25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Aborigines. Mr. COLLARD presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Commonwealth Government repeal the Wards’ Employment Ordinance and legislate to provide at least the basic wage for all Aboriginal workers in the Northern Territory.
Petition received and read.
Similar petitions were presented by Mr. Lucock, Mr. Galvin, Mr. Drury and Mr. Barnard.
Petitions severally received.
Mr. STEWART presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying for increased benefits to pensioners and elderly people.
Petition received and read.
Mr. COUTTS presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that, in the 1966 Budget, age and invalid pensions under the Social Services Act, married couples included, be 50 per cent, of the male basic wage with cost of living adjustments tied.
Petition received and read.
Mr. SEXTON presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Government implement Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by providing increased social services and housing benefits for the aged, the invalid, the widowed and their dependants.
Petition received and read.
Similar petitions were presented by Mr. Failes, Mr. Mackinnon, Mr. Connor, Mr. Erwin, Mr. Stewart, Mr. King, Dr. J. F. Cairns, Mr. Peacock, Mr. Devine, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Fox, Mr. Curtin, Mr. Lindsay, Mr. Luchetti, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Daly, Mr. Bridges-Maxwell, Mr. Mclvor, Mr. Griffiths and Mr. Crean.
Petitions severally received.
– Mr. Speaker, I desire to ask you a question concerning the use of Parliament House recently for the South East Asia Treaty Organisation conference. Is it a fact that during the conference sections of the building were under military security guard and that members of the House were restricted in their movements about the building and had to have passes from S.E.A.T.O. to visit their own offices? Can you assure the House that in future Parliament House will not be subject to an outside authority?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member for Stirling is obviously one that interests the House. In view of the comments made at the time. I prepared a statement dealing with the background to and the arrangements made for the S.E.A.T.O. conference. As this statement is somewhat lengthy, it may be more convenient if I laid it on the table of the House. Every honorable member will be supplied with a copy. I present the following paper - s.K.A.T.O. Conference, June 1966 - Statement by Mr. Speaker.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Did Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A. submit proposals for the operation of Boeing 727 aircraft on the Adelaide through Alice Springs to Darwin route? If so, has approval yet been given for this improved service?
– A few weeks ago both T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A. took delivery of an additional Boeing 727. As a result of this delivery they have submitted new flight schedules for approval. These include an application by both operators for a service to operate at night from Adelaide through Alice Springs to Darwin and return. Unfortunately we received the notice only just a few weeks ago, and Alice Springs airport is not suitably equipped to handle the Boeing 727. We are now in the process of giving high priority consideration to the installation at Alice Springs of an instrument landing system or a visual approach slope indicator system, as required under the regulations we have now laid down following some problems with the Boeing 727 earlier this year. I expect that in about six to eight weeks we will have a suitable instrument installed. We will review the applications at that stage and 1 do not doubt that the operators will be given authority to commence.
– When does the Minister for the Navy expect that the new naval patrol boats will be in service? As confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia has ended and these vessels will not be needed in the area of confrontation, will the Minister station one in Townsville, where it would be very useful as there is considerable intrusion by foreign fishing vessels into Barrier Reef waters, and where it would complement the defence complex of the area?
– As has already been announced in the Press, the Government has at present under construction 20 of these vessels, 5 of which are to serve in the Papua and New Guinea area and the other 15 in various places around Australia and overseas if necessary. The first two will be delivered early next year and the others will come off the assembly line at regular intervals. I do not hold out much hope of having one based at Townsville, because the Government will act on the advice of the Naval Staff and the vessels will be placed in positions of strategic importance and where there is a need for training operations. If the time arrives when it is necessary for either of these reasons to station one at Townsville or at any other place, I am quite confident that the Government will accept the advice of the Naval Staff in this regard.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Did the honorable member for Dawson claim last weekend that the Government had snubbed him by not inviting him to attend the official opening last Sunday of the Shute Harbour airstrip, which is in his electorate? Is it true that he was invited only late in the day and then at the request of the local, shire chairman? Will the Minister kindly clarify this position for me, as I have suffered in this way at the hands of the Labour Brisbane
City Council and strongly disagree with these practices?
– The Press in Queensland last Sunday did contain considerable publicity relating to what was termed a snub directed at the honorable member for Dawson by the Government by not extending in the first place an invitation to him to attend the official opening of the Shute Harbour airstrip but issuing an invitation later when approached by the local shire chairman. I read the statements with interest because, first, they are based on an incorrect foundation; they are basically untrue. The airstrip concerned is privately owned, and is leased by Trans-Australia Airlines. The function which was arranged was privately arranged by T.A.A. and not by the Government. I myself merely received an invitation to perform the official opening ceremony. I was also given by T.A.A. a list of persons to whom invitations had been extended, because I had been informed by the Press that the honorable member intended to raise this matter in the House. Incidentally, I have that list with me and, if that is desired, I shall be happy to table it. The name of the honorable member for Dawson appears second on the list of those people invited from Mackay. The only one ahead of him on the list from Mackay is Senator Wood. The invitations were all posted together on 29th July.
– How does the Minister know they were posted together?
– That was the statement made to me by T.A.A. and I am prepared to accept it. If the honorable gentleman wishes, he may look at the list.
– Yes, certainly.
– Here it is. The Leader of the Opposition may read it. The first point is that the invitations were all posted together. The second is that no reply was received by T.A.A. from the honorable member for Dawson. The airport manager at Brisbane contacted him personally and received advice that the honorable member would not be attending. The third point which the honorable member for Dawson raised in the Press was that he was not invited on to the official dais. That apparently is the reason he would not attend. The airline says that the official party on the dais was a very restricted one. I managed to get a guernsey because 1 was to perform the official opening. There were other members invited who were not invited to sit on the dais. They included, for example, the State Minister for Tourism, who did accept an invitation, and who did attend. He sat in the audience with the other people. He did not object.
The next matter raised was the inference that a lot of Government officials were being flown up from the south at public expense to take part in this function. That, of course, is again incorrect. An invitation had been extended to my Director-General in Melbourne, who was unable to attend. The only Government representatives were myself, as Minister for Civil Aviation, and two officers of my Department in Queensland.
While I was there two constituents of the local member indicated that they thought ti mt the action taken by the honorable member in relation to this matter was childish.
J am afraid that in the circumstances I can only agree with them.
– I ask the Minister for National Development once again whether, recognising the injury that is being caused by delay, he will now announce the fm ure role of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority in the task of national development.
– During the recess the Government had the advantage of a report by an interdepartmental committee. It is studying this report and will make an announcement on it when it has completed its study.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Recently, statements have been made about racialism in Papua and New Guinea. Has the Minister any information that he can give to the House?
– No doubt the honorable member is referring to several articles which have appeared in the Press quite recently stating that there is quite substantial racial conflict in Papua and New Guinea. I inform the honorable member that those reports are completely misleading. Undoubtedly, in a multi-racial population there will always be unfortunate incidents of racial conflict. I do not think such incidents can be avoided or legislated against. We can legislate for political equality, but the social factor is a very difficult matter. I believe that many reports of such incidents relate to the local area of Port Moresby and that these do not reflect the general circumstances of the whole Territory.
Racial relations in Papua and New Guinea are of a very high order. For instance in the elections for the House of Assembly, European members were returned in six open electorates and today’s Press contains a report that at a byelection a European member has been returned to succeed a previous European member, Mr. Bloomfield. The incoming European member probably will receive an absolute majority against, I think, four local candidates.
These things are an indication of excellent relations and I think the reports that appear in the Press do a very great disservice to the thousands of Australians in the Territory who are endeavouring to foster good relations and assist the people there. I would say that many incidents in Port Moresby occur because of a degree of unrest, but rather than racial unrest, this is economic unrest due to the disparity between wages paid to Europeans and to indigenous people. This disparity is necessary and such distinctions exist in practically all the underdeveloped countries. I say definitely that the incidents cannot be termed racial unrest and I reiterate that racial relations in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea are of a very high order.
– I ask the Treasurer: Does the honorable gentleman expect to attend the next meeting of the International Monetary Fund as a representative of Australia? If so, does he intend to present a case for an increase in the price of fold, or will he simply follow the defeatist attitude of his predecessor and accept without question the views or attitude of the United States of America? If he does not intend to present an argument at the meeting, does this mean that he has other ideas for bringing about an increase in the price of gold, or does it simply mean that the Government has no interest in the subject?
– Order! I think that question is on the notice paper.
– What is the number of the question?
– Order! The question will be deferred for the time being and we will take the next question.
– Can the Prime Minister advise the House of the position in respect of the Anzac commemorative medal, the issue of which was announced by the Minister for Defence some time ago?
– Some consultations have taken place in relation to this matter with the New Zealand Government. 1 believe that the matter is close to finality. As soon as I am in a position to make a public announcement about it, I shall do so.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he has seen a report of a statement made recently by the former chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, Sir Giles Chippindall, in which he said that Trans-Australia Airlines was struggling against unreasonable competition with Ansett-A.N.A. Does the Minister intend to review a situation in which Ansett-A.N.A. is obliged to earn only 78 per cent, of its. revenue while T.A.A. .has to earn 96 per cent, of its revenue? If so, when is the review to be carried out?
– First of all, I do not know where those latter figures came from, but certainly there has been no authority for them as far as I know. It is a fact that Trans-Australia Airlines is required each year, in accordance with the authority vested in the Minister for Civil Aviation under an act of Parliament, to make a profit. The profit target is indicated to T.A.A. as a basis for operation in each year. That system is in operation at the present time. For obvious reasons no such condition applies to the private enterprise partner in the two airline system. I did read the statement by Sir Giles and I do know that basically, throughout the whole statement, his complete approval and support of the two airline system was indicated. He was not criticising the system itself; he was adding some thoughts in order to try to make the system work better. Obviously, consideration will be given to any suggestions of that nature that are raised, but I repeat that the two airline system has been most successful in Australia. It is operating satisfactorily and giving to Australians a very good service. I might add that although the service is of a very high standard the Government still keeps it under review and at present a full review is taking place. Some submissions have already been received by me from both the operators and over the next few months further investigations will be made and the Government will certainly take into consideration all the points that have been raised in the submissions.
– Order! I point out to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that the question on the notice paper to which I referred earlier is No. 1894 in the name of the honorable member for Stirling.
– I rise to order. With due respect to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that that question deals with the Western Australian Government’s application for the appointment of an economist. The question I asked deals with the position in relation to the Treasurer’s attendance at an international conference.
– Order! I think the position is that the question which die honorable member desires to ask may be answered when the question asked by the honorable member for Stirling is being answered and that, therefore, the honorable member for Stirling should be protected.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the steep, unnecessary price rise in copper in Australia of $380 per ton? Is he aware, also, that 95 per cent, of the material used in the manufacture of agricultural spraying equipment is copper and that the price increase thus adds up to 25 per cent, to the cost of such equipment for farmers and gardeners and also ruins Australia’s chance of increasing export trade which is already in close competition with Japanese and European manufacturers? What action, if any, does the Prime Minister propose to take to prevent these continual increases in prices and costs in this field and also in every other field of goods and services?
– The Prime Minister suggests that, as I am familiar with this matter, I might answer the question. The position in regard to copper, as with every metal in Australia, fs that the price for sale locally is normally the parity of the export value or, in some cases, the parity of the import value. Over a period, the Australian producers of copper have decided - for reasons that they thought sufficient - to sell in Australia at a lower price than they could obtain by export. For example, two years ago they were selling for $680 a ton locally when the export parity was $382 a ton. In January of this year they were selling locally for S870 a ton when the world value was $1,420 a ton.
– The Minister speaks of world parity. Are there not six different world prices for copper?
– No. There have been two or three different world prices at a time. I am speaking of the London Metal Exchange price which historically has been accepted as the world parity price for copper and other metals such as lead and zinc. This decision was taken by the copper producers on their own initiative. They were not prompted by governments. Their real motive was to avoid high prices for copper leading to the substitution of aluminium, plastics and perhaps other materials for copper. What has happened is that progressively others who have followed this policy in other parts of the world have broken away from it and have relapsed to the world price. At least one Australian producer decided recently, for reasons that it thought sufficient, that it would revert to the historic basis of pricing - that is, the Australian parity as compared with the world price. The Australian consumers of copper, having enjoyed the benefit of some millions of dol lars of savings, are now to be in the position of having to pay the world parity price for copper as they do for lead, zinc, tin and all other metals. The balance of advantage is very largely with the community at the present time. In reply to the final part of the honorable member’s question, as to why the Government permits this rise in the price of copper, I would remind him that the Commonwealth Government, other than in wartime, has no powers of price fixing at all.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question. The honorable gentleman will recall that during the last sessional period I referred to the fact that each year nearly 3,000 Australians are killed on the roads - a number about equal to that of an infantry brigade - and some 70,000 are injured, resulting in much pain and suffering and great economic loss. He will remember that I asked him, further, to examine what powers of persuasion might be applied to the manufacturers to ensure the construction of safer motor vehicles. In view of the excellent “ Four Corners “ television programme last week, dealing with this problem, is the Minister still satisfied that it is not incumbent upon him to explore the matter urgently and take the lead? Alternatively, will he facilitate the appointment of a select committee of this chamber to inquire into the problem?
– I did not see the “ Four Corners” programme to which the honorable member has referred. The question of improved safety devices in motor vehicles was considered at the last meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council. The State Governments, which are principally involved in this question, agreed that this was a matter to be examined and it is being examined by a sub-committee of the Australian Transport Advisory Council with a view to securing uniformity of action by the State Governments. The Government of Victoria indicated that it had in mind requiring certain safety standards to be observed and these are subjects at which the sub-committee will be looking particularly to see whether they are acceptable to all the State Governments.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. Has the Australian Government or the Australian Meat Board authorised overseas shipping lines to rationalise meat shipments from ports in Queensland with a view, possibly, to eliminating such meat ports as Gladstone and Mackay? If not, will the Minister investigate the position to see why at least one shipping company is adopting this role, and also the claim that it has the support of the Australian Meat Board and the Australian Government in its attempt to eliminate some ports?
– The interest of the Australian Government in -this matter is to try to keep freight rates down - to reduce them if possible and, if that is not possible, at least to avoid further increases. This is identical with the interest of the meat industry itself and to this end we have had discussions with the shipping companies concerning the factors which contribute to the high freights needed by those companies. One of the important factors in the Australian trade is the number of ports at which ships customarily call to pick up a small amount of cargo in each port. In the end result, a ship on the United Kingdom trade run can be in port longer than it is at sea.
Shipping companies have accepted that a rationalisation which would lead to ships picking up their full cargo with fewer stops would mean that they would be longer at sea and their costs would be reduced accordingly. The shipping companies operating between Australia and North America accepted this position and other companies have now done so. The end result will be that each ship will call at fewer ports, but every port will have the same amount of cargo lifted as it is presented for lifting. However, instead of a whole succession of ships going into a port to pick up, perhaps, a couple of hundred tons each, one ship will go in and pick up, say, SOO tons. There are obvious economies in this system. Each port will have the same total service while the meat industry, to which the honorable member has referred, will receive the benefit of an avoidance of high costs.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. In view of the significance of 12th September 1966 when the town of Dubbo will be proclaimed a city by the Governor of New South Wales, and many functions will be associated with the celebrations, is the Minister yet in a position to advise me whether it will be possible for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to cover these celebrations by means of radio and television?
– When I became aware that the town of Dubbo would be proclaimed a city on 12th September, knowing that A.B.C. television for that area would be open about that date, I did my best to encourage the idea that the service should be then opened. Provided that there is no hold-up of outside work because of wet weather, I believe we will have the studio and the service operating on 12th September, so there will be a coverage of the celebrations for the people in that area.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Industry examined the effect on the Australian building and manufacturing industries of the recent increases in internal prices of steel and copper? Are these of the order of S20 million and $40 million per annum respectively? What additional action has the Minister taken to tighten up on the blatant evasions of export controls on copper scrap? Will the Minister examine the contrast between the unilateral price increase of these metals and the frustrations of the arbitration system in adjusting wage margins for employees under metal trades awards?
– I am aware that higher prices of steel and copper increase building costs, but I do not know what the dimension of any new increase will be. I remind the honorable member that the steel companies cannot be required to pay a higher basic wage and higher margins without this being reflected on the return they receive for the sale of their product. That applies also to copper. We had a long period in recent times when industrial unrest at Mount Isa and the cessation of production there led to a shortage of copper in Australia. As a result, the copper that was being produced in Australia at the time was being sold- I do not vouch for the accuracy of the figure, but it illustrates the point - at about $800 per ton and the shortage was being made up by imported copper costing about $1,400 per ton. This is an explanation of how higher costs come about - arising in that case from industrial disputes - that have to be borne in the long run by the building industry and those who occupy buildings.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard) asked a question and you, Mr. Speaker, ruled that he was out of order because the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) already had a question on the notice paper dealing with the same subject. My point is that the honorable member for Stirling has Question No. 1891 on the notice paper dealing with copper. 1 ask you now whether the two replies given by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) are out of order after he has delivered them?
– I think the position is that if my attention is directed to the fact that a question without notice is on the notice paper 1 will look at it, but when one realises that there have been 1,930 questions placed on the notice paper 1 have a great deal of difficulty-
– It is up to the Government to answer them.
– That may be so; at this stage I cannot say. However, had the Leader of the Opposition drawn my attention to the situation at the appropriate time and before a reply was given, and I was as satisfied as I was concerning the earlier question and the question on the notice paper in the name of the honorable member for Stirling, I would have ruled it out of order.
– May I just clarify a point raised by your comment, Mr. Speaker? I should not like it to be thought that the Government has left unanswered 1,930 questions. If honorable members study the notice paper they will see that an excessive use of the privilege of putting questions on the notice paper is preventing the freer exchange of replies to questions at question time. I think this is a matter they might take into consideration.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has a decision been made to discontinue the use of DC3 aircraft for civil airline operations at a future date? If so, is the Minister able to say what types of aircraft are being considered as replacements for the DC 3 and has specific consideration been given to types suitable for operation in the restrictive landing areas of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and of the Australian outback?
– No decision has been made to terminate the services of DC3 aircraft in Australia or in the Territory. It is a fact that the DC3 aircraft has been phased out of operation on most major trunk routes and also on a number of feeder routes throughout Australia. Generally the F27 Friendship has been the aircraft that has replaced it on most of the feeder routes. However, there is still a use at present, and as far as I can see for some years yet, for the DC3 in certain localities and for certain purposes, so it will remain in operation under strict control and will be operated safely for a number of years within Australia and, 1 do not doubt, in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
At the same time consideration is being given to types of aircraft that must ultimately replace the DC3 and perhaps the F27. A light jet type aircraft may be available in the near future and there are also a number of aircraft designed for use in areas like New Guinea, principally the short take off and landing type. One or two of them already have been brought into operation there. Very careful thought has been given to a range of aircraft that will ultimately replace the DC3.
– 1 address a question to the Prime Minister. Some months ago the Minister for Defence said that the Government would not increase its commitment of 4,500 servicemen to Vietnam. Subsequently the Prime Minister said that Australia’s commitment to Vietnam would be reviewed from time to time. I ask the Prime Minister: Does his Government intend to send another battalion of troops to Vietnam after confrontation ends in
Malaysia? Does the Johnson Administration intend to build the commitment of the United States of America to 750,000 servicemen, with a possible further doubling or trebling of the Australian forces sent to what President Johnson himself has called the cruel, dirty war in Vietnam?
– In view of the concluding comment of the honorable gentleman it hardly seems that-
– Those are the words of President Johnson. I am all onside with L.B.J, on this.
– I am glad to know that there is a measure of agreement between us. I stated some time ago that the Government did from time to time review the Australian commitment, but that no further review was currently proceeding or immediately in contemplation. That is still the position. As to the strength of the American forces, I would need to examine the question in detail to see how far it is capable of being answered from Australia.
– Is the Prime Minister saying that there will be no further commitment of Australian troops?
– I am saying that the Government has made no commitment beyond what we have already publicly announced.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs, refers to the work of Australian surgical teams in South Vietnam. May I, by way of very short preface, tell the Minister that recently I was informed by a Brisbane surgeon that he was aware of ‘ a number of his colleagues who were quite willing to go to South Vietnam and work there but was under the impression that only surgeons from Sydney and Melbourne were working in South Vietnam. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether this is so and, if it is, whether he would consider making a general approach to the Australian Medical Association so that the work of these very fine people in South Vietnam may be appropriately extended.
– The Government appreciates very much the ready cooperation of the medical profession in Australia, covering not only the surgeons but the full teams, including nurses, that are needed to make their work effective, in giving its services so readily when opportunity offers. Up to date, the teams that have been sent to South Vietnam have come principally from Melbourne and a new team is now being organised from Sydney. That was solely a matter of convenience. The number of teams that can be put into the field is related to their opportunities for doing effective work. A surgeon has limited capacity unless he has an effective operating theatre in which to perform his work or a hospital in which the patients recovering from surgery can be carefully nursed. We certainly would not wish to limit participation in this scheme to any particular city, and as opportunities offer we would gratefully seek the co-operation of surgeons in other cities.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral or the Minister for Labour and National Service a question relating to the proposed call up of aliens. Has the Minister concerned noted the Commonwealth Law Report in which the Chief Justice in 1945 expressed a view in the case of Polites versus the Commonwealth about the war time regulations to conscript aliens? He said -
They must be held to be contrary to an established rule of international law.
I ask the Minister: What is the view of the Government in respect of the legality, under international law, of the call up of aliens? If the Government’s view coincides with that which the Chief Justice expressed in 1945, does the Government intend to proceed with its announced intention of calling up aliens?
- Mr. Speaker, in the case to which the honorable gentleman refers, the Chief Justice of the day did express views of the kind indicated. The judges then composing the court held differing views. This was in .1945. A great deal of writing has been done on this subject since then and there has been a change of emphasis in the views of international writers. Before the decision by the Government to conscript aliens was taken the matter was very closely examined and the Government came to the conclusion that having regard to the nature of the scheme - it applies only to people who elect to make their home here and it offers accelerated naturalisation to those concerned - the proposal was quite reasonable from an international point of view and did not conflict with any principle of international law. That was the view the Government reached and the view that I personally reached. 1 stand by that view. The question whether the Government will proceed with the scheme is more a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, but I am confident that I can say on his behalf that the Government does intend to proceed.
– Is the Minister for Territories in a position to tell us the result of a survey of the quantity and quality of rock phosphate at Christmas Island? ls it true that large deposits have been found? Is the quality of these deposits up to that of those on Nauru? What quantity could be produced annually and how will this compare with the increased demand?
– A recent survey by the Bureau of Mineral Resources has indicated an approximate level of 200 million tons of rock phosphate at Christmas Island. This is considerably more than the 90 million tons that we previously thought existed there. There are three grades of rock phosphate on Christmas Island and we are not certain of the actual quantities of each of these grades. Indications are that the quantities ure about equal but until a definite assessment is concluded, this will be unknown. The quality of the first grade phosphate on Christmas Island is comparable to that of Nauruan phosphate. In fact, some of it is probably of the highest quality in the world but. on average, the quality of the deposits may be a little bit lower than that of Nauruan phosphate.
The important point in relation to rock phosphate from Christmas Island is that previously we had no use for the second and third grades but, thanks to some research, indications are that we will be able to use both. Present production from Christmas Island is approximately 800,000 tons a year. This will be stepped up to approximately 1 million tons next year but any further increase of production will require totally new plant involving quite considerable investment. I hope that by the end of 1971 or 1972 we will be producing 2.5 million tons, or a little more, of rock phosphate. This would more than meet Australia’s increased requirements.
Until recent years, phosphate from Nauru formed a very high percentage of Australia’s supply. With the increased use of superphosphate and the larger imports from other areas, the Nauruan proportion has dropped now to about 40 per cent, and we expect that by 1972 the figure will be approximately 30 per cent. I may say that the indications are that there will be ample phosphate to meet Australia’s future requirements.
– 1 ask the Minister for the Interior: Has he been able to reach a decision on my proposal that the Commonwealth should grant relief to pensioner home owners in Canberra by granting a rebate of land rent payable to the Commonwealth and by either waiver or remission of the general rates also payable by pensioner lessees of the Commonwealth in the Australian Capital Territory? In considering the matter, will the Minister have in mind that recent revaluations carried out by the Commonwealth increased unimproved capital values on residential sites in some cases by over 700 per cent, and that this means a 700 per cent, increase also in land rent which can be followed by a proportionate increase in rates? Will the Minister accept my assurance that the position of pensioner home owners in Canberra is, in many cases, really desperate?
Mr. ANTHONY__ The survey which was being carried out has been completed but I regret to tell the honorable member that I have not yet received conclusive information from my Department on what rebate amendments could be made in respect of pensioners. All I can say to him is that the matter is still in abeyance and I hope to be able to give him some further information at a later date.
– My question to the Minister for External Affairs relates to the communique issued last Sunday by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. Would not the published reports of this communique indicate that the Chinese Communist Party endorses the principle of aggressive war as-
– Mr. Speaker, I rise to order. The honorable member is inviting comment.
– Order! I think the honorable member is directing attention to a report which has been issued. I point out to him that now that he has directed attention to it he must not quote from it’.
– Yes, indeed. Would not this report further expose Mao Tse-tung as a dictator in the worst tradition of Hitler and Stalin? Will the Minister have the full text of this report, in an English version, placed on the Library table for the information of honorable members?
– I certainly will have, not only one copy but, in fact, several copies of this report, placed on the Library table so that honorable members on both sides of the House will have an opportunity to study if and, perhaps, to profit by it.
– Before directing my question to the Minister for Air may I extend my deepest sympathy to the parents and family of Pilot Officer Goddard who died last night, apparently while trying to prevent his doomed aircraft crashing in a densely populated suburb of Newcastle? Can the Minister say whether five Sabre jet aircraft stationed at Williamtown Royal Australian Air Force base have crashed in suburbs of Newcastle or in other areas near Newcastle since 1960? Were four of the pilots concerned killed? Have Newcastle residents had miraculous escapes from death on those occasions? Did this unfortunate aircraft yesterday fly diagonally across the city and over some of the most densely populated suburbs in Australia? If it did, why did the aircraft’s operational route take it over or near the city? Have pilots stationed at Williamtown been ordered to keep clear of built up residential areas? If not, why not? Are the Sabre jets in use at Williamtown obsolete and not airworthy? If the Minister disagrees with this opinion, what is his explanation for the fatal and near fatal accidents which have occurred since 1960? Will the
Minister take immediate steps to have the training of fighter aircraft pilots transferred from Williamtown to a base removed from heavily populated areas?
– I would like to join with the honorable member for Newcastle in expressing sympathy to the relatives of Pilot Officer Goddard and also the citizens of Newcastle who were injured in this unhappy, sad accident yesterday. The accident is still being investigated and I have only a preliminary report. The map that I have shows, as the honorable member will see, that the flight should not have passed over the suburbs of Newcastle. It should have taken place over the sea. I am still not certain why, at the last moment, the aircraft diverted over the suburb of Merewether.
– And also over Waratah, Mayfield and Hamilton.
– Not according to the report that I have here. All I can say is that the aircraft was tracked on radar and I believe that the report that I have received is more accurate than those that the honorable member may have received from the suburbs. Let me just say that a full investigation is taking place and a court of inquiry is being convened. I believe that it would be unwise for me at the moment to give any further details than those which I have already given.
– I present the following paper -
Statement for the year 1965-66 of Heads of Expenditure and the amounts charged thereto pursuant to Section 36a of the Audit Act 1901-1965 (Advance to the Treasurer).
That the statement be taken into consideration in Committee of the whole House at the next sitting.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment -
Western Australia Grant (Beef Cattle Roads) Bill 1966.
Slates Grants (Drought Assistance) Bill 1966. Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1966.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Quarantine Bill 1966.
Loan Bill 1966.
Vinyl Resin Bounty Bill 1966.
Tractor Bounty Bill 1966.
International Wheat Agreement (Extension) Bill 1966.
Income Tax (International Agreements) Bill 1966.
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1965-66.
Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1965-66.
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1966-67.
Supply Bill (No. 2) 1966-67.
Loan (Defence) Bill 1966.
Western Australia Grant (Beef Cattle Roads) Bill 1966.
Housing Agreement Bill 1966.
Asian Development Bank Bill 1966.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1966.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1966.
Customs Bill 1966.
Therapeutic Goods Bill 1966.
Financial Agreement Bill 1966.
Stales Grants (Drought Assistance) Bill 1966.
Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1966.
Bankruptcy Bill 1966.
– I have received from the House of Assembly of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea the following resolution which was passed on 10th June 1966 and which has been forwarded to me with a request that it be communicated to the Parliament of the Commonwealth -
We, the Members of the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea express to the Government and the people of Australia our firm belief that the people of this country are deeply grateful to Australia for the vast expenditure being made jn this country to ensure that the peoples of Papua and New Guinea will be able to move peacefully towards their destiny without let or hindrance from outside sources.
We are aware, and believe that the people of this country are aware, of the price of security. We realise that the geographical locality of this country on the fringe of the Pacific, yet also on the fringe of South East Asia, demands an expenditure on security forces and installations which this country could not face alone.
We welcome, as do our Malaysian friends, the presence of Australian defence installations and forces as a guarantee that that country would come to our aid in time of need in the future, even as it has done in the past.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1965, I present the report relating to the following proposed work -
Nightcliff High School, Darwin, Northern Territory.
I ask for leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Darwin already has one high school but the population growth in the city in recent times has been such that it will reach its capacity of 1,000 pupils in about 18 months’ time. The proposal referred to the Committee was for the construction of a new high school with a capacity of 1000-1100 pupils to serve the newly developing neighbourhoods of Nightcliff, Rapid Creek, Millner and Coconut Grove in the northern part of Darwin. The Committee found that the first stage of the proposed school will be required no later than the beginning of the 1970 school year and the second stage 12 months later. The Committee has therefore recommended that the proposal proceed at the estimated cost of $2,200,000. The Committee also noted that, if Darwin’s population continues to grow at the present rate, there will be a requirement for a third high school no later than the beginning of 1974.
Ordered to be printed.
H.M.A.S. “Lecuwin”, Fremantle, Western Australia.
Mr. O’CONNOR (Dalley)- In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1965, 1 present the report relating to the following proposed work -
Master plan for progressive rebuilding, and construction of a combined mess, galley and recreation centre at H.M.A.S. “ Leeuwin “, Fremantle, Western Australia.
I ask for leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The principal function of H.M.A.S. “ Leeuwin “ is the initial training of recruits aged 15i to I6i entering the Royal Australian Navy under the junior recruits scheme. The only structures in permanent materials at the depot are the administrative and drill hall building, the wardroom, three barrack blocks and a classroom block. The remaining buildings, including living accommodation, are principally of World War II vintage, of timber and asbestos cement construction, and most have outlived their usefulness. Generally they provide inadequate accommodation at an unsatisfactory standard and because of their age are now uneconomic to maintain.
The Committee agrees that there is a need to replace the sub-standard accommodation, and a rebuilding programme in accordance with the master plan presented is recommended. The Committee also concurs that the first stage in the rebuilding programme should be the mess, galley and recreation centre, which is needed as a matter of extreme urgency to replace the present unsuitable accommodation in which completely satisfactory standards of hygiene cannot be attained. This building is estimated to cost $725,000.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. McMahon and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the International Finance Corporation Act 1955-1963 to take account of recent amendments to the Articles of Agreement of the International Finance Corporation, otherwise known as the I.F.C., enabling the Corporation to supplement its existing resources by borrowing from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, commonly called the I.B.R.D.
The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development was established in 1945 to assist in overcoming postwar economic problems. Apart from loans to assist with the reconstruction of various European countries during its first two years of operation, the Bank’s major function has been to assist in financing the economic development of member countries. Thus, most of its loans have been for basic public facilities such as power, transport, heavy industry and irrigation - the foundations of economic growth. By 31st December 1965 the Bank had made loans amounting to SUS9,519 million to 59 member countries.
Parliamentary approval of Australian membership of the I.B.R.D. is embodied in the International Monetary Agreements Act 1947-1963. Australia’s subscription to the Bank amounts to SUS533 million, of which SUS53.3 million has already been paid, the balance remaining subject to call. In return, we have been able to borrow more than SUS400 million from the Bank to help finance our own economic development.
Although the Bank has been largely concerned with providing finance for the public sector, it has always been aware of the need for growth in the private sector also. Thus a great many of the Bank’s loans are designed, either directly or indirectly, to stimulate private investment, especially in the less developed countries. However, direct lending by the Bank to the private sector has been inhibited by the provision in the Articles of Agreement for the I.B.R.D. requiring government guarantees for such loans. This requirement has severely restricted lending by the Bank to private industry because, on the one hand, private enterprises are often reluctant to seek government guarantees for the repayment of Bank loans and, on the other hand, governments often find it politically or constitutionally difficult to give such guarantees.
To overcome this difficulty, the Bank initially sought to promote the establishment of local development finance companies and to use these as intermediaries for lending to private industry in the countries concerned, thereby avoiding the problems inherent in government guarantees. Subsequently, the Bank sponsored the establishment of the International Finance Corporation in 1955.
The International Finance Corporation is an affiliate of the I.B.R.D., and its primary function is to help promote the economic development of member countries by stimulating and encouraging the growth of private industry. This the Corporation does by investing, without government guarantees, in selected private enterprises both by way of loans and by direct equity participations. The Corporation usually operates in conjunction with other private investors, acting to some extent as a catalyst in this field. Australia, which is a foundation member of the I.F.C., has subscribed $1,995,676 to its capital stock. By 31st December 1965 the Corporation had made investments amounting to SUS131 million in 34 countries.
Notwithstanding these various developments, the Executive Directors of the I.B.R.D. concluded, after further review of the problem, that there still remained a need for increased assistance to private borrowers that neither the local development finance companies nor the I.F.C., with its existing resources, could satisfy.
In subsequent discussions as to the most desirable and effective way for the Bank to remedy this situation two possible approaches to the problem were considered. One alternative was for the Bank itself, with its much larger resources, to take i over the role of making loans direct to private enterprises without government guarantees. The second alternative was for the Bank to make some of its resources available to the International Finance Corporation which, as I have already mentioned, was brought into existence specifically to supplement the activities of the Bank by investing without government guarantee in productive private enterprises. Both courses of action required amendment of the Articles of Agreement for the I.B.R.D. The second alternative also required amendment of the Articles of Agreement for the I.F.C. In the event, the President of the I.B.R.D. concluded that the second alternative was preferable, and the Executive Directors of the Bank and the Board of Directors of the I.F.C. agreed with this view.
At the annual meeting of the World Bank group held in Tokyo in September 1964, the Boards of Governors of the I.B.R.D. and the I.F.C. adopted resolutions put forward by the respective Boards of Directors proposing that the Articles of Agreement for the two organisations be amended to permit the Bank to make loans to the Corporation.
So far as the Articles of Agreement of the Bank were concerned, lt was proposed that a new section 6 entitled “ Loans to the International Finance Corporation “ be added to Article III, as follows -
Section 6(a). The Bank may make, participate in, or guarantee loans to the International Finance Corporation, an affiliate of the Bank, for use in its lending operations. The total amount outstanding of such loans, participations and guarantees shall not be increased if, at the time or as a result thereof, the aggregate amount of debt (including the guarantee of any debt) incurred by the said Corporation from any source and then outstanding shall exceed an amount equal to four times its unimpaired subscribed capital and surplus. (b). The provisions of Article III, Sections 4 and 5(c) and of Article IV, Section 3 shall not apply to loans, participations and guarantees authorised by this Section.
So far as the I.F.C. was concerned, it was proposed that the Articles of Agreement be amended as follows -
These proposals received overwhelming support from the Governors of both organisations. The amendments to the Corporation’s Articles of Agreement entered into force on 1st September 1965, and the amendments to the Articles of Agreement for the Bank on 17th December 1965. Australia voted in favour of these amendments.
As the International Finance Corporation’s subscribed capital and surplus currently amount to roughly SUSI00 mill ion, the resources of that institution can now be augmented by approximately $US400 million, by way of borrowing from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, for use in loans to private enterprises in member countries. The International Finance Corporation Act 1955- 1963 approves Australian membership of the I.F.C. and the Articles of Agreement for this institution are set out in the Schedules to this Act. The purpose of this Bill is to ensure that the Schedules to this Act reproduce the Articles of Agreement for the I.F.C. as recently amended. I commend the Bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. McMahon. and read a first time.
. -I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In my preceding speech on the International Finance Corporation Bill 1966I gave a brief account of developments leading up to the actions which were taken during 1965 to amend the Articles of Agreement for both the International Bankfor Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation, and 1 do not propose to traverse the same ground here. The International Monetary Agreements Act 1947-1963 approves Australian membership of theI.B.R.D. and the Articles of Agreement for this institution are set out in a Schedule to that Act. The purpose of this Bill is to ensure that the Schedules to that Act reproduce the Articles of Agreement for theI.B.R.D. as recently amended. I commend this Bill to honorable members and. with their concurrence, propose that it and the associated International Finance Corporation Bill 1966 be considered conjointly during all subsequent stages of their passage through this House.
– Is it the wish of the House to follow the procedure suggested by the Treasurer? There being no objection, that course will be taken.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
On 1st July 1965 three acts relating to the poultry industry came into operation. The three acts formed one legislative scheme to give the Australian egg industry an opportunity to stabilise itself. The three acts referred to are the Poultry Industry Levy Act which imposes a levy on hens kept for commercial purposes, the Poultry Industry Levy Collection Act which provides for the collection of the levy, and the Poultry Industry Assistance Act which establishes the Poultry Industry Trust Fund into which are paid amounts equal to the amounts of levy collected. This Act also covers the distribution of the money from the Fund for the assistance of the poultry industry.
The Bill which I am introducing isto amend the Poultry Industry Assistance Act, and its principal provision is to allow for money in the Poultry Industry Trust Fund to be expended on research, with a$ for $ contribution by the Commonwealth. The Bill also amends that provision of the Act which makes it mandatory for the Minister for Primary Industry to give precise directions as to how the money granted to the States from the Fund for the assistance of the poultry industry is to be spent. The amendment makes these directions permissive.
During the debate on the poultry industry legislation in May last year, several members referred to research in the poultry industry. The Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia has given thorough consideration to this important question and has recommended that special research provisions should be grafted on to the present scheme by way of Commonwealth legislation, and that the Commonwealth be asked to meet half the expenditure on research projects recommended by the Council and approved by the Minister for Primary Industry. The Government endorses the recommendation which is implemented by this amendment.
The necessity for research in all industries is, I think, accepted universally. The general problem is to find the necessary finance. The Council’s recommendation indicates that it is fully aware of the need for research and is prepared to accept the financial responsibility for undertaking it. The request that the Commonwealth should meet half of expenditure is in line with the well established Government policy of joint industryGovernment financed research schemes such as are currently operating in the wool, wheat, dairy, meat, tobacco and barley industries.
Under the Bill, Commonwealth expenditure is limited to $100,000 in any one financial year. This will allow up to $200,000 to be expended on research in a year. Research expenditure from the Fund of course is not restricted to this amount but any money beyond this amount is not matched by the Commonwealth.
The provision in the Bill amending the requirement for the Minister to give directions as to exactly how the money granted to the States is to be spent, has been introduced to give more flexibility to the State Governments, particularly in respect of producers in remote areas outside of State egg board control and therefore outside of an official voice in industry recommendations. Producers such as these, in many cases, merit special consideration. This cannot be given to them by a reduction in or an exemption from the levy, which must be uniform in all States. Queensland is the only State which has raised the problem, which is fundamentally one for the State itself.
Under the present wording of the Act there is no apparent means whereby particular areas can be given special assistance. As the basic concept of the Act is to provide assistance to the whole of the poultry industry, there should be provision to enable all sectors of the industry to be covered. This has been met by the slight change in the wording of the legislation as set out in the amendment. I consider that this is a principle which should not be withheld from the poultry industry through lack of Commonwealth legislative enactment, and I support its inclusion in the Bill. This, and the important research provisions of the amendment are designed for more effective operation of the original intention of the legislation and I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Adermann, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
As I pointed out on the previous Bill which I have just introduced, the three acts relating to the poultry industry which were passed by the Parliament in May last year form one legislative scheme. After just over twelve months of operation it is evident that the scheme is achieving substantially what it set out to achieve. It is also evident that though the scheme has been remarkably effective, its operation is not completely satisfactory in that a small sector of the industry is accepting the benefits of the scheme but is not prepared to meet its share of their cost.
The Bill amends the Poultry Industry Levy Collection Act 1965, and its most significant provision enables a count of hens to be made by a person who is authorised in writing by the Minister to do so. Because knowledge of the number of hens owned is a basic prerequisite to checking the amount of levy payable, the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia has asked the Commonwealth to amend the legislation to enable the counting of hens to be carried out. Before the legislation was submitted to the Parliament it was understood that, if it were passed, the States under their own legislation would give their Boards any necessary powers in respect of collecting the levy. As the subject matter of the legislation constituting most of the State Egg Boards is eggs, not hens, as in the Commonwealth legislation, there seems to be doubt in some States whether authority can be given to the Boards to enter premises for the purpose of counting hens. In the interests of uniformity, and as the levy is imposed by a Commonwealth act, the inclusion of the necessary provision in the Commonwealth legislation now seems desirable, and all State Governments support this course.
Under the present Act there is some doubt whether producers may be required to keep records of their poultry. The amendment makes it clear that a regulation may be made requiring the keeping of such records. Although almost 100 per cent, of producers do keep records, a few claim that they do not do so. Without adequate records the checking of hen numbers may be difficult, and the amendment aims at enabling this position to be rectified.
The only other provision of any significance in the amendment is that which allows the Minister to delegate authority for the remission of penalties up to one dollar. Under the present Act, it is mandatory for a penalty to be imposed on all producers who do not pay levy by the due date unless each case for remission is approved by the Minister. In the case of small producers the amounts of penalty are insignificant and it becomes administratively cumbersome and a sheer waste of money to follow up small amounts owing by way of penalty which is imposed at a rate of 10 per cent, per annum.
There are other amendments in the Bill which merely translate the amounts of money mentioned in the Act to decimal currency.
The terms of this Bill have been recommended by the Australian egg industry through its principal producer organisation, the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities of Australia. In addition, all of the State Governments strongly support the proposals. I suggest that the provisions of the Bill are essential to the effective operation of the poultry industry legislation and I therefore commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1965, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Extensions to Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, New South Wales.
The extensions are required to increase the present inadequate surgical facilities and to group the scattered sections of both the Pathology and Administrative Departments. The extensions consist of three main elements, as follows: -
The total estimated cost is $1,225,000.
I table plans of the proposed works.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
New Kitchen at Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions o[ the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1965, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: - Proposed new kitchen at Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg, Victoria.
The proposal involves the erection of a new brick single-storey kitchen with a part basement at an estimated cost of $1,000,000. The new kitchen is designed to provide modern facilities whereby a first class food service may be given to all patients and staff. It will replace the two existing kitchens, one of which was destroyed by fire and partially restored to provide temporary facilities.
I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 5th May (vide page 1527), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill, the purpose of which is to amend the Queensland Beef Cattle Roads Agreement Act of 1962, is welcomed by the Opposition. We deplore the protracted delay in bringing the measure before the House for debate, but this has provided an opportunity to honorable members to consider a matter of very great importance to the nation and to the State of Queensland in particular.
The Opposition has always favoured increased financial provision for road making and road maintenance. In the past we have advocated a national plan for road development, and we have not been alone in such advocacy, for most motor organisations have spelt out quite clearly their support of such a plan in publicity matter that they have circulated to honorable members over the years. We have also advocated the retention of the entire proceeds of the petrol and diesel fuel taxes for road construction and reconstruction.
In considering this Bill the Opposition has turned again to its central theme with regard to road construction in Australia, and I say now on behalf of the Opposition that there should be a long term programme of road construction, involving continuity of policy and firm objectives. Beef roads should be designed not only to meet the demands of the cattle industry but also to cater for the exploitation of mineral and other resources in regions in which these roads are to be constructed. The cattle industry itself is one that calls for a considerable amount of sympathetic assistance by the Government because over the years it has been a revenue earner for this nation. Without’ the cattle industry very little would have been done to develop the vast tracts of our somewhat neglected north. In determining the type of roads which should be constructed in the north consideration should be given to where stock are bred, where they are taken for fattening and the markets to which they are sent. Consideration should be given to whether stock are sent to market from a railhead, seaport or elsewhere. This piecemeal way of dealing with road construction is hardly satisfactory. The Government’s actions remind me of the old story that from Wimpleton to Wompleton is 14 miles. The Government is merely going from one point to another without paying due regard to the overall transport needs of this country. The spending of taxpayers’ money is of concern not only to members of Parliament but to the nation generally.
The Government should do something to co-ordinate all forms of transport, water, rail, air or road. More thought should be given to the use of water in Cape York Peninsula and in the Gulf country generally. Valuable investigations have been made into this matter and an excellent report has been submitted to the Government. I again wish to express concern at the delay of the Executive in giving consideration to the very valuable reports that it has received dealing with this important matter. The report furnished by the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson), which has become a document of renown, should have been considered by Cabinet long ago, and its contents made available to all honorable members so that they, too, might have the opportunity of considering in detail the valuable conclusions reached in that report. The report submitted by the Loder committee is another work which should be considered and made available to honorable members to enable them to come to grips with this important matter.
The legislation now before the House provides funds for the extension and completion of beef roads. In his second reading speech the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) said that the increased assistance being provided in this Bill will permit the provision of Commonwealth assistance of $4.5 million for beef roads in Queensland in 1966-67. My perusal of relevant documents shows that the cost of constructing beef roads in Queensland is about $40,000 a mile. So the $4.5 million which this Government has made available in one year will not go very far. It will not build more than 120 miles of completed road. This is not striking a very great blow for the development of Australia. It certainly will not open up this vast continent in the way the Government should be opening it up at the present time. This is tinkering with the job of providing access to places where stock are being raised.
I turn now from the masterpiece of the honorable member for Dawson and the valuable reports of other committees to a report entitled “ The Economics of Brigalow Land Development in the Fitzroy Basin, Queensland”. The report deals with the building of roads. It contains some interesting statistics relating to the cost of proposed works. Extensive details of various works are given in a table which, with the concur rence of honorable members, I incorporate in “ Hansard “. The table is as follows -
I thank the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) and the House for permitting me to incorporate the table in “ Hansard “, thus saving me and the House from having to go through the table in detail. This report is a valuable document. It deals with proposed roads in the brigalow area and contains information which will be of advantage in the future.
In discussing the great costs involved in road construction I want to draw attention to the problems raised by the Government’s attitude. The Government has stated that it will provide half of the amount being made available for beef roads this year in the form of a grant and the other half in the form of a loan. This basis is barely satisfactory. The second stage of road making - that is, sealing, etc. - is only one half insome cases and in other cases one third as dear as the total job. The Opposition would like to see the Commonwealth meet the entire cost of forming beef roads. The States could repay the Commonwealth for the cost of tar sealing but we do not think they should be called upon to bear the cost of laying down the roads. The amounts provided by the Commonwealth for the construction of beef roads in the years from 1961-62 to 1966-67 have been pitifully inadequate. 1 can only hope that the Government will in the future consider this matter with a greater degree of urgency and realism than it has in the past.
I urge the Government, through the Minister for Air, who is at the table, to throw overboard its Micawber-like attitude and get on with the job of developing Australia. Transportation and water resources are fundamental to Australia’s development. The report of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development, referred to by the Treasurer in his second reading speech, was presented to the Government in June 1965. Surely it is not asking too much that it be tabled in this Parliament in August 1966. As honorable members know a copy of the report was taken from my room. The report is of considerable interest to all honorable members. I ask the Minister for Air to bring my remarks to the attention of the Treasurer and the Government in the hope that they will give serious consideration to this matter, which is of utmost importance to the Parliament. The Parliament has been treated shabbily in this regard. It is entitled to information of this kind. The report, wherever it is locked away at present, should be submitted for consideration by the Parliament. Members of the Opposition are gravely concerned about the intrusion of Treasury influence in the control of these works. We feel that work on beef roads comes within the scope of the M inister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) and particularly within the scope of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development, a Division which has given considerable time and attention to these matters. This organisation should come directly under the control of the Minister. The Opposition feels that this matter should be delayed no longer and, wilh the object of bringing it to the attention of the Parliament and trying to force a decision on it, I move -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof - “ while not opposing the provisions of the Bill this House is of opinion that the Queensland Beef Cattle Roads Agreement should be further amended to provide that approval on behalf of the Commonwealth of works under the Agreement shall be given by the Minister for National Development “.
In moving this amendment on behalf of the Opposition, I say to the House that the Department of National Development and the Minister for National Development should not be slighted in this way. Surely it should not be necessary for the Opposition to make a plea for a Commonwealth Minister and a Commonwealth Department, but we do so because undoubtedly the Minister for National Development has not been treated fairly in this regard. His Department is a Cinderella department. When consideration is to be given to the type of work being carried out, where roads should be constructed, a-nd the type of production which may occur within an area, who is best able to determine such matters? Surely it is the Minister for National Development. What officers should be best able to consider this matter? Undoubtedly they are the officers of the Department of National Development. They are the Northern Division specialists whose job it is to go into the north to assess the value of regions, to pin point areas of production and to indicate where roads should be built. To leave this under the control of the Treasurer, one who is fully occupied with numerous matters of financial concern - the great fiscal matters affecting this country - is untenable. The Opposition wishes to bring this to an end. I express the hope that the Government will accept the amendment that I have proposed on behalf of the Opposition.
– ls the amendment seconded?
.- I have much pleasure in seconding the amendment that the Opposition has put forward. 1 should first like to say that the whole concept of beef roads is an excellent one, if the programme is organised in such a way as to get the maximum advantage with respect to the development of the area that the beef roads serve, and also to offer possibilities of increased export income which we know will certainly eventuate from the construction of these roads. The objectives of beef roads are basically two: First, the earning of overseas income and, secondly, the development of outlying areas.
In the first place, I do not think anyone could deny that the cattle industry has a sound future, lt is still the backbone of the economy of northern Australia and is responsible for over 95 per cent, of the occupied land use of the north. With the exception of small pockets of country utilised for mining, the sugar coast, and other small industries in the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys, the cattle industry is the industry on which we have to build a future as regards the development of these areas.
The shortcomings of the beef road programme are several. Thi first and most important one of all is the inability of the Government, despite its assurances, to put forward a positive long term plan. This, in itself, causes considerable chaos in Queensland and has resulted, in fact, in contractors walking off jobs and in their moving heavy equipment to other areas because they have been unable to find out whether the Commonwealth and State Governments were going to continue with the programme. In fact, in some areas it was uncertain whether the roads were to be completed. There is no need to emphasise the importance of continuity. Engineers in road construction stress the need for continuity in order to give them the opportunity to plan, and make the most effective use of resources.
The Government, of course, has been talking about this plan for some time, lt has said that it is considering the report of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development on beef road development and that when this report has been considered discussions will take place with the Queensland Government and further work will be carried out. But, so far, all we have had has been this very hurried promise of the Government made, as everybody now knows, two weeks preceding the Dawson by-election on the ground that it was of utmost urgency to provide further funds to Queensland to continue this road programme. The strange part about this, of course, is that it is only now, in August, that the Government is proposing an amendment to the Queensland Beef Cattle Roads Agreement Act to provide an additional $3.9 million for Queensland to allow this State to go ahead with this urgent beef roads work.
The programme itself, of course, is most Important. The Northern Division has given a tremendous amount of thought and work to the compilation of a fully co-ordinated programme of beef roads. In the legislation before us we see that the roads on which this $3.9 million will be concentrated include the Dingo to Mount Flora road, a total length of 140 miles. The purpose of this road is to open up area No. 3 of the brigalow country. It will serve one of the most undeveloped areas of country we have in Queensland - the areas contiguous to the Mackenzie-Isaac River basin. The Opposition has no quarrel whatsoever with this road. It is in fact a most important one; We do have a quarrel with the programme relating to the southern end where actual construction has been commenced. The whole purpose of this road is to bring store cattle from the northern Belyando and Suttor areas to area three of the brigalow country, but we find the Government starting construction at the southern end. There may be engineering organisational problems associated with the construction of this road, but there has been no mention of them.
The second road ls the one from Battery to Townsville. This is a priority road in that, because of activities in Townsville in connection with the university college and the army base at Townsville, the stock route will be closed and this particular road will give cattle producers behind the ranges ready access to Townsville. The Opposition has no quarrel with this road. It is, in effect, a good one. It will provide ready access to the Townsville meat works from very large areas of the back cattle country.
The road from Mareeba to Laura, a distance of 160 miles, is again an urgently needed road to tap the Cape York Peninsula, the lower Cape York Peninsula in particular. It will traverse some of the most difficult road building country in that it will cross rough terrain. There have been rather fantastic statements made about the potential of the Cape York Peninsula. One estimate made lately was that this area would be capable of carrying in the vicinity of 5 million cattle. It was made by a learned senator in another place. If we assume that there are about 100,000 cattle there now and approximately 40,000 are breeders, I think honorable members will find that based on these figures it will take about 40 years to breed 5 million head of cattle. In view of these facts, I do not see how we can expect to have 5 million cattle there in the next few years. Nevertheless, this road is important for the development of the Cape York Peninsula.
I come now to the road from the Lynd to Charters Towers, a distance of 160 miles. The Opposition would like to know more about this road. What is its purpose? It certainly is a good road for moving store cattle from the Charters Towers area down the old defence road to Mount Coolon and the Mackenzie and Isaac River areas, and to areas one and two of the brigalow country; but just what is involved, or what purpose the Government has in mind in constructing it, we do not know. It would appear from the Treasurer’s statement that there will be some road improvement work carried out adjacent to the Lynd and that a bridge is to be built over Basalt Creek. This does not tell us very much, but, again, we have no real argument with that particular road.
We do have a major disagreement with this programme in that there has been omitted from it one of the most important roads which would tap some of the country with the highest potential in Queensland. I refer to the country in the Belyando and Suttor areas. The road which has been omitted is the one from Oxford Downs, behind Nebo to Baker’s Creek, via Nebo. The Government admits that the construction of this road is most urgent and important. We have seen that admission in the report on beef roads, which may be obtained from the Parliamentary Library. Why is it omitted?
– You cannot do everything at once.
– It happens to be placed fifth on the list of important roads yet the Government is constructing roads well below it on the list. The argument against it, which, to those who know the country, is unsound, is that there is now a road from Oxford Downs to Sarina via Bruce Highway. Anyone who knows this country, especially the road hauliers operating up there, knows full well that once you enter the Bruce Highway you strike the tourist traffic, in addition, this road crosses the Sarina range and the taking of road trains over that part of it is a most hazardous undertaking which should not be tolerated in any circumstances. I repeat that to take a road train over this pan is risky and dangerous. In addition, to use this back road means travelling a greater distance of about 50 miles, loaded and unloaded, on a two way system, lt may be a strange coincidence - perhaps the Minister might elaborate for us - but this road could have been omitted because it is the Government’s intention to eliminate the meat port of Mackay from its export shipping programme. I asked a question of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) about this today and it is quite possible that this is the reason behind the Government’s decision to omit this road. If it is omitted, then it could mean the death of the meatworks at Mackay, which have already cost the State Government about $2 million.
Nobody can deny the potential of the area behind Mackay. Both the State and Commonwealth Governments are fully aware of it. Why has this road been omitted? The need for it is much more urgent than is the need for many of the other roads that are included in the programme. Let me give one example to illustrate my point. Although I believe that all roads are good, one must at least give serious consideration as to how this money can be spent to give the maximum return to the nation in terms of increased beef production. One of the roads on which Commonwealth moneys have been spent, and on which more will be spent, passes through the Channel country. It is the road from Winton to Boulia. The original estimated cost of this road was S3.2 million. I point out to honorable members that this figure was used in the benefitcost analysis which was made in 1960-61. But we find now that the true cost is to be 57.8 million. In other words, the cost has increased by $4.6 million, and I say categorically that that road is uneconomic from the criterion of increased beef production. I accept the fact that there may be other reasons for constructing it, but, from the point of view of increased beef production, that road, unfortunately, is uneconomic because as those who know that part of the Channel country will agree, the Mount IsaDajarraBoulia Road leading into it would have an influence on only three or four cattle stations. Two of these properties are Cadell and Llanrheidol, which are really north of the road. The station owners move sheep and a few head of cattle over it. The other stations - Springvale. Coorabulka, Diamantina Lakes and Brighton Downs - would not use this road because they are situated south of it. They would move their stock out along the Mayne route to Winton. Tn other words, the Government is spending a very large sum of money in an area which is not going to give the Commonwealth increased returns so far as beef production is concerned. The road would certainly give alternative outlets to cattle properties such as Marion Downs. If given the Mount Isa to Boulia road, Marion Downs could truck along that road via Dajarra. The Commonwealth is spending a lot of money on a road in respect of which I am quite prepared, if necessary, to submit figures which will show that it is uneconomic, in terms of beef turn off at a cost of $7.8 million. From a Commonwealth point of view it would be preferable to spend this money in areas such as the Belyando and Suttor, and on the road to which I have referred, from Nebo to Baker’s Creek. The figures available show that at the present time that road serves approximately 450,000 head of cattle; more cattle than are in the whole of the Channel country.
Reports compiled by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and by other .competent bodies show that the potential of the Belyando and Suttor areas is extremely high. Therefore there is every justification for the inclusion of the Nebo to Baker’s Creek road in this programme and no justification for its omission. When I raised with the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) the question of the omission of this road from the programme, I was told by him that 1 was making wild statements. I hope that the honorable gentleman will elaborate today on that contention.
In the Press recently, a report appeared of a remarkable statement by the Queensland Minister for Main Roads. It was said that he did not even know that this road was regarded as a priority road by the Commonwealth. I found also that the Minister for Main Roads was also unaware of the existence of the report on beef roads by the Northern Division. In fairness to that honorable gentleman, he is a new Minister. In my previous role I had discussed the question of beef roads with the Queensland Government. On two occasions, about 18 months ago, I discussed the Nebo to Baker’s Creek road with the late Mr. Ernie Evans, who was then the Minister for Main Roads. He was extremely thankful that the Commonwealth had given it such a high priority. At the same time, the road programme was discussed with the Executive Committee of the United Graziers Association in Brisbane, and with the full Northern Committee in Townsville. The road received the complete blessing of that body. It was included in the roads programme. Why is it now omitted? One begins to wonder whether in fact it is a reprisal against the people of Mackay and the area concerned because of the loss by the Government of the electorate of Dawson at the by-election. I certainly hope that is not the case.
– The honorable member has a suspicious mind.
– As the honorable member takes that line, let us hope that the Minister for National Development will tell us why the road is omitted from the programme.
– The honorable member said that there may be other reasons.
– Perhaps we will hear those other reasons.
– Order! The honorable member for Dawson should continue.
– I come now to the question of finance for these roads. At the Committee stage the Opposition will be moving an amendment. The question of finance is most important. I believe that the Government, for reasons of its own, has now entered into some new arrangement. In fact, I think it has been sold down the river by the Department of the Treasury. Clause 8 of the Schedule in the Principal Act states that the State shall repay to the Commonwealth one-half of each amount paid by the Commonwealth under the Agreement in excess of the first £1,700.000. Where did this figure come from? When the Queensland Government applied to the Commonwealth for these roads and the Commonwealth agreed, it was laid down clearly by the Commonwealth that it would grant £5 million for the construction of roads up to sealed standard; that is, unsealed roads. There was never any doubt about that. When the Queensland Government several months later applied for £3.3 million to seal the roads, the Commonwealth Government was unable to carry out a proper benefit cost-analysis. At the time it was stated that the amount of £3.3 million should be a fully repayable interest bearing loan and this arrangement was accepted. The Queensland Government agreed to that arrangement in respect of beef roads. It was a good arrangement. After all, the nation gains from these roads and not just the people in the area. This figure of £1.7 million has been plucked out of the air as has the logic behind the clause which states that any amount in excess of that should be repaid on the basis of half grant and half loan.
The Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) has said that the method of financing increased assistance will be extended to the State on the same terms as have applied in recent years. I suppose that, in accordance with the Act, that is technically correct, but the point to be remembered is that the terms were grants for beef roads to be constructed up to gravel standard - all weather roads. Fully repayable interest bearing loans were to be made for sealing. 1 would (ike the Minister for National Development to produce evidence to support the Treasurer’s statement.
Honorable members might ask: “ What does it matter? There is both sealing and gravelling.” But the point is that the cost of construction of roads covered by this legislation works out at approximately £10,000 to f 15,000 a mile. The cost of sealing is approximately £3,000 a mile. When financed on a 50-50 basis, the States would be penalised. This is not the intention of the original agreement for beef roads. If the Premier of Queensland is happy with the arrangement, there is nothing that the Opposition can argue with; but the statement that increased assistance will be extended to the State on the same terms as have applied in recent years is wrong. If the beef roads report is published by the Government, it will be seen that the Commonwealth’s acceptance of the beef roads programme for Queensland is in line with the acceptance of financial provisions for the Kimberleys project in Western Australia. The legislation we are debating concerns one half loan and one half grant which is quite different from the grant in respect of the Kimberleys, because the State provides so much money and the Commonwealth contributes its share on a 50-50 basis.
The last point I wish to deal with is the vexed problem of under-estimating. I do not say that it applies only to beef roads, but it certainly must be a major headache to the Treasurer. The State nominates these development projects which the Commonwealth and its agencies accept in good faith. Benefit-cost analyses and other methods of investigation are carried out to determine the feasibility of the projects. The Commonwealth in good faith makes a decision based on these estimates but in several years time finds that the true costs are 50 per cent, or even as much as 100 per cent, higher than the original estimates. Something should be done to ensure that these estimated costs are properly scrutinised.
Let me cite as an example the J ulia Creek road which was a high priority beef road. In 1962 when the benefit-cost analysis was carried out the estimated cost was $5.6 million. Three years later the true cost was found to be S7.2 million. In the case of the Georgetown-Mount Surprise road, when the analysis was carried out the estimate was $2.4 million. The cost has almost doubled and is now $4.2 million. I have already mentioned the Winton-Boulia road. The estimate was $3.2 million but the actual cost is now $7.8 million. As I mentioned before, although a benefit-cost analysis was carried out on the Winton-Boulia road, I regret to say that the road is uneconomical as far as increased beef production is concerned. Wilh the exception of a few of the properties around the main river, the only properties that would really use the Mount Isa-Dajarra-Boulia road would be a few of the sheep properties at the northern end of it. Nevertheless the Commonwealth has agreed to spend $7.8 million on this road.
In the case of the Quilpie-Windorah road the benefit cost analysis resulted in an estimate of S2.8 million but the true cost is now $3.4 million. This is one of the most important roads in the Channel country as an extension will take it to Currawilla and Monkira. This project has not been carried out because it has been given a lower priority than the Boulia-Winton road which I maintain is, unfortunately, uneconomical at a cost of S7.8 million. In the case of the Mount Isa-Dajarra road the estimate was $1.4 million and the true cost is now JS2.8 million. This increase has occurred in the space of 2i years. The estimate for the Boulia-Dajarra road was $1.2 million but the cost has increased to 52.2 million. The overall result is that although the Commonwealth accepted, you might say, the responsibility to build these roads for $17 million, it has in fact the responsibility, on the true figures, to Guild the roads for S27 million. Nevertheless, with the exception of the one road I have mentioned, the construction of all the roads, even on this high figure, would still be economic. All I am attempting to say is that some method should be adopted by which the Commonwealth can at least take a greater interest in the cost of these roads and the construction programme. This could easily be done by giving greater responsibility to the Minister for National Development and to Hie Northern Division of the Department, and for the Minister and the Division to work side by side with the State departments, not to police them but to keep the Commonwealth up to date on costs. At present right out of the blue the Commonwealth finds that it is up for $2 million or $4 million extra on some of these roads.
In conclusion, I repeat that the Opposition’s main objection to the beef roads programme at present is to the reluctance of the Government to enter into a long term programme. The States want a long term programme, the cattle industry wants it and the nation wants it. It is the only way in which we can have continuity of construction. If we could have a long term programme the cattle industry would know what the States and the Commonwealth had in mind. The programme could still be flexible to the degree that it could be coordinated to take into account not only the beef cattle industry but also the mineral industry and the existence of rail heads and ports - -
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
I call the Minister for National Development.Is the Minister closing the debate?
– I rise to explain briefly, first, that the Government is not accepting the amendment and secondly to explain why it is not accepting it. I am sure this does not come as any surprise to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti). I appreciate that the honorable member is trying to give me some extra duties, but I can assure him that my Department is kept in very close consultation with the Treasury on any matters of a technical nature. The plain fact is that this programme was brought down when it was realised that we would not be able to give final consideration and make final decision on the future beef roads programme in time for the implementation of final decisions this year. This is therefore in the nature of an interim programme. The result is that until such time as a final decision is made there ls no point in altering the Act or the administration of it. All these things will be taken into account when the future beef roads programme is being considered.
This programme was broughtin early this year to enable the States of Queensland and Western Australia to continue. Although it was only an interim programme for one year, the Government stated in the Budget last year - and it has stated since - that it intends that there should be a continuing programme in beef roads.It has no intention whatsoever of giving a year by year handout. The Government has made it perfectly well known that it has a continuing programme of development of beef roads and that it is now looking at this matter.
The honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) referred to various roads and questioned the priorities. First of all let me tell him that so far as the Nebo-Mackay road was concerned the stage of investigation and design that had been reached was not sufficient for the Queensland Government to press for the inclusion of that road in the present programme. That is not to say that the road has been excluded from the programme. It means only that the stage of investigations was not far enough ahead to include the road in last year’s programme, but I do not doubt that in time investigations will be made and that road will find its place in the programme. I say to the honorable member for Dawson and, indeed, to all honorable members that primarily the standards of beef roads and the need for them are matters for the States in consultation, of course, with the Commonwealth. The States have the particular knowledge. They are the constructing authorities and they know what standards they require and have set down. It would be wrong for the Commonwealth constitutionally to say the States: “ We require you to have this or that standard “. The same applies to the selection of a particular beef road. The Commonwealth has discussions and consultations with the States because it is the States that have the local knowledge of the land and the numbers of cattle involved. The problems involved are theirs and basically the States are the ones - seeing they have to repay some of the money anyway - who should decide where the roads are to go and to What standards they should be built.
I was sorry that my honorable friend from Macquarie said that the Government had a Micawber attitude. I point out to him that everyone in this place, when his particular interest or hobby-horse comes up, always says that the Government should spend more on it. Everyone who is interested in beef roads would like to see us spend more on them but we must always consider the Budget of the Commonwealth. We have enormous requirements in every field nowadays. The 1966-67 Budget was presented yesterday and disclosed that for the first time ever we are to spend $1,000 million on defence. We have requirements not only for defence but for education and housing. The cost of aerodromes is going up every year, as is the cost of maintaining hospitals. There is always an outcry for water conservation, lt is a case of doing as much as wc can in every field. In beef roads at least we started this plan in 1961 and have continued it, and it has been of tremendous benefit to people in the north. 1 stress this enormous benefit, because I think nothing has done more than this vigorous road construction programme in the north to open up remote areas of the country, to increase the beef turnoff and allow people the opportunity of taking supplies into the area, and to attract capital there. Of course, the results arc showing now in a much better turnoff of beef and much bigger exports of beef.
People are sometimes inclined to think that the amount of money expended on beef roads is the only money going into the development of roads in the north. That is wrong and 1 think it is time people realised that beef roads construction is only one of a number of ways in which money goes into road construction in the north; in fact, it is not the largest one. lt is interesting to look at the Commonwealth aid roads grants, which of course have increased enormously. Only in the last week or so the Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) announced that this year the States will obtain $150 million in one year under these grants. We know that the formula of the Commonwealth aid roads grants is such that it encourages and assists the larger States. My honorable friend from Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) often advances the argument that a greater percentage of the Commonwealth aid roads grants should go to Victoria, but the reason for the formula being as it is now is to help the more remote States with smaller populations. So they get a larger percentage of the money, than they would otherwise on a population basis, and this is as it should be. But here we have assistance to the States which has been increased from $18 million per annum when we came into office in 1949 to $150 million today, and the figure is rising at the rate of $10 million per annum. The figure for this five year period is 50 per cent, higher than the figure for the last five year period. I think we can be proud of this. I am not suggesting that we should not try to do more, but it must be remembered that in addition to the sums we are making available for beef roads - which are quite considerable - the total expenditure on roads in the north is now in excess of $40 million per annum. Of this expenditure probably only one-eighth is represented by beef roads, the rest coming either from Commonwealth aid roads grants or from State sources. I conclude on that note. I hope that while everyone wants to get as much money as possible for this work which is of vital importance in, developing the outback it will be realised that we have done well and are hoping to do even better in the future and that this has had a tremendous effect in opening up these areas.
.- I want to support the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson). We are not opposing this Bill as such, but we have the right to criticise and to try to effect a change for the better if it is at all possible. That is why the amendment was moved and why we are supporting it. After all, it must be remembered that the Queensland Beef Cattle Roads Agreement Act of 1962 came into being very hurriedly indeed because of the 1961 election, when Queensland turned so viciously against the then Government - it is the present Government also - because of the legislation it had brought down. Something had to be done for Queensland in a hurry and $12 million was granted to Queensland for beef roads, but at that time the State Government was not prepared for the expenditure of that money. I do not say there were not investigations into beef roads then; there may have been, but so far as I know there was no investigation, and no report was tabled in either the State or Federal Parliament regarding the investigation of beef roads. lt may be recalled that at that time I and many other people in this House - and people with knowledge of the areas into which the roads were going and with a fair knowledge of road construction - said that unless the beef roads were sealed they would vanish like the roads already in those areas constructed by the local authorities who had a very good knowledge of road construction in the area but who, because of lack of finance, could not make them permanent roads. This view was supported by the then State Minis’.er who said that unless the beef roads were sealed they would be of no importance and would be a waste of money. Of course, he had already made that statement and had approached the Federal Government and had got a further grant for the sealing of those roads. At that time the Commonwealth Government granted $12 million to Queensland. I believe - and it was said in this House at the time - that this was a grant to the Queensland Government for the construction of these beef roads. We said at the time that for the reasons 1 have already stated the grant was not sufficient, and we were supported by other honorable members and by the then State Minister, Mr. Ernie Evans, who is now deceased. A further sum, half grant and half loan, was made available. This time the Commonwealth is going to increase the amount under the agreement from $16.6 million to $20.5 million. The balance left over from the last agreement, was $600,000. This money is not for the construction of new beef roads, but to finish off the roads which have not been finished. As the honorable member for Macquarie asked, how much more road will that amount of money build? Once again we say the grant is not sufficient.
Now, just as happened in 1961-62, when the Government made the grant for beef roads so hurriedly just before the election in 1961, it is doing the same thing again before an election, providing for, as the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) said, an interim programme. When will this stop? As the honorable member for Dawson asked, why does not the Government make a concerted effort to prepare a proper programme on roads, with priorities, so that the road system will become a fact? In his second reading speech the Minister said that the increased grants will be extended to the States on the same terms as applied in recent years of the current scheme. As I have said, I did not know that the £6 million grant was a 50-50 affair and that the State Government had to pay back half of it. I do not ‘think it has to do so, as I think this was a grant. I may be wrong, but I believe that the extra amount required to seal the roads was made available on a half grant and half repayable basis. In effect, this Bill is not as good an arrangement for the Queensland Government as was the previous measure, because the Queensland Government is going to go down the drain by half the amount made available, instead of having a grant something similar to what it got in the early stages of the 1962 agreement. The Minister also said that an extra grant is being given to the State Governments to cover the cost of roads. That is so. Such grants must increase, because costs are increasing.
The Commonwealth gives the money to the States with one hand and takes it. away with the other. The States get an extra allowance for roads and the whole of the increase given - or possibly more - will have to go to meet the increased cost of roads already started or planned. This is the way in which the Government is trying to gull the people into a security which is not there. The State Governments cannot operate at present on the allowances they are getting from the Commonwealth. They always expect more, but when the Commonwealth gives an, increase with the one hand and takes it away with the other the States are no better off. The honorable member for Macquarie said that the money should go into the hands of the Minister for National Development. Something must be done to protect the expenditure of public moneys. I suggest that these works should be subject to approval by the Public Works Committee. 1 can see no reason why this should not be done. The expenditure of public moneys on other Commonwealth Government projects is subject to the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee, so why cannot money granted by the Commonwealth Government for beef roads be treated similarly so that the Public Works Committee can delve into all relevant matters?
Many questions have been asked about the construction of beef roads. Honorable members may recall statements made in the House and in the Press, not only by my colleagues and myself but also by others, suggesting that private enterprise which was constructing the roads was raking off great profits on very faulty workmanship. The Minister said at that time that we did not know what we were talking about. However, it was significant that immediately after these statements had been made more engineers and even soil testers with mobile laboratories were employed on the roads. As a result of this increased supervision two or three of the contractors immediately walked off the job. There was almost a court case involving the State Government because some contractors, through lack of supervision, had been using inferior metals and constructing inferior roads. As I have said, the engineers and soil testers showed that the allegations were right and that the Minister was wrong.
It is necessary for the Government to bring the expenditure of this public money within the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. This would enable the Committee to question State and Commonwealth departmental officers about the materials that are being used. Further, questions could be asked about the direction of the roads. The location of roads is very important. In addition to making my own observations, I have received complaints from graziers and local authorities in the areas where beef roads are being constructed. I remind honorable members that the local authorities - the foremen, the plant operators and the engineers employed by the shire councils - were not consulted by the State Government about beef road construction. I believe they should have been consulted. Local authorities have had experience over the years in building roads and they know what is required. I have been told that in some places the beef roads have been built in the wrong position; that had the route been moved a couple of miles it would have made no difference to the movement of cattle but would have enabled a more solid foundation and a better road to be provided. These facts were known to the local authorities, yet they were not taken into consideration.
These are matters that could be brought out by the Public Works Committee which is a watchdog on the expenditure of public money. In this case public money is being spent at a great rate. If the expenditure were for some other purpose, it would not escape the scrutiny of the Committee. I recommend to the Minister that the Government give consideration to bringing all grants of these proportions within the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee or of some other committee to make sure that we are getting value for this public money. The Minister claims that the Government is proud of the increase in grants to the States for roads. As I have mentioned already, the grants must be increased because costs have risen. The increased grants have merely served to offset rising costs. They will not enable the State Governments or local authorities to accelerate road construction.
State and local authorities have much more to do with their money than merely to spend it on roads or works which have been recommended or subsidised by the Commonwealth Government. When a Commonwealth grant has to be matched by a State this absorbs money that otherwise could be made available to local authorities for essential works such as the provision of sewerage, drainage and water. This presents serious problems. A State may be forced to spend money in ways in which it does not wish to spend it at the time. If the State is unable to spend all its grant it may miss out in the next year. The result, as I have said, is that money is diverted from essential purposes such as sewerage, water, drainage, gardens, libraries and other amenities. Yet the Minister has said that he is very proud of the increase granted under this Bill.
I believe that there should be better cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States. It is for that reason that I commend the amendment. The honorable member for Macquarie has suggested that the Northern Division of the Department of National Development should have closer contact with State Ministers and departmental officers. This would enable some co-ordination of works. A State Government cannot give priority to a project until it knows what the Federal Government proposes to do. Thus, the States do not know where they are going until loans have been authorised or grants made. Then, suddenly, they have to put all their planning, drafting and works staffs on to the jobs because if they do not spend all the money they miss out on the grants or loans in the following year. This makes the situation very difficult for the local authorities.
On a project such as the construction of beef roads, there is no reason why the Commonwealth Government should not do the job if the State Government cannot do it. Surely the State Government would welcome the responsibility being taken by the Commonwealth Government. Another reason why I suggest that the Public Works Committee should investigate the construction of beef roads is that the majority of people living in the areas concerned say that the roads being built are defence roads rather than beef roads. That may be true because the roads within the beef roads system all lead to main centres. This morning the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) beat me to the gun in asking a question about overseas shipping companies serving three ports only on the Queensland coast and eliminating four other ports, Cairns, Mackay, Bowen and Gladstone. O’f course, the beef roads lead to the three ports and 1 believe that there is a concerted effort to bring about this change. If the four ports arc eliminated the export meat works at Cairns and Mackay will close. What will happen to the people who have moved into those areas?
We often hear in this place talk of decentralisation and development of the outback, yet all the Government is doing is gradually bringing the people closer to the already congested areas. If the Government wants to do the right thing it should extend the beef roads to other ports. Mention has been made of beef cattle in the Cape York Peninsula. I support the honorable member for Dawson who criticised the irresponsible claim by a member of another place that Cape York Peninsula could have 5 million cattle. I do not know what it would cost to provide water supplies for 5 million cattle in that area because it is very dry and has very bad soil. There are only 5 or 6 million cattle in the whole of Queensland. I wish there were 5 million cattle in the Cape York Peninsula area. I cannot envisage that number of cattle in that area in 50 or even 100 years. There is the possibility of establishing a meatworks on the far north coast - at Cooktown or Port Douglas - or on Cape York Peninsula at a place such as Portland Roads. It should be possible to transport the cattle to such a meatworks rather than move them hundreds of miles by road for processing.
However, in all these considerations we are faced with the problem of ships not calling into certain ports. If the meat ports are to be limited to three in number now then eventually even that number may be reduced to one. There is always an economic argument on these subjects, but that argument does not coincide with current ideas concerning decentralisation and development. Instead of bringing everything to a centre we should seek to spread population and activity. The community services of the big cities are strained to the limit now and more money is required to meet current needs, yet the tendency is to bring more people to the populated centres. We have no choice but to accept this Bill. However, the Government should consider permitting the Public Works Committee to scrutinise the expenditure of loan money in order to ensure that it is being spent in the best interests of the nation and that value is being obtained for its expenditure.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Luchetti’s amendment) stand part of the question
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 to 4 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
After section 4 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted - “ 4a. The Amending Agreement is approved.”.
The Opposition wishes to move two amendments to this clause. 1 will deal with the first amendment now. I move -
At the end of proposed section 4a add - “subject to that Agreement being amended to provide that advances made to the State under the Agreement for the construction of unsealed roads shall not be refunded to the Commonwealth whereas advances made to the State under the Agreement for the sealing of roads shall be refunded “.
The main purpose of the amendment is to include in the Bill a provision similar to that which applied when moneys were made available by the Commonwealth to Queensland under the Principal Act. At that time, £5 million or $10 million was made available to the Queensland Government so that it could carry out certain works. They were the Normanton to Julia Creek road in the Gulf country, the Windorah to Quilpie road in the Channel country, the Georgetown to Mount Surprise road in the north-eastern
Gulf country, the Mount Isa to Dajarra road designed to bring store cattle from the Barkly Tableland and the Gulf country into the Channel country, and the Boulia to Winton road. The original analysis of cost was on the basis that the roads would be all weather unsealed roads. The estimated cost at that time was £5 million or $10 million.
Several months after the Bill had been passed, the Queensland Government, after a series of studies, applied to the Commonwealth for additional financial assistance amounting to £3.3 million or $6.6 million for the sealing of the roads. After considerable discussions with the relevant Queensland authorities, the Commonwealth agreed to assist the Queensland Government. Everybody will agree that sealed roads are far better than unsealed roads. One problem, of course, is to decide whether the money that is available should be used to build so many miles of roads of unsealed standard or whether it should be used to build a shorter distance of roads of a sealed standard. At that time, no analysis of the economics of sealing roads Had been made and the Commonwealth agreed to provide funds to Queensland in the form of a fully repayable interest bearing loan. This was the accepted way of financing beef roads in Queensland. They were earth roads built to an all weather gravel standard. But it is not only the cattle industry that benefits from beef roads; everybody can use them. They are well constructed, wide roads and are similar to roads that exist in other parts of Australia. They are most important in that they enable additional export income to be earned and the whole nation benefits from this. The argument is advanced - I think it is a valid argument - that as the Commonwealth is assisting the State in thedevelopment of an export industry, from which the nation as a whole benefits, financial assistance provided to the State for the construction of the roads should be in the form of a grant. However, if the State wishes to seal the roads, this is the State’s responsibility and, if the Commonwealth assists it to find the necessary funds, this assistance should be in the form of a repayable loan. The Opposition contends that this is the correct way to finance beef roads. It is consistent with the method of financing roads in the Kimberleys, although the grant in that instance was on a 50-50 basis.
If Queensland were given the opportunity to attract £1 of Commonwealth money for every £1 that it spent on these roads, it would certainly accept this method instead of the present method. The State is spending large sums of money on the roads. However, in his second reading speech, the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) explained that this increased assistance will be extended to the Stale on the same terms as have applied in the recent years of the current scheme. 1 cannot argue technically with this contention, although in the terms of the Schedule it appears to be entirely right. But in my opinion this is a very cunning little device by which the Treasury will be able to make available all future funds provi’ded for the construction of beef roads on a 50/50 basis. This may sound all right, except that an analysis of the cost of building the roads shows that sealing requires only about 30 per cent, of the total cost of the road. We argue, therefore, that the correct approach should be on the accepted principles of financing beef roads rather than on this new method which provides for a 50/50 basis. Again I point out that the principal argument in support of this method is that the nation is the major beneficiary of the increased export income that arises from the construction of the roads. If the money is provided by way of a loan, the people living in the shire through which the road passes pay a large part of the cost of the road through increased rates.
This also happened with the agreement relating to brigalow lands. Although in this instance the road was not classified as a beef road, it was classified as a major road for the development of the brigalow. Unfortunately, this was lumped in with a loan of £7,250,000. Queensland should have argued that this was a beef road. Indeed, after the 1961 election, the Commonwealth Government was eager to help Queensland as much as it could, and if Queensland had pressed its case it could have ‘had a major road. For instance, the money for the Dawson Highway from Moura to Bauhinia Downs to Rolleston would have been provided as a grant rather than as a fully repayable interest bearing loan. Those are the principal reasons for the amendment I have moved. I ask the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson), who assists the Treasurer, to give the reasons for the new arrangement. Why has not the Commonwealth agreed to accept the principle followed in the original agreement relating to beef roads? A grant was made then to provide roads of an unsealed standard and a fully repayable interest bearing loan was used to provide the money for sealing.
– The Government can see no advantage in the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson). As has been explained already in the second reading debate, the Bill before us is purely an interim measure, which will operate pending discussions with the States on the whole long term beef roads programme. In such an interim measure, it does not seem to be logical to depart from arrangements which have applied under the current scheme in recent years. 1 think that the honorable member for Dawson is a bit out of date. He harks back to what happened four or five years ago. In the last two financial years - 1964-65 and 1965-66 - the amounts paid to Queensland under the principal Act have been in the same form as is proposed now; that is to say, half in the form of grants and half in the form of loans. The Queensland Government is completely happy with this arrangement, lt has worked well in the last two years. There seems to be no reason why it should not be continued in what is after all an interim measure. The matter of the administration of future beef road measures will be decided upon by the Government as part of its consideration of these measures when the time comes. For those reasons therefore we see no reason for accepting the amendment as proposed by the honorable member for Dawson and suggest that it be defeated.
.- The Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) has disappointed the Opposition. We thought that the compelling arguments of the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) would have been accepted by the Minister. The Opposition wants to help the State of Queensland to the maximum extent so that it may derive all the benefit possible from this legislation. The Minister has said that there is no advantage. No advantage to whom? Certainly, there is no advantage to the State of Queensland. In fact, there is a very serious disadvantage. The Minister has said also that this is purely an interim measure. That is what the Opposition complains about. That is what we protest against. This is piecemeal legislation. Everything is passed over. Because it is an interim measure, the Government says, in effect: “ We do not have to do anything of a worthwhile nature now. We will consider it some time in the future. What is temporary is good enough.”
In our consideration of the Bill, we have found that $600,000 has not been drawn. If Queensland had been granted the sort of assistance that we envisage, that money could have been drawn and further work carried out. We simply ask that the original conditions be respected. We ask that there be a total grant for the earth work and the road formation, and that there be a refund on the money spent for the sealing of roads. This is a simple proposition. It is one of principle and if it is not decided here, I feel that in the foreseeable future it will be determined in Queensland.
Question put -
That the amendment (Dr. Patterson’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- I move -
At the end of proposed section 4a add “ subject to that Agreement being amended to provide for the inclusion of the Oxford Downs-Nebo-Baker’s Creek Road in the works programme “.
The purpose of this proposed amendment is to include in the works programme a most important road which has been omitted. We have yet to hear any argument advanced by the Government as to why this road was omitted except the one advanced by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) that the standards of design were not yet at the stage at which this road could be included. I am certain the Minister must have dreamed up that one because quite clearly that cannot be the answer. He knows full well that this particular road is being used for the transport of cattle and has been gazetted as a highway for the past 25 years. Let us compare that with, for example, the Georgetown-Mount Surprise road. It was not even a track yet the Government agreed to go ahead with the construction of the road. So the Minister’s statement cannot be the answer. I know that he could not have given serious consideration to the matter before making it. I could cite plenty of other examples in the Kimberleys and in the Northern Territory, to substantiate my argument. Unfortunately, this road has been talked about and hoped for by the people in the back country and by the people in Mackay for a long time but we still have not got it. it is no use becoming emotional about this. The point is that the case for this road hits been based on a solid economic analysis carried out by the Commonwealth Government’s experts in this field in the Department of National Development. This road was given a very high priority in the hundreds of roads analysed ki Northern Australia. In fact, it ranks as one requiring urgent attention in the first seven or eight roads which have been agreed to by the Commonwealth Government. The Opposition does not disagree with the priorities us laid down in the Act and the amendment to the Act, but we on this side certainly disagree with the almost blatant removal of this road from the programme. The Dingo to Mount Flora road was a top priority road analysed by the Government and agreed to by the Commonwealth and the State. The Mareeba-Laura road has been included in the programme, again after analysis by the Commonwealth and acceptance by the State; similarly with the Burdekin road, the road from The Battery to Townsville. The Mount Isa to Boulia road, of course, was included in the original programme but because the State underestimated to such a degree, perhaps through no fault of its own because the legislation was rushed through after the 1961 election, it could not go ahead with completion of the road. The KatherineTop Springs-Willaroo road in the Northern Territory was also a top priority road. All these roads have been agreed to by the Commonwealth with the exception of the road now under notice, the Oxford DownsNeboBaker’s Creek road.
I have said previously that the Mackay area is the only area with a major export meat works and a major port which does not have a road to its hinterland. Anyone who knows the country behind this area - that is, the Belyando, Suttor, Mackenzie and Isaac basins - is fully aware of its potential, lt has been the subject of a thorough investigation by the Commonwealth Bureau of Agricultural Economics which has recommended as a very high priority the development of area three of the Brigalow. This is being proceeded with in the form of the Dingo to Mount Flora road, but the Dingo to Mount Flora road is only part and parcel of the road in question. That road is the missing link.
The Government, for reasons of its own, does not seem to appreciate the importance of the subject road yet it wants to earn export income and to develop this area which, in the vicinity of Clermont, Capella, Grosvenor Downs and the Belyando, is ranked among the best underdeveloped cattle country in Queensland. In the shires of Nebo and Wangaratta and in the area around Clermont there are in all about half a million cattle. The turn-off today is about 100,000 yet we are building roads in areas with a much lower present cattle population and a much lower potential. I hope that the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Howson), who is at the table, will give us some other reasons besides the one given by the Minister for National Development. However, I must state that I was delighted to hear the Minister say - I think I am right in saying this - that he would not be surprised if this road were included or he would think that this road would be included in fact in the programme at a later date when the present interim measure is completed. If that is the case, 1 suppose it is better late than never but the point of view being expressed in Queensland, certainly by the State Government is that this road will not be part of the beef roads programme.
I do not know who is to blame. I do not know whether the Commonwealth has omitted it by mistake or whether the State has omitted it by mistake. No-one seems to accept the blame but the fact of the matter is that the road has been, omitted and the Opposition wants to bring this to the Government’s attention and try to ensure that it will be included in the works programme as soon as possible. To the present, approximately $2 million has been spent on the establishment of a service works at Baker’s Creek only a few miles from the port of Mackay, and the success of this meatworks and the success of the port as a meat export port depend greatly on the construction of this road. No-one is opposed to it because everyone realises the tremendous potential that it taps. That is the argument we are putting up in view of (he fact that the Commonwealth itself has analysed this road and has agreed that it is one of the most important and urgent beef roads in Australia, yet it has been omitted from the works programme. The Government may argue that other roads have a higher priority. I have argued today that other roads are being constructed which do not have a higher priority. In fact, I have already mentioned one road which, because of the tremendous increase in costs, is uneconomical from the sole criterion of beef production which, after all, is the criterion being followed by the Commonwealth Government.
– Mr. Chairman, I am sorry that the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson)’ cannot understand what was said by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) at the second reading stage this afternoon. I believe that it would be wise for me to remind honorable members of what the Minister said concerning the Nebo-Mackay road. Let me reiterate it. He said that so far as this road was concerned, the stage of investigation and design that had been reached was not sufficient for the Queensland Government to press for the inclusion of the road in the present programme. He said that this was not to say that the road had been excluded from the
I programme - that it meant only that the investigations were not far enough ahead to include the road in last year’s programme. The Minister added also that he did not doubt that in time investigations will be made and that the road will find its place in the programme.
Let me reiterate that the particular projects to be undertaken were selected in conjunction with the Queensland Government. Account had to be taken of both the wishes of the State Government and the stage reached in the investigation and design work if the road was to be included in the programme for 1966-67. Planning had not been taken to a stage at which, in the eyes of both the State and the Commonwealth Governments, inclusion of the road in the interim programme was justified. I thought that the Minister for National Development made this quite clear. I merely reiterate what he said and explain again why the
Government cannot accept the amendment that has now been proposed.
I can only add that I have heard some conceited talk in this chamber. But never have I heard conceit like that exhibited by the honorable member for Dawson this afternoon. He appeared so conceited as to think that because of the pressure that he had brought to bear to have this road constructed-
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. This clause has come before the Committee only since the suspension of the sitting. I suggest that the Minister would do well to speak to it instead of dealing with what was said at an earlier stage.
Order! The Minister may refer to previous discussion, even though it occurred in the House.
– Is he having second thoughts or speaking after briefing by the Treasury or the political bureau of the Liberal Party of Australia?
– I have heard some odd statements made by the honorable member for Macquarie from time to time, but what he has just said is more odd than anything that I have heard from him previously. Let me just add that the honorable member for Dawson said this afternoon that he considered that the road had been omitted from the programme because the Government, to spite him, wanted to omit it. 1 have heard some conceited talk in this place, but that is about the most conceited thing that I have heard said here. I mention the matter only because that proposition was advanced by the honorable member earlier. Let me say again that for the reasons that have been stated by the Minister for National Development and by me the Government does not accept the amendment.
.- Mr. Chairman, whether or not the Minister assisting the Treasurer is satisfied that the road was taken out of the programme for any reason not connected with the advocacy of my colleague, the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson), is beside the point. The road is in a coastal area. Quite apart from what persons here may think, the people of Queensland believe that some roads should be constructed in coastal areas.
One would imagine that the Government would endeavour to have beef roads and other roads constructed in the most economic localities. But what do we find? We find that the construction of roads -such as these is concentrated in the outback areas where populations of both people and cattle are sparse, whereas, in areas adjacent to the coast, where populations of both people and cattle are greater, road building amounts to next to nothing. Rockhampton is still not connected with its hinterland by an all weather road. Nor is Mackay. Yet, in Rockhampton, we have the largest meat works in the southern hemisphere, and a second works has recently been build. Within 200 miles of Rockhampton, there are two million head of cattle. The greatest handicap that the producers face is the lack of adequate road links to get these beasts to the coastal meat works.
We all should remember that the operations of meat works along the Queensland coast are different from those of establishments in the southern States. Some 80 per cent, of the meat that is processed in Queensland is exported, whereas about 80 per cent, of the meat processed in the south is for home consumption. This Government is at present very busy having roads built from north to south. Perhaps, the people of Queensland could be forgiven for being a little suspicious and thinking that all this is part of an effort eventually to have Queensland’s cattle processed in the southern States.
– Well, why construct roads from north to south? What is the idea of building roads from Mount Isa to Bourke when there are on the coast only about half the distance from the grazing areas meat works that have adequate facilities for slaughtering? Why not build beef roads from west to east? Not one of the meat works on the Queensland coast is at present linked with the western hinterland by an all weather road. There are two meat works at Rockhampton and there is a third at Biloela. In a distance of 90 miles, there is still a gap of 30 miles over which there is no all weather road. The basic road is already there. So why not make it an all weather road?
The Minister has provided no adequate answer to the question asked by the honor able member for Dawson: Why has the Nebo-Mackay road been dropped from the programme? It is nonsense to say that the road has not been planned. In its present state, it has been in use for 25 or 30 years. The local authorities have done their best with other roads in the vicinity. Today, most of the revenue of the country is collected by the Commonwealth Government, and State and local authorities have to come to Canberra cap in hand trying to get money. Yet we are told that after 30 years of use, planning in relation to the Nebo-Mackay road is not sufficiently advanced to enable the Government to put the project in the programme. The honorable member for Dawson claimed that the Government had already put the road in the programme, but took it out again. Why did this Government not find out in the first place that adequate planning had not been undertaken? It is a little late in the day now to find that out. So the honorable member for Dawson is perhaps quite justified in suspecting that the road was in the programme before he won the Dawson seat, and that it was subsequently removed from the programme. Indeed, almost anybody would think that there was some connection between the two events.
– That is poor logic.
– It may be poor logic. But it is even worse logic to remove a road such as this from the construction programme once it has been included in that programme. The people in the area urgently need it, cattle are available to be transported on it and meat works are at hand to treat the beasts. In these circumstances, why take the road out of the programme? The meat works at Mackay cannot get enough stock for slaughter to maintain continuous production. Yet the Government has taken the Nebo-Mackay road out of the construction programme. In these circumstances, what does this Government expect the local people to think? There have been meat works in Rockhampton for 70, 80 or 90 years. Yet there is still no all weather road linking them with the western cattle country. What is the purpose of building beef roads from north to south? Where are the stock to go? In a southerly direction from Mount Isa, one finds no meat works until one gets into
New South Wales. The people of Queensland are not particularly anxious to see their cattle taken to the southern States for processing, especially at a time when there is declining employment in the existing meat works on the Queensland coast, one of which has reduced its labour force from 1,500 to 1,100. There are two reasons for the reduction. One is the mechanisation of factories and the other is that the meat works cannot always obtain sufficient cattle to keep them in operation. Yet we take what is there somewhere else. Under these circumstances a very good case can be put not only for this road in the Dawson electorate - the Oxford DownsNeboBaker’s Creek road - but also for other roads in the same vicinity which would serve the same purpose; namely, to carry cattle from the hinterland to the existing coastal meat works. Such roads would provide these centres with employment and so help them retain their populations.
It is all very well for the Government to talk about decentralisation; but while the cities of the south grow at a tremendous rate the number of people on the roll in my electorate falls by 190 between elections. Legislation such as this does not do very much to aid decentralisation. Beef roads could be used for the dual purpose of carrying out the Government’s policy of decentralisation and providing adequate all weather road transport in these areas. It is obvious that if we provide the raw material and the roads over which it can go to the coastal towns it will go there. Nobody will drag material twice the distance he needs to drag it, unless the road over the longer route is better. We have this situation already. One can go north and south on these roads, but one cannot go cast or west. We still have not a road over the Drummond Range to connect Rockhampton with the western area. There is no road between Mackay and its hinterland.
– One cannot take a truck over that range.
– One could not take a helicopter over some of it. This is the complaint not only of the honorable member for Dawson but also of the people whom he represents. We are here not necessarily to air our own opinions, although we know the country and the conditions, but to air the opinions and ideas of the people who occupy this area of central Queensland. They and we know that the money that is being spent on these roads is going north and south; it is not going east and west. We consider that this money should be spent on roads going east and west. They would be shorter and therefore cheaper to build and would carry the cattle to existing meat works.
The question that is raised by this amendment is: Why did the Government originally put this road in its programme and later take it out of its programme? If the reason is not connected with the fact that the Government lost political control of the area concerned, the Minister’s explanation is most inadequate because it does not explain the reason at all. To say now that a road, which has existed for 25 years and which needs surfacing, strengthening and bridges, is not sufficiently planned is nonsense. The Government will have to think up a better explanation than that in order to satisfy the people who live in the area and the people who want their cattle to be transported to the coast in a reasonable time and in a reasonable condition so that they will bring a reasonable price. We want a better reason than the one given by the Minister.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As a member from the southern State of Victoria, I am very interested in the beef roads in Queensland because I believe that all of Australia will benefit from them and that we, as Australians and members of the Commonwealth Parliament, have to look at the whole picture of the country’s progress as a result of government expenditure. I have listened very closely to this debate. Several things that have been said do not seem to me to be logical. First, various honorable members have said that the road that is being discussed has been removed from the programme. After listening closely to the debate, I think what has really happened is that the road has not been included in this legislation, but, as the Minister has said, it is still in the programme. In answer to questions, the Minister said that after the current phase of beef roads development was completed this road would receive further consideration.
The honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson), to whom 1 listened very closely, went into detail on the Schedule and the roads that are included in this legislation. ] put a tick beside each road listed in the Schedule as he spoke about it. Referring to the road from Dingo to Mount Flora, he said: “ This road is urgently required. I support it.” Referring to the road between The Battery and Townsville - a distance of 72 miles - he again said: “ This road is urgently required or words to that effect. He now nods his assent. Referring to the road between Mareeba and Laura, he said: “ This road is very important. The Government is to be commended for bringing down in this Parliament legislation to build this road.” Finally, he referred to the road between The Lynd and Charters Towers - a distance of 160 miles. That road met with his absolute and full approval.
Under this Bill, which is described as “ a Bill for an Act to amend the Queensland Beef Cattle Roads Agreement Act 1962 “, the Government is increasing the amount of money available by $3.9 million for the specific purpose set out in the Bill. Of course, I can see the point in the action of the Opposition. Members of the Opposition are saying: “ Under this Bill we have an opportunity to speak about beef roads. Therefore, we will stress that this other road “ - the road to which the honorable member for Dawson has referred - “ be built.” Now the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) has entered the debate and spoken about many other roads.
– Which we have not got.
– That is so. But he has really confused the issue. After all, in this Parliament, if we want to get something done we have to pinpoint it. lt is no good talking about roads all over Australia. If that were any good, I could bring into the debate a few roads in the southern parts of Australia. The honorable member for Dawson has been concentrating his efforts on this additional road, which he thinks is very important. He said: “ Surely the Minister can give some explanation about it.” The Minister did that. He said that this road is not included in the legislation, but it is still in the programme.
At this stage I wish to compliment the Federal Government, as every honorable member from Queensland should do, on the initiation and building of these beef roads. What did members of the Labour Parly do about beef roads when they were in office? This programme is a completely new phase in the history of Australia. These roads will increase the production of Australia. In particular, they will increase the production of beef for export. This is a most important Bill because, as has been said, in the northern areas the majority of the cattle slaughtered are for export. The last time I mentioned the honorable member for Dawson I had to say something about a reference that he made to a former member of the Parliament, which spoilt his speech. Again he has spoilt his speech and become illogical by saying that probably this road was removed from the programme because he won the seat of Dawson.
– 1 did not say that.
– Well, what did you say?
– I will tell you in a minute.
– If he did not say that, he said words to that effect or that this happened because the Government had lost the seat of Dawson. Either way, it means the same thing. It is only a play on words. He said that the Government lost the seat of Dawson and therefore it was somewhat concerned and decided that it would not go on with the development of this road.
That is very poor, logic, for the simple reason that the Country Party, which is a partner in the present coalition Government, will endeavour to win back this seat at the coming election. How foolish anybody in politics would be to take the action thai has been mentioned by the honorable member for Dawson. His statement showed very screwy logic. He cannot put his case logically if he continues with that statement. After all,’ if you want to win a seat you have to do the best you possibly can for the people in that electorate. This Government has always done that. If the Government lost its senses completely and decided that it would not do anything more for the electorate of Dawson because it had lost that seat, what chance would it have of regaining that seat?
– None at all.
– Of course it would not. At present the Government is continuing to push on with the development of beef roads. Its chances of winning the seat of Dawson are growing daily. In fact, they are excellent.
.- The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said that if the Government was applying logic it would support the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson). He said that if the Government wished to win back the seat of Dawson, it would support the proposal. After the defeat of the Government in Queensland in 1961 it made money available for all sorts of projects in that State, but immediately it regained a majority in. that State it reduced its assistance for such projects. That is the sort of logic that has been followed by the Government.
Perhaps the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson), who is at the table, is not aware of the value of this road to the city of Mackay. I admit that this has nothing to do with my electorate, but nevertheless I believe that the people of Mackay and of the electorate of Dawson are entitled to an explanation as to why the road has been discarded. Not long ago a new, modern abattoir was opened in Mackay. Great speeches were made at the opening. Reference was made to the way in which export trade would be built up and to the way in which the abattoir would serve the hinterland. Incidentally, I have before me a map of this section of Queensland. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) mentioned Rockhampton. That city is served by a railway which runs out into the centre. Cattle are brought into Rockhampton over that railway. The same is true of Townsville. But Mackay has no railway leading into it. The Oxford DownsNeboBaker’s Creek road would form a direct link to Mackay. It is all very well to speak of roads that were built 25 years ago. But roads that were built even 10 or 15 years ago were not designed to carry the traffic that must be carried today. Nobody then thought of semi-trailers that would carry 25 head of cattle over the roads at 40 or 50 miles an hour. Reference has been made to roads that were built by the Australian Labour Party when it was in office. Some of the longest roads from north to south and from east to west were built by the Labour Government in time of war. Those roads are still in existence and still serve the country.
I am not being parochial. However, if anybody cares to look at a map of Queensland and of the roads that are in existence, he will see that there is no rail service or road service into the hinterland from Mackay. Such roads as exist run along the coast, as does the railway. Cattle which are brought from Cloncurry and elsewhere in the west go past the meatworks I have mentioned to meatworks in Brisbane. If some people had their way and roads were built from the north down through Bourke to the southern States, cattle that are being slaughtered at meatworks in the coastal towns and which are providing employment in those centres would be carried through to southern meatworks. Workers in those towns would be deprived of a living.
At question time today reference was made to the fact that the shipping companies were insisting [hat meat should be shipped only from certain ports and that unless a shipload of meat was available for shipment ports like Bowen, Mackay and Cairns would be deprived of a shipping service. The result would be that waterside workers engaged in the loading of meat at those ports would be deprived of a living and would have to move down to the capital cities to find employment, lt cannot be said that this has any part in a plan for decentralisation. For these reasons, I support the amendment that has been proposed by the honorable member for Dawson.
.- Mr. Chairman, 1 will not delay you or the Committee for more than a moment. With great respect to the protagonists of this amendment, there is a very short point to be considered. This Bill approves an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government. The agreement is already in being. Whether the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) agrees or disagrees with the agreement that now exists between the two Governments is quite beyond the point. I suggest that all that this Parliament can do is to reject or to approve the Bill. Let me put to the honorable gentleman as a premise that every person in this chamber agrees that the road in question should be built. Let us assume that all of us agree that this road should be built and should be built tomorrow. This chamber controls only one of the contracting parties to the agreement. Let us assume also that for reasons which no person in this chamber is aware of the Queensland Government takes a contrary view. How can this chamber possibly commit another contracting party to the agreement? I submit to the honorable gentleman that this is all that is involved.
Let me concede that he has advanced a quite admirable argument. He cannot now try to amend a bill to amend in turn an agreement that has been made. That is not the way in which this sort of business is done. One does not know the other sort of considerations that might have creased the minds of those who were conducting negotiations for the Queensland Government. They might well have taken the view that if they pressed for these particular roads on this occasion they could reasonably anticipate favourable Commonwealth consideration of a road from X to Y on another occasion. I put it to the honorable gentleman from Dawson that what he is now suggesting is that the Committee should approve something which, in the terms of the whole basis on which negotiations are conducted, is quite crazy. I ask the honorable gentleman whether he would mind reflecting upon this. One can readily agree that this sort of agreement which is approved by this Parliament and which in turn must be approved by the Queensland Parliament runs to the whole character and being of Commonwealth and State relations. But with great respect to the authors of the Bill and to those who support it, this is not the occasion on which to embark on a considered examination of the ramifications of Commonwealth and State relations.
Let me put another point of view to the honorable gentleman. Let us assume that to a man the Committee agreed with the amendment and that it amended or purported to amend the Bill. What would happen if the Queensland Government said: “ How dare you amend an agreement to which we as a sovereign or nominally sovereign body is a contracting party? “ What would be the position if in five or seven days’ time the Queensland Government, for reasons which it might hold to be good and sufficient, rejected what we had done? Here, for the purposes of the Bill, we have two sovereign governments that have entered into an agreement and which, for the purpose of expending funds appropriated under the Bill, have decided that these roads should be built. I ask my honorable friend to reflect on these circumstances. If he does so, I am sure that he will agree that in the light of those circumstances his amendment plainly is impracticable.
.- The case that was advanced by the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) in support of the amendment was very sound. I am prepared to accept the argument that he advanced in relation to the deletion from the works programme of the road from Oxford Downs to Nebo and Baker’s Creek. This road would serve the city of Mackay, a very progressive port in northern Queensland which exports large quantities of sugar and beef. There is a most up to date meatworks in the area. But as he has stated, the town itself is starved of adequate transport facilities. Now he has said that the road has been deleted because, in his opinion, of political spite. Of course honorable members must admit that the honorable member for Dawson, in the opinion of the Government, has committed the unforgivable sin of winning the Dawson seat. The honorable member for Dawson is doing his best to justify his representation of that area by advancing the case for the construction of this road. I accept his proposition that it is political spite that has prompted the deletion of this road from the Agreement. How can the Queensland Government say now, after it has considered for a long time the inclusion of this road in a programme of beef road construction, that the investigations and planning are not sufficiently advanced? I cannot believe that to be true.
I believe that the Commonwealth Government has insisted on the Queensland Government falling into line with the proposition to delete this road from the Agreement. The Queensland Government has readily fallen into line with the Commonwealth Government on this proposition. I think this is a very bad example of playing politics with the interests of decentralisation and development in the area concerned with the construction of this road. As the honorable member for Dawson has said, this is an area in which there are some half million cattle and in which there is a reasonable turn off of beef for slaughter. But in these days when rapid transport must be made available we find the proposition made to deprive the settlers in that area of the facilities for modern transportation which would be created by the construction of this roadway. lt is a very bad thing that the State Government of Queensland - a CountryLiberal Party Government which draws a number of its State supporters in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland from the area which would be served by this road - would be party to deleting this road from the works programme. We have repeatedly heard pleas for decentralisation of industry and for the movement of people to the northern parts of Australia, particularly northern Queensland. Well, here is a sound argument advanced by the honorable member for Dawson in favour of decentralisation, and the best means that can be used to promote decentralisation in that area is to construct this roadway. I remember a little while ago that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) quoted some figures regarding beef production in Queensland. This concerned the slaughter of beasts at the Mackay works and the area involved in this amendment. Queensland is a great exporter of beef- About 80 per cent, of the cattle that are slaughtered at the Queensland meatworks are exported and therefore this industry helps build up our income from the export of beef.
I hope that the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) will change the attitude he has adopted and withdraw the observations which he made in very bad taste. I would not be surprised if a number of honorable members or Ministers had made the observation made by the Minister for Air. But I have a much higher opinion of the Minister and I am very disappointed that he made such a statement. He is capable of better things. I am sure that it is not conceit on the part of the honorable member for Dawson which prompted him to make the remarks that he made. He is proving himself to be a very good representative of that area. I am sure that the electors, in due course, will show their approval of the action he has taken in this
House. He deserves commendation for the effort that he is making to have this road included in the works schedule for beef road construction under this Bill and I wish him well. I am sure all honorable members would be doing a great service to national development if they approved his amendment.
.- Mr. Chairman, I just want to make a few observations. I listened with interest to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). He spoke more sense than did the rest of the Government supporters who have spoken. I would like to give him a few of the facts. He apparently was not here for the discussion on this subject this afternoon. If one can take notice of the official statement made by the Queensland Minister for Main Roads, the Queensland authorities were unaware that this particular road had been included in the Commonwealth beef road priorities. The Minister for Main Roads stated that he had a list of 25 roads and that this particular road had not been included by the Commonwealth. In other words, he inferred - and I believe this is correct - that it was left out by the Commonwealth. That is the first point.
The argument 1 am putting forward is that all these roads are good roads. I have said that for the benefit of the honorable member for -Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). But the point is that the road that has been omitted should be given far higher priority than some of the roads included in this programme. The honorable member for Mallee says that this road is in the programme. Well, I do not know what programme he is talking about.
However, the argument I am most concerned with is the one put forward by the honorable member for Moreton who said that this is an agreement signed and agreed to by the State Government of Queensland and the Commonwealth Government and that therefore we should accept it. The Agreement was signed by J. McEwen, in the .presence of Fiona O’Connor, on behalf of the Commonwealth, and by Frank Nicklin, in the presence of J. A. Sewell, on behalf of the Queensland Government. The Agreement distinctly states -
This agreement shall have no force or effect and shall not be binding upon either party until it is approved by the Parliament of the Commonwealth and the Parliament of the State.
Surely we are not to accept the view that the Government, through a Minister, can draw up an agreement with a State without having it debated in Parliament.
– We can reject it, I agree, but we cannot, in my view, amend it.
– We are simply arguing that this road should have a high priority. I am very pleased to hear again that it will possibly bc included in the programme after this interim programme is complete. It is all right to say that. But what I want to ask is: “ When will it be in the programme? “ I am disappointed with the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) for doing nothing more than repeat what was said by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn).
– What did the honorable member expect him to say?
– I would expect the Minister to do a little bit of homework for himself, As I explained before, the answers given were absolute tripe. If the Public Service advisers in the Northern Division of the Department of National Development listened to what he said they must be squirming in their scats and thinking: “ What sort of Minister is this who gives this sort of information to the Parliament and to the people of Australia, saying that the design of the road is not ready when the Commonwealth has already given approval for the Georgetown-Mount Surprise road although it was not even a track “. That road had not even been surveyed when it was approved. As to the Minister’s statement that he had not heard a more conceited argument, or something like that, I must admit I was surprised to hear him say that. We on this side of the chamber did not believe that he thought of people in such terms. Apparently he docs now. What I did say was that the roads programme was discussed with the executive committee of the United Graziers Association and agreed to by that body, and that it was included in the Commonwealth’s road programme of priorities, and so I ask why it was suddenly omitted. That is what the people in the area are asking. They are asking why it was omitted and I am simply echoing their question. The Graziers’ Association in Nebo has sent telegrams to the Premier of Queensland asking why this road was omitted from the works programme. The people in Mackay, the development bodies, also are asking this question. I simply say that one begins to wonder whether this road has been omitted as a reprisal against the people in the area concerned because of the loss by the Government of the scat of Dawson. 1 have said previously that 1 certainly hope this has not been the case. In other words, I gave the Government credit for not taking such action, but having listened to the Minister 1 begin to wonder whether this is not what the Government has done, particularly when we cast our minds back to the time when the announcement was made.
In the 1965 Budget no funds were made available for beef roads and the excuse given was that the Government had np funds to make available. But with the unfortunate - for the Government - occurrence of the Dawson by-election out of the blue came an announcement about beef roads money. This was after no provision for beef roads money had been made in the Budget. Therefore 1 cannot agree with the Minister when he says or implies that the Government would not act in such a way. it is a strange fact that it has taken until now for the second and third reading stages of this Bill to be reached, although we were told in February, several weeks before the by-election, that there was an urgent need to provide the funds to enable Queensland to carry out this work. 1 repeat that the concept of beef roads is a good concept. I think everybody in this Parliament agrees with that. Our argument is simply that the road in question is one of the most important roads in Queensland. The Government agrees that this is so, its own report says so, but the point made by the Minister that the design of the road has not yet reached the state at which it can be included is tripe. This road has been gazetted as a main road for 25 years. How many more years must elapse before we can say that the design has reached the necessary stage? The Minister for Main Roads in Queensland has said that his Government will try to push on with it. He has implied that it is the Commonwealth that has omitted this road from the works programme, and his Government will try to push on with lt. In other words, the State Government is shocked that this road has been omitted from the works programme. It is no use, therefore, saying that it is the State Government that has omitted the road, because the State Minister for Main Roads has said that he has seen a list of 25 roads and that this road was not even included on that list. AH wc are asking is why this road was omitted, and we hope that the Government will put this road, which is one of the most important roads, back on the programme. It would represent an excellent means of increasing the export income of the area and of developing the meat works in Mackay and the Mackay hinterland.
Mr. LUCHETTI (Macquarie) 18.54].- The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) has said that because the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Queensland have entered into an agreement with respect to beef roads, this Parliament should, virtually without debate and without consideration, pass the various clauses of the Bill and should accept as an accomplished fact the decision that has been reached. He has asked the Parliament to acquiesce in the decisions that have been arrived at. If this Committee had accepted the viewpoint oi the honorable member for Moreton there would have been no debate on the Bill, there would have been no debate in Committee, and the valuable points that have been presented to the Committee would not have been heard by honorable members. The honorable member for Moreton has asked this Committee to act as a rubber stamp for the executive government.
Time and time again we hear debates in this place about the functions of the Parliament and we hear honorable members asserting the rights of the Parliament to debate and discuss important questions such as these which affect the Commonwealth and the people of Australia. Yet this evening the honorable member for Moreton adopts this strange attitude, saying that an agreement has been reached and that it is not for us to alter it. I think it is good that this subject has been debated, because from the debate has emerged at least some sort of assurance that the road we have sought to have included - the Oxford Downs-Nebo-Baker’s Creek road - will be included in due course. 1 can only hope that the Government will show its sincerity when it eventually gets around to the serious matter of considering a firm programme of road development in Queen;, jnd, and will agree to the adoption of the proposal that has been made. The Opposition feels that this road must be constructed, and if a Labour government were in office it would do this work for the benefit of the people in the area.
.- I do not protest as a rule about criticisms levelled at me, but 1 am sure that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) has misconstrued my remarks.
– The honorable member for Scullin would be about the only gargoyle I know that speaks. I would be the last person in this place ever to acquiesce in any action of the executive government. What I said to the Committee was simply this: Here is an agreement between two bodies, and we can accept it or reject it. Let me make another assumption for the purpose of explaining my point of view. Assume that I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) as to the need for this road. Then I would say that the amendment should take some form such as that the Bill should be on the table of the House until the Commonwealth renegotiates an agreement to include this road. At that point of time the honorable gentleman’s amendment would make sense. But as things stand now I am left in the position of having to say that it makes nonsense. I do not want to ruffle the honorable gentleman’s feelings because it appears to me that this has not been quite his day, and I do not want to disturb him further. I put my point of view, and I hope I put it without acrimony. I would not like my friend from Macquarie to misunderstand what I had in mind. Whatever faults I have, and I know there are many-
– Hear, hear!
– I knew I would get the honorable member to agree with me before I sat down. I simply say that I hope the honorable gentleman will never make, with reference to me, the charge: “ The honorable member for mortein agrees with the executive government all the time “.
Question put -
That the amendment (Dr. Patterson’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Howson) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20th April (vide page 986), on motion by Mr. Snedden -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– In his second reading speech on 20th April last, the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) drew attention to the fact that when he introduced the Trade Practices Bill 1965 the Government had under consideration provisions to deal with trade practices relating to ocean shipping, intending that these provisions would be introduced later. He said -
The Bill I have just introduced contains the additional provisions which the Government has concluded are needed to bring overseas shipping between Australia and other countries under appropriate control.
Pending the enactment of these additional provisions, the carriage of goods by sea between Australia and places outside Australia is subject to the Australian Industries Preservation Act and is exempt from the Trade Practices Act 1965. This Bill provides for the amendment of the Trade Practices Act 1965 by the inclusion of a number of provisions applying specially to the overseas carriage of goods. These new provisions will apply to the overseas carriage of goods to the exclusion of the general provisions in the principal Act and of the Australian Industries Preservation Act, which is to be repealed as from the date when the new provisions are proclaimed to come into operation.
Provision is made in the principal Act for the Trade Practices Tribunal to make determinations as to whether particular agreements or practices are contrary to the public interest. The Opposition supported that legislation with some reluctance, feeling that it was better than nothing. It is well known that under pressure from vested interests the proposed legislation of the former Attorney-General, Sir Garfield Barwick, had been watered down considerably by his successor, the present AttorneyGeneral. However, it was better than nothing and consequently the Opposition supported it, hoping that some good would come of it. In the same way, we shall support this amendment to the Trade Practices Act. We do not consider that it is the answer to our shipping problems but it is better than nothing. Let us hope it will achieve the results claimed for it.
The only effective and practical approach to our shocking shipping story, in the opinion of the Opposition, is to have our own shipping line competing with the overseas shipping combine. The only period during which the interests of our people have not been plundered by overseas shipping interests was when Australia had its own Commonwealth Line of Steamers. The rackets extended back to the time before Australia was a nation and if we examine the newspaper files and supplementary economic information we get an eloquent story of what happened in those days. When exports were limited to primary products, the shipping combines extracted every penny that they could. When a few secondary industries were established, they extracted extortionate profits from imports. That procedure has been followed ever since. The Australian Labour Party, in its policy in the 1914 election campaign, promised to fight the shipping companies. This policy was expressed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech of 8th October 1914 in these terms -
My advisers are in favour of a line of Commonwealth steamers, and steps towards that end will be taken as soon as possible.
When the Hughes Labour Government assumed office, we were at war. The patriotism of the shipping companies was revealed when they raised their freights from Australia to England from 47s. 6d. to 105s. a ton, although the British Government was carrying the war risk on the ships. The Australian Shipping Board did not correct the position. Instead, as its members were all representatives of private shipping interests, freights rose alarmingly. Prior to the 1914-18 war, freight on wheat was 30s. a ton. It rose to £15 a lon. Lord Inchcape was responsible for forming a shipping monopoly to dictate fares and freights. His policy was copied in the United States by Pierpont Morgan, who said, at a dinner tendered to him by the shipping trust -
We are advanced Socialists. We have discovered that combination, not competition, means success in trade, and we are going to take the profits of combination until the people are sufficiently intelligent to take the profits for themselves.
I suggest to the Attorney-General, who is at the table, that there is food for thought as far as the Government is concerned. The monopolies and combines of today could be paving the way for the Socialism of tomorrow. It is well and truly known how combinations are coming in and swallowing smaller companies and gradually these concerns are becoming concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.
In 1916 Prime Minister Hughes bought a fleet of 15 cargo vessels for just over £2 million. The Austral Line was augmented by another 21 ex-enemy vessels. They were then combined in the Commonwealth Line and made a profit of nearly £6 million. Freights charged by other ship owners were reduced by 50 per cent. The ownership of the national fleet stimulated the Australian shipbuilding industry. In 1919 ships of Australian construction began to join the Commonwealth fleet. Senator Reid, who was a Conservative or Nationalist - I think that was the term at that time - is reported in these terms at page 1969, volume 100 of “ Hansard “-
The excellent quality of Australian ships is admitted by everybody concerned, even by those opposed to Government control and Cockatoo Island.
He, of course, was a member of the Government Parties. Government construction costs were about £30 a ton compared with £36 elsewhere. In 1921 over 3,000 men were employed in the shipbuilding industry in Australia.
From the time of the establishment of the Commonwealth Line, Lord Inchcape and his shipping conference fought strenuously for its destruction. William Morris Hughes was one of those who fought against the interests of monopoly. He had left the Labour Party by this time, but that did not stop him from living up to this great principle. He said -
Except for the Commonwealth Line there is no way to the markets of the world save at the price that the great combines’ lines determine.
That is equally true today.
In 1921, the Bruce-Page Government came into office and that was the beginning of the end of the Commonwealth Line. The Commonwealth Shipping Act of 1923 placed the fleet and the dockyards in the hands of a board of three members who had power to sell, subject to the approval of the Treasurer who, incidentally, was Mr. S. M. Bruce. In order to make its fate certain, Bruce taxed the fleet while he continued to subsidise its rivals. The ships began to be sold at bargain prices. Eleven Austral ships were sold at half their market value. By 1927 all that was left were seven of the 54 vessels of the Commonwealth fleet. Finally the Dale and Bay ships were sold. They cost over £7.5 million to build and they were sold to the shipping conference for £1.9 million, to bc paid by instalments. Lord Kylsant, who acted for the shipping combine, conveniently became bankrupt and Australia finally received £580,000 for the ships.
So Australia was again at the mercy of the overseas shipping monopolies’ unfair and exorbitant freight rates which have been imposed on both exports and imports ever since. The harm that has been done to Australia’s cost structure as a result of the disposal of the Commonwealth Line must be clear to all. The formula on which freight rales are charged is based, as we all know, on the cost plus system. The ship owners cannot lose. The Labour Parly’s policy provides for the establishment of an overseas shipping line in addition to the existing coastal shipping line. Australia is one of the largest trading nations in the world, but we are the only one of the important ones that has not any ships to compete in overseas trade. We are wholly in the hands of overseas interests. We cannot afford to leave our trade in the hands of British and European interests, where it is at the present time. The remedy that is so desperately needed should be clear to any thinking Australian who has the welfare of his country at heart.
In the view of the Labour Party, we must immediately commence an extensive shipbuilding programme. We must expand our present shipbuilding yards and construct new ones. We must buy suitable ships that may be offering at reasonable prices to restore the Commonwealth shipping line. We must charter suitable vessels that may be available to commence competition with overseas shipping interests.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr.
Mackinnon). - Order! I think the honorable member might relate his speech to the Bill before the House.
– We are dealing with freight rates.
– The honorable member has not mentioned trade practices so far.
– Yes, I did in my earlier remarks. I am just winding up this bit. J am certainly going to deal extensively with the Bill itself and just want to point out that private enterprise in Australia will not provide these facilities. So in my view the Australian Government has to step in and do the job. Surely I would be justified in mentioning the increases in freights that have occurred in recent years. The serious increases in freight charges on overseas trade are adversely affecting our national economy. Rates on wool and refrigerated cargoes have risen by over 100 per cent, since 1949. The annual freight on Australian exports and imports has climbed to a staggering $600 million a year. This, of course, was stated by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) and was reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “’ of 10th May 1966. I repeat that the Labour Party’s policy provides for modern shipping services to be maintained by Australian built, owned and manned ships, and for this purpose Labour would expand the Commonwealth owned shipping service. The Tariff Board is continually emphasising the question of transport costs in its annual reports, and. of course, it refers also to restrictive trade practices, in regard to not only overseas freights but also to freights within Australia. For example I draw attention to this statement in the Tariff Board’s annual report for 1962-63 -
Fluctuations in shipping freight rates, together with the height of internal transport costs, are of continuing concern to the Board.
At page 6 of its annual report for 1964-65 the Board makes further reference to this very important matter. This is another example of what is contained in the reports of the Tariff Board -
Sea freight rates charged by private shipping companies for interstate cargo were increased by between 2.5 per cent, and 5 per cent. There were no general increases in freight rates charged by the Australian National Line.
There is ample evidence of restrictive trade practices on the part of the shipping combines. For example, the Western Australian Chamber of Manufactures wants a review of shipping rates. The following statement was published in the “ West Australian “ of 4th August 1966 -
An urgent reassessment of shipping freight rates between Western Australia and European ports was urged yesterday by the Director of the Perth Chamber of Commerce, Mr. P. C. Firkins.
The article went on -
They were more than 2,000 miles closer to Europe than the most eastern part of Australia, yet they paid the same freight rates for inward and outward cargoes.
Mr. Firkins was referring, of course, to the port of Fremantle. He went on -
The shippers’ group at the container-system conference in May had expressed concern at the new moves being considered by the shipping companies.
The shippers’ group had itself to blame for many of the problems Australia now faced in increasing freight’ costs. “ lt has for many years had the responsibility of negotiating export freight rates with the various conference lines on behalf of Australian shipper interests,” he said. “This function has not been performed with distinction. “The port of Fremantle is the most efficiently run and highly mechanised in Australia, with a minimum of labour problems. It seems unjust that we are forced to pay for inefficiencies in some other Australian ports.”
Mr. Firkins urged the State government, industry and commerce to take action on the uniform freight rate system. I
Surely there we have an example of some form of restrictive trade practice. Why is it that the same freight rates should be charged for transporting cargo to the port of Fremantle, which is 2,000 miles closer than the eastern Australian ports to the port from which the cargo comes? Here is i another example of this practice, lt was published on 25th July 1966 and reads -
Freight Rise Worries Producers. “ Australian exports of primary products were likely to decrease because of the announcement that European shipping interests intend to seek higher freight rates,” the Secretary of the Australian Primary Producers’ Union, Mr. Clifford, said tonight.
The report went on to say -
Freight rates between Australia and Europe were expected to go up by 7.2 per cent. . . .
Estimates of a 15 per cent, increase in refrigerated cargo rates were frightening lo contemplate and, if put into effect, would have disastrous consequences on the industries involved. Mr. Clifford said, the formula was based on a return of 8 per cent, on the capital of shipping companies.
Again, the “ West Australian “ made some comment on freights in an editorial headed “ Overseas freights are increasing problem.” It said -
The average freight rise of 7.2 per cent, sought by the British and Continental conference lines operating ships to and from Australia comes on top of the 6.6 per cent, rise last year. This means an increase’ of nearly 14 per cent, in two years, and costs are still moving up. The Australian Exporters Committee will contest the present 7.2 per cent, claim, but under the agreed cost formula the overseas ship owners are guaranteed a return of 8 per cent, on capital used in the two-way Australian trade. Their figures have the support of independent auditing.
The Australian negotiating position has yet to be strengthened by the Federal Government’s proposal to include shipping in its restrictive practices legislation. But in view of Australia-wide concern over the mounting costs the shipowners might be prepared to defer at least some of the increase because of the prospective savings from the Trade Department’s rationalisation scheme, though it will not come into operation until September.
Australia’s freight bill for exports and imports is now nearly $600,000,000 a year and rising. This adds to the competitive cost of our goods and the 70 per cent, of the total that goes in foreign exchange is a serious debit in the balance of payments.
In the long view a counterweight might be provided by re-establishment of an Australian overseas shipping line. The practical arguments used against such a venture up to now are that it would be much more expensive than current freight costs. This is because, in addition to the capital outlay, a big government subsidy would be needed to make the line competitive under the manning requirements of the Australian Navigation Act.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER__ Order! I think the honorable member is getting very wide of the Trade Practices Bill. He is making a very interesting speech on shipping lines.
– With respect, Sir. I submit that the question of shipping freights is surely relevant to the Bill.
– How docs the honorable member propose to connect his remarks to the Bill?
– I said in my opening remarks on behalf of the Opposition that, while we were supporting this legislation, it was our view that it is not the answer to the problem. We think the only way to overcome the problem is to compete with the overseas shipping interests and in this way bring down freights. I am showing how I consider we can do this.
– Order! Does the honorable member, speaking on behalf of the Opposition, feel that the shipping question is the only one involved?
– I do not say that at all. I shall deal with some of the other aspects afterwards. I submit that what I am saying is a reasonable argument to put to the
Parliament and I am hoping that the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) and the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), who have already expressed their views with relation to shipping freights, will take notice of what I am saying and possibly do something about it. For example, the article from which I am reading says this in support of the establishment of an Australian owned overseas line.
Modern developments, however, are changing the picture. Automated ship operation has brought a big reduction in crew costs. Bigger ships need fewer men to sail them and this means greatly reduced costs a ton of cargo. At the same time, the container system and automation ashore bring cheaper cargo-handling in the ports.
These labour savings are of special significance under Australian conditions. The possibilities are worth a searching official investigation.
In other words, that editorial is suggesting, in answer to the argument that Australia cannot compete with overseas shipping interests, that a situation has now arisen where, because of automated wharves, because of containerisation and because of the fact that fewer men will be needed to man the newer types of ships, freights can be reduced, since it will be cheaper to run our own ships. This is all related to the same question. I draw attention also to the following statement by the President of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, Mr. Picker -
Increases in freight rates constituted a serious threat to Australia’s export marketing future. “ Industry, both primary and secondary, is already placed in a difficult position in its effort’s to compete on the international market due to high production costs,” he said.
This latest scries of freight rises, with more being hinted at, creates an almost intolerable position for exporters.
Mr. Picken said the worst feature of the situation was that the costs which were forcing Australian products off the export list were beyond the control of manufacturers and producers being affected.
On the surface, the suggestion that Australia should have its own shipping line seems logical. We have certainly reached the stage of international importance which would indicate such an innovation.
The Minister for Trade and Industry has drawn attention to our freight bill of almost $600 million a year. I do not wish to quote in detail what he said but the headline above a report of his speech stated: “ Crisis Ahead in Shipping “. I regret that the Budget contains no provision of finance to establish an overseas national shipping line. Australia is at the mercy of the overseas shipping interests I have mentioned and it is in the interests of our export trade that their grip should be broken. Our dependence on overseas shipping companies demands action by the Government. Shipping charges are costing Australia about S6 million a week, which represents a serious debit in our balance of payments. Surely the Government must be considering this matter. A report published on 9th September 1965 of a statement made by the then Treasurer is headed: “ Australian Shipping Line urged by Treasurer “. It is true that he had second thoughts about the matter later and a report of a subsequent statement made by him was headed: “ Shipping Line a Hope Only “. Still, he had it in mind and he must be very concerned about the freights charged on our overseas shipments.
The proposal that Australia should have a national shipping line brings forth a cry from some Government supporters that the cost would be prohibitive. They say that the cost of building vessels in Australia and manning and servicing them here would be such an enormous burden that Australia’s ability to trade would suffer dire consequences. This argument completely ignores many relevant factors. Vessels of all the major trading nations of the world ply to our coast. Vessels come from England, America, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Holland, France, Italy, Russia, Canada, Japan, India and Greece. I have not been able to obtain the wage rates applicable to seamen from all the countries I have named, but I shall cite some of them. An American able seaman receives £A179 16s. a month. An able seaman from Denmark receives £A98 a month. An Australian able seaman receives £74 2s. 7d. A New Zealand able seaman, after benefits are taken into account, is paid within £1 a month of the rate of the Australian able seaman. The “ Fairplay Shipbuilding and Shipping Journal “ of 25th July 1963 stated that an English able seaman received £A48 1 5s. a month, plus £A1 5s. efficiency pay, making a total of £A50 a month. Vessels from those countries, together wilh Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, German and Canadian vessels are run in direct competition with Japanese ships and with English ships employing Chinese and Indian crews. The manner of meeting the competition is determined by a number of factors which include efficiency of operation and government policies.
Many governments have decided that the operation of nationally owned fleets is fundamental to the independence of their countries and to their defence efforts. Either they own the fleets or they assist private enterprise. In many cases, governments own a majority of shares in shipping companies. The policy is based on the need to preserve and develop trade. By retaining a measure of control over freight charges a country can prevent competitors from forcing it out of the world’s markets by increasing freight charges. The always possible necessity to move troops in time of war is also an important consideration.
Soon after India acquired independence it established its own international fleet. Most of the newly independent African countries have done the same. The “ Shipbuilding and Shipping Record “ of 19th September 1 963 reported that Russia was building a massive national fleet of merchant ships and in a few years would be one of the world’s foremost sea powers. From 1 954 to 1960 the Russian fleet increased at the rate of nearly 450,000 tons dead weight a year, and in 1961-62 it increased by nearly one million tons.
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks are rather remote from the Bill before the House. He is making a very interesting speech but it has nothing to do with the Trade Practices Bill.
– If it has nothing to do wilh the Trade Practices Bill, why are freights mentioned in the Bill?
– Freights arc relevant to trade practices but ownership of shipping lines is not.
– The title of the Bill is fairly clear. I do not wish to enter into a discussion with you about your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it seems clear to me that the debate is rather open. The title reads -
To amend the Trade Practices Act 1.965 for the purpose of controlling the operations of shipping conferences in relation to the carriage of goods by sea from Australia to other countries, and for related purposes.
Surely that is wide enough. If I wished, I could refer honorable members to references in the Minister’s second reading speech which relate to many of the details I am giving.
– I think the honorable member is being disrespectful.
– The honorable member may think that, but I do not intend to be disrespectful. I have every respect for Mr. Deputy Speaker and now that I have convinced him I am right, I am quite satisfied that the debate will continue in an orderly fashion. American shipping interests have complained that the rate of construction in the United States of America was not nearly as great as it was in Russia. In the past the United States of America realised the importance of a nationally owned fleet. The United States of America Government is part owner of the President Line and it heavily subsidises shipping, in the national interest. The United States of America Federal Maritime Board has set out the type and extent of subsidies paid to shipping. It has pointed out that of 526 ships operating in foreign trade at the beginning of 1960, 305 - more than half - were subsidised. A report by the Board stated -
Of 939 U.S.-flag ships in active service at the beginning of 1960, more than half (about 526 ships) were operating in foreign trade, and of these, 305, or more than half, were subsidised. If the subsidy programme were discontinued, many of these ships would probably have to be laid up or transferred to foreign ownership, depriving us not only of the ships but also the managerial and technical skills required to operate an adequate American merchant marine.
In setting out its objectives in assisting its national fleets, the United States Government has stated -
These objectives are to provide for the development and promotion of an American merchant marine -
Sufficient to carry the domestic waterborne commerce and a substantial portion of the foreign commerce of the country.
Capable of serving as a naval auxiliary in time of war.
Owned by and operated under the United
States flag by citizens of the United States.
Composed nf the best equipped, safest and most suitable types of vessels, and
Manned by trained and efficient citizens of the United Stales.
Surely these objectives contain a lesson to be learned by the Australian Government.
Canada also has seen the need to protect its trade. The “ Shipbuilding and Shipping Record” of 11th July 1963 refers to the success of the Canadian subsidy plan. In addition to subsidies already being paid, the Japanese Government in 1963 took additional action to assist shipping. I have here a document which sets out the various forms of subsidies that are paid in other countries, and the methods of assisting the shipping industry. It names the countries and the different types of subsidy and assistance. There is a construction subsidy, an operating subsidy, tax benefits, depreciation allowances, loans, interest allowances and some others. The AttorneyGeneral stated that whilst the general provisions of the legislation will be administered by his Department the shipping provisions will be administered by the Minister for Trade and Industry. The Minister for Trade and Industry, of course, as I have said, has already expressed concern about our ever increasing shipping freights. He has. however, expressed opposition to Australia operating its own shipping line. Let us hope that he will change his view because surely now is the time, when our ports are being prepared for containerisation, for us to establish such a line. Automation will make it possible to reduce costs. Fewer men will be needed to man the ships and to load and unload them. Surely now is the time for us to do something about an Australian shipping line.
The Attorney-General drew a distinction between tramps and bulk carriers and overseas cargo shipping operated by shipping conferences. Referring to tramps he said -
The other class of overseas cargo shipping is conducted within liner conferences. There are associations of shipowners which collectively provide regular scheduled services on particular trade routes’. The cargo carried by the liner ships is made up of the consignments of any shippers who choose to use the service. In order to provide their regular services, the shipowners enter into rationalisation arrangements amongst themselves under which they pool their resources, apportion the traffic and charge uniform freight rates. In the Bill, such an arrangement is referred to as a conference agreement, and the agreements covered by that expression are indicated in the proposed section 90C.
At long last we find that the Government has decided to take some action against the overseas shipping combines which, of course, have been taking quite a considerable amount of Australia’s freights for many years. The Attorney-General pointed out also that there were open and closed conferences but that there was no competition in regard to any freight rates in any conference. The shipowners, in fact, have it pretty well their own way. He pointed out also that section 7C. of the Australian Industries Preservation Act related specifically to liner cargo shipping from Australia. This section exempts from the offence provisions of that Act agreements between shipowners and shippers for carriage of goods to other countries, if the agreements have been approved by the Australian Overseas Transport Association. That body, of course, consists of representatives of the Conference and representatives of the shippers. They negotiate on freight rates and I am afraid the shippers have not performed their functions with distinction. The 8 per cent, formula applies as we know and consequently it seems to be only a matter of form when negotiations take place. The Attorney-General recognised this to some extent when he said -
The Government believes that lt is desirable that, wherever possible, the terms and conditions on all of our liner routes should be reached through a process of commercial negotiations between, on the one hand, representatives of the relevant conference and, on the other, a strong shipper body representative of the relevant shippers. However, the Government also recognises the need for provisions enabling appropriate governmental action to deal with situations where the negotiation process does not operate satisfactorily, and for provisions which will promote the improved organisation upon which better freight rates depend. The present Bill gives effect to these conclusions.
I have a copy of an article under the heading of “ The Conference System “ which outlines the systems which the shipping combines use. It contains the following statement -
The older of the two lying systems is the deferred rebate. Under this system a shipper who has not employed a non-conference ship for twelve months receives a refund at the end of the period of part, usually 10 per cent., qf his freight payments in the first six months of that period. The price of sending a shipment by a non-conference ship is the loss of any rebate earned to date in the current half year, plus any rebate due from the previous half year.
The article goes on to say -
The system has been widely attacked. In the United Stales it was outlawed by the 1916 Act following (he recommendation of the Alexander Committee. … In the South African trade an Act of 1911 prevents liner companies who operate a deferred rebate system from holding mail contracts.
The second type of tie is the contract, or dual rale, system which is generally used by those conferences which are debarred from using deferred rebates and is offered by many conferences as an alternative to deferred rebates. Under this system the shipper and the shipowners enter a contract under which the former agrees to send all his shipments by the conference lines for the contract period.
A third method of preventing the encroachment of outsiders is the use of fighting ships- When a non-conference ship enters a trade, the conference lines may pool their resources to provide a ship on berth to match the sailing lime of the interloper and to cut rates below those quoted by the non-conference operator. In this way, the collective resources of the conference are used to break the non-conference operator. . . Fighting ships were outlawed in the United Stales by the 1916 legislation; fighting ships and deferred rebates were thought of as two great predatory weapons.
I think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that a bad feature of the Bill is contained in Division 2 which provides for the filing of conference agreements. Clause 90J provides for the clerk of shipping agreements to file the agreements. The AttorneyGeneral has said that the public will not have access to these. The information will be available only to the administering authorities. The Opposition is of the opinion that these agreements should be available to other interested persons or bodies. Particularly do we claim that they should be available to the Opposition.
Some time ago the United States Federal Maritime Commission issued an ultimatum to the shipping conferences. An article dealing with the matter appeared in “The Economist” of 11th April 1964. The following question was posed -
Do secretive shipping conferences really deserve the support of European governments against America’s attempt to find out what they are up to?
It is interesting to read some extracts from this article. For instance one section reads as follows -
Suspicion of liner conferences is a consistent throat in American policy. Fifty years ago the Alexander Committee reported that these agreements between shipowners to limit competition in a trade, chiefly by fixing rates, needed to bc controlled by Government action.
The article goes on -
All, however, find obnoxious the secrecy surrounding conference rate structures and the complex system of rebates allowed to shippers who have signed loyalty contracts. The I.A.T.A. airline cartel is at least public and non-discriminatory. The Americans are suspicious, and rightly, of cartels that have a whole superstructure of verbal agreements too secret even to be committed to paper, balanced on top of written agreements that are closely guarded secrets. . . . The Bonner Committee had been concerned mainly with the broad issues of conference control; there was also the Celler Anti-Trust Committee that was more concerned with the dirty linen of conference operation. What that Committee uncovered was more than enough to suggest that conference lines fall some way short of the standards of business morality that they claim.
The article says, further -
For the past 90 years the conferences have expected the world to accept without question the answers they have given; there is no reason why the world should. Questions can, and should, be asked about all aspects of rate fixing policy, about rebate provisions and the behaviour of -lines within their schedules and agreements. It is just not true, for example, to say that conferences do not discriminate. Big shippers do get better rates than small shippers in the sense that where they are shipping different goods those from the big shipper are likely to carry a lower share of the overheads than can be explained on any grounds other than bargaining power. Big shippers can also break their conference agreements nol to use nonconference ships without losing their rebates, while if a small shipper uses non-conference vessels he will find his “ loyally discount “ cancelled.
A similar reference, to be found in the “Economist” of 5th September 1964, reads as follows -
Shipping conferences are formed by groups of shipping companies specialising in the same sort of trade - i.e., passengers or cargo - on the same route. They quote the same rates and the same conditions of carriage for similar cargo while competing for services offered to shippers. If this sounds like an old fashioned’, embattled cartel, this is precisely what the shipping conferences are. There are more than 300 of them, covering most of the major trade routes. They have existed for the better part of a century, brought into being to check some fairly suicidal bouts of price cutting. At a time when even most liberal economists accept the necessity for some form of regulation of competition in transport, the basic aims of the conferences are by no means disreputable, any more than the licensing of road haulage or the International Air Transport Association. But liberal economists might also argue that if price competition - as in this case - has to be deliberately curtailed then it must be regulated, or at least supervised by governments to prevent abuse. It is with this instinct that the shipping companies are totally out of sympathy. They cannot see any reason why they should not be left in complete liberty to manipulate their own rates and look after their own affairs. And not entirely through a desire to preserve cartel practices which they believe are utterly justified, or to withstand American pressure intended mainly to bolster even more ils high-cost subsidised and uncompetitive merchant marine. It is because they see this as one more move - and from the world’s most powerful champion of free enterprise - to torpedo their traditional “ freedom of the seas “.
Of course there has been some opposition to this restrictive trade practices legislation by overseas shipping companies. One of the first protests came in the annual report of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.. which claimed that the proposals introduced uncertainty into the relations between the shipowners and shippers in the Australian trade. One can understand this company’s strong objection to any legislation, no matter how weak it is, if it is going to affect its profits and the control of its business. I repeat that, while we are not opposing this Bill, the Opposition is of the opinion that the only answer is to have our own Commonwealth line of ships.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This is a Bill for an Act to amend the Trade Practices Act 1965, for the purpose of controlling the operations of shipping conferences in relation to the carriage of goods by sea from Australia to other countries, and for related purposes. I thought it advisable to state that because, after listening to the speech of the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) an outsider could easily come to the conclusion that this was a debate upon whether or not the country should establish its own shipping line or, if not that, then possibly that it was a debate as to whether or. not the ships that come to Australia should be sunk. I would have come to the conclusion, speaking for myself - and I speak only for myself as usual - that the honorable gentleman does not like the people who operate ships which come to Australia. I have never been under any illusion about the honorable gentleman. I would never have described him as being a fierce and vigorous supporter of free enterprise. But if there was any lingering doubt in my mind at all - I do not want to upset him - that doubt has been rudely shattered this evening. As I listened to him I kept saying to myself “ Well, here he is.
Harry is in his heaven. He is having a field day as far as shipping companies are concerned “.
The honorable gentleman, on occasions, appears to me to be a reasonable individual and I want to put this proposition to him: Suppose that 1 said to him “ My dear friend, will you invest all the money you have and expect to get a return of 2.6 per cent.? “ If I were to put that proposition to him and if we were to think of the Webb millions invested at 2.6 per cent., I think he would spurn it like a shot. But that is what he is saying of one of the largest shipping companies in the world, a company to which he came - I thought by accident - towards the end of his speech. I refer to the P. & O.-Orient line. Apparently - I suppose it is quite settled - all the directors of the P. & O.-Orient company, wherever they may be, would be lined up and shot at dawn if the honorable gentleman had his way. He has denounced them in fierce language - in what I thought was rather unkind language - as sponsors of cartels and as monopolists. These horrible people want to make a profit, as though the honorable gentleman sees something wrong with making a profit. No doubt he does, but in my view any person who despises a profit is either a fool or a potential bankrupt, and I hesitate to categorise the honorable gentleman. It so happens that the capital investment of the P. & O.-Orient line last year was £212 million and the return, before tax, was £5.4 million. That is 2.6 per cent. The honorable member should do a little homework on this. If he does he will see that it was a 2.6 per cent, return on capital. If I were to ask the honorable gentleman to invest his money at 2.6 per cent. I would expect at least to wring a grizzle from him, even if I wrung nothing else.
At the beginning of his splendidly prepared notes on the Bill he referred to the Trade Practices Act. My learned friend the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) is sitting at the table and I am certainly not going to exhume the old controversy about trade practices even if I thought it would meet with general agreement. But I am going to make at least a few fleeting remarks about the trade practices amending bill and 1 hope nobody will be disturbed by them. But let me come back to the honorable member for Stirling. He referred to the
Trade Practices Act and said that these weird people got at the Attorney-General and had it watered down. “ Vested interests “ was the exotic term he used. I have been here long enough to know that you should make your stand here so that people can agree or disagree with you, because you will find people with an infinite desire to misrepresent what you have in mind. 1 do not want to be misrepresented or misunderstood so early in this sessional period, so I again state my attitude towards trade practices and restrictive practices. If they are there and they are injurious to the public interest and to the community I believe they should be controlled, but my quarrel with my friend the Attorney-General, as he well knows, is as to the method of control. That argument has gone, but nevertheless, it is revived on this occasion, because 1 have no enthusiasm for the suggested method of controlling trade practices with respect to shipping interests and 1 hope that as I outline my argument the honorable gentleman will find himself if not in agreement with me at least receptive of the arguments I put.
Let me return to the honorable member for Stirling. He said that vested interests had had the Trade Practices Act watered down. I put it to the honorable gentleman, without any anger at all, that there is no industry in Australia that cannot be touched, and, indeed, controlled, by this legislation if the tribunal and the Commissioner for Trade Practices have a mind to that end. But, Sir, he said in his enthusiastic acceptance of this amending Bill: “ Oh, well, it is better than nothing”. Then he said that what we need is our own shipping line. I well understand that sort of nationalist spirit which says that this country should have its own shipping line. This is intelligible to me. But may I invite him to pause to consider the ramifications which would be involved, quite apart from the capital outlay for, say, 200 ships which we would need to carry half of our exports. Would it be £300 million? There would not be much change from that. What about the effect upon this country of the severance of the money now spent here by ships which come to Australia? That would be of the order of £85 million or £90 million. And so the cost goes up and up. What may appear to be sound national sentiment can, on inquiry and examination, appear, and indeed emerge, to be poor economics. But I leave that because I want to turn to the Bill, upon which the honorable gentleman touched on occasions.
This Bill is a superb piece of drafting and I admire greatly the ingenuity behind it. I do not want to offend any of the professional officers involved in its drafting, but I strongly suspect that they have Irish origin because the Bill is connected with trade practices yet, for the greater part, it is not susceptible to the trade practices machinery that was set up. The honorable and learned Attorney-General gave the reason in his second reading speech. Perhaps I may be excused if I do not accept his argument. He said he felt that because this was such a large business, it should not be regulated by a Trade Practices Tribunal but should be controlled by the Government. This is the central argument to which I want to direct my attention in the time at my disposal.
The parties who are involved in the administering of this legislation are, first, the Minister and I shall be saying something about the term “ the Minister “ in a moment or two. Secondly, there are the parties who emerge in the conference; that is to say, the shipowners and shippers who determine and agree to a shipping agreement; thirdly, the Governor General; and fourthly, the Trade Practices Tribunal which in a peripheral way is involved with respect to this legislation. I am puzzled for a start that the legislation does not say which Minister. The Attorney-General made it clear that this part of the Act will be administered by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen).
– If I may interrupt to give the answer, there is an administrative orders provision which determines which part of the Act is administered by which Minister, and an administrative order will require Part XA. to be administered by the Minister for Trade and Industry.
– If I may continue in this conversational way, Sir, when will we have this administrative order before us?
– Until the Bill is passed, of course, there can be no provision for an administrative order. When it is passed that will be done.
– I understand that. Because my curiosity was aroused, I looked at the term “ the Minister “ and I thought in ali simplicity that this could be the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I should have thought it would have been a reasonable assumption that the Minister for Shipping and Transport would administer that part of the trade practices provisions dealing with shipping, but the honorable gentleman made that clear in his second reading speech. I am now grateful to him for having cleared up this doubt which was in my mind.
We come then to the second parlies to this Part of the Act; that is, the shipowners and the shippers. There is no ambiguity about that. Then we come to the third party, the Governor-General. Of course, nobody imagines that Lord Casey is going to be intimately involved in this and one sees that the party there is the Executive - the Government. Where the provision in the Bill, for example in proposed sub-section 90n. (c), says “the Governor-General is satisfied “, with infinite respect to Lord Casey.
– I beg your pardon. The Governor-General will not be personally concerned. I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I have in any way infringed the rules of the House, but I wanted to make the position clear. What is clear from this amending Bill is that the Minister - that is, the Minister to be appointed under the administrative order- *-
– Under the administrative arrangements order.
– Yes, there is some compendious description. The Minister to be appointed will be equipped with substantial discretions. This comes back to the complaint I made when the Trade Practices Act was before the House. I disagreed then, and I still disagree, with the proposition that discretions should be handed to a tribunal. That is my first complaint. I disagree still further when discretions are to be handed to a minister. In this respect I feel that the Bill is lacking in the sort of character of legislation that I would expect and that I most certainly would support. If the AttorneyGeneral and the Government in their corporate wit could get rid of handing over to tribunals and to ministers these discretions then I would not raise my voice in protest at all, but the susceptibility of government to succumb to the temptation to want to whittle away the powers of the Parliament is, to my mind, both pernicious and alarming, and this legislation is a clear illustration of it.
Let me make it clear that so far as the Minister for Trade and Industry is concerned, while the present Minister is occupying that position I would have little complaint, but the right honorable gentleman is not indestructible. He is undoubtedly resilient but he remains mortal and when he passes from this Parliament or retires who is to be the succeeding Minister to wield these greater discretions? These are the considerations that exercise my mind.
If I may now deal with what seem to me to be the really substantial parts of this amending Bill I turn to proposed new sections 90m, 90n and 90p. These are the provisions that relate to an agreement that comes into being via the conference and which is filed. If the Minister of the day excites some disapproval of the nature of the agreement or promotes it, then that agreement can be disapproved of. How does this work? These are the steps as I see them. The Minister may refer part of an agreement to the Trade Practices Tribunal. Strangely enough he is not obliged to refer the whole question to the Tribunal. Under proposed section 90x the Minister may refer to the Tribunal for inquiry and report any matter relevant to the exercise of the power of the Governor-General to make an order upon a ground specified in paragraph (c) of proposed section 90n. The other part of section 90x, while relevant, is not immediately relevant for the purposes of my argument.
If one refers to section 90n one finds that the agreements that may be disapproved of are described. First, the GovernorGeneral - that is, the Executive Government - may, by order, disapprove a conference agreement, whether or not particulars of the agreement have been furnished to the clerk, on a ground specified in the order. The grounds are set out. The first ground is simply that the conference has failed to provide the name of an agent and his address for the purposes of the Act. This is not of any great importance. The second ground is that there has been a failure to comply with a request for the giving of an undertaking made by the Minister under the last preceding section. That section deals with the general power to intervene to order a participation in negotiations. The really important part of section 90n is paragraph (c) which has three headings. The first relates to where there has been a failure to comply with an undertaking. If I may, I will paraphrase the second and third headings. Where the efficiency, the economy or the adequacy of an agreement is under challenge, and again where (he agreement hinders efficiency in some respect, the agreement can be disapproved.
The manner in which it can be disapproved does not command my support. I put it to the Attorney-General again so that there will be no doubt in his mind. If a practice is injurious to the community, by all means strike ‘it out, but I do not find myself at all excited by the way in which the Government proposes that this should be done. A referral is made to the Tribunal to consider some aspect. Then the Tribunal reports to the Minister - that is, the Minister for Trade and Industry. After that has been done, the report is considered. Considered by whom? Considered by the GovernorGeneral. That is to say, considered by the Executive Council. The condition precedent is the submission of a report to the Minister by the Tribunal. But there is no obligation upon the Government to accept the report of the Tribunal. The submission I put to the Attorney is that, if there is a referral to the Tribunal by the Minister of some aspect of an agreement and the representatives of the conference go before the Tribunal, put their argument and satisfy the Tribunal, and the Tribunal reports accordingly that the agreement or the parts of it that have been referred to it in no way offend the good sense of conduct of business or outrage the Australian interest, as the Tribunal sees it, the Government is not obliged to accept the report. AH the Government has to do, I submit - I hope the Attorney will consider this when the Bill is in the Committee stage - is to consider the report and then it may make its own judgment on what may happen. My friend may ask: “ ls it not unreal to suggest that, if the Tribunal makes a report upon a matter, we would reject it?” I have known of reports to be made by bodies outside the Parliament and to be rejected. One that leaps readily to my mind is the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in respect of television licences in Queensland. The Board recommended that one licence be granted. The Government rejected the report of the Board and plumped for two and in the outcome two licences were granted.
I ask the Attorney-General to consider the terms of the use of the discretion by the Government. In the hands of this Government, the discretion does not matter very greatly, 1 feel, other than that the Government is being equipped with this sort of discretion and I believe it ought not to be so equipped. On a point of principle, I object to this discretion being given to the Government. Let me put this to my friend. The criteria to be observed in proposed new section 90N (c) (ii) are “ efficient, economical and adequate “. These are most imprecise adjectives. They may have one meaning for the Tribunal and an entirely different meaning for the Government. Governments are made up of people not always trained, or indeed disposed on all occasions, to consider matters objectively. Even though the Tribunal may report upon a matter, and may submit an impressive report, the Government for some reasons that are not disclosed may reject the report out of hand. I hope that the House will not let this sort of legislation go unnoticed, because it raises a very important consideration.
But what if the report is in fact rejected by the Government. There is a requirement under proposed new section 90ZB that the report shall be published. If the party to the agreement finds that it has been successful before the Tribunal and has convinced it, but the Government has overruled the report, the only satisfaction it may gain is to purhase a copy of the report of the Tribunal. This is small solace, I would suggest. But there is one other consideration that I hope the Attorney-General and the Government will look at, if not in this House then in another place. The moment an agreement is disapproved of, it becomes unenforceable. There may be collateral aspects and indeed substantial aspects of parts of an agreement that cannot be summarily or instantly cut off. But, nevertheless, if the parties to the agreement go on and seek to give effect to the agreement, they expose themselves to a fine of $50,000.
Who determines the offence? It is not the Tribunal. There is no objective criteria. If the government of the day disapproves of an agreement because it is inefficient, not economical, and not adequate, instantly that agreement is not enforceable and if any part of it is sought to be brought into being, that is an offence which carries with it a $50,000 fine. I put it to the Attorney-General that this is a field or character of legislation that one finds very difficult indeed to admire.
The Government admittedly may take the view or may assume that it has some sense of perpetuity. But what one may think is justified may not always be realised. What if we were to hand over this sort of power to a socialist government? Well, after having listened to the speech that came from the honorable member for Stirling - and the honorable member nods his head in agreement - 1 think I may say that the honorable member can sec at once a way in which every shipping company that comes to Australia could be controlled indirectly, lt may well be that this Parliament has no plenary power to legislate with respect to nationalisation of shipping companies. But here, I suggest, is a way in which this may well be achieved indirectly.
What really perturbs me is that there is no system of appeal. No right of appeal exists at all. I put this proposition again at the risk of being a little tedious. The Tribunal puts forward a proposal. The Government rejects it. An agreement is then made, disapproved of, and it becomes unenforceable. There is no appeal from the decision of the Government. This may be an opportune time for me again to implore the Government, and the AttorneyGeneral to have a look at a system of appeal.
The House will recall that one of the arguments that I levelled against the Trade Practices Act was that there was no system of appeal. During the course of my argument, I referred to the fact that the Law Council of Australia suggested that there should be a system of appeal. Now, on 7th December 1965 at page 3708 of “Hansard “ the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) asked my friend, the AttorneyGeneral - 1 ask the Attorney-General whether the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) is correct in saying that his proposed amendment-
That is my amendment with respect to an appropriate appellant system -
For reasons that my friend, the AttorneyGeneral, did not elaborate, he did not give the Leader of the Opposition any answer to his question. But the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), when he came in to bat said this -
The honorable member for Moreton referred to decisions of the Law Council of Australia. I have the document here and it does not bear out his representation of it.
I was too engaged at the time to be bothered to chase that particular fib. But I want to refer to it now. I do not want to be mealy mouthed about this matter. I hold very strong views concerning people who quote something to suit their own particular case, and I hold even stronger views about people who misquote something. The report of the Law Council of Australia on this question of appeal in relation to the Trade Practices Tribunal is relevant here. It says -
There docs not appear to us to be any valid reason why the Review Division should not have power lo receive fresh evidence and to decide finally the whole of the subject matter. We consider that there should be a full appeal on questions of fact and law and that the Review Tribunal should have full discretionary power to receive further evidence upon questions of fact.
Now, if the honorable and learned gentleman, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, was truthful in saying that he held that report in his band and, having read it, came to the conclusion that he did then all I can say of him is that he is stupid. However, if he had this in his hand and came to the conclusion that he reached and voiced to this House that I was not in a sense misleading it, all I can say of him is that he is mischievous. I have said that I do not like to be mealy mouthed. Nevertheless I respect the rules of this House and I am precluded on this occasion from saying in precise language what I think of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. But may 1 say that 1 believe he has one of the most finely developed flairs for factual inaccuracy of any person I have ever met, and that the only basis on which I will ever accept anything the honorable gentleman says in the future is if I have one completely independent witness to corroborate what he says?
I conclude by saying that shipping is of tremendous importance to Australia but it would be wrong for this Parliament or for the people of Australia to imagine that shipping is a one way interest. This legislation, which 1 presume will be passed by the Parliament, relates only to the outward movement of goods. This Parliament has no power to legislate with respect to the shipping of goods to Australia, that is to say, it has no power to legislate with respect to the freights which ‘ill be charged. There is, I believe, a very real risk that if the legislation is used clumsily or mischievously by some government in the future, a shipping company would say: “ As far as we are concerned, we arc not prepared to go to Australia.”
Some months ago I had the opportunity to express to a non-political group some of my views on the Trade Practices Act. I concluded that address with these words -
The Trade Practices Act is a unique and ambitious foray by the Commonwealth in a hitherto unexplored field. But it is more than that. It is also a search by the community for protection against unfair economic trading. The Act is a plain acceptance of Lord MacDermott’s view that “ altruism is not a” common commercial virtue “. It is not possible to predict the fate of the Act. If it survives a challenge to its validity, then it will be interesting to see how this new jurisdiction will work out, how precedent will influence determinations and how the concept of public interest will operate in its new setting.
If I were to rewrite those words today I would merely add the following sentence: If it survives a challenge to its validity, then it will be interesting to see how this grant of discretion to the executive government will be used and with what sort of temper and for what purpose governments of the future will use it.
.- I will be interested to see how the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) casts his vote because evidently he is very much opposed to any legislation, even the legislation of his own Government, which proposes to restrict in any way the opportunities of predatory capitalism to exploit this community. He makes great flourishes about misquotations by members on this side of the House and says how he will never again pay any attention to statements made by honorable members who are allegedly reading from documents that are completely false. But he is the gentleman who tonight, in his defence of shipping interests, pointed out that the P. & O. - Orient line of steamers earned a profit of only 2 per cent. I have here a document which sets out the profit earned by that company. The operating profit of that organisation rose from £17.5 million in 1962 to £21.3 million in 1963. The dividend remained at 10 per cent, after distribution of a 10 per cent, capital bonus. Yet the honorable member for Moreton says that this organisation is struggling and made a profit of only 2 per cent. He asked whether the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) would invest his millions in a shipping line that would return only 2 per cent. Probably, most of the statements made by the honorable member for Moreton are no more accurate than is his statement about the profits of this shipping enterprise.
As the honorable member himself pointed out, this Bill is designed to amend the Trade Practices Act for the purpose of controlling the operations of shipping conferences in relation to the carriage of goods by sea from Australia to other countries and foi related purposes. Is there any reason why such a Bill should come before this House? Are the shipping lines now using, or have they in the past used, devious practices for the purpose of exploiting our exporters and importers and through them the primary producers and the general public of Australia? If the shipping lines have not done this, there is no reason for the introduction of this measure. If they have done it and there are already in existence means to curb their predatory operations, there is no reason for the introduction of the Bill. In a newsletter that emanates from Canberra, I read this -
The gloves are off and the knives are out in preparation for a do or die fight between shipowners and shippers (exporters) on freight rates to apply to cargo on the Australia-United Kingdom-European service from September 1.
An impartial, but certainly not disinterested onlooker, will be the Department of Trade and Industry, which will exert whatever behind the scenes influence it can to stave ofl any rise in the rates.
Shipowners in the conference have indicated that they are seeking a freight increase of 7.2 per cent, which, they claim, is justified under tha formula adopted for fixing freight rates between Australia and Europe.
The shipowners are reported to be determined not to accept one cent less than the amount to which they believe they are justified.
The shipowners are determined not to accept one cent less than a freight increase of at least 7.2 per cent. The point that I wish to make is that, before the introduction of this measure, there existed a means by which shippers and shipowners got together to fix freights. This was provided by what is known as the Australian Oversea Transport Association or A.O.T.A. Through the medium of this organisation, representatives of shippers and shipowners conduct commercial negotiations about freight rates and other terms and conditions relating to the shipment of goods. There is within this body, a conference between representatives of shipowners and shippers in order to determine whether or not freights shall be increased, shall remain unchanged or, I presume, shall be reduced. As a result of that process, we get the kind of thing that has been happening.
This Government has now stepped in and said that it will have conferences, too. It is to have conferences between shippers and shipowners to resolve a situation when those two parties have reached a position from which they will not retreat. But what good will the Government’s proposals do? They will no no good at all. The honorable member for Stirling pointed out that there was only one way in which the operations of the shipowners could be controlled - by the operation ofcompetition. This would require the creation of another shipping organisation which can ship goods when the private shipping interests hold Australia to ransom, as they have done in respect of the recently proposed increase in freights by saying, in effect: “ We do not care who comes to the conference, but we will not accept one cent less than the increase that we have requested “. What can be done to meet such a threat? There is only one way to meet it, and that is the way that has been adopted by other countries. As has been pointed out, Australia is one of the big trading nations. I think it has been said that Australia is the tenth greatest trading nation. Yet it is one of the very few nations with a seaboard which have not control either of private shipping linos operated and owned from within their own shores or of government owned shipping lines operating in the interests of the nation’s exporters and importers.
The position is this - and I have to thank the Minister for Trade and Industry for this information: The Governments of Argentina, Brazil, Burma, Ceylon, Chile, France, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, the Sudan, the United Arab Republic and Uruguay, either with the assistance of private interests or on their own, operate overseas shipping lines. Many of those countries are not equal to Australia in capacity or trade; nor have they as long a seaboard as Australia has. But, in addition to them, the Governments of the United Kingdom, the United States of America and numerous other countries, whilst they do not operate partly or totally government owned shipping lines, have their own nationals owning and operating the shipping lines that serve their industries. That is what the honorable member for Stirling suggested as a means of meeting the threat that exists to the industries of Australia from the shipping combines.
The Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden), in presenting this legislation, pointed out that free enterprise does not exist among the shipping lines. He said that they are combines. There is no such thing as competition. They have common freight rates. They determine the rates. There is no way in which a shipper can obtain cheaper rates from one shipping line than from another. They do not seek to increase their business at the expense of their competitors. They hold the country up to ransom. They talk with one voice. When we are told: “ We will not reduce our extra charges by 1 per cent.”, it is not one shipping company speaking; it is the combined shipping companies of the world telling Australia what they are out to do. Up to date we have had a process whereby the Australian Oversea Transport Association sought to do something to fix shipping freight rates. Of course, that process was unsatisfactory. The Government says that it was unsatisfactory by the mere introduction of this new legislation. If it was unsatisfactory, how can the Government hope that a similar method of conferences between the ship owners and the people who desire to send their goods abroad will be successful?
We have paid a considerable sum to these overseas shipping lines. I must thank the Minister for Trade for supplying certain information relating to such payments. He pointed out that in 1954-55 we paid $144 million; in 1955-56, $166 million; in 1956-57, $176 million; in 1957-58, $194 million; and in 1958-59, $182 million. In 1963- 64 we paid $254 million and in 1964- 65 a sum of $294 million. In a period of 11 years we paid a sum of $2,304 million to overseas shipping lines. That was only in respect of goods that left Australia. Having given those figures, the Minister said -
The Australian balance of payments statistics prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician do not include an item relating to amounts payable overseas for freight on Australian exports. Conventional balance of payments treatment regards the cost of transferring goods beyond (he exporting country as a transaction between the foreign importer and the carrier (in the Australian case usually a non-resident shipping company).In the circumstances no entry is made for such freight charges and accordingly no estimate is prepared for this item by the Statistician.
As I said a moment ago, over a period of 1 1 years a sum of $2,300 million was paid in freights on goods exported. As much again, or more, was paid on goods that were imported. So altogether nearly $5,000 million was paid in freights by Australia to the shipping combines of the world.
That is a huge burden on industry, particularly the primary producers. Surely something should be done by the Australian Government to lift that burden off industry and off the living standards of the people of Australia. We must tackle this problem of freights if we are to balance our overseas payments. Freights payable overseas are one of the larger factors that contribute to our increasing adverse balance of payments, which this country can meet only by securing an inflow of capital from other countries.
Very recently the United States of America was faced with the problem of adverse balances overseas. Those adverse balances did not flow from the same causes as do ours but were the result of America having to meet obligations in regard to aid to other countries, the carrying on of a war in South East Asia and things of that description. The American Government decided to rectify the position. What did the President of the United States, Mr. Lyndon Johnson, do? He issued instructions to the Government departments concerned as to what he considered should be done to balance the trade of the United States and get the country out of its difficulties. Almost first in the order of priority was an appeal he made to the industries of America, to those who were exporters and those who were importers, to see that imports travelling to and exports travelling from that country were carried in ships that sailed under the American flag.
That, of course, is our position. Our position is that irrespective of whether we stand for a government-owned system of sea transportation, whether we stand for a dual system of privately-owned and governmentowned transportation, or whether we stand for a privately-owned system, that system must have its base and its centre in Australia. If it is a privately-owned system then it has to be owned by Australians. If it is partly privately-owned and partly government-owned then the private sector should be Australian. Only by that means will Australia get out of the difficulties that she is already in and only by that means will she remain a great trading nation.
I will conclude upon this note, Mr. Speaker. I know that you already know what I am about to say but you and I are not the only honorable members listening to this speech tonight. The trading operations of Great Britain were made possible only by the fact that she was a founder of a great system of sea transport from that country to the other nations of the world. Her trading abilities as a nation increased because she had the sailors and the ships which other nations did not have. Those other nations had to depend on Great Britain for the transportation of their requirements from Great Britain or from other countries and of their goods to markets overseas. Those goods had to be carried in ships owned by the British and manned by British seamen. Upon that basis - a mercantile marine owned by the British - the British Empire reached its greatest heights as a trading group in serving every country. If we in Australia are to preserve our position as a trading nation; if we are to achieve greater heights as a trading nation than we have achieved today, if we are to serve our primary and secondary industries; and if we are to maintain the standard of living of our people then we must attack the problem of transport to and from Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Connor) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.44 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
d asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
How many deferred telephone applications are there in each Commonwealth country electoral division where (a) only a link up to the existing (a) and (b)- service is required, and (b) construction of lines would be required?
– The answer to the honorable members question is as follows -
n askedthe PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What is the estimated population within a 20- mile radius of each country television station that has been, or is to be, installed in Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
b asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The information given below covers those vehicles which are operated by the Department of Supply only. This excludes, for example, those vehicles which operate in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and other Departments such as the Postmaster-General’s Department and Department of Works, 1, The number of vehicles -
commercial - 1,938.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 August 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19660817_reps_25_hor52/>.