25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Ssr John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. WHITTORN 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.
– I address a question to the Minister for Defence. Has a United States company - Continental Electronics - been awarded a contract on a cost-plus basis to install electronic equipment at the North West Cape radio communications base? If so, then, as cost-plus contracts virtually guarantee the contractor against loss, is the Minister able to explain why the United States Navy has chosen this system for a United States company rather than the system of fixed fee contracts which has operated previously and which has cost Australian companies and suppliers several thousand dollars? Finally, is it intended that Australian companies associated with the project will receive similar protection?
– I can only tell the honorable gentleman that the contract is one between the United States Navy and the contractor concerned and one about which we have no information at all.
– I address a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. When is it expected that the second “ Princess of Tasmania “ type of passengercargo ship will be ready for service? Is this ship to ply on the same run as that of “ Princess of Tasmania “? Will “ Princess of Tasmania “ remain on its present run, or is either ship expected to be diverted to any other run for certain periods when both ships are operating? ls it expected that “ Empress of Australia “ will maintain its present schedule after the second Bass Strait passenger-cargo ship is introduced into service?
– The Australian National Line hopes, if its present plans proceed, that the second “ Princess “ type passenger ship will go on the run about December 1968. So far as the honorable gentleman’s other questions are concerned, I think that, looking so far ahead, it would be safer to say that the runs on which the ship will be engaged will depend on circumstances then obtaining. However, it is intended that the second “ Princess “ will perform virtually the same kind of service as the present one. Naturally the Australian National Line would not wish to be firmly committed either to having both ships entirely on the same run or having “ Empress of Australia “ continuing exactly on its present schedule. But if everything goes according to present expectations, that will be the position.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer in the absence of the Prime Minister. Why has the Government chosen not to acknowledge the difficult situation now facing the motor vehicle industry, resulting particularly in the retrenchments now taking place? Is the Treasurer aware that the British Motor Corporation (Aust.) Pty. Ltd. has already discharged 300 employees and that the Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd. has discharged 75 employees? Is the Minister further aware that car sales expected in August will be considerably lower than those in July? In these circumstances is the Treasurer prepared to examine the situation carefully to ensure that it does not further deteriorate, with added danger of unemployment in other essential, allied industries?
– I think the speculation about the August figures is premature and I do not know of any certain ground on which the honorable gentleman can base his statement. Of course the Government has been preoccupied with the fail in the number of motor vehicle sales, and it hoped that the sales, or the registrations, for the full year might rise to somewhere about 390,000. The figure might be somewhat smaller than that, but there is a considerable time to go before we will know what the exact figures will be. I have said before that we looked at this problem most carefully during the course of the Budget discussion. We came to the conclusion that it would be doubtful whether we could adopt the kind of measures that would stimulate to a reasonable degree the sale and registration of motor vehicles. Nonetheless, I can assure the House that this problem, like all others affecting the economy, is under constant consideration and will be kept under consideration for the time being.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. Is the Minister aware that the United States has a Small Business Administration which was created by the Small Business Act of 1953? Is he aware that one of its purposes is to ensure that a fair proportion of total government purchases and contracts must be placed with small business enterprises? Will he consider enacting similar legislation in Australia in order to assist not only small businesses but also sheltered workshops, many of which are quite capable of satisfactorily fulfilling some Government contracts both in regard to quality of work and competitive prices?
– I am generally aware of some arrangements of the kind mentioned by the honorable gentleman, but I would think that such an organization in Australia might be more concerned with the buying done through the Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board associated with the Department of the Treasury. In respect of those matters dealt with by the Department of Supply we have in times past looked at the question of employing the excellent capacity for many things which exists in the sheltered workshops. Although we are very sympathetic to that organization it was found generally that the kind of contract offered by the Department of Supply hardly fell within the competence of the sheltered workshops. Nevertheless there are a great many component parts of major contracts which could, and perhaps should, be done by sheltered workshops, but that is a matter for sub-contractors. I can only tell the honorable gentleman at the present moment that the Government is having a review of defence buying procedures, and if it is possible to do something along the lines he suggests we will consider his suggestion sympathetically.
– My question to the Minister for Civil Aviation concerns his recent visit to Adelaide to inspect the Adelaide Airport. I ask the Minister: Now that he has seen for himself the overcrowding, congestion and inconvenience in respect of staff and public who use the airport, is he able to say what plans are in hand to improve the airport and when can we expect some action?
– I appreciate that there is a problem in accommodation at the terminal building at Adelaide Airport. We certainly have plans to do something about improving both the space and the facilities, and at present I am having some work done to see whether we can meet the situation on a temporary basis. I appreciate that the problem is created when quite a number of large aircraft arrive at the airport at the same time. For the rest of the day the facilities are usually adequate. If we can overcome the problem on a temporary basis we will certainly do so, but I cannot give a definite answer at this stage as regards planning for the future. As soon as problems associated with planning are overcome I will make a statement on the matter.
– 1 ask the Minister for National Development whether an assurance can be given that water for irrigation purposes in the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers systems will be released from the Eucumbene Dam to ensure that water rationing is reduced to a minimum in the coming season?
– The release of water from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority’s project is made on the recommendation of the Snowy Mountains Council. On the Council are representatives of the Victorian and New South Wales electricity and irrigation authorities. They make a recommendation as to how much water should be diverted and when it should be diverted. Unfortunately, the people concerned with irrigation require water in the summer and people concerned with providing electricity have a need for peak load generation in the winter. The original plan was that when the water was released it should be stored in the Hume and Blowering Dams. Unfortunately, due to the New South Wales Government not building the Blowering Dam early enough, it will not be possible to store water there until May 1968. But the Council has arranged for a release of water into the Tumut River, which would flow into the Murrumbidgee River and into the Hume Dam during the irrigation period this summer. Seventy thousand acre feet will go into the Tumut River per month and 40,000 acre feet per month into the Hume Dam. The Council is looking at this matter. It will meet in October, by which time we should know the position with regard to water storages and the requirements of users on the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers. We hope that it may be possible to allocate even greater amounts of water than the amounts I have mentioned.
– I refer to an answer which the Minister for Air gave to me on 18th August regarding the Fill aircraft being purchased from the United States of America. In his answer, the Minister claimed that the Fi 1 1 aircraft was considerably faster than the MIG21 Russian fighter. Is the Minister aware that the MIG21 is obsolescent and that Russia has a series of fighter aircraft all much faster than the Fill aircraft, even if the American built aircraft should come up to specifications and prove to be as good as the Minister claims it is?
– In answering the honorable member’s earlier question dealing with the MIG21 aircraft, I dealt with the matters that had been the subject of inquiry by the United States House of Representatives. These matters were the ones referred to in the Press comments to which the honorable member adverted. I dealt with the performance of the MIG21 aircraft because it is the most modern aircraft in service in Communist countries and I felt that it was relevant to compare its performance with that of the Fill aircraft. I maintain that the speed of the FI 1 1 aircraft is correct as 1 described it to the honorable member and as it has been announced on many occasions in the last few weeks.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Navy been drawn to the fact that the ward room of H.M.A.S. “ Nirimba “ was totally destroyed by fire on Saturday? Will the Minister say what it is proposed to do with this establishment? ls it proposed to increase the establishment’s capacity for training apprentices?
– Yes, my attention has been drawn to the fact that a fire occurred in the ward room of H.M.A.S. “ Nirimba “. It is thought that the fire was caused by an electrical fault in the ceiling. Investigations are being carried out and until I receive the result of those investigations I cannot give a final report on the fire. As to the future of the establishment, the Public Works Committee is endeavouring to fit into its schedule an inquiry into certain developments in relation to the establishment for which the Government has given approval. Until this inquiry is completed nothing else can be clone.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral or the Minister for Labour and National Service a question about the compulsory call-up of unnaturalized aliens. I should like to know whether the Minister concerned has noted the statement made by the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, recorded at page 2785 of “ Hansard “ of 1 1th November 1964, in which he said -
The fact in relation to aliens is that we do not propose to apply to them, they still being aliens, any compulsory conscription. … I think honorable members ought to think a little more carefully about this matter before they adhere to the principle that an alien in this country should be compelled into Army service.
I also ask him whether he has noted the statement of the then Minister for Labour and National Service who is now the Treasurer
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that, having directed attention to the statement, the extent to which he can quote from it is limited.
– The statement of the then Minister for Labour and National Service, now the Treasurer, as reported at page 3074 of “Hansard” of 17th November 1964, was to the effect that under international law aliens are not and should not be liable to service in the armed forces of a country other than their own and that in the present comity of nations it is accepted that we should not call up aliens. I ask the Minister concerned why the Government has changed its views in proposing now to call up aliens, why it has changed its views about international law and the comity of nations and whether he thinks, in view of the statements made by the former Prime Minister and the responsible Minister at the time that aliens would not be called up, the Government has now repudiated the undertaking it gave to migrants when they entered Australia?
– First, let me make clear that no undertaking of any sort has been repudiated. If the honorable member looks at the statements carefully - they have been followed up even in the life of the present Government by other statements - he will see that this was a very intricate matter and had to be studied very carefully. It has been studied carefully and an eminently reasonable conclusion has been reached as a consequence, and is welcomed by everybody except the dissident few.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer a question relating to decimal currency conversion. The Treasurer and the House will be aware that Sir Walter Scott, the Chairman of the Decimal Currency Board, announced recently that the decimal conversion of cash registers, adding machines and accounting machines is running ahead of schedule and that the programme will be completed early in the second half of 1967. Can the Treasurer tell me whether the final cost of the whole programme will be as sufficiently pleasing and whether the original estimates have been exceeded?
– Recently the Chairman of the Decimal Currency Board did announce that the conversion programme was running well ahead of schedule and that instead of being completed in February 1968 it would be completed in July 1967. This I think is a notable achievement and should be brought to the attention of the House. We in the Department have made some estimates of the cost of conversion. We thought originally that the cos; would be about $75 million but we have found that there will be a reduction of at least $25 million. Again I think this is a remarkable achievement by the Decimal Currency Board and something that all members of the House should welcome.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army, ls it a fact that a special committee has been set up within the Army to screen Regular soldiers and conscripts who want to stand for election to the Parliament at the forthcoming general election? If this is a fact, will the Minister explain why a serviceman must suffer interrogation of this kind before exercising his democratic right as an Australian citizen to nominate as a candidate for the National Parliament?
– The honorable member’s allegation is not correct; his question is based on supposition.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Territories, refers to Press reports of the meeting between the Right Honorable Frederick Lee, United Kingdom Minister of State for Colonies, the Minister for External Affairs in our Government and himself. As a result of this meeting are any changes contemplated in the Government’s stated policies relating to Papua and New Guinea?
– I assure the honorable member that no change whatever is contemplated in policies related to Papua and New Guinea. I might say that it was very interesting to have the opportunity to talk informally with the Minister responsible for the administration of the United Kingdom colonies in the Pacific area because there is a great deal of interest historically between the people of Papua and New Guinea and the inhabitants of these island colonies. Ethnically and socially it is possible that their association will increase in future. We have been fortunate in having the advantage of these discussions. I hope that we will have further discussions so that we can inform each other on changes that are likely to occur and avoid conflicting situations arising. On the whole I feel that the discussions were of very great mutual advantage.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Defence, refers to Navy, Army and Air Force personnel serving outside Australia in areas including New Guinea. When are these personnel eligible for repatriation benefits? Do they have to serve in a certain area for a specified period in order to qualify? If so, what are the areas and what is the period?
– Personnel who serve in what are known as prescribed areas are entitled to full repatriation benefits. The Minister for Defence prescribes areas after consultation with the Department of Repatriation. From the time a decision has been made that a particular locality is a prescribed area, personnel of all Services who serve in that area under certain fixed conditions are entitled to full repatriation benefits.
– Mr. Speaker, I directed my question to the Minister for Defence because, for this purpose, he decides the areas which shall be prescribed and the period for which personnel shall remain in a prescribed area.
– Order! The honorable member is now out of order. I point out that he is asking a question on a repatriation matter for which a Minister in another place is responsible and that, therefore, he cannot expect the Minister’s representative in this place to know all the details.
– If I may add one point, areas that have been prescribed in the past were in Malaysia and in South Vietnam.
– Which parts of Malaysia?
– Certain areas.
– What are the areas?
– I will have to check on the details as this matter is administered by a Minister in another place. Details of the areas which have already been prescribed in Malaysia and South Vietnam, including areas in the Borneo area, will be supplied to the honorable member in writing.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Territories been drawn to the allegation by David White in an article written by that gentleman of conflict between police and Army personnel in Port Moresby? Are the suggestions put forward exaggerated? Is the Minister able to assure the House that bitterness between these groups does not exist but that there is only a healthy rivalry and pride in their respective organisations?
– I believe that the reports which have appeared regarding suggested rivalry between these two forces arc exaggerated. No doubt every ex-serviceman knows of these rivalries and has experienced them. I think it has something to do with pride in one’s force and that sort of thing. The particular incident to which reference has been made occurred during an altercation outside a hotel. This kind of thing is likely to arise wherever servicemen on leave gather. As I have said, I agree with the honorable member that these reports are exaggerated.
– I direct my question to the Acting Prime Minister.
– Order! The honorable member will direct his question to the Treasurer.
– Very well. Is he the Acting Prime Minister?
– Order! He is the Right Honorable, the Treasurer.
– By way of explanation of my question, I refer the Treasurer to a statement made by the Prime Minister prior to his departure for overseas in which he said that Australia could expect to become involved in further military action to preserve peace in Asia. He went on -
In all probability, Australian forces will find themselves involved not necessarily in major wars but in action designed to preserve peace in the Asian area generally. It is because we recognise this as a government that we are building up the regular Australian forces so they will be capable of providing Australia’s contribution in the cause of preserving peace.
Has the Treasurer’s attention been directed to this statement? If so, does it indicate that the government proposes to fulfil these grim commitments by extending conscription of 20 year-old boys, not to defend Australia but to fight in Asian wars, and that their term of service will be extended to five years? Is it a fact also that the announcement of the Government’s decision has been withheld because the Government fears adverse public reaction and electoral defeat on this issue? If this is not the position, will he assure the House that conscript national service trainees will not be called upon to fight in these Asian wars? If not, why not?
-! did read with a great deal of interest the Prime Minister’s statement not only on this matter but on other matters as well, such as the problem relating to Southern Rhodesia. I thought the Prime Minister’s statement was a simple common sense statement and one which is backed by the Australian people. As to the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question, to the effect that there has been some discussion, or even some unannounced decision to increase the size of the force or the number of national servicemen who will be recruited for training or an extension of the period of service, I state that that suggestion is completely false and should be known to be false by the honorable gentleman. If there is a decision made to increase the size of the force or increase the period of service it will be announced immediately to the House. As to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question, it must bc obvious to the House that it is political and should be treated as such. That is to say, it should be treated as a despicable kind of innuendo which should be ignored.
– Has the Treasurer had an opportunity to study the effects of the recent economic moves by the United Kingdom Government? To what extent does he believe that these measures will be helpful in strengthening sterling and preventing devaluation?
– The Government has given careful attention to the economic measures recently taken by the United Kingdom Government, and I repeat the Prime Minister’s statement that it is in the interests of the world, particularly the trading world, that the British economy should be sound and that sterling should be defended.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad that one member of the Opposition says: “ Hear, hear.” I do not hear any other member of the Opposition defending the Labour Government of the United Kingdom.
– lt is my electorate.
– It will not be for long. The actions taken by the British Government have been described by the British Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Wilson, as a shake-out that is necessary in order to divert labour and resources to more purposive uses, and as such they are intended to strengthen both the balance of payments and the internal economy of the United Kingdom. The measures taken are truly heroic. In the first place they are estimated to reduce internal demand by about £S700 million and a second series of measures is estimated to reduce demand by another £S500 million. In addition, banking measures were taken in order, as I have said, to divert resources to more purposive uses. I cannot make any forecast of the likely result, but I think that most sensible observers will come to the conclusion that these measures must strengthen the British economy and strengthen Britain’s power to participate in international trade on competitive terms. So we applaud the heroic action taken by the United kingdom Government, and I think it must be the fervent hope of all of us that its actions will be successful and that the pound sterling will be effectively defended.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is the honorable gentleman aware that the proposal to erect a customs block on the northern foreshore of Sydney Harbour has met with disapproval by the North Sydney Council, the residents of North Sydney and also the Sydney metropolitan daily newspapers, because it is said that such a project would mar the beauty of the finest harbour in the world? Will the honorable gentleman consider selecting another site for this building?
– I thought I might be asked a question about this matter and the Minister for Customs and Excise in another place has given me certain views. The House knows, of course, that the existing building was provided as an emergency wartime measure in 1944. It is of fibrocement construction and has always been regarded as sub-standard and unsightly. Therefore, there seem to be good reasons for removing it and putting up a much more attractive building of brick and glass construction. This is what is proposed, and the work will be carried out within a short time. The new building will provide nonresidential accommodation for the preventive officers of the Department of Customs and Excise. When the building is being erected the opportunity will be taken to resurface the existing roadway and to landscape surrounding areas to make this part of the harbour attractive. A further statement will be made in due course by the Minister in another place.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I refer the honorable gentleman to the graphic difference between the number of outstanding telephone applications in New South Wales and those in all the other States grouped together. In last year’s financial allocations the Minister was successful in obtaining additional money, a large proportion of which he channelled to the New South Wales branch of his Department in a firm endeavour to overcome the lag in telephone installations. I ask him now what proportion of this year’s allocations we can expect to see channelled in the same direction, and whether he can tell the House what progress has been made in overcoming the substantial lag in New South Wales.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Such a question has long been on the notice paper. It is No. 1844.
– The question is out of order.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer in the absence of the Minister for Trade and Industry. Has the Govern ment considered the announced increase in overseas shipping freights by 6.4 per cent.? Is it taking any action to protect our exports of primary products in the face of this latest addition to the difficulties now associated with the export trade?
– Yes, the Government’s attention has been drawn to the increase in freight rates mentioned bythe honorable member. I should point out that this increase took place after long and difficult negotiations between the exporting interests and the shipowners. I believe this is now a negotiated price between the two parties. NonethelessI will refer the honor able member’s question to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry, and if he feels there is any additional information that can be conveyed to the honorable member I am sure he will write to him.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. In view of the controversy between a margarine manufacturer and the dairy Industry which has caused much confusion in the public mind about the effects on health of the products involved, will the Minister inform the House whether he has any information as to the views of medical experts on the respective values of butter and margarine, particularly as regards their possible effects in relation to heart disease?
– I am informed that the present opinion about the causes of heart disease is that certain factors increase the risk. If I remember them rightly - and each honorable member can check them off as I go through them - they are high blood pressure, diabetes, excessive cigarette smoking, overweight, lack of exercise and possibly a high serum cholesterol level. There is a great volume of medical literature on the relationship between the cholesterol level and heart disease and there is a wide divergence of views among the experts as to whether the replacement of saturated fats - that is, butter and animal fats - by polyunsaturated fats, while undoubtedly lowering the cholesterol level, in fact prevents heart disease. The National Heart Foundation of Australia has this matter under continuous review, but at present it believes that there is not sufficient data available to justify claims for replacement in the diet of saturated fats by polyunsaturated fats.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. It arises from the Prime Minister’s announcement that the Government proposes to ask the State Governments how far they would avail themselves of the services of the Snowy Mountains Authority if the Government decides to keep it in existence. I ask the honorable gentleman whether he can confirm that the most copious unharnessed water resources in our continent are to be found in Queensland and Western Australia and that the Governments of those States had already made it abundantly clear, in consultations with the Government three years ago, and again this year, that they were anxious to make .permanent arrangements for the Authority’s assistance within their borders. If these are facts, why has the Government decided to ask the views of those States yet again before it makes up its own mind?
– It is certainly correct, as the honorable gentleman says, that the largest quantity of water falling in Australia does fall in the north - that is, in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. In fact, probably three quarters of the water failing on the mainland falls on this northern area. But the honorable gentleman is not correct when he says that these States have asked for the full assistance of the Snowy Mountains Authority. It is true that they have asked for the investigation resources of the Snowy Mountains Authority to be used in some small areas. However, Mr. Haigh, of the Queensland Irrigation and Water Supply Commission, has said that his organisation is competent to undertake any construction work provided it has sufficient funds. So the future use of the Authority obviously must await determination until such a time as all the States have had consultations wilh the Commonwealth Government to see how much work would be available if we were to keep the Authority in existence.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. I ask: Will the Minister advise the House whether the occupancy of beds in the nursing homes now to be subsidised under the extension of the aged persons homes legislation is to be restricted to residents of the organisation concerned? As the satisfactory conduct of nursing homes requires all available beds to be in use, I ask the Minister to look into the possibility of organisations giving service to any aged persons but with priority for those in their own care.
– The reason for the Treasurer announcing the extension of the Aged Persons Homes Act in the manner that has been indicated by the honorable member’s question was that it was felt that within the community there are different categories of aged people who have differing needs. In fact, it is reasonable to expect that as people grow older they are more likely to be in bed for a considerable time and that they will be in need of some form of additional nursing assistance. It is for this reason that the proposal for extension of the application of the Aged Persons Homes Act related to homes providing one third of their beds for nursing home patients and two thirds for people requiring more or less the normal domiciliary type of accommodation. It is intended, however, that within individual organisations nursing home beds may be made available to persons outside the immediate care of the organisations concerned. The two facets of the administration of the aged persons homes legislation are intended to cover the whole range of responsibility for aged people. Consequently, it is intended that nursing homes shall provide primarily for people who live within aged persons’ villages, though it will be possible for an individual organisation, if it so desires, to take patients from outside the home in order to ensure greater usage of beds.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Has he had an opportunity to study a report on mental health services in the Australian Capital Territory prepared by a committee set up by the Australian Capital Territory Council of Social Services? Will he consult with his colleague, the Minister for Health, on the urgent need for improved facilities for medical, psychiatric and hospital treatment for those in this community suffering from mental disease? Will he consult with his colleague, the Attorney-General, on the pressing need for a complete revision and consolidation of the laws relating to mental health in the Territory? Will he himself consider the immediate need for improved facilities for the education in Canberra schools of children who are classified as suffering from mild or moderate mental retardation?
– 1 have not seen the report that the honorable member has mentioned. I suggest that this question would be better directed to the Minister for Health, under whose jurisdiction mental health comes. I shall, however, have a look at the report and see whether I can be of any assistance in bringing about some of the things that the honorable member has proposed.
– Mr, Speaker, may I ask you a question about your earlier ruling?
– Order! The honorable member may not canvass that matter at this stage.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. He will recall the many representations that I made to him last year seeking to overcome the lag in telephone connections in my electorate. Good progress was made last year. Can the Minister inform me whether I can expect greater progress in New South Wales this year, commensurate with the progress made in other States?
– Very good progress was made in the provision of telephones in New South Wales last year. At the commencement of the year, the total number of deferred applications throughout Australia was 29,800. During the year this number was reduced by 13,600, leaving about 16,000 still deferred at the end of the period. The number of reductions in New South Wales was about 8,000 compared with about 5,000 for the rest of Australia. I know that in nearly every electorate in New South Wales where there was a substantial deferred application problem, there has been considerable improvement. That improvement continued during July of this year. Whether it will continue for the rest of the year will depend, as the honorable member will know, on two factors in particular. One is costs and the other demand.
We reached this unfortunate situation in New South Wales because of a very high demand two or three years ago. More recently the demand has tended to lessen perhaps because of a substantial deferment of applications. If, having overcome the problem, there is a substantial increase in demand, we may be faced with a further deferment problem. I hope this will not occur. Present indications are that the reduction of the number of deferments this year will, as a proportion of the total, be slightly greater than it was last year. So our efforts are being continued to overcome the problem.
– Has the honorable member been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the “Australian” of Friday 28th August, the following words appear -
I have lived with dishonesty too long Those words are not mine. I did not give permission for those words to be used, and they are not contained in the speech I delivered in the House on the previous day.
– by leave - The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory raised a matter on the adjournment of the House on 24th August 1966, concerning the withdrawal of a salary overpayment from the private bank account of a former officer of the Public Service.
The Treasury has no authority, nor should it have authority, to instruct a bank to withdraw moneys from a customer’s account for any purpose whatsoever, even in cases where Treasury is aware that the officer has been overpaid. It is not uncommon for a department to request the Sub-Treasury to repay salary drawn for an officer or employee on the grounds that he is not entitled to receive the amount included on the pay sheets. Normally such a request presents no problem. In the case of payees, who receive their salary in cash but who have not been paid, it is achieved by instructing the paying officer to repay the amount drawn in cash while separately, a special payment is, if necessary, processed for the correct amount. In cases where salary is paid to the credit of an officer’s bank account the Sub-Treasury will alter the deposit slip if the credit has not been lodged with the bank. If the documents have been passed into the hands of the bank, the bank is usually contacted by telephone and confirmation given by letter with a view to having the correction made. Normally banks will make the correction provided that the credit has not been entered in the customer’s account.
In : me case mentioned by the honorable member, the usual practice was followed by the Sub-Treasury after receiving a request from the employer department, except that, unfortunately, the request for the recovery of the amount was made after the deposit had been credited to the payee’s account. I have mentioned that the usual practice is to contact the bank by telephone, but I have been unable to confirm by reference to Treasury records that such a call was made on this occasion. To correct the position the Treasury has forwarded a cheque to the bank concerned so that it can settle the matter with its customer. The question of the overpayment of salary to the former officer will then be pursued departmentally
Debate resumed from 25th August (vide page 495), on motion by Mr. McMahon.
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view of inserting the following words in place thereof - “ the House condemns the Budget because -
It fails to recognise the injustices wrought upon wage earners because real wages have fallen as prices have risen faster than wages.
lt makes inadequate adjustments to social service payments.
It fails to recognise the serious crisis in education.
It does not acknowledge the lack of con fidence on the part of the business community in the future growth of the economy.
It does not recognise the need of further basic development, public and private, in addition to the need for adequate defence, and that balanced development can only lake place by active encouragement to Australian industry and co-operation with the States.
It does nothing to relieve our dependence on a high rate of foreign investment to finance the defict in our balance of payments.”
.- I wish this afternoon to deal with three very important items in the Budget. They are defence, national development and education. Just how important defence is to this nation today is amply demonstrated by the fact that the Government has seen fit to set aside the sum of SI. 000 million for expenditure on defence this year. It is the first responsibility of any government to protect the country. It is also the first responsibility of every man worthy of the name to defend his country, to defend his loved ones and to defend the way of life for which so many of our forebears fought and which we could lose if we are no longer prepared to defend it.
To defend this country, it is essential that we have a trained army. It is essential also that that army be well equipped and well supplied. It is also essential, especially in view of our geographical position in the world, that we have powerful allies and friends. I refer in particular to the United States of America and Britain. It is vital, therefore, that we co-operate with our allies in every way possible. If we are to play our part, it is essential that we have an efficient and trained army. The life of an untrained soldier is very short. Those of us who saw something of what happened in
New Guinea during the last war will agree fully with this. On that occasion, many of us saw virtually untrained young men - men with perhaps three weeks training at the most - put into the forward areas. That is little short of murder, and we do not want to see it happen again.
I believe that it is vital to this country that we have a complete form of national service. I also believe that the Government was forced to introduce the ballot system mainly because we had dropped national service over the years and therefore did not have a nucleus of young men who understood just what it was all about. The time has now come when the Government must take stock. Now that we have a large number of trained men and a large number of trained professional soldiers who have returned from South East Asia, surely we must be able to form a quite large nucleus of instructors. It is time we looked at the proposition of calling up the whole of the relevant age group with the ultimate aim of building up and having in reserve a trained army of young men. If ever we are in real danger in this country it will be necessary for every able bodied young man to carry arms, and it is far too late when the danger is on our doorstep, as it was not so many years ago, to start thinking about training young men. The time has come when the Government should expand our national service scheme, call up every young man in the age group and gradually build up a nucleus of trained men in every age group. I believe that the time has come when we should say to every young man: “ You must be prepared to defend your country, but we will give you the choice of serving two years as a national serviceman or five or six years in the Citizen Military Forces “, as is the position today. In the new groups of C.M.F. units those who are unable to attend weekly parades could do a 33 day period and so fit themselves to play their part as every true and loyal Australian should. If we were to do this we could eliminate the national service ballot; there would be no need for it.
I am quite sure, as a result of moving around my own area, that the great majority of young people would be behind such a scheme. The great majority of young Australians are sound, and many of them are ashamed of members of Parliament who are decrying our effort to become self sufficient in defence. Too many attempts have been made to gain political kudos or personal political gain from the question of national service. Recently we heard a lot of unwarranted criticism of the introduction of the 33 day training system. It was suggested that this was being unfair to country boys, because those who had been called up and had had their service deferred now could not train in these units. But where do we start, and where do we finish? As the Minister said, if we start to give those who have just got their deferments this choice, why should we not give those who have already been called up and those in Vietnam the same consideration? It is a tremendous step forward to allow young men to do their training in a 33 day period when they cannot do it in any other circumstances, and any attempt to decry such a provision is very unworthy of any Australian. It is a fact too that Australia has no security in the foreseeable future without the help of the United States of America. Those who opposed the establishment of the North West Cape Naval Communication Station did Australia a great disservice. It will be interesting to see what their attitude will be in relation to the proposed naval base at Cockburn Sound, because obviously this naval base must be for the use of our allies as well as for the use of our own Navy.
Perhaps the next most important item in the Budget is national development. This country is on the verge of the greatest step forward that it has ever made. I believe we are about to write the greatest page in our history. Only recently we have discovered vast mineral resources that we did not even know we had. It is not very years ago that we had a restriction on the export of iron ore. Since then we have discovered vast resources of it. As much as 16,000 million tons have been checked and tested, and Mr. Court, the Western Australian Minister for National Development has said that there is probably twice as much of just as high quality that we have not had time to get around to checking. We must develop all our resources. We must develop our rural resources to a greater extent than we have done, because we are still mainly dependent for our export income on the sale of primary products overseas. In the vicinity of 78 per cent, to 80 per cent, of export income is involved, and if minerals are included the percentage goes up to 87 per cent, or 88 per cent.
Our primary industries have become a great deal more efficient over the years. There has been an increase of about 60 per cent, in production, notwithstanding a drop of 10 per cent, in the work force. I do not know that any other industry can show such good figures. Had we not increased our efficiency and production, being a country remote from markets, and with heavy transport and shipping costs, we would not have survived. Australia has a tremendous future. Right on our doorstep we have the greatest potential market the world has ever seen. Close to us are hundreds of millions of people with rising standards of living. These people first want something to eat, something to wear and a better way of life. Their standards of living are going to rise whether or not we do anything about them. This situation provides us wilh a challenge and gives us an opportunity that few nations have ever had. I believe that our approach and attitude to the future standards of living and the economic situation in Asia can alter the whole course of world history. We are in the unique position that the people of Asia accept us to a greater degree than they do any other people of European race. They do not ask for charity; it is not what they seek. Charity insults any man. What they want is a helping hand to improve their lot. This is what the war in Vietnam is about. It is idle, until such time as the Vietcong are destroyed, to talk about sending a civilian economic force over there. The Vietcong thrive on misery, as all Communists do. We have seen the example of what they did with American economic aid. what they have done with American Red Cross units and what they did with our own attempts to set up dairy farms and improve the lot of the children over there by providing them with milk. The Vietcong slaughtered the cattle. They will do anything that will cause misery, want and hunger. So it is quite idle for people like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) to say that civilian aid is more important than our effort to help America control the Vietcong. Without the destruction of the Vietcong no aid will be effective, no aid scheme will even be allowed to operate.
If we are to develop this country as it must be developed there will have to be balanced development, not only as between primary and secondary industry, but also as between the north and the south. We hear a tremendous lot about northern development - and it is important. If we do not develop the north some other country will. But what those who so wildly advocate northern development forget to tell us is, who is going to pay for it. It is obvious that we in the south, who have the earning capacity, are going to pay for northern development. It is true also, that for every million dollars invested in the south we can expect a return of two, three or even four times as much as we would obtain from the same million invested in the north.
Northern development is quite a catchcry. If a person goes up north and shouts northern development “, as the Pied Piper from Dawson (Dr. Patterson) did, he will always get a following. But the honorable member forgot to tell the people of Dawson how much it would cost and who was going to pay for it. In the south we have roads, services, power, hospitals and developed properties. All of these things have to be built in the north, and if we are going to develop the north we must increase our export income. The rural productive capacity of the south has scarcely been touched. There is a tremendous potential as yet in almost every area, particularly in the safe areas of New South Wales. Australia has three tremendous needs. It must supply these vital needs if it is going to be a successful nation and have a future. We need more people. We are doing our very best to right that Jack, lt is not an easy matter to get the right sort of migrant. It is very difficult in view of the fact that Europe is booming, so much so that it is employing thousands of Chinese and Japanese labourers, in the mines of Germany for instance. When one knows of the tremendous demand for better quality citizens by the northern European countries in particular he realises why it is so difficult for Australia to get the right type of migrant. While I believe that the time has come when we must consider a limited amount of migration from other countries, it is essential that we be careful to see that those we bring into the country can be integrated and assimilated into the community. We could very easily destroy our ability to do a worthwhile job in Asia by creating in Australia a colour problem or a racial problem. It could happen here. It has nearly happened in Britain. At present we have no prejudices against people of other races or people with skins of another colour, but if we brought into this country too many of these people and brought them in too quickly, thus building up a different economic level among them, we could have a problem that would militate against our doing something worth while in South East Asia.
If we are to develop Australia effectively we must use organisations like the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. As honorable members are aware, plans to engage the Authority on other work have for some time been pushed to one side. The Authority has lost many of its best men. I know this to be so. I have talked to many of them. Only a fortnight ago I addressed a large gathering of engineers. One after another they told me that they had left or would leave the Authority because they were uncertain of their future. Who can blame a young man with ability and drive and the need to support a young family for leaving the Authority when he can see a future of only 18 months or perhaps two years in his present job? Only recently a senior engineer left the Authority because he was uncertain of his future. The Commonwealth has now offered the States an opportunity to use a great deal of the talent, ability and experience of the Authority. The onus is now on the States to do something worth while. Too often the States have been very parochial in their attitude. They have wanted to paddle their own canoe. They have not wanted the resources of the Snowy Mountains Authority unless the Commonwealth were prepared to meet the cost. The States have said in effect: “ We will use it if the Commonwealth will pay for it”.
We hear a lot about the tremendous water resources of the north, but if we develop them we must be sure to use them effectively, profitably and economically.
Recently, in a Snowy Mountains Authority camp in my electorate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) said -
When I am Prime Minister the Snowy Mountains Authority will become a permanent organisation and those working for the Authority will have jobs for life.
The organisation was created first and foremost as a hydro-electric authority. The storage of water for irrigation purposes was a secondary consideration. Perhaps today this secondary consideration is every bit as important as the primary purpose of the organisation. But to say for the sole purpose of gaining political kudos that the organisation will be permanent is unrealistic and insincere. Some time ago the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allen) put forward a really worthwhile and practical scheme that would provide tremendous scope for using the personnel and employing the experience we have in the Snowy Mountains Authority. I refer to his proposal for a river basins authority. As the honorable member said, water recognises no State boundaries. The creation of a river basins authority would enable the building of minor and major dams and would lead to the control of water in each river basin. No doubt it would be necessary to have a national conservation authority where we have a pool of experts to go out and investigate where dams should be built. All this would mean so much to the future prosperity of this country.
Major dams are most important and play a big part in our development. Irrigation is a wonderful thing. But irrigation is not the complete answer. I remember the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) saying that if there had been five or six major dams in Queensland there would not have been any drought losses. That was one of the most stupid statements I have heard. There are in Queensland hundreds of thousands of acres of land that could never be irrigated. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile farming and pastoral country needing stock water which could never be provided by major dams. There is a great need for long term finance to enable the practical, efficient and far seeing land owner to build his own water reserves and to reticulate his own water, if necessary, from his own large dams. This would prevent the loss of large numbers of stock, which are so vital to our economy. It would do a great deal more than attempting to water large areas of country. What happens when an irrigation scheme is set up? To be justified economically it must be fully used. When a drought comes an irrigation scheme is of little use in saving stock because the land is already fully committed to stock or crops. In time of drought, a few major dams in Queensland would be like a few pinpoints on a map. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has told us repeatedly that more stock die from shortage of water in this great dry continent than from lack of feed. The provision of long-term finance for practical landowners would do a great deal more than unlimited amounts of Government money spent on major dams. The provision of long term finance would earn interest and we would get the capital back over a period of time. Such loans would boost our export income and save large numbers of stock. These loans would make it safe for land owners to carry vastly increased numbers of stock. Surely Australia’s greatest need is for more water resources spread over this vast continent, wherever they can possibly be used.
Some time ago I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), who was Treasurer at the time, what was Australia’s greatest asset. What is our greatest asset? It is young men with drive, knowledge and knowhow who do not have rich fathers. There are thousands of these young men in the country. They are the sons of farmers, graziers, businessmen, professional men - the sons of the ordinary man in the street. These fellows are breaking their hearts to have an opportunity to carve a property for themselves out of the land. I believe there is a tremendous need to do something to help these young men. There is a great scope for some sort of new settlement scheme - some scheme to provide land on lease with an option to purchase, giving a man country that he can develop. Give him a lease for a period of five or ten years. If necessary, give him some sort of living wage and a programme of development. At the end of that time, sell the land to him at its original predetermined price. He has an asset against which he can borrow. I have seen this done. I and my younger brothers have done it. We have taken over unimproved land, on a lease with an option, at £5 an acre and it was worth £40 an acre when we had finished developing it. This is the sort of thing that would do more to develop Australia than grandiose government schemes. This is the sort of thing that developed Australia in the early days. This is the sort of drive, energy and enterprise that our forefathers and the pioneers showed.
We have come a long way along the road in the last year under this Government. I was a member of the Country Party Drought Committee which interviewed the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, and the present Prime Minister when he was Treasurer. We submitted a proposal for a rural development term loan. The problem all along the line, as far as rural development is concerned, has been the need for long term loans. We submitted a proposal for the provision of long term loans. We suggested that some of the money held in reserve by the Reserve Bank be made available for the specific purpose of rural development. We suggested that the money be made available on a long term basis. We submitted that our proposition would not create inflation to any great degree and that any small degree of inflation created would be offset by a tremendous increase in production. The Prime Minister promised to go into the matter thoroughly. He did so. He was able to announce earlier this year the establishment of the Farm Development Loan Fund, with an initial capital of $50 million. In certain cases, no interest would be payable on loans but would be funded over the first two years. There would be no repayment of capital for five years, and repayment of capital would be spread over 15 years. The Government increased the term for the brigalow development loans to 25 years. This has given an opportunity to men to develop their properties, but for some strange reason we are not receiving the co-operation of the banks, though this was promised. I find that this is the position right around my electorate. Not only are the progressive land owners, who have country that is crying out for development, unaware of all the details of this matter but when they approach their bank managers they are not being encouraged. Most of the branch bank managers do not have any idea about conditions or anything else regarding the loans. I have had details of the scheme distributed to bank managers in my electorate. Why are the banks really not cooperating in this great development scheme?
– Head office is to blame.
– As my colleague says, the head offices are to blame. I spoke to the general manager of one of the large banks recently and I was appalled to find how little he knew about conditions in rural areas. I suggest that he is like a lot of other leading financiers; they do not know what is happening over the range. They speak a different language. There is opportunity in many of our good rainfall areas if only we could get long term finance. We are not asking for cheap money or a gift or anything of that nature. The young farmers are not asking for charity. They do not want a 30 hour week or long service leave; they want opportunity. That is all they are seeking.
If we really want to develop this country, we must make a greater effort with our developmental roads, and I refer not only to beef roads. Right here at hand, believe it or not, we have a developmental road. It is the Canberra to Tumut road, proposals for which have been bandied about for years. Tumut is one of the most productive areas within striking distance of Canberra. It sends to Canberra whole milk, produce and so on. Tumut grows food, including meat - beef and fat lambs - and many other things, including timber, that Canberra wants. But all these products must be sent 120 miles to get here instead of being sent 70 miles on the direct route. A highway was put through to the south coast so that the residents of Canberra could enjoy themselves; but a road to Tumut would bring in food, timber and canned goods and would provide a direct route to Melbourne. It would make the journey to Melbourne very much shorter. It would open up one of the most beautiful areas in the whole of this nation. Those people who have travelled by the track through to Tumut, on to Tumbarumba and right down to the Murray will agree that this is one of the most beautiful scenic roads in the country.
Another scenic road, the Alpine Way, is now being left to fall into disrepair. This road is one of the most outstanding scenic routes in the world. It provides another link between Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory. But it has been neglected. However, an expressway is being built from Sydney to Newcastle. The first five miles of this road have cost $2 million a mile, but the old road is still not too bad. Except on holidays and weekends, the old road was adequate. If people in Canberra want to go to Bathurst, they must go the long way round, either through Sydney or through Yass, Harden and Young and Cowra. There is not a direct road fit to travel on, although the route is classified as a main road. There is some beautiful country on this road within 50 or 60 miles of Canberra that needs developing. It is true that we need beef roads in the north; but we also need roads in this area.
However, to provide money for development is not the only function of the Commonwealth Government; it is far more the function of the Government to provide such requirements as hospitals, schools, and telephones. I have not yet mentioned education and my time is short. I say that this country desperately needs improved education facilities. We in New South Wales are suffering from years of neglect by State Labour governments. We find now that no provision was made for the increased number of children who will seek higher education under the new scheme; no provision was made to train more teachers and no provision was made for more buildings. In my electorate, we are at this very moment fighting to get a university. Why should we, who are in a country area, have to fight tooth and nail to get a Riverina university? Every thinking person in the area has been demanding it for years. Professional men agree that we should have our own university.
Research is most important for rural development. We have the knowledge, but our extension services are inadequate because we are not training enough men. I had it said to me the other day that the demand for a university was not present. I would like to direct the attention of the House to what was done in Junee recently. This is a small town, but it is so keen to have a university that various bodies voluntarily offered $100,000 towards the cost of building it in this area. This is typical of the enterprise and drive of people in country areas. We desperately need a university in the Riverina. The Government must make up its own mind about this and not merely accept the report of the Australian Universities Commission. The Government did not fully accept the Vernon report or the Martin report. Why should it take as final the report of the Australian Universities Commission? I feel that the Commission is loaded against country people. Too often the experts fail to see the woods for the trees, and I think this is what has happened with our request for a university. The development of Australia is vital. Education also is vital, but above all defence is vital if we want to keep Australia free. I have much pleasure in supporting the Budget.
.- I support the amendment in the terms moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). The Budget provides adequately for neither development nor defence, as I will prove during the course of my address. Yesterday a statement of real significance to national development was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) with very great unction and not a little shrewdness. He said the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority would be more or less in the discard in relation to future developmental works financed by the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister said that he proposed to consult promptly with the State Governments on the future use of the Snowy Mountains Authority. In doing so, he was obviously killing two birds with the one stone.
By one of the usual remarkable political coincidences, last week, when a pressure group representing the Western Australian Government was in Canberra to confer with the right honorable gentleman and his Cabinet on the possibilities of developing the Ord irrigation scheme still further, it was announced that Cockburn Sound would be examined to determine its suitability as a future naval base. Now, to avoid further electoral embarrassment, which will undoubtedly occur when the Opposition during the forthcoming campaign raises the ques tion of northern development, the Prime Minister proposes to put the Snowy Mountains Authority right into the discard. He does this in the most astute fashion by suggesting that in future the Authority will best serve by co-operating with the States. Of course, the immediate reaction from the various State Premiers and Ministers for Works was to ask that the Commonwealth give them the money. This was quite correct. But with amazing gall, the Prime Minister, having denied the States the money for developmental works, now suggests that the very developmental projects which he has failed to assist shall be examined. This is a sort of self-defeating proposal. When asked by the New South Wales Minister for Public Works to provide Commonwealth finance for a programme of water conservation, the Prime Minister replied that in the years ahead we must watch capital expenditure most carefully. He added that there must be economic justification. Sir, what is the Snowy Mountains Authority? lt is a world famous authority; it is one of the outstanding achievements of Australian engineering and science. World standards have been set in construction and world records have been set in tunnelling. The Authority has three distinct functions: First, to investigate; secondly, to plan; and thirdly, to construct.
Last month a most interesting white paper related to cost-benefit analysis was put into circulation by the Treasury. The gravamen of the paper was that in future, in major capital expenditure, the very closest attention should be paid to the economical practicability of the proposal. In future, political pork barrelling and political vote catching schemes were to go into the discard and common sense and strict accountancy assessments were to be applied to any project involving major capital expenditure. It so happens that, in the case of New South Wales, there is a matter to which the Snowy Mountains Authority can apply itself immediately. I refer to the programme of harbour development as announced earlier this year by the New South Wales Minister for Public Works, Mr. Davis Hughes, M.L.A. That programme considered the needs of the three major ports of New South Wales - Sydney, Newcastle and Port Kembla, lt was proposed over a period of 10 years to expend the sum of $96 million on the redevelopment and reconstruction of the port of Sydney, $58 million on the port of Newcastle and precisely nothing on the port of Kembla. That is a scandalous state of affairs and is due in no small measure to the incompetence of the present State representative in that area who was more concerned about securing his own electoral survival in an electoral redistribution than with devoting himself to the needs of a major port of this nation.
I have said before in this House that the port of Sydney has the best harbour and, at the same time, is one of the worst ports in the world. The port authorities at Sydney have been caught napping, as usual, by the march of events. In fact, the whole port of Sydney and the road service to that port are suffering from what might be termed transport arterio-sclerosis. There is a definite hardening of the transport and traffic arteries. There is a definite blockage of the lifeblood of commerce and transport which should be flowing freely through the port of Sydney. In that regard I quote from the Australian “ Financial Review “ of 28th January 1965, which states -
For 20 years the shipping industry has watched Australia’s biggest port steadily deteriorate as the Maritime Services Board has failed to fulfil its expansion obligations.
For those who imagine Australia as an advanced, efficient trading nation a tour of the Sydney dockside area is a shattering experience.
Chaos has ruled for so long that if is now regarded as the norm . . .
Sometimes a coincidence of circumstances, such as a touch of rain on a Friday when a P. & O. passenger ship is sailing, places so much pressure on the limited communications system serving the wharves that the whole of the Sydney city area is affected.
All these factors have contributed to this present situation - the brutal fact that Sydney is a badly organised, run-down, obsolescent, inefficient port is largely obscured.
This fact has implications of economic significance to the whole of the Sydney industrial complex, the entire New South Wales pastoral and grazing population and Australia’s trade drive as a whole.
The report continues -
Many of the wharves available are incapable of efficiently servicing a modern cargo vessel. Some were designed for receiving cargo from horse and drays.
At Woolloomooloo there are seven general cargo wharves but they are too small for present day demands, having been built 50 years ago to service smaller vessels than are now used.
The modern cargo carrier usually discharges a load of between 3,000 and 4,000 tons.
The Woolloomooloo sheds have a capacity of 1,500 tons.
They were originally designed for use as wool storage sheds as well as wharf sheds.
The report goes on to state that the shed doors are too low to enable fork lifts to pass through them. It continues -
The lack of storage space in the sheds is a major contributing factor to the congestion along the roads outside the wharves.
Carriers have to wait patiently by the hour and queue up to take their turn to offload. The article continues -
Frequently hatches cannot be worked on ships because sheds are packed and there is nowhere to put the offloaded cargo.
Because the fairways are so narrow, it is often necessary to move up to three ships to allow one to be shifted.
The announcement of the programme of reconstruction of the port of Sydney was greeted in these terms in an article in the Australian “Financial Review” of 23rd March last -
The provision of rail facilities to the wharves is another issue. Only 37 of the 120 shipping berths in Sydney have any rail connections.
Port problems cannot be divorced from road and rail problems and assurances by the M.S.B. that “ everything that needs to be done has been done “ in this respect will bring little comfort to those who have to use the port of Sydney.
There is still no sense of urgency, of the imminence of change, either in the deliberations or utterances of the M.S.B. or, for that matter, of the State Government which has been notably silent on the port deficiences of N.S.W.
The matter does not rest there. The point 1 wish to make is that so far as the port of Newcastle is concerned, it has an undoubted right to further development. That port has been in a pathetic state due to port siltation and the problems of shallow water presented by the rockbar at Newcastle Harbour entrance. But in the case of the port of Sydney as compared with the port of Kembla there is a very definite need to re-examine and recast the whole of the priorities. In that regard I refer the House to the comment made in the Basten report in 1952 in which the following appeared -
Many berths in the ports of the Commonwealth were designed for a kind of trade different from that which now prevails and, on account of growth of Australia, is considered likely to continue.
The construction of new port facilities and the reconstruction of old is recommended.
There is literally a Gilbertian situation in the port of Sydney today. The port authorities are unprepared to service even present ships coining to Sydney. What preparations have been made for the advent of containerisation? It has been announced that the first overseas container ships will arrive in Sydney at about the middle of 1968. We find that in White Bay the Maritime Services Board has planned on the best of the limited number of locations still left in the port of Sydney two container berths, each with limited acreage for the storage of containers, which will necessarily be served by lighters loading from a storage area of some 40 acres in Homebush Bay. As a desperate alternative to the port of Sydney an overseas firm has been commissioned to make certain inquiries into the possibility of developing Botany Bay. Banksmeadow on the southern side of Botany Bay has been examined and the firm, according to recent Press publicity, has submitted to the Maritime Services Board proposals for the construction of an entirely new port at Botany Bay at a cost of some $90 million, which is $6 million less than has been estimated for the reconstruction of the port of Sydney.
We must face modern realities. Sydney Harbour is the sunken bed of the Parramatta River. By its very nature it has prevented a concentric system of road transport to serve the needs of metropolitan Sydney. For the same reason, in a city which was designed in th« days of George III it is impossible, without reconstruction and demolition, to ever clear the harbour space which is needed alongside the wharves for the development of containerised berths. So we come to this new proposition that, in the future, harbours could, in fact, be remote from metropolitan traffic congestion. In other words, the design of Sydney Harbour and its development in the future should be limited to the particular needs of the metropolitan area itself.
A very substantial proportion - in fact the major proportion - of the freight which is now going to Sydney Harbour from western New South Wales over the Blue Mountains along the main western railway line could be better shipped from either Botany Bay or Port Kembla. As a member of the New South Wales Parliament, I was closely associated for 12 years with the development of the port of Kembla. 1 take pride in the fact that I was responsible for the legislation authorising and for the construction of Port Kembla Harbour. Behind my action was this thinking: I would first ensure the permanent development of the Port of Kembla for purposes of bulk cargo - bottom cargo - the heavy cargo which is normally stored in the bottom of the hold of a ship. At the same time the harbour should have the potential of a general cargo port which could serve the import and export needs of the 400,000 people in Greater Wollongong, Shoalhaven, Berrima, Goulburn, Canberra, Queanbeyan and the Monaro district. There was certainly the potential for the development of a separate general cargo port. The future of Kembla as a modern bottom cargo and bulk cargo port is assured, but it must be seriously considered as an alternative, in the terms of the Basten report, for the shipping of a big proportion of the freight generated in the western areas of New South Wales now going through Sydney.
In the matter of the development of the Port of Kembla, time presses. 1 have said that there is a deadline of mid 1968. Shipping rationalisation and the recently announced plans which will provide for overseas ships to call at, say, three major capital ports where bigger loads will be terminated instead of six, therefore paying less harbour dues by calling at fewer ports, will operate against Kembla unless it is developed immediately as a containerised and general cargo port. By the same token, we find that Melbourne is a long way ahead of Sydney because between six and eight container berths are already being developed there and some of the potential cargo which could be coming to Kembla from the southern Riverina is now being carried, and has been for some considerable time, by the four railway lines which lead over the border from Victoria to that area. I refer to Albury, Corowa, Tocumwal and Balranald. In addition to that and for the very same reason, there will be a considerable diversion because rail freights become much less as a cost factor than do port operation and handling charges. Consequently, the port of Melbourne with container berths will drain seriously the present cargo traffic from even the port of Sydney. For those reasons, the matter is most urgent. The Snowy Mountains Authority is one body which is capable of making the necessary assessment.
In that regard, 1 should like to direct the attention of the House to an excellent letter by Mr. James S. Colman, architect and town planner, relating to the Sydney Harbour crisis, which appeared in the “ Australian “ of 25th August. He suggested there should be terms of reference for a properly constituted Federal ports inquiry - this is a function which could be discharged by the Snowy Mountains Authority - to deal with the following -
There is the pattern for the future of Australian port development. It can be handled only by a national authority. The Snowy Mountains Authority has the prestige, ability and respect of the Australian people and its services should be used for that purpose along with others.
Immediately to the north of my constituency in the State electorate of Bulli is a single railway tunnel known as the Clifton tunnel. The Snowy Mountains Authority holds a world tunnelling record. It has driven as much as 560 feet a day through some of the hardest rock in the world. The tunnel to which I referred is one of the constricted arteries in the railway link between Sydney and Wollongong. The Snowy Mountains Authority should be co-opted for the construction of a modern tunnel which will be required within the next five years if there is not to be acute congestion on the Illawarra railway line. This matter has been raised consistently in the New South Wales Parliament by my State parliamentary colleague, Mr. Rex Jackson, M.L.A.
To pass to the general aspects of the Budget. 1 think it was well summed up in the editorial in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of Wednesday 17th August which stated -
We are no wiser about the economic outlook than we were this time yesterday. . . . The Budget is extremely cautious . . . and the caution extends to evasiveness when it comes to tha Treasurer’s speech.
We can state the position in much more simple terms by quoting from the text of the August report of the National Bank of Australasia Ltd. in which the following appears -
Undoubtedly, a chief cause of the weakness in consumption spending is that personal income in the aggregate has failed to grow at previous rates. In this, increased taxation has played no small part.
The report goes on to point out that in terms of real purchasing power New South Wales and Queensland have, in fact, dropped heavily in the last 12 months. Last year we had the “ soak the sinners “ Budget when astutely, by indirect taxation not less than £91 was extracted from the pocket of every Australian father of a family. The tax amounted to £18 4s. per capita and on the basis of a family man with a wife and three children it represented £91 which was taken from the budget of the ordinary Australian family by excise and sales tax. This year we have a different type of Budget which might be called a “ sock the States “ Budget because this time we will off-load to the States the responsibility of financing their internal development and even balancing their budgets by increasing taxation. That taxation will be regressive, not progressive, taxation. It will not be related to a person’s ability to pay but will fall on the rich and the poor, the just and the unjust alike. You name it, Sir, and in the next financial year you will find that the States will be taxing it, whether in the form of increases in rail fares and freights, bus fares, stamp duties, hospital fees or car registration charges. Name what you will, and you can expect swinging increases in the next 12 months because this Government, for electoral purposes, is not prepared to face up to its responsibilities.
For many years the Federal Government has been offloading major responsibilities on to the various States. Today the aggregate of State debt stands at 37,172 million, as compared with the Commonwealth total of $3,700 million. I am quoting only round figures. At the same time we find that the Commonwealth, as the major recipient of the tax revenues of Australia, is enjoying relative borrowing immunity. It is a situation that cannot continue, and in the name of Australian development and progress we should revise the Constitution and revise the respective responsibilities of the State Governments and the Federal Government.
The effect of this offloading of responsibility is seen today most notably in the field of education. It is also apparent in the pensions field, and here I come to one of the most disgraceful features of the Budget. Recently the New South Wales Labour Council found it necessary to organise a living standards conference in Sydney. It was attended by more than 2,000 people and its purpose was to review the increasing hardship resulting from decreasing purchasing power due to uncontrolled inflation of prices, with particular reference to living costs. In “ Australian Gallup Polls “ for May-July 1966 an article appeared which read in part -
Six out of 10 people think pensions should be increased by at least $4 a week - from $12 to $16.
Nevertheless we find the Government handing out a miserable pittance to pensioners. The viewpoint was put in even more specific terms by Mr. G. W. Ford, senior lecturer in industrial relations at the University of New South Wales, when speaking at the same conference. He said that the pension plan of the Commonwealth Government was a cowardly one. The “ Australian “ newspaper of 1st August 1966 contained a report of his speech to the conference, and it said -
He said the Government’s social services policy was economically illiterate.
Its ignorance of the true extent of poverty and hardship was abominable. There should be a fundamental study of the problem.
He said it was more than 20 years since the Government had made a survey into the effects of the existing system of social service benefits.
Mr. Ford said that there are no fewer than 800,000 persons in Australia living in substandard and underprivileged conditions. At the same conference another man of eminence, Mr. Schoenheimer, senior lecturer in education at Monash University, said that children of wealthy parents were about 18 times more likely to enter universities than the children of semi-skilled and unskilled workers. A report in the “ Australia.lian “ of 1st August 1966 said -
Mr. Schoenheimer said finance had been poured into tertiary education because the Government realised it must have a certain number of trained people to help the economy grow. “ However bad the shambles in primary and secondary education, the Government knows that enough students survive the rat race to become physicists, engineers and accountants,” be said.
The Budget protests continue. The Canberra “ Times “ of 23rd August 1966 contained a report of statements by no less an authority than Sir Arthur Lee, the National President of the Returned Servicemen’s League. The report read -
The national executive of the Returned Services League took the unusual step yesterday of issuing a strong public protest against the repatriation provisions of the Federal Budget. The executive decided unanimously to ask the Prime Minister, Mr. Holt, to introduce a supplementary budget as a matter of urgency to restore the relative values of repatriation pensions.
The executive said repatriation pensions by comparison with the Federal basic wage were at an all-time low, being even less than in 1949 .
The figures were given for all to read. In 1950 the special rate pension represented 101 per cent, of the then basic wage. It is 93 per cent, of the basic wage today. The general rate pension was 51 per cent, of the basic wage in 1950 and it is now 37 per cent. The pension for a war widow was 55 per cent, of the basic wage in 1950, while today it is 40 per cent.
Let me refer the House to the situation in my own constituency. I have before me the annual report of the Wollongong Smith Family, a well known charitable and eleemosynary body, which does a wonderful job. In the year 1961-62 relief was given in 1,292 cases, while in 1965-66 the number of cases had increased to 10,605. This showed an eightfold increase. The report said that in these cases relief was being given to widows, old people, who are destitute, lonely and neglected, and to children. This is a scandalous state of affairs and it is a result of the low wages being paid by the steel industry to its own unskilled workers, lt reflects a situation that exists despite all the attempts of Liberal propagandists to conceal it. I refer to the fact that there are nearly 6,000 women in my constituency seeking work. There are today in the City of Greater Wollongong 1,979 people registered for employment. There are nearly 1,000 people receiving unemployment relief. The Health Inspector for the City of Greater Wollongong has reported that building activity is at a lower level than it has been during the last 16 years, and this is following the visit of the former Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) who promised that he would give special attention to the housing needs of the area and of the migrant population.
.- I wish to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) on producing a budget of such vast magnitude and importance at such a difficult time in our history. I suppose few Treasurers have had to produce a first Budget under such difficult conditions. When I refer to difficult conditions I mean the drought, the increased defence provisions, the economic position in the United Kingdom and the difficulties in the sterling area.
The dominant feature of this Budget is the big increase in the defence vote. Defence expenditure this financial year is expected to reach $1,000 million. This is $252 million or 34 per cent, more than last year’s expenditure, and it is nearly twice the level of expenditure three years ago. Such a progressive build-up in our defence effort has been necessary. It is sound policy, the only policy that could be followed in the circumstances of the world around us. In this vital area we cannot leave our national security at risk and turn aside from our obligations to others.
A sizeable part of the proposed expenditure on defence will take the form of purchases of material and equipment overseas, particularly in the United States of America. Fortunately arrangements have been made with the United States Government to obtain substantial credits for purchases in that country. The purchases to be covered by such credits this year are estimated to be worth £114 million. This amount does not have to be found immediately from the Budget or from outforeign exchange reserves, but it will have to be found in later years.
Insofar as the materials and equipment required by the Defence Forces are supplied from local sources, the purchases of them do not involve a direct charge on our foreign exchange reserves and they do represent orders for local industry. By adding to the demand on local resources, however, they do tend to add indirectly to the call upon our overseas reserves. It would be helpful if we could increase progressively the extent to which the requirements of the Defence Forces are met locally, but there are, of course, limits to the scope for this - limits which cannot be ignored if the Defence Forces are to be adequately provided with the kind of equipment that is needed these days. However, the Government is giving close attention to this whole problem.
If we use more of our available resources for the defence effort as we are doing, it necessarily follows that there will be less scope than there would otherwise be for other things. We cannot have it all ways at once. This is a basic truth that should not be lost sight of when we are looking at other elements of the Budget. During the past year or two there has been a substantial transfer of resources into the defence field. This has been accomplished very successfully without any serious dislocation. In fact investment, especially in basic industries, has gone on to a higher rate than ever before in this period, and total employment has grown strongly, but there has been some slowing down of the expansion of consumption spending. This has had to be so, otherwise our resources would have become overstrained.
For the year ahead the Government sees some greater scope for increased consumer spending. In particular, industry has the capacity to meet a higher increase in demand from this quarter. A number of factors, including the recent basic wage increase, will be at work increasing community spending. The Budget itself also is designed to have an expansionary effect. More particularly, besides the big increase in defence spending the Government has been able to make substantially increased provision for developmental activities, for education and other important services, for assistance to the States and for additional help to the needy. It has been able to do this without proposing a rise in taxation.
Given the rise in expenditure in the Budget, especially on defence, one could hardly expect any general reduction in taxes this year. Indeed, it might be thought that with the increase in expenditure there would be a case for tax increases. That course would have had its risk in particular the risk of having consumption expenditure unduly depressed, with unfortunate effects on wide areas of industry that service consumer demand, and on employment. Nor does it follow that larger increases in expenditure than are proposed in the Budget would be appropriate either with or without tax increases. Without increased taxes they would add to the already large prospective deficit and carry the grave risk of overstretching the economy generally. If they were to be offset by tax increases there would still be the risk that those sections of industry which could do with some sort of fillip through increased consumer spending would not be helped, while too much pressure would be put on at other points in the economy. In short, while making greatly increased provision for defence the Budget is also well designed to advance the progress of development and social improvement so far as our limited resources permit and, at the same time, being directed towards ensuring full and effective use of these resources.
There are some who complain that in one direction or another the Government should be doing even more than is proposed in this Budget. One hears this kind of complaint from some of the States. The States are, of course, facing Budget difficulties this year. It is that kind of a year for governments. The Commonwealth itself had to face up to very major problems in formulating its Budget; nor can the blame for the fact that the States have difficult decisions to make be laid on the Commonwealth. As it is, the Government has treated the States very generously. Despite the big increase in defence expenditure it has undertaken that they will have $40 million more than last year for their works and housing programmes. Its other payments to the States are estimated to increase by $.105 million, or by more than 9 per cent. - not an ungenerous rate of increase in all the circumstances. There is provision, within this total, for not less than $35 million to New South Wales and Queensland by way of drought assistance. Nearly $22 million was provided last year. Not only is the Commonwealth meeting the total cost of the measures each of these two States undertakes to relieve the effects of the drought - which represents an approach to drought assistance more generous than anything in the past - but it is also proposing additional assistance to help these States meet the budgetary problems arising from the effects of the drought on their revenues.
Responsibility for the education of persons resident within the States rests constitutionally with State Governments. Even so, the Commonwealth Budget meets a substantial and increasing amount of expenditure directed towards education. There is, of course, expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth in connection with the education of the residents of its own territories, including expenditure on the Australian National University. In the last five years this has increased from about $17 million to approximately $31 million. Then there is the assistance provided by the Commonwealth to the States to enable them to discharge their constitutional obligations. Indirectly the Commonwealth Budget makes a substantial contribution to education in the States through the mechanism of the general assistance grants and through support given to State works programmes. Also since 1951 the Commonwealth has provided direct grants to the States in support of specific areas of education. Initially this support was related to universities, but in more recent years the scope of the assistance has broadened considerably.
Thus, when viewing this segment of Commonwealth expenditures we find that, in addition to assistance for universities, substantial amounts are now being provided for the building and equipping of science laboratories in government and independent secondary schools, for the building and equipping of technical schools and more recently still for the new colleges of advanced education. In 1961-62 payments to the States for universities amounted to $28.3 million. In the current financial year it is expected that payments will total $84.7 million - $54.6 million for universities, $8.3 million for colleges of advanced education and $21.8 million for science laboratories and technical training.
The third major area of Commonwealth expenditure in the education field relates to the provision of scholarships. In 1951-52 expenditure on this account amounted to $5.9 million and covered scholarships for persons undertaking postgraduate and undergraduate training in universities. Since then, however, the scope of the Commonwealth scholarships schemes has been expanded to incompass scholars in colleges of advanced education and in secondary and technical schools. The cost of various scholarships schemes in 1966-67 is expected to be $22.7 million.
Let me now turn to housing, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Home building is another area of importance. Part of the finance for homebuilding activities is provided through the Budget, especially by way of housing advances to the States and war service homes loans. But a large proportion of it comes from other sources. In recent years, government sources of housing funds, including the War Service Homes Division, State Housing authorities, the Homebuilders’ Account, Commonwealth housing authorities and others, have been providing the funds for close to one third, on an average, of the total number of dwellings commenced. In 1964-65 the number commenced by State housing authorities under loans from the Homebuilders’ Account was almost 16,000. In that year, advances to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement were $ 1 20.7 million. Last financial year they were $117 million. This financial year they will be$1 20 million.
Last financial year, 107,000 new houses and flats were commenced. This was about 10,000 less than the record total in 1964-65, but virtually the same number as was commenced in 1963-64, just one year earlier. Prior to 1963-64, the highest number of dwellings commenced in any financial year was 91,300, in 1959-60. The number of new dwellings completed in 1965-66, however, was 112,550, only 100 fewer than the record level of completions in the previous year and almost 16,000 more than the previous highest total of 96,700 achieved in 1963-64. After reaching a record level of 116,700 in 1964-65, dwelling commencements in Australia as a whole declined in the second half of 1965. In the first half of 1966, however, there has been a steady improvement in the rate of home building, reflecting the action taken to increase housing finance through the savings banks and the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. As a result of these measures, commencements have recovered to an annual rate of over 110,000 in the recent June quarter. I think the Treasurer should take a great deal of the credit for this recovery. He referred to it in his Budget speech and pointed out that the rate of dwelling construction seems likely to continue to rise. The Government, he said, will do all it can to see thatit does.
However, Mr. Deputy Speaker, much has been accomplished in regard to housing, there is still much to be done. I feel that because this proposal has been with us for so long we are apt to put it on one side, instead of meeting it as a forthright challenge. It is the right of every young married couple to have their own home. It is equally proper that they should make some effort to be in a position to own their own home. Speaking of my own State, I suggest that it is time we put things in their proper perspective. The spending of further millions of dollars on the Sydney Opera House is not justified when thousands of married couples, with or without children, are living in abject conditions. This huge expenditure should not be poured into this redundant luxury while this situation continues.
For the next 100 years at least this project will be a drain on the State’s resources. The present theatres in Sydney are ample to accommodate the audiences that are likely to be attracted to opera performances. Even in Vienna, theatres can accommodate only 900 to 1,000 people. But the people of Sydney are being provided with spacious auditoriums that will never be utilised for the purposes for which they are being erected. The construction of the Opera House has been a great debacle and this project will continue to drain money from housing while it is continued. The cost of production, direction, staff and maintenance will absorb more than the proceeds of the Opera House lotteries in the future. Let New South Wales call it a day and complete the building in a form suitable for use as the New South Parliament House. The area in which it is situated could even be known as “ The Folly “. It would be ever a grim reminder of the need to ensure that a design is capable of fulfilment and that whatever construction is begun is capable of completion. Had the money used for the Opera House and funds allocated to various county councils and the State Planning Authority been devoted to the construction of homes for low wage earners, there would not now be any housing shortage in New South Wales.
I turn now to social services, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is gratifying that, despite the increase in other commitments, it has been possible to include in the Budget the improvements in social services and repatriation benefits and entitlements that are proposed. It would be widely agreed that these are well justified. AH told, they are estimated to cost almost $40 million this financial year. Expenditure on social services and repatriation this financial year is estimated to reach $1,269 million, or 21 per cent, of the total Budget expenditure. Whilst most of us would be pleased to see even further improvements in the range and standard of benefits provided, the cost, as evidenced by these figures, cannot be ignored. However, some relief by way of increased permissible earnings, is to be given to pensioners with children. This is good, but I would like to see further gradual elimination of the means test so that within a stated period it will be totally abolished. This should be cur goal from now on.
I now want to refer to a speech made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). It may well be his swan song. On the evening of 18th August, he referred to the backbenchers on this side of the House as violent and bloody men. It would appear that his only reason for using such intemperate language is that nearly all of them are returned soldiers with good war records. I throw his dirty remarks back into his teeth. I know his type well. Not having served his country in war, he is jealous of those who have. He is ill at ease in the presence of returned soldiers and when he attends one of their functions he gets away from them as quickly as possible. Our experience of war has taught us not to glorify it but to hate it with all the intensity at our command. This fact has not dulled our judgment, our powers of assessment or our desire to serve our country in national or international matters. We at least are united in our determination to do those things that will preserve our way of life and to defy the acts of any aggressor with all our might and power, in the full knowledge that we have friendly and strong allies who will assist us in our time of need. This time of need would be hastened should, by any mischance, the Opposition ever succeed to the treasury bench; but whether we would then have strong and friendly allies is a matter of conjecture. We could hardly expect our allies to come to our assistance in the future if we deserted them or left them in circumstances such as exist in South East Asia at the present time.
– I wholeheartedly agree with the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Irwin) in what he said about some of the matters to which he directed his attention, and I have no doubt there are other members on this side of the House who would also agree with him. He said that we should be building more homes. He also directed his attention to the cost of the Sydney Opera House. I am not an expert on these matters. No doubt the honorable member for Mitchell is more fully aware of the circumstances surrounding the construction of the Opera House than I am; but I do know that if it is necessary to build more homes in this country there is no reason why the Commonwealth Government should not make more money available for that purpose. I hope to have an opportunity later in my remarks to deal more fully with this subject. I concur with the honorable member for Mitchell that it is an important matter. It is not only an important matter; it is a serious one to many people in this country and here I refer, as the honorable member for Mitchell did, to those in the low income group.
The honorable member for Mitchell dealt at length with defence. He pointed out that the proposed expenditure on defence this financial year is $1,000 million. I say to the honorable member for Mitchell as other honorable members in this House have said to the Government on several occasions, that if the money spent on defence in the years between 1949 and 1960 had been more wisely spent the Government would not have to be spending the money that it is now making available for essential equipment for the armed services. In those years, a great proportion of the defence vote was expended on administration. Very little of the money was directed to the purchase of essential equipment.
The honorable member for Mitchell pointed to one or two other things. I do not disagree with his opinion on the need to extend the housing programme. Indeed, I wholeheartedly support his suggestion. I do not disagree with his contention that there ought to be an immediate easing of the means test. Over a number of years, not only honorable members on the Government side but also honorable members on this side of the House have referred to the need for this. As I hope at a later stage of my address to be able to direct my attention to the easing of the means test, I shall say no more on that subject at this stage except that the honorable member for Mitchell is correct in what he says and I hope that not only he but other honorable members on the Government side will take every possible opportunity to convince the Government that this is essential in this day and age.
Having regard to the circumstances now obtaining and the decisions that flow from the Budget that was introduced into this House a short time ago by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon), this Budget can be described in a number of ways. I feel that it can best be called an irresponsible document. For example, the Government shows that it is not concerned to do anything to help farm incomes. It refuses to do anything substantial for the great bulk of pensioners and large families who are in need of help. It evades its duty to end the housing crisis to which the honorable member for Mitchell referred. It ignores the falling incomes of small businesses and companies. It ignores the fact that there is an air of uncertainty in the community, particularly among small businesses and companies.
Today, during question time, I referred to the deterioration that has taken place in the motor car industry in recent weeks. I pointed out to the Treasurer that very recently there were more than 300 retrenchments from the British Motor Corporation as well as 75 from the Ford company. The Treasurer indicated in his reply that the Government was not unhappy about the situation; that it did not believe there was any need for the Government to take action at this stage.
It is several years since the income of farmers has been as low as it was during 1965-66 when it was S970 million as compared with $1,453 million, or $483 million more, in 1963-64. How do the members of the Country Party explain this substantial fall in farm income? Very few of them have directed their attention to this matter during the Budget debate. Is farm income not the concern of members of the Country Party? It does not appear to be the concern of the Government. The purchasing power of farmers is falling to the low level of prewar years when, by ordinary standards, the farmers were almost a depressed class.
Take for example the export price of butter. It is now worth about half the pre-war value, but still there is no proposal to increase the subsidy on butter. Therefore, one can only assume that the Government is not concerned about the fall in farm incomes. It would seem that the Government’s philosophy is that what happens to the farmers is the concern only of the farmers themselves. Their incomes for the current financial year could be even lower still, but the Treasurer offers no proposal whatever either to increase subsidies or to promote export drives in order to help the farmers over what is obviously going to be a lean period. For how long has the butter subsidy remained at its present level? For years the farmers have been asked to accept the responsibility of increasing production in order to boost our export income but despite the representations that have been made to the responsible Minister by the various farmers’ organisations for an increase in the butter subsidy the Government has been adamant that it should not be increased.
The Government is equally unconcerned about pensioners. Despite what was said a short time ago by the honorable member for Mitchell, the Government has helped only some pensioners who were desperately in need of some recognition. Single pensioners are to receive an increase of Si a week. The combined pension of a married couple will increase by S1.50 a week. Why the distinction between married pensioners and single pensioners? Why should a married couple between them receive 50c a week less than a single pensioner? Surely the needs of married pensioners are as great as those of single pensioners, especially since married pensioners have received no increase for two years. The honorable member for Mitchell did not refer to this. Although married pensioners had received no increase for two years the Government has decided to increase by $1 a week pensions for single persons, but the combined pensions of a married couple is to be increased by only SI. 50. In other words the Government intends to perpetuate an inequity that it produced several years ago when it introduced a special rate for single pensioners.
I do not want to deal with this subject at any great length because there will be an opportunity, when the amending legislation is introduced, for honorable members to direct their attention to pensions generally. However, I hope that the Minister who introduces the legislation will be able to explain adequately why the Government believes that married pensioners should again be discriminated against as they have been in previous years. The pension of a married pensioner will be $12.50 a week as against $16 a week for a single pensioner who is paying board or rent and has no other income. Again 1 ask: How does the Government justify a policy which is prepared to provide an additional amount for a single pensioner who is paying board or rent - and yet refuses to provide similar financial assistance to married pensioners who are living in a rented home or in a home of their own? Why this discrimination? Can the Government, when it introduces the legislation, justify such an anomaly in the Act? In any case, the increases that the Government proposes in the Budget will do nothing more than raise the purchasing power of the pensions to their level before the recent increase in the basic wage. Pensioners will receive no benefit from the rise, because increases in costs and prices have already wiped out any benefit that might have flowed from the increase the Government has agreed to in the Budget.
The honorable member for Mitchell referred to the abolition of the means test.
Surely the honorable member for Mitchell, and all honorable members on his side of the House, must know that as far back as 1949 the parties now in office promised to introduce a plan which would abolish the means test within three years. There was no equivocation about this. A definite promise was made to the people of Australia. Robert Menzies, the then Leader of the Opposition said: “ We will bring down a plan to abolish the means test within three years.” That promise was made 17 years ago but there has been no such plan from this Government, which has no intention of abolishing the means test. The Government eased the means test as far back as 1955. ft provided that a married couple, in addition to receiving their pension payments, were to be entitled to receive additional income, by way of earnings, superannuation or annuities, to the extent of $14 a week. A single person was entitled to earn half that amount - $7 a week. The Government has not adjusted the means test since that year. In other words, 11 years have passed and the means test remains as it was. And what action have we had from those honorable members opposite who talk about the abolition of the means test? The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the honorable member for Mitchell tell us that they believe the means test ought to be abolished. But what do they say in the party room? How often do they ask the Government to abolish the means test? I repeat, the Government will not even ease the means test. How can we expect a government that made a promise as far back as 1949 to abolish the means test to carry out that promise when it is not even prepared to ease the test? I will say no more about that at this stage.
Let me pass to war pensions. This subject also was referred to by the honorable member for Mitchell. 1 did not want to raise it because, again, the opportunity will be there, when the amending legislation comes down, for honorable members to discuss the increases proposed in the Budget. The special rate pension is to be increased by 52 a week. The increase, however, will leave the special rate pension - the rate paid to the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman, who has no opportunity of engaging in a productive occupation and whose sole income is his pension - 52.30 less than the present basic wage. When this Government came to office the T.P.I, pension was not $2.30 less than the then basic wage. Indeed, as the Returned Services League of Australia has pointed out, prior to this Government coming into office, the T.P.I, pension rate was in excess of the basic wage; yet today it is $2.30 less than the basic wage. The present Government talks about justice for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen, but the extent of its generosity is an increase in their pension which will leave the special rate pension $2.30 a week less than the basic wage.
Let me now say something about the general rate pension, or 100 per cent, pension. It is now S12 a week. That rate was fixed, not this year, not last year, but the year before. So for two years this Government has given no increase to the general rate pensioner. You will remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am sure, the then Leader of the Opposition in 1949 saying to the people of Australia: “ We will see that pension standards are maintained; indeed we will increase the purchasing power of pensions.” Will any Government supporter argue that the purchasing power of money, has not declined in the last three years? Of course it has. The basic wage was increased by $2 this year, but the Government says “ No increase for the pensioner receiving the 100 per cent, rate.” The rate is to remain as it became three years ago. I merely say to the honorable member for Mitchell who talked about the Government’s generosity to ex-servicemen that in its great generosity the Government has increased the war widow’s pension by $1 a week. But the basic wage has been increased by $2. In other words, the Government says to those widows whose husbands they appropriated and sent to lose their lives in Vietnam: “ We consider that your increase in pension this year should be $1 a week.” But the cost of living has risen by $2 a week, as acknowledged by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. So, in view of the spiralling increase in costs, it is not difficult to argue that the Government has been most ungenerous in its payments to returned servicemen and their dependants, despite what the honorable member for Mitchell says. We will have the opportunity to say more on this subject when the appropriate legislation comes before the House.
Back in 1949 we all remember how Government supporters, who were then in Opposition, claimed that the Australian £1 had no real value. The main feature of this Government’s policy in 1949 was that it would restore the value of the £1. It would do this, it said, by reducing costs and prices. How much more would the Chifley £1 be worth today than the present £1? Does any honorable member, including the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson), who is at the table, seriously suggest that he could argue that today’s £1 is worth as much or more than the Chifley £J. The Minister knows that no Government supporter is prepared to argue that the £1 today has the same purchasing power as the £1 had when Labour went out of office in 1949. The Government parties suggested in 1949 that inflation could be stopped. They promised to stop inflation, but they have not done so. Inflation is as rampant today as it was in 1949 when the Government parties told the people of Australia that they would restore the purchasing power of the Australian £1. Between 1953 and March this year the index of food prices has risen by 38.4 per cent. - from a base index of 100 to 138.4. Who have suffered as a result of these increases in prices? They have been the people to whom I have referred - people on fixed incomes - pensioners and exservicemen - who depend on the Government to protect their incomes. But they have had no protection from this Government during its 17 years of office. The Labour Party wanted not only to peg wages; it said that if it were reasonable and just to peg wages, prices also should be pegged. But the Government, in effect, said: “ Leave it to the States.” We know what has happened because the Government left price fixing to the States. The Government knows that it is completely unrealistic for one State to fix the price of a commodity when another State may immediately alter that price or increase it if it wishes. This is the kind of thinking of the Government which has occupied the treasury bench of this country for more than 17 years.
Consider the position of young Australians who are contributing to production and who have young families to support.
For yet another year they have been ignored. Again there has been no increase in child endowment. The only time this Government has adjusted child endowment rates has been when it has been before the people. Then it has promised to do something, but never between elections. This attitude is similar to its attitude towards the payment of pensions. After the elections are over and it has been returned there is no increase in pensions. In the second year of its term of office, as I have already demonstrated, there is no increase in the rate for married pensioners or some classes of ex-servicemen. But in election year all pensioners and ex-servicemen, with the exception on this occasion of the 100 per cent, war pensioner, get an increase. The 100 per cent, war pensioner has again been ignored. So we see that increases are given always in election year.
In 1949 this Government said that it had the cure for our economic ills. What complete and utter hypocrisy or sheer stupidity. You cannot organise this nation on the matter of prices control unless matters that have a national application are nationally controlled. The Government has refused to learn this lesson. After 17 years in office it is still dithering with the problem. Prices are still rising. Costs are far greater than they were a year ago. The position of people on fixed incomes is becoming almost intolerable. Let me remind the Government of the situation in 1949, when the Chifley Government went out of office, as it affected people who had contributed during their working lives to superannuation schemes. They had contributed for what they believed would be an equitable or reasonable living standard upon retirement. What is the situation today of people who retired in 1949 on a superannuation pension of say, £10 or $20 a week? It is almost unbearable. They are living on a fixed income with, in many instances, no hope of supplementing it. This is the situation that has been allowed to develop by this Government during its occupancy of the treasury bench.
As I have already indicated, a problem of major importance is the uncertainty that exists in the motor car industry. As I have said to the Government on many occasions, when a pool of unemployment is created in Australia or is allowed to develop it is bound to spill over from industry to industry and from district to district. Whenever unemployment has developed as a consequence of the Government’s policies there has always been growing unemployment. What is today a small pool of unemployment could quickly become a large pool of unemployment unless the Government is prepared to accept some responsibility in the matter. I do not think it is necessary to refer to the occasions on which large pools of unemployment have developed during this Government’s responsibility for the administrative affairs of the country. On how many occasions have these pools of unemployment developed? They have developed in 1952 and on other occasions. A pool of unemployment developed in 1961 as a result of the Government’s policies. These pools generally develop following a Budget similar to the present Budget - a restrictive Budget that makes no concessions and offers no inducements to industry to develop and which certainly does not indicate any intention on the part of the Government to embark on a policy of industrial development.
There were many other matters to which I wanted to direct attention. I indicated at the beginning of my speech that I would refer to the matter of housing. This subject was referred to by the honorable member for Mitchell. He said that we were building a certain number of houses every year. But is it not time the Government gave us some figures showing the number of people who do not have houses? It is all very well to speak of 80,000 houses being built each year but how many people are without homes? How many people are unable to purchase a home because their income is not big enough or because they cannot provide the security demanded by this Government and private lending institutions? No attempt has been made by the Government to provide these figures. All that we have done in recent weeks is pass a bill to make $120 million available to the States for housing, but this is only S12 million more than was made available in 1961-62. Only 70 per cent, or $84 million will go to State housing authorities. If we look at the situation and do a little simple arithmetic, we find that the $84 million will build only 8,400 homes at an average cost of $10,000. I secured this figure from the last report of the Director of War Service Homes. I say to the Government that this record is not good enough. We are not overtaking the backlog in housing and we are not providing homes on a reasonable deposit and at a reasonable rate of interest to the majority of people in Australia who need this assistance. But what does the Government do? It reduces the allocation to the War Service Homes Division by $12 million. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I could say much about the Government’s actions in this respect if I had the time. No doubt the opportunity will be presented during the discussion of the Estimates.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member Bass (Mr. Barnard) started his speech by accusing the Government of bringing down an irresponsible Budget. He then proceeded to give the House in his own speech an example of irresponsibility that has been seldom matched in this House. For half an hour he spoke about ten different ways in which the Government should spend vastly increased sums, without saying at all how the additional money would be raised.
– He said amongst other things that he would abolish the means test. He knows without any doubt that this would cost at least $300 million a year. He said that he would provide increases in pensions, in the money for war service homes, for housing, for farmers, and for the motor car industry. All these areas will have increased handouts from the Parliament. But he has not said whether he regards the deficit that is planned in this Budget as being too small or too large. All he has said is that more and more sums should be spent by the Government. By way of interjection, he has now said that the additional money would be raised by increased taxation but he has not told us how these taxes will be raised or on whom they will be levied. This is another example of the socialism of the Opposition. It says that the Government should raise more and more money from the taxpayers and spend it in various ways.
I will deal with an earlier speech in this debate. It was made last Tuesday by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who accused the Government of chicanery in its explanation of the figures in the Budget and of perpetrating a confidence trick on the people of Australia in its presentation. I think the House will remember how the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) in his speech last Thursday analysed the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in some detail and demonstrated with great clarity some of his inaccuracies. I should like to add one general comment to the remarks of the honorable member for Higinbotham. In my view, never before in the history of this Commonwealth has a Treasurer presented to the Parliament a more complete set of figures and supporting documents aimed at setting out for the public of Australia the state of the national economy. On some previous occasions Treasurers have been accused of forecasting the future while keeping to themselves the views and the figures on which the forecast was based. But on this occasion, the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) has put all his cards on the table. He has given the people of Australia the opportunity to estimate for themselves what is likely to happen in the coming 12 months. He then said that, having examined all those figures, the Government expected the general effect of the Budget to be expansionary.
Although I have read the comments of political commentators and listened to the speeches of Opposition members, I still cannot see how the facts that have been presented to the House can lead one to any other conclusion. The Government wishes to see an expansion in the private sector of the economy during the coming 12 months. I think I should emphasise once again to the House the facts that lead me to believe that this expansion should take place. The Government has planned for a deficit of $270 million to bs financed from temporary borrowings in Australia. This is surely a sizeable figure. I had expected that we would have been castigated for allowing it to be so large.
But judging from the remarks of Opposition members, particularly the remarks of the honorable member for Bass, the Opposition would have attempted to make it much larger. Nothing in the speeches of Opposition members, particularly that of the honorable member for Bass, had any relevance to these essential facts of the Budget. They were not even mentioned; they were not given any attention. All that comes out of the speeches of the Opposition is that more and more money should be voted by the Parliament.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that, in his view, the figure of the deficit is unreal. But if we do not accept the figure of S270 million, then we must take the figures to which the honorable member referred. He referred to Statement No. 6, in which one looks at the Budget in the new form of a national accounts terminology. In this Statement we see that there will be a net increase in internal indebtedness of SI 55 million, compared with the position last year. Let us take this figure, on which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports based some of his remarks. It is interesting to note that last year the nation found new jobs for 103,000 people in civilian employment, as well as large increases in the size of the defence services. This does not sound to me like a stagnant economy, although the Opposition has accused us of creating such an economy, particularly when we see that the greater proportion of these jobs were found in the last six months of the financial year and when there is every indication that manufacturing employment has been picking up considerably in the last few months. Surely any further impetus to the economy is likely to increase the employment figures quite rapidly. The latest figures that have been received show that this improved trend is continuing.
But we should also take into account other factors that have not been mentioned by the Opposition. First let us consider the rate of increase of new dwellings. It has risen from an annual rate of 102,000 last December to 113,000 in June and the trend is still upwards. This, surely, is a fact that the honorable member for Bass should take into consideration when he talks about a housing programme. A construction rate of 113,000 houses per year is almost as high as at any time in the history of Australia. In addition there are signs that there will soon be a renewed growth of nonresidential building activity. Whilst the growth of private fixed capital expenditure in the June quarter showed little change on last year, building approval figures for the last quarter have showed quite a considerable increase. The approval figures for July have confirmed these trends. Thus we can see that the actual figures for approvals in the three months to July of fixed capital expenditure totals S257 million compared with $184 million in the three months ending in April this year. These figures present a picture which seems to be rather at variance wilh that presented by some of the political commentators in the Press this morning who seem to try to interpret the figures in a rather different direction.
We should note also that production statistics for July show a strong increase, particularly in basic materials and in electricity. The last report by the Chairman of Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. showed that there had been a considerable increase in the rate of steel production. These things would not be taking place unless there was an indication that there was going to bc an increase in economic activity throughout the nation. But, more importantly, we should also take note of what is happening in the rate of stock building by manufacturers. Last year there was a fall in the rate of stock building. This fall seems now to have run its course. The way in which the Government interprets these reports that have been received seems to indicate that stocks today are not regarded by manufacturers as excessive and from now on they can be expected to rise in line with the growth of activity. Especially is this the case when the pattern of stock holding is examined over a period of years on a seasonal basis. This is rather important because it has been one of the most powerful depressive factors on activity in the last year and is not likely to be repeated in the coming 12 months.
Finally, as we look at some of the other hopeful factors in the future, we must be grateful that we have had good rains in the past fortnight in large areas of the eastern part of the continent. These have brightened prospects over wide areas, including those where the outlook had seemed doubtful some weeks ago. At the same time, prices on overseas markets for most of the farm commodities, other than sugar, have improved over the past year. I think we should examine also factors on the income side of the ledger which would indicate a rise in consumption expenditure. First there is an increase of about 5 per cent, in wage rates as a result of the recent increase of £2 in the basic wage. There are indications that later in the year there will be a further increase in wage rates resulting from a decision on margins. Pension rates are to be increased and these increased payments will be made in the course of the next few weeks.
There is one other factor which I think is important. Last year when the Government imposed increases in taxation the amount available for spending on consumer goods and services was reduced by the higher level of payments on instalment contracts, even though the value of new contracts fell. The situation even in this year could well be reversed. All in all I believe that when we take into account the size of the deficit, together with the increases in wage rates resulting from recent Commonwealth awards, there is every indication that we can expect a stimulus to take place in industry and commerce during the next 12 months. Summing up my own thoughts on this matter, I am wondering whether for once the economic prophets may be somewhat behind the times and that the trend of economic activity is already expanding. The factors that demonstrate this are clearly already available for those willing to discern them.
I think we need also to emphasise at this time the fact that once again the Government looks to a balanced expansion of the national economy in which there shall be growth, both in the private sector and the public sector. This is where we differ from the Opposition. In all the criticism last week by members of the Opposition they sought expansion without limit in the public sector, regardless of what this meant for the private sector of the economy as a whole. The Treasurer has said that we regret that we cannot reduce taxation at this time. He certainly emphasised that we could not ask the taxpayer to bear additional costs which are already tending to outrun the limits of what is practicable. This also is a matter on which we differ from the Opposition, and particularly from the honorable member for Bass. We do not think the taxpayer can be asked at this time to bear large increases in taxation such as would be necessary if we were to pay for some of the schemes mentioned by honorable members opposite. If we wish to sec a growth in national development we must ensure that the platform on which that growth is to take place is soundly based. This means quite clearly achieving a balance in our economy. It means at this time that we should, in my mind quite rightly, give encouragement to the growth of private enterprise. The critics who have called for expansion without limit in Government spending do not come only from the Opposition. There has been a tendency also among many other sectors of the nation to ask the Government to do more for them and for their particular interests. If this trend were to continue we would finish up eventually with the socialised state which is beloved by the Opposition.
One of the lessons which we hope will be learned from this Budget is that the Government has purposely pruned many proposals for Government expenditure in order to encourage the growth of private enterprise. One would hope that private enterprise will now respond to this encouragement and get on with the task itself without calling on the Government for further assistance. We have found on so many occasions, even in the defence field, that individual manufacturers have asked the Government to do more for them, for this or for that. The whole outlook of the Government is that we have set up an environment in which we have encouraged private enterprise to get on wilh the job and to do the job without wanting the Government to help out at every possible opportunity. This leads me now to refer to some of the expenditure proposals which have had to be pruned. In his speech in the House last week the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) gave the House an indication of how the Government arrived at the figure of $1,000 million for defence. He said -
We did not arrive at the precise $1,000 million by totting up the cost of all the things that we wanted. We arrived at that figure by a process of Cutting quite considerably from those things which, because of the changing nature of the strategic Situation, could be downgraded in priority. Some matters have been deferred.
Some of the items that have been deferred are in the field for which I am responsible as Minister for Ah. The total Budget expenditure for the Royal Australian Air Force in the next 12 months is S3 14 million. Of this, $16.3 million is to be spent on our works programme. Included in this programme is the completion of the new airstrip at Tindal in the Northern Territory and the commencement of a new satellite airfield near Gin Gin in Western Australia. In addition to these, major works are to be continued at Amberley for the support of the FI IIA project, at Richmond for the new Hercules C130E transports, and at Williamtown the the increased forces of Mirage fighter aircraft which are now coming into operation. We shall also have to complete additional works in Vietnam for the R.A.A.F. force operating there.
As we had found it necessary to provide additional funds for these works, we had to defer other projects which we now believe to have a lower priority. We have, therefore, decided that work will not commence this year on the new airstrip at Learmonth near the North West Cape or at Boram which is near Wewak on the north coast of New Guinea, f have referred to these works at some length because I feel they will illustrate to the House the kind of difficult decisions that had to be made when this Budget was being planned.
As the Treasurer has stated, other Government departments also had to take cuts in their proposals in order to keep Government expenditure within bounds. At a period when the rapid increase in national funds has to go to defence, it is surely obvious that there will be a developing conflict between defence, on the one hand, and other major national purposes in the field of national growth and development, on the other hand. The Treasurer and the Government have endeavoured to ensure that the results of this developing conflict are spread as evenly as possible over the whole nation so that every section of the nation will bear part of the burden of paying for this increased defence expenditure.
While the expenditure on defence is expected to increase by 34 per cent, in the forthcoming year compared with last year, other Commonwealth expenditure has been pruned to such an extent that growth will be only 7 per cent. At the same time, payments to or for the States are estimated to increase by 9.4 per cent. It is obvious that, even with these large increases in payments, the States will not be able to meet all their needs. But surely it is evident that the conflict between growth and defence cannot be contained only within those aspects of growth for which this Commonwealth Government bears full responsibility. I believe that the State governments must also assist the nation at this time by restraining some of their developmental projects, however desirable or even essential they may appear to be at the present time.
We must emphasise the essential fact at this time that last year gross fixed capital expenditure in Australia represented 27 per cent, of gross national product. Few countries in the world manage to devote such a high percentage of their income to national investment. There is no dearth of avenues in which funds can be spent to develop this nation. Some members of the Opposition appear to claim a monopoly of ideas in this field.
– The Minister certainly does not have any.
– I only wish to repeat that in this year there were many other avenues for expansion that had to be deferred for the present. Let me tell the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) who interjected that a tremendous number of ideas were advanced but we had the responsibility of putting them in proper perspective rather than going ahead on the basis of increased expenditure without regard for what might happen if that course were undertaken. If the Government’s estimate of the future is wrong and we experience a down turn of activity, which I do not think will happen, I can assure the House in general, and the honorable member for Wills in particular, that there are many ways in which a rapid expansion of governmental activity can be ensured.
It is important to remember that many of (he proposals put forward for national growth do not always make a large call immediately on available sources. Often, however, we find that what is a small commitment to begin with grows to formidable proportions later. Particularly as the need for a relatively high level of defence spending will almost certainly be with us for a long time to come, we have to pay close attention to the extent to which commitments in other directions are built up. The Government is concerned that the burden of defence commitments should not become so great, either now or in the period ahead, as to force a curtailment of other activities fundamental to the growing strength of the nation, lt is also concerned that the weight of commitments generally should not become so heavy as to overstretch our resources and capacities and impose too heavy a burden on the taxpayer.
In this debate too little attention has been paid by the Opposition to the burden on the taxpayer. The honorable member for Bass, and the Opposition generally, believe that the capacity for paying taxes is almost inexhaustible. While this Budget has been designed to meet our present circumstances, the Government in preparing it also had closely in view what the implications of its expenditure commitments would be for the Budget after this. For those reasons, therefore, 1 commend it wholeheartedly to this House.
.- The Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) has shown again the curious duality that exists in Government accusations against the Opposition. He came back to the old question: Where is the money to come from? If, before this Budget had been brought down, the Minister had made an election promise that defence expenditure would be increased by $280 million and we had asked: “ Where is the money to come from? “ I wonder what the honorable gentleman would have said. Yet the $280 million increase is in the Budget. We have had this kind of rising expenditure in a succession of budgets showing the expansion of Commonwealth revenue without always being associated with tax rises. When the Minister asks what the Opposition would do about deficit finance 1 really feel that the House needs something better than this old implied pretence: “ We on the Government side have a monopoly of knowledge about deficit finance whereas you on the Opposition side are quite ignorant “. The plain truth, of course, is that the Opposition, as a government, would depend on the advice of its Treasury experts, precisely as the Minister and his colleagues do, but the choice of expenditures within the Budget might be different.
The duality of argument which always appears is this: The Opposition will be utterly reckless with social services. It will go mad with inflation. But when honorable members on the Government side turn their minds to the days of the Chifley Government they say: “ How mean you were with social services “. They are marvellous self cancelling arguments. Honorable members opposite say to us: “ You arc reckless and will spend indefinitely. When you were in office you did not spend enough. We have spent much more.” It does not seem to indicate common sense.
Of course, a lot of this expansion of social service expenditure is duc to changes in money values. Some are genuine increases and reflect growth in the economy. I remember that when the Chifley Budget provided £88 million for social services - it is a mere bagatelle today - it used to be contrasted with the allocation of £16 million when the Chifley Government took office. The growth in social services keeps pace with the growth of the nation.
The Minister has not touched on a number of matters. In the Australian Press these days we see many articles and cartoons about the Wilson Government, its incomes policy and its wage freeze policy. In this Parliament we achieve wage freezes anonymously when we act to achieve a similar result through the arbitration process. The Wilson Government takes direct responsibility for what it does. In Australia what the Commonwealth Government does is to intervene in arbitration proceedings, sometimes arguing, as the Commonwealth Government that now occupies the Treasury bench did for 10 years, that there should be no quarterly adjustments. Then the whole exercise is represented as a marvellous objective judicial process to be respected precisely as one would respect the decisions of judges dealing with criminal court matters. In fact what the Government does, by putting the arbitration buffer between itself and its responsibility for a wage and income policy is to get away with a wage freeze by quasi judicial means. This is never discussed as Government policy. The abolition of quarterly adjustments is advocated. But although there are periodic and belated increases in the basic wage, in fact the purchasing power of the wage earner in Australia has fallen further and further behind. Had the quarterly adjustments remained, his wage would be much higher. Let us face the fact that a lot of the capital accumulation that has taken place in Australia has resulted from this anonymous wage freeze policy of the Commonwealth Government brought about by its intervention in arbitration proceedings.
The Minister did not touch on certain serious trends. The import of goods and services exceeded the export of goods and services in the last financial year by $475 million. In 1964-65 the import of goods and services exceeded the export of goods and services by $431 million. The year before that we had a favorable balance of $280 million. We are balancing our overseas current account by a capital inflow. Because this amounted to $877 million in the last financial year it concealed a debit on all transactions which amounted to §816 million, giving finally a favorable net monetary movement of $61 million. This capital inflow is obviously going to increase in future the remittance of dividends out of Australia, lt means a growing claim on Australian production which does not have to be covered by exports to Australia - an increasing claim as there is an increasing capital investment. This is not necessarily alarming. For instance, if a good deal of the capital inflow is going into the production of metals in Australia, and we have a war atmosphere keeping up the price of metals, then I have no doubt that we will be able to sustain this kind of capital inflow. But we are not really paying our way, and this is something that we need to face.
I do not think the Government has bothered about this for years, for the situation has developed for years, but I repeat that we are not really paying our way and this should disturb us. The capital inflow represents a heavier claim for future dividends, and an increasing dividend problem. We need to begin to look at what can be saved. We need, for instance, to look at what can be saved in freights, and here we need the weapon of an Australian line of shipping. I am not interested in disseminating propaganda as such for an Australian line of shipping. Let me say first and immediately that I accept the argument (hat it can be demonstrated that it costs more to ship wool from Melbourne to Fremantle on an Australian ship than it does to ship wool from Melbourne to Hamburg on an overseas ship. All this I recognise. But when that has been said, if we have an Australian controlled shipping line or subsidised lines such as exist in the United States of America, then we have a weapon with which we can prevent fleecing through freights, and shipping charges show that this country urgently needs a weapon to prevent fleecing through freights. Many of the experts in this field who are not supporters of the Opposition have begun to say this. Periodically the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) skims the surface of the subject and then darts off again into the wild blue yonder, and no shipping policy of the kind he seems to suggest emanates from the Government.
I think we also need to encourage more Australian risk capital in oil. The weight of Government policy today seems to be overwhelmingly in favour of foreign ownership of oil. I think, finally, that we have a trading position where an important sector of our trade is dangerously subject to ideological whim. I am referring to the way in which the Commonwealth Government has become more and more involved in trade with China. We may see a turn in Chinese policy because of an ideological whim, because of something in this country of which the Chinese disapprove. Then we may realise that having an important part of our trading activities geared to this trade with China will lead to difficulties for Australia in the future.
I leave these questions, which I feel are basic questions facing the Australian economy - the Minister has not really touched on them - and turn to some of the recent statements of Government policy or Government inquiries for policy. I refer, first, to the decision to investigate Cockburn Sound, in my electorate as the site for a naval base, or, perhaps, if the word “base” is too strong, as the site for some kind of staging area for the Royal Australian Navy. The Henderson naval base has been wandering around as a theme in Australian politics since 1909. It was the subject of a very extensive report by Admiral Henderson in 1911. I am disappointed that in the Commonwealth Government’s vision there seems to be no suggestion of docking facilities for Western Australia, and I think that this is one matter that the Government might look at. We have in the Indian Ocean a very inadequate Australian defence structure and the Cockburn base, or some western base, seems to me to be very necessary, especially as we have oil burning ships of comparatively limited range. If we have conflict in the Indian Ocean area we may need to have nearly all of our Navy based on the west coast.
There is another suggestion I want to make, and I hope this will not be treated as a pious suggestion on my part because I really regard it as being very urgent. I believe the Commonwealth needs to take a real look at national road safety. We want a real Commonwealth involvement in the traffic war on the roads which claims 3,000 or more dead and 70,000 injured each year. I want to see a Commonwealth involvement and a heavy expenditure because this is justified in the face of these massive totals of deaths and injuries. There should be a Commonwealth involvement in safe crossings, underpasses, and other engineering devices which may reduce the toll.
Now that the Labour Party has declared itself on the subject of State aid, in a way that is not criticised, I hope that the concept will not disappear from the Government’s vocabulary, and State aid be forgotten. 1 hope the Government will seriously concern itself with the education of certain children who are educationally underprivileged, even though it will no longer have the ability to dangle small promises that it used to have when it felt the Opposition’s hands were tied. I remember the last Prime Minister saying at Bathurst in a sparkling speech how he could not understand how anybody could quarrel with the irresistible logic of State aid. He was Prime Minister for 12 years before he discovered its irresistible logic and he was assisted to discover its irresistible logic when his majority in this House was cut from 32 to 2. I do hope that this matter becomes the subject of an agreement to advance education where there is a Teal educational need.
I hope also that the referendum proposed by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) will not be forgotten by the Commonwealth Government. No one can tell me that vast expenditures are involved in this, that it is an impost on the taxpayer or that it results from the recklessness of the Opposition. This is a proposal from a member of the Government benches to rectify what is a very grave blot on this country - the lack of real policy towards Aborigines in spite of all the bluffs and facades by any Australian government, State or Federal to this minority of people in Australia. There is nothing that I can see that would prevent the referendum being held coincidentally with the coming election. There is nationwide all Party agreement on this subject. It is not a referendum in which there would be a rebuff harming the Government’s prestige. I think that is certain. It is a referendum that might make possible fruitful policies in the future and might transform this country’s image abroad. While I am primarily concerned about the Aboriginal people I am concerned too about the Australian people, and I honestly believe that the honorable member’s referendum, if carried, is a step towards Australian security.
The last point I want to touch on is national fitness. We have been told - I hope the statement is not accurate, but I have seen it reported in the Press, though I am not saying that that necessarily means that it is accurate - that one-third of the young Australian men who have been medically tested for national service are unfit. I do not think that this is a situation that can be accepted. We are only dabbling with national fitness. We do not assign enough finance to build a remedial national fitness movement - not just a national fitness movement that deals with athletes or outstanding physical specimens but one which can put into the educational systems of our country at secondary and late primary levels, and into private recreational organisations for young people who have left school, an effective body of experts who can help foster that self respect that comes with the ability to handle the body with agility and stamina. Agility, stamina and resistance are the targets of the national fitness movement. There is an appropriation of over $300,000 in the Budget - an increase of 50 per cent. - for national fitness. All will appreciate that, but compared . with the fitness philosophy of the Scandinavian countries our ideas of the fitness of our people are very defective indeed. We still have some kind of myth about the bronzed and muscular Australian. 1 am not sure that our standards of physique are as superior as many of us imagine. But in any event, for one-third of our young men aged 20 to be rejected on the ground of unfitness should at least cause us to query seriously what is happening to the physique of our youth and make us use national fitness and any other effective instrumentality to remedy the position.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Budget presented by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) will make a valuable contribution to the progress of the Australian nation. Earlier this afternoon, we heard the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) express views which, to my mind, made little contribution to the debate. He did not even support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). He set about making excuses for the claim that the cost of propositions which the Opposition believed should be embodied in this Budget could be met. He went right back into history and referred to the days of the Chifley Government. But he failed to tell the House that the Chifley Government’s real purpose was to nationalise the banks and control the economy, and really to use the boot heel as an instrument of economic control. Later the honorable member referred to one particular subject - aid for education. Again he said that the Government had failed to be constructive. I want to know what the Opposition’s proposals are. We have not really heard them. Surely this debate provides an opportune occasion for the Opposition members to tell the country what they really believe should be done.
Referring to the Budget generally. I just want to say that with uncertainty evident within the economy of so many countries, and particularly Great Britain, the preparation of a budget which spells out economic security is surely a great accomplishment. The Treasurer is to be commended on what he has done in this regard. He has given the nation confidence at a time when confidence is really needed, in view of the world situation. We in Australia are fortunate to find that our economy is expanding and that our overseas reserves are secure despite the difficulties that confront us. In the field of primary industry, however, there are problems that cannot be removed by mere legislative action. On the credit side, of course, we have a vast growth in employment, which helps primary industry and the nation. There has been a 19 per cent, increase in employment since 1961, bringing some 600.000 persons into the work force. The consumer price index shows a rise in prices of only about 9 per cent. While we would like to see a situation where the rise was far less, we must relate to trends throughout the world the rise that has occurred. Our relative stability is an advantage because it makes a contribution to maintaining our international competitiveness. This is vital to primary industry, which has traditionally been the barometer of Australia’s economy. This is understandable because the earning capacity of this sector of the economy is larger than that of all other sectors. When we look ahead, we are mindful that there is a great task confronting us. This Government has already demonstrated ils capacity to tackle difficult problems. During the past year, two States have experienced a very severe drought and the Commonwealth has been quick to introduce remedial measures that have helped to sustain the economy. Farm production has fallen. This is quite understandable. An Opposition member, by way of interjection, has just referred to the percentage decline, and quite properly. Earlier in this debate, it was suggested that this Government had done nothing about the problem. J. suggest that a careful study of the Budget discloses that the Government has done a great deal to assist the primary producers while at the same time encouraging secondary industry, which is vital at the present time, and by implementing a wide range of measures for developing our productive strength. The proof is to be seen in the employment situation. We have full employment. In this debate, there has not been one word of criticism of the employment situation, and for a very good reason: Employment is running at a high level and we shall be able to maintain this high level of employment as a consequence of the Budget recently presented by the Treasurer.
If we take a brief glimpse at world trade and world financial relationships we see this picture: The United Kingdom is striving to maintain its economy by adopting drastic measures which are hurting many people but which nevertheless are necessary. Western Germany and the Netherlands are applying restraints. The United States is seeking to cut back wherever it can. Sterling is facing a crisis. Our future, of course, is very much determined by what happens in the field of international finance. The maintenance of sterling’s position is essential to Australia’s economy. Even with the fall of about 10 per cent, in the output of primary industry, we have been able to maintain a very healthy economy. One of the reasons for this has been the large increase in the output of minerals and metals. This gives us not only added security but also a real basis for planning our economy, because it enables us to see ahead a considerable way into the economic future.
The major drain on our economy as disclosed by the Budget lies in the provision for defence. The Treasurer has very properly indicated that the provision for defence is being increased considerably compared to that made in earlier years. Defence expenditure proposed for this financial year is some 34 per cent, above actual expenditure in 1965-66. Criticism has been levelled at the proposed Defence vote because of what it will mean in actual spending both within the Australian economy and outside it, with particular reference to items that must be imported. I say very clearly that I believe that the Government’s defence plan is logical. We have made arrangements, particularly with the United States, to ease the financial burden of our defence effort. As has been stated in the last few days by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), it is unlikely that in the next two or three years defence expenditure will rise beyond the level that has now been reached. The Government’s planning has been logical and has given us the kind of situation that will permit good management and good housekeeping within our economy from here on in the face of the overall situation of a somewhat sharp downturn in monetary liquidity both in this country and in other countries from which we seek loans and the means to sustain our capital situation.
One might say that there is a need not only to maintain our present level of employment but also at the same time to ensure that we avoid the very great danger that always threatens in a situation of semiinflation. High government expenditure always brings a degree of inflation. This, in turn, in the face of the current world situation, will have effects that are not easy to cope with. However, the realistic policies of this Government, as disclosed not only in the present Budget but also in its legislative action, are indicative of a responsible and reasoned approach to the problem.
Many things have been done in the life of this Parliament which have not only placed Australia in a situation where, compared to other countries, she has a most remarkable record, but have also made her to some extent the envy of these other countries, many of which wish that they had followed the kind of approach which this Government has adopted.
However, let me speak for a moment specifically about the need for a positive policy in Australia to increase our own birthrate. The Budget has dealt with a number of matters under the heading “ Social Services “. We have not increased child endowment. I do not believe that an increase in child endowment would have any positive effect in bringing about an increase in the birthrate. The figures published in statistical reviews show very clearly that there has been a considerable fall in the Australian birthrate since 1961. This indicates the need for some kind of definite policy aimed at the encouragement of an increased birthrate. We have a very wide range of legislative acts and a very considerable body of administration encouraging migration. The cost of all this to this country is very substantial and I believe it is time for us now to look to the need of our own expansion.
– What do you suggest?
– The honorable member for Lalor has had far more experience than I have had. He might be able to contribute a great deal. I suggest that a responsible body might be established to look into this matter and to determine whether in our economy there is a correctly based approach to the family welfare problem; whether we need to provide some alternative approach to the problems of health, education and so on and whether the employment level has any effect on the birthrate. There is a very wide range of avenues that should be studied. Action along these lines is urgently necessary and I believe that the Government should look into this matter very seriously before time runs out and before we reach the stage where there is a risk of a slowing up in migration. The security of this country depends not only on a well based defence programme but certainly also on our seeing to it that we have a population growth of the kind that will give us the defence which results from population density. We occupy a very large continent, one that is the envy of very many people in Asia. If our population does not increase considerably within the next two or three decades, then I believe we do involve ourselves in a security risk for that reason alone. 1 leave that matter now to turn to some other aspects. The Budget provides for a great deal in the fields of general welfare, additional health services, additional social service benefits and so on, but I believe that more should be done about one aspect. 1 refer to the problem of the Australian Aboriginal. A great deal has been said about citizenship rights, about voting rights for Aborigines and so on, but the real need in this field is to provide funds for the improvement of the living standards of the Aboriginal people. 1 find in my own electorate - and I am sure from my observations that a similar picture may be seen in many other parts of Australia - that the living standards of Aborigines are not being raised rapidly enough. The responsibility for this rests with the Commonwealth in the Territories, and, in each of the sovereign States, with their respective Governments. This seems to result in a variation of policies. There is no overall approach to what is a relatively small problem. In the context of our total annual outlay, to do something really worth while to improve the living standards of our Aborigines, must be regarded as a relatively small problem.
I turn to one other aspect of social services. There is, of course, a well reasoned approach to the payment of unemployment benefits for persons who become displaced in industry - persons who, for very good reasons, find that their employment is lost. Proper provision is made for them. My concern is for one sector in which difficulty arises. I refer to the small farmers - croppers who grow bananas or vegetables, and who suffer sudden adversity as the result of frost, flood or something of that nature. People in this category do nor. share in the benefits that are available to employees who become unemployed. One of the reasons is that, under the relevant legislation, they are not classed as persons who are free for other occupations. Very often they are, but for good reason, they do not want to leave their small properties or their families, and they do their best to carry on until they are able to grow another crop. I believe that we should help these people. It is wrong that they should be denied the benefit of unemployment relief.
Seasonal workers do get this form of assistance, and quite rightly. Seasonal workers such as cane cutters receive’ high wages because their work is intermittent, nevertheless the moment their seasonal work ends they are entitled to receive and do receive the unemployment benefit. Their position is quite clear cut, and 1 believe that this should be so, but the position of other people who are equally deserving is not clear cut. This is a matter that calls for very positive action on the part of the Government.
The expenditure in the current Budget on subsidies for both butter and cheese will be $27 million. This figure has been maintained for a number of years, but 1 believe that a review will have to be made of this level of assistance. There is good reason to believe that more can be done to assist the dairy industry. This may not necessarily be a matter that comes clearly under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, because there are sectional problems within the industry. The proper remedy might lie in joint action between the Commonwealth and the States. Queensland has initiated something along these lines. In recent weeks it provided a pasture improvement scheme for Queensland dairy farmers on the basis of assisting a particular region or area. I believe that in a review of the overall plan to assist this industry we should take into account regional and State needs. I hope that in the foreseeable future there will be a great deal of action along these lines in an endeavour to promote the welfare of this industry, which faces great problems because of the overseas market situation and because of the very nature of the industry itself. It is an industry that requires the people in it to toil seven days a week. It is an industry that these days requires a great deal of scientific work. It is no longer an industry that can carry on, as was the case years ago, with merely a slapdash approach. These days it is to a very great extent dependent on technological factors. Much can be done to help this industry.
The other industry to which I want to refer is the sugar cane industry. It is well known, and I need not dwell on the point, that the price of sugar has fallen tremendously, and it would be proper to say that the world sugar price is artificially low. This is the result of Cuba’s break with the International Sugar Agreement and more recently of the dumping on to the world market of some 600,000,000 tons of sugar from Brazil. This has created, as I said, an artificial low in price. The price will not settle down at its present level for the very good reason that the surplus will ultimately be consumed; but while the present situation lasts the sugar industry faces a crisis, and some measure of assistance will have to be given to the people in the industry. The sugar industry is efficient and well organised and has been prepared to introduce the most modern methods. In recent times it has been expanded, for very good reason. Criticism has been levelled in this House against the expansion in acreage, but there is no justification for that criticism. The Australian industry today would be in a very much worse position had it not been for this acreage expansion.
In the short time that remains to me in this debate J want to mention the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, which has had some publicity in the past few days. 1 commend the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) tha: the Government proposes to confer with the Slates about the future of the Authority Controversy has gone on for a considerable time regarding the future of this instrumentality. It is proper that the Commonwealth should confer with the States, because there has been a tendency to duplication in the same field by “.he Authority and the various State public works organisations. I refer to the Department of Public Works and the Department of Conservation in New South Wales and their counterparts in the other States. Unless a plan is devised for the proper use of expert engineers and unless a fundamental approach is made to the needs on the total Australian scene it will be very difficult indeed for any determination to be made as to the future of the
Authority. The principal requirement in the long run is to find the cash to keep this kind of work going. I am certain that the Government has this matter well in mind and I hope that in discussions with the States no red herrings will be drawn across the path. The job of conservation is perhaps the most important work with which this nation has to deal. If we are to develop our primary and secondary industries we need three things: We need water, hydroelectricity wherever it can be produced, and an increase of our fertile acreage. We can have these things only if we harness our natural resources.
– The Country Party would never do that.
– The honorable member for Grayndler, of course, is an expert: He belongs to a party that recently decided to initiate a policy of lifting restrictions on margarine production.
– That happens to be a lie.
– I will not canvass this matter tonight beyond saying that the honorable member lor Grayndler would be the first one to complain if there were any breakdown in the observance of industrial awards. The Labour Party has dear to its heart all sorts of provisions so far as awards are concerned. I hope its members will think about such things, on the margarine issue, so far as the dairy farmers are concerned.
Let me come back to a matter about which the Country Party is very concerned. 1 refer again to the conservation of our natural resources. In New South Wales a vast programme of flood mitigation is being carried out as a result of the actions of the Liberal Party-Country Party Government of the Commonwealth. The Government started a move three years ago by providing special funds to assist the States in flood mitigation. This work has proceeded rapidly because of favourable conditions for flood control works, and we have now reached the stage where a further phase of the work will be necessary. I strongly urge that further provision be made in this field. The economic value of this work is undoubted. There has been considerable saving already. The Commonwealth has been relieved to that extent of the need to make special grants to the States to assist them with flood relief. If this programme of work is continued we will undoubtedly reach the stage where the economy achieved will be clearly seen, because there will be no need for continuing expenditure on flood mitigation.
In the few moments left to me I want to refer to the record of this Government.
– It will not take the honorable member long.
– If the honorable member for Grayndler does not want to hear it I am not the least bit concerned. The electors of Australia have a pretty clear knowledge of it. Briefly, the Government has a record that can be summed up in this way: The greater the need, the greater the job of work that has been done. We have seen assistance given to road construction in the States that has excelled anything visualised in the past. The Commonwealth has contributed to decentralisation by the equalisation of petrol prices. It has provided bounties for primary industry. Where there has been a need it has given assistance by providing bounties for superphosphate and nitrogenous fertilisers. The Commonwealth has introduced systems which have provided benefits not only in the field of industry but also in the field of welfare. I refer to the housing grants assistance scheme, under which a very wide range of help is being given to those who are prepared to participate in self help. Of course, in all of these brackets we find a continuing demand but one that will undoubtedly be met as time goes on by further allocations of funds to give us buoyancy in our economy - buoyancy which not only has aided primary and secondary industry but has helped this nation to become economically strong and virile at a time when growth is the vital factor. The policy of the Government in office was to promote growth. It has done that. As the same time, it has avoided the dangers of inflation. Any administration which has the capacity to achieve this Government’s record is deserving of a great deal of credit.
– Order! The honorable members time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson). The honorable member alleged that I had said that I wanted to see quotas on the production of margarine lifted. That is not correct. I said that I expected the quota on margarine production to be lifted where the product was of 100 per cent. Australian content. In that I am supported by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) and Mrs. Jones.
.- I would like this evening to speak about the economics of the Budget because there is so much room for criticism of the economics of the Budget and of the Government that it should be said now. However, the economics of the Budget may be dealt with when the Estimates are being debated. Therefore I’ intend this evening to speak about Vietnam because I can speak later about economics and because I have just returned after 31 days in South East Asia.
I want to make it clear at the outset what I think about the war in Vietnam. I am convinced that it cannot be justified as a defensive war against Communism or China and I am convinced that it cannot be justified as a war in the interests of the people of Vietnam or of South East Asia. I believe that Australia’s involvement in this war in Vietnam is wrong, that it was a serious mistake by the Government, and that the involvement should be brought to an end as rapidly as possible. I believe that Australia should do all she can to end the war and that Australian troops should be withdrawn as soon as is practicable. In the meantime, I call upon the Australian Government not to risk one more Australian life in the war in Vietnam. Until the troops are withdrawn the Australian position should be converted into a holding operation. Not one more Australian life should be risked in this unnecessary and unjustified war.
I want to explain how and why I have reached these conclusions and to bring up to date my explanations of what I have seen and learned in South East Asia. In Vietnam what is called a “ limited war “ is being fought. By “ limited war “ is meant that the Vietcong are being searched for, destroyed or captured, and then what are called “ revolutionary development cadres “ go into the areas won militarily and try to hold them permanently. Limited war seems also to include bomb attacks on North Vietnam for the purpose of cutting off assistance to the Vietcong and forcing the other side to negotiate. The questions we have to ask about this situation of limited war are: First, can the limited war be won and, secondly, are the conditions of the limited war acceptable to Australia? I think the answer to both questions is: No.
What are my reasons for arriving at this answer? They are, first, that the limited war is inconsistent with and cannot be made to fit the assumption which underlines it. This assumption is that the war is controlled, supplied and carried on by Hanoi and that behind Hanoi stands Peking; that Peking is indomitably committed to obtain control of the whole of Asia and is engaged on a great drive down between the Indian and Pacific Oceans to achieve domination. If this basic assumption about Hanoi and Peking is correct, how can there ever be a limited war in Vietnam?
From 1956 to 1.959 although the Communist Party in South Vietnam was part of the Communist Party of Vietnam as a whole, the leadership of which was in North Vietnam, North Vietnam had in fact little to do with what happened in South Vietnam. Under the pressures of both Moscow and Peking, in 1954 Hanoi had accepted the Geneva Agreement and also the view that it would be easy to win South Vietnam by political methods. Indeed, General Eisenhower and his advisers also accepted the view that the Communists could win in South Vietnam by political methods. In 1960 some South Vietnamese returned from North Vietnam where they hari gone under the Geneva Agreement and brought with them a few hundred Communist made weapons. In 1961, 1962 and 1963 there was an increase in the flow, but by the end of 1963, as I have said on many occasions, and proved, probably more than 95 per cent, of the arms used were those that had been stored previously in the south or captured from the Saigon Government or the United States forces and were American arms, not of Communist origin. At the same time, probably more than 90 per cent, of the men fighting as the Vietcong were South Vietnamese.
During 1964, as a result of the overthrow of the Diem regime, the war in South Vietnam was stepped up, first by the National Liberation Front and then by Hanoi. Bombing of North Vietnam and apparently long term American occupation of South Vietnam in 1965 accentuated northern participation further. During 1965 and 1966 what we can call “ total Vietnamese war plans “ were put into operation. These plans had at least two features. The first was maximum integration and build up of North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese forces in a manner appropriate to the conditions of a war which was now a war in one country - the whole of Vietnam. The second feature was the evacuation of North Vietnam population centres with transfer of industries into the interior and. in some cases, underground. The Government of North Vietnam, I understand. believes and plans for the eventuality that Haiphong and Hanoi will be destroyed by bombs.
The overthrow of the Diem Government was the turning point in affairs in many ways. It was not a good Government but it was better than any of its successors. Behind this total Vietnamese war effort which exists now certainly stands China, still prepared to see as much as is necessary of the war carried on by Vietnam, just as North Vietnam was prepared to see as much as was necessary of the war in all the earlier stages carried on by South Vietnam. The Prime Minister of Laos, Prince Souvanna Phouma, put it: “ China will bc prepared to fight to the last Vietnamese before they become involved.” China takes this view because she is surrounded by those she regards as enemies. She fears aggression from the north even more than pressure from the south.
But what can happen now? Where do we go from here in this so called “ limited war”? The war in South Vietnam may be won in the sense that the Vietcong may be driven into the mountains and that North Vietnam may be defeated or even destroyed. But two things should be remembered about these comforting assumptions of a possible victory in a limited war. The first is that success in the war has continuously been predicted by American and South Vietnamese leaders for the past six or seven years, but there has been continuous failure of re settlement schemes, strategic hamlets and land reform. Why now should a government, even more of generals, landlords and merchants than any earlier one, succeed where all the earlier governments have failed? The other thing that should be remembered is the strongly and widely held view among experts that strategic bombing cannot defeat a proud, dogmatic and strong minded people. Are the people of North Vietnam not proud, dogmatic and strong minded? Is this not, indeed, the basic assumption about Communism?
But let us accept this comforting and oft repeated assumption, that the limited war in South Vietnam and North Vietnam can be won, and ask: What happens if it is won? What happens if this war about which honorable members opposite have wishful assumptions is in fact won? Will China accept the result? I asked the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes) on television the other night to answer this question and he spent three minutes in front of the television camera dodging the question. Will China accept the result? Can China afford to accept the defeat of the National Liberation Front and of Hanoi? lt seems probable that she will nol accept this result, the victory of the American side in a limited war, any more than in 1951-52, when she was much weaker, she would accept he defeat of North Korea. If she would nm accept the defeat of North Korea in 1951-52 why should she accept the defeat of North Vietnam now when she is so much stronger? Indeed, it is difficult to understand why she should wait that long. No doubt the advocates of the limited war and of the view that it can be won will find this unpalatable.
But if China is the uncompromising aggressor she is supposed to be by those who hold the limited war and domino theories, why should %he wait for the probable defeat of North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front? If China is as aggressive as most honorable members on the other side of the House say she is. what is the reason for China waiting so long? Why should she wait for the defeat of North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front before she would act? What then of the domino theory? If, as it assumes, Communism would quickly spread as a result of its success in South Vietnam, can we not assume that it would spread even more rapidly by Chinese action as a result of the defeat of Communism in South Vietnam and North Vietnam? if China anticipates the defeat of Communism in South Vietnam, will she not give much aid and drive to the Pathet Lao in Laos where up to date she has given none? Will she stand aside and see her enemies capture North Vietnam without putting her forces into North Vietnam where up to date she has put none? 1 would think that it is probable that the defeat of Communism in Vietnam would cause China to take far stronger action in North Vietnam, Laos and Thailand than she would otherwise take. The advocates of the domino theory must answer the logic of this possibility, not me. it is for this reason that the leaders of Laos and Cambodia, as I found in personal conversation with them, fear more the extension of the war than they do the slower but less powerful advance of Communism if the war should stop.
My argument here is that the limited war theory is untenable and that the domino theory is wrong and misleading. The limited war theory is wishful thinking from beginning to end. Once there is war in South East Asia, it is inevitable that it will be escalated over wider areas and more bitterly and intensely fought in each area. This is not just my conclusion; it is the conclusion also of the Mansfield Committee of American senators who went to Vietnam at the end of last year and reported to the American Senate on 6th January 1966. The conclusion that 1 have just stated will be found at pages 11 and 12 of the report they made to Congress. Limited war in Asia is wishful thinking, just as it is wishful thinking to believe that there can be limited involvement for Australia once we have decided to go “ all the way with L.B.J. “. If war in South Vietnam is vital for Australia, and I do not believe it is, we cannot leave it to 3,000 regular soldiers, who have little choice about being involved in it, and to 1,500 conscripts, who have no choice whatever. We cannot leave it to a combat force that fs half conscripted men, while we leave all the rest of the Australians, including the honorable member for Latrobe (Mr. Jess), who is interjecting-
– Order! The honorable member for Yarra will address the Chair.
– Well, why don’t you stop the interjections? We cannot leave it to a combat force that is half conscripted men, while we leave all the rest of the Australians - 11,600.000 of them - including the honorable member for La Trobe, to pursue money, pleasure and votes, as though nothing is happening. If the idea of limited war is to be pursued in Australia, I think we must realise at least two things. We must realise that it will grow rapidly into war with China and war in Laos, Thailand and perhaps Burma and Cambodia, and even further south. We must realise also that Australia’s involvement will rise with the escalation of the war so that the present unjust and highly inefficient Australian contribution will be forced to grow into further injustice, frustrations and economic dislocation.
What is the alternative to this war? It is to stop the war now. There are at least two questions involved here. Can it be stopped now and what will happen if it is? We do not know whether it can be stopped now. But the reply that there have been 17 different appeals to Hanoi and that they have all been rejected is not proof that nothing can be done. Indeed, the story of the 17 different appeals is invariably produced like a trump card in triumph by those who do not want the war to stop but who instead want to win control of at least all South Vietnam. But all these 17 appeals and all these rejections have taken place since the bombing of North Vietnam started in 1965. During 1963, when negotiations were first proposed, 1964 and 1965, there were at least seven and perhaps eight responses about negotiations by Hanoi and the National Liberation Front. Details of these responses are given in “ Peace in Vietnam “, a report prepared by the American Friends Service Committee, in chapter 6, pages 50 to 57. Nobody can use the excuse that the opportunity is not available to check the details of the seven or eight responses made by Hanoi and the National Liberation Front during this time. They are in this book, documented as to details and documented as to dates. At page 55, this American Quakers Committee wrote -
One cannot but be amazed in view of these seven documented, missed opportunities for exploring the sincerity of North Vietnamese offers for negotiation, that President Johnson declared at his press conference . . . that . . . there has not been the slightest indication that the other side is interested in negotiations.
I do not think that negotiations are possible under existing conditions. The evidence shows that Hanoi was prepared to recognise the existence of the Diem Government and to negotiate with it. The overthrow of that Government destroyed any basis there may have been of Vietnamese independence in South Vietnam. Every subsequent Government in South Vietnam has been a puppet of the United States.
I believe that several conditions are, therefore, necessary for negotiations to begin. They are, first, to stop bombing the North so that North Vietnam can accept negotiations without losing face, which would be lost from an apparent surrender that would come if the North Vietnamese agreed to negotiate while the bombing was going on. The second is that it has to be established that the National Liberation Front can have a share of power in South Vietnam and that there is some independent Vietnamese force in the South with whom it can deal. It cannot deal with the Cao Ky Government. Hence, we are arriving at the policy of the Australian Labour Party established on 12th May 1966, that there should be a cessation of bombing of North Vietnam, that the war in South Vietnam should be converted into a holding operation, and that the National Liberation Front should be recognised as a parly principal in any negotiations. The elections of 1966 in South Vietnam may do something to provide the other negotiating party. If they did, and it does not matter how they did it, that would be a justification for them. But at the very best, negotiations will take some time to reach. However, this is the only road that will lead to them.
What will happen if negotiations come and a ceasefire and some settlement are reached and the National Liberation Front then has a big share of power in South Vietnam? Certainly the National Liberation Front would then be powerful in South Vietnam, but so too must some religious and regional groups or there can be no negotiations. In such a situation, some of those who fought the Vietcong and some minorities who had done nothing wrong would certainly suffer. But suffering is inevitable, whatever happens in Vietnam. Escalated war will kill many tens of thousands. lt will maim many people and destroy the freedom of even more. A settlement would lead to the killing of many and would destroy the freedom of many. But when one has taken the position of playing God in a situation like this and has to decide how many deaths there are going to be on one side of the scale and how many there will be on the other, this is the kind of decision that one has to make. No one can be certain of the result, but 1 believe it is probable that a settlement will do less harm to the people of South Vietnam and of South East Asia as a whole than will an extension of the war. We should recognise that there will be harmful consequences of a settlement and do everything we’ can to stop and restrict them.
The International Control Commission and supervision of South Vietnam after a ceasefire could do much, but it would need to be greatly strengthened. We should determine, then, to give South Vietnam the fullest possible aid that can be made available. Both North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front have said they will accept supervision and welcome aid. While it is beyond doubt thai they would hinder supervision and convert aid to their own purposes, 1 am sure that supervision and aid can reduce the harmful consequences of a settlement and modify the emergence of National Liberation Front power in South Vietnam. I believe it is impossible to destroy the movement for change in South East Asia. The important thing to do is to recognise (his and seek to channel it and to modify it.
One additional point should be made here. 1 believe it is completely naive and unrealistic to think that aid, civilian followup, revolutionary development, or whatever it is called, can achieve much while the intense, bitter and frustrating war goes on in South Vietnam, and while a government of generals, landlords and merchants rules in Saigon. I think the war in South Vietnam has to come to an end before aid and development can achieve anything, before it can go beyond what it is now - merely a drop in an ocean of violence, hatred, distrust, disturbance and disorder.
Aid and development are peaceful things. We cannot have peace in the middle of a war like the one proceeding in South Vietnam today. If we assume some kind of South Vietnam settlement comes about in which the National Liberation Front has power, what about the dominoes theory then? Will Communism spread any more rapidly because of that result? Communism may spread because of this result, but it will not spread more rapidly because of a cessation of war than it will as a result of the war’s extension.
Apart from war the main cause of the spread of insurgency, and therefore Communism when Communists get the leadership of it, is a result of frustrated nationalism and of reactionary economic and political ruling groups. At the moment the only country in South East Asia where Communism is strong is Laos. Here Communism is strong not because of economic or political injustice, but because of the frustrated nationalism of a large Vietnamese minority. The presence of Communism in the north-eastern province of Thailand, and it is weak, is also because there is a significant Vietnamese minority in that province. However, much of the minor trouble in Thailand is a result of the absence of Government control of Bangkok and the operation of bandits and former policemen of General Siohoe’s Laotian police force who fled there after last year’s unsuccessful coup in Vientianne. Yet all the experts, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) and all the rest seem to know nothing of the situation. They seem to know nothing of what is known to everybody to whom one talks in Bangkok and Vietnam. The remaining Vietnamese minorities in Laos and Thailand, a sort of emigre group, hold strongly to ties wilh their land of origin, North Vietnam. Few of them are Communists, but many look to North Vietnam for strength and support. There is no simple dominoes theory at work in their cases. In Laos, where the pressure is greatest, Prince Souvanna Phouma said to me: “We can handle the Pathet Lao.” “ Laotians “, he says, “ will never become Communists.” He went on to say: “ We have to look after our own security. We need economic aid, but I will never invite foreign troops into Laos. It would ensure my defeat.” That was Prince Souvanna Phouma, the Prime Minister of Laos.
In Cambodia there is no known internal threat at all, even from the Vietnamese. The Government is national, independent and successful. It has won the loyalty and support of its people - even of the Vietnamese. Cambodia could be upset only by an invasion, and the only one that seems likely is one organised by Thailand and South Vietnam. In Thailand the thing that overwhelms one is the sheer inertia of the country. The problem here is not the possible suddenness or speed of change but that change is a superhuman task, well beyond the capacity of the people at present to bring about, lt is hardly likely that genuine or stirred up discontents in Thailand can rise fast enough for even the Thai Government to be unable to satisfy. However, Thailand can cause bigger problems for herself than the Vietnamese and Chinese can cause in her internal affairs by her own too obvious identification with the attacks being made by the United States upon Vietnam. American bombers and fighters fly out of Thailand every day, like angry bees, to attack North Vietnam. How Thailand can assume that she can one day call it “ aggression “ if North Vietnam or China ever interferes with her, I do not know.
However, the rise of insurgency in South East Asia can be increased if the Communists gain a freer hand as a result of a settlement in South Vietnam, but I believe a failure to settle in South Vietnam, with the consequent spread of the war that would come about, would cause more insurgency and Communism in South East Asia. But in any case, security can be maintained in South East Asia only if Thailand and Cambodia use their own nationals to do it and make reasonable economic and political progress.
I believe, therefore, that the soundest possible policy that Australia can adopt for South Vietnam and South East Asia would consist of the following points. First, we should oppose any further escalation of the war in South Vietnam and against North Vietnam. Secondly, we should support deescalation of the war to see if ceasefire negotiations and a settlement can be achieved. Thirdly, we must realise that unless the United States carries out these probable essentials for slopping the war, we must completely dissociate ourselves in every way from the war and from any involvement whatsoever in South Vietnam. Fourthly, if a ceasefire and settlement is reached, we should do all we can to see that with its supervision peace is kept, reprisals are cut to a minimum, and that aid is given in development and reconstruction. Fifthly, we should now s’.ep up our action in trade, aid and development in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.
I believe that Australia must begin now to design a new alternative policy for South East Asia. I believe we can do much to influence America in the same direction, because it will not take much to give victory to the Kennedys, the Fulbrights and Mansfields. America is not Goldwater. Noone can be sure of the final form or of the details of this alternative policy, but of its substance and direction there can be no doubt. It must be concerned with trade, aid and development. We should, 1 believe, set up in Australia an Asian aid and development administration with as much independence as possible. The administration should be responsible to a Minister and control all Australian Government and volunteer aid with the maximum imagination and flexibility we can muster. Australian aid and development teams would be formed to meet specific needs requested by Asian Governments. Sometimes these teams would be wholly government, sometimes volunteer and sometimes a mixture of both. But the administration must ensure that pay and conditions, continuity of service, postservice seniority and benefits are all adequately provided.
I have said that Australia’s contribution to Asian aid and development is the best answer we can provide to insurgency and terrorism. This kind of contribution can be shared equitably among the Australian people and would not fall, as does the present inequitable military contribution, only upon regular servicemen and conscripts. But this new policy has to be backed by adequate and effective means to defend Australia. But the argument advanced here is that this joint military action has not won the war in South Vietnam and cannot do most to stop the spread of insurgency and Communism and, therefore there must be a change of policy.
But, as I have outlined, when this is achieved Australia must have a second line of defence - a highly mobile navy and air striking force capable of going out to meet and destroy any kind of airborne invasion moving towards Australia, and there must be an airborne army capable of being moved quickly to any point around Australia upon which an invasion force might manage to land. For the defence of Australia, much more can be done than by sending a small force of regular and conscripted men into the quagmire of South Vietnam.
As a foundation for this effective Australian defence force, Australian industry should be planned and geared over a long period to produce as much as possible of the naval vessels, aircraft and armoured vehicles which can be produced in Australia. It is beyond doubt that Australian industry can produce defence equipment as efficiently as it produces similar equipment for civilian uses. I believe that this defence policy would cost less than that of the present Government in its efforts to keep up to the fantastic standards of big power weapons such as the FI II A.
I want to place emphasis upon one point above all: lt is for defence, above all, that prevailing policy should be changed. If it is insurgency and terror that we have to meet, they cannot be met and defeated in South East Asia by sending foreign troops and arms into a country if that makes, as it has in South Vietnam, the aided government into a dependency unable to stand on its own feet and to claim to be nationalist, and if this leads, as it has led in South Vietnam, to more and more militarism and less and less economic reform and political progress. There is less economic reform and political progress in Saigon today than there has been at any stage since 1954. This quagmire, this nightmare, is not success. It is failure. There must be a change in this policy if we are to be saved from the endless escalation of war, until finally war against China must take place. This policy, after 20 years of failure, must be changed.
.- I do not propose to debate the matters raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns’). Last week in the debate on the statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) I said what I had to say on that issue. Like all my colleagues, I totally disagree with what the honorable gentleman has said tonight. 1 wonder whether he can speak with the same assurance about the gentlemen who sit behind him.
Since this debate traditionally traverses a wide field because, in the long run, every activity of government is mirrored in money expenditures, I shall say a few words about a very important item - the Parliament. The cost of running the Parliament this year is estimated at $3,664,000, exclusive of members’ salaries. In broad terms, this is a trivial price to pay for a democratic system of government, a system which among other things enables every citizen to have his say in the choosing of the government and provides a peaceful means of changing it, if he is so minded, from time to time. On the other hand, if the apparatus of Parliament is .regarded as little more than a rubber stamp for registering decisions of the Government so chosen, the question may arise whether full value is being obtained from such a cumbrous and expensive machine. The plain fact is that many ancient institutions long regarded with complacency and long the subject of rotund oratory are now coming under critical scrutiny. The confortable structure of familiar things has crashed about our ears and the only rule for survival is adaptation to change.
What are the essential functions of Parliament? Is the traditional machinery suited to modern requirements? These are the closely linked questions that demand an answer in terms of analysis and action. Now, as always, Parliament has the paramount duty of removing a government which has signally failed the nation. This happened when the House of Commons replaced Chamberlain with Churchill, and the House of Representatives in Australia replaced Menzies with Curtin during World War II. But this is medicine, not daily food, a reserve power that is and always should be available. The other great function of Parliament is to be a critic - of policies in principle, of administrative policies, and of shortcomings in individual cases. All this has a positive and a negative side, not only the advocacy of better policies, of better methods in implementation, of just dealing, but also the exposure of errors and mis takes. The criticism may operate directly or indirectly - directly by inducing a government to mend its ways, though this will seldom be candidly confessed, and indirectly by influencing the electorate to change the government.
In defining the two principal functions of Parliament as changing the Government when necessary and acting as a critic at all times, one avoids the error of supposing that a popular assembly can govern. Its role is rather to rule in the ways indicated. If Parliament were to attempt to govern the result would be incoherence and confusion, and it would be impossible for the electorate at large to fix responsibilities for good or bad. government. The separation of powers between the executive and the legislature in the United States of America has from time to time caused grave weaknesses and stultified government. In Europe it has more than once brought about the complete collapse of democratic systems of government. But, this being said, the question remains whether the machinery of Parliament, as inherited from the past, is today adequate for the performance of the task of effective criticism. It can be accepted as axiomatic, I think, that no criticism is effective unless it is based on an adequate knowledge of the relevant facts.
How can members of Parliament become possessed of the facts ascertained, organised and presented in such a form as to be readily assimilable for the purposes of debate in the circumstances in which Parliament operates? Information is often provided at Westminster in the form of White Papers explaining government policies. At Canberra this is seldom or never done, inadequate, in any event, as it generally is. Usually, members of the Australian Parliament are dependent on the information vouchsafed in ministerial statements or in a second reading speech by a Minister introducing a bill. And they are fortunate if they have a weekend, less travel time and constituency engagements, to digest it. Relevant reports of parliamentary committees or other inquiries are rare indeed. Of course, there are questions in the House. Those without notice are good fun but are usually parried or produce little fruit. Those on notice are of some value but the answers cannot be readily probed in depth and are too often long delayed and useless for current debates. The Parliamentary Library is only now beginning to develop a skeleton legislative reference service.
Of course, the Opposition front bench may have access to research material provided by the personal staff of the Leader of the Opposition or Deputy Leader of the Opposition or from party headquarters, but these are tenuous sources and the general propaganda churned out for backbenches on both sides is, with rare exceptions, vapid and partisan. The plain fact is that in Australia no party has sufficient resources to provide an adequate research service. Perhaps in the rudimentary state of party politics in this country their backers see no need for it, but the fact starkly remains that little can be expected from these quarters.
The lack of any effective and organised means of getting relevant information throws members back on such sources as may be available to them individually. One may have a friend in a government department, another in a club, another in a university cloister, another in a company board room who may be able to help in a particular case. Journalists may supply background articles in a journal or periodical. Occasionally a book may have been written on a topical subject, but most of this information is scanty, sketchy and coloured either by the subjective views of an individual or is slanted propaganda.
Finally, there are party committees. These may from time to time be attended by officials or, on rare occasions by a Minister, and outside experts, usually the representatives of “interested parties, may express their views. But I shall say more about the limitations of such committees later. At this point 1 conclude simply by saying that in a period when government touches the life and affairs of citizens at more points than ever before - through the emergence of the welfare State, through increasing intervention in economic affairs and through the adjustments required by the rapid advance of science and technology - at this time when great secular changes have added vastly to the tasks and complexities of government, Parliament virtually has at its command no more devices for informing its mind than it had in England when the typical matter occupying the Parliament was home rule for Ireland, or in Australia, when it debated the pros and cons of free trade and protection. We have even greater problems resulting from our emergence from de facto colonial status to nationhood. No longer protected by the British Navy, no longer assured of capital from Britain and a certain market for our exports we have to find our own allies, arm for our own defence and find markets for ourselves. These tasks for us are added to the problems that face this as well as other advanced countries.
I shall occupy no further time in presenting a general case for a close and hard look at our parliamentary machinery or in arguing further that the special need is to devise an apparatus of inquiry to enable members to be informed on the relevant issues of the day, so that debate may . be meaningful and fruitful and so that Parliament may again become the great forum of the nation. For I am quite sure that respect for this institution has suffered more than anything else from the sterile exchange of party slogans and shibboleths, from personal and petty quarrels and from concentration on inconsequential details, when the important issues have been decided in secret conclave by the political and Public Service establishments, and public debate has been confined to television and the newspapers - which are in the same hands anyway - and spokesmen for the various pressure groups. However, before proceeding to detail I should like to make two quite separate observations.
The first is that powerful forces are arrayed against reformers in this field because an unholy triple alliance exists between the two front benches and the heads of the Public Service - a formidable array. A better informed Parliament, a more critical Parliament, makes life more difficult for Ministers, and, human nature being what it is, they cannot be blamed for preferring a quieter life. The Opposition front bench in turn, contemplating office, for the same reason does not wish Parliament to be better armed; those who occupy that bench will also in due season command the aid of the Public Service. And of course the Public Service does not want to be irked by having to waste time in giving information to mere members of Parliament, or be embarrassed by having to decide what information it is proper to give or withhold.
Moreover, backbenchers themselves are too often not sufficiently convinced that they should fight for freedom. Too often they suppose that party committees are adequate. Too often they are content to attend to the individual needs of constituents and to suppose that this constitutes the whole duty of a member of Parliament. Too often they may feel that running counter to the desires of the leadership may prejudice their chances of promotion. In short, the forces opposed to reform are powerful, and those who have every reason to support it are apt to be fainthearted. The cause must therefore rest on sheer force of argument.
The other observation that I wish to make at this stage is that the circumstances affecting the Parliament at Westminster and the Congress at Washington differ in essential respects from those at Canberra. I have already referred to the American system and will say here only that the example of congressional committees is of very limited application to the parliamentary type of government. But Westminster has two important features that have no parallel with us. Firstly, the membership of the House of Commons is vastly greater than ours is or is likely to be for a long time; and that House has wider responsibilities, exercising many functions of government carried out by the States in our Federation. This means that sheer saving of time is for them a vastly important consideration, and this is a reason for consigning more work to committees. Secondly, Westminster is situated in the vast metropolis of London, so that many members can carry on their norma] avocations and at the same time attend to their parliamentary duties - which are less onerous because there are so many members to attend to them.
Many have thought it a great strength of the House of Commons that it brings together so many men engaged in the normal life of the community and therefore able to bring to bear their personal experience on the problems coming before the Parliament. This may well be, but Canberra bears little resemblance to London as a place where members can earn a livelihood in a wide range of occupations. Whether we like it or not, therefore, a very high proportion of members in this House devote by far the greater part of their time to their parliamentary duties. However, we have fallen between two stools. Neither, on the one hand, do members have the wide personal experience in daily life of the members of the House of Commons, nor, on the other hand, do they utilise the time available to them for effective parliamentary work. One reason - a matter with which I propose to deal in detail - is the lack of effective parliamentary organisation, what I shall call an efficient apparatus of inquiry to precede debate. The other is a simple, mundane matter. Mostly we spend three days a week here dealing with a rushed programme of legislation - generally affixing a rubber seal and exchanging party pleasantries, this reaching a mad crescendo at the end of each session; two days, Monday and Friday, travelling, in some cases to and from the uttermost parts of the land; and the weekend attending constituency engagements and catching up on electorate correspondence. Then at the end of every three weeks we have a week to attend more constituency functions.
Without attempting to argue the case in detail 1 would say to my friends what they know themselves; that we should sit for two five day weeks, with time allotted in the middle of each week for committee work, and stay here over the middle weekend. We should then disperse for a week and so use this slab of time to better advantage than under present arrangements we are inclined to do.
I now pass to the question of devising an adequate apparatus of inquiry. This means simply parliamentary committees with appropriate terms of reference, with adequate powers, properly staffed and with an established place in Parliament House and in the timetable of business. 1 pause on the words “ parliamentary committees “ in order to contrast them with party committees. The parliamentary committee has a definite status, a charter and powers conferred upon it by Parliament. It has a place assigned to it where it can meet. It can require the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents. It can authorise the payment of witnesses’ expenses - not unimportant when you have a capital out in the bush. The statements of witnesses, questions to them and their replies, are recorded. The committee has a skilled staff to assist in organising the work of the committee, in analysing the statements of witnesses and in helping in the elucidation of the topic under study, and in the drafting of reports based on the evidence. It works systematically and it produces a report for Parliament, the mas’er whose servant it is. It is scarcely necessary to detail the defects of a party committee, with its overworked voluntary chairman and secretary, its lack of power to obtain essential evidence, its lack of time, of facilities and skilled staff, its lack of the hammer and anvil of opposing attitudes in eliciting relevant facts.
Let me attempt briefly to articulate the matters to be decided in setting up a range of parliamentary committees, an apparatus of inquiry to ensure that when debates come into the House members are properly informed on the background. First, we have the House of Representatives and the Senate. Should there be joint committees or separate committees? For my part I should be inclined to concentrate on House of Representatives committees, though we should take note of matters covered by committees of the Seriate. The latter has a different function as a house of review and to delay on occasion rather than to frustrate. It also has limited powers in respect of financial matters. From time to time it may have a majority of the Opposition reflected in the composition of its committees. This could import a difficulty into the composition of joint committees. I speak only in general terms on this matter.
Secondly, there would be the question of party composition. This has never presented a great difficulty because it has always been customary for committees to reflect the state of parties in the House. Thirdly, there would be the question of chairmanship. It has always been our principle that the chair should be filled by a member of the Government party - despite the British custom of appointing a member of the Opposition to be chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of the British Parliament. Fourthly, there is the question of the optimum size for a committee. I may be reminded that the House of Commons has about 600 members whereas we have only 120 odd. However, the numbers in the American Senate approximate the numbers in our House of Representatives, and they field more committees than I imagine we would attempt. Moreover, with the counterattractions of London and because many members are engaged in their normal avocations, the large numbers of the House of Commons are illusory from this point of view. A few weeks ago I attended a meeting of one of their most successful committees; it had mustered a quorum of only three, but some excellent work was done. I would suggest that it would not be impossible for us to establish in our circumstances half a dozen committees of, say, seven members each, in addition to the three major committees at present in existence, particularly if, as I have suggested, time were set aside for their work.
Fifthly, what matters should they study and within what limits? This is the most controversial aspect of the whole matter. There are two opposing views. Fearful that committees might attempt to take over some of the functions proper to government, the House of Commons has been excessively restrictive. The American Congress - a radically different system of government - goes to the other extreme. But the tide of opinion is moving towards something more liberal than has hitherto been acceptable to the House of Commons. The Select Committee on Procedure had some sensible things to say on this subject in its Fourth Report which was ordered to be printed on 29th July 1965. It said-
Your Committee are convinced that a main purpose of Parliamentary reform must be to increase the efficiency of the House of Commons as a debating chamber.
It said also -
It is to be expected that Members of Parliament will consider that their work would be improved if they were able to become better informed about the work of the executive.
It said also -
In accepting the need to improve the House’s sources of information, your Committee have turned their attention to the Select Committee system as a means of achieving this end.
Further, it said -
It is not the wish of your Committee that “specialist” committees should become involved in matters of political controversy. Many witnesses emphasised the dangers, both for the relations of the House with Ministers, and for the effectiveness of the Committees’ work, if the range of investigation got beyond that which could properly be replied to by civil servants.
It said also -
Your Committee do not pretend that the distinction between what are policy questions and what are not is an easy one to make, and they note the anxieties of the Head of the Civil Service. They do believe, however, that the example of the Nationalised Industries Committee, in producing informative and objective Reports in what is politically a highly sensitive field is one that could profitably be followed by Committees specialising in the activities of Government Departments.
Further, it said -
In considering the form which specialist Committees should take, your Committee have been anxious to retain the experience and method of work of the Estimates Committee.
In the end the Committee recommended something very mild, namely, that the numbers on the Estimates Committee should be increased and that it should operate by way of sub-committees. This was a timid report and it was castigated by the “ Economist “ at page 766 in its issue of 28th August 1965 under the heading “Not Enough Teeth “. In able articles, “ Rule by Inquiry “ on 30th October 1965, “To The Class of 66” on 16th April 1966 and “What MP’s Must Do” on 30th April 1966 the paper pursued this theme. It is impossible in a short time to pursue the controversy in detail, but a consensus seems to have emerged that if government and parliament are each to have their due a committee should not attempt - and I quote - . . to pass judgment on the policies concerned, but by clarifying the issues involved make available to the House the background facts and assumptions so that the House can better debate the matter.
I quote from an article by Michael Ryle published in the special number of the * Political Quarterly “ of July-September 1965. Michael Ryle is the Secretary of the Nationalised Industries Committee. I had the opportunity to meet him about a month ago in London. The same view is expressed in a little book by Andrew Hill and Anthony Whichelow entitled “What is Wrong with Parliament “, credited to men very close to the scene in Westminster. They say -
All debates in the House of Commons would be more effective if their startpoint was a corpus of agreed fact which a committee had prepared.
I would suggest, therefore, that if we had half a dozen committees related to the principal functions of government, limited to ascertaining and reporting to the House the relevant facts in respect of important matters in their respective fields, the Parliament would greatly profit from its ability to engage in much better informed debate than is now possible. The matters selected for study should be left to the committees themselves. A minister should obviously be at liberty to refuse departmental information if in his opinion it is confidential to the department or if it would be against the public interest to disclose it. I do not believe that a minister should be a compellable witness, but he should be competent to give evidence if he so desired.
Clearly such a system could succeed only if there were good sense on both sides of the House and if both ministers and members were determined that it should be made to work. 1 believe that in these circumstances difficulties could be ironed out in practice and that something really worth while would evolve over a period. I believe that the alternative is to throw up our hands in despair and abandon ourselves to the belief that in the modern age Parliament can be nothing more than an expensive rubber stamp. I have some hope that our Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), being ‘a Parliament man, will give serious thought to the type of reforms I have outlined. I hope also that the Opposition will not be blind to the need for action along these lines.
.- I take the opportunity of expressing my support for the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and my support, of course, for the comprehensive amendment he proposed to the Budget. I suggest that if the amendment were carried the economic welfare of the people of Australia as a whole would be substantially better in the next 12 months than will be the case if the Budget as it is now takes effect and operates for whatever period may be involved. I note that in the Budget there is provision for a few crumbs for age and invalid pensioners, widows, ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen - only a few crumbs, and quite insufficient to overtake the continuing increases in prices which will prevail in the future if remedial action is not taken, and insufficient to compensate for the increases in the cost of living that have taken place since the last Budget was approved.
I note, incidentally, that provision is made for a substantial sum to finance defence. This includes expenditure in Vietnam. I intend to spend a few minutes only in expressing my opinion of the Vietnamese situation. Members of this Parliament, and indeed the public at large, already know - and, I hope, know effectively - the viewpoint of the Parliamentary Labour Party and of the Australian Labour Party as a whole in Australia. I support with enthusiasm the policy laid down by the Labour Party. 1 go so far as to say - and it is not even far enough - that 1 go all the way with all the utterances of my distinguished colleague, Dr. Jim Cairns. I go all the way with those who have expressed their abhorrence at the immoral action of this Government in committing Australia to participate in this conflict and, worst of all, conscripting the youth of Australia, who have no vote, for service willy nilly in the conflict in Vietnam. I consider it to be the most immoral act ever taken over the long period that I have served in this Parliament. I will have no hesitation in the forthcoming election campaign in going out to the 109,000 electors I represent in Victoria - and, of course, if one takes into consideration their families and other factors, I represent at least 250,000 people - and telling them exactly what I think of this conflict.
For a long time I have been considering what I would do if I were conscripted for this horrible conflict in which there is no justification for Australian participation. I am quite satisfied that, as far as I am concerned, on receiving my call up card I would burn it - without any hesitation whatsoever - and I would be prepared to take any consequences that were coming to me. I look round the public gallery tonight and I see young men and young women and I visualise that if this conflict continues the young men will be called up to go and fight in this filthy conflict in Vietnam. I see the fiances of the wonderful young women one sees about called up to go and risk their lives in this conflict at a time when it has already been amply demonstrated that the conflict cannot be brought to a success ful conclusion in achieving the objectives that are now plainly being pursued by the United States of America. Unfortunately the American Administration appears to be possessed of a phobia that it is required by the Divine Being to indulge in a campaign throughout the length and breadth of the world to contain Communism, and it has been busy at it for quite a long while. The ultimate result of this conflict, whether measured by victory on the battlefield or in terms of economic and social problems, will be that the very participation of the United States of America and Australia will accelerate the advance of Communism in that part of Asia.
Let me deal briefly with the historical circumstances surrounding the conflict and its origin. What are the historical facts? We know that during the last war IndoChina was occupied by the Japanese. We know very well that after the war ceased, the Indo-Chinese naturally, as did the Indonesians in Java, decided that the time was ripe for them to rid themselves of domination by another nation. The Indo-Chinese promptly set to work to bring the French occupation of Indo-China to an end. Lo and behold, rightly or wrongly - I would say rightly - a leader arose. This was Ho Chi Minh. He was the man who played the most valiant part in seeking to achieve self government for the people of IndoChina. He is a Communist, certainly. Finally, Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Vietnamese and the other peoples of IndoChina. in the famous battle at Dien Bien Phu, inflicted a crushing defeat on the French, who were wise enough then to depart for home. Inevitably, perhaps largely because not all Indo-Chinese are of the same racial origin, though all are Asians, internal conflicts arose. This is how I see the situation. Inevitably, a stage was reached at which somebody had to make a valid attempt to settle those conflicts. Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Poland and others who participated in the Geneva Conference made an effort. Tentatively, Vietnam was divided at the 17th parallel of latitude. It was emphasised that this division was tentative. There are 14 million people in South Vietnam and about 13 million in North Vietnam - a total population of 27 million Asians in a country with an area not much greater than that of Victoria.
– How many crossed the border from North Vietnam?
– South or North, it is all Vietnam.
– How many crossed the border?
– I was not there to count them and neither was the honorable member. All one can do is to accept the estimates of partisans on both sides of this unfortunate argument. It does not matter how many crossed the border from North to South any more than, in a war between Victoria and New South Wales it would matter how many crossed from Sydney to Melbourne or whether no-one crossed from Melbourne to Sydney. I am considering Vietnam as one country. I ask the Parliament: What sort of job would any invader or aggressor who considered that he ought to determine the economic emphasis and political complexion o’f government have if he were to throw into Victoria, especially if it were populated by 25 million people, an army of 500,000 or 600,000 men from the United States and four brigades from Australia? How long would the contest go on? How would we in Victoria fight? What would be our advantages over the forces that had intruded within our borders? Though some frightful defeats might be suffered by the defenders, ultimately the invaders would not have a dog’s chance, if 1 know Australians.
What is the situation in Vietnam today? lt is hopeless. What I say tonight is fortified by a report in today’s Melbourne “ Herald “, which appears under the heading, “ Viet Troops Desert in Thousands “. The headline is, “ Saigon, Today “. The report states -
Desertions from South Vietnam’s 705,000 man armed forces at present are nearly 20 per cent, higher than last year. . . .
– What year was that?
– For the information of the honorable gentleman, this report came from Saigon today. He should know that the present year is 1966. The report goes on -
A total of 67,000 members of the regular army -
They are the trained, t-rue blue soldiers - regional and “ popular “ forces - village defence teams - walked out in the first six months of 1966.
There were 67,000 desertions in six months. The report continues -
If the desertions continue at the same rate in the second half of the year, the total number will be 21,000 more than the 1965 figure of 113,000.
Premier Ky’s Government expects, however, to reduce desertions through a new law imposing severe punishment. . . .
He will have a lot of fun imposing severe punishment on 113,000 or more deserters. Fancy dealing with 1 1 3,000 deserting Australians, if it were possible to find so many deserting, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is bad enough trying to deal with a few. The report continues -
The biggest single brake on desertions is expected to be Decree Law 15 -
This is not even a popularly elected government, but merely a military dictatorship approved and supported by the United States - which was put into effect on August 1 and imposes a minimum punishment of five years’ hard labour for ordinary desertion.
They will have a lot of fun putting 113,000 men up for five years’ hard labour -
Depending upon the circumstances, a deserter could be given up to a life sentence of hard labour.
They will need a lot of clinks. The report states also -
Prodded by U.S. advisers, South Vietnamese officials have granted servicemen a 30 per cent, pay increase -
They have to be bribed to remain in the ranks - stepped up the promotion rate - 1 suppose that more corporals, sergeants and no doubt plenty of generals have been appointed - increased the ration allowance -
It is said that an army marches on its belly - and begun improving medical, postal, school and post exchange (duty free service shops) services.
One step considered a major breakthrough is commissioning officers from the ranks.
That is a good move -
The South Vietnamese army expects to promote 250 non-commissioned men to officer rank by the end of this year.
– How many?
– The number given is 250.
– It will be a Portuguese Army.
– The pay will not be bad. The newspaper report continues -
Military authorities concede that some deserters go over to the Vietcong but insist that the majority return home -
That is very sensible - or seek better paid civilian jobs.
Regulations have been tightened to prevent deserters or draft dodgers from being employed by civilian American contractors or by the U.S. and Vietnamese Governments.
Deserters from the regional forces often return to the war after visiting their families.
If one wants an illustration of what a hopeless, horrible and immoral conflict Australia is engaged in, that is it. If honorable members want an illustration of how immoral this Government is I need only point out that every time the Government conscripts a good young Australian for service in Vietnam it is conscripting him to fill a gap created by a member of the Vietnamese Army who does not think the damned war is worth fighting anyway. I am stating facts. The Vietnamese are going home; they are deserting in their thousands. This Government is sending good Australians to fight in a war from which 113,000 Vietnamese deserted last year because they did not think it was worth being involved in. What is more, according to the article I have just read, they are deserting to the Vietcong.
Let me give another illustration of how hopeless this war is. I have noticed great advocacy of civil assistance wherever practicable. That is quite good. But how practicable is it? I saw in the Press the other day a report from America that the troops had been advised that before giving away tinned food of any sort - troops are generous people as I well know - they should open the tins, because it had been discovered that after being given these goods by the well intentioned troops, the Vietnamese had been taking them home and giving them to their Vietcong friends. If honorable members want evidence that nobody knows who is a Vietcong and who is a Vietnamese, there it is.
– What are you?
– I am not what the honorable member is. If he is what he looks like - and I cannot describe that without being insulting - I shall be very sorry.
– Order! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– I do not claim to have a profound knowledge of .history, but I have some slight knowledge of it, and it appears to me that right from the outset of this conflict only two members of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation, Australia and the United States of America, have become involved. Is Pakistan, another member of S.E.A.T.O., cowardly? Is the Philippines cowardly? Is France, another signatory to the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty, cowardly? Is the United Kingdom cowardly? Are the Thais cowardly?
I am informed that the total number of Thai servicemen engaged in conflict is two. The Thais are living and bludging on the receipt of United States dollars for allowing the Americans to establish bases in Thailand. The Americans are pouring millions of dollars into Bangkok for the corrupt members of the Government there and to enrich the merchant class. That is all the Thais are interested in. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles), who is interrupting, can put his point of view afterwards. Let me tell him that I was in Bangkok in 1957 with a colleague of mine. The Thais are lovely people. They love their children and live amongst great natural riches, including huge rice fields. But they do not know anything about democracy. My friend and I, shortly after leaving Bangkok, read in a newspaper somewhere in Europe that the Government in Bangkok had been displaced by a coup d’etat. It was stated in that newspaper that one of the participants in the coup d’etat had gone up to the Prime Minister with a pistol and said: “ Boy, you are dismissed. You are the new ambassador to New Delhi.” Then he went to another Minister and said: “You are outski, too; you are the new ambassador to Athens “. That is how democratic government was established in Thailand. More recently, a certain prince who was Prime Minister or something of the sort in Thailand, also ran all the gambling joints as well as the local government sweep. He got away with $30 million or $40 million. He made it too hot and so they had to change him, too.
– It was $180 million.
– It was $180 million. I stand corrected by my colleague. That is the sort of thing that is going on there and we are getting more deeply involved in it every day.
As I have said, 1 have no profound knowledge of history. But I have taken some notes in my lifetime of the activities of people who poke their noses into civil wars and, without being partisan, numerous illustrations of this I can give. For example, we can point to the time when the Americans fought for their independence. That was not strictly a civil war but at that time King George IV hired German mercenaries to fight people who were, after all, our kith and kin. Naturally, these mercenaries were not very popular. Later came the American Civil War into which some outside assistance was intruded. In more recent times came the trouble in Ireland when there was intrusion by the United Kingdom Government. This was an internal fight in Ireland for self government and the Irish leader ended up in the Liverpool gaol. But finally he became President of the Irish Republic. I refer to President De Valera.
Lest honorable members think I have some religious prejudices. I shall be fair and point out that another person who broke the law arid who was prepared to take part in this conflict was no less a gentleman than Lord Edward Carson, lt was discovered that he had been getting rifles from Germany and was prepared to bring troops over from Germany to take part in the war in Ireland. More recently still we had the conflict in Cuba. At first the Americans lied like Ananias. They denied that they were responsible for organising the invasion in an endeavour to upset the revolutionary government presided over by Castro. Because they failed, they lied about it.
In the Spanish civil war Mussolini and Hitler tried out their bombers on the unfortunate people of Spain. The only ones who went to the aid of the Spanish people were the members of the International Brigade and none of them were welcome either. All through history we have had instances of intrusion by outsiders into the civil wars and local disputes of other people. It is all wrong. We have no right to be involved. The only wars that we ought to be involved in - and sometimes there should be some reservations about even this - are military actions which, after satisfactory deliberation, the United Nations decides should be taken. The United Nations called upon its members to send forces to Korea to prevent injustice being done to the people of South Korea.
– You think there was an injustice in Korea but not in Vietnam?
– There were entirely different circumstances. In the Korean situation, the United Nations made a call upon us as a member nation to play our part. The Australian Labour Government analysed the situation and decided that we should play our part. But when I read history, I am doubtful whether, after all, the person who played the greatest part in starting the Korean War was not that old villain, Syngman Rhee.
My time has almost expired and I want to mention several other things, although I still have a few more comments to make about this subject. First, let me point out the dangers of a policy based on the slogan: “All the way with L.B.J.” We know that General MacArthur, against the directions and desires of the President of the United States, proposed to invade China to put an end to the Korean War. We know that, fortunately, largely as a matter of principle and largely as a matter of military strategy, the great Truman determined that General MacArthur should not be allowed to invade China. Because MacArthur persisted, the result was that the strong United States President, Truman, dismissed him. It would be a very good job if somebody of the same character and disposition as President Truman were to take L.B.J.’s position and something were done along commonsense lines to prevent the bombing of North Vietnam, as a starting point, and then to endeavour to get the United Nations, by heavier pressurisation than has hitherto been imposed, to bring this shocking conflict to an end.
Our troops are playing a very good part. They are living up to their obligations as determined by this Government. It is the Government that is guilty of this unfortunate state of affairs. I do not desire to say any more except to emphasise that I am quite sure that when this story is told to the people of Australia, with emphasis and all the facts given, the people will determine that no longer will they support a government which is continuing and will continue to send forces to South Vietnam when, in this year alone, 20 per cent, of the South Vietnam forces have themselves deserted and gone home. They have given the game away. I am all for sending a peace force to Vietnam, but do not let us forget that one battalion of peace workers would probably need two battalions of armed men to protect it, with the situation as it now is in South Vietnam. There will come a stage no doubt - I hope it comes soon - if common sense is shown by the United States, urged on by Australia, by Britain and by that great man U Thant, when it will be possible for this Government to spend as much on sending in people to assist the Vietnamese, north and south, to rehabilitate themselves and settle down in a well ordered economy, as it is now spending on sending troops.
– I will not attempt to follow the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in his rambling speech. 1 think the kindest thing I can say to him - and we all like the honorable member for Lalor - is that this was not one of his best speeches. He rambled all over the place. One thing that disturbed me was that a man of his maturity as a member of Parliament, and one who himself believes in the parliamentary system of government, should incite the young men of this country to break the law.
– I rise to order. The honorable gentleman said that I invited the young men of this country to break the law. I said: “ As far as I am concerned “. The honorable member should not make a liar of himself.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honorable member for Lalor will resume his seat.
– I understood the honorable member foT Lalor to be inciting the young men of Australia to burn their call-up cards. I do not think this is a very good example to be set by a mature man who has been a Minister of the Crown, who is himself an ex-serviceman and who knows the value and the necessity of keeping the law.
I was astounded too that he should praise Ho Chi Minh. After all, he admits that Ho Chi Minh is a Communist and the ruler of North Vietnam. But I do not want to follow him down all thebypaths. The honorable member criticised South Vietnam and was also very critical of Thailand in many respects. Does he or does he not know that when Vietnam was divided at the 17th parallel those who were Communists were invited to go to North Vietnam and those who wanted to avoid the Communist way of life were invited to go to South Vietnam. More than one million people left North Vietnam to avoid the Communist way of life but only a few hundred thousand left South Vietnam to go to North Vietnam. The honorable member should take this into account when discussing this matter. As 1 have said I will not follow him down these bypaths, because he did say in his opening remarks that he would support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I propose to make a few remarks about the amendment and about the Budget itself. Many of the speeches we have heard in this debate have not related to the Budget and it might be a good idea if we came back to the consideration of the Budget.
First, I should very much like to congratulate the new Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) on the presentation of his first Budget. From my point of view, and I am sure from the point of view of the majority of the people of Australia, this Budget certainly meets the conditions under which we live. It is based upon existing economic facts. No attempt has been made in the Budget to play politics or to seek party advantage, which, 1 think, is to the credit of the new Treasurer. It contains no extravagant claims or extravagant predictions that could be used politically. Help is given to the most needy. The Treasurer has been very careful to avoid being rash in any way. yet he has been courageous enough to give incentives which will bring the greatest benefit to the people of Australia. It is not inappropriate here and now to say that our new Treasurer has shown great ability in the 16 or 17 years he has been in this Parliament. He has been a highly successful Minister in many portfolios and he has grown, by dint of hard work and application, into the most knowledgeable economist in this House. I say in all sincerity that I believe he is the most knowledgeable economist in the House. I am sure that the people of Australia have the utmost confidence in his sincerity, ability and reliability. We are fortunate to have a Treasurer of his capacity in this Parliament.
The Budget, of course, is not only the work of the Treasurer. People sometimes are inclined to think it is. The Treasurer is the guiding and responsible Minister, but we should not forget - 1 have had experience in these matters, having served for eight years in the Ministry - all the work that goes into the preparation of a Budget. The Cabinet and the Ministry generally put in an enormous amount of work before the final decisions are made and the Budget comes before the House. The public would be amazed to know of the amount of work by departments and departmental heads in the analysis of the details of the Budget. Some of the ablest brains in Australia are concentrated upon this work. After those involved have sifted all the details the proposals are subjected to the scrutiny of each individual Minister as head of his own Department. This is not an easy task. Then the Ministers meet and the Budget is formed and decided upon by the Cabinet. So a budget is not a haphazard document. It is the final decision of able men with all the information before them. They have considered all the details. Sometimes members of the public say: “ Why did the Government not do this or that? “ They think that these matters have not been considered, but I assure them that in most cases they have been considered and a decision has been made in relation to them. I am sure that this Budget is the best that could be produced in Australia at this time for Australia’s benefit. Indeed, it is difficult to see how any responsible government could have produced a budget under existing circumstances in any different form without increasing taxes and at the same time giving essential commitments their proper priorities, as they have been given in this Budget.
I make no apology for quoting some figures from the Budget. It is of the greatest importance to remember that total expenditure in the Budget has been increased by the very large sum of $600 million over expenditure last year. This is not a minor increase; it is a major expansionary programme. Total expenditure in the Budget is the highest in our history and stands at $5,930 million. Let us analyse some of the major heads of expenditure. Defence expenditure amounts to $1,000 million or 17 per cent, of the total Budget expenditure. This is an increase of 34 per cent, or $252 million on expenditure last year. This is something the public should appreciate. Payments to the States, including general purpose grants and drought assistance, will total $926 million or 16 per cent, of total expenditure - an increase over expenditure last year of 8 per cent. I appreciate that the States would like more financial assistance, but an increase of 8 per cent, over the amount provided last year is not a bad effort. Expenditure on developmental services, including amounts provided for the Territories, immigration and education, accounts for $1,677 million or 28 per cent, of total Budget expenditure - an increase of 10 per cent, over expenditure last year. Expenditure on external economic aid is increased by 8 per cent. Expenditure on social services and repatriation accounts for 21 per cent, of total “Budget expenditure and represents an increase of 6 per cent, over expenditure last year.
Apart from those very substantial increases in expenditure on those services which most need finance in order to keep our development expanding, there are some new items of interest in the Budget which 1 think are worthy of note by the people. One is the decision to offer a grant of SIO million to New South Wales for work on the standard gauge railway between Parkes and Broken Hill. This project is of great significance and importance for the future and is part of the scheme initiated by my friend the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) for a standard gauge railway throughout Australia. Another item of interest is the amount provided by way of subsidy to encourage the search for oil in Australia. The search for 011 is a vital and basic development. Another important item in the Budget is the provision of $6 million for a scheme of grants to encourage Australian industry to undertake more research and development work. Australia will never become great unless we have a great increase in our population and our population will never increase greatly unless our secondary industries, as well as our primary industries, are increased considerably. You do not get a great increase in population from an increase in your primary industries, although they are of tremendous importance, particularly to our overseas funds. The vast increases in population come from the development of secondary industries. The provision of grants for industrial research and development, inititated bv this Government, is a step in the right direction and will be appreciated by industry.
Important changes are to be made in the Aged Persons Homes Act to permit eligible organisations to receive grants towards accommodation for the aged who require continuous nursing care. This is something which all of us have found in our electorates to be necessary and is a splendid addition to the scheme. Also, hospitals will benefit greatly from the increases in the rates of hospital benefits for pensioners and chronically ill patients. This provision will be of great assistance to hospitals.
All this expenditure would not have such an expansionary effect if the Government had been forced at the same time to increase taxes. The people of Australia have derived maximum benefit from the increase in expenditure of $600 million with no increase in taxes. I am sure that this situation will give great encouragement to industry, coming as it does at a time when all of us agree that we must increase our defence vote and following an increase in the basic wage and the disastrous effects of drought throughout many parts of Australia. This is something for which the Government should be congratulated, and I am sure it is appreciated by the people.
I know that it is customary for the Opposition to he critical at budget time, particularly when an election is pending. An attempt is usually made to score political points off any Government deficiency. This is justifiable in the scheme of things. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has taken his cue and has moved an amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time. But he has been pretty hard pressed to find any justifiable criticism of the Budget for his amendment. It is interesting to look at the amendment. It states - “ the House condemns the Budget because -
I do not think I am overstating the position when I say that the wage earner in Australia has never been better off and that his standard of living is today at its highest level. Prices have gone up, but they have gone up in all countries. In a condition of full employment this is to be expected. I disagree with the Leader of the Opposition’s claim that the Australian wage earner is not as well off as formerly. He is better off than he ever was.
In his amendment the Leader of the Opposition alleged also that the Budget makes inadequate adjustments to social service payments. 1 challenge that claim. It was a foolish claim to make. Each year since it has been in office this Government has increased or extended social service payments in one way or another. The increase in pensions in this Budget is the biggest since this Government came to office. So it cannot be said that the Budget makes inadequate adjustments to social service payments. I know that there are people who say that the increases in social service benefits should be greater but, taking everything into consideration, the Government has been generous in its treatment of recipients of social service benefits.
The Leader of the Opposition claimed in his amendment that the Budget fails to recognise the serious crisis in education. Is it not true to say that this Government has done more for education in Australia than has any other government in our history? Education is not a Commonwealth function; it is a State function. Yet this Government has expended millions and millions of pounds to advance many fields of education. I do not know how the Opposition can use this argument. Surely its attitude to education has lowered it in the public estimation more than perhaps anything else has. Today, the Australian public just does not know for certain where the Opposition stands on education.
Then it is said that the business community does not have confidence in the future growth of the economy. I do not know what the Leader of the Opposition or Opposition members know, but I am a businessman and 1 know the condition of business. AH I can say is that the business community has the utmost confidence in this Government and in the future growth of Australia. The fifth contention in the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is ridiculous. He used foolish words to suggest that the Government does not recognise the need for further basic development and so forth. No government has done as much in this field as this Government has. The amendment concludes with the statement that the Government has done nothing to relieve Australia’s dependence on a high rate of foreign investment to finance the deficit in our balance of payments. If Labour were in power, there would be no foreign investment in Australia. We would not have foreign investment because foreign investors would not have the confidence to invest here. The Opposition makes a feature of its criticism of foreign investment, but I remind the House that much of our progress in recent years has resulted from foreign investment in this country. Whilst there can be too much of this investment - we must watch the position - we must not discourage foreign investors if we want to develop the country quickly. I do not know what the Opposition is talking about in this criticism. Our efforts are directed continuously to an increase of our exports, and this is the best way to meet a deficit in our balance of payments.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to charge the Government with having failed to face up to its responsibilities in many fields. I will not retail them all, but I will deal with defence, which was one of them. What is Labour’s attitude on the question of defence? Let us look back a little. I know something about this. Labour was in power after the end of the war in 1945 and remained in power until this Government took office at the end of 1949. It therefore had four or five years of office during peace time. In that period, Labour systematically destroyed any semblance of a defence force in this country. I saw this with my own eyes in official files. There was no regular Army or Air Force when this Government took office. As a matter of fact, many assets that would have been valuable in building up a regular Army or Air Force were disposed of by the Labour Government, and many people who dealt in the items that were disposed of in this way became millionaires. Many of these assets should have been kept for the benefit of the country as a whole, but the Labour Government sold them.
At that time, I recall that every Labour member who spoke on defence in the House urged that the appropriation for defence in the Budget should be reduced and the amount used for housing. This was the attitude of honorable members opposite. They now have a different attitude. They say that this Government must spend more money on defence. But what do they mean by defence? They mean that we should spend more money to build up a defence force to protect Australia from within Australia. They think that the defence of Australia should be carried out within Australia. We have heard this assertion again tonight. Have they not yet realised that Australia cannot be defended from within Australia? We must defend Australia with our allies beyond the boundaries of Australia. If we do not we will have no chance of ever defending Australia. But the Australian Labour Party still presses the idea that we should build up a defence force solely for the purpose of home defence. This has been Labour’s attitude for quite a long time.
I come to the item of health. This Government has a magnificent record in building up health services in Australia. What did Labour do when it was in office? It did nothing to establish a health service. It could not get the co-operation of the doctors or the chemists. Indeed, it was unable to establish even a pensioner medical service. All it did was to try to socialise the medical services, but the doctors refused to accept its proposal. Labour left office without having achieved anything. This Government was left to create the health services that are so helpful to the people.
Let us look at housing. Labour’s policy on housing did more damage to the Australian economy than any other single item of policy did. In one fell swoop it destroyed the encouragement of private investment in land. With its system of control, it destroyed the investment iri land. I do not think the Australian public fully realises the damage that was done by Labour at that time. It lifted wage controls but kept on rent and other controls and then passed them on to the States. Rent controls were maintained for many years and still exist in some States. This destroyed the incentive to invest in property, which is the best investment for people with savings. As a result, private savings were driven into all sorts of precarious channels, such as motor cars, radios and appliances of all sorts. This gave an impetus to the hire purchase companies and many doubtful credit companies arose throughout Australia. It encouraged the rise of fringe banking operations into which the savings of the people, amounting to millions of dollars, were poured. People bought debentures in companies that failed and their savings were lost. These are some of the effects of Labour’s policy of controls in the housing field.
The Australian Labour Party seems to have a basic kink. It believes that the economy can be controlled by controlling prices. This theory has been repeated by every Opposition member who has spoken in this debate. If ever there was an “if”, this is it. I know this is fundamental to Labour’s policy. The control of prices, rents, interests and jobs and government ownership of industry and distribution are essential in a socialist state, and Labour admits that this is its objective. Will Labour never realise that a vigorous new nation cannot be built, with the people having the incentives essential to development, under a socialist system. No country in the history of the world has ever been built in this way. Today even Russia, the greatest social experiment of our time, is finding that this system cannot succeed unless incentives are given to private people. Controls have never cured anything and they never will. They destroy the individual. They destroy the ambition, initiative, competence, effort and confidence of the individual and they destroy the sense of responsibility of the individual. In other words, controls do not produce good citizenship. They destroy the very soul of man.
This is the idea that Labour is rolling up in this Budget debate. Opposition members say that rising prices can be cured by price control. I am sure the people of Australia do not agree. Under price control, production is essentially reduced. Living standards are lowered and unemployment is inevitable. Blackmarketing and illicit trading are encouraged.
We have all had experience of this. This is the final result of the dead hand of socialism. When we look at these things in the advocacy of the Opposition, as in this Budget, we wonder what might have been in Australia if Labour had continued in office. lt is a dreadful thought. But when one looks back on the progress that Australia has made since the present Government took office one will realise that the Government had something worth hanging on to.
We must not forget that our development has been the greatest in the history of Australia. I invite honorable members to think for one moment of the production of minerals - the uranium, bauxite, coal, iron ore, copper and other minerals - and what has been done in oil search, power, water conservation, development of private industry, roads, transport and aviation. Above all I invite honorable members to consider the stability that has been created in Australia by this Government. This Budget is a good example of the stability which it has created. We must consider the confidence that has been created not only among the people within Australia but also among people in every other country who now have complete confidence in the management and government of Australia. We must not forget that Australia’s security is dependent upon a stable government of the kind which has produced the Budget that has been presented to the people. We must remember also that during the whole of the period that this Government has been in office, notwithstanding the words of warning which have been uttered from time to time by members of the Opposition - well I remember in recent years the predictions of unemployment that would come as a result of the activities of this Government - we have had full employment and the opportunity for progress in which young people could make their way in life. This is the way in which a government should carry out the affairs of the country. This is a good
Budget which is to the credit of our new Treasurer and which is certainly to the credit of this new era of government under the present Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), who I believe will make a name for himself in Australia as a Prime Minister. I congratulate them and I congratulate the Government. I fail to see how any person in Australia who looks at the situation rationally can say that this is not a good Budget for the benefit of the people of Australia.
.- The honorable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer), who has just resumed his seat, began his remarks with a promise that he was the one who would pinpoint how, where and when the expansionary measures brought down by the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) would take place. We listened to him very attentively, just as we listened to the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) this afternoon and to other Government supporters who have spoken in this debate. Although we have paid very keen and careful attention to them we have not yet been told exactly how these expansionary measures will take place. The honorable member for Bennelong believes in control of the worker, but not control of the industrialist or the financier. The Treasurer has made no secret of the fact that he is relying on a higher basic wage, a lift in pension payments, the superphosphate bounty and a generally good season, together with a minor tax concession on very few household goods, to provide the economic lift which is, without doubt, necessary to raise our gross national products.
All Australians, and particularly the Australian Labour Party and its supporters, knew that the Budget would be played down in this election year. We expected a deficit Budget and we were not disappointed. We expected that proper consideration would be given to the most pressing needs of the community, knowing that the Government had power and would use a supplementary budget if re-elected. Our real disappointment was in the Government not having the courage and inititative to bring about those things which the Treasurer said were necessary. It seems that more than the
Labour Party were disappointed because next day the Press headlines read -
Timidity the Key Note.
There will be Few Smiles.
Budget Fails to Impress.
I have quoted only a few of them. The Treasurer’s old friend, the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “, came to his rescue with an editorial headed -
A Good Job Done Under Difficulties.
The editorial goes on to say -
Treasurer does a good job with his first Budget.
But then immediately came the excuses -
He came to the post in difficult circumstances.
The drought was used as another excuse, and yet another was -
Defence is its domineering factor.
The editorial continues, and I quote it because this is claimed by the Treasurer to be his objective -
To build our population, to develop our resources, to enlarge our industrial capacity, to increase our exports, to improve our standards of education and health.
The editorial continues -
However, on one important welfare issue, the needs of pensioners, the Government has been niggardly - $1 is simply not enough.
The aims of the Budget as expressed by the Treasurer are to be lauded. They are in line with what we all desire. The honorable member for Bennelong, who states very decisively that the industrialists and financiers have the utmost confidence in the Government, should perhaps read the reports in the Press on financial matters. The stock market simply went dead and has exuded gloom ever since the Budget was brought down. Copper prices tumbled because they had been permitted to climb too high, letting the competitors of copper claim some part of its valuable market, which even now with lower copper prices will be hard to reclaim. Steel prices within Australia under the monopoly control of Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. went up. The Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. was taking no chance and made the increase just before the Budget announcement for the apparent reason not of sales or the margin of profit within this country falling, but because it was meeting stiffer opposition in its overseas trade. The B.H.P. did not want a
Government subsidy paid for with the people’s money. It had made its own provision to increase the home consumption price so that no overall loss of profit could occur.
Then, of course, the conference lines, together with their associates in the shipping business, decided that they would jump in for their share. By now they have given notification that practically all freights rates will be increased by anything from 64- to 10 per cent, or more. No doubt the Treasurer had a twinge of regret that these things should happen, but it is what he has done about them that counts. We can be assured that nothing has been done. Then there is our valuable motor car industry which is experiencing now, and by every indication will continue for some time to experience, an effect totally the reverse of expansion. So T could go on to building and other industries.
Argument has ensued regarding our gross national product over the past five years. However, coming closer to the point, I wish to draw attention to one year only. I refer to last year. The market value of all goods and services produced in Australia or, to give it its proper term, our gross national product, rose in the last financial year by 4.5 per cent. But this is balanced against the average increase in prices of all the items included in the gross national expenditure, which rose last year by 4 per cent. This is the fundamental reason why the Treasurer and his Government must have been horribly aware that there was no real economic growth last year and that these two factors alone were true indications of economic stagnation,
Both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who led this debate for the Opposition, and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who followed him on this side of the House, gave concise yet detailed information on a great number of economic aspects.
They, together with other speakers, made it abundantly clear that the Government in this Budget has failed to meet its responsibilities in many fields including education, health, social services and housing. The pattern of its administration during its term of office has shown that planned price rises follow close on the heels of any basic wage or social service increase. We have found that when any increases are granted which should stimulate consumption they are very quickly taken away by price rises. Pensioners and others living on low fixed incomes are, of course, the first to suffer and are the ones hardest hit by the erosion of the value of the dollar caused by continuing price rises.
The Soroptomist Clubs and the National Council of Women have both written to me, and no doubt to other honorable members and to the Treasurer, making a plea on behalf of persons on fixed incomes who have made provision for their retirement by way of superannuation. They draw attention to the particular plight of single women whose salary range in the past has not been sufficient to enable them to make other than a superannuation provision for their retirement, and to all other fixed incomes which are only slightly greater than that which would entitle their recipients to the age taxation exemption. These people, by providing themselves with a meagre income, very often made possible only by going without some of the modern amenities enjoyed by most of us. have deprived themselves of all the fringe benefits such as free medicine and medical treatment, concessions for radio, television and telephone services, concession fares, funeral allowances and the like. They ask that the means test be lifted and urge certain recommendations in the field of taxation, but if this is not possible then they ask that a start be made on granting some of the fringe benefits to which 1 have referred.
All honorable members must know the hardship which the non-recognition of claims such as this has created particularly for the lower income group. I take it that both the Council and Club members are crooked on the Government for neglecting this particular section of the community so long, and their hostility can only be compared with that of the Commonwealthwide Australian Pensioners Federation, which is something like one quarter million strong, which has joined in condemning the failure of the Commonwealth Government to curb prices. These people say this has now become one of the biggest factors in their thinking. They agree that the single pensioner more than needed the rise and that the old catchy song they used to sing about two being able to live as cheaply as one has long been proved to be all eyewash. They want - this is backed by the many petitions recently presented from both sides of the House - an evenly distributed, fair, honest, decent and equitable pension which will permit them to lead a normal life in their neighbourhood. They call the general rises granted cheeseparing. They are incensed at the miserly 75 cents increase for married couples and apparently have decided to settle this matter at the ballot boxes. Later, when the debate on the phosphate bounty takes place, I intend to mention how uncontrolled price rises have been detrimental to our farming community also.
My leader, when opening this debate for the Opposition, stated the method by which all these things can be corrected. I direct the attention of the House to that part of my leader’s speech relating to price fluctuations and high interest rates. He said -
I do not believe that this situation can be tolerated much longer by a community which says it believes in a just wage system and which claims to want industrial peace. There is only one way by which all wage and salary earners, all pensioners and those Jiving on fixed incomes, and all primary producers, can be protected against legalised thieving through high price rises and intolerably high interest rates, and that is by the carriage of a referendum to give the Federal Parliament power to legislate in respect of both. A Labour Government will give the people such a referendum immediately it takes office.
He stated also that a Labour Government would favour the establishment of a comprehensive committee of inquiry to examine ways of financing all aspects of a scheme to abolish the means test. This can be done on a quickly graduating scale, and when Labour is given the opportunity it will be done. This is not an election gimmick as such a proposal has been proved beyond any doubt to have been with the Menzies Government 17 years ago.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), after lauding the Treasurer for the manner in which he had stretched to the limit all available finances when presenting the Budget, attacked Labour’s plan to set up a committee of inquiry to examine a scheme to abolish the means test. He said in effect that it would cost many millions of dollars and then he uttered the now infamous catchcry of his Government and supporters when cornered: Where will Labour get the money? Yet in practically the same breath the Prime Minister added to the .Commonwealth’s responsibilities by promising completion of a long overdue multi-million dollar project on the Ord River, which makes us on this side of the House think that he may have at least studied Dr. Patterson’s report, and the construction of a naval base in Western Australia, another multi-million dollar project. We can be assured that these will not be the last of the honorable gentleman’s pre-election promises. We might well ask the same question of him: Where will you get the money?
I refer now to the works, housing and development programme and note that the Australian Loan Council has approved borrowing for these projects amounting to S645 million. This is stated to be $40 million in excess of the sum available last year, but the amount allocated for war service homes is $12 million less than it was last year, thus reducing by that not inconsiderable sum the finance available in the housing field. In South Australia this year there was a lift in the works programme of $5.78 million, but again it is with great regret that we find that the allocation for housing under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has decreased in the 1966-67 Budget by $807,000. As I understand it, loans for works are for works, and loans for housing are for housing as approved under the Commonwealth and S;ate Housing Agreement. If this is not so, I am sure someone opposite will correct me.
Let me turn back to the Budget of 1965- 66 when the present Prime Minister was Treasurer. We find that approved loans under the Housing Agreement fell by £760,000 or $1.52 million. No State in either of these two years, with the exception of South Australia, received a lower allocation for housing than was .granted in the previous year. Last year, Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland were allocated the same amount as in the previous year. South Australia alone suffered a reduction. In the Budget now under discussion, all States other than South Australia received a miserable lift. South Australia surely must be commended for using the utmost care in stretching to the limit every source of finance available to it which permits it to build each year the same number of rental houses. It has not a hope of catching up the backlag.
One might well ask why South Australia has been singled out in this manner. Does the Government not realise that we have a higher intake into our work force, based on a percentage of population, than any other State? Does the Government not realise that South Australia’s migrant intake is higher than that of any other State? Here let me read from a report published in the “ Australian Financial Review “ of 16th August this year. It was written by Dr. Ronald Mendelsohn, First Assistant Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Housing, and it is in these terms -
Annual housing demand depended to a large extent upon the level of net migration which, in turn, depended largely upon Government policy from time to time … An analysis of building costs shows that the average value of new homes being built in Australia increased by 20 per cent, between 1961 and 1965.
The Trust and other builders all over Australia are fighting rising costs. Based on a percentage of population, South Australia’s intake of migrants is greater than that of any other State. So there is no hesitation »n agreeing with Dr. Mendelsohn when he says that migrant intake must be considered when provision is being made to take care of the annual housing demand. We agree with the Government policy on migration, which is to increase the intake in this current year by 4,000 to 148,000. The target makes provision for nearly 3,000 more assisted migrants. The Government has increased overall monetary assistance and has reduced the amount of loan some migrants will have to repay. As a Party we are in complete agreement that more permanent migrants must be encouraged to come to this country, but I will lay London to a brick that if all the migrants seeking to come here were fully informed of the rental housing problem that already exists, the Minister would have no hope of reaching the desired target. Yet in whatever numbers the migrants arrive, every State will be expected to play its part in absorbing them.
Dr. Mendelsohn, who should know, stated emphatically in his report that the level of net immigration played an important part in the annual housing demand. Yet the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon), knowing that an increase in immigration was planned for this year deliberately decreased by $807,000 the amount approved for South Australia for housing under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
There is a definite shortage of rental housing throughout my area at the present time and it is expected that even after 600 rental houses planned for construction at Whyalla this year are ready for use there will still be a shortage of rental houses in that one town and there will be a waiting time of from six to eight months, which is longer than the waiting time at Elizabeth. The point I wish to make is that the waiting time for rental type houses of the kind being provided by the State housing authorities seems to range from seven years in Sydney to a period of possibly four or five years in the metropolitan area of Adelaide, down to the lowest that 1 have been able to ascertain for any major town, which is two to three months at Elizabeth for applicants having jobs right in that town. Even the short wait at Elizabeth, good as it is by comparison with the waiting time in other centres, is too long for a family without means. So our endeavour must be to increase the number of rental houses provided by the State authority not only to the point at which they will be readily available to applicants already here but also to the stage at which new arrivals can have a reasonable choice of houses on low deposits and at low interest rates. Then and then only will we be in a position to entice a much greater flow of migrants to Australia.
Housing Trust rental homes are available for purchase in South Australia for between $8,200 and $8,700, depending on the house and the land. A deposit of $100 is required and weekly repayment is between $8.10 and $9.50 over a term of 40 years. In the private sector, however, a low deposit house requires a repayment of between $14 and $22 a week. Needless to say, there are a number of these houses readily available.
I made representations earlier to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) regarding the need for his Department to provide more houses for its employees, at least for the personnel at a number of centres in my area. These houses are definitely needed if the best types of married employees are to be retained in the region and I trust that the Minister will at least make a start in building some part of the number required this year. I also made earlier representations to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), pointing out that a number of Commonwealth Railways cottages were in need of repair and that many of them needed an enclosed verandah to provide another bedroom for family men with children of both sexes. Some of the cottages are being painted and I trust that the Minister has made provision to provide these deserving families, during this financial year, with the small addition that is so necessary to their wellbeing.
T now wish to make some comments about tourism, and first I wish to have it recorded that the west coast of South Australia provides some of the best sport and commercial fishing areas that any tourist could desire. I shall leave the part about the beautiful rugged scenery to the Tourist Department. Strangely enough, good fishing starts at the boundary of my electorate near Port Pirie and continues right around the coast to and beyond Fowler’s Bay. Naturally a number of towns adjacent to the coast are interested in tourism, and I join with those responsible for promoting the Australian tourist industry in expressing disappointment at the Budget. The Budget provides a total grant of $862,000 towards the activities of the Australian National Travel Association. Although the additional $100,000 allocated seems on the face of it a fair rise in one year - in fact it is one half of the $200,000 rise asked for by the A.N.T.A., and annual increases in the Commonwealth grant have previously been in the vicinity of $30,000 or $40,000- the increase requested this year resulted from the concern rightly shown by the Government about the large gap between expenditure by foreign tourists in Australia and the amounts which Australian tourists spend overseas. This is reported to be about $65 million annually. A comprehensive survey was made by two American companies, and as a result substantial increases were called for in expenditure on tourist promotion, and also radical changes in the organisation of our tourist industry. The
A.N.T.A. got to work, conducted more research on its own behalf and presented a case to the Government for an increase of not less than $200,000. The Government acted on the recommendations resulting from the survey in the same way in which it has acted on many other reports that it has caused to be prepared; it showed concern at the $65 million loss being incurred but went less than half way towards correcting the situation. Again it adopted a half-way and not all-the-way attitude. If it is genuinely concerned at our debit balance in tourism it should have paid more heed to the guidance of experts who were emphatic that money spent on additional promotion would prove a splendid investment in earning foreign exchange.
I turn now, Mr. Speaker, to the subject of education. A great number of bodies associated with our education system claim that education in Australia has reached the crisis stage. Whether this is so or not depends on one’s interpretation of the word “ crisis “. But the position is that all States now devote roughly one-quarter of their annual expenditure to education and the total expenditure from revenue by the States on education has increased over the years at a rate faster than total expenditure by the States has increased. Despite the tremendous efforts to provide proper education facilities at all levels, all States have found it impossible to keep even reasonably close to their education needs. This points directly to the fact that some method other than the existing one of making matching grants must be found if we are to satisfy completely our national education needs. The States have all, either separately or together, stressed the indisputable fact that the proportion of their expenditure on education has now reached the limit, having regard to their available resources. I. shall give the House some figures supplied by the Minister of Education in South Australia, which show the remarkable rise in responsibility accepted by that State over an 18 year period. The Minister said -
The expenditure on education expressed as a percentage of the total expenditure was thus 11.5 per cent, in 1947-48 as against 23.6 per cent, in 1964-65.
To put it another way, the total net expenditure from revenue on education has increased twelvefold since 1947-48, whereas total State expenditure from revenue has increased five and a half times in the same period of 18 years. School buildings up to 100 years old are still in use and, of course, there is generally an accumulation of additional wooden buildings. Yet each year when loan money has to be carefully allocated it is found that it must be devoted to building new schools in areas of population expansion, and with the continuation of the present migration programme there appears to be no likelihood of a slackening in the demand for new schools.
Having had the new teachers’ college at Bedford Park completed, our State Minister said -
The new teachers’ training college at Bedford Park, urgently needed, far from providing for our requirement for a comfortable period ahead, will before long need support from yet another college.
In fact, the provision of three new teachers’ colleges, apart from those at Adelaide and at Bedford Park, would not be amiss. However, these were the words of our State Minister of Education. He was not exaggerating. In respect of teacher training, all States are faced with what appears to be an insurmountable problem unless they receive specific straightout grants from the Government immediately. At the last meeting of the Australian Education Council held in Sydney the Education Ministers of all States presented a case to Senator Gorton for financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government amounting to $25 million over four years to meet the capital costs only of teacher education. It was requested that this be in the form of straightout grants to the States since all States are finding it extremely difficult to meet the matching grants required by the Commonwealth when assistance has been provided. To put it another way, the Commonwealth Treasurer could guarantee each State each year for the next 10 years the several additional million dollars that they require to catch up on their educational responsibilities under the present matching grants system. At the end of that period we would find that the States had been unable to take advantage of it.
The whole history of the postwar period - from 1945 onwards - during the terms of office of both political sides has been that prices have risen. Nor is this experience unique to Australia. Rising prices are part of our economic system and the only instances of true stability or price falls have occurred through stagnation in the economy. Our choice seems to be stagnation or full employment, and most people prefer the latter. If, however, we believe in the sanity of having full employment we should match it with the justice that would be had by regulating prices. As the Leader of the. Opposition has amply demonstrated, whilst it can be claimed in the words of the Treasurer that “ the consumer price index has risen by only 9 per cent, during the last five years”, the real truth is in the qualification added in the official Government publication “The Australian Economy 1 966 “ which states -
Most of this increase occurred in the two years 1964 and 1965.
In fact, if we bring it up to date, it is nearly 10 per cent, in the last two years, which means that every dollar is now worth only 90c. The only way for most people to gain redress for the fall in the real value of money is an increase of wages and pensions. Both of these sources of income are controlled, the one by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the other by this Government; but immediately increases are given they are offset by price rises. That is why the Labour Party asserts: “ If you believe in wages and prices being adjusted then you should also believe in prices being regulated “.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Nixon) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate -
Without requests -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1966.
Without amendment -
Loan 0-fousing) Bill (No. 2) 1966. International Finance Corporation Bill 1966. International Monetary Agreements Bill 1966.
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
rns asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The question answered on May 4th concerned the point whether action in South Vietnam was contrary to the United Nations Charter. The reply was given that Article 51 and not Article 53 of the Charter should be considered. Article 51 recognized that there is an inherent right of individual and collective self-defence. The Article goes on to relate this specifically to armed attack against a member of the United Nations and refers to what should be done in that event. But no one would suggest that a country which is not a member of the U.N. has no right to defend itself if it is attacked, or that it has no right to seek and be given assistance against aggression.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
What expenditure did his Department incur in the last financial year in each Stale?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Expenditure incurred by the Department of Supply in the financial year ended 30th June 1966 relating to Appropriations and Trust Fund was as follows -
The comparatively high expenditure in South Australia was due to the activities of the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury and Woomera. The principal offices of the Department are currently in Victoria and New South Wales and the main factories and laboratories are located in these States. For these reasons, the expenditures in Victoria and New South Wales were also comparatively high. However, caution should be exercised in drawing any conclusions from the above figures, as they merely reflect payments made in each State and do not take into account the value of supplies produced iti one Stale but purchased in another.
m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
What progress has been made towards introducing (a) a new Acts Interpretation Act; (b) a new Designs Act; (c) a new Extradition Act; (d) a cheques act; (e) a uniform criminal code for the territories, and; (0 State legislation complementing the Trade Practices Act?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
son asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice -
– The Minister for Housing has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions -
y asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
I presume the honorable member is inquiring about the numbers registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service.
These figures at the reporting dates nearest to the various dales requested ari: shown in the following tables. The numbers relate to persons who when registering with the Commonwealth Employment Service had claimed that they were not employed and who were recorded as unplaced. They include those referred to employers with a view to engagement but whose placement was not confirmed at the dates shown and those who may have obtained employment without notifying the Commonwealth Employment Service. They include also recipients of unemployment benefit.
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
The six countries and their approximate force contributions at present are -
Nazi Party in Australia.
t.- On 3rd May 1966, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) asked me a question without notice on the activities of the Nazi Party in Australia, and I undertook to look into the matter and give him a reply.
I can assure him that the Australian Security Intelligence Organization has kept and is keeping under observation subversive activities in this country, whatever their source. Appropriate action will be taken whenever it appears that a breach of Commonwealth law has been committed.
The Nazi movement has had little success in attracting support in Australia. In 1963, a small number of persons set themselves up in Sydney as the National Socialist Party of Australia. None of them was publicly prominent and they resorted to stunts to attract attention. During 1964, following police action against some of them in respect of breaches of the law of New South Wales, the group disintegrated, but there was a move to reconstitute it towards the end of 1965. At least some of the persons who appeared in Nazi-style uniform on the Yarra Bank in Melbourne on 1st May 1966 were connected with this group. All the members of the group in Melbourne were Australian or British by birth except for one, who acquired his Australian citizenship by naturalisation in 1964 before attaining the age of 21, and prior to any known involvement in National Socialist activities.
b asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
Both foreign fishermen and Australians are subject to the controls imposed under the Pearl Fisheries Act 1952-1953 on the taking of sedentary species, such as pearl shell and trochus, from the continental shelf off Australia. Australia’s sovereign rights to control operations of that nature are recognised in the 1958 convention on the Continental Shelf. A different legal regime applies to the taking of free-swimming fish. The Government is anxious to do everything in its power to conserve free-swimming fisheries resources in waters adjacent to Australia, and, in particular, to prevent over-fishing in those waters by foreign-based fishermen. To this end the Government is now examining the possibility of extending from three to twelve miles the breadth of Australia’s exclusive fisheries zone. Any decision by the Government in that regard would relate only to fisheries and would not therefore involve any extension of the breadth of Australia’s territorial sea.
b asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Crimes on Aircraft Acts: Surface Damage by Aircraft Acts. (Question No. 1859.)
m asked the Minister for Civil
Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Civil Aviation. (Question No. 1907.)
b asked the Minister for Civil
Aviation, upon notice -
What action is intended on the evidence produced by Sir Giles Chippindall that there are deficiencies in the Government’s two airline policy which operate in favour of Ansett Transport Industries?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
I have already made it quite clear that a broad review of the operation of the airline policy is being made. Submissions made by both the major operators will be carefully examined in the course of this review.
Taxation. (Question No. 1913.)
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice. -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1 and 2. The amounts of tax outstanding at the end of each of the financial years 1952-53 to 1964-65 in respect of levies administered by the Commissioner of Taxation and the percentages attributable to income tax and social services contribution, sates tax and pay-roll tax were as follows -
It is not possible from available statistics to indicate, as at any particular date, the amount of tax then outstanding in respect of any particular financial year.
It is not possible from available statistics to indicate amounts written off in respect of tax imposed for any particular financial year.
Note. - The above figures do not include tax instalment deductions written off as irrecoverable. The amounts involved for the financial year 1962- 63, 1963-64 and 1964-65 were as follows-
Note: The statistics for the 1962-63 income year relate to taxpayers with taxable incomes of £105 or more, while those for the 1963-64 income year relate only to those with taxable incomes of £209 or more.
Taxation. (Question No. 1915.)
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the number of taxpayers with an actual income of (a) £1,100 or less, (b) £1,101- £1,300, (c) £1,301-£1,600, (d) £1,601-£1,800, (e) £l,801-£2,000, (f) £2,001-£2,500, (g) £2,501- £3,000 and (h) £3,001 or over in each of the years 1962-63, 1963-64 and 1964-65?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Income tax statistics for the 1964-65 income year have not yet been tabulated. The numbers of taxpayers with the actual incomes specified in the question are available only for the 1963-64 income year. Details as requested for that year and the nearest available details for the 1962-63 income year are as follows.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
How many taxpayers with an actual income of (a) £1,100 or less, (b) £1,101-£1,300, (c) £1,301- £1,600, (d) £1,601-£1,800, (e) £l,801-£2,000, (0 £2,001-£2,500, (g) £2,501-£3,O00 and (h) £3,001 or over received taxation allowance for (i) 1 child, (ii) 2 children, (iii) 3 children, (iv) 4 children, (v) 5 children, (vi) 6 children, (vii) 7 children, (viti) 8 children, (ix) 9 children, (x) 10 children and (xi) more than 10 children during each of the years 1962-63, 1963-64 and 1964-65?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Income tax statistics for the 1964-65 income year have not yet been tabulated. Available statistics for the 1962-63 and 1963-64 income years do not indicate the numbers of taxpayers with more than four dependent children. The approximate numbers of taxpayers with one, two, three and four or more dependent children with the specified actual incomes in the 1963-64 income year and the nearest available details for the 1962-63 income year are as follows.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
How many taxpayers with an actual income of (a) £1,100 or less, (b) £1,101-£1,300, (c) £1,301- £1,600, (d) £1,601-£1,800, (e) £1,801-£2,000, (f) £2,001-£2,500, (g) £2,501-£3,000 and (h) £3,001 or over received a taxation allowance for dependent student children of (i) 16 years of age, (ii) 17 years of age, (iii) 18 years of age, (iv) 19 years of age and (v) 20 years of age?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Available statistics do not indicate the numbers of taxpayers with student children of the specified ages. Hie approximate numbers of student children over 16 years of age in respect of whom maintenance deductions were allowed under the provisions of section 82b of the Income Tax Assessment Act in the 1963-64 income year were as indicated below. The numbers of student children are classified according to the grade of actual income of the taxpayers to whom the deductions were allowed.
Note - 1, The figures shown above are approximate because statistics for some taxpayers are obtained by sampling methods. 2, The numbers of student children were not tabulated for the 1962-63 income year and are hot being tabulated for the 1964-65 income year.
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
I. (a) 11.1 per cent; (b) 12.6 per cent; (c) Financial assistance grants to the States 1965-66 -
(d), (e), 2 (a) and (b) This information will not be available until the States have brought down their budgets for 1966-67.
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the estimated reduction in the latest year for which statistics are available (a) in tax in each grade of actual income and (b) in total tax in respect of concessional deductions for (i) spouses, housekeepers and daughter housekeepers, (ii) first children under 16 years of age, (iii) other children under 16 years of age, (iv) student children between 16 and 2t years of age, (v) medical expenses, (vi) chemist expenses, (vii) dental expenses, (viii) life assurance and superannuation payments, (ix) education expenses, and (x) all other deductions?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The latest year for which income tax statistics are available is the 1963-64 income year.
In that year the estimated reduction in tax in each grade of actual income has been calculated for the following items for which statistics were extracted from income tax returns.
– Deductions for dependants in respect of whom the maximum deduction allowable is $286. This includes deductions for parents of the taxpayer or his spouse in addition to deductions for spouses, housekeepers and daughter housekeepers.
Deductions for first children under 16 years of age. for other children under 16 for student children over 16
Deductions years of age.
Deductions years of age.
Net medical expenses. This item represents gross medical, chemist, dental, optical and funeral expenses less amounts paid or payable by a government, public authority, society or association.
Education expenses allowed under section 82j of the Income Tax Assessment Act.
Total deductions. This is denned to include rates and taxes on non-income producing property (section 72), deductions under sections 51a, 73, 73a 74, 77a, 77aa, 79a, 79b and 80 and concessional deductions allowable under sections 82b to 82j inclusive of the Income Tax Assessment Act.
The estimated reduction in tax on account of deductions for each of the above items in the 1963-64 income year was as follows -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 August 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19660830_reps_25_hor52/>.