
.- As all members of the. Committee know, I am spokesman for the State that I represent but on this occasion I feel that I must take a national view and make some observations about the Australian National Capital. The Parliament has approved of my being a member of the Joint Committee for the Australian Capital Territory, which deals with such matters relating to the National Capital as are referred to it by the Minister for the Interior. Therefore, in the few spare minutes that are available to me in my busy parliamentary life, I must give some consideration to the National Capital.
I am very happy to be associated with the Joint Committee and to be able to make a few observations on the development that has taken place here in recent years. I came here first in 1954 by the grace of the electors of Griffith and, except for a brief period, have been honoured by their confidence ever since. When I came here first, Canberra was a city of no great development. In recent times, however, it has developed out of all recognition. Much money has been spent and much development has taken place.
As I said when opening my remarks, I am now a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee for the Australian Capital Territory. This Territory was taken over by the Commonwealth in, I think, 1910 as a result of negotiations initiated by a great member of the then Australian Labour Party Government, the Hon. King O’Malley. He had a very wide Australian national outlook. As the Minister for Home Affairs, he was determined that a site should be set aside for the establishment of an Australian National Capital. This was the site decided upon, and the influence of the policies of the Australian Labour Party can be seen in the whole of the development of the National Capital since that time. The area was defined by the Government of New South Wales, was designated the Australian Capital Territory and was acquired by and is now in the complete possession of the Commonwealth Government. There is in the Territory a good deal of freehold land, but all land in that part of the Territory known as the City of Canberra is leasehold land. That is a matter about which I wish to speak tonight. I want to pay tribute to all those great Labour Party members and Ministers who have departed from this vale of tears, from the turmoil of politics, but who have left their mark on Australian politics to the advantage of the Australian people.
As I have said, all land in the City of Canberra is leasehold land. I understand from information supplied to me that it was acquired for approximately £2 10s. an acre and was handed over to the Department of the Interior for development. As time has gone on, plus and minus signs have been applied to its development under different governments, but we know that in recent times a great degree of development has taken place. Canberra is now a city with a population of 80,000 people. It is the National Capital of a great nation of 11 million people. I feel that even though a certain amount of hostility remains in the hearts of some people in certain States concerning the development of Canberra and the expenditure of funds here, those who visit the City go away enthusiastic about what has been done and completely endorsing its development. This development will continue as time goes on. I am one of those who feel that the City should be developed to an even greater extent than it is being developed at present. However, much has been done and I am enthusiastic about it.
There has been some criticism from the uninitiated, who complain that a great deal of public money has been expended on the development of Canberra. But if those critics are prepared to peruse the many documents that are available they will realise that in Canberra the Australian people have a great investment. I repeat that the land was acquired in about 1910 for £2 10s. an acre. It is now being developed and leased to those who are prepared to live in this grand and glorious city.
The National Capital Development Commission was established some years ago by the present Government. Had I been Minister for the Interior at the time I would have submitted a similar proposal, and I am sure that had a Labour Government been in office, Mr. Calwell, as Prime Minister, would have been prepared to accept my recommendation. So there is no difference of political opinion on that matter. A great deal of development has taken place since the establishment of the Commission, but the people of Australia have not been asked to meet all the cost of the development of Canberra. The land that was acquired in about 1910 for £2 10s. an acre is still the property of the Commonwealth Government. It has been developed and all those things associated with local government have been provided. Roads, electricity, nature strips, trees and all other things associated with local government are provided before land is made available to citizens for the erection of homes.
People are asked to apply for land as they want it. In the past, the demand has exceeded the supply, but the demand is being met to a greater degree each year. Ultimately, the Australian Labour Party’s objective of making land available to people as they require it, and without a premium charge, will be achieved. We believe that land must be made available without charge to those who desire to build homes, provided the land always remains the property of the Commonwealth Government. That position is being achieved under the system of leasehold that we have in Canberra. People acquire a block of land here for 99 years. Every 20 years, the value of that land is reappraised. The cost of the development of a block of land is £700. This means that the authority provides roads, lighting, water, footpaths, the development of nature strips and the building of schools. But all these things are being paid for by the citizens of Canberra because every 20 years a reappraisal is made of the value of the land they hold. In addition to paying for all of these amenities, Canberra people are asked to pay rates and rental. Rates cover the ordinary municipal charges - water, elec tricity services and the like - which are paid for by people in other States. Generally speaking, the citizens of Canberra are making a very generous contribution towards the cost of local government in their city although they do not have representation in any local government. Time does not permit me to deal with that situation.
As I have said, every 20 years a reappraisal is made of the value of land for rent purposes. In certain parts of Canberra a reappraisal of land values is taking place. Because of the great upsurge in development and the influx of population the increase brought about by the reappraisal, or land valuation, is getting to the difficult stage for some of the original citizens, who have had many years’ occupancy of their land. This is unfortunate. The situation can be remedied by the Department of the Interior as time goes on. The point I am making is that the citizens of Australia have no cause to be jealous or envious of all the development that has taken place in Canberra because the citizens of Canberra are paying for this development by way of rental, rates and land value reappraisals.
– Is the honorable member going to retire here?
– I feel that time is against me on this matter. I love this city. It is not as magnificent as the city of Brisbane or, particularly, the suburb of Woolloongabba. I think Canberra is an excellent city. It has been developed by successive governments which have been determined to maintain the interests of all Australian people from Perth to Cooktown. Their interests have been maintained. The investments of the Australian people in this Territory have been safeguarded. There has been no handing out of largesse, one might say, to the people of Canberra. They are paying for what they are getting.
I would like to make some brief reference - unfortunately, time is beating me - to the recent report of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority. I feel that the people of Canberra are paying a lot more for electricity than they should be. I am a completely disinterested person in this matter, but my sense of justice compels me to make this observation. A great deal of the electricity is being generated by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. The annual report of the Australian Capital
Territory Electricity Authority shows unfortunately that the price of electricity generated by the Snowy Mountains Authority and reticulated to Canberra is increasing. The price of electricity from the generating stations of the New South Wales grid is decreasing. There are only 25,000 consumers of electricity in Canberra. I think that the profit of £398,265 accruing to the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority this year is excessive. I feel that the people should not be asked to pay a charge in excess of the value of the commodity that is being supplied to them. Unfortunately, time has beaten me. I would have liked to say a good deal more. I make those observations-
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– During this debate on the estimates of the Department of the Interior, it has become quite obvious that the Department has a wide range of functions. Indeed, every speaker on these estimates has dealt with a different phase of the activities of the Department of the Interior. Some have dealt with national parks while others discussed the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The city of Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory generally have been dealt with by two speakers, but they have referred to different spheres of activity. Other speakers have spoken of the amenities provided for members of Parliament. Reference has been made also to the acquisition and disposal of Commonwealth property.
I should like to say right here and now that probably the most interesting and most demanding part of the job of the Minister for the Interior is the administration of the Australian Capital Territory. Today we have a very vibrant, vigorously growing city which was once merely the seat of government. I think we all agree that today Canberra is truly in the position of being the national capital. Visitors to Canberra, whether they be from other States or overseas, go away with a great feeling of satisfaction with, and pride in, what has been achieved here by successive governments ever since this Territory was declared to be the area for the seat of the Australian Government.
Canberra is rather unique in that its development is carried out toy two institutions - the Department of the Interior and the National Capital Development Commission. It would be hard to find another city in the world where so few institutions are responsible for the overall development of an area. This fact short circuits a good deal of work. It saves redundancy and prevents development being bogged down with unnecessary paper work. This is not to say that I do not believe that there should be some form of self government in Canberra. As the city grows, local people ought to participate more in helping to guide the urban development of Canberra. They should have a say to a degree also in what the local laws in this area should be. Canberra, while it was a small city, was easy to handle. Being a farmer, I might draw the following comparison: If one has a dozen fowls, they are easy to look after; once one has a thousand fowls, more expert management and handling, together wilh better facilities, are required.
The population of the National Capital today is 90,000. While an intimate relationship may have existed between the Department of the Interior and the residents of Canberra in the past, this is a very difficult thing to have today. So, we find that we need to go more closely into such matters as the laws relating to the Australian Capital Territory. In this respect, my Department has set up a special committee to review many of the laws of the Australian Capital Territory. In all spheres of activity, the administration of the affairs of the Territory is becoming more involved, complex and complicated. Such matters as child welfare, which was carried out by the New South Wales Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare, are becoming more complex. Child welfare is one matter in which we have to accept much more responsibility. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) dealt largely with education. He pointed to many of the deficiencies that exist in our education system. Whilst there may be some deficiencies in Canberra’s education system, I think it is a part of the ordinary way of life that as people become more involved in politics they bring up any weaknesses that exist in the different spheres of administration. I think that the weaknesses are in the minority here. Our schools are something of which to be proud and people come from all over Australia to admire them. I believe that the standard of schools in Canberra should be an example for the rest of Australia to emulate. I am not going to try to deny that there might be some weaknesses, and if the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory is able to point these out and suggest what corrections could be made it is his responsibility and his duty to raise these matters. He mentioned various schools in Canberra. He mentioned the Campbell High School. He pointed out in this chamber some weeks ago that fly screening had not been completed round the tuck shop or the canteen. He said today that although he had brought this matter up nothing had been done about it. 1 can assure the honorable member that a contract has been let for this work and I hope that it will be completed within the next week.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory referred to the Woden Valley area, which is a completely new district that is being formed in Canberra. It can almost be termed a satellite city of Canberra. The Woden district ultimately is to have a population of 50,000 to 60,000 people. We started off by building the suburbs of Hughes and Curtin. Now we are moving into Lyons and Chifley. Hughes was the first of the suburbs and our planning for that suburb provided for most of the amenities that people in Canberra need. The second suburb we built - a larger suburb - was Curtin. We made allowance for a predicted number of school children to attend the schools, but unfortunately our calculations have not worked out as accurately as they might have. Anybody can make mistakes and I am not going to deny that we have not made a slight error. We certainly realise that there is a situation of overcrowding in the schools and we now have a crash programme in hand to erect prefabricated classrooms for that area. The additional schools that will be opened in both Deakin and north Curtin will also help. I can assure the people of Canberra, and particularly the people of the Woden district, that this situation will be overcome by the beginning of the school year. If there is some tightness at the beginning of the school year it will be relieved soon because some of the other schools now under con struction or about to be constructed will be completed by March or April.
Where a completely new district is being established the planning has to be very thorough to provide all the amenities. I know of no place in Australia where a whole district is being planned in which people can obtain a block of ground where there are streets, footpaths, kerbing and guttering, water, sewerage and electricity services all ready. We are also trying to build the shops and schools and other amenities that the people need. There might be areas where there are some weaknesses, but I can assure the people that it will only be a matter of months before these weaknesses will be eliminated. If we had ample funds to allow us to plan far ahead we could build the schools and shopping centres and have them inadequately used by the population in those areas for the first few years; but I am afraid that our availability of finance is very tight and we are trying to use every £1 of it to the maximum efficiency as Canberra grows. It is being used for houses, water works, sewerage and all the other amenities.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory said that the Deakin High School would not be finished by the beginning of the 1966 school year. I say categorically now that that high school will be finished and ready for use by the beginning of the school year and that five classrooms of that school will be available for the children of south Curtin if there is any overflow of children at the primary school, as there is expected to be. The. honorable member said also that we were not building assembly halls at high schools during the first stage of construction. The principle laid down in the Australian Capital Territory, along with that laid down in relation to high schools in New South Wales, is that high schools are built in stages. In building a new high school the first stage is to provide the essentials. The second stage is to provide some of the amenities for the school and to extend accommodation to provide for the maximum number of children. After that the assembly hall is built. An assembly hall capable of holding 700 or 800 children is not built when there are only 200 children to use it, as is the case in the initial stages. The assembly hall generally comes three or four years after the commencement of the first stage. That is exactly what we are doing in Canberra.
The honorable member also complained about the area of ground that is made available for primary and secondary schools in the Australian Capital Territory. Our standards are similar to those laid down by the New South Wales Department of Education. For a primary school we make available seven acres of land for recreation purposes. For a high school we make 14 acres available. Experience shows these to be adequate. 1 shall not comment further on what the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory had to say. I could speak on these matters for a considerable time, but I think that anybody who has travelled round Canberra and seen something of the high schools would say that Canberra people are very fortunate to have the schools they have. If they are shoddily or incompletely built then the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has every justification for complaining. If he does complain the Department will consider his complaints sympathetically to see whether any faults can be rectified. That is exactly what we are doing.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowen) brought up the matter of rural lessees. I do not want to speak at great length on this. I have already spoken to the honorable member about it. This matter has been a sore point with many of the rural lessees in the Australian Capital Territory for the past nine years. Every Minister for the Interior has looked thoroughly into the position of rural lessees, and now it has been examined by the Government itself. The main bone of contention is the withdrawal clause that is inserted in Canberra leases. The withdrawal clause enables the Commonwealth at any time to acquire the land of lessees for Commonwealth purposes. The fact that there is a withdrawal - clause means that the lessees will not be compensated for the unexpired portion of their leases. All lessees are aware of this disability in their leases. Because of this disability the lessees get preferential rental rates. When the Government examined this matter in 1962 it said, in effect, to the rural lessees: “If you do not want the withdrawal clause - we believe it should be there - we will give you the option of asking the Department of the Interior for a new lease to be drawn up without a withdrawal clause, but your terms of lease and your rental will have to be adjusted accordingly. If your land is thereafter taken up, compensation will be made “. Only two people have come forward to have their leases examined and so far both have refused to take the proposed lease that we offered them. The honorable member for Parramatta mentioned these two lessees this afternoon. He said that the terms and conditions offered were so tough that the lessee would not accept them. All I know is that there is a formula whereby people can have an alternative to a lease containing the withdrawal clause. Whether the terms and conditions are too tough is a matter o of opinion, but the Government’s policy is that a formula is available and if lessees are not content they have every opportunity to ask for their leases to be dealt with.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) went to some lengths to present a very able case for the work that is being done by the Commonwealth Electoral Office to try to educate the Aborigines to take an active part in election campaigns by casting an intelligent and informed vote. He mentioned that officers of the Electoral Office had been out in the Aboriginal areas, had spoken to the Aborigines, had carried out mock elections and had tried to educate the Aborigines; but there had been no follow up of this exercise in order to educate them further. I assure him that this is a perpetual job of the Electoral Office. Officers go around the mission stations and settlements trying to educate the Aborigines in our voting system, so that they can cast an intelligent vote. Indeed, at this very moment an officer of my Department is in the eastern division of the Kalgoorlie electorate, educating the Aborigines, encouraging them to participate in elections and helping them to cast an informed vote. We have produced films and we have a series of lectures which I believe are helping to educate these people in electoral matters.
I recall the honorable member for Kalgoorlie saying this afternoon that after one of the electoral officers had been in a certain area, when an Aboriginal came to cast a vote the returning officer said to him: “ Whom do you want to vote for? “ The Aboriginal replied: “ I do not know any of the people “. The returning officer said: “ Well, what political party do you want to vote for? “ The Aboriginal replied: “ I do not know any of the political parties “. Ali I can say to the honorable member is that we can help these people to a certain degree, but we cannot help them all the way.
This afternoon the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England) spoke about two matters. One was the right of members of the Parliament to charter aircraft in travelling to and from Canberra and in carrying out their electorate duties. This matter has been examined by the Government this year. The Government’s opinion is that travelling allowances should not be extended to members of the Parliament in respect of chartered aircraft. Ministers are entitled to this facility only on special occasions and they have to travel in twin-engined aircraft. I need not elaborate the reasons for that. I think honorable members will realise that the economics of the matter are one factor and the safety of members of the Parliament is another.
The honorable member for Calare also mentioned relief for the secretaries of members of the Parliament. This matter has worried members for many years. All I can say is that both of the Richardson committees examined it after requests from numerous members of the Parliament, and both of them reported that the electorate allowances given to members of the Parliament should cover this matter. When secretaries were made available to members of the Parliament, they were made available to work such hours as members thought fit. Until about 1944 members of the Parliament received no secretarial assistance whatsoever. However, as the Parliament goes on, perhaps this matter will be examined again.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) mentioned the prospect of the Commonwealth Government taking an active part with the States in an organisation that he termed a Commonwealth national parks association. He suggested that the Commonwealth should take a more active part in assisting the State Governments in the development of their parklands. That may be all right; but it would probably be a one way ticket, with the Commonwealth merely finding more money to enable the States to develop their parklands. Under the Constitution, we would have no control over those parklands, lt would still be very much a State matter. 1 point out to the honorable member that in the Australian Capital Territory we have been very conscious of the need to preserve and conserve our native flora and fauna. As he mentioned, we have established the Tidbinbilla flora and fauna reserve. That is an area of approximately 10,000 acres about 20 miles from Canberra. We will foster wild life in that area so that visitors to Canberra will be able to go there and see much of our native wild life in its natural state. We will also develop tracks in the area so that people can walk through it and see our native bushland in its natural state. This project will take a number of years to construct and develop. I believe that ali of us would like to support it.
Apart from that area, we have also blanketed quite a large area of land in the south of the Australian Capital Territory, bordered by New South Wales on both the west and the east. It is an area of roughly 40,000 acres of wild bushland. We hope to develop it into a national park. This is some years off. As we conclude our efforts at Tidbinbilla, we will definitely move into this other area. It will become truly a national park in which visitors may see Australian wild life in its true form.
The honorable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) spoke about the acquisition and disposal of land. Many of his remarks were worthy of note. I think his only remark that needs correction was one about various departments acquiring land without giving due consideration to the local implications of such an acquisition and to the commercial value of the piece of land. He used the example of an automatic telephone exchange being built on a very valuable piece of commercial land in a business area. These matters are thoroughly examined. If the Postmaster-General’s Department or any other department wants to acquire a piece of land for a special purpose, my Department also examines the matter from a commercial point of view, and the Treasury also examines it to see whether the acquisition is warranted. So there are actually three checks before the acquisition is made.
The last speaker, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts), made a delightful speech from my point of view. He found reasons to justify some of the Government’s expenditure in the Australian Capital Territory. Far too many Australians think that the whole cost of developing the Territory is borne by the Australian taxpayers as a whole. A large portion of it is; I will not deny that. However, a considerable amount of revenue is recouped by the Treasury, although it is not set off against the proposed expenditure in the estimates. The auction of leases for commercial and residential building sites in Canberra returns a very large sum of money. When I tell honorable members that some of the halfacre service station sites that we have auctioned in the past year have brought £92,000, £120,000 and £125,000, they will have some idea of the revenue that is produced. Furthermore, the people of the Australian Capital Territory pay land rent. They never own the freehold of the land. It is rented to them. The land is revalued every 20 years. There is a considerable return to the Government or, in other words, to the taxpayers of Australia. The local people in Canberra have to pay water rates. They have to pay land rent and all the other service charges that are paid by any other community in Australia. I can assure honorable members that if the charges paid in Canberra are low the matter is being investigated and adjustments possibly will be made to a level comparable with that in cities similar to Canberra. But this is the National Capital and the focal point of all decisions that are made. As Australians we ought to develop it so that it will be a place in which Australians take pride.
Furthermore, I think we should develop institutions in Canberra which can become the repository of much of our culture, our arts and our history. Today we have under way the National Library which is a prestige project and is to be a monumental building. In this building many of our works of literature will be kept. We have in Canberra the Australian War Memorial where the great traditions of our fighting services are preserved for the future. But other projects need to be thought about. I believe that we should be thinking about an historical and cultural centre in which our works of art, our culture, and the efforts of our explorers and our historians can be filed away so that future generations may see something of them. I can think of no better place for this to be done than in the National Capital, which is the one unifying place to which all Australians may come and say: “ I own this as much as anybody who lives in the Australian Capital Territory”.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Department of Territories.
Proposed expenditure, £793,000.
Proposed expenditure, £100.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
Proposed expenditure, £47,100.
Proposed expenditure, £38,000.
Proposed expenditure, £12,802,300.
Papua and New Guinea.
Proposed expenditure, £31,229,000.
– I rise to bring to the attention of the Committee and the Government various matters, including the need to intensify the search for minerals and the processing of those minerals within the boundaries of the Northern Territory. First let me acknowledge the fact that the Mines Branch of the Northern Territory Administration is one of the most efficient branches within the Administration. It is headed by a man who is dedicated- to the development of mining and one who could justifiably claim, if he wished to do so, the major part of the credit for the mineral development which is already taking place and which, I might add, is about to take place in the north. I was bitterly disappointed, therefore, to note that the sum for assistance for mining under the Mining Assistance Ordinance has been increased by only £2,000 above last year’s figure which stood at the ridiculously low amount of £10,000. How often does it have to be stressed that the prospector is still the key figure in the discovery of mineral deposits? Despite the scientific aids that the geologist has at his disposal, this remains a fact.
In no instance, with the possible exception of Groote Eylandt, can it be said that the present discoveries in the north were made by other than the lone prospector. Take, for instance, Gove, McArthur River and Rum Jungle - all these major deposits were discovered by prospectors. Yet repeatedly in the last financial year I have seen applications by prospectors refused only on the score of lack of funds. Funds for the purchase and operation of drilling rigs are insufficient and we lack the facilities to test the deposits that are revealed from time to time. I point out that one successful mine, as is illustrated by the Mount Isa mines, alters and can transform the whole economy of a State and, indeed, the nation. We need population and only mining centres can give it to us quickly, So I say that the Government should make available all the funds that are required for mineral development because they will pay rich rewards. We should give positive backing to Col. Adams, the Director of Mines in the Northern Territory, and his men, not only to get mining going but to keep it developing and expanding.
To capitalise to the fullest extent on the benefit to be derived from our mineral wealth, it will, or it should, be necessary to process to the greatest possible degree these minerals within the boundaries of the Northern Territory. Take the case of the bauxite deposits at Gove. A firm undertaking has been given by the successful company to treat the ore to the alumina stage. Processing beyond that point will depend on the availability of a cheap and large scale supply of electricity. Therefore, I ask what steps are being taken to investigate the two sources of power that could be made available for this purpose, namely, atomic power or, alternatively, power generated by natural gas, for processing the alumina into aluminium.
Let me deal first with the deposits capable of using large amounts of power which would be within an economic range of an atomic plant. Such a plant, suitably sited, could supply within a 300 miles radius, Darwin and its mining areas, Gove with its aluminium complex, Groote Eylandt with its major manganese deposits, McArthur River, the Mount Isa owned base metal mine, and even Mount Isa itself. All these projects by world standards are large and all would be, at the extreme point, about 300 miles from the site. Some of the deposits would be within 100 miles.
The natural gas possibilities are also of major importance. The Mereenie fields of central Australia are major fields by any standard and the economics of supplying gas by pipeline from these fields would have to be considered. Alternatively, the transmission of power generated by gas from these fields could provide the answer. If gas were used it would allow the exploitation of valuable byproducts, such as fertiliser, and raw material for the manufacture of synthetics. This is a local source of power that can and must be used in some manner or other to boost the industrial potential of the north. It is far too valuable an asset to be neglected and to lie idle in the dead heart of Australia.
I pass on to another matter that I want to raise. I refer to concessional fares for residents of the Northern Territory to allow them concessions and privileges for holiday making in the south similar to those that are enjoyed by civil servants and other Government employees in the Northern Territory. It is a fact now that private employers in the Northern Territory find themselves at a disadvantage when seeking labour in competition with Government enterprises and institutions. Employees of Government institutions have their fares to the south paid every two years, I believe, and the private employer, because of this concession finds himself at a disadvantage when competing for labour. The Northern Territory Concession Fares Committee was recently set up to submit proposals to the freights committee which was established by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to investigate freight costs in northern Australia. The Concession Fares Committee represented many bodies, including trade unions, and therefore it could be said that it was an all-party committee. Its purpose was to overcome or to mitigate to some degree the problem of fares. Two methods that it has at its disposal were suggested. One was a direct subsidy along the lines of allowances made by some States to their country residents to allow them to enjoy holidays in the south. The other one was by means of taxation concessions or a rebate on the amount of fare paid. I should like to quote briefly from some correspondence in this regard from the Northern Territory Concession Fares Committee which states-
The Committee requests that you obtain taxation concessions for residents of the Northern Territory who qualify for zone allowances and who do not receive fare subsidy from any other source. That they are able to claim as a taxation deduction one single air fare each year for himself and each member of his family to bring him in line with Government employees.
We wish to point out that as over half the residents of the Northern Territory already receive their fares paid by Government Departments, and therefore do not pay tax on this money, we consider that anyone paying their own fare should at least have this a deductible amount from taxation.
This committee requests that you give this matter your urgent attention.
This is a reasonable request to attract people to the north, lt is a means of encouraging private employment in that part of Australia. I pass now to other matters in the estimates. Has the Minister had any report on the feasibility of sealing the highway from Port Augusta to Alice Springs? The tourist industry in the north brings in as much revenue now as does the cattle industry. The tourist industry is a major industry that needs fostering. One way of giving this industry an added boost would be to seal the road from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. From Alice Springs northwards the road is already sealed. The unsealed section passes through the Woomera Rocket Range and if sealed would be of assistance to the Commonwealth instrumentality there. The sealing of the road would necessitate a conference with the South Australian Government, for a large proportion of the road traverses South Australia. This is a project that would well repay the cost involved. In dealing with roads I would also point out that although a considerable works programme is proceeding at present in the Northern Territory it is coming to an end. The only new money that is being spent on beef roads is for sealing the Willeroo to Katherine road. Although this is a very laudable project the fact is that no new beef roads are being constructed nor are they contemplated. Some programme should be drawn up to enable new work to proceed when construction of the existing roads has finished.
Another point I would stress relates to housing, which is one of the main features in attracting people to the north and holding them there. If houses are not available when they arrive, people very smartly return south. The Housing Commission in the Northern Territory requested £200,000 additional to the amount allocated to it, but its request was refused. Had it been granted the money would have enabled the Com mission to construct a further 50 or 60 houses, thus overtaking some of the backlog. The demand for housing is constantly increasing. The Administration’s housing programme this year is aimed at constructing 108 houses compared with 190 that were built last year. This is not good enough, and the Administration’s housing programme should be stepped up. Added funds should be made available to the Housing Commission to enable it to construct more houses and flats. Additionally, houses are required for servicemen in the Territory. The Tindal airstrip is being constructed and Air Force personnel are paying up to £15 a week to live in caravans at Katherine. Many have taken their wives to Katherine on the understanding that houses would be made available, but they have discovered that housing is not available and domestic difficulties have resulted through the nonfulfilment of a promise. Housing for servicemen should be increased because Tindal in the near future could become a major base and any houses erected there would be fully utilised. In Darwin also the housing position is acute. At present Air Force personnel who cannot be accommodated at the base are renting houses in the town in competition with local residents. The servicemen have their rents subsidised and it is impossible for local people to compete with them for accommodation, with the result that rents are forced up beyond reasonable limits.
I want to refer briefly to a matter that has been brought to my attention, namely, the action of the Government in permitting Mr. Beeton, a civil servant in the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, to travel to Sydney to give evidence at a Conciliation and Arbitration Commission hearing into an application for a basic wage for Aboriginals in the pastoral industry of the Northern Territory. I do not know who paid this man’s fare. He is a civil servant, but he was used as a defence witness to help to destroy the application for a basic wage for Aboriginals. Who authorised his travel to Sydney? Who paid his fare? Who paid his expenses? Who gave him authority to take confidential documents to Sydney for use. in this hearing? I think this action is contrary to the Government’s expressed policy of assimilation and advancement of the Aboriginal race. It is wrong that the Government should permit a civil servant to be used as a tool to prevent the granting of the application for a basic wage. This is a charge that the Minister should answer.
I believe there is need to establish a means of rewarding those who discover phosphate in the north. Phosphate supply is a national problem and it is all very well to say that prospectors can report their discoveries and have them purchased by big overseas interests, thereby reaping a rich reward. The fact is that a prospector making a discovery of this nature has no means of bargaining with the big companies. He has to take or leave what they offer him. He has no means at his own disposal of exploiting the deposits he finds. It would be in Australia’s interests to give a substantial reward for the discovery of phosphate deposits.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has naturally spent his allotted time in addressing himself to matters affecting the Northern Territory. He is probably better equipped to do this than any other member in the House. However, as is well known, the Commonwealth administers many territories. Those that come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Territories are the Australian Capital Territory, Christmas Island, Cocos Island, Norfolk Island, Northern Territory and Papua and New Guinea. Each year when we consider the Appropriation Bill I look at the grant for the Administration of Papua and New Guinea with much interest, because each year the appropriation grows considerably. This year it is £31,229,000 - about £3 million more than last year. In the last 10 years the annual amount has increased by £221 million. In addition to the expenditure by the Administration of Papua and New Guinea there is also considerable expenditure by various Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities, such as the Department of Civil Aviation, the Services departments, TransAustralia Airlines and the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, which operates in the Territory. Such expenditure is expected to increase from £9 million in 1964-65 to about £15 million in the next 12 months. These figures show in a very practical way the desire of the Government to improve the standard of living of the people of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
My constituents, I find, are showing an increased interest in what is going on in the Territory these days. Few realise that our commitment in terms of money is so great and they are surprised when they are given the actual figures. When they learn that the Australian taxpayer is subsidising the Administration of Papua and New Guinea to the extent of 2s. in every 3s. spent their interest is considerably heightened. So it should be, and not only because of the financial aspect. There are many other very important aspects of the assistance we give to Papua and New Guinea. One could refer, for instance, to the strategic importance these days of Papua and New Guinea to Australia.
I went to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea this year on an unofficial visit and spent some few weeks there. My previous visit was more than 10 years ago. Unfortunately bad weather on this occasion prevented me from seeing everything I wanted to see; nevertheless I was able, even in the short time at my disposal, to make some interesting comparisons of the present situation with that of 10 years ago. 1 was greatly impressed, for instance with the hospitals that are operating in the Territory now, and not only with their size and efficiency. The last time I visited the Territory there were nothing like as many hospitals as there are at present. If I said that the number of hospitals had increased threefold in the 10 year period I might not even then be correct; the increase may have been even greater. Ancillary health and medical services have also been increased. Maternity and child welfare centres were not in existence when I was there 10 years ago, or if they were 1 did not see them, but they are there today and functioning as separate unit’s. The principal complaint from the public health section of the Administration was, rather naturally, that there was a lack of medical officers, but I was able to explain that such a shortage in not peculiar to the Territory and exists throughout Australia, particularly in rural areas.
It appears to me, and I think everybody would agree, that the economy of the Territory is basically agricultural and that it will be so for a very long time, despite the measures taken to attract capital to assist the growth of secondary industries in the parts of the Territory adjacent to Australia. I know that special tax concessions have been offered to encourage the inflow of Australian investment and industry, but I do not believe that they are sufficient. Complete exemption from Territory income tax to companies engaged in pioneering industries for a period of five years from the start of commercial production is not, I think, good enough. I think some longer period is necessary, together with a phasing-in formula, to establish an industry on a firm foundation.
Returning to the subject of agriculture, it is interesting to see something of the results of the high priority that has been given to agricultural extension work and training in order to improve agricultural techniques and productivity in native subsistence farming and to promote the cultivation of cash crops. I saw some of this work being carried out and I believe it to be one of the most commendable projects that the Administration has undertaken. I understand that there are between 600 and 700 qualified professional extension workers doing field work in company with indigenes. This also has developed since I was last in the Territory. I was told on my earlier visit that the possibility of breeding cattle successfully in the Territory was practically non-existent. I understand that the difficulties that existed then have been largely overcome by cross breeding and as a result of technical advice given by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
I see from the notes that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) has been good enough to distribute to members that the amount proposed to be spent on the construction of roads and bridges during the next 12 months is about £2.5 million, compared with an expenditure of about £1.5 million last year. It is interesting to observe the modern type of road building equipment that is moving in these days to Papua and New Guinea. I should think that the construction of roads in the type of country one finds in the Territory would be probably among the most difficult tasks one could encounter in the field of road building, but the provision of adequate roads is a prerequisite to economic development, particularly in the fields of agriculture and forestry. These new roads will, I believe, play a very big part in opening up the Territory and permitting the movement of rural products from the Highlands to the coast. In earlier times air services provided the only connections between the coastal areas and the hinterland, and the development of roads and bridges should be concentrated on by the Administration.
This Government has during its many years of office wrought a great transformation in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, which is, 1 should say, one of the few trust territories in the world in which the indigenes appear to be very satisfied with their trustees and with the development that is being carried out in their interests. The Territory has a great potential in many fields. One of these is tourism, but it appears that the tourist industry is the only one that is not catered for by the Administration, despite the assistance that has been given by the publicity provided by the airline operators. Lae is an important centre for air services to most of the Highland districts. I think I would be right in saying that it is the busiest airport in the whole of the Territory. More than 110,000 passengers passed through that airport last year. But the hotel accommodation in Lae is distinctly sub-standard, to say the least. The airlines supply very limited accommodation for transit passengers in their hostels, but this is not enough. Passengers could very easily be placed in a most embarrassing situation if they had to remain for any length of time in Lae without being accommodated by the airlines.
It would not be fair to say that all hotel accommodation in the Territory is of the standard to which I have just referred. Most of it is better, but the situation calls for urgent attention if visitors are to be attracted to the Territory. I understand that hotel licences are granted by a magistrate’s court, but the court does not lay down any standards of accommodation or service. If the ordinance governing licensing of hotels in the Territory is at fault in not laying down standards, I am surprised that the Territory Department of Health has not taken an interest in the matter, because standards are particularly bad. Lae is a town with distinct tourist possibilities. Its botanical gardens are among the finest in the southern hemisphere and have attracted a great deal of praise. It is from Lae that the roads to the highlands begin. The airport at Lae is a busy one. Lae deserves better tourist accommodation than it is now able to provide. If this is a matter beyond the scope of the Administration I trust that the Minister for Territories will look into it and see whether something can be done.
During the weekend I learned that the Minister soon will announce the Government’s policy towards members of the Territory Public Service who may wish to retire from the Service when the Territory achieves full independence. Public servants and other Administration employees should know as soon as possible what the future holds for them. Most honorable members share with me the hope that many of the present members of the Public Service in the Territory will continue to serve with the new Government of the Territory after their present term with the Australian Government expires. It will be many years before the local population can provide all the public servants needed for all the branches of the new government. It may be still longer before it can provide the people for high administrative posts. So the present officers should he encouraged to stay in the Territory. There are many dedicated people in the Territory who, individually and collectively, have played a great part in preparing the indigenes for the great job that confronts them. It is only rarely that one comes across weak links in the chain, particularly in the upper echelon of the Administration. Unfortunately, I met some of those weak links on my visit. The Minister has no easy job with all the many Territories under bis jurisdiction. I congratulate him for the way he is handling his portfolio and I wish him well in it.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to refer to the estimates for Norfolk Island. In July last I visited Norfolk Island for the first, time. I found it in many ways a most interesting and congenial place but it is not without its problems, both social and material.
Norfolk Island is a small island - about five miles long and three miles wide. Its population at 30th June 1964 was estimated to be 896. I dare say most honorable members are aware of the Island’s historic past as Australia’s early penal settlement. Many people of an historical bent would spend many joyous hours looking over the Island’s historic relics, although one is rather depressed when one recalls the sadistic tortures and penalties inflicted on people who lived in this early convict settlement. Today Norfolk Island survives mainly as a tourist attraction. In 1959-60 the number of air passengers arriving at the Island was 1,404. By 1963-64 the number had increased to 4,275. So in four years the number of visitors to the Island trebled, despite the difficulties associated with accessibility. Air travel is the only means that I would recommend for getting to the Island. Even air travel is restricted to DC4’s at best, because of the length of the runway. There is no doubt that tourism could be boosted greatly by extending the runway to accommodate more modern aircraft.
The Island has some social problems, but I do not wish to dwell unduly on them. There are some conflicts of interest on the Island. Some people, for example, rather regret that the peaceful quiet of the Island, with the surrounding seas and the stately Norfolk Island pines, will be shattered and despoiled by the rush of tourists and the increase in inhabitants. There are others who recognise that to a large extent the Island depends for its future on the attraction of its duty free port to tourists from Australia and New Zealand. Many of the inhabitants of the Island are descended from “ Bounty “ mutineers who first settled on Pitcairn Island. These people clearly designate all other inhabitants of the Island as mainlanders. The Islanders support various political policies,, although as yet there are no recognisable political parties in existence.
As I have already said, air travel is the only worthwhile way of getting to Norfolk Island because the Island does not have port or harbour facilities. I know that this matter of harbour facilities has already received consideration, but I urge the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) to give further definite and urgent consideration to the establishment of such facilities. A good deal of cargo comes into Norfolk Island by sea. In 1959-60 inward cargo amounted to 1,929 tons. This amount had increased by 1963-64 to 5,171 tons. 1 will not weary the House with details of the increase in the amount of outward cargo. All this cargo, including cars - on one occasion even a bus - has to be brought in by a system of lighters. The ship bringing the cargo anchors some hundreds of yards off the beach. Something akin to a rowing boat, pulled by a motor launch, brings the cargo in to the shore, sometimes through fairly treacherous and rough seas. I dare say that a good deal of damage is suffered at times. If the Island had a harbour, boats could come in and land passengers. This would increase considerably the number of tourists to the Island. People who travel round the islands of the Pacific would, in these circumstances, be more likely to include Norfolk Island in their itinerary.
Delivering cargo to the Island in the number I have related must be dangerous for the people who work on the lighters. From time to time there are accidents here, just as there are accidents in other spheres of activity on the Island. One thing that concerns many Islanders is the lack of compulsory workers’ compensation. I know that the Minister has been familiarised with this problem because only recently he received a deputation from a number of the Islanders, who asked him to set up a system of compulsory worker’s compensation on the Island. I understand that there were 351 signatures on a petition that was presented to the Minister. These included the signatures of 240 of the 461 electors on the roll. There were 85 signatures of people whose names could not be found on the electoral roll. For some reason or other they had not enrolled. More than half of those who were entitled to be on the electoral roll put their names to the petition asking the Minister to give the islanders the normal sort of workers’ compensation protection that is extended, I understand, to all other Australians, both on the mainland and in all other Territories controlled by Australia. I believe that one of the conventions of the International Labour Organisation provides for compulsory workers’ compensation.
– The honorable member knows something of the need for it.
– Yes, I have had practical experience of the need for workers* compensation. I went out in a boat one day and nearly lost some of my fingers and limbs. This brought sharply to my mind the dangers that the people of Norfolk Island encounter. This is a serious matter for the islanders. I understand that fairly recently one resident was killed by a falling log. He left a wife and family. There was no provision for them by way of workers’ compensation.
– What is the attitude of the Norfolk Island Council?
– As the Minister well knows the Norfolk Island Council has eight members. He knows what a conservative body it is.
– But it is an elected Council.
– That may be, but it is elected to do a lot of things, and there is no guarantee that it reflects the opinion of the mass of the people. I understand that the petition that I have mentioned represented a by no means exhaustive canvass of people for the purpose of having them indicate their wishes in this matter. However, it served to indicate clearly what the people think. Six out of the eight councillors who voted against workers’ compensation happen, incidentally, to be employers. The other two members are employees. I believe that the feeling on the Island has been indicated clearly to the Minister. Why would not the residents want workers’ compensation? The majority of them are either employees or the wives of employees. Why would they not want for both themselves and their families the same kind of protection that every other Australian has? As I mentioned earlier only a few months ago an unfortunate islander was killed in the course of his employment and there was no workers’ compensation for his family.
The Minister tosses the whole matter back into the lap of the islanders and says: “ If you want this you will have to go over it all again, get up a petition and present it to the Administrator. If one third of the electors on the roll sign the petition the Administrator will be bound to accede to it.” In Australia we do not have to organise a petition, have it signed by at least one third of the voters and then have a referendum and all the associated paraphernalia every time we want the Parliament to do something. Surely those who signed the petition on Norfolk Island, even if they represent a minority of the people there, ought to be accorded the rights and protection enjoyed by minorities in any civilised country.
– The Minister intimated that he would agree to the proposal.
– Yes, if it was wanted by the majority of the people on the Island. I think that the petition has indicated to him conclusively that the majority of the residents favour the proposal. His action in postponing a decision and denying the people the protection of workers’ compensation amounts to sheer evasion of the issue. If the people of Norfolk Island want to fall back on social services they have very little to fall back on. They have to be virtually destitute to attract even the £3 a week that is paid out of Administration funds as a handout to those who are virtually destitute. There is no organised system of social services in the form of widows’ pensions, maternity allowances, invalid pensions, age pensions or any other benefits. The Minister may say: “ If the people of the Island want those benefits let them pay taxes just as we do on the mainland “. My talks with people on the island lead me to believe that a majority of them, though I would not say by any means all, would be quite prepared to pay income tax and company tax if this would give them the benefit of the social services that we on the mainland receive in return for our paying of income tax and social services contribution. If the islanders paid taxes and received these benefits very necessary protection would be available to a lot of people who are at present denied it. As well as the social service benefits that I have already mentioned, the islanders would have the advantage also of full medical and hospital benefits to help pay doctors’ charges and other health costs. At present they may insure with medical and hospital benefit funds, but they cannot receive Commonwealth benefit.
Naturally the citizens of Norfolk Island want and need to retain their special position in respect of tariffs and customs duties. This special treatment is the only thing that can make the Island’s economy viable.
I would be interested to hear from the Minister and the Government what they concede as the future of the Island. Where does it fit into the scheme of things? What are we supposed to be doing for it? What is our ultimate hope for it? Why do we retain it? I believe that if we are to retain this island and make its community viable we must consider these matters that I have mentioned.
In the few minutes that I have left I want to make a few points relating to educational facilities on Norfolk Island. I heard informed complaints to the effect that the whole administration of education on the Island is so complex as to occasion many delays and as a consequence everything is hopelessly behind where it should be. The Minister has been confronted with an urgent request to sanction the provision of additional classrooms and the rebuilding of the whole school within the next five years as well as the provision of additional teachers. All this is needed because of increased migration to the Island.
I cannot go into all the details. I shall just outline the clumsy administrative procedure that obtains. Four authorities have a say in education. First there is the New South Wales Department of Education. It is the servicing organisation that provides the teachers. Next is the elected Norfolk Island Council, which I mentioned earlier. The members of the Council, though they are laymen and probably have no great pretensions to knowledge of what is required in the administration of an educational system, have a vital say in education on the Island. Then there is the Administrator. Whatever the Council may say, he has the right to put forward his own views and to make his comments on the Council recommendations. He then sends the Council’s recommendations, with his own comments, to the fourth authority involved - the Minister for Territories. All these four authorities are dabbling in the provision of education for the children of Norfolk Island. I shall have to put matters very briefly in the minute that I have left. I have been informed that the people of Norfolk Island want an educational arrangement similar to that which obtains in the Australian Capital Territory. Here recommendations are received from the servicing body - the New South Wales
Department of Education. The Government’s decisions are made on the basis of those recommendations and appropriate action is taken.
Mr. Temporary Chairman, unfortunately I have not been able to discuss all the things that I wanted to mention. Another point arises: Why cannot the people of Norfolk Island receive the Commonwealth petrol subsidy that is paid in all other parts of Australia? There does not seem to be any reason for its being denied on the Island. This lovely little Island is still denied street lighting. It is as black at pitch at night time. I do not know whether this is part of the tourist attraction, but that is the situation that obtains. Apparently the Islanders will not get for a number of years these improvements that are sought, even though they are Australian citizens, while they are tied down by this hick Administration that they have at present.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, while the Committee is considering the estimates for the Commonwealth Territories, I want to discuss very briefly the work being done in the interests of the people of the Territories. I am glad to have the opportunity to speak briefly about the Territory of Papua and New Guinea this evening. I believe that the Territory is passing through a unique stage of development socially, politically and economically. At the outset I pay tribute to the work of the Minister for Territories in what has been one of the most difficult periods of administration in the history of the Territory. Last year I was privileged to be one of a group of members of this Parliament who attended the inauguration of the House of Assembly for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. We were able to see at first hand something of the endeavours being made to promote self-government in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I believe that the newly constituted House of Assembly is proving to be a very worthwhile body. It is not only carrying out administrative functions but also is playing a vital role in affording the people of the Territory the opportunity to gain for themselves experience and enlightenment with respect to the control of their own affairs. The very vexed question as to when they will be able to govern themselves is answered, I believe, if anyone cares to go and see at first hand the work being done in the present House of Assembly and observe the reaction of the people who serve in that Assembly, That reaction discloses a great desire to serve in cooperation with the administration provided by the Australian Government. This is a, very sound approach to the requirements of development and to the task of ultimately giving to these people the chance to care for themselves.
My own impressions of Papua and New Guinea lead me to believe that it will take some time to carry out the tremendous task of raising the standards of education, health, and productivity there. The first requirement is to ensure that the economy of the country is so strenghtened that standards can be raised to the point where the country can become part of the world scene. Much emphasis is placed upon the importance of education and health, but we cannot have economic development, health or education alone. We must pay due regard to all three. To deal with one singly would be an unfair approach to the requirements of the Territory.
I believe that the administration by the Department in these spheres, in conjunction with the work being done by the people themselves, is making a tremendous contribution to balanced development. In the last year we have seen the report of the World Bank and many other reports dealing with the problems of the Territory. It is pleasing to see due recognition of the sound approach which has been initiated by this Parliament coming from people with great experience of what is required in the Territory. This gives us and the people of the Territory confidence to carry on.
The financing of the administration of the Territory is a major responsibility of this Parliament. The appropriation of over £11 million proposed for this year is an increase of more than £1 million over the appropriation for last year. Although we would all like to see a vastly greater sum of money spent, this is nevertheless a very sizable contribution to the task of financing the administration and development of Papua and New Guinea. There has also been tremendous progress in the encouragement of private investment. During the past year there has been a most noticeable increase in the interest taken in straight-out investment in development in Papua and New Guinea. To those companies, Australian based and from other parts of the world, which have been prepared to engage in what might be termed challenging schemes of development, this Parliament must afford the highest praise. This is a means by which economic stability can be achieved. The productivity of the area can be lifted to a very high level, but, most of it will be related to agriculture. There is some productivity from timber and other things but, in the main, the economic future of the Territory will rest upon productivity from the soil. It is in this field that most emphasis must be placed so far as development programmes are concerned.
Along with that, there is a need to find the funds to give the forms of development which will raise standards of living. Living standards are often seen in some confusion by those who have not taken the trouble to go to the Territory, travel through it and assess the kind of life that is the traditional life for the native people. My own impression was that the native people had enjoyed fairly reasonable standards so far as the production of foodstuffs for their own well being was concerned but that for centuries they lacked opportunities for hygiene, medical care and all other aspects which are so necessary to build a vigorous people.
What has been done in the last 10 years is quite remarkable. One can go today to schools in the highlands, around the coast and in the most remote parts of the country and find that the Administration has been able to introduce standards comparable with those of many Australian schools. I was amazed to find in the highlands a school in which the facilities for teaching domestic science were comparable with those provided in Australian schools. That is surely a story of remarkable success and one for which this Parliament can justly take a great deal of credit.
The Government has often been criticised by some people for failing to devote enough money and enough initiative to this task. I believe the reports that we are able to read in such detail of the work and accomplishments in Papua and New Guinea offer a complete answer to this criticism. Whilst all of us would like to see more done, we can justly feel very satisfied with the progress that has taken place in Papua and New Guinea, particularly when we compare it with what is being accomplished in many similar countries, such as those on the African continent. Earlier this year, 1 was able to see something of what was happening in those of the African countries which have been given self-government, where the problems are somewhat similar to those of Papua and New Guinea and where the countryside is not unlike that of Papua and New Guinea. I found that what we are doing in Papua and New Guinea - I say “ we “ because it is being done in partnership by the people there and the Australian people - will stand comparison with the attempts being made in any similar territory anywhere in the world. Australia has good grounds for feeling really proud of what she has achieved.
When one begins to deal with Papua and New Guinea one is faced immediately with a range of matters far too wide to be covered in a very short debate of this kind. I return to the three factors to which I referred earlier - education, health and economic growth. Those three factors should be the basis of our thinking whenever we deal with the development of this Territory. Consideration of them gives rise to thoughts relating to transport, the encouragement of the development of roads, ports, airfields and so on. Although we have gone a long way in these fields, we have still a long way to go. The air services in Papua and New Guinea have enabled the country to be opened up. They have made it possible for goods to be taken out, for people to move around and for life to be really revolutionised. But the task ahead of us is tremendous when we think of what will be required in these directions in the future. One very important task is to enable Australians to know more about the Territory. I believe that the time is right for us to encourage tourists to go to Papua and New Guinea to have the chance to learn more of the Territory. In this way they will grow to understand it and recognise the improvements that have taken place. But we must appreciate that the Territory is an entity and that the people there are keen to develop themselves and their country and to make it in the end self-supporting. If this is to be posible. there is the need for more facilities. It is pleasing to note that a project was announced recently to develop a new hotel at Port Moresby. 1 think this is something that might help those who have the chance of going to New Guinea. Many of the places of accommodation in Goroka, Lae, Madang and Rabaul are reasonable, but there is room for improvement. The subject is one that I am sure deserves more attention than we are able to give it in this debate. I do commend the Government on the work being undertaken in this area.
I want to mention the Northern Territory very briefly in conclusion. The question of northern development is one of tremendous importance to this nation. I think it is fair to say that, although the work of assessing and opening up the mineral resources in the north is a task which falls primarily within the care of the Department of National Development, the Department of Territories has made a contribution in this direction. As mineral wealth affords us the chance of establishing a stronger economy in the Northern Territory, so we find there is a greater opportunity to develop agriculture, the beef industry and other primary industries. This kind of development traditionally has gone hand in hand with the opening up of mineral resources in other countries. This is the great future of the north of Australia which, in the next 20 years, will bring about a great change in the national outlook and, indeed, the development of Australia. One of the smaller Territories which does not come under notice much in this Parliament is Cocos Island. I spent a short time on Cocos Island this year. I want to offer a word of commendation to those concerned with the control of Cocos Island. Although it is a very remote Territory, I found it was a very pleasant spot. It is a place where a good job of work is being done. As a communication centre in the Indian Ocean it is by no means a forgotten land. It is serving this nation well and I feel that the Department of Territories deserves a great deal of credit for what is being done there. This achievement, no doubt, is similar to accomplishments in other small, remote Australian Territories. I commend the Government for this work and I support the appropriation of the funds provided in these estimates.
.- The honorable member for Cowper (Mr.
Robinson) spoke of the work of the House of Assembly in Papua and New Guinea. What he said about it was not recognisable when compared with what the members of that House themselves said when they came down here in two different parties last year and this year. Those parties comprised indigenous Papuans and New Guineans and Europeans. We entertained them at dinners. We listened to what they had to say. They were dissatisfied with the insignificance of their work in the House of Assembly. The honorable member for Cowper should remember, I think, that the people on the receiving end of a policy have some authority in saying whether or not that policy is working. Every colonial power, every race which rules another, issues itself with certificates of nobility of motive and success in its achievements. I do not want to get on to this theme. I had a lesson when I went to New Zealand. The European New Zealanders told me of the perpetual excellence of race relations and so on. When I was received at the Maori village of King Kiroki, the Maoris put on dances and entertainments at which Europeans smiled rather patronisingly. They were in fact, not primarily amusing. Those Pakeha did not realise that the dances and the performance were a historical review which was a denunciation of European land confiscation, of periods of starvation and all sorts of events which were translated to some of us by the King’s adviser. I am satisfied that the race relations of New Zealand are, by the world’s standards, excellent. But I am also satisfied that the Maori interpretation of their history differed from the European interpretation. This is always the case. The suzerain power or dominant race is satisfied.
The views of the native members of the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea differed from what the honorable member for Cowper said. I am not surprised at their dissatisfaction. I think that we are imposing upon Papua and New Guinea - and we have this in our minds - the one parliamentary system that we understand. That is the one we have here where a Cabinet is responsible to a parliamentary majority. Deep in our bones we think this is the only form of parliamentary government that exists, or the only form of parliamentary government that should exist. Except in very exceptional circumstances like those in the United Kingdom, and stable societies, it is a disastrous parliamentary system of government. The convention that a government must resign if it is defeated in the House, which we take as normal procedure, destroyed democracy in France between the two world wars and paved the way for Adolf Hitler in Germany. It was a chronic factor in pre-Fascist Italy. The chronic constant instability of governments which had to resign because some item of policy was defeated in the Chamber of Deputies or the Reichstag occurred in very advanced communities. If we are going to impose upon Papua and New Guinea the British parliamentary system of government, it seems to me that accounts for why we are slow in granting any real power to the House of Assembly ultimately envisaging as we do a system in which that House will control a Cabinet, I think we are making a very serious mistake.
We can give a great deal of experience in genuine parliamentary control to the people of Papua and New Guinea if we treat for the time being the Administrator as the person who should succeed him, namely, the President, and if we have an Administrator’s Cabinet consisting of indigenous members who must not be members of the House of Assembly. We should accept as the basis of the system the United States congressional structure.
At the present time, the elections in Papua and New Guinea are not putting into the Parliament indigenous educated members. The people tend to vote for the local “father figures”. The well educated Papuans and New Guineans by process of becoming educated become remote from the people of their villages. Now, if the Administrator chooses indigenous ministers in an Administrator’s Cabinet - ministers who are not parliamentarians - and what the Cabinet proposes is put as suggestions to the Congress of Papua and New Guinea, the members of that Congress could amend or could reject, perhaps, the legislation proposed. They could accept them, of course, and they can initiate. They could thus have a real parliamentary function and they would get real experience without the inhibition of the possibility of overturning the government. The most able native members could be utilised in the Cabinet of the country. These very people, in the present immaturity of the electoral, are not likely to be elected.
I hope we have not the fixed idea in our minds that what we are trying to evolve Papua and New Guinea towards is necessarily the Cabinet responsibility system of government as we know it, which I stress presupposes a very stable community. I think it will be difficult for an ultimately independent Papua and New Guinea to maintain stable governments. They are more likely to get stability from the presidential system as it operates in the United States of America. If the legislation of tha President and his Cabinet is rejected, the President has to work out a modus vivendi with the Congress and get other legislation or amended legislation passed. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is frequently saying in this Parliament when Opposition amendments are put forward - “ I may agree with the amendment but, of course, if I accept it that means the defeat of the Government “. That is the negation of a true legislature. I agree with the statements but he describes a situation which, irrespective of the party in power, turns this Parliament into a farce. Spare the Parliament of Papua the farce. I honestly think that for all the effect that debates have on Cabinet policy we might just as well be having an eisteddford in which on opposite sides of the House we compete with recitations. But in the kind of presidential cabinet and congressional system which I envisage we would get continuity of administration for the period of time that the president is elected, and we would also get a real power to amend, to discuss and to initiate under the congressional system. I dread the fact that we are utterly biased towards our own system. We fail to see how disastrous and unstable the system has been in many quite advanced countries, and we are going on to produce unstable forms of government for other countries when independence ultimately comes to them. If it is not the intention of the Government to do this in Papua and New Guinea, if the Government is open to consider the presidential and congressional system, I am very glad, but I do not hear any of these issues being discussed. We are constantly told that independence must be a long way away. I am not advocating that it should be a short way away. When we are told that and told about the incapacities of the Parliament up there for early independence, then clearly what is in mind, in my view, is the cabinet responsibility system of government which I do not think is appropriate for Papua and New Guinea.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) this afternoon said that he did not know how many Aborigines received pensions. The idea is that because we are racially blind we do not classify people as Aborigines or non-Aborigines. I hope that the Minister drops that feeling of gratification. The Commonwealth of Australia is not racially blind. The Aborigines of the Northern Territory are not paid wages equivalent to European wages. There is racial discrimination in wage policy which affects the policy of the Minister’s own Department. Unless a person has been employed at full rates, when he becomes unemployed he does not receive unemployment benefit. Unless a person has been employed at full rates, when he contracts tuberculosis he does not get the full rate of tuberculosis benefit. By and large the Aborigines of the Northern Territory do not get unemployment benefits and they do not get the full rate of tuberculosis benefit. By and large the Aborigines in the Northern Territory do not get unemployment benefit. They cannot be given it, not for any noble reasons but for quite ignoble ones. I am not saying this as a denunciation of the Government, nor am I pretending that when the Labour Party was in office its Aboriginal policy in the Northern Territory was conspicuously enlightened. But I do think we have to stop this business of issuing bouquets to ourselves about the way we treat other races. If Aborigines in the Northern Territory were eligible for unemployment benefit none of them would be employed, because in most cases their wages are less than the unemployment benefit. The moment the Government enacted eligibility for unemployment benefits generally for Aborigines the benefit rate would become the ground floor of what the wage rates could be, and some of the wage rates paid to Aborigines in the Northern Territory are not a quarter of the unemployment benefit. It will be time enough to claim that we are racially blind and that we do not know how many Aborigines are getting the age pension when we can talk about these other sorts of social services, that are just as important.
I have a letter here from a very important and influential mission organisation which deals with the employment situation of Aborigines in the Northern Territory. The excerpt I wish to read is as follows -
Concern was expressed at the situation on Government settlements where large numbers of people are unemployed. Yuendumu Settlement has a population of 800 people. I believe Papunya has above 800 people. On neither settlement is it possible to provide anything like adequate employment. It is estimated that next year there will be 100 Aboriginal young men at Yuendumu between 16 and 25 years of age, largely unemployed. The fact of being kept in idleness is demoralising to the people in anybody’s understanding of the situation.
Under the guidance of the Superintendent at Yuendumu, Aborigines have produced attractive dwellings of the simple type required, using locally quarried stone, for a fraction of the cost of the Kingstrand and other dwellings erected by contract. Though claiming credit for this in an official publication the Department of Social Welfare has given no encouragement to the Superintendent to go ahead with such a scheme of building and in fact has just let contracts to local contractors for amounts of £170,000 for the building of dwellings at Yuendumu, and £130,000 for the building of dwellings at Papunya.
All delegates present at the Mission’s Conference expressed grave concern at this move, which debars many Aborigines from a source of employment where the employment problem is acute and has far reaching and demoralising effects. The delegates felt that the amount of time taken to erect the dwellings, by using Aboriginal labour, was not important in view of the stage of the development of the people and measured against other severe problems such as employment.
It would be, in our opinion, far more realistic (despite outside pressures) to build these dwellings much more cheaply, using local materials and to give the people employment building their own dwellings and the opportunity of being trained in semi-skills in the process.
I have not investigated the situation at Yuendemu and Papunya. I think from the statistics of infant mortality on these Government settlements, about which we have heard in this chamber before - it is higher than in the non-Government areas - a concentration of population takes place without adequate preparation. This is how it appeared to me when I was at Papunya some years ago, and it is what appears from this letter. The mission is not talking about infant mortality that develops there, but it is talking about the unemployment problem. I believe that something of the same kind of approach where we are prepared to spend money - which is our approach in Papua and New Guinea - is necessary among the Aborigines of the Northern Territory. On Melville and Bathurst Islands there is an Aboriginal community of 1,200. If this were a European community of 1,200 there would be an adequate water supply and so on. The lack of facilities that are quite vital and fundamental to health shows that we do not treat the Aboriginal citizens - if the Constitution warrants the use of such a word as “ citizens “ in this context - in the same way as we treat Europeans. I think we need to get into our bones the realisation that we do not listen to them. I remember that when I was a member of the Select Committee on Aboriginal Voting Rights a certain Aboriginal came before us. The whole committee was somnolent. Everybody was bored. He electrified the Press and everybody there by saying that for five years the Royal Australian Navy had kept him as a slave. It had not. But the Aborigines who were coast watchers had not been paid. The Treasury and the Government, to their credit, remedied all that, but for years and years these men had told welfare officers about this. It was 16 years afterwards, when some of the coast watchers were dead, that the matter was rectified.
The Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), who was with me at Yirrkala, knows very well that the officers of the Department he now administers did not realise the things that were on the Aborigines’ minds until they heard them through interpreters. Not only in many areas does the Commonwealth Government not listen to Aborigines speaking in English, but in many cases it cannot listen because it does not employ interpreters to enable it to hear what they say. The benefit of our parliamentary committee on that occasion was that we could hear them as real orators speaking in their own language through interpreters, and what they said was a shock to the Government’s officers.
Mr. FOX (Henty) (9.59].- Like the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) I want to refer to that section of the estimates for the Department of Territories which deals with the Territory of Norfolk Island. No details of how the money allotted last year has been spent are shown in the document which contains the estimates for the various departments. I notice that the total vote this year of £38,000 is virtually the same as that for last year. Only a few months ago I spent eight days in Norfolk Island. I am not going to pretend that anyone could learn everything there is to be known about Norfolk Island, small as it is - about five miles by three1 - in eight days. Nor could anyone pretend to know the views of the people of Norfolk Island after being there for eight days. I have no hesitation in saying that one would not learn the views of the people in eight weeks or even eight months. Perhaps at the end of eight years one might be getting rather close to what they feel. I say that because I found that the people who live on the island have many varied and diverse views.
The present population of Norfolk Island is somewhere between 850 and 900. As the honorable member for Barton said, the population consists of islanders and mainlanders. The islanders are the descendants of the “ Bounty “ mutineers who originally settled on Pitcairn Island and came to Norfolk Island in 1856. Actually Norfolk Island was first settled from the colony of New South Wales as a penal settlement in 1788. It carried on in that way until 1813, when the penal settlement was disbanded. For more than 11 years no one lived on the island. Then in 1825 it was settled again from Van Dieman’s Land as a convict settlement. It continued in that way until 1856, when the Pitcairn Islanders, who had outgrown their island, settled on Norfolk Island. A few years later some of them returned to Pitcairn Island and their descendants are still there.
The mainlanders are people who have come, in the main, from Australia and New Zealand, although some of them have come from the United Kingdom. The mainlanders have been attracted to Norfolk Island for quite a variety of reasons - some of them by the mildness of the climate; some of them by the informality of life on the island and a desire to get away from red tape; and others because there is no taxation. The island attracts about 4,000 tourists each year, mainly from Australia and New Zealand. The number is steadily increasing. Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. operates a service twice weekly in each direction, linking Sydney, Auckland and Norfolk Island.
I suppose the fact that the island is a duty free port has something to do with the number of visitors that it attracts. I found that visitors go to Norfolk Island for quite a variety of reasons. I went there to learn something about this Territory which is administered by the Australian Government, and also to have a rest. I think I achieved both purposes. I found both the climate and the people very agreeable.
However, I believe that quite a number of the amenities and the accommodation will have to be improved greatly if any large numbers of visitors are to flock to the island. As the honorable member for Barton mentioned, there is no street lighting. So if one desires to go out at night one takes a torch. There is no sewerage system. There is a system of septic tanks. There is no reticulated water supply. I agree with the honor1 able member for Barton that the wharf facilities are bad. Ships bringing goods and people to the island have to stand off about half a mile from the land. The passengers and goods go ashore in lighters. As a matter of fact, whilst I was there a local, who operates a tourist depot and takes visitors out fishing, was involved in quite a nasty accident because of the lack of launching facilities on the wharf.
I understand that plans for improving the wharf facilities have been submitted on a number of occasions, but nothing has come of them. I am not sure why. I heard quite a number of reasons advanced for that. I think there is probably some degree of truth in all of them. I heard it said that the people who went to the island because of the freedom from taxation feel that any improvements would have to be paid for and that it is quite a strong possibility that taxation would be raised to finance any improvements. On the other hand, I spoke with quite a number of people who stated that they would be quite prepared to pay some form of taxation in return for improved amenities on the island. Others said that, if the facilities were improved to the extent that ships could berth quite easily, visitors would come in greater numbers and that would disturb the peace and serenity of the island. That is purely a selfish view, but undoubtedly it is held by some people.
I gathered the impression that quite a number of the people who live on Norfolk
Island - ‘both islanders and other people who have migrated there - welcome the money that is brought in by the tourists and the benefits that the tourist trade brings with it. But I think they would much prefer to do without the tourists. Although that does not go for all of the people, I think quite a number of them hold those views. I also heard the argument advanced that the islanders who work on the lighters fear that any modern wharf facilities would deprive them of their living; but I do not place a great deal of reliance on that argument.
There are no uniform building regulations on Norfolk Island, although I believe that the standard of the buildings that have been erected recently has shown a considerable improvement. One night I listened to a broadcast of the proceedings of a meeting of the local council. On that occasion it was suggested that the Administrator should write to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) and obtain a copy of the uniform building regulations that apply in the Northern Territory - not so that they could be adopted, but so that they could be considered. The proposal was defeated without debate. During the speech of the honorable member for Barton the Minister for Territories said by way of interjection that the local council was a conservative one. I think that is the understatement of the year. The members of the council are so conservative that members of the Government parties in this Parliament would be left wingers in their eyes. I do not think that provides an excuse for the Minister over-riding the decisions of a constitutionally elected council, as suggested by the honorable member for Barton.
But, because the proposal to which I am referring seemed to me to be quite a harmless one, I made inquiries to see why it was thrown out without any debate. I was told: “This matter has been brought before the council before. We have discussed it. All the arguments are known. Nothing new can be presented. In any case, uniform building regulations would probably mean red tape and the setting up of another government department which would have to be paid for by the taxpayers of Australia.” Some of the people on the island feel quite a responsibility towards the taxpayers of Australia for what they are contributing to the island. -
The honorable member for Barton referred to the fact that there is no workers’ compensation on Norfolk Island. I sought information on this subject. I was told that the main difficulty is that, the nature of the island being what it is and the population being so small, one man does not follow the same occupation day in day out. One day he might be working on the wharves; the next day he might be working as a builder; another day he might be working as a sawmiller; and yet another day he might be driving a truck. So there is no particular rate which is applicable to any individual industry and which could be used as a basis for the payment of workers’ compensation. I do not think that is an insurmountable barrier. I mention it because I believe that honorable members should know that the matter of workers’ compensation on Norfolk Island is not a straightforward proposition.
At one time the island maintained quite a large number of sheep; but very few sheep remain today. The cattle that I saw were in an extremely poor condition. I believe that that is due to the fact that no attempt at all has been made to improve pastures. Of course, the cost of landing superphosphate on Norfolk Island is almost prohibitive. I asked a number of islanders who have grown up there - not mainlanders - what they would do to improve conditions on the island if they could have only one wish and if that wish could be granted. I found the variety of the replies that I received rather interesting. One man said that he would like to see age pensions introduced on Norfolk Island in order that the older people could be catered for adequately in their later years. He said that he was quite prepared to pay income tax in order to provide pensions for the old people on the island. Another man said that his wish would be to import a number of stud bulls and cows to improve the herds on the Island. A third one said that he would like to see the introduction of a superphosphate bounty in order to enable pasture improvement to be undertaken. I think that if it were a matter of making a decision between granting a superphosphate bounty and extending the operation of the petrol equalisation fund to the Island the islanders would vote solidly for some bounty which would enable them to get superphosphate more cheaply. The fourth man said he would like more Crown land to be made available for freehold.
On my return from the Island I addressed a question along these lines to the Minister for Territories who told me that two thirds of the available land on the Island is already freehold. I understand that a bill is in the process of being considered by the local council of Norfolk Island and that when the council has reached a decision on this matter the bill will be introduced into the Parliament.
– Did anybody want a Totalisator Agency Board?
– No-one wanted a T.A.B. Although quite a number of the islanders were represented to me as being lazy and lackadaisical, I found that many of them wanted progress much more than the migrants to the Island who, in one way, had fled from civilisation and wanted to end their days in a very happy go lucky atmosphere free from worry and taxation. I believe that at least some of the islanders regard these people not so much as parasites or interlopers but as people who are not contributing anything to the Island but who are prepared to take whatever the Island has to offer. I came away from Norfolk Island well satisfied with the time I had spent there and with a desire to go back again some time, perhaps to sample some of the fishing that I had missed because of bad weather - -seawise. that is. I came back with a desire to do something concrete to improve the lot of the people who live there and with a conviction that in the very near future a great many more tourists will include Norfolk Island on their itinerary.
.- I should like to join in the plea of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox), who said that he would like to improve the lot of the people on Norfolk Island. I think that every honorable member would like to see that done, and surely it is the responsibility of the Government to see that their lot is improved.
– The honorable member would not like them to be like us, would he?
– No, I would not want to see that happen. It has been said that the
Territory of Norfolk Island is administered by the Commonwealth of Australia. Is it administered in the same way as other parts of Australia are administered? Is it administered the same as Canberra is administered? Is it administered the same as some of the other Territories of Australia? I do not want to spend my time pointing out that it is not, but I think the Minister for Territories should tell us why it is not on the same footing as other Territories. We have had Norfolk Island since, I believe, 191.8. It was handed over to us by Great Britain after the First World War. Have we carried on our duties properly and diligently and looked after the welfare of the people of Norfolk Island in the same way as we have looked after our own welfare, little as it may be?
Recently there was a big improvement in the welfare of the people of Norfolk Island. They had on the Island a fund known as the Destitute Fund. If people could prove, after much humiliation, that they were worthy of support the Government was big enough to see that they received £2 per week from the Destitute Fund. That allowance has now been increased by SO per cent, to £3. 1 am glad that the name of the Fund has been changed. The old people on the Island can now receive £3 a week if they can prove that they qualify for it. They must try to eke out this munificent sum in the best way they can in order to live. I understand that at the present time at Norfolk Island meat costs about 8s. per lb. If the people in receipt of the allowance of £3 a week do not receive assistance from their friends on the Island, goodness knows how they get along. I cannot see why these people cannot be put on the same footing as people in Australia or in the other Territories administered by this Government. I know that it could be said that this payment of £3 a week is not made in the Northern Territory or in Papua and New Guinea. I do not want to raise an argument that could cause a lot of embarrassment in this place, but the people of Norfolk Island are part of us and I think that they deserve a better deal. I know that the Minister will say that it is a duty free port and things like that, but I remind him that we in Australia are responsible for administering Norfolk Island. I think we could give more to the people of the Island. However, that is up to the Minister.
I was rather sad to learn that a quite efficient small freezing works which had been established on Norfolk Island, mainly for the purpose of snap freezing fish, has gone out of existence and that all the machinery has been taken out of the works. This little factory, I believe, has been turned into a joiner’s establishment. I was hoping that a little patience would prevail and that the freezing works would flourish on Norfolk Island. I understand that a small subsidy from the Government was required to enable it to continue and I believe that the Minister was rather keen to see the factory continue its operations by snap freezing vegetables in addition to fish. I understand that it was the lack of a subsidy that caused the factory to close down. That is one industry that should have been developed because we in Australia are short of fish as a food and I understand that fish at Norfolk Island are plentiful. There would be a ready market for that product in Australia.
– Why did the factory close down in those circumstances?
– I have said that the Minister may put me right on this, and that I understand that the factory was closed because of the lack of a subsidy. If this is not the situation, the Minister will be able to tell me. I may not be right in my understanding of the matter, but I leave that to the Minister. I understand that a subsidy was asked for. The Government subsidises quite a few things and I shall mention only a few. Among them are things which the Minister, as a primary producer, is rather keen to have subsidised. I do not want to talk about the superphosphate subsidy or the butter subsidy. The Government did something in those two instances and I am glad that the subsidies are in force. The people at Lord Howe Island receive the petrol subsidy, but those on Norfolk Island do not get it. People in Alice Springs, at Darwin and at other places in the Northern Territory receive it, but people cannot get it at Norfolk Island. We established a dairy subsidy in Australia so that the lot of the dairy farmer would be made a little better, but the Government cannot see its way clear to make available a subsidy for the primary producer on Norfolk Island.
I should like the airstrip on Norfolk Island to be lengthened and strengthened so that it may be used as an emergency strip. Norfolk Island is a lone island half way between Australia and New Zealand. If an improved airstrip could be provided, it would be an emergency landing strip for any airliner which had to be diverted. I hope that the Minister will give some consideration to that suggestion.
I have been sidetracked a little and half of my time has gone. I want to devote (he remainder of my speech to Papua and New Guinea. I do not want the Minister to think that I am getting on his back - far from it.
– Keep on his back.
– No. I think the Minister for Territories has a lot of responsibility. I think it is one of the biggest portfolios in this Government. Papua and New Guinea must cause a lot of concern to, as well as create much interest in, Australia at present. In 1 846 it was taken possession of by Lieutenant Yule for Great Britain. In September 1888 it was called British New Guinea and was formally annexed to the Crown to be administered by the then Colony of Queensland. In 1901 British New Guinea was formally taken over as a Territory of Australia and in 1906 our first Acting Administrator was appointed. Papua is purely an Australian Territory. There is much concern at present because the inhabitants of Papua are described as Australian citizens yet they are not permitted free entry to Australia. Surely it is wrong that they should be, classed as Australian citizens and then told that they cannot come to the place that could be termed their homeland. New Guinea itself is different, because it is a Trust Territory. However, the people of Papua are recognised as Australian citizens on their passports. I hope that the Minister can make clear where we stand in relation to Papua, because when the time comes for the Territory to receive self determination the inhabitants should know where they stand.
I was very pleased that when the last United Nations mission went to New Guinea the Minister found time to circulate to all honorable members some splendid reports on the Territory. From reading these reports it is clear to me that the people in the area are not ready for self determination. I have not the time to quote from the reports, but I have read most of them and I should say that more than 90 per cent, of the people who were interviewed said: “ We are not ready for self determination “. It would be wrong for the Parliament to force upon those people something that they do not want. If they were to approach us and to say: “ We want self determination; we are ready for it “, and we were to reply: “ You will not get it “, we would be causing much unnecessary trouble. However, the people have made it quite clear that at this juncture they do not want self determination. They want to wait until they can stand on their own feet and work out their own problems. The Australian Labour Parly makes clear that it believes in self determination for the people of New Guinea and that they should be given it as soon as possible, but as soon as possible could be in 20 or 30 years time. It would be wrong to grant them self determination before they are ready for it.
We have many problems in Papua and New Guinea because now, for the first time, we have a common border with Indonesia, whether or not Indonesia tries to prevent it, and no matter how careful we are, diseases can cross the border. At one time there were Indonesian troops in West Irian who left behind a virulent form of cholera. It was reported recently that of 1,000 cases that came under notice almost 500 people died from this brand of cholera. Apart from the human diseases that occur in Indonesia and which can unwittingly be brought into West Irian, there are several plant diseases in Indonesia. Five are known to exist that have particularly devastating effects on rubber, rice, bananas, coffee and cocoa. No matter how careful Indonesia may be, and no matter how careful we may be, we must be prepared to face the position that in future diseases may appear in Papua and New Guinea that hitherto have been unknown there. Similar circumstances could apply to cattle and other stock in the Territory, because in Indonesia there are cattle diseases unknown in Papua and New Guinea. Foot and mouth disease, rabies, glanders and various poultry diseases exist in Indonesia. We have to be most particular in applying our quarantine laws. We must get together with Indonesia and ask her to be very careful with the stock and plant foods that are brought from Indonesia to West Irian. Diseases must be kept from spreading to our Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to make a few remarks on the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. During the course of the year I have had some contact with the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), officers of his Department and also officers of the Administration in the Territory, in relation to two matters. The first is in connection with a project that the Parramatta Rotary Club has for bringing to the mainland native teachers for a period of six months training. The Club has had great assistance from the Department. Secondly, I was a member of the Attorney-General’s Committee that visited the Territory inquiring into the possibility of training indigenous people to take a greater part in the administration and practice of the law. I take this opportunity to express my appreciation of the helpfulness, imagination and forward looking approach of the Minister and the officers I met in these contacts.
I should like to speak first of legal training in the Territory. There is a very great shortage of indigenous people doing law courses at university level. There are four indigenous students at the University of Queensland and one at the University of Sydney. Other natives have done and are doing degree courses on the mainland. The first one graduated this year in agricultural science. The progress of those who are undertaking this tertiary education is slow, and until such time as a greater number of indigenous people achieve secondary education at an adequate level this situation will continue. While we were in New Guinea we visited a class at the Sogeri High School. Native children were taking the New South Wales Leaving Certificate. Although about 30 of them were doing the examination it was expected that probably only four would pass and that of those only two would matriculate. That is the kind of difficulty that is encountered in getting a sufficient number of indigenous people to undergo training at the tertiary level. In the near future it is certain that the number of natives reaching the educational standard that would enable them to take courses at the university in say, law, will still be relatively small. If we wish to give them a greater part in the administration of law, and indeed in government, it will be essential for more of them to take law courses. The tendency appears to be for a majority of the brighter students to go into teaching, but the Education Department has distributed a book entitled “Think about Law “, written in very simple language and with illustrations prepared, I understand, by Mr. Justice Minogue, to natives who are undergoing secondary education so that they can see the possibilities of taking law. It is hoped that a greater number will be coming forward as the years go by.
When the university is established - we know that not only has the site been cleared and the building commenced but also that there will be courses available in 1967 - I hope that a course in law will be one of the early courses available. Perhaps, as some of the senior native citizens put to our committee, the university will not entirely neglect the teaching of some native law. These native citizens have said to us: “ What is the use of teaching us European marriage laws when we marry according to native law and we adopt children according to native adoption laws? Their titles to land, for instance, are native titles. In these circumstances are we going to teach them the Statute of Uses and Lord Birkenhead’s “ Law of Property Act 1925 “? These are problems connected with having a proper curriculum which will give them the greatest advantage when they come to practise in the Territory.
I think it would be an advantage, even for those who do take law at the University of Port Moresby, if they could finish their law courses in Australia. One advantage of this would be that they could obtain Australian articles or apprenticeship. This would be a valuable experience. It is quite clear that there are not enough legal practitioners in the Territory to take articled clerks and give them training. I would like to stress the point that if you simply teach a man to the standard of a law degree and let him loose without giving him any moral training, for example in the idea of how to handle the trust property of his client, you are letting loose a monster. If you train people, to the standard of a Bachelor of Laws degree and let them loose in administration or government without any appreciation of the conventions upon which our structure of society is built, no good will be served. That is, of course, if you are going to teach them our kind of law. We must remember that they have been brought up under an entirely different system. Knowledge of private property rights has to be acquired by them. They own property in communities and they regard the property of every member of their own community as belonging equally to them. If we are going to bring them into local administration we have to give them training beyond the mere intellectual training of a law degree.
Possibly there could be some reciprocal arrangements between the Territory university on the one hand and the Australian National University or the University of Sydney or the University of Queensland on the other hand. I think the latter universities have already shown a disposition to take students from Papua and New Guinea, and in view of the interest that the Law Council of Australia has already taken in this subject, I believe its co-operation could be obtained in helping and furthering the interest of indigenous students if they are brought here.
There is one other comment I wish to make on legal administration. The head men, or the men of moral stature, in the various native communities used to be the luluais who had some powers in relation to native law. This power has been taken from them and the leading citizens now are local councillors. The council at, say, Rabaul, might consist of about 17 councillors, each a leading member of his own village or community. Their complaint is that they have no authority of a legal character in relation to their own native laws. One suggestion I offer is that natives having prestige and moral authority in their own communities might be appointed lay justices of the peace with power to deal with local matters such as bride prices or -drunkenness, matters which need not come before the District Commissioners or the magistrates of the Territory. Insofar as they would be applying the provisions of ordinances, they would need instruction. Most of them have an inadequate knowledge of English and a greater number cannot read, but as native councillors they have native clerks to instruct them. There are training schools for these clerks. One of them is at Vunadidir. some miles from Rabaul, where they are trained in the duties of clerks and then sent to assist the councillors. The clerks could be trained to assist the lay justices of the peace and instruct them with regard to ordinances and matters arising from the very simple aspects of the law that would be involved. In this way the lay justices of the peace would be brought into the field of law administration and their decisions would be accepted because of the moral authority they hold in their own communities.
One reads from time to time of suggestions that the people of the Territory should be given, if not independence, at least selfgovernment within a relatively short time. Anyone who has had any contact with the Territory at all knows that these people are far from being able to accept this responsibility in the present generation. Let us look first at the financial position which is shown in the estimates. For the 1965-66 year the receipts for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea are given as: Local £17,090,000, loans £3,080,000, Commonwealth grant £31,000,000, giving a total of £51,170,000. If these people are going to have selfgovernment no doubt they will want to raise their own funds and administer them. What chance have they when at the present time three-fifths of their revenue is derived as a free gift from this country? Obviously the economy of the Territory must be brought to a much higher level in regard to production than it has achieved to date before they can think of providing enough money to make their economy a viable one in a separate community.
It is true that the Government is largely following the recommendations which were contained in the report of the mission from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and is making very strenuous efforts to bring the economy of the Territory to a point where it will be viable. But this, because of the lack particularly of secondary industries, is a long term project. In the very brief time left to me I would like to call attention to one particular difficulty which has to be overcome before the objective is likely to be achieved. This is a special difficulty arising from the nature of land tenure. In the Territory the position is very different from that in, say, Australia, where basically the Crown owns the land and grants it to individuals. In the Territory the Crown owns a very small part of the land, and that it has acquired mainly by purchase. The land is owned by the native people according to native custom. These customs vary from place to place, but in the main it might be said that there is a matrilineal community tenure. That is to say, if you look at the title of a particular area of land you will find a female ancestor and then you trace her descendants living at the present time. They would own the land in community. Then you would find that the title is subject to all kinds of easements, rights to come on and fish, rights to come on and pick coconuts, rights to come on and make bark canoes. These easements or rights granted to strangers in the community are often fairly numerous. What is being done in this regard is that the Government has appointed 10 lands commissioners and has divided the area into a series of adjudication areas. In each adjudication area there is an adjudication committee, which is composed entirely of natives with a native chairman. These committees operate with the assistance of surveyors provided by the Administration. They hear claims to title to every piece of land in the Territory. Some of the committees are very successful. One at Rabaul, under the chairmanship of one Nason Tokiala, has heard and decided disputes relating to virtually every piece of land within its area, and in that area there are no outstanding disputes to go to the Lands Commissioner. In another area there have been hearings, but this is a more litigious area and there are 25 pieces of land still under dispute. These will go to the Lands Commissioner for determination. The type of title that ultimately issues after the Lands Commissioner has decided the title to each of these pieces of land throughout the various areas is a registered title which sets out descendants, matrilineally generally, of a particular female. But what is proposed is that after this is fixed there will be a title capable of being issued to an individual by arrangement with the owners. When you reach this stage you have a piece of land which is capable, for instance, of being used as security for finance for development in the Territory and so on. This will be one step forward in bringing the economy to a better state. It is estimated that under this process it will take about two years before the various adjudication area committee reports are in. If this timetable is adhered to, it will be an excellent performance and the Territory will be able to move forward towards a more modern economy.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowen) made some thoughtful remarks, but he has a conservative and traditional attitude if he believes that the system of land tenure in Australia, under which land is privately owned and exploited by whoever can get it, is productive of social advances. I hope that we do not inflict on the people of Papua and New Guinea the ancient and traditional needs of Europeans to have their land defined, titled, exploited, mortgaged and finally ruined. I know that if the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) brings his attitude to bear on the subject, that is exactly what will happen.
We are discussing the most wide ranging Division of the Estimates. We are permitted two hours in which to do this. We are considering a department which has ramifications beyond those of any other department in any other part of the Commonwealth or in any State. We are dealing with the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and a large number of services in that Territory, and with Nauru, Norfolk Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. We are dealing also with the Northern Territory, which has an area of 500,000 square miles and a population of about 40,000 people. It is faced with a multitude of problems associated with development and its people.
But consider for the moment the position of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Here is a country of 2 million people. It has an area of about 160,000 square miles - twice the area of Victoria and about the area of New Zealand. The estimates under discussion cover the Commonwealth’s contribution towards the development of services in this country. The Commonwealth’s contribution provides for the major part of the expenditure on those services. We are thinking, for example, of the health services of a population as large as that of Israel. We are talking about postal services conducted by the Department as an ancillary service, serving a population as large as that of New Zealand. We are thinking - or we should be thinking - about an education system which has more children under its control than has the Victorian education system. We are talking about development, housing, roads and other things - intercommunications, for example - in a community whose population exceeds that of Queensland.
One of the errors of the past has been our isolation of the whole system of Territories, particularly the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, from the Parliament, because there is no special kind of representation here. The Ministry is able to act in a completely self-contained way. In some way we must bring this Parliament into closer communion with the people of Papua and New Guinea and their problems. We must break down the isolation that exists. The rest of the world is knocking down barriers. In the lifetime of many members of this Parliament the French and the Germans almost succeeded in tearing the world apart, but the barriers between France and Germany are falling down. We, however, continue to build barriers between ourselves and the people of Papua and New Guinea.
Consider for a moment our attitude towards travel between Australia and the Territory. One of my colleagues has referred to the matter of a Papuan wishing to travel to Australia. He would have to provide a bond of £100. Consider some of the lesser administrative exercises. Take the matter of shipping. Freight rates between Australia and Papua are higher in many instances than they are between Australia and Europe or South East Asia. I brought a car from Basra on the Persian Gulf to Australia for £75, but it would cost me about £80 to bring one from Papua. This Territory is supposed to be part of Australia. These people are responsible to us. Some of them carry Australian passports. They look to Australia, but we are building barriers against them. I have not seen any evidence from the Minister or his predecessors to show that they are conscious of those barriers or propose to knock them down.
Consider the matter of airline transport between Australia and the Territory. TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. operate to the Territory. It is 523 miles from Cairns to Port Moresby and the airline companies charge the colossal fare of £28 5s. For the same distance within Australia the fare is about £18 lis. You could fly almost twice as far within Australia on the same aircraft with the same crew for what it would cost you to fly across the Coral Sca. Is there some significance about the air over the Coral Sea? Is it thicker than the air over Canberra? Is it more difficult to fly across the Coral Sea than to fly across the Great Australian Bight? Of course not. This is one of the elements that flows from the isolation of the Territory Administration from this Parliament.
Honorable members are not obliged to visit the Territory in the course of their parliamentary duties. Far from being able to visit the Territory once in each Parliament, it might be a good idea if it was compulsory for honorable members to go once a year and so bring this Parliament into closer contact with the people of the Territory. These airlines are our airlines. They operate under our laws. But we allow them to operate under a different system in respect of New Guinea to the one under which they operate internally. However, you need not go as far as airlines - these exotic adventurers in modern transport. What about telephones? Most of us use telephones. It costs a minimum of 30s. to make a telephone call between Australia and Papua. If you telephone Port Moresby from Cairns the charge is 30s. You can make a telephone call right across Australia for 15s. in the daytime and 12s 6d. at night. This is another example of the administration isolationist nonsense that has developed and which must be removed before we can go further in Papua.
The odd thing is that as regards letters we treat Papua as part of Australia. Put your 5d. stamp on a letter, throw it into the network and it buzzes off to Papua. It costs no more than it would if it were going to one of the lucky citizens in Perth or Adelaide. But try to make a telephone call to Papua and you will be exploited day and night. Try to make a call from Papua at night. The overseas telecommunications system, which publishes proud and well produced reports about its network around the world, closes down at night. You may call for smoke signals or pay an opening fee of 30s. This policy is in keeping with the attitude that Papua is on another planet and has different problems from those facing Australia. The fact is that the problems that confront Papua economically are more intense than those which face the people of Australia. Far from increasing charges as they apply to Papua, we should be trying to reduce them. Our isolationist attitude towards the Territory is the result of out of date economic policies. Our administrative difficulties flow from the fact that many of our Territories are under the charge of one Minister. Papua and New Guinea is rarely visited by members of Parliament. It is not under close scrutiny, yet we have a national responsibility as regards the Territory. Somehow this Parliament has to break this down. I hope we are now voting the funds that will help to produce a new attitude in this field. There is no doubt in my mind that the people of Papua and New Guinea feel close to Australia, but they arc worried about the situation. I believe that we are at a point at which we might well either come into closer communion with one another or break the bonds in such a way as to drift further apart. The 2 million people of Papua and New Guinea and the 1 1 million people of Australia make a significant population group in this part of the world. It would be a good thing to bring them as close together as possible. These are some of the points on which there is a challenge to the Australian people.
I believe that there are some elements of doubt about certain features of the development of the Territory. When I was there just before the beginning of this sessional period, I was disturbed to learn that a security service is to be established. Apparently it is feared that there may be some subversive elements about.
– Does not the honorable member like the idea?
– I believe that this is a piece of archaic, traditional Australian Country Party nonsense and that something ought to be done about it. This sort of thing is more likely to subvert the development of free thought than to prevent the subversion of the community. I do not believe that there is anything in the community in Papua and New Guinea to warrant the establishment of a security service. I consider that at this stage of the Territory’s parliamentary and social development the Government has to be very careful not to inhibit free discussion, freedom of associa tion and freedom of speech. These are more precious and more important to the development of the Territory than the prevention of anything that is likely to flow from some subversive character who may creep in with wrong ideas about the equality of people or of the sexes or about anything else.
I believe that this Government has failed miserably in the economic development of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Furthermore, this failure will continue while free enterprise motives influence the present Government. No large concern will invest in the Territory, because when it is regarded logically against the background of the rest of the world there does not seem to be much of a future in it. I believe that enterprise will have to be sponsored by the Australian Government. What is needed is enterprise sponsored, initiated and developed by the Government. It is of no use to wait for the indigenous people themselves to develop their own enterprises. They have not the ideas, the economic scope or the capital resources. One of the great tragedies of this Government perhaps is that it is dedicated to private enterprise and to an outmoded philosophy of development. Today we are denied initiative and dynamic thinking at the government level.
Here I want to make a point that is very important to the people and the House of Assembly in Papua and New Guinea. This Government has intimated that it proposes to accept the recommendations of the mission sent to the Territory by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It will be a tragedy if the Parliament goes into recess at the end of 1965 before we have given the mission’s report on the economic developments of the Territory full consideration. I visited the Territory for four or five days, which I spent in Port Moresby, before the present sessional period of this Parliament began. -My purpose was to examine the problems of education in the Territory as much as I could in the time available, for this is a field in which I perhaps have a little expertise. While I was there, there was brought to my notice a passage in the World Bank Mission’s report referring to the consolidation of the existing schools. The passage reads -
The Mission believes that this should be the main target in the field of primary education
In the years to come and beyond that additional enrolments should be limited.
The notes on the Territory of Papua and New Guinea circulated to members of the Parliament by the Minister state -
At present all expatriate children have access to education -
One would expect that - and over 188,000 of the estimated 600,000 indigenous children of school age are attending schools of a standard recognised by the Administration.
Fewer than one third of the children of Papua and New Guinea are in primary schools of a recognised standard. I do not say that the effort so far has not been creditable. But if we accept that as the minimum for the next five or six years we condemn two or three generations of the Territory’s children to illiteracy. I believe that this is against the whole spirit of the modern world. I understand that a conference on illiteracy sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation was held recently in Teheran. At the InterParliamentary Union Conference last year the reduction of illiteracy was one of the major topics of the discussions. This Government and this Parliament cannot tolerate condemning generations of children in Papua and New Guinea to illiteracy. 1 shall be grateful to have from the Minister an assurance that this will not happen. If we perpetuate illiteracy in the Territory we shall confer on the people of the Territory continuing disaster.
We must first of all expand the primary education system. Nobody can truthfully say that we are pouring unlimited resources into the Territory. Education for about 600,000 children this financial year is to cost £5.5 million. Victoria, with 500,000 children at school, is spending £40 million this financial year on education. No other country anywhere in the world would expect a first class education system for such meagre expenditure as is proposed in the Territory. We have to put more into education in Papua and New Guinea. There has been continual discussion in this Parliament about the Tullamarine Airport. We are pouring £20 million into that. We are to convert all the cash registers in Australia to decimal currency at a cost of, I think, £27 million or £37 million. These two matters are of a very low order of priority compared with the expansion of education in Papua and
New Guinea. I hope that all members of this Parliament and anybody at all who has the wit and the will to understand will examine the situation of education in the Territory thoroughly and do his utmost to see that we do not commit the grievous sin of condemning generations of the indigenous people of Papua and New Guinea to illiteracy. The education system there must be expanded.
Unfortunately the Government, in its administration of Territory affairs, has been more adventurous socially than it has been economically. I believe that as a gesture to the people of Papua and New Guinea Australia could make two gifts. It may be said that the two gifts that I have in mind are not highest in the order of priorities, but they would be well worthwhile nevertheless. We should give the people of Papua and New Guinea a new parliament house as a measure of our recognition of their new nationhood and their political development. We should also provide them with a national library as a gesture from the people of Australia to the developing free people of Papua and New Guinea. I trust that the Parliament of the Territory will move step by step along the road to sovereignty and independence simply by passing laws in various fields as the need arises in the same way that British parliaments have developed over seven centuries. I hope that the Minister will use the right of veto only on occasions when the Territory’s Parliament for some reason or other trespasses on fundamental freedoms of the people of the Territory.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, there have been a lot of interesting contributions to the debate on the estimates for the Territories. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) made a most misleading statement when he said that we are slackening our efforts in education in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. He cited expenditure on only one section of education. I point out to him that this Government has accepted responsibility for providing a university in the Territory and a School of Higher Education, to say nothing of an agricultural college and a forestry school. But he made no mention of those. In the last five years enrolments of indigenous children in the schools have increased from 91,000 to more than 188,000.
So I believe that we can claim great progress in education in the Territory. It is completely unfair to suggest that we are dragging our feet in this field.
Obviously we have great responsibilities in all fields. We have to advance not only the education, health and social services of the community but also its economic development. We cannot let the indigenous people gain the idea that they will be able to progress by handouts from Australia. We in this country did not develop in that way. We have never had handouts. Anything that we have we earned for ourselves. This is the proper approach to a free enterprise community. The honorable member for Wills, however, obviously is a dedicated Socialist. He suggested that we shall never make progress in Papua and New Guinea by free enterprise. I point out to him that no Socialist country anywhere in the world has ever got off the ground, as the saying goes.
– What about Israel?
– Look at the money that has been poured into Israel from outside sources. What has been done there could not have been done by the people’s own efforts. If there had been poured into Australia proportionately as much money as has been poured into Israel we would have a lot to show for it too. Men like the honorable member for Wills will never learn. He should remember what happened to the Socialist enterprise at Peak Downs in Queensland and to the ground nut enterprise in Africa which was undertaken by a Socialist government. But we are wasting our time dealing with these matters because honorable members opposite will never learn.
I should like to reply first to the comments made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). He made a constructive approach to the problems of the Northern Territory, as becomes the member for the area. I agree with him that mineral development offers one of the brightest prospects for the area. No doubt he will rejoice at the progress that has been made over the past 12 months in the development of the Gove mining enterprise and other mineral production in the Territory. The two things on which we can hang our hats for the advancement of the Northern Territory are the beef industry and the development of mineral resources. The beef industry has undergone tremendous development with the opening of abattoirs at Katherine and Darwin. For the first time in the history of the Territory, excellent prices have been available for beef right in the area. This has given great encouragement to develop the cattle areas of the north still further.
Unfortunately, the cattle areas of the central part of the Territory have experienced a disastrous drought extending over the last eight or 10 years. But here again there is a bright spot. Whereas previously cattle died on the spot in these areas during times of serious drought, now, thanks to the development of good roads, it is possible to move cattle out by motor transport and to sell them at highly remunerative .prices. Certainly we shall be faced with the problem of re-stocking the area when the drought breaks, but this, like many other difficulties, will bc met when the time comes.
I cannot understand the honorable member’s criticism of what has been done in connection with housing in the Northern Territory, because the figures which I have relating to housing, including private housing, in that area over the last few years are most impressive. They disclose that in 1963-64 there were 558 new houses and flats commenced and 336 completed. They disclose also that for the nine months ended in March 1965 there were 614 new houses and flats commenced and 431 completed. Under our works programme, 190 houses and flats were provided for staff housing in 1964-65 and 189 houses and flats are included in the work programme for 1965-66. In the period from 1959 to 1964, there were 424 dwellings completed by the Housing Commission. For the nine months ended in March 1965, 147 houses were completed by the Housing Commission. There has been a steady improvement all the time.
– How many are there on the waiting list?
– Certainly we are still behind in meeting the demand, but the fact that there are people on the waiting list is an excellent sign. The population of the Territory is increasing rapidly. In fact, it has increased by over 34 per cent, in five years. The population of Darwin has doubled in 10 years and the projection for the next 10- year period is that it will double itself again. That is an indication of great prosperity. A further indication of the prosperity of the area is that motor vehicle registrations have increased by 116 per cent, in the past five years, that the total tonnage of cargo handled over the wharves has increased by 51 per cent, in that period and that mineral production, excluding uranium, has increased by six times since 1949-50.
As another indication of progress, I point out that the number of pupils in Aboriginal schools has increased by 48 per cent, and the number of pupils in non-Aboriginal schools by 54 per cent. These are all indications of great development in the area. Again, at Groote Eylandt the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. is developing huge manganese deposits. This work involves the investment of £2 million and will provide employment for from 70 to 80 men. Employment there will increase as development progresses. In addition to this, approximately £50 million is to be spent on developing the Gove bauxite deposits and employment for approximately 800 will be provided there. The iron ore deposit at Frances Creek is also being developed. Government and private investment totalling more than £3 million is involved on this development, which will provide employment for 100 men. The installation of bulk ore handling facilities and the construction of a new wharf at Darwin are estimated to cost £1.58 million. The installation of these facilities will lead to an increase of over 100 per cent, in the volume of exports shipped over the wharves there. These are all illustrations of the tremendous advancement of the Northern Territory.
Undoubtedly there is much more to be done, but we are gradually doing it. We hear many extraordinary statements about the development of the north, the need for crash programmes and the need to spend millions of pounds but we have to go carefully in this matter. The north has not been fully developed because we have yet to find the solutions to a lot of problems up there. If we were to put millions of pounds into development without first preparing the way, we would have experiences similar to those at Humpty Doo, where a tremendous amount of money was lost and as a result of which the area received a bad name.
– It was sabotaged.
– The honorable member is quite happy to see somebody else putting his money into ventures such as that, but he would not be prepared to invest in them. I appreciate the contribution made by the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), who has given a great deal of study to the problems in Papua and New Guinea. His suggestion with relation to the development of tourism is worthy of consideration, but there is much to be done there if the tourist industry is to be developed. The honorable member mentioned accommodation. I am happy to state that a site for a new hotel has been cleared at Port Moresby. This will be a great step forward, and I hope this hotel will be the forerunner of many others. Of course, if the tourist industry is to be developed in Papua and New Guinea it will be necessary to construct an international airport there. An expenditure of something like £1 million will be required to extend the landing strip in order to provide the facilities necessary for an international air service. We cannot expect to attract tourists from overseas unless we have an international airline calling in. Obviously tourism could become a great industry there when all these problems have been overcome.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) spoke at length about the House of Assembly in New Guinea. He made some comments about the observations by members of that House of Assembly who were down here recently. I think his comments were a little one-sided. These men obviously appreciate the problems that exist in the House of Assembly. Those problems are not easy to overcome, but undoubtedly they will be overcome eventually. It has to be remembered that a move to bring Papua and New Guinea from a very primitive stage to the point where it has a fully elected House of Assembly within a very few years is very remarkable. Obviously a considerable number of improvements have yet to be made. I have pointed out on other occasions that the House of Assembly is at present in the transitional stage.
The honorable member for Fremantle suggested that certain things should be done. He suggested, for example, that the House of Assembly should be modelled on the United States congressional system. I do not agree with him. We have modelled our system on the Parliament of Westminster, and all those countries which have modelled themselves on the Parliament of Westminster have provided the best governments in the world for their people, who enjoy great personal liberties and great material prosperity.
Of course, it is not for us to tell these people what sort of government they are to have eventually. A Select Committee on Constitutional Development has been appointed to inquire into these matters. Undoubtedly, these people will consider all the various factors that are so necessary to their future. We have promised that whenever they want self government or independence we will let them have it. I have pointed out, as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) quite rightly said, that it is not the present wish of these people to have independence. When asked, they say that it is many years off. These people really appreciate what has been done, and the massive financial support that Australia has given to Papua and New Guinea. The grant to this country in this financial year is to be £31 million. Revenue to be raised locally is estimated at £17 million. Loans of a little over £3 million will be raised locally. Apart from that, £14 million or £15 million will be spent by other government departments there. This is massive financial support. No underdeveloped country in the world has been given the equivalent of the financial support that Australia is giving to Papua and New Guinea. This is a well worthwhile objective because the people are capable of great development.
I appreciate what the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowen) said in his reference to the legal system in Papua and New Guinea. As he quite rightly pointed out, it is very easy to learn the elements of law but the important thing is to get the background of the traditions that surround the law. After all, this is the basis of our legal institutions. This applies also to government. The training of these people in the ways of this country will not be completed until their philosophies and cultures are brought into line with the institutions which have been such a great success with us. This will be a long undertaking, and, undoubtedly, it will be well worthwhile.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) and the honorable member for Batman commented on Norfolk Island. I was glad that they showed their interest in this imporant Territory. It is a delightful part of the world. Unfortunately, not many Australians seem to make the trip there. It is said that the transport system is not the best. I think it is excellent. After all, the particular type of Qantas aircraft which operates there is much better than the aircraft operating to most airports in Australia.
The honorable member for Batman suggested we should give a little more support to the fishing industry on Norfolk Island. I cannot see his point. He said that the cost of beef was 8s. per lb. Fish are in great abundance in the waters of Norfolk Island. It is a puzzle to me why the fishing industry did not succeed when I recollect that it was run by a wealthy company. I think some other factors are involved about which he and I do not know. Suggestions were made by both honorable members that we should introduce social services to Norfolk Island. This is not the wish of the people, as expressed by the members of the elected council. As the responsible Minister, I take note of elected councils. If I did not take note of them, of whom would I take note? I can appreciate that some members of the Labour Party probably take note of somebody else. I have told the elected council that I will consider very closely propositions that it puts to me and which have its support.
The “honorable member for Parramatta made’ most helpful suggestions relating to the education of persons in the Territory in law. We very much appreciate the support given by legal societies in Australia and the very great interest they have shown in this development. As we pointed out, there are several students in our universities. The courses will be commencing in 1967 and I hope we will get pretty well along the way with the training of these people. The honorable member suggested that we should bring them to Australia but he pointed out the difficulty that they will have in adapting themselves to Australian conditions. I think that if they spend the first few years of their training in Papua and New Guinea they will be better able to fit into the situation in Australia. As I pointed out earlier, it is important that they be imbued with the thinking, the traditions and the philosophies which have made our Australian institutions such a success.
As to the administration of law in Papua and New Guinea, an ordinance which, I think, is about to come into operation will give greater participation to the local people in the administration of the law in the Territory. The ordinance provides for the appointment of indigenous people as associate magistrates. At the commencement of the scheme there will not be many of them because they will not have received the necessary training. But this will be a start. In the local courts we will have mediators who will endeavour to bring the parties together. If agreement can be obtained the efforts of the mediator can be embodied in the decision of the court. In that sense. the indigenous people will participate in the court’s judgment. All these things are the beginning of legal training in the Territory.
In Papua and New Guinea we are not dealing with only one community. There are 700 or 800 dialects and a similar number of clans and groups. Each clan has a different approach to local laws such as those relating to land tenure and so on. These are only some of the problems that lie ahead of us, but we are making great progress and I think we will continue to do so. I am most grateful for the comments of honorable members and the interest they have shown in the Territories.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
House adjourned at 11.19 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1, 2, 3 and 4. I understand Mr. Cole did make such a statement. There was no association between his speech and the inauguration of the political party. I. am satisfied there was no improper intention on Mr. Cole’s part nor would such be attributed to him in the Territory. 5, 6 and 7. Two members of the Territory police force attended the inaugural public meeting of the United National Party. There is no political intimidation or restriction of political activity in the Territory. So far as the new political party is concerned I have made it clear that its internal affairs are its own concern and not the concern of the Government.
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice - ‘
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Approximately half of these applications were of a tentative nature only, as at 31st August 196S. It has been the practice not to include in statistics of deferred applications those applications for telephone services in outlying areas not already linked into the telephone system until the required trunk line and telephone exchange has been approved. However, all these applications will be included in any future summaries.
s asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
son asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Why are the birthday dates drawn in national service ballots not made public?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Ballot results are not published because the Government has taken the view that the position of each registrant in relation to national service is a matter confidential between himself and the administering authority. It believes that each registrant affected by a ballot, or by any of the other provisions governing exemption from, or deferment of, call-up has the right to be informed personally and officially, and not publicly, of his own position.
There would be no more reason for publishing information about those deferred as a result of the ballot than there would be for publishing the details of those exempted or deferred on other grounds. The ballot is only one of a series of actions undertaken to determine who should and who should not be called up for service.
son asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
y asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
What pensions and benefits are payable to
Is the scheme contributory; if so, what is the rate of contribution?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
y asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 October 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19651027_reps_25_hor48/>.