25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BRYANT presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Commonwealth Government repeal the Wards’ Employment Ordinance and legislate to provide at least the basic wage for all Aboriginal workers in the Northern Territory.
Petition received and read.
A similar petition was presented by Mr. James.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I preface it by stating that United States servicemen in combat areas have mail carried free of charge and that mail to them from their families is carried at domestic rates. As the United States Government makes no charge upon the Australian Government for carrying mail to and from Honolulu to Australian servicemen in Vietnam, will the Government extend the same postal privileges to our troops in Vietnam as are enjoyed by those corresponding with or receiving correspondence from United States servicemen serving in the same area?
– The arrangements relating to the mail of Australian servicemen overseas come within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for the Army. I will be pleased to have a look at the situation described by the honorable member. I believe that what is being done now for our troops overseas is similar to what was done in previous campaigns. However, if it is possible to make any adjustment, I am sure this will be done. I point out that there are and have been difficulties in getting mail to and from our servicemen overseas, but I believe that the service being given at present is adequate. The great difficulty is in getting mail to and from our servicemen as expeditiously as we would like at all times.
– I direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister and refer him to questions I asked in this House on 16th March 1965 and on 20th October 1965. 1 ask: Has the Government given any consideration to the suggestion that the name “ Australia “ should be used wherever possible, within constitutional limitations, in order to distinguish the Commonwealth of Australia from the Commonwealth of Nations and from other Commonwealth countries?
– I know of the suggestion. I am not in a position to answer the honorable member, but I will secure the information and advise him. I recall that the very first legislation I ever introduced into the Parliament was to change the name from “ Federal Capital Territory “ to “ Australian Capital Territory “, so I sympathise with the honorable member’s purpose.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. It relates to representations made over the past year for the subdivision of vacant farms on King Island to strengthen existing dairy farms, and to indications from the Minister that this would be done. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the advertised public auction of five of these farms on 2nd November? Is the Minister aware that four out of the five farms are situated in sections of the settlement where the Government acknowledges the existence of substandard farms that have not been strengthened by additional areas? Finally, why have the authorities seen fit to strengthen blocks at Koreen and Reekara and not continue this policy to its obvious conclusion by strengthening Pegarah Estate before the sale of the blocks in question?
– When answering a question by the honorable member, I think in September, I said there was to be an investigation of what areas would be needed to strengthen or build up certain farms. That investigation has been completed and it is quite evident as a result that all the farms available are not necessary for the strengthening or building up of properties. Since there have been representations for an early sale of the vacant land, we have advertised for sale the five farms to which the honorable member has referred, because the settlers are anxious to have an opportunity to purchase them. The honorable member referred to Koreen and Reekara. Similar standards concerning physical and practical boundaries are employed there as are applied throughout the area.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Will he consult the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, regarding the means of devising and establishing an Australian national anthem of literary and musical merit, and generally acceptable to the people of this nation?
– I am quite happy to confer with the people suggested by the honorable member.
– 1 address a question to the Minister for the Army. In view of the fact that the Army authorities in New South Wales have failed to carry out their so called developmental plans for the Long Bay rifle range in the electorate of Kingsford Smith, can the Minister advise me what steps have been taken to open negotiations with the New South Wales Government for the transfer of the range so that it can be put to practical use in respect of the building of Housing Commission homes? Further, does the Minister believe that this area of 404 acres of choice building land should be lying idle while hundreds of married couples are anxiously awaiting accommodation for their young families?
– 1 think that the honorable member knows that the Army has not failed to carry out what it was proposing to do in this area. The honorable member will know that because of further developments in the Holsworthy area the Anzac rifle range will ultimately, and in the not too distant future, have to be closed. This will leave the Long Bay rifle range as the one range of its type, I think, within 1 00 miles or even more of the Sydney metropolitan area. Many thousands of members of the Regular Army, members of the Citizen Military Forces and school cadet corps use this range on a great number of occasions. It is needed in its present locality and for its present purposes. Indeed, negotiations have been, and are being, conducted with the National Rifle Association for some improvement in the facilities of the range so that it will probably be able to cater for the needs of the Association once the Association will not be able to use the Anzac rifle range. A small proportion of this area, we hope, will ultimately be used for some Army houses. But the great bulk of the area is required and will be required as a rifle range.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I have received complaints concerning the receipt of mail proceeding north from Sydney to the mid north coast area covering Wingham, Taree, Port Macquarie, Wauchope and Kempsey. Will the Postmaster-General have this matter investigated to see whether anything can be done to expedite the deliveries of mail?
– 1 mentioned in answer to a question some two weeks or three weeks ago that there was delay in the movement of mail out of the Sydney mail exchange. Substantially, this delay is brought about because of some delay in the provision of equipment in the new mail exchange at Redfern. This is electronic mail handling equipment. I believe that when this equipment is in full operation, we will speedily overcome the causes of any delays of the kind that have occurred. Until this takes place, I am afraid, some delay may continue. We appreciate that we are coming into the period of Christmas mail. For that purpose, we are seeking at the moment applications by people for employment on a temporary basis to help us discharge this Christmas mail. We hope that with their assistance we will be able to overtake also any lag that there may be at the present time.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question. I ask the right honorable gentleman: Will the Government publish the text of the request of the Government of South Vietnam to the Australian Government for the assistance of Australian troops? If it is not intended to publish the text of this request, can the right honorable gentleman indicate in a general way the considerations that underlie this nonpublication?
- Mr. Speaker, 1 think the question is of a nature that 1 should refer to the Prime Minister who, I am able to inform the House, according to our present knowledge of his movements, will be back in Canberra about 9 o’clock this evening.
(Mr. Wentworth having addressed a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service) -
– Order! I want the assurance of the Minister that this matter is under his administration, particularly in connection with a ballot; otherwise the question is out of order.
– A ballot has not been mentioned.
– I am not aware precisely what the question is.
– Order! The question is out of order.
– I am aware of the concern that is felt by the people in the inspectorial branch. I may say that they do not operate only in the Department of the Navy; they operate also in the Department of Supply and the Depart ment of Air. I have no power, and to my knowledge no other Minister has any power, to grant interim awards or to make interim payments pending decisions by the bodies set up to make these decisions. This is a matter for consideration by the Public Service Board. I have asked the Board to deal with the matter in all haste, so that the decision can be conveyed to the people concerned. As to the suggestion that interim awards have been made by the Department of Supply, from my understanding of the position I do not think that this is so. No interim award has been made in this sphere. As to the Stoner report, this was a report of a confidential nature that was submitted to the Government and normally it would not be released. As a matter of fact, the report contains implications which are at present being investigated. As I have said, the Public Service Board has been asked to reach its decision as quickly as possible.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. In view of the great benefits, financial and otherwise, which accrue from tourism, and in view of the fact that other countries have established government departments and ministries to cover this activity, I ask whether the Australian Government has considered doing any more in this field than subsidising the operations of the Australian National Travel Association.
– The Government is quite conscious of the exchange earnings that are available through the tourist industry and of the very great potential that there is in this country for that industry. The Government has used as its agent - I think that is a fair description - the Australian National Travel Association, which encompasses not only officials from the Government services but also, under the chairmanship of Mr. John Bates, representatives of the major shipping lines, hotels, airlines, and various industries which are concerned with servicing the tourist trade. Over the last three years the Commonwealth Government’s subvention to the A.N.T.A. has been of the order of $2 million. In the current year the subvention is $862,000. We have in mind the extension and formalisation of these subventions.
The Government has under consideration a suggestion that there should be set up a statutory tourist body, which no doubt could be built around the hard core of the A.N.T.A. entity but which would have a permanent and statutory position and no doubt a known and predictable flow of funds with which to work. Its activities would be confined, as the Commonwealth’s concern is confined, to tourists from overseas countries, but the activities would be integrated with the development of internal tourism, which is within the functional jurisdiction of the State Governments. There is a council of tourist ministers in the State sphere. It would be proposed that in the Federal body, which might be under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Trade and Industry - I think this has not been finally decided - there would be provision for associate membership of State representatives at ministerial level and at official level so that there would be a complete integration of knowledge, planning and intention. The State Governments and the Federal Government would reserve their respective authorities over their own funds and expenditures. I have given a description of the stage of thinking reached at the present time, and I think I would be forecasting correctly if I said that developments will take place along the lines I have indicated.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether he has yet received from the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner the report which he sought earlier this year on the economic, technical and financial implications of the railway between Canberra and Yass. If he has received the report I ask whether he will release it before the House rises, or at any rate tell us the estimated cost and proposed route of the railway. If he has not yet received it, does he expect to receive it before the House rises, and in that case will he release it or give us the information?
– No, I have not yet received the report. I cannot state definitely whether I will receive it before the House rises. If I do, I undertake to give the honorable member what information I can from it.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. Has the Government’s attention been drawn to the report that a Malaysian Government White Paper alleges that the illegal Communist Party again poses a threat to Malaysia. Does this threat stress the need for continued vigilance by all countries in the South East Asian area?
– It is within the knowledge of the Government that yesterday the Malaysian Government issued a White Paper on this subject matter. We are not in possession of the White Paper and therefore I am not able to comment in detail on it, but it is within the knowledge of the Government that there is a threat from Communists in Malaysia. It is known that the Communists in Malaysia have their headquarters in the area of the MalaysiaThailand border. We do not know the precise number of Malaysian Communists there, but it is known that they have a liaison with representatives in Peking. It is also known that they are supporters of the so called independence struggle in Sarawak. Their activities are of the same general character, inspired from Peking, as those against which Australian forces, together with British, New Zealand and Malayan forces, operated for years when rooting out the Communist guerrillas in Malaya who were attempting to subvert and overthrow the Government of that free and friendly country.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. I ask: Is it a fact that Sir William Gunn, a leading member of the Australian Country Party and the defeated candidate in the preselection for Maranoa, departed for Russia yesterday to see whether he could arrange for bigger wool sales to the Communists of that country? If this is so, and if more wheat, more tallow and more of our rutile sands are to be sold to Russia and to Communist China, how does the Acting Prime Minister reconcile this trade with the enemy with the sentiments he just expressed in answer to an inspired question from the honorable member for Riverina?
– He is a wool grower.
– He is a wool grower and a horse trader.
– It is through questions and the reaction to them by the followers of the Leader of the Opposition that we gain some glint of the confused thinking of the Opposition. I am sorry - and I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition will be sorry also when he reads the transcript of his question - that he has describe! Russia as our enemy. We do not recognise Russia as our enemy.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister, ls it a fact that Australian manufacturers pay a considerably higher price for copper on the domestic market than overseas manufacturers pay for Australian produced copper? What protection is available to local manufacturers of items containing Australian produced copper against imported items of a similar nature?
– I have heard it claimed that overseas suppliers of copper products to Australia procure their copper at low prices. 1 have no evidence of this claim. I have made inquiries, but 1 cannot ascertain any substance for the claim. For example, the United States of America imports all its copper requirements at the current world price, which at the present time is of the order of $1,100 per ton. Il is true that America procures copper from local mines at a lower domestic price, as indeed our own industry did until a few months ago. It is true also that Canadian manufacturers procure their requirements from Canadian mines at a price which, 1 am told, is of the order of $840 per ton. I do not know of any other major industrial country which procures its copper today at below the current world price which is the London Metal Exchange price. Australian producers of copper products have the protection of a prevailing tariff which, so far as I know, is regarded as adequate. If anyone wishes to establish that the tariff is inadequate, a Tariff Board reference can be sought. If there were an emergency situation, a reference to the Special Advisory Authority could be sought, in which case a decision could be reached within 30 days.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services a question. A constituent of mine was in receipt of a pension of $24 per fortnight prior to last week when he received S26. He was in receipt also of a miner’s superannuation pension of $4.50 which was reduced to S2.50. What is the reason for the decrease?
– The honorable memhe r will recall that last week in answer to several questions I explained that the sovereignty of the States was something over which the Commonwealth Government exercised no responsibility. The variation referred to by the honorable member is one entirely within the sovereignty of a State and. accordingly, is outside my responsibility.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. I draw attention to published reports of a record surplus of almost $5 million in the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia last year and an increase of reserves to more than $18 million. I ask: Does this commendable result indicate some possible imminent widening of benefits under this Fund, or a reduction in the seato rate charges? If the answer is in the negative, can the Minister give an indication of the desirable level of reserves to cover reasonable contingent liabilities and, if this trend continues, how soon it can be expected that there will bc an increase in such benefits?
– I have seen the Press report to which the honorable gentleman refers, although I have not actually received a copy of the annual report of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia. If it is correct that the reserves of the M.B.F. have increased to $18 million as a result of a $5 million surplus this year, 1 would regard it as a very satisfactory result, lt would indicate that the changes made in 1965, including the increases in contribution and benefit rates, have achieved their objective, which is long term and continuing stability of the funds. I would stress that these reserves must be adequate to provide security to everybody in the funds on a long term basis. They must be sufficient, for example, to cope with epidemics, outbreaks of disease and that sort of thing.
The other thing that is not often appreciated in relation to the reserves of the funds when they are quoted in millions of dollars is that, in relation to numbers of contributors, they are not unduly high. For example, the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd. has something like 2.4 million people covered by its hospital benefits scheme and 2.2 million covered by its medical benefits scheme. Its reserves of $18 million represents approximately the cost of one day’s hospitalisation and one medical service - that is. one visit to the doctor - for each member. In the light of those circumstances, I am sure the honorable gentleman will agree that the reserves are not unduly high. However, I am watching the position closely. Increases will be permitted when opportunity offers, but the point I would make is that they must be gradual so that they can be sustained over a long period. There must be no sudden dissipation of funds in the short term. The final point I would make is that, in any case, these reserves are the property of the contributors to the funds. They belong to the contributors and are there for their benefit, whatever happens.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister why the new Commonwealth clothing factory is not being established in a provincial or country centre instead of in Melbourne, where the Commonwealth is paying $335,000 for the land alone. In view of the Government’s protestations of its faithfulness to decentralisation, why was the new factory not established, for example, in any one of a dozen provincial or country cities and towns? Goulburn, in my electorate, is a centre for the growing of fine merino wool, a centre for the woollen industry and a centre for the manufacturing of textiles, and is ideally suited for the clothing factory. As the value of orders placed by the Commonwealth for clothing amounts to several millions of dollars a year, why was this opportunity for a practical step in decentralisation neglected, and why does the Government continue with inquiries and expressions of aspirations which must be futile when it does nothing to promote decentralisation?
– I am not able to speak with complete authority on this matter, but I can speak with a substantial knowledge of it. The decision to which the honorable member refers is a decision of Cabinet on a matter which was considered by it more than once. In fact, I think it was considered more than twice. The decision was taken against the background of strong advice from those who have had experience in and responsibility for conducting the Commonwealth clothing factory. As I recall, a substantial factor which influenced the decision is that the Commonwealth clothing factory employs some hundreds, of people, a great proportion of whom, I am informed, are skilled people. With the factory reestablished in the Melbourne area, where the present factory is, these people, for their part, can retain their employment, and the Commonwealth clothing factory, for its part, can retain the benefit of their experience and their skills. The view of those who advised the Government on this matter was that a substantial dislocation of production would be caused by a move to a remote area, where the existing work force would be unable to follow. I am told that many of the skilled operatives in the clothing factory are married women whose husbands are in employment. They obviously would not be able to follow the factory to another area. As I recall, this - perhaps not completely but certainly substantially - represents the kind of advice which led the Government to the decision it has taken.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask whether he is again receiving requests that the Government lift the export ban on merino rams and whether there is any likelihood of a change in the Government’s longstanding policy on this subject.
– Over the years 1 have received from various sections of the industry representations on this matter. I cannot recall having received any in recent days. When representations were made earlier, the subject was referred by the Australian Agricultural Council to the Australian Wool Industry Conference for consideration and for a recommendation by the Conference if it so wished. The Conference has not reacted to that reference to it. The position of the Commonwealth Government has been repeatedly stated here: We will not lift the embargo unless we are convinced that it is the undoubted wish of those in the industry that the embargo be lifted.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Will he inform me what action has been taken by his Department to implement the construction of the new post office at Wollongong, for which money has been appropriated by vote of this Parliament, at an estimated cost of $1,200,000?
– The estimated cost of the new post office at Wollongong, according to my memory, is $1.3 million. I believe that tenders were called at the beginning of last month and that they closed approximately a week ago. The tenders received are at present being assessed and it is expected that construction will commence next month. If my memory serves me correctly, it is hoped that the building will be completed about August 1968.
– I address to the Acting Prime Minister a question concerning the statement made last week by some 140 representatives of the various Christian Churches in Australia on the war in South Vietnam. Observing with respect that the statement showed scant regard for the efforts made to bring about a just and honorable peace, I ask the right honorable gentleman: Would it be possible for the Department of External Affairs to compile and distribute a statement setting out all the efforts that have been made by various countries, parties and organisations throughout the world to secure a settlement in South Vietnam?
– I shall consult my colleague, the Acting Minister for External Affairs, to see whether such a list can be prepared. I think it could, and I believe it should. I know that such a list, even if only substantially complete, would be very long indeed, for many efforts to achieve peace have been made. May I observe that I and my colleagues in the Government and the Government parties respect enormously the feelings of the churchmen who give their earnest consideration to this terrible problem and who proffer their advice to the Government and the public concerning it. 1 say that without reservation. But, just as we respect their devotion to this problem, I would expect them to respect not less our devotion to the problem, for we are as conscious as is any other group of citizens in this country of the sad and dreadful circumstances of the war in Vietnam. But, in our judgment, it is right that we should conduct ourselves as we do and that Australia should conduct itself as it does. Though not infallible, we have the advantage in this regard of being a group of people with long experience in the responsibilities of public affairs. 1 would hope that we would be judged to be men of good faith and responsibility, backed by the advantage of consultation with many other governments and the advice of our own wise advisers. Our judgment is to be set against the judgment of these church leaders. I say no mors than that.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that at its recent federal conference the Australian Country Party belatedly, but without doubt wisely, adopted the official policy of the Australian Labour Party as regards the extension of television facilities into areas where commercial television cannot be economically established? In view of the fact that the majority of members of this Parliament are now pledged to support this policy, will the Minister take the necessary steps to meet the wishes of the Australian Labour Party and his Country Party colleagues by authorising the establishment at an early date of national television facilities in populated country areas at present outside the range of existing television service?
– I would think that statements I have made in the House and answers I have given to questions would indicate that the Government’s policy is to make television available to as many people as possible in the Australian community. The stations and translators that have been set up in Australia have made television available to about 95 per cent, of the Australian public. In a country the size of Australia, where 54 per cent, of the population is concentrated in six capital cities, this is a pretty good performance. The Government has not given any indication, through me or any of my colleagues, that the programme of establishing television facilities has necessarily ceased. The programme has been organised on the basis of phases. We have completed phase four. The recent increase in capital city commercial stations has taken us through another phase. I have indicated to the Parliament and publicly that I have asked the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to make a further survey into the possibility of establishing stations or translators to serve areas not presently served by television. When I have the Board’s report it will be placed before the Government. It will then be for the Government to decide how any recommendations made by the Board should be implemented.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Are job opportunities declining because of automation in industry? If so, can the Minister explain the reasons for full employment in Australia, bearing in mind that automation has been gradually introduced into industry over the years and at least $20 million has already been invested in electronic data processing equipment alone?
– It is true that, owing largely to the perpetuation of full employment in Australia, such displacements as have been caused in the last few years by technological change have been largely absorbed quite readily. Any fear for the future would rather be that we do not have enough highly trained and technically qualified people to take full advantage of automation, which is already carried a good deal further in many industries in other countries than it is in Australia. Looking to the future, there are some worries associated with the introduction of automation. These were expressed very freely at a seminar conducted recently by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which I addressed. I doubt whether most of those fears are well founded, but they exist. They are real and something must be done to overcome them. Looking to the future, we must be ready to take positive measures to keep in touch with the labour market, to anticipate developments and to take steps, if necessary, to provide training and retraining facilities. Recently, we established a special section in my Department for this purpose. It will co-ordinate the activities of the rest of the Department and I hope, as time goes on, it will publish whatever information may be available as a general guide to industry and labour combined.
– As Chairman, I present the following reports of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts -
Eighty-fifth Report - Automatic Data Processing.
Eighty-sixth Report - Automatic Data Processing (The Bureau oi Census and Statistics Network).
Mr. Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– These reports relate to a very extensive inquiry conducted by your Committee into the subject of automatic data processing. Since 1962, when specific evidence relating to this subject was first taken by your Committee, it has been apparent that this new technique would be sought by a wide range of departments throughout the Commonwealth Administration. The more recent reports of the Auditor-General and the Public Service Board have confirmed this trend and have’ highlighted the comparatively high levels of expenditure involved in the conversion of data processing to computer operations. Your Committee noted also from a variety of reports available from overseas countries, particularly Britain and the United States of America, that conversion to automatic data processing is not a simple operation and is, in fact, fraught with many pitfalls unless computers and their ancillary equipment are acquired and programmed in terms of a carefully conceived and efficiently implemented plan.
In determining the scope of its inquiry, your Committee felt that it should widen its terms of reference to include the technological changes that have already occurred in the Australian community following the introduction of automatic data processing equipment and the changes that might be expected to occur as the number of installations and range of applications increases. Accordingly, your Committee sought evidence from suppliers of computer equipment to the Australian market and other acknowledged experts in the field. At the same time, your Committee considered that specific attention should be directed to the coordination and general management processes for automatic data processing within the Commonwealth service. This approach to the inquiry, which enabled a wide variety of evidence to be taken and points of view to bc expressed on relevant areas of Commonwealth administration, greatly enriched our examination in this challenging field.
The eighty-fifth report is general in nature, ft relates to computer technology in Australia; staffing problems and the associated field of education; criteria by which computer installations may be justified and their efficient usage measured; and the introduction and co-ordination of A.D.P. in the Commonwealth service. As the evidence taken in the present inquiry does not, by design, cover all of the computer applications within the Commonwealth service there are areas of evidence recorded in the eighty-fifth report on which your Committee would not, at this stage, feel bound to reach firm conclusions. At the same time, however, some of these areas arc of such tremendous importance and the evidence taken sufficiently conclusive for us to offer conclusions which, it is hoped, might serve as guidelines to the Administration in the acquisition and operation of computers in future years.
In reaching its decision to undertake this inquiry, your Committee recognised that ils task could not be completed during 1966 but felt that the inquiry should bc taken to the stage where a detailed examination had been made of one large departmental computer network. As the information available showed that the installations made by the Bureau of Census and Statistics arc the most significant in terms of capital cost, that network was selected for examination. The eighty-sixth report relates specifically to the Bureau’s installations and embraces not only the computers and ancillary equipment installed, but also evidence submitted by the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Health, the Taxation Branch, the Superannuation Board and the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board which are currently operating on that network. In this phase of its examination your Committee has been able to examine the history, development and implementation of A.D.P. by each of the authorities concerned, their recruitment and training problems and the benefits which each of them has obtained from conversion to computer processing. In addition, we have been able to assess the capital and operating costs of the network as a whole and obtain an appreciation of problems beginning to emerge. Your Committee has achieved the objective that it had in mind when it embarked on this inquiry and considers, on the basis of its experience, that future committees could, with great advantage, examine other facets of automatic data processing in the years ahead. I commend the reports to honorable members.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment -
Maintenance Orders (Commonwealth Officers) Bill 1966.
Matrimonial Causes Bill 1966.
Stales Grants (Drought Assistance) Bill (No. 2) 1966.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill (No. 2) J 966.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it does not insist on its amendment disagreed to by the House of Representatives, and has agreed to the amendment made by the House in place thereof.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The Government’s failure to take or permit steps to establish a shipbuilding industry in Tasmania.
I call upon those honorable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
.- On behalf of the Opposition I formally propose for discussion this matter of public importance, namely -
The Government’s failure to take or permit steps to establish a shipbuilding industry in Tasmania.
We believe, as does the Tasmanian Government, that the Commonwealth Government not only has adopted a defeatist attitude, but has deliberately denied to Tasmania a major industry - an industry of great significance - proposed to be established by a company, the Verolme company, which enjoys a worldwide reputation. The company is skilled in shipbuilding and associated industries. This Government has rejected the application by. the company for the shipping subsidy that is applied now to seven other companies in this country. The rejection of the company’s application by the Government will most certainly prevent this company from engaging in shipbuilding activities in Tasmania.
This Government approved a subsidy in relation to the shipbuilding industry when it accepted the recommendations of the Tariff Board in May 1964. Indeed, the then Minister for Supply, who is now the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall), had this to say on 20th May 1964 when presenting the proposals of the Tariff Board -
The present subsidy on vessels built in Australia for the Australian coastal trade, or for use on Australian inland waters, will be continued on vessels over SOO tons gross and will be extended to cover vessels over 200 tons gross and not exceeding SOO tons gross, which are built in Australia in existing recognised shipyards. It is proposed to continue the subsidy arrangement until the end of 196S prior to which the industry will again be examined by the Tariff Board.
The Opposition points out most emphatically that in this speech no suggestion was made that it should be a recommendation of the Tariff Board that additional shipbuilding industries should not be established in Australia. The Tariff Board merely referred to the question of the subsidy. This question was not under discussion at all.
We understand now from what the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) has said on two occasions in this House - last week and again yesterday in reply to questions directed to him by honorable members on this side of the House - that the application by this company has been rejected particularly because the Government is not prepared to authorise the extension of shipbuilding activities in Australia, that this shipbuilding company may, if it desires, engage in shipbuilding activities in Tasmania, but that it will not be entitled to attract a subsidy. Nothing was said by the then Minister for Supply in his speech in 1964 that would suggest that additional shipbuilding industries would not be authorised or required in Australia at this time.
One of the worst features of the position has been the undue and, I believe, unnecessary delay that has occurred following the representations that have been made to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by this company. On 4th March of last year, the Verolme company lodged its application with the Minister. On 15th June, following certain inquiries that had been made again of the Minister, the company was advised that Cabinet had considered the matter and decided to seek further information relating to the shipbuilding industry in Australia. Further delay occurred. But the Minister did nothing about the matter until further representations were made to the then Acting Prime Minister requesting him to provide the necessary information to the Tasmanian Government and to the company concerned. So, last week, as I have indicated to the House already, the Minister advised the company through this Parliament that Cabinet had decided not to approve of the subsidy. As I have said, this decision was made largely on the basis that the matter should rest until 1969 when the Tariff Board again will have the opportunity to investigate the shipbuilding industry or the requirements of that industry in Australia.
The Tasmanian Government believes, as the members of the Opposition here believe, that this is an unnecessary delay. Surely the Minister could have agreed at this stage for a company of this magnitude, which could be of such great importance industrially to Australia, to be established in Tasmania. The company is one of the largest of its type in the world. Verolme United Shipyards v/as established in Holland in 1945, when a modest engineering shop was founded for the repair of marine engines. At present the Verolme group has three shipyards in Holland, one of which is among the biggest in Europe, and has also successfully established shipyards in southern Ireland and Brazil. These yards not only have had experience in the construction of big tankers and bulk carriers but also have built reefer vessels, special carriers for the transport of liquid petroleum gas and molten sulphur, supply vessels, navy craft and dredging equipment, drilling platforms and other general shipping items. Apart from this. Verolme also undertakes extensive repair work at some of the yards and has its own engine works.
This is the company with a world wide reputation that the Australian Government dismisses out of hand as not being entitled to attract a subsidy that is already being paid to a number of other shipyards in Australia. We believe that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) has been unnecessarily harsh in his judgment of this matter. Any argument that the Minister may put forward regarding a shipping subsidy or the need for additional vessels in our coastal trade is related, of course, to the Government’s own policy, and this policy denies Australia the right to expand its national coastal shipping line and also the right to establish a national fleet of vessels to engage in the overseas trade. Occasionally we hear a welcome suggestion from a Minister who believes that an overseas shipping line may be necessary, but even the Ministers who express these views are never prepared to do anything definite about the matter. They merely talk.
The Government and the Minister for Shipping and Transport are well aware of the demands that have been made on numerous occasions, not only by members on this side of the Parliament but also by interested organisations outside the Parliament, for an expansion of our coastal shipping line and also the introduction of a national line to engage in overseas trade. Surely the need has never been greater than it is now, particularly when one considers the number of industries, both primary and secondary, that are experiencing difficulties because of having to depend on shipping lines controlled by overseas interests. Only last week the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) referred to these difficulties. He pointed out that shipping freight charges for the carriage of motor cars from Australia to the United Kingdom are 30 per cent, greater than the charges for transporting cars of similar size from the United Kingdom to Australia. The Minister never attempts to explain the reason for this disparity or why the freight rates charged by overseas shipping lines have always been loaded against Australian industries, both primary and secondary. We believe that if the Government adopted a realistic attitude towards this matter there would be a need not only for one additional shipbuilding enterprise but probably for several more.
The Opposition believes, and the Tasmanian Government believes, that we should not lose the opportunity of attracting to this country an industry of the magnitude of this shipbuilding organisation, which has established itself so successfully in the shipbuilding industry in many parts of the world. All the facts have been made known to the Minister. He fully understands why the company chose to come to Tasmania. He must also know that while negotiations were being conducted between himself, the company and the Tasmanian Government, the Premier of Western Australia was in Holland negotiating with the company to establish itself in Western Australia. Surely the Minister for Shipping and Transport knows that this is so, although he has said nothing about it.
The company told the Minister that it hoped to tender for the construction of ships of any size which might be required within Australia, and that, in addition, it hoped to secure a variety of orders from Indonesia. The company did not intend to depend solely on orders from within Australia. It believed it could attract a great deal of the Indonesian business that now goes to other countries. The company told the Minister that it had had more than 10 years’ association with the Indonesian Government, for which it had built ships, and that it was currently engaged in building a shipbuilding and repair yard and several special ships near Djakarta. The company said -
The company’s experience with the Indonesian Government, despite the unsettled stale of that country in recent years, has been satisfactory.
The Minister may argue that a company established in Australia will be completely dependent upon the orders it can obtain from Australian interests, but that is not by any means the position in the case we are discussing. The Minister knows that the company would be prepared to accept, and would indeed seek, orders from other countries.
The Tasmanian Government has accepted its share of responsibility in this matter. It has not hesitated to make a site available on which the company may establish an industry in southern Tasmania, lt has entered into negotiations with the Hobart Marine Board to purchase a floating dock of much greater size than those normally found in this country. As I understand the position, the floating dock would be second only to the Captain Cook Dock in Sydney which is controlled by the Department of the Navy. The company has also made the Minister fully aware of the fact that it is prepared to accept financial participation not only by State Governments but also by other private interests. It does not require financial assistance but if the Australian Government demands that it accept financial participation it is prepared to accept it, either by a State Government or by another private company.
The situation is that a company that has made a reasonable request to this Government has had its request rejected completely out of hand. The Minister knows, of course, that unless the company receives the 33 it per cent, subsidy normally payable under the relevant legislation in respect of vessels over 500 tons it will not be able to establish its industry in Tasmania. The Minister, with easy assurance, says that there is nothing to prevent the company from establishing its engineering works in Hobart. But this is only part of “the enterprise. The principal part is shipbuilding, as the Minister well knows. He also knows that unless the company can engage in shipbuilding activities it will not be prepared to establish some other kind of industry that might normally be associated with shipbuilding. The Tasmanian Government has tried to attract this industry to Tasmania because it realises the benefits that would flow from it. I hope the Minister will, when replying, give us a better reason than the one he has so far given for rejecting the company’s application.
Finally, let me say that although the Minister has suggested on other occasions that it may be difficult for the company to secure enough skilled employees for the industry - and this is one of the reasons he has given for rejecting the application - the company itself has made it perfectly clear that it would be prepared to bring out 75 employees to help establish the industry in Tasmania.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Honorable members opposite from time to time propose the submission of matters of public importance for discussion in order to gain a political point, but I have rarely heard a proposal which reeks more of political expediency than the one that is now before the House. We have heard from honorable members opposite motions which have been proposed ostensibly with a view to supporting the Australian shipbuilding industry. I am sorry to see that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) is not in the House because I am sure he would have something to say about this proposal. Honorable members opposite have sought discussions from time to time about foreign capital taking over or squeezing out Australian business. Yet today they have come into this House and have proposed a discussion and are, in effect, unblushingly demanding that this Government allow a foreign company to set up in business in Tasmania without care or thought for the consequences to the Australian shipbuilding industry.
This is a particularly difficult and sensitive industry, as honorable members are well aware. I fully sympathise with the Tasmanian Government in its anxiety to get a soundly based industry for Tasmania. This Commonwealth Government has sought time and time again to encourage the setting up of industries which can prosper in that State. But what service is it to the State of Tasmania to encourage the establishment of an industry which is doubtful or speculative or which has, at the most, a hazardous future? That is the only kind of future we can see for the Verolme company in Hobart, as I hope I can show to honorable members.
– Has the Government lost the pioneering spirit?
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh talks about the pioneering spirit. The Australian shipbuilding industry is probably the most sheltered shipbuilding industry in the world. It depends for its existence on Government subsidy. It depends on a prohibition of imports of ships. Even then it has been struggling along for years. If I may do so without interruption I will quote for honorable members opposite the report of the Tariff Board on the shipbuilding industry. The Tariff Board has no axe to grind in this business. The Tariff Board examined the shipbuilding industry in 1 959 and had this to say -
None of the companies concerned in the construction of merchant vessels in Australia depends primarily on those sources of activity for its existence.
In other words, shipbuilding was a sideline. The quotation continues -
In the case of the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. shipbuilding represents only a minor portion of the company’s total activities. With Evans Deakin and Co. Ltd., Walkers Ltd. and State Dockyard, their interests are predominantly in general engineering. In recent years no company has derived more than 35 per cent, of its total income from its shipbuilding activities.
As a result of this survey in 1959 the Tariff Board said -
At this level, even if all requirements for new vessels were placed on the local yards, this tonnage of orders would only provide sufficient work to keep the industry as a whole operating at something like SO per cent, of its optimum capacity.
That was the situation in 1959.
However, if the local shipyards are maintained at less than optimum capacity, building costs will be higher, overall efficiency lower and the extent of assistance required to offset higher costs would be greater than under a programme of reasonably full production.
In 1963 the Tariff Board had another look at the Australian shipbuilding industry and brought its conclusions up to date. I will now quote from the Board’s remarks in 1963. It said-
Such is the extent of the present over capacity in the Australian shipbuilding industry that the B.H.P. yards at Whyalla, together with any one of the other major yards, could more than satisfy the whole of the Australian requirements for new merchant shipping at recent levels of demand.
That is, the B.H.P. yard and one other yard could meet Australia’s requirements. We have in fact six recognised shipbuilding yards. The report continued -
If this demand were thus concentrated it could result in economies in production because of more sustained and fuller use of capacity and of skilled labour. The importance of these economies is such that they would lower the cost of the subsidy necessary to fulfil the Government’s objective of maintaining an efficient shipbuilding industry.
What I have had to say about the shipbuilding industry and its association with the heavy engineering industry is of considerable importance. In the first place, a good shipbuilding industry depends on having a lot of other industries associated with it. There has to be steel fabrication works in reasonably close proximity. It requires a host of subcontractors who can take up various components related to shipbuilding. These facilities are not present in Hobart.
This company, the Verolme company, based its case on the ground that it could obtain a great deal of work for a heavy engineering factory. Indeed, this was to bc self supporting, because it is hard to imagine that a heavy engineering factory would depend solely on shipbuilding for its support. This heavy engineering, and ship repair work which it assured the Commonwealth Government it was certain to get, were to be its main support. I put it to honorable members: What is to prevent this company setting up a heavy engineering industry in Hobart? What is to prevent it from engaging in this work if its forecasts of ship repair work are reasonably good? I do not know the full facts of the case, but I have been asked for approval - and I have given approval - for a floating dock to be imported to Hobart. Floating docks do not come cheaply. They cost a lot of money. I think that this one is to cost at least $3 million. One would imagine that the Tasmanian Government would have under contemplation a pretty fair quantity of ship repair work if it was buying a floating dock from some company; or else the Tasmanian Government intends to buy the dock purely to entice the company to that State. The Tasmanian Government would then be able to say that it has this industry although it would not have given much thought to its long term future.
– The Tasmanian Government is prepared to co-operate with the company; this Government is not.
– This is rather interesting. Here is the Tasmanian Government prepared to spend S3 million on a floating dock but it says that this dock will not sustain the company in business and it needs a shipbuilding yard. A shipbuilding yard is a far more precarious undertaking than ship repair work. The Tasmanian Government needs a shipbuilding yard for the company to make up its mind on this matter. I was extremely interested to hear the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) say something about ships from Indonesia. He mentioned that this company had established a shipyard in Indonesia; yet part of the case submitted to the Commonwealth Government was that the company hoped to get shipbuilding orders from Indonesia.
– The company built ships for Indonesia.
– This is rather ludicrous, is it not? The cost of shipbuilding in Australia per ton of steel in the ships is twice as high as the average world cost for shipbuilding steel. If this company has set up its own shipyard in Indonesia, what is it going to do? Is it going to cut loose and leave the Indonesians high and dry? What arrangements has it with the Indonesian Government? I made a few inquiries about this matter and it all seems very vague. I understand that the company has made some quite imposing propositions to the Indonesians to build ships in that country of the order of 10,000 tons and upwards. This is quite fantastic and impossible to achieve in the Indonesian situation. There is more to this matter than meets the eye.
I suggest that the company and the Tasmanian Government would be in an immeasurably stronger position if the company were to go to Tasmania and become established in business first. Then it would have a claim to go before the Tariff Board and request approval for subsidy in the same way as any of the seven established Australian companies which have been seeking this subsidy and have not been able to obtain recognition for subsidy purposes. This latest endearment of foreign capital to the Australian Labour Party completely amazes me. The honorable member for Newcastle spoke about the shipbuilding industry on 7th May 1963. The health of the shipbuilding industry has been the subject of other discussions launched by the Labour Party. On that occasion he said this -
A yard cannot be nin economically on the basis of the figures that I can cite. For example, at the Evans Deakin yard the number of men employed has fluctuated from as high as 800 down to about 300. At one time 188 boilermakers were employed in that yard, but within 12 months the number was down to 26.
Yet this was a company which depended for only 35 or 45 per cent, of its activities on shipbuilding. The honorable member continued -
That shows the way orders fluctuate and the way labour fluctuates.
This Government would not be doing a service to the Tasmanian Government if it allowed an industry to go to that State with that kind of uncertainty hanging over its head. It has been said that the order position of the Australian shipyards is healthy - it is. But all ships for which the yards at present have orders will be completed at the end of 1968. What will happen after that? Can honorable members opposite tell me how many ships will be built and what size they will be? It is all very well to say that this company is entitled to use its own commercial judgment about what is going to happen, but we must remember that there is this deal about the floating dock which, as I say, I do not quite understand. We must remember also that all the other Australian shipyards have been entitled to base their calculations on what they need in the way of labour, work and materials, and their programmes on the assumption that the Government will adhere to its policy of not recognising new yards until 1969. It is not fair to upset their commercial judgment by allowing these new companies in before there has been a thorough review of the industry by the Tariff Board.
I fear that the proposed yard is a nit like the fish that got away; it has got bigger and bigger every day. When the proposition for a yard was put to me the company was going to employ about 500 men. but according to a report on the front page of the Hobart “ Mercury “ today, there is talk of employing 2,500 men. When the proposition was first put to me the company was going to build ships of 12,000 to 15,000 tons; today it is talking about building ships of 60.000 tons. How many ships of 60,000 tons will be needed about the Australian coast in the next five years? I understand from the figures I cited in relation to Evans Deakin that the figure of 500 to 800 men is a reasonable one for a shipyard. If there is any substance in the story about employing 2,500 men it must surely be based on an engineering industry of considerable magnitude. So I say to the Tasmanian Government, to the Verolme company and to honorable members opposite that they are not serving the interests of the Australian shipbuilding industry or the State of Tasmania by embarking on an enter-prise with so little certainty about the details of its future. If this company is willing to put its capital into that area and back its place in the future by starting on the things it knows it can do. it will be in a very strong position when the Tariff Board next reviews this industry. I assert that the Commonwealth Government has been very mindful of the interests of Tasmania in its consideration of this programme. It was for that reason and that reason alone that we looked at this carefully at least twice in the Cabinet before we were able to come to a final decision on it.
.- The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) says that the shipbuilding industry is so precarious in Australia that it has to exist on a subsidy. That is a shocking indictment from a Minister for Shipping in this Parliament or in any other Parliament. Evidently the Minister does not know that every shipbuilding industry in every country which builds ships is subsidised heavily, as the industry is in this country. That is not new. If the Government had done the right thing by the shipbuilding firms of Australia the Minister would never have made such a statement. He would never have said that the industry is rickety if the Government was prepared to establish an overseas fleet. It will always need to exist on a subsidy. As I have said already, this is the situation in every country. I shall answer some of the other statements made by the Minister as I proceed.
The lifeblood of a trading nation is an overseas shipping fleet. The lifeblood of an overseas shipping fleet is a virile shipbuilding industry. The lifeblood of a shipbuilding industry is skilled tradesmen, adequate finance, a continuous stream of orders and availability of raw materials. It is to the everlasting disgrace of this Federal Government that after 17 years of prosperous times and its 17 years of continuous control of administration in Australia this huge trading nation does not own one overseas vessel of its own. Australia is the only large trading nation in the world without its own shipping line. Even Switzerland and Czechoslovakia which have no ports have their own shipping lines. We are utterly dependent on overseas shipping companies which we know have the main voice in regard to freight rates. Australia pays $600 million each year in freight charges for imports and exports. Much of this money leaves Australia. We must become independent of overseas shipping lines.
A shipbuilding yard in Tasmania would become, under a Federal Labour government, a vital unit in the construction of ships not only for the coastal trade but also for overseas trading and the building up of an Australian overseas shipping fleet. We would give orders to have two or three such ships built each year in the shipbuilding yards of the Commonwealth, and in seven to ten years we would have a fleet of at least 20 ships operating under the Australian flag and competing with the overseas shipping lines, with a chance of reducing crippling freight charges. That will be our programme when we become a government and that is why the new shipyard proposed for Tasmania would be a vital unit in the building up of an overseas shipping fleet. Only part of its operations would be for the building of coastal vessels.
The following shipbuilding yards exist in Australia at the present time: Walkers Ltd. of Maryborough, which is building ships of 1,500 to 2,000 tons; Evans Deakin & Co. Pty. Ltd. of Brisbane, which is putting in a do-k which will enable it to build ships up to 50,000 tons; the New South Wales State Dockyard at Newcastle, which builds ships up to 25,000 tons; the
Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. yard at Whyalla in South Australia, which builds ships up to 55,000 tons; Adelaide Ship Construction Pty. Ltd., which m-.inly builds tugs; the yard at Williamstown in Victoria, which is for refits and the Cockatoo Dockyard which is mainly for naval vessels. Only three of the yards are capable of building ships of more than 50,000 tons. Most of the firms to which I have referred are associated also with engineering, as the Minister has said. This helps to keep them active when orders are slack, lt is vital in this industry to have a continuity of orders. We grant that, lt is vital also to have skilled tradesmen and more are now wanted in the yards. Wc admit that.
The labour force required to build vessels of from 50,000 to 60,000 tons would number about 1 ,000. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) gave these figures and he knows what he is talking about because he worked in the industry. Of the 1,000 men, 600 would be boilermakers and engineers, which would include fitters and turners. In addition there would bc shipwrights, electricians, ship joiners, blacksmiths, plumbers, sheet metal workers and pattern makers. That is the shipbuilding industry as it exists in Australia today.
The industry has been slowed down from time to time by the Government’s indifference and by the fact that it will not enter the field of overseas shipping to give the shipbuilding industry the boost which is necessary.
The shipbuilding project in Tasmania was outlined by my colleague, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). Giving background information he explained that the Dutch firm’s decision to come to Tasmania followed a year of negotiations with the Tasmanian Government. The company has shipyards in Holland, Ireland, Norway and Brazil. The company knows what it is talking about and it knows how to build ships. Let us never forget that. The choice of a site was a tribute to Tasmania and to its Government for what it was prepared to do. The choice of site was a tribute to the width, the beauty and the geography of the Derwent estuary, for the site is at Margate about 20 miles south east of Hobart. The State Government is prepared to help with finance. Because of the shortage of skilled labour, the company is prepared to bring 500 or more skilled mcn from Holland and is prepared to establish a college at which shipbuilders can be trained in Tasmania. That shows how genuine the company is. It has the know-how gained from years of experience. We are opposed to overseas capital taking over existing Australian industries. I make no bones about that because it is the Australian Labour Party’s policy. We do approve, however, the principle of overseas capital setting up new industries in Tasmania or on the mainland. This venture in Tasmania would be part private, with foreign investment, and part public, with local investment. This is not a take-over proposal. The industry would not be a private enterprise venture entirely: it would be a government-private enterprise, venture, similar to other shipbuilding yards in Australia which are subsidised with Commonwealth money, and assisted with cheap loans. Further, in . Tasmania, the organisation would get a cheaper loan to help it get started. This is a proposal for the establishment of another vital shipbuilding industry in Australia, to be established with financial aid from the State Government and a Commonwealth subsidy of 33i per cent, for any ships built for the coastal trade. This is the type of investment that we support. There is no mystery about that. The refusal to grant the 33$ per cent, subsidy has lost to Tasmania a $20 million industry which would employ, when fully operating, 2,500 men. These figures were given by the company’s representative in Hobart yesterday. They were quoted by the Minister a moment ago - he said to his horror.
I want to mention another point in connection with this matter. It is hoped that in the not too distant future a small steel industry will be based on the Savage River ore deposits in Tasmania, in the electorate of Braddon. This shipbuilding industry on the island would be an outlet for a portion of the production of that steel industry. I point out that 94 per cent, of a ship is steel and that it is best to have shipbuilding yards established as near to steel industries as possible. The situation in Tasmania would be ideal from this point of view. We have the iron ore and we have the limestone, two vital ingredients for steel production. We have plenty of limestone. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) captained a ship that came across Bass Strait years ago to collect limestone from the Melrose quarry near Devonport. He knows all about the limestone situation. My electorate has large deposits.
I want to say also that Tasmania is at present a mendicant State. We are receiving Commonwealth grants to help us. The way out of our mendicancy is to become selfsufficient. The only way to self-sufficiency is through industrialisation, and a shipbuilding industry in Tasmania would make a large contribution to the industrialisation that is required for financial independence. Surely it ought to be an aim of this or any other Federal Government to help Tasmania become independent of Federal grants. But this Government wants to keep Tasmania as a mandicant State. It has knocked back the Tasmanian Government’s request for a thermal power station and for an irrigation project as part of the State’s development.
– It wants to send Tasmania bankrupt.
– The Government would not lose any tears over that.
– But it would lose two seats.
– I think the Government could lose two seats because of the way in which it has treated us in this matter. Another important point is that the establishment of a shipbuilding yard in Tasmania would make a great contribution to decentralisation. The wider the spread of shipbuilding yards the better it is for Australia, especially in time of war. I believe that, for the reasons given by the honorable member for Bass and by myself, and for those which will be stated shortly by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), a strong case can be made for establishing this industry in Tasmania.
The Hobart “ Mercury “ printed a scathing leading article yesterday morning about this Government and its refusal to help in this matter. It printed another article this morning in stronger language. In the articles the “ Mercury “ sets out what it thinks of this Government for selling Tasmania down the drain and for treating the State as though it did not count. In this morning’s article it suggests that the Government’s attitude is one of “ To hell with Tasmania “. 1 hope that public pressure will cause the Government to reconsider the matter before 1969, for that is too long to have to wait for it to be placed on the drafting board again or to be taken to the Cabinet room.
.- The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) would like to have the Tasmanian public believe that the Labour candidate’s campaign committee in Denison, all four members of which wrote fine letters to the “ Mercury “, reflects public opinion. I think it will be found at the forthcoming election that his hopes are as uninspiring as his speech was.
As a Tasmanian, I am naturally concerned by the long record of high unemployment in my State and by the latest report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which indicates that the Tasmanian Government, as opposed to the Western Australian Government, is becoming more and more dependent upon Commonwealth payments. I therefore ask: Is the acquisition of a foreign owned shipbuilding company, which apparently will only operate in Tasmania if subsidised, in the interests of the Tasmanian people? Will it reduce unemployment? People in the engineering industry in Hobart will tell you - the State Minister, Mr. Fagan, knows this - that it is almost impossible to get skilled men. In today’s “ Mercury “ a spokesman for the Dutch company concerned talks about bringing in skilled migrants. Even if Verolme United Shipyards was able to attract skilled labour from the mainland, this would not ease the employment position in Tasmania. I would ask Mr. Fagan to request the Hobart Trades Hall to give its views about importing foreign labour into a State which, due to his Government’s failure to do anything about it. has had a regrettably high rate of unemployment, forcing many young Tasmanian people to go to the mainland to obtain employment.
I note also from today’s “ Mercury “ that the Dutch company’s plan involves the selling of a large floating dock to the Tasmanian Government, or, as the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) said, to the Hobart Marine Board. I should like to hear the views of the Hobart Marine Board on the purchase of a$3 million dry clock, which, as has been pointed out by the
Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), might well prove an embarrassment if the industry did not prosper. Verolme, of course, would make an immediate profit on the sale of the dock and would take no risks as to its commercial success or failure.
I was interested to note that at question time yesterday the honorable member for Wilmot expressed surprise that the Commonwealth Government had not helped Tasmania with a thermal power station. Is this really surprising in a State which is renowned for its hydro-electric power? The honorable member well knows that his State Labour Party colleagues do not support him on this. His has been a voice crying in the wilderness on this question. I suggest that he go to the capital of Tasmania, place his views before the Premier and the Hydroelectric Commission, which gets the lion’s share of the Tasmanian budget, and see just how much support he gets for a proposal to establish a thermal power station.
While I am talking about people coming to my electorate, let me say that it is significant that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and not the Leader came to Hobart recently and stated that the Federal Government had not given the Tasmanian Government any assistance on specific projects, except for the grant for the Gordon River project. What the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not tell us was how many properly prepared cases have been put up by the Tasmanian Labour Government in, I think, its 33 years in office. It is significant that the Hydro-electric Commissioner, a very able man, prepared the care for the Gordon River grant on behalf of the Tasmanian Government. I would add that the Gordon River grant was made during the short time I have been in this Parliament. Apart from talk about a proposal for an even larger grant to further develop the middle Gordon area, I am not aware of any applications made during the time I have been here.
I was interested to read on page 2 of the “ Mercury “ of last Saturday an article concerning shipbuilding which said that a big engineering workshop was to have formed part of the industry and that the company had hoped to do heavy engineering work for other industries. In this context, let me refer to a recent survey of the Australian shipbuilding industry. One of the conclusions reached after that survey was in these terms -
As well as these activities, many general engineering tasks are undertaken by the shipyards. Examples include blast furnaces, steel mills, boilermaking, marine engines, locomotives, bridge building, steel fabrication and other types of engineering work. These activities serve as a buffer to cushion the effect of fluctuations in demand for shipbuilding as well as being important sources of revenue in their own right.
As the Minister pointed out to me in reply to a question I asked of him on Friday - this, of course, did not rate a single line in the “ Mercury “, despite the fact that pages 1, 2 and 3 of that newspaper were devoted to this story - there is nothing to stop the Tasmanian Government from encouraging this company to go ahead with the engineering side. If, as ‘he “ Mercury “ reports and as the company is alleged to have said, a major part of the project to start with is to be an engineering works, let us cut out the political double talk and get on with the action. If the company considers that there is a marvellous opportunity, and if the Labour Government in Tasmania agrees with this, as its spokesman, the Minister for Industrial Development, says, let that Government stop talking and get on with the job of ensuring that the company establishes itself. We want the company there. The Tasmanian Minister knows only too well the number of industries that have left Tasmania. He knows full well the unemployment figures. Let him do something about helping this company to establish itself, thereby providing more employment, instead of castigating the Commonwealth whipping boy, as he always does when he finds it convenient.
I would also like to point out what the Minister for Shipping and Transport said in reply to the question that I asked last Friday. I hope that this will appear in the Hobart “Mercury”, because I would like my constituents to know that I have been active in the matter. The Minister said - the Government has decided with some regret that it cannot at this stage say that this is a yard which will be recognised for subsidy.
The honorable member for Bass, who is a fellow Tasmanian and who led for the Opposition in this discussion, said that Che company’s request for a subsidy has been rejected out of hand. I suggest that he listen to the positive statements made by responsible Ministers at question time.
The other point that I want to mention is made by the Verolme company’s spokesman as reported in today’s “ Mercury “. I have had this report cabled to me in Canberra because today’s issue of the “ Mercury “ will not be available here until tonight. The spokesman for the company stated -
What we were asking for and believed we would have been justified in receiving was the same recognition as other Australian shipping yards.
We did not seek or expect to get any special considerations.
Let the facts speak for themselves. As has been pointed out by me and other speakers, part of the plan that the Verolme company has been trying to sell the Tasmanian Government is a proposal for a $3 million dry dock, lt says it expects no special consideration, but the Hobart Marine Board or somebody else will have to pay for this $3 million dock. The Marine Board or the Tasmanian Government will have to obtain the finance for it by loan. How does that compare with the position of Australian owned shipyards, let alone foreign owned companies? As the Minister for Shipping and Transport pointed out to me on Friday, there are in Australia seven small shipyards financed with Australian capital that have for some time been seeking recognition, and the Government has refused to recognise them. I repeat that the Tasmanian people, when they compare these facts with the statement made by the spokesman for the Dutch company, would be entitled to come to the conclusion that it is attempting to sell them a pup. I hope that the company comes to Tasmania. I hope that it is successful on the engineering side. I hope that the next Tariff Board inquiry into the shipbuilding industry will lead to the recognition of additional shipyards. I hope that this company will then be prosperous and that it will be allowed a subsidy. But I would like the Tasmanian people to know the facts that I have recited so that they can make up their own minds whether the company has been genuine in its proposals for coming to Tasmania or whether it takes the view that it must be provided with a $3 million dry dock and a 33$ per cent. Commonwealth subsidy before it will come.
The final point that I would like to make is that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), in his policy speech for the 1963 Federal general election campaign, said -
Labour is vitally concerned lest the control of key assets and industries falls completely into non-Australian hands. . . .
Just the other day, he made a similar statement which was reported in the Press, Sir. I trust tha*, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will not disagree with him about this. I trust also that the Deputy Leader will explain - the honorable member for Wilmot did not - just how a subsidy paid to this Dutch company would make it, in the words of the honorable member for Wilmot, a partly Australian owned company. I believe that the Tasmanian people are entitled to know the facts that 1 have outlined.
Mr. WHITLAM (Werriwa) [4.14J.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I trust that the Hobart “ Mercury “ will accede to the wish of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Gibson) and print his apology for the Government’s attitude towards the shipbuilding industry in Tasmania. 1 hope that the newspaper will not be deterred from fully presenting the honorable member’s arguments and also those of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth), by the Minister’s remark that the mind of the “ Mercury “ was even smaller than that of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). The honorable member for Denison referred to the fact that his opponent at the forthcoming election, Mr. Neil Batt, had written a letter which the “ Mercury “ had published. The honorable member said that this hardly established that public opinion was behind the establishment of the shipbuilding industry in Tasmania. The newspaper in fact needed no encouragement from its correspondents to take this view. lt has taken the view spontaneously in its editorials. For many years past, I have observed that whatever may be the newspaper’s views about other aspects of Labour’s policies, it supports the Australian Labour Party’s advocacy of an overseas shipping line, lt knows quite well that no primary industry in Australia has to pay a greater percentage of its export income to meet freights on those exports than the apple and pear industry in Tasmania. Last season, more than 80 per cent, of the export income of Tasmanian apple and pear growers was absorbed in freights on their exports.
The “ Mercury “ quoted the recent statement by a motor car manufacturer in Australia that it cost 30 per cent, more to send motor cars from Australia to Britain than it cost to send comparable models from Britain to Australia. We on this side of the Parliament have said for some time, quoting the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. in this respect, that it costs more to send Australian steel or manufactured goods to Singapore or Hong Kong than it costs to send comparable goods from Britain or Western Europe to Singapore or Hong Kong, three times the distance. The disparity between freight costs on Australian exports and on Western European exports is notorious.
The honorable member for Denison was good enough to mention me in relation to the Gordon River project. It is true that I said during a recent visit to his electorate - I have no doubt that I shall have to repeat it since he apologises for the fact - that the only specific project which the Commonwealth has financed in Tasmania has been this project. Since the general election for the House of Representatives in 1963, the Commonwealth has tapered off all its funds for specific development projects in the whole continent. The Gordon River project was the only one from which Tasmania benefited.
– I named-
– The honorable member can learn the facts just by reading the Budget papers or the answers in “ Hansard “ to questions put on the notice paper by the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson), Tasmanian members and me. The honorable member also dwelt on the fact that the shipbuilding company in question was a foreign company. He belittled its intention to bring to Tasmania skilled migrant tradesmen. That State has not been able to attract as high a percentage of skilled migrant tradesmen as the other States have been able at attract. The reason is that Tasmania is the only State in which there has been no hostel for the accommodation of British migrants and skilled migrants from the Continent.
I now want to deal with the arguments advanced by the Minister for Shipping and Transport, which I would think carried more weight and less spleen than those of the honorable member for Denison. The Minister relied on Tariff Board reports. Another Tariff Board report on the shipbuilding industry is now overdue. In my time in the Parliament, there have been three reports by the Board on this industry. There was a reference of the subject to the Board on 24th March 1954. The report on that reference was signed by the Board on 16th June 1955 and was presented in the Parliament by the then Minister for Shipping and Transport on 12th April 1956. The corresponding dates for the subsequent reports were 11th December 1957, 30th June 1959 and 25th November 1959; and 14th September 1962, 4th October 1963 and 20th May 1964.
– Five year intervals throughout.
– Actually, they were about four year intervals.
– There were five years between presentations of reports.
– The references were about four years apart. The dates of signing of the reports were about four years apart. The interval between the dates of presentation of the second and third reports was rather longer than the interval between the dates of presentation of the first and second reports. The difference was in the speed with which the reports were presented to the Parliament. The intervals between the dates of reference and between the dates of signing were approximately four years. It is time there was another reference.
I turn now to the attitude of the Australian Labour Party to foreign companies. We believe that where there is an opportunity for an industry in Australia but no industry in existence here, it is primarily the Government’s job to pioneer the industry. This was done in Tasmania with the aluminium industry. It was an example of co-operative initiative by Commonwealth and State Labour Governments. The second priority would be an Australian company setting up a new industry. The third priority would be a foreign company setting up the new industry. Never do we accept the fourth choice that there should be no industry at all. Because of the Commonwealth’s attitude to Tasmania in recent years, both as regards developmental projects and new industries, it is clear that we cannot expect Government initiative; we cannot expect Government assistance for Australian companies. We are then confronted with the choice between a foreign company setting up a new industry and no new industry at all. In those circumstances the Labour Party comes down unequivocably in favour of the new industry, albeit a foreign one. Migrants, like the Alcorso family, have brought great benefits to Tasmania.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) avoids the crux of the problem: Is there enough potential for another shipyard in Australia? This matter comes down to the difference of opinion between the Labour Party and, now belatedly, the Country Party on the one hand and the Liberal Party on the other concerning an Australian overseas shipping line.
Several questions have been asked on this subject. It has been raised not only by the Labour Party, although it is true that my colleagues who have spoken today asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Acting Prime Minister questions on this subject. Also the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Gibson) last Friday bowled a very sympathetic question on this matter to the Minister. But not such sympathetic questions were put to the Minister yesterday by the honorable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) and by the retiring honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder). These were accepted by the Minister as being hostile questions. There are Government supporters who see the politics in this matter and they have been just as hostile about it as have been members of the Labour Party.
Yesterday the Acting Prime Minister in answer to a question asked by me referred, if not to his proposals, although he had used that word a month earlier in answering a question he was asked, to his hopes that there should be a viable Austraiian overseas shipping line transporting bulk commodities in large bulk carriers. A few minutes later, answering a question asked by the honorable member for Franklin, the Minister for Shipping and Transport said -
If the revival of interest in the coastal trade continues we may have an assurance of a long term continuity of shipbuilding. . . .
His horizons are limited to the coastal trade. That is because the Liberal Party’s policy refers merely to coastal shipping. The Labour Party’s policy refers to overseas shipping as well. Only this week the Acting Prime Minister unveiled the Country Party’s policy which, in somewhat guarded terms, pursues the same line.
The company wishing to enter the shipbuilding industry in Tasmania is not asking for special consideration, as the honorable member for Denison asserted. It is asking only for equal treatment. Tasmania knows how its trade with the mainland has been transformed by Commonwealth initiative. The Australian shipbuilding industry could well supply ships for the archipelagos near us - Indonesia, the Philippines and all the Pacific Islands - and, as the Tariff Board recommended in its 1959 report, for New Zealand shipping interests. We should build naval ships. Over the next 20 years we should build sufficient shipping in Australia to carry half our imports and half our exports. To achieve that objective we need another shipyard; why not in Tasmania?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) L4.24]. - The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) has evaded the point at issue almost entirely. The point at issue is this: Is recognition of this yard in the interests of the Australian shipbuilding industry? Obviously it is not. Obviously the Australian shipbuilding industry has a cost structure which is a great deal higher than those of overseas industries. It is obvious also, at least to anybody who looks at the facts, that the high costs in the Australian shipbuilding industry are due to over capacity. Shipbuilding must be a large scale performance if it is to be economic. Under those circumstances it is essential that we have a limited number of yards and that they be fairly fully employed. If this is not the case, costs get right out of hand. The proper growth of the Australian shipbuilding industry - we all hope it will continue to grow - depends upon keeping its costs within reasonable bounds. This is not in accordance with the proposition put forward today by the Opposition.
The circumstances in which the Opposition’s proposition is advanced are remarkable. The proceedings of the House are not being broadcast today. The Opposition has chosen to initiate this debate when we are not on the air. Why? Let me tell the House why. The Opposition has done this because the debate is a sectional one. It is meant to get publicity in Tasmania but to be ignored in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. The Opposition does not want its arguments to be heard outside Tasmania. It is engaging in good old parish pump politics, hoping to bring forward these sectional matters and to ignore, by suppression, their effect on other States. Only last Friday the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) who, I understand, is a member of the Opposition, agreed with the Acting Prime Minister that it would be sheer folly at this stage to recognise an additional shipyard. The honorable member is not present today. It is characteristic of members of the Opposition that they try to make sectional appeals, hoping that the pluses will go to one place and that the minuses will never be heard.
What is their attitude, for example, to the Ord River Scheme in this connection? It is well known that the technical advisers in the Department of National Development, including at the time the present honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson), wanted to grow sugar on the Ord. When the honorable member for Dawson was elected to represent a sugar growing area, what did he say? He said nothing about the proposal to grow sugar on the Ord. The House will see how it goes. The Government made a very wise decision not to grow sugar on the Ord. Perhaps the honorable member for Dawson would have preferred the decision to be otherwise when he was in the Department, but now that he represents a sugar growing area, he says nothing about the proposal to grow sugar on the Ord.
This kind of thing is characteristic of this debate. The Opposition wants the publicity to go out to some places but not to others. It is remarkable that the Labour Party is now advocating the interests of a foreign owned firm. I thought it was opposed to foreign capital. What about the seven Australian firms that have already applied for and been refused a subsidy for shipbuilding? Is the foreign owned firm to have precedence over Carrington Slipways and Watson Pty. Ltd., both of New South Wales; Dillingham Shipyards of Western Australia, Ray and Co. of New South Wales, Bundeng Ltd. of Queensland, Princes Launch Service of Western Australia, and Hornibrook of Queensland? These seven Australian companies stand in the queue ahead of the foreign owned company. Are their interests to be diced? Why is it that the Labour Party suddenly finds this sympathy for overseas capital? What is the use of saying that this is a new industry? It is not a new industry. There is already over capacity in the industry. Everything done here will displace Australian firms in favour of a foreign owned firm. It would be a different matter if the industry were one in which there is insufficient capacity in Australia today, but this is not the situation at all. The position is that there is over capacity in the industry at present. Seven additional Australian firms are waiting in the queue to get in on the subsidy as soon as new capacity becomes available. But my friends from the Australian Labour Party come out and advocate the interests of a foreign owned firm in priority to the seven Australian firms that are already waiting in the queue to be recognised. Why should the Dutch firm have preference over them?
– Why are the Australian firms not recognised?
– I will tell the honorable member why they are not being recognised. It is for the very good reason given by the Minister, that there is over capacity in the industry at the present moment. The Government has a plan that is working. Under it, the tonnage of ships being built in Australia is increasing, the amount of work in Australian shipbuilding yards is increasing and opportunities will be provided for new firms to come in. But good Australian firms are in the queue ahead of the Dutch firm. Can we be parochial about this? Should we try to dice the interests of Australia to get a little political advantage? I hope my friends in the Opposition will see the absurdity to which they are being committted. It has been said that Tasmania is suffering from disabilities. And so it is. But they are very largely self-inflicted wounds caused by its folly in maintaining an inefficient Labour Government for so many years. Tasmania has been very generously treated by the Commonwealth Government, and I suppose it is entitled to generous treatment.
– Generously treated in what way?
– In what way? Let me tell the honorable member of the per capita loan allocations to the States. New South Wales receives $70 a head, Victoria $80, Queensland $90, South Australia $100, Western Australia $95 and Tasmania$140. I have answered the honorable member’s question. How is preference being given to Tasmania? It is being given more than a fair go by the Commonwealth Government. The disabilities of Tasmania are the self-inflicted wounds of a State that has the folly to maintain in office for so long an inefficient Labour Government. I come from New South Wales, and I am sorry to say this. New South Wales committed the same folly for a long time but repented of its sins. Perhaps I should be a little reticent as a New South Welshman and not upbraid my friends from Tasmania.
Suppose this is not a bona fide transaction. 1 put it to the House that the Minister is perfectly right in asking for a cautious approach to this rather peculiar transaction about the dry dock. This may well be the nigger in the wood pile. There is apparently a fairly large cash consideration, which the Tasmanian Government will be able to meet from the very generous funds allotted to it by the Commonwealth Government. There will be a cash consideration which will, perhaps, be very helpful to this foreign-owned firm. The Minister gave the figure and I understand it is a very substantial one. I also understand that the circumstances are not quite above board. That may be the wrong expression and I withdraw it. I think the circumstances are such as require further investigation.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Freeth) agreed to -
That the business of the day be called on.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation-
– Has the honorable member been misrepresented?
– Yes.I have been informed that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) said that, whilst I was head of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development, I recommended the growing of sugar on the Ord. I make it quite clear that 1 at no stage recommended the growing of sugar on the Ord. Whilst I was in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in 1961 and we were looking at alternative crops for the Ord, I recommended that one of the crops to be investigated should be sugar. I recommended for investigation also rice, oil crops and fodder crops. I also said that, from the agronomic point of view - my view was backed by evidence from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - there was a possibility of growing cane. I said further that the economic view had to be given most weight. If the honorable member for Mackellar reads my paper delivered last year to the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, he will see in black and white that I made the point that for economic reasons sugar cane should not be grown on the Ord as it could not compete with Queensland which had an established infra-structure.
– Order! The honorable member is going beyond the limits of a personal explanation. He is debating the subject and is out of order.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1965, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House - Erection of a Migrant Hostel at Springvale, Victoria.
The proposal, which is estimated to cost $4,250,000, involves erection of a new hostel to accommodate some 1,000 persons, including staff. The hostel buildings will be substantially of brick construction and they will comprise an office and amenities block, three accommodation blocks, three staff residences and a staff accommodation block. The Committee has reported favorably on the proposal and, upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the Committee’s recommendations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. Bury, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this Bill is to vary the legislative provisions in relation to the employment of married women as permanent officers in the Commonwealth Public Service. For the future, permanent female officers in the Commonwealth Public Service will not, on marriage, automatically lose their permanent status. Also, married women will be eligible for appointment to the Service. This Bill should have the approval of the Parliament. Judged by public responses to date, it will have the endorsement of the community at large, and certainly that of the various women’s organisations.
The Bill removes an element of discrimination against one section of our work force, or potential work force - an element deriving from social attitudes of another era. It must not be thought that, when the Bill becomes law, married women will for the first time be eligible for employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. Nothing could be further from the truth. Married women are employed in the Public Service now. In fact they presently comprise about one-third of all temporary female employees. But henceforth the Commonwealth will be permitted to retain on its permanent staff trained and experienced female officers who marry, and to recruit qualified married women. Thus, this group of women will not be denied the opportunity to pursue a full and satisfying career in the Commonwealth Public Service.
The increasing tendency for Australian married women to work has received considerable publicity in recent years. The tremendous contribution which married women in the work force have made in our expanding economy needs no emphasis. The same sort of thing has been happening in other developed countries - indeed in some like Britain, Canada and the United States of America the trend has been even more evident than in Australia. Between 1954 and 1961 the number of married women in the work force in Australia increased by 148,000 or 57 per centwhile the total female work force increased by 214,000 or 25.3 per cent. The male work force increased in the same period by 10.8 per cent.
I have no doubt that the recent census will show that married women are continuing to enter the work force in large numbers. The Statistician’s sample work force survey in the six capital cities gives us some indication of the trend. The latest figures, for May 1966, show that 37.3 per cent, of all married women aged between 20 and 44 and 26.7 per cent, of those aged between 45 and 64 were in the work force. The comparable figures in May 1961 were 30.9 per cent, and 23.8 per cent, respectively. I believe we can expect these trends to continue. However that may be. provisions which deny to the Commonwealth Public Service the services of women, highly skilled women, women often trained with Commonwealth funds, are no longer tenable. Other employers have not been subject to this sort of restriction. This does not seem to be a case when it is necessary to persuade the Parliament of the good sense of, and justification for, a measure. So let me pass to explain the Bill’s provisions.
The principle we are following is to treat married women officers and married women recruits similarly to other officers and recruits. We are not removing the discrimination against married women only to replace it with discriminatory provisions in their favour. So, married women will be treated on an equal footing with their colleagues so far as status, recruitment, promotion, transfer, discipline and so on are concerned. Married women officers will be subject to all the provisions of the Public Service Act and other relevant rules. Consequently, their recruitment will be subject to the normal selection processes. Their continued employment will be on the basis of efficiency and be dependent upon their observing the same conditions and code of conduct as all other officers. I am stating only the obvious, having regard to what I have already said, when I say that they will be liable to the normal disciplinary procedures, which may result in dismissal if they fail to observe the relevant provisions - for example, if they do not attend regularly and assiduously to their duties. This is the normal rule where married women are employed, and there can be no exception in the case of the Commonwealth Public Service. Married women, particularly those with young children, may feel the burden of domestic responsibilities more than other officers of the Service. But this is equally the case in other areas of employment. And if they cannot meet normal conditions they cannot expect to be carried on the permanent staff. I have no doubt that married women in the Public Service will fully understand this. It is, of course, a matter for decision by the woman at any time whether she desires to continue in the Public Service as a permanent officer.
Although there are many married women temporaries in the Commonwealth Public Service now, it is rather difficult to predict the sorts of problems that could be presented were permanent officers employed in some sectors. 1 am thinking of areas of employment such as those where odd hours of duty or conditions of service apply, which might result in special problems for the employment of married women. We gave a deal of thought to this and decided to make provisions so that, if experience shows a need for some special provisions relating to the employment of married women in particular areas of the Service in order to safeguard the efficient running of the Public Service, this can be done by regulation. The inclusion of this regulation-making power is no more than a necessary precaution,
The decision to permit married women to be permanent officers necessitates provi sions for absence in relation to childbirth. Of course, the circumstances of confinement differ from case to case, but it is universally accepted that women should cease to be actively employed some time before childbirth and not be permitted to resume for some time after confinement. For example, the relevant International Labour Organisation Convention provides for a period of absence of not less than 12 weeks of which not less than 6 weeks is after the birth. The Government proposes that any officer who is to have a child shall absent herself from duty for a minimum period of 12 weeks. Provision is contained in the Bill for an absence of up to six months, at the option of the officer.
It will be for the woman to decide whether she uses any sick 1/save, recreation leave or furlough entitlements which she may have, to cover her absence or some of it. Otherwise, the absence will be without pay. Although conditions vary in the different countries, it can be said that this provision is in general accord with those in the public services of the United States of America, Britain and New Zealand.
The whole idea behind these proposals is to allow women who wish to continue in employment to be granted the necessary leave without jeopardising their career. I think there will be general agreement that what is proposed in no way conflicts with the principle of equality of treatment; rather it recognises, in a reasonable way, the needs of these female officers. I again stress that the use of sick leave and other entitlements to cover absence for childbirth is entirely at the option of the officer.
Incidentally, experience in countries with similar social attitudes to our own suggests that the majority of women terminate their employment when they are to have children. It is not anticipated that a different situation will prevail here. However, the proposed provisions will enable those women who anticipate returning to employment after their confinement, to do so with full retention of their employment rights. Those officers who cease, upon marriage or later, may, if they desire, subsequently apply for reinstatement to the permanent staff, subject to the normal conditions applied to other former officers of the Service.
I turn now to an existing provision in the Public Service Act which provides that any female officer with 5 but less than 15 years’ permanent service who retires upon marriage shall receive a payment based on her years of service. This is commonly known as the marriage allowance. It is proposed that those women already in the Public Service should continue to be eligible for this allowance if they retire on marriage, since it can be argued that the marriage allowance was part of their original contract of employment. But, as the ‘marriage allowance was introduced as a form of compensation for the loss of career - under the marriage bar embodied in existing legislation - it is logical to eliminate it now that this bar is being removed.
A corollary to the decision to permit married women to be employed in a permanent capacity in the Commonwealth Public Service is the provision for them of pension and like rights. My colleague, the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) will be introducing amendments to the Superannuation Act to permit married women to commence or to continue as contributors under that Act. Bearing in mind also the need to issue detailed instructions on the relevant procedures under both Acts, the legislation will operate from a date to be proclaimed. This Bill is confined to the Commonwealth Public Service. The question of the extension of its principles to other areas of Commonwealth employment is under examination. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
At present the Superannuation Act precludes a married woman from becoming a contributor and requires single women to cease to contribute if they marry. With the amendment of the Public Service Act proposed by the Public Service Bill (No. 2) 1966 to permit the employment of married women as permanent officers in the Commonwealth Public Service, it is necessary to amend the Superannuation Act 1922- 1965 if married women are to enjoy superannuation cover like other permanent officers. This Bill makes the necessary changes in the existing Act to enable married women who are recruited to the Commonwealth Public Service to join the Superannuation Fund or the Provident Account and to permit single women who continue as permanent officers after marriage to continue as contributors. The Bill will also permit temporary employees of the Commonwealth who are married women to become contributors on the same conditions as other temporary employees, and will equally apply to married women who may be employed by approved authorities of the Commonwealth under the conditions applicable to other employees of such authorities.
The basic decisions of the Government to employ married women as permanent officers and to admit them to superannuation benefits raised a number of important questions in regard to their participation in the superannuation scheme. The first is whether they should contribute under the Superannuation Act on the basis that now applies to single women - that is, as contributors for personal benefits only - or whether they should contribute for dependants benefits in addition to personal benefits, in the way that male contributors do. After careful consideration, the Government concluded that, as a married woman could be the breadwinner for the family, she should participate in the superannuation scheme on the basis of providing benefits for her children and for her widower, if he is dependent upon her at the time of her death. The Bill therefore includes provisions to extend to the children and dependent widowers of female contributors the existing benefit provisions that apply to the children and widows of male contributors and pensioners. Thus the children of existing female contributors who are widowed or divorced will in future be entitled to pension in the event of the death of their mothers.
Naturally, this improved basis of benefits for female contributors is likely to result in some additional costs to the Fund and the next question was whether the existing rates of contribution prescribed for females would be adequate in the future. This question was put to the Commonwealth Actuary but he has advised that it will not be possible to determine the adequacy or otherwise of the existing contribution rates until he has some knowledge of the numbers of married women who will become contributors and of the experience of this group as regards invalidity, mortality, &c. He has therefore recommended that the existing rates of contribution should continue to apply for the time being and this Bill makes no variation in those rates. However, the rates of contribution for females will be reviewed by the Actuary in conjunction with the next quinquennial investigation of the Superannuation Fund as at 30th June 1967.
The admission of married women to the Commonwealth Public Service and as contributors for superannuation benefits presents a new possibility - that a husband and wife may both be permanent officers and may both be contributors. This raises the further question of the amount of pension to be paid when both the married woman and her husband have retired. A case could be made for some restriction upon dual benefits, especially where the husband predeceases the wife who would otherwise, upon his death, be entitled to a widow’s pension in respect of his contributions in addition to the full pension in respect of her own contributions; there is a precedent for such a restriction in an existing provision of the Act which limits the total pension payable to the widow of a former contributor who, as a widow, and therefore a single woman, subsequently becomes a contributor in her own right. On the other hand, there are strong arguments for treating each contributor as an individual who has paid the full cost of contributions during service and therefore for paying both pensions in full. The Government has decided in favour of the latter course, and the Bill therefore provides no restriction upon dual benefits where a husband and wife have both contributed. Moreover, the Bill repeals the existing limitations upon widows who become contributors in their own right. Any widows who were contributors and who have retired and are now receiving pensions in respect of both their husbands’ and their own con tributions will therefore receive an increase in pension when the Bill becomes law.
Honorable members will appreciate that this Bill makes some rather progressive changes. Many schemes that presently admit married women as contributors for superannuation confine their participation to personal benefits or provide for them to receive only a lump sum benefit on retirement. The only distinction between benefits for male and female contributors that will exist after this Bill is passed is that the widower of a deceased female contributor will only qualify for pension if he is wholly or substantially dependent on her at the time of her death. This is believed to be a reasonable requirement in our society and one that will minimise any increase in rates of contribution for females that might later prove to be necessary.
It is necessary to make some further incidental changes. For example, because they could not be reappointed to the Service, the Act now makes special provision in relation to a female who is retired on the ground of invalidity, marries whilst in receipt of pension and subsequently becomes restored to health. This provision is repealed by the Bill to place married women in the same position as other invalidity pensioners and a number of other consequential amendments is made. However, owing to the extreme pressure of work upon the Parliamentary Draftsman and his staff at this stage of the parliamentary session, it has not been possible to attend to all the minor consequential changes which are seen to be necessary such as to provide for the disposition of her pension upon a married woman pensioner being detained as a patient in a hospital for the insane or committed to prison. Clearly, such matters are not urgent and it is proposed to attend to them in a further bill early next year. But I can assure honorable members that the Bill now before the House contains all the provisions necessary for the admission of married women as contributors and for the payment of benefits to them or to their dependants upon their retirement or death. I regard this Bill as an important measure and I commend it to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Howson, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act in relation to losses incurred by primary producers in the Northern Territory. Honorable members will recall that amending legislation was recently approved which removed the seven year limitation on the period for which losses incurred in primary production may be carried forward as income tax deductions. That amendment has effect for all Australian primary producers and applies to primary production losses incurred in the 1957-58 income year or a subsequent year. The Government has, however, received representations that the earlier amendment does not fully meet the position of primary producers in the Northern Territory who have incurred losses in consequence of drought conditions which have lasted for more than eight years. This Bill proposes an amendment which is designed to meet the special circumstances of these primary producers. Its effect is that primary production losses incurred in the Northern Territory during the 1950-51 income year and subsequent years may be carried forward for deduction without any restriction on the carry-forward period.
As was the case with the provisions recently enacted in respect of losses of primary producers generally, the amendment proposed by the Bill will apply in assessments for the 1965-66 income year and subsequent years. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 25th October (vide page 2147), on motion by Mr. Snedden -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Universities (Financial Assistance) Bill contains in the Second Schedule a provision for the expenditure of $350,000 on the erection of a building for the arts, commerce and science departments at the Wollongong University College. I propose to direct my remarks to that item and to the history, the status and the needs of that institution.
During the course of this debate Government supporters have lavished quite considerable praise upon the activities of the Government and of the Australian Universities Commission in the field of tertiary education. But the picture of tertiary education in the City of Wollongong and the Wollongong University College is a grim one indeed, and I propose to give that picture in some detail. In the first place, it may be appropriate for me to refer to the history of that University College.
In 1949 the New South Wales Government, by legislation, established at Kensington in the City of Sydney a University of Technology. By section 29 of the legislation it empowered the Council of that University to establish a branch, department or college in any other part of New South Wales. Consequent upon the legislation the Council of the then University of Technology established a branch at the technical college at Wollongong. In 1958 the students there had grown to sizeable numbers. I might digress here and say that they were able to take diploma courses only, but their numbers nevertheless had increased to 205, all being accommodated at the technical college at Wollongong.
Al that time the New South Wales Government decided to broaden the scope of the University of Technology and by further legislation that institution was reconstituted as the University of New South Wales. Following the reconstitution, a University College was established at Wollongong. At present the enrolment at that College is of the order of 850. lt has grown progressively and remarkably, but nevertheless it has not kept pace, proportionately, with the increase in the population of the area. The total population of the area, including the tablelands and the Shoalhaven district, is about 250,000. By the year 1970 the University College could, if it were functioning fully, have an enrolment of about 1,700. On present indications its enrolment will scarcely reach 1,000. The reason for this is simply that the University College is in tutelage, in vassalage; it is dependent upon and under the control of the parent body. As a result of certain happenings within my constituency, and certain negotiations or discussions between the Universities Commission and the Council of the University of New South Wales, there is a very substantial and growing demand for complete autonomy for a distinct Wollongong University, and J propose to address my remarks specifically to this subject.
At the present time about 50 per cent, of the students are employed in local industries. To gain tertiary education they must sacrifice their leisure time by attending either on specified days or at night. In the School of Metallurgy, as an example, at Wollongong University College there are no fewer than 150 students. It is the largest such school in Australia. But, typifying the treatment we have received, there are only six senior instructors, senior lecturers or senior tutors to meet the needs of these 150 students, while at the University of New South Wales itself, where only 75 students are enrolled in the School of Metallurgy, there are 18 senior instructors. There is, of course, a professor at the University of New South Wales; there is none at Wollongong.
I may say that the present agitation commenced with the raw deal we were being handed by the Council of the University of New South Wales following the decision of the present Government to impose an overall cut of the order of 20 per cent, on the recommendations of the Universities Commission. The method of applying this cut was left, of course, to consultation between the Universities Commission and the University of New South Wales and, in the vernacular, Wollongong was the little pig at the trough. It was shouldered aside by the big ones. In fact, at one stage it was reported on the most reliable authority that we were to lose the arts, science and commerce building which the Government, to its credit, has restored to the list in the Second Schedule to the Bill. This has highlighted public interest in the University College. It is not that such interest has ever been lacking, but it is at fever heat at the moment. There is strong resentment of the treatment we have been receiving from Sydney, and this has directed particular attention to the present deficiencies at Wollongong. These deficiencies are concerned with staffing and with the type and variety of courses available.
I might at this point refer the House to a report, published in the “ Australian “ newspaper of 15th October, cf an address by Senator Gorton, Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research, at the opening of additions to the University of New South Wales. He said that we may have to build more universities. He said that many university campuses were already overcrowded and that their enrolment should be restricted. He said that if this occurs it will require as a corollary the establishment of some new universities such as we are seeing in Macquarie, Newcastle, Latrobe and Monash. He went on to say that there should be a rationalisation of faculties amongst the universities so that they could concentrate on developing a high standard in certain fields, lt might be fairly contended that the senator should have had in contemplation the particular needs of an autonomous university at Wollongong.
I speak with the authority of both the academic staff association ot the college and also of the students’ union when I put these facts before the House. I propose to present a fully documented case both to the Minister and to the Universities Commission, with a request that within their functions as defined by statute they should institute the fullest possible inquiry into the present situation and the relationships between Wollongong University College and its parent body.
I have here a letter from the president of the Association of academic staff at Wollongong University College. It is dated 24th October. I do not propose to read it in full, but it contains full documentation of the association’s proposals for an autonomous university. The association goes so far as to suggest that in particular there should be an interim council replacing the present advisory council of the University College at Wollongong for that purpose, because in its present form there is a majority of Kensington men on that University and empire building being what it is, whether amongst academics, businessmen, in commerce or anywhere else, Kensington does not intend to let Wollongong go. Nor do the empire builders there want to see any part of their domain diminished by the establishment of a separate university. Conversely, Wollongong is being tolerated and barely tolerated. The College there is a necessary evil. It will be curbed and kept under restraint but not eliminated. It has been receiving the most shabby and contumelious treatment from University of New South Wales Council. I say this with due respect for the minimal representation we have there in the person of Dr. Matthews, who has had the welfare of Wollongong University College at heart right since its inception.
These are some of the facts: Wollongong, of course, is a unique area. Its University College is a separate individuality. It is an individuality which is being nullified by the fact that the College and the courses it offers cannot adequately reflect or serve the needs of the region in which it is situated. It cannot reflect or serve those needs because it is tied academically and administratively to the University of New South Wales. In contradistinction, the University of New South Wales is a large open university set up to meet the needs of a diverse metropolitan area. The University College at Wollongong on the other hand is in the centre of tertiary industry for an area which comprises not only the industrial complex of Port Kembla but also extensive coal mining and primary producing districts. It is therefore situated in an area of highly specialised regional needs and fits precisely within the context of Senator Gorton’s remarks.
We are mindful, of course, of the particular problems of our sister steel city of Newcastle which had a similar struggle for autonomy - which it ultimately achieved. Wollongong is going through precisely the same cycle that Newcastle passed through. The victory Newcastle achieved will, we hope and intend, be achieved by Wollongong in the fullness of time.
As I already pointed out, Sir, the College is at present prevented from adequately serving the needs of the Wollongong dis trict because the University of New South Wales has made it a policy to refuse to allow Wollongong to introduce subjects or courses in which it does not intend to offer similar courses. The University of New South Wales has consistently regarded local interests and has hampered the college by confining its growth within a narrow conscription. The result for Wollongong has been fragmentation - fragmentation of existing courses of a large university, where neither the pattern of development of that university nor the fragmentation of its pattern of development could be considered appropriate or relevant to Wollongong’s situation. Even the examination papers are drawn up at the University of New South Wales. They are based on syllabi drawn up in that university. Given this framework the role assigned to the academic staff at Wollongong University College is one of insignificance. It must be stated, of course, that relations are by no means inharmonious between the professional staff at Kensington and their counterparts, or the senior lecturers, at the Wollongong University College. But I think this is the nub of the whole problem: The attitude of the University of New South Wales towards the Wollongong University College has prevented that college from introducing in their due order courses in Geography II, Geology II. Psychology II-
– What has this to do with he Commonwealth?
– A great deal, because Wollongong has a demand for autonomy. lt is one of the functions of the Australian Universities Commission - if the Minister for the Navy would choose to inform himself of the terms of the Act - to have such matters as this referred to it for investigation. I want it investigated in the interests of my constituents and in the interests of the people of Australia, because Wollongong is an area of national importance. To resume, after that interruption, it would appear that at present the College will not be able to offer these subjects, nor will it be allowed to introduce such other subjects as biology, French and Sociology, courses for which the Australian Universities Commission made specific provision in its recent report. The College may also be forced even to drop some of its existing courses - notably Economics II and III,
Accounting II, Commercial Law I and II and Business Statistics.
This is the point I want to hammer home: Because of this a student starting tertiary education at Wollongong is forced to go elsewhere to complete bis studies. Of the 850 students there at present some 400 are employees in industry and will suffer immediately through this. In addition to that, there are up to 200 students at the teachers college which functions within the same grounds as the University College. The State Department of Education certainly has a vested interest in this college. The discrimination which is being shown has reached the point of explosion. The staff association of the College realises that there is a definite requirement for a regional university, and by giving the University College at Wollongong autonomy, severing it from the University of New South Wales and proceeding to use it as a basis for future and specialised development such a regional university could be established. I will not burden honorable members with the needs in full, but in the period 1967-68 there is a requirement for the appointment of an additional 28 members to the academic staff. Further than that, Wollongong University College at present has professors only of Engineering, History and Mathematics. The staff association suggests establishment of additional professional chairs in the following eight departments: Biochemistry, Chemistry, Economics, English, French, Metallurgy, Physics and Sociology. These are matters which are quite within the competence of the Australian Universities Commission to investigate.
Let us lake the point of view of the student union at Wollongong University College. The students’ statement runs along these lines: That Wollongong being essentially an industrial city, the majority of students are from wage earning homes - that would be correct after excluding the number of students that come from the teachers college. As well as this, about 50 per cent, of students are part time, employed mainly in local industry and cannot move to Sydney, and get duplicate jobs there, to obtain their necessary academic qualifications. Neither the full time student nor the part time student can afford to move outside the district to obtain a degree. For such students, with the exception of a few on scholarships, it is Wollongong or nothing. Any retarding of Wollongong University College will in effect deprive them and the University of much needed degrees. They object in the strongest terms to such retrograde steps as being economic discrimination. Students have been affected already on many occasions by the fact that courses are not offered in most subjects begun in first year. 1 will refer to those in some detail. Students in point of fact are being forced to accept lesser degrees. They are paying the same fee for a lesser education and are deprived of the possibility of the highest academic advancement. The best students, the source of postgraduate work, must leave after their first year to obtain an adequate education. This depresses the academic level of the remaining students.
The needs as specified by the students’ union at Wollongong University College and a summary of the restrictions applying to them are these: In Arts I, one can major only in History. Students wishing to major in Mathematics normally must take out a Bachelor of Science degree. English is available only to two years. Psychology and Geography are available to one year only. Adequate facilities do exist for Science subjects required for the B.A. degree. There are no facilities for honours degrees. In the Science course, Physics students are unable to complete their honours degree at this College, yet this is the major centre of heavy industry in the southern hemisphere. Metallurgy students- the School of Metallurgy at the Wollongong University College is the largest in the southern hemisphere - must complete their fourth year at the University of New South Wales in Kensington. Mathematics students are unable to complete an honours degree.
In Engineering, which is of vital importance in a district of heavy industry, Civil Engineering is available only to second year level and there is a feeling that even this may be discontinued. For a Bachelor of Commerce degree no student can complete either a pass degree or an honours degree at Wollongong University College. I should like to refer the House to the comment contained in the 64th Report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education as submitted to the Australian Universities Commission in relation to Wollongong University College. The report laid this down as a guiding principle -
The development of Wollongong University College should be continued at a rate sufficient to meet regional needs with due regard to the resources of the technical college serving the area.
Development in fact is not proceeding at a rate sufficient to meet those developmental needs. As I have said, by the early 197G’s, instead of an enrolment of 1,700 we will be lucky to achieve an enrolment of 1,000. That is due to the fact that we are being deliberately stifled. So far as the University of New South Wales is concerned it is not a case of spreading scarcity evenly; it will take what it needs and, if anything is left, Wollongong might get some consideration. But the situation is so bad that in many cases vacancies in lectureships and tutorships, both full time and part time, have been left unfilled for months and even for close on a year. In many cases the requirements which have been imposed by the University of New South Wales in deciding on the successful applicants have been so high that persons have been discouraged from pressing their applications.
What 1 am about to say may give in closer detail the disadvantage being suffered by some groups of students. In first year Arts there are 120 students; in second year Arts there are 50; in third year Arts there are 12 only because they can major in History and nothing else. Some 15 have already gone to Kensington to study English III. In English Hi there are 20 students who would, if it were possible and if facilities were available to them, complete their course at Wollongong University College. For Economics III 40 students are offering. For Psychology II 80 students are offering. But none of these courses is available. For Geography II 100 students are offering but no course is available. For Economics II 50 students are offering.
I refer now to the local reaction. A letter from Mr. M. J. Syer, the County Clerk of Illawarra County Council, is typical of the many letters of protest that 1 have received. He expresses on behalf of his Council the gravest concern at the present situation at
Wollongong University College. In a letter dated 18th October, he states -
At present Council is one of the largest employers of tertiary education level staff in the district, having approximately 25 per cent, of its staff actively engaged on courses at university and technical college level. Any attempt to restrict the future development and expansion of these facilities would have a serious impact on the Council’s requirements and, subsequently, on the community as a whole.
It is obviously impossible with the present relationship between the two institutions ever to achieve some harmonious balance. Within the next triennium it is the objective of the academic staff, of the students union and of the citizens of the city of Wollongong and adjoining districts to achieve autonomy. 1 have burdened the House at some length with the gravamen of their complaints. Time will not permit me to deal in detail with the next point, but 1 add that I have received from Mr. Chegwidden, the president of the students union, a mass of letters of protest from individual students who had stated their particular needs and the hardships under which they are placed because of their inability to complete their full course in most subjects at the Wollongong University College. But I say in conclusion that this battle in an industrial district will be waged in a traditional manner, lt will be waged by the academics and by the working men alike because there are plenty of people within my constituency who have not had the opportunity in earlier life of achieving tertiary education, and who would undoubtedly avail themselves of the opportunities if full courses were available in the various faculties. There is an urgent need for autonomy. I repeat that it is my intention to place the full facts before the Minister and the Australian Universities Commission with a request for an immediate and urgent full time inquiry.
.- The House is debating a number of measures dealing with the finances of universities and of advanced educational institutions. What the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) has said is indicative that in at least one relatively small university - I do not say this disrespectfully - there are inadequacies in the provision of funds. In the sort of world in which we live and in the light of a number of statements which have been made about how much the Government has at heart the future of this country, I think one should be concerned that anywhere in Australia any student is deprived of the opportunity to receive university education if he has the competence to take it. Unfortunately, that is the situation in Australia and it is the situation in Wollongong. It is the situation in the great and older universities of Melbourne and Sydney where quotas have been applied in order to limit the number of students attending a university and to keep out of a university people who, because of their talent, should be going to a university. I suggest that this is a very serious circumstance in Australia in 1966. 1 have said before that the Government contemplates the future as though the year was 1066 rather than 1966. Whereas it should be looking 10 or IS years ahead, it seems to have a hand to mouth approach.
Surely in this year the tragedy of university education - I know that it is easy enough to shift the blame - is that the recommendations of the Australian Universities Commission, a body set up by the Government to recommend to the States and the Commonwealth what the expenditure ought to be in three year periods, have not been accepted and that what it has recommended for this triennium has been cut back, not only in respect of what are called annual and recurrent items but also in respect of capital items. I want to show in a moment what the nature of expansion ought to be in Australia in the next 10 years or so. Some of the larger universities, and even the smaller one referred to by my colleague, face the situation where they may even have to reduce staff or certainly will be unable to take on the additional staff that they require. It is a little difficult to find out from these measures what is the Commonwealth’s expenditure in this field of education. Large sums are mentioned, but no attempt is made to equate them with other expenditures. Until I went to a rather handsome document published by the Commonwealth and entitled “ The Commonwealth Government in Education “ I found it difficult to ascertain the expenditure by the Commonwealth on universities. In an appendix that was inserted in order to include the 1966-67 estimated figure, I discovered that this year the Commonwealth will make grants to the
States for universities totalling 554.500,000, in round figures. In addition, it will pay to its own university - the Australian National University - the sum of SI 9.6 million. Further, it will give assistance to Australian students - they are not all university students - amounting to about S26 million. Sums of about $74 million for university education and about $26 million for assistance to Australian students seem to represent an impressive contribution by the Commonwealth, but when we come to relate them, as wc ought to do, to what it is estimated will bc spent not only on university education but on the whole of education in Australia this year and in the foreseeable future, we quickly see how inadequate the contribution is.
I should like to refer to some very interesting figures, some of which have been cited by one or two of my colleagues. The figures were given in a lecture delivered at the Tenth Theodore Fink Memorial Seminar in the University of Melbourne on 4th October 1966 - only a few weeks ago - by Professor Peter Karmel, ViceChancellor of the Flinders University, South Australia. He entitled his lecture “ Some Arithmetic on Education “. He showed that for the year 1965-66, the last complete year for which figures arc available, the total expenditure on education at all levels by both private and public sectors was $A788 million, to which the Commonwealth had made a contribution of $94 million. The figure will be higher this year. The expenditure on universities alone in the year 1965-66 was $155 million, of which the Commonwealth contributed in the region of $65 million. So the major part of university finance in Australia is still provided by the States, not by the Commonwealth.
Professor Karmel estimated that the proportion of the gross national product now being spent on education in Australia was 3.8 per cent. He anticipates that if the full fruits of education are to be available to all Australians who will require them, within 10 years the proportion of the gross national product devoted to education will have to be between 4i per cent, and 5 per cent. Let us see what this really means. It is a reasonable assumption that by 1975 the gross national product of Australia will be at least $30,000 million, assuming there are no variations in price levels. If we take the figure of 5 per cent, that has been mentioned, by 1975 the annual expenditure on education should be $1,500 million, as against the projected expenditure of about $800 million for this financial year. Even if we take the lower figure of 4) per cent, mentioned by Professor Karmel, the amount required will be $1,350 million - an increase of something like $550 million over a period of less than 10 years. This means that the amount to be devoted to education in Australia every year should be increased by a minimum of approximately $60 million.
After all, what we strive for in education is to educate more children. We have relatively more children to our total population than ever before, and our population is rising. We aim to keep those children at school longer. We aim to educate them in smaller classes and with much more sophisticated equipment. More of them go on to the secondary and tertiary levels, and we demand that they should be educated by teachers with higher qualifications. These are the kind of things tha’ lead to a rapid acceleration of expenditure on education.
Unfortunately, you can put very simple thumb screws upon the natural expansion of education. You can cut down in two relatively simple places. You can cut down the rate at which you train teachers and you can cut down the provision of capital facilities for education. These seem to me to be the methods by which this Government is retarding the proper progress of education in Australia. There is inadequate provision for teacher training and there is inadequate provision for capital expansion. Therefore, the Government is able to say, unfortunately, that we can only spend such and such a sum on education this year because it is no good sending children to schools that are not there or sending them for higher education to places where there is not the stall to teach them. These are the limiting factors - the sort of things that the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) spoke about. He pointed out that in the Wollongong area people who want to go to universities and who, if they did go, could be used subsequently as teachers or could be employed in industry, are not being put through the institutions at all. This seems to me to be an appalling sort of situation; but the Government seems to be very complacent about what it has done.
I suggest that there are other figures which are worthy of contemplation here. I refer in particular to a table which Professor Karmel submitted with his lecture and which deals with the proportions of their budget, which State Governments and local authorities devote to education. There again is one ot the rather simple little thumb screws that the Commonwealth is able to put upon the natural expansion of education. It is very easy to talk about matching grants and to say that for every $1.85 that the States spend the Commonwealth is prepared to contribute another $1. But the Commonwealth exercises the major financial control in Australia. The other day I spoke about how the University of Tasmania tried to resist increasing its fees because it believes, rightly, that owing to the nature of economic development in that State, the per capita standard is some $200 less, on the average, than in mainland Australia. Surely we do not regard education as something just for an elite group. We are a democratic community that believes that everybody who has talent should be given an opportunity to develop his talent. The Tasmanian Government believed that the talent of that State could best get to the universities if fees were kept low. Because it kept the fees low, the Commonwealth, through the machinery of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which operates under the terms of section 96 of the Australian Constitution, penalised the State by reducing the grant that would otherwise have been made to it. I suggest that the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Gibson), who comes from Tasmania, should think about that and consider whether it is a reasonable kind of approach.
– Does the honorable member suggest that this was a Government decision?
– Does the honorable member believe that it was a Government decision?
– I asked whether the honorable member suggested that it was.
– That what was a Government decision?
– The decision of the Grants Commission.
– Of course it is a Government decision. The Commission is backed by this Parliament. It is a body created to make certain decisions. Does the honorable member intend to shelter behind the subterfuge that it is not a Government body?
– The Government does not control its decisions.
– It is established under an act of this Parliament to enable certain States to function at the same level in a Federal system as that at which the other States function. The decision was a Government decision. This Government, through its Treasury, was happy to back it. I suggest that the honorable member for Denison listen to me while I read paragraph 129 of the Thirty-third Report of the Commission. It states -
The Commonwealth Treasury agreed with the general principle of the Commission’s treatment of University finance. The Treasury suggested thai the Commission should make an adverse adjustment in the case of each claimant State equal in amount to the burden of the budget on any abovestandard contribution to its University.
The above standard contribution was the contribution by the Tasmanian Government of more of the revenue of the Government of Tasmania instead of the people of the State being asked to pay higher fees. If the honorable member, after listening to the terms of paragraph 129 of the report, does not believe that the Commonwealth Treasury made the decision, all I can say is that English must have been taught in Tasmania slightly differently from the way in which it was taught in Melbourne when I went to school.
– Does not the Grants Commission apply this reasoning to other fields apart from universities? Does it not apply its reasoning on university fees also to railway freights and fees?
– lt docs. The point that I am trying to make is that in the matter of university finance this Government appears to be falling back on the subterfuge that the responsibility is solely a State one. I want to get back to the figures given by Professor Karmel in his lecture with respect to expenditure on education as a proportion of the total expenditure on goods and ser vices by Australian State and local government authorities. In 1948-49 - the first year given - recurrent expenditure on education was 30.2 per cent, of State and local government authority Budgets. By 196S-66, the proportion had risen to 41.9 per cent. The figure for capital expenditure rose from 2.6 per cent, in 1948-49 to 9.6 per cent, in 1965-66. So, in 1965-66, State and local government authorities spent on education alone more than half their total revenues - a considerably higher proportion than 17 years earlier. Yet honorable members opposite seem to be satisfied that the principle of matching grants is equitable. In my view, the principle of matching grants, applied in the way proposed here, makes impossible the satisfactory functioning of education in Australia.
The Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research (Senator Gorton), in a statement made in another place, has put on the shoulders of the States responsibility for the failure to face up to the aggregate expenditure that the Australian Universities Commission recommended for the triennium from 1967 to 1969 inclusive. That is a convenient device for the Commonwealth to adopt. But it is one that is intolerant of the real financial problems of the States and indifferent to the proper understanding of education in Australia. 1 believe that Professor Karmel’s figures are not exaggerated. They represent careful projections made in the light of the number of children already born. Apart from a few young people who may migrate here in the next few years, almost every child who will attend a university in Australia in the next 20 years has already been born, for one does not get to a university until one is 17 or 18 years of age. The Government knows now what the projections will be as far ahead as 1975 and 1985. Yet, in the face of an expanding child population, this financial year it proposes to reduce expenditure by some of the most firmly established Australian universities. Any government that seeks to justify that kind of approach seems to me to have vacated its responsibilities altogether.
What the Government does not seem to realise also is the increasing proportion of expenditure on education that is now devoted to capital items. It seems to me that this trend will continue for a long time. For many years yet, we shall have an expanding child population and we shall face the need for more schools. This imposes a crippling burden on State services. I was interested to note that the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education in Australia adopted an objective which is stated by saying that it did not believe that the entry of students into various courses should be restricted by forecasts of future needs. It meant the demands of industry rather than the needs of a population for education. The Committee went on to say that these would circumscribe educational opportunity and involve the risk of grave error. I agree with that diagnosis. I do not believe that a democratic community can say that only a certain percentage of the people is capable of university education and that the rest should somehow be directed elsewhere. Yet, in many ways, that seems to be implicit in the kind of approach adopted by this Government. At present, many people capable of university education are being denied it because there are not enough scholarships and because too many parents cannot afford to educate their children at universities. One of the difficulties in Tasmania was that unless a prospective student lived in Hobart he had to go there to board, and the facilities for boarding were inadequate. This sort of thing was mentioned by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). All these problems are problems that are not being grappled with.
I do not go all the way with some of my colleagues in the idea that the institutions that represent an alternative to the universities are not quite as good as the universities. I believe that idea is bad. In my view, at present some people are going to universities simply because there is no other place for them to go. That seems a fair enough comment. Because there are no alternative institutions, there is nowhere else to go. Broadly speaking, if a student has matriculated a university is the only place for him to go to continue his education. The facts are not satisfactory in my view. The new tertiary institutions that are now proposed may alleviate the university problem, but they will not alleviate the total problem, because the expenditure per student in those institutions will not be much less than in the universities. You will still require staff for a long time - probably university trained. You will still require advanced and sophisticated capital equipment. But surely in a democratic community our whole emphasis on education should not be that it is necessary for industrial purposes or some other reason. To my mind education has a purpose in a democratic society independent of the fact that it is necessary in order to earn your daily bread. There should be time to pick lilies as well as time to eat bread. Surely our cultural needs as well as our economic needs should be satisfied. At least it was gratifying to see that observation made by the Wark Committee. If you like you can say that we need only a certain percentage of engineers or other categories of skilled people.
One thing of which you cannot always be sure is that if you obtain your required percentage, they all will see the course through. Some may be excluded from other faculties, as happened in Wollongong to people who want to study economics. In many respects that is an arid course to follow, but if people choose it it is their free choice to make. In terms of this country’s needs in an approaching age of abundance, if we systematically maintain our economy, it is a tragedy that anybody should be denied the opportunity of higher education at any level. So whatever government is here in a few weeks’ time, it will have to spend considerably more on education than has hitherto been spent. I will not argue at this stage whether this money should be found in this way rather than in that way but if the Government has to double its expenditure in this field in the next 10 years or so it will have to match its financial provision with the needs of students. In my opinion the measures are inadequate in terms of current need. For convenience three measures are being debated together. They give us an opportunity to ponder upon our fundamental problems.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, would this be a convenient time to suspend the sitting?
– In the 11 years that I have been in this place I have often, when requested, made concessions to people on the other side, but I have rarely received equal courtesy from them. But it does not matter. Perhaps there will be different faces on the other side after 26th November although I shall still be in the Parliament.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) pointed out that it is the Government’s custom to hide behind statutory bodies. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Gibson) implied, by way of interjection, that there was a reasonable curtain of excuse for anything the Government had failed to do in the field of education. The Labour Party does not view the matter that way. We believe that education is a national responsibility. We believe that this applies in fields of education other than university education. This does not mean that we believe there should be a great Commonwealth department to see that the people who attend our 8,000 State schools and our 14 universities do so in regimental order, but we believe that we can no longer take refuge behind the claim that education is a State responsibility. Nothing is exclusively a State matter. If it deals with Australians and if it affects their opportunities in the community, it it a matter for this Parliament. It is Australian if it has to do with people. So we are here today placing before the Parliament some of the deficiencies which we find in the structure of university education, and dealing with everything from the current situation in universities to the Government’s failure to adopt recommendations of the Australian Universities Commission.
Several matters have been brought to the attention of the House. There is the problem of matching grants. It is axiomatic in the Australian governmental system that the States have limited resources. 1 do not deny that many States have shown a lack of initiative or adventurous spirit in the handling of their finances. Many State Governments are restricted and inhibited by tradition. They show little capacity to examine new fields of finance or public endeavour. The shackles imposed under the Federal system upon the States by the Commonwealth have left the State Premiers and Treasurers biting their fingernails waiting to see what crumbs will fall from the Commonwealth’s table. The system of matching grants has become particularly iniquitous. Under this system, the Commonwealth offers its $1 million but until the decision is made and the quota is applied the State is unable to apply lU finances. The result is that it must either decide not to proceed in a particular field or to divert finances from somewhere else. I find little evidence that there is a consistent system of priorities applied by the Commonwealth. Although statutory bodies such as the Australian Universities Commission and the Commonwealth Grants Commission are applying themselves to this problem of trying to integrate the needs of the community, I find very little evidence that the Cabinet or its advisers are applying themselves in this field.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to the matter of accommodation. 1 would think that iti a country such as Australia the provision of adequate accommodation at universities would be a matter both of social need and economics. It would seem to me to be reasonable to provide adequate accommodation in some of the smaller universities so that their student bodies could be expanded and we could make maximum use of the capital works that have already been placed there and of the staff to be found there. I do not know to what extent the University of Tasmania, for example, could be expanded, but at present it has 2,500 students. It probably has the administrative capacity to handle double that number, lt may be more economical to provide adequate accommodation for another 2,500 students from all over Australia in Tasmania than to expand university accommodation in the large universities, many of which are tending to become nothing more than scholastic factories, if that is not a contradiction of terms. The Australian community is not accustomed to this view. There is very little movement from State to State. Perhaps it would be a good thing if we encouraged it. There is a university college in Townsville which I have no doubt could be expanded readily if anybody had the will and the wit to do so. This would necessitate a substantial advance in the scholarships system. There are very few parents in the community who could satisfactorily maintain a student so far from home and in the expensive manner in which young people of 18, 19, 20 and 21 years of age expect to be maintained these days - a manner to which they are entitled in a community such as ours.
It seems to us on this side of the House that it is time for a detailed examination of the principles behind university development. This examination should be made in the light of needs rather than allow the situation to drift as at present. I again remind the House of the tremendous wastage of female talent in this country. Last year there were 50,000 or 60,000 young men in our universities but only 20,000 or 21,000 young women. Somewhere along the line 40,000 young Australians with equal talent, equal social background and, apparently, equal opportunity as far as their parents were concerned, dropped out of the academic race. Everybody associated with teaching or education will admit that the talent was there but that it was some social disability which removed these people from the academic field principally on the basis of their sex. This is not something that can be challenged on the basis of finance nor even of supplying new facilities. It is something which the nation should tackle.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I was dealing with some of the problems that still remain unresolved and in fact have not so far been tackled by the Australian Universities Commission or found their place in general Government planning for education. 1 briefly mentioned the wastage of female talent in the community. A tremendous amount of talent lies equally in the female section of the community as in the male section, yet the figures show there is a tremendous wastage of female talent. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) was sitting at the table when I said this before the sitting was suspended. He said by interjection that perhaps the young women did not want to go on to universities. This may well be so; but their lack of desire to obtain a higher education is part of the social pattern. In other countries, women play a much more effectual part in the top branches of administration, science, law and government, for that matter. Australia is lagging behind in recognition of the talents of womenfolk. Last year the universities held some 40,000 more young men than young women, yet at every level of education the academic effort of the young women is equal to that of the young men. Therefore, the only reason for their falling out of the higher levels of the educational system is a social one. Somewhere along the line someone does not want to keep them in the education system. They may feel inhibited about going on to the higher levels, or their parents may feel some incapacity about it or do not feel the pressure necessary to help them to continue. Perhaps it is some element in society itself that is lacking. But I believe that this is one aspect of tertiary education that so far has not been examined thoroughly or tackled adequately. There is a tragic human waste.
The other point I was making related to the failure to face the problem of university accommodation throughout Australia. 1 believe that expansion of accommodation for students at the smaller universities and university colleges throughout Australia would make a substantial contribution to improving the capacity of universities generally to take students and probably the cost would be lower than the cost of any other method of achieving this result. For 1966, the University of New England has 4,310 students and Newcastle 1,990. The projection shows that in 1969 New England will have 4,420 and Newcastle 2,260. It seems to me that the general facilities around these university colleges could be easily expanded to cope with perhaps twice these numbers. This may not be so with New England now, but perhaps another couple of thousand students would not impose a tremendous strain on the established capital resources there. The community must accept the probability and the possibility, and I think the desirability in many ways, of students shifting from State to State. Australia will be advantaged when people move around it freely. I understand that this is a regular feature of life in other countries. At many American universities, it is almost obligatory for students to live in. It is the custom in a good many British universities. In the older British university cities civilian accommodation is probably more readily available.
Accommodation for students is a problem we must meet in Australia; we must erect adequate accommodation. Townsville will have only 1,120 students in 1969. Tasmania has planned for only 3,080. Here in the Australian Capital Territory the student population will be 4,700. It would seem that in Canberra especially it is possible to plan effectively for the accommodation of thousands more students by simply putting up adequate buildings. The accommodation does not need to be of the rather luxurious type that is sometimes provided for university students. Sometimes the cost of accommodation for an individual student is almost as much as the cost of housing provided by the State Housing Commissions for families. The type of accommodation that could be provided and is desirable for students is worth a close study. The present accommodation is much too expensive. Perhaps this is so with the service blocks that are being erected. The average family cannot afford to pay £7 or £8 a week - or $14 or $15 - for the accommodation of a student child. When fees and other expenses are added, university education becomes an impossibility. I suggest that the Australian Universities Commission, the present Government while it remains in office and the incoming Labour Government must tackle these problems.
I want to deal now with some of the principles that lie behind other matters that we are considering now. The Government appointed the Australian Universities Commission to examine the structure of universities in Australia and to make recommendations to the Government. There is no doubt that the Commission carries out its task very thoroughly. But we have created a system of filters. First, the universities determine their needs, perhaps after discussions between the departments within their own structures, and I presume that the universities submit a statement of their requirements to the Commission. Then the Commission undertakes a rationalisation of all these requests. If honorable members turn to page 193 of the recent report of the Commisison, they will see the way in which Monash University has been treated. I do not know whether this procedure is correct. I do not know whether the requests of Monash were reasonable or extravagant, but this shows the process of filtering that goes on before the requests of universities reach the Government. Even when they reach the Government, the process of filtering continues.
Many of the principles adopted by the Government in education have not been explained. The Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and
Research (Senator Gorton) has asserted quite often that universities are not necessarily open to everybody who has matriculated. In other words, the Government does not believe that university doors are open to all qualified people. There is still a tendency to regard university education as the education of the elite. Somewhere along the line, we ought to decide what proportion of the population we should expect to reach the universities. Why should it be 8 per cent, or 10 per cent, or whatever the percentage is at the moment? Not only does the process of filtering exist in the financial field; it exists also in the academic area. Sometimes students are excluded from universities in an arbitrary way. I believe that this has happened in the Victorian matriculation examinations, and I am pleased to know that the authoriites in Victoria will examine the whole system. We should decide that our universities and the senior tertiary system of education of Australia will be capable of accommodating perhaps 25 per cent, of the population.
I am not convinced that the projections we have before us from the Australian Universities Commission, and before that from the Murray Committee, are based upon a rational examination of the social factors at work. I represent an industrial area. There has been a substantial and almost dramatic rise in the number of people who have matriculated in my area. The pressure being exerted on universities to provide places for students is increasing. In the past four or five years in one part of my electorate the number of young people intending to matriculate has risen from 30 or 40 to 160 or 170. The number has gone up fivefold.
– That is a tribute to their member.
– Perhaps it is. Perhaps they are inspired to greater effort. But the fact is that this is evidence of social change. Statisticians and demographers can say how many people were born at a given time and how many people will be in Australia in perhaps 15 years time. But this does not give a true guide to the number of students who will seek admission to universities. A dramatic change has taken place, particularly in working class areas, and parents are now willing to pay large sums for the education of their children. That is part of the general philosophy that lies behind the change and we will have to examine it to determine its effects. I believe the Government is lagging behind the change and is not making adequate assessments of future student populations. It is not good enough to pare down expenditure continually and to say that we are now doing better than we did five years ago.
– The numbers are increasing.
– Of course they are.
– The percentage of students in the population is changing.
– I am giving an account of my experience over 1 1 years in the area I represent. I did much the same sort of arithmetic at school as the honorable member for Robertson did. But simple arithmetic does not allow for the social changes that are taking place. I believe that the projections are based on an inaccurate evaluation of the rights of citizens to enjoy the benefits of higher education. I will not go through a statistical analysis now, but, if the honorable member is fortunate enough to be returned after the election, we will show him what we mean to do about education. At some stage we can have a statistical argument. I am giving the facts of life as I find them in one of the vital and most politically perceptive areas of Australia - the area that returns me to the Parliament. Some principles must be established. 1 believe that access to the universities is an important one, but it is not recognised by the Government and nothing has been done about it. In Victoria, more so than in New South Wales, the academic principles applied are more restrictive than they ought to be. I believe the geographic aspect deprives many people in Australia from the opportunity of undertaking university education. Difficulties imposed by geography have an effect. This brings me back to the question of accommodation, which I raised earlier. Then there are the resources inside. It is time we had a national attitude to university education and to tertiary education in general. As one of the wealthiest countries in the world it is not necessary or valid for us to compare ourselves with another country. It is time we established principles of our own.
This evening I want to refer to university libraries. Probably the most important part of a university is its library. In the third report of the Australian Universities Commission the following appears -
The Commission has always placed great stress upon the crucial role of the library in a university. The library has to serve teachers and students - humanists and scientists - and while it must offer a first-class general collection, it should also provide sufficient specialised material to enable the highest possible level of research to be carried out in a variety of chosen fields, lt is at this point particularly that most, if not all, of the university libraries of Australia show a decided weakness.
While substantial sums are being made available to the universities in the measures before the House, they are still not adequate nor do they seem to face the real problems lying in university libraries. The Universities Commission said also -
The Commission is strongly of the opinion that positive slops to remedy this deficiency are urgently required.
I believe it will take more than the measures now before us to remedy this deficiency. There are substantial differences between the universities in Australia. Sydney University is the most richly endowed, particularly with books, but Melbourne University, which is in one of the wealthiest parts of Australia, lags seriously behind. Honorable members will find interesting figures relating to university libraries on page 113 of the third report of the Universities Commission.
It is interesting to refer to principles that have been established in other parts of the world. The American Libraries Association, for instance, recommends a library budget of not less than 5 per cent, of the total education and general budget of an institution. An examination of the university libraries in Australia reveals that university libraries are what might be described as the students’ sore spot, particularly in Melbourne University. Melbourne is in a parlous position with its library. There are about 600,000 volumes in the Melbourne University library, and that university has 13,000 students with seating accommodation for 1,100. Sydney University, on the other hand, although it has 16,000 students, has about 1,300,000 volumes. The seating accommodation in our university libraries is completely inadequate, and even with the additional accommodation for 700 to be provided at Melbourne a substantial number of students will have to sit on the floor, lt is a matter of simple observation to see what is happening in Melbourne University. It is not a question of turning up at the end of the year to see this, because at any time students can be seen queueing up at 8.40 a.m. to get into the library. They squat in places to study. They sit on the floor; they sit everywhere. There are about 1 3,000 students and I suppose that 80 per cent, of the students would be involved in book learning. This is the most tragic aspect of university accommodation. It is significant that although conservative forces have been running Victoria for so long. Victoria has lagged seriously behind Sydney, and Sydney University, judged by world standards, is nothing to write home about, although it is improving.
Melbourne University would probably need the expenditure of $ I million to bring it to a standard that would be acceptable even on Australian standards. Melbourne University has always lagged behind Sydney University. 1 have an article that relates to the situation in Britain. After referring to comparison between Sydney and Oxford the article states -
Without commenting on this, let us consider the library position of a Sydney student relative say to a student at University College, London. The latter has nol only the College library of 520,000 volumes to draw on but also, practically side by side with it. tile central university library. This latter is itself equal in size to the University of Sydney library. On the crudest calculation, for every member of the library population of University College, there are provided in this way 309 volumes in the libraries immediately available to him, as opposed to 52 for his opposite number in Sydney.
One has only to realise that Sydney University is the most richly endowed of Australia’s universities in this field to realise that the other Australian universities are very poor indeed in this respect. I have figures relating to the University of Queensland. These figures appear in a report prepared by Mr. M. F. Tauber. Of the 250,000 volumes in the Queensland University library only 90,000 were separate titles. These were scattered over 40 separate locations. The library attempts to provide subject cover for 11 faculties as well as supplying books to 2,500 external students. This imposes an impossible burden on the library. Honorable members may be inter ested in other figures. For instance, in 1962 when the University of Sydney had a student population of 14.907 it had 775,000 bound volumes and 1,635 sitting places for readers. Cambridge, on the other hand, was much better served. Cambridge University, of course, has been going for hundreds of years. Some American universities, however, have not been functioning as long as some Australian universities. In fact, a number of American universities are junior in years to Australian universities. In places like Edinburgh and Manchester the student book ratio is greatly in favour of the British student. We are told that Britain is on the skids, that its financial position is serious: yet the British student is generally placed in a more advantageous position than the Australian student for library accommodation.
Adequate library accommodation and facilities represent a serious lack in Australian universities at the moment. However, it is not one of the most difficult problems to tackle. Books are obviously becoming increasingly expensive, and there is probably a strong case to be made for expanding Australian publishing. We still rely heavily on overseas sources. We still rely on book publishers who bind too expensively, who print for specialised overseas markets and who pile up on the cost of printing and publication various distribution charges. By publishing the necessary books locally we could probably reduce the cost of many books in common use by as much as 50 per cent. It is up to us to adopt a more adventurous attitude. In the end it will be only through the general direction of the Commonwealth Government that we will get results. It is fortunate for the Australian university system that it has probably the only integrated approach to education, despite the deficiencies I have been busy pointing out for the last 25 minutes. At least in this area there is some integration, but it is an area into which the Government has drifted. There is no evidence of solid thinking behind it all, or of giving direction, policywise, by the Government. In some areas there has been a revolution. lt is of substantial advantage to tha universities to have funds made available to them each triennium, as presently happens. Our grouch from this side of the
House is based on the failure of the Government to plan in a way closely associated with social and political philisophy which ought to be behind tertiary education. I hope honorable members on the other side of the House will give over their complacency. They hand out far more congratulations than are warranted. What we need is a substantial re-examination of the whole system and of the principles behind it. Of course, we on this side of the House can undertake that that will be done after the next election.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Freeth) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 2 1st October (vide page 2081), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Freeth) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 21st October (vide page 2081), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved inthe affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Freeth) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 21st October (vide page 2082), on motion by Mr. Freeth -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, this Bill provides two kinds of assistance for research. The third report of the Australian Universities Commission recommended the provision of $10 million to be provided to universities for the purpose of research. The Commission went on to say that it was expected that the Commonwealth and the States would continue also the practice originated in 1965 of providing grants for individual or group projects on the recommendation of the Australian Research Grants Committee. Let me return to the first pointI made. The Australian Universities Commission, after all its studies, made the recommendation that the Commonwealth and the States between them should share the burden of providing $10 million over the three year period 1967-69 for the purpose of research being carried out at the universities. The Commonwealth for its part has decided that it will not agree to this commitment of $10 million. Instead of agreeing to that amount and providing half with the other half being provided by the States, the Commonwealth has decided that it will provide half of the amount of $6 million which it has proposed as the amount to be shared between itself and the States to provide for research at universities.
In other words, the Commonwealth over the three year period will provide S3 million and the States will be required to match that amount by another $3 million. To the extent that the States are not prepared to match that $3 million, the Commonwealth will cut down likewise on the amount of grant that it will make for this purpose. I hope that I have heard for the last time a Liberal-Country Party Government proclaim its dedication to the notion of federation in Australia. If this action does not represent standing over the States and dictating policies to the States - financial, educational, cultural or whatever other policies one likes to name - I have not been able to recognise it.
Presumably, the Australian Universities Commission went thoroughly into these activities before deciding to make the recommendation that a grant of $10 million should be made for this purpose. As a matter of fact, at page 108 of its third report, the Australian Universities Commission said -
Based on the continuing increase predicted for post-graduate activities in the 1967-69 triennium, the Commission recommends that a grant of $10 million be made available for allocation in the 1967-69 triennium on a $ for $ basis between the Commonwealth and the States for the support of post-graduate training.
I vividly recall the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, making a strong case for an increase in post-graduate research at our universities. Fortunately, that trend has continued. This challenge has been taken up. A substantial increase has taken place in post-graduate research now being carried out in various universities throughout Australia. No longer do young Australian graduates have to go overseas in order to gain an extra qualification. No longer do they have to go to American, British or European universities in order to obtain Masters degrees or, more probably, their Doctorate degrees. Facilities for research arc being increasingly provided inside our own Australian universities.
As a matter of fact, the third report of the Australian Universities Commission indicates that the Commission expects that, by 1969, 10 per cent, or a little more than 10 per cent, of the students at our Australian universities will be doing post-graduate work. It is in anticipation of that position that the Commission recommended that we set up and extend facilities for research at our universities. Not only did the Commission make this recommendation concerning the provision of $10 million, but also under its general capital . grants recommendations to the State universities made provision for special research grants to those universities. The Commonwealth and the States between them have reduced that part of the general capital grants by $3.9 million. I will go on to explain that matter of special research grants in a moment. I am anticipating myself in that regard.
The main point at the moment is that, instead of the provision of $10 million over three years for research at Australian universities, only $6 million is to be provided. 1 note that on the previous occasion when similar action was taken by the Commonwealth to cut down on research grants to universities, an outcry came from the universities. There was a sudden dislocation of long term research programmes. The universities bitterly complained about this dislocation. Research work is not a matter of setting up facilities overnight. It is a matter of recruiting highly qualified staff at the university level to be able to carry on research programmes and to guide research programmes by graduate students. In many cases, specialised equipment must be acquired for the carrying on of research. So, research programmes are not taken up lightly. They cannot be discontinued lightly or suddenly without very serious repercussions.
Unfortunately the universities are again placed in a similar invidious position. As I have said, the Universities Commission itself laid strong emphasis on the continuing need for post-graduate work in Australia. I have been a member of the Public Accounts Committee for the last six months and I can tell the House that nearly every Government department that comes under the notice of that Committee makes the same complaint - that it does not have enough highly trained administrators and specialist officers available to it. If one looks through the reports of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation one sees constant references to the shortage of professional men to carry out the research work that is so sorely needed in the many activities indulged in by the C.S.I.R.O. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission is another body that has complained about the insufficiency of high grade professional staff for the important work that it carries out. A similar situation no doubt exists in respect of our defence forces and their research programmes. Here again, there is a dearth of high grade professional research people. Yet we have the Commonwealth reducing its contribution under this part of the programme from S5 million to $3 million, lt is reducing its half share of the programme by SI million a year, or £500,000 in our old currency. This is something to be very much regretted.
Under the new procedure introduced only las. year a committee known as the Australian Research Grants Committee was established. It is led by Professor Robertson, an eminent and very capable man, and he was surrounded on the committee by a very solid body of members. The Committee was established to make awards for research projects carried out by individuals or by groups of individuals. They do not have to be people attached to universities, but as it has turned out so far almost all these projects are being carried out within universities or with the use of university facilities. It is interesting to see just what has happened in the period of a little more than 12 months in which this Committee has been in existence. It has been given a pretty free hand in making its grants. It is allowed to make grants for projects without any regard to a balance between States or between universities or between different disciplines of academic study and research. It merely takes each application on its merits. If it decided that all the most worthy ones came from Victoria, or even, to narrow it down further, from Melbourne University, they would be the ones accepted, and the grants would be made in respect of them. Naturally enough, it just does not work out that way. However, the Committee has been given a quite free hand in making this kind of arrangement.
But there is provision in the legislation covering the Australian Research Grants Committee that if the research to be engaged in by the individual or group of individuals is carried out within a State university or with the use of State university facilities, then the particular State has to match the Commonwealth’s grant. One can readily see where this could lead. It might happen in any year or any succession of years that one State would incur a disproportionately large part of the research burden, which is really carried out on behalf of the whole of Australia. It could happen under this kind of arrangement that Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales or any other State involved itself in an unduly large programme. The question that springs to my mind straight away is: How can any State prepare its budget in anticipation of this kind of arrangement? How can a State know, when it is planning its annual budget, what the Research Grants Committee is going to approve for that State? It is all very well for the Commonwealth; it can simply say: “ We are going to provide $5.5 million over the three year period and we expect the States, whoever they may be and in whatever proportion is required of them, to be able to match these grants once the Committee decides which projects are to be supported “.
In the short time in which the Australian Research Grants Committee has been in existence it has received a great number of applications. I remind the House that it came into operation some time in 1965 - I think it was August - and in 1965-66 it received 1,151 applications from individuals or groups of individuals. All of these people, of course, must be graduates; only postgraduate research is involved. With the amount of money that was made available by the Commonwealth and the States, only 406 of these applications, not much more than one-third of the total, could be catered for, despite the fact that the Committee said that all but about 40 or 50 of these applications involved projects of distinct merit. In other words, something like 750 applications of distinct merit had to be rejected because there was not sufficient finance available.
The Commonwealth and the States between them in this period that we are just concluding provided about S4 million, and that amount was sufficient to cover roughly one-third of all the applications. If the total number of applications that were made had been approved the Commonwealth and the States between them would have had to provide $16.3 million, but all that was available was just under S4 million. This is what happened in one year only. 1 can only wonder how the Commonwealth can expect anything like a reasonable number of these applications to be satisfied in the three years ahead if all we are going to provide is $11 million, half of it to be matched by the States if they can do so. I remind the House that a number of the States are already indicating that they will have very considerable difficulty in matching the Commonwealth dollar for dollar in respect of the projects that are approved.
The heavy-handed way in which the Minister has dealt with this situation, the crude, dominating and dictatorial attitude displayed in his speech - and this apparently represents the Government’s attitude - quite amazed me. The Commonwealth is saying that to the extent that a State fails to match, dollar for dollar, the grants by the Commonwealth for these individual research projects, the Commonwealth will make a deduction from the $3 million which represents its share of the money to be provided for university research on recommendations of the Universities Commission. If these are not standover tactics I do not know what are. In other words, the Commonwealth is prepared to wield the big stick to the extent of saying to the States: “ If you do not go along with us and provide an amount to match our grants for these individual projects that are approved, we will cut off from your State university programme an amount equivalent to the amount by which you fail to match our grants for individual projects.” I do not know whether all members of the so-called Liberal Party of this Parliament realise just what the Government is doing to the States under this so-called Federal system under which we exist. It is dictating not only to the States but also to the universities. Where are all the cries for academic freedom in the universities? Where are ali the cries of protest against the intrusion of the Government into the running of our universities? I do not hear them. They certainly do not come from the Government’s ranks. Here the Universities Commission recommends a programme of $10 million but the Government comes along and, without giving us one notion of why it rejects this programme, says: “ We reject this and instead of giving $10 million to the universities - the Commonwealth and the States contributing - for them to decide what research projects they want to carry out we are going to cut it back to $6 million “. The Government is saying it will decide for the most part which projects are to be carried out in Australia through the operations of this special committee which it set up. The Government says that most of the universities research will be dealt with on an individual research basis. There will be individual programmes or group programmes as approved by the outside committee and on advice of the Commonwealth Minister.
This is an intrusion of the first order into the . running of an important part of the university programme. It means that governments are going to intrude, apparently, and this is the thing that the universities have always been worried about. It means that governments will largely decide what sort of research programmes are to be carried out in Australia. This is in line with the general tendency that has been going on in this place in the last two or three years. The Government wants to carry out research programmes which are of immediate consequence mainly to the economic welfare of the community. I can see that we are going to have less and less devotion in education to research in the pure sciences and more and more demands by governments on universities to carry out practical, immediate, utilitarian forms of research. There can be no other explanation of the Government’s attitude. If there is, I would like to hear it.
Why is there this denial to the universities who, traditionally, over the years have united their research work with their teaching work? The universities no longer are to be given this privilege. Universities often say that research, especially so far as their staff is concerned, must go hand in hand with teaching. If you seek a good lecturer at a university you find it is generally the man who is also associated with research. His teaching ability is enriched by his continuing interest in furthering the bounds of knowledge. The research enriches the teaching. 1 will agree that just because a man is a research man he does not necessarily make a good teacher. I found that out to my own pain in days past. But generally it is true that there ought to be this integration of research and teaching. This will be denied to the universities.
The Government’s decision will have a lot of other consequences which I am not going to label tonight. But it could have serious consequences regarding the staffing of the universities. The first thing that a person usually asks when coming to an Australian university from overseas is: “ What opportunities exist within the university for me to run a research programme?” Such programmes, in many cases, are oriented and initiated by the lecturer himself. Here in Australia he will have to run the gauntlet not so much of the university where he is working and from which he seeks employment but the gauntlet of this outside body which advises the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth in turn dictates to the States and intrudes on their rights in this whole programme. If the States only realised it, today they are vassals of the Commonwealth. They are the clerks around the place. They are just the administrators in a petty way. All the decisions are being made at the behest of the Commonwealth. These committees have been set up at the behest of the Commonwealth and their members are chosen by the Commonwealth. The States get only some kind of passing inquiry as to whether they approve. Generally the only inquiry made to the States is: “ Will you be able to match this programme?” This year. 1 think for the first time, the States were, invited to say whether they would be able to divert enough money from other parts of their programme to match the grant by the Commonwealth.
So I launch my protest here tonight. If it is good enough for the Universities Commission - again set up by the Commonwealth - to make a recommendation that a minimum, an absolute minimum, of SIO million should be made available to the universities for research, earmarked for research, and the Commonwealth only comes up with 60 per cent, of that $10 million, then I think it is about time the Government gave us some explanation of its policy. It should explain its change of policy in taking out of the hands of our universities most of the decision about what kind of research programmes are to go on within the universities and to be serviced by the universities. Why should some outside committee be given this task? As I have indicated, Mr. Speaker, this decision could well have repercussions on the staffing of many of our universities. I know that the universities have been rather sore about the dislocation in the programmes that they set in motion only a couple of years ago. The universities received a sudden jolt a little over 12 months ago when they were told that the $5 million they expected to get in that triennial period was to be cut back by $2 million. A sum of $2 million was taken away from the universities and put in the hands of this committee which was to make recommendations and awards to individuals and groups of individuals rather than to universities themselves.
I can see the case for making grants to individuals. I can see a case for co-ordination of research in Australia. 1 can see a case for obviating the duplication that has gone on in different universities in Australia. There has not been enough co-ordination and, as the Universities Commission says, there is still not enough. But this is not to deny, surely, the necessary requirements of the universities to have at least the level of research that they have been carrying on for years. The Government should give the universities their money. If it wants to do this extra thing I am quite happy to subscribe to it so long as it does not mean taking anything away from the universities, or mean intruding into the proper sphere of university study and academic freedom or mean the pursuit of only the immediately valuable kind research programme. If that is so 1 am quite happy to support the kind of body that has been set up.
I do not think I need say much more than that, Mr. Speaker. I think somebody ought to make a protest about it, because there is no explanation in the Minister’s speech for the 40 per cent, reduction of the Universities Commission’s recommendation for the universities. There is no explanation of why the general capital grant to the universities for research programmes should be cut. I finalise my remarks by saying that Australia needs all the first class men it can get for postgraduate study. This must be the destiny of Australia. If it has not got a large number of people then it is going to need to cultivate the best brains it can locate and identify in order to progress. I do not think that the Government is going the right way to achieve this in this Bill.
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) has made a series of rather extraordinary charges under the heading of what he has called a protest. To begin with, he says that the Government, in consultation with the States - although he did not mention that specifically - cut down by 40 per cent, the sum recommended by the Australian Universities Commission for research. He spoke on this at great length. He also spoke about the Australian
Research Grants Committee. But at no stage did he mention the total funds being granted for research in the next triennium. He merely said that there would be a 40 per cent. cut. The truth of the matter is that there is to be a 50 per cent, increase over what the Commission recommended. The Government has cut the Commission’s recommendation to $6 million but it has given an additional $11 million for research through the Australian Research Grants Commission. The honorable member went on to draw a whole series of conclusions from this about academic freedom, the problem of staffing universities, and other matters. The honorable member is one of several spokesmen for this Party who have advocated continuously over this last 12 months the setting up of a national science foundation. Yet when they get a body which is what they have referred to and which operates in the same way as the Minister has regarded as a miniature national science foundation, a body which is giving to the universities the very academic freedom which the honorable member for Barton is accusing us of taking away, the Government is criticised. The operation of the Robertson Committee is to give freedom of application for funds when the funds stop in the department, the faculty or at the professorial board level, or with whoever allocates the funds within the university.
– The faculties will be starved.
– The honorable member should look at the general funds which have increased throughout the whole of the universities, including the 30 per cent, increase in this triennium over the last triennium. But when we look at the report of the Australian Research Grants Committee which was tabled yesterday and which shows the allocations of grants for the next year, we find that they are spread very widely over the universities in relative proportion to the numbers of staff in order of merit. But this is quite obviously almost a statistical fallout which would naturally occur. The honorable member said that the research work that was to be undertaken in the universities would, because of this government interference that he said came in, be more practical and utilitarian and that the basic research would not be undertaken. I defy him to pick out of the list of the Robertson Committee grants made yesterday for the next 12 months any research other than basic research. Consider the $8,000 which is to go to Professor Robinson of the Department of Animal Husbandry or the $4,000 which is to go to Professor Emmens This is basic research of a fundamental nature. There is no foundation for this charge that the honorable member made in which he said that the research work to be undertaken in universities, because of the set-up of the Robertson Committee-
– Has the honorable member talked with the universities about this?
– Yes, I have discussed this with the universities. I happened to work as an administrative officer in a research department of the University of Sydney for five years before I came here.
– The honorable member did? Amazing.
– Well, things should amaze one occasionally. The honorable member for Barton having sought a national science foundation approach for Australian research, when he gets it takes a totally wrong attitude to it. I refer again to three counts that he raised. First, the total amount of money available for research within universities in the next triennium will be 50 per cent, greater than was recommended by the Australian Universities Commission^ Secondly, there is no indication that this research work will be debased or will become more practical. There is every indication that it will remain fundamental because the Robertson Committee, to use the honorable member’s own words, has members who are highly qualified men. They are examining the order of priority and the order of importance of research work. He says that these men are highly qualified. Yet, having praised them, he is in effect damning them afterwards. So far as the staffing for the universities is concerned, there is no indication that through the diversion of funds for research there will be any difficulty in getting staff from overseas for the universities. There is every indication still in Australia that there is no brain drain and that we are a net importer of higher degree men. not only lor our universities but also for our principal research organisations such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. It is, as 1 said at the beginning of my speech, a most extraordinary protest that has been made by the honorable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Freeth) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 21si October (vide page 2079), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure basically is of substantial importance to the people of Australia. Perhaps many people in this country have no direct interest in the question of the payment of a subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers, but it is the function of the Parliament to ensure that it enacts legislation which will assist the Australian economy by permitting the maximum production of agricultural and pastoral commodities. Whether we like it or not, it is indisputable that our agricultural and pastoral lands are deficient in various elements, particularly phosphorus and nitrogen. In those circumstances, those who have the responsibility for guiding the economic destiny of this continent must appreciate that if it is to have the maximum production of primary commodities artificial fertilisers must be available in adequate quantities at reasonable prices to the farming community.
On 21st October 1966 the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), in introducing this Bill, indicated to the Parliament that a subsidy would be payable to the primary producers in respect of fertilisers with a nitrogen content. He said that this would enable the application of fertiliser to their lands and would increase substantially the production of agricultural and pastoral commodities. He said that nitrogenous fertilisers had a particular significance in the production of sugar and fruit. He went further and said that experiments now being undertaken in Australia by research students showed that we could expect a substantial increase in the production of cereals such as barley, oats and wheat, and that with the application of nitrogenous fertilisers we could expect increased production of other agricultural commodities. In speaking of nitrogenous fertilisers, we refer particularly to sulphate of ammonia and urea. It will bc appreciated that the nitrogen content of urea is substantially higher than that of sulphate of ammonia. Those agriculturists who purchase urea will have the advantage of a bounty that has a relation to the nitrogenous content of urea. The same applies to sulphate of ammonia.
In 1961 and again in 1963, when measures relating to the payment of a superphosphate bounty were before the Parliament, the Labour Opposition’ indicated that if it became the government of this country it would subsidise artificial fertilisers with a nitrogen content to an extent relative to the subsidisation of superphosphate. Unfortunately, the Opposition did not become the government of the country, but we feel that our attitude was justified. Tonight we see the results of our pressurisation of the Government reflected in the measure that is now before the Parliament for approval or otherwise. We have no doubt whatsoever that it will be approved.
Those honorable members who have some knowledge of primary production are aware that one of the best methods of introducing nitrogen to the soil is by the cultivation of clovers and other nitrogen producing plants. Subterranean clover, white clover and other members of the clover family, as well as some other plants, impregnate the soil with nitrogen. But although primary producers may sow subterranean clover, white clover, Dutch clover, red clover and other types of clovers which impregnate the soil with nitrogen through the nodules which form on their roots and which extract the nitrogen from the atmosphere, there are certain circumstances and certain environments in which nitrogen cannot be introduced into the soil satisfactorily by this method. In those cases, the only alternative is to use the artificial fertilisers which are available, such as sulphate of ammonia and urea.
The Minister for Primary Industry, quite rightly and prompted by the Labour Party in this Parliament - the Minister smiles, but that is a fact - has introduced this measure to provide for the payment of a subsidy to encourage the utilisation of nitrogenous fertilisers. For a long period now we have been very fortunate in Australia in that we have been able to produce substantial quantities of nitrogenous fertilisers from the by-products of the gas making industry, the electrolytic zinc industry and the chemical industries, but we have not been able to produce enough to meet all the needs of Australia’s primary producers. Therefore, we have been confronted with the necessity to import as much as 44,000 tons of sulphate of ammonia a year from overseas countries. That is a most undesirable state of affairs.
Fortunately, we are beginning to snap out of that particular disadvantage because, with the discovery of natural gas fields, we shall, if the State Governments and the Commonwealth Government are sufficiently alert, be able to put on the market for utilisation by the primary producers of Australia, as a derivative of natural gas, a nitrogenous fertiliser which will cost approximately one-half of what they are paying for the nitrogenous fertilisers they are using today. My researches reveal that the average cost of nitrogenous fertilisers in Australia is now about S3 1 a ton. The most dependable estimates available indicate that, with the use of natural gas, we shall be able to produce nitrogenous fertilisers at less than one-half of what they cost today. I do not think that even my friend the Minister for Primary Industry will deny that.
– We are hoping to be able to start production shortly in Brisbane with the use of gas from the Moonee field.
– The Minister for Primary Industry indicates that he hopes that production of nitrogenous fertilisers from gas discovered in the Moonee area will begin shortly in Brisbane. Does he admit that it will be produced for 50 per cent, of what primary producers are now paying for nitrogenous fertilisers?
We know only too well that one of the greatest users of nitrogenous fertilisers is the sugar industry. Another great user of sulphate of ammonia and urea is the fruit industry. A third great user of these fertilisers is the vegetable growing industry. We know, too, that if we could reduce the price of nitrogenous fertilisers to half their present price, the wheat grower, the oat grower, the barley grower and the pasture grower would be stimulated to increase production by at least 100 per cent. In other words, the production of primary products for home consumption and export could be increased by 100 per cent.
I admit that research into the utilisation of nitrogenous fertilisers is not yet complete. For that matter, research into the utilisation of any fertiliser for primary production purposes is not yet complete. But I make so bold as to predict that if, within a reasonable period of time, the Governments of Victoria and Western Australia, who have control over the offshore production of natural gas in their respective States, together with the Commonwealth Government, are courageous enough to take control of the production of natural gas on behalf of the people of those States, and indeed of the Commonwealth, it will be possible to market nitrogenous fertilisers in Australia at half the cost today. It will be possible to export to the markets of the world a substantial volume of primary products at prices which today would be unprofitable but which in the future will return substantial dividends to the Australian economy. In these circumstances, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Opposition supports this measure because it provides for a subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers used by the primary producers of Australia.
I am sure that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), who has just made an interjection that I could not hear, is as one with me in condemning this Government for standing idle for more than 12 months, though it has sovereign control over offshore gas and oil discoveries, while the Governments of Western Australia and Victoria indolently ignore the need to determine promptly what authority, Commonwealth or State, shall be allowed to fix the price per therm at which natural gas will be sold in Australia. For more than 12 months, we have had an extraordinary situation with respect to the discoveries of natural gas at Barrow Island off the coast of Western Australia and off the coast of Gippsland in Victoria. There has ensued a disgraceful wrangle between the respective State Governments and the respective discoverers of these deposits. The discoverer of the Western Australian deposits is West Australian Petroleum Pty. Ltd., or Wapet, as it is usually known.
– Order! I hope that the honorable member will link his remarks with nitrogenous fertilisers.
– I shall do so. There is in progress a disgraceful wrangle as to who shall distribute the natural gas and the price at which it shall be sold. The Commonwealth exercises sovereign rights over offshore discoveries of oil and natural gas in Victoria and Western Australia. But for 12 long months, this Government, despite its unchallengeable control over the territorial waters of Australia and discoveries of oil and natural gas in those waters, has allowed the Governments of Victoria and Western Australia to play-
– Order! I suggest to the honorable member that his remarks have nothing to .1o with the Bill and that he ought to get back to it.
– What I am saying has a lot to do with the Bill, Sir. Let me tell you that among the most valuable components of natural gas is one that is used in the production of nitrogenous fertilisers.
– So long as the honorable member keeps to that theme, he will not be out of order.
– There is no richer source of a basic material for the production of nitrogenous fertiliser than is natural gas. Those who control the production and distribution of natural gas in Western Australia and Victoria control a most precious jewel indeed. They are in a position to exercise vital control over the volume of primary production not only in those two States but also in every other State. Some months ago, in company with my friend, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), I had an opportunity to consult one of the most eminent experts on natural gas in Australia. I asked him whether it was reasonable to say that natural gas could be used to produce nitrogenous fertilisers at a cost at least SO per cent, below the present cost. I shall not name this gentleman. I shall give you his name privately afterwards, if you wish, Mr. Deputy Speaker. He answered: “ That is correct “. At the time at which I discussed the matter with him, nitrogenous fertilisers were selling in Victoria at £31 a ton. My friend from Melbourne Ports will confirm that this expert agreed that these fertilisers could be produced from natural gas to sell at £15 a ton. Yet we witness the disgraceful spectacle of the Commonwealth Government, which exercises sovereign rights over offshore deposits of natural gas, fiddling about while the State authorities argue with the Esso Exploration Australia Incorporated and Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd interests about who shall distribute the natural gas. In the interim, primary production is retarded and producers are denied the opportunity to benefit by the use of nitrogenous fertilisers purchased at £15 a ton instead of £31 a ton. If this is not a reflection on government in Australia, I would like to know what is. There is no getting away from the facts.
Today, we are informed that within tha last week the Victorian Government has decided that it will appoint a semigovernment authority to control the pipelines between the natural gas deposits in Victoria and the ultimate destinations of the gas. I would be very interested to know exactly who will comprise the personnel of the authority that will control the pipelines and the distribution of the natural gas. I make bold to suggest that the State instrumentality will not allow anybody to obtain natural gas for the extraction of nitrogenous fertilisers for the primary producers of Victoria at a cost equated to actual operating expenses. Let honorable members opposite deny this if they like. Over a long period, I have asked the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) what the Commonwealth Government is doing about the offshore deposits of natural gas. My efforts have been without result. We are told that conferences with the respective States are proceeding. But they do not get anywhere. Within the last week, a conference between representatives of the Victorian Government and the Federal Government has been held in Canberra, but the outcome has been absolutely nothing. The wrangle between the Esso-B.H.P. interests and the Victorian Government goes on. Yet the Commonwealth Government, which is at complete liberty to exercise its inalienable rights, is content, as it were, to fiddle while Rome burns and to allow the primary producers and the consumers of industrial gas to be deprived of the heritage represented by these rich natural deposits. If ever there was a case for condemnation of a government, this is it. The discovery of natural gas offshore in Victoria is the most revolutionary discovery of the era. But the Bolte Government and the Holt Government have allowed an unholy dispute to arise between the Victorian Government and the Esso-B.H.P. organisation.
In November 1965 the Minister for National Development announced that early in 1966 legislation would bc introduced to deal with this problem. It is now October 1966 and we still do not have the legislation. Australia’s deposits of natural gas remain untapped offshore in Victoria. Not only industrial enterprises but also primary producers in this country are deprived access to these deposits. This will go down in history as one of the most disgraceful episodes in the history of our industrial development. Do honorable members opposite deny my assertions? The Commonwealth has sovereign rights. I have no particular objection to the Commonwealth’s entering into agreements with the States, but the present evasiveness on the Commonwealth’s part is due to the fact that it is the creature of private enterprise and is not prepared to face up to its responsibilities and take control of this God given natural resource. After all, the Government - I see the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) paying rapt attention - is deeply involved in this matter. If the States, particularly Victoria, are not able to obtain agreement about the development of these resources, why do they not come back to the Commonwealth? Why does the Commonwealth not say to the Esso-B.H.P. combine: “ If you are not prepared to make this vast and rich deposit available to the people, the
Commonwealth will ensure that it is made available on sensible terms? “. But the Commonwealth does not do that. It is dead from the feet up. It is the creature of vested interests. There can be no question of that.
The situation surrounding the offshore gas deposits is a scandal of the first water. After the Victorian Gas and Fuel Corporation has spent 12 months in negotiations, the Victorian Government has announced that no agreement has yet been reached. Now the Victorian Government says that it will create a piping authority which will construct pipelines to convey the essential elements to the manufacturers of nitrogenous fertilisers. The Victorian Government says that it will not place development of these resources in the hands of the Gas and Fuel Corporation but will itself create a piping authority. But lo and behold, when the composition of the piping authority is announced we find that its members are those persons directly concerned with the payment of dividends and profits to private enterprise in Victoria and other parts of Australia. These people will be vested with the power to determine the price paid for natural gas. Can anybody opposite deny this? Of course not. If what I say is wrong why has the Victorian Government refused to allow the Gas and Fuel Corporation to develop these deposits? Why does the Victorian Government want a separate authority to control the pipeline and the prices paid for the product? This is the greatest racket ever known in Australia and history will justify my remarks.
In 1962 the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and I visited a semi-public instrumentality in Rome. There we were furnished with details of the activities of Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi - an instrumentality created by the Italian Parliament and known as E.N.I. The E.N.I, organisation controls the entire gas deposits of the Po Valley, the entire petroleum distribution of Italy, the right to acquire foreign concessions in the Middle East, North Africa and Egypt-
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member get back to nitrogenous fertilisers.
-] will come to that. The E.N.I, organisation produces and controls the distribution of gas for industrial purposes. It controls and distributes petroleum in every segment of the Italian economy, lt builds its own boats for the distribution of fuels. It controls engineering works that construct drills used on gas and fuel deposits, lt controls the seeking of concessions in the Middle East, Egypt, North Africa and Morocco. In addition it controls the vast petro-chemical instrumentalities that function in Italy producing petro-chemicals for the ultimate production of rubber. The basic element of petrochemicals is butadene
The organisation controls the vast fertiliser complexes at Ravenna and elsewhere in Italy which produce fertilisers for the Italian farmer. It produces nitrogenous fertilisers from natural gas. Overall it sets an example for the people of the world to follow. It constructs its own pipelines, retails its own products and provides amenities for its employees equal to any in the world. It employs a greater percentage of academic personnel with university qualifications than does any other instrumentality in the world. It sets an example in the exploitation of natural gas and petroleum that should be followed by every country. It would do Government supporters good to go to the Parliamentary Library, do some research, and discover what this instrumentality has achieved for the Italian economy.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, you have been very tolerant. Lest you think that I have strayed somewhat from the subject matter of the debate, might I suggest that what has happened in Italy, which has a population far greater than Australia’s, might be the model for what we do here in the future. For more than 12 months we have had full knowledge of the wealth and the potential of the deposits of gas and petroleum in offshore Gippsland. But within the last fortnight the Minister for National Development has had the effrontery to say that, owing to a shortage of parliamentary draftsmen, the Government has been unable to draft the essential legislation required to handle this discovery in Victoria and, for that matter, offshore from Barrow Island. It has been my experience in 30 years of parliamentary life that whenever the Government is tardy in introducing essential legislation it lays the blame on the shortage of parliamentary draftsmen. The fact is that the Government is the creature of vested interests in Australia. It is the creature of Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd., of the great oil and petroleum interests and of the petrochemical industry in Australia. It is completely deaf to the needs of the primary producers.
The petro-chemical extraction of nitrogenous fertilisers would reduce by 50 per cent, the cost of this valuable item for primary producers. If the fertilisers were retailed at half the present price, the cost of production in primary industries would be considerably reduced. This would enable us to compete on equal terms with other primary producers in the world’s markets. I do not think my friend the honorable member for Wakefield would disagree with me. Although this sessional period has only a couple of days to run, I make a plea to the Government to get busy and to say to the quarrelling Governments of Western Australia and Victoria that this National Parliament will itself handle the distribution of natural gas and petroleum for the benefit of the nation. 1 have no more to say. The Australian Labour Party supports the proposal to pay a subsidy on the production of nitrogenous fertilisers.
– The Parliament has been very fortunate to hear the two speeches already delivered on this Bill. The first was delivered by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), who introduced the Bill. He set out our needs for nitrogenous fertilisers. The second was delivered by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). He explained how we should be able to gain nitrogenous fertilisers from natural gas. However, I would like to raise several other points.
The Minister in his second reading speech explained the vast importance of nitrogen to Australia and to the world. He said that, if we are to be able to maintain both our present rate of development and our standards of living, we will need healthy and developing rural industries. He also said -
The increasingly competitive nature of world markets, with severely depressed prices for some of our products, notably sugar, requires that we not only increase agricultural output but also achieve this without undue increases in cost. By the application of improved techniques, including adequate fertilisation of the soil, we must strive for maximum economic production from all our lands.
The introduction of a subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers will mean that use of the two major plant nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous, to promote the production of bigger crops, more wool, meat, milk and butter, fruit and vegetables and other products of the land, will be directly encouraged by the Government meeting a significant part of the cost of fertilisers containing these plan! nutrients.
Later on he said that the nitrogen subsidy will give some relief from increasing costs for the fruit and vegetable growing industries. He then said -
I should add that these sugar, fruit and vegetable industries did not benefit from the Government’s superphosphate subsidy to anything like the same extent as the pastoral and grain growing industries which are the main users of superphosphate.
The Minister explained the importance of nitrogen in plant growth. If I may say so, he gave a very good explanation. He then explained the development of the use of nitrogen in other countries and showed that Australia is a relatively small user of nitrogen fertilisers. He said -
In Australia the main users of nitrogenous fertilisers in the past have been the sugar, fruit and vegetable industries, where the use of nitrogenous fertilisers is essential for efficient crop production. In these intensive industries the high cost of fertilisers is an inescapable and major item in the cost of production.
I have no knowledge of the sugar industry and cannot speak about it. The fruit and vegetable industries, however, must use these high cost fertilisers. They must use nitrogen, but they have difficulty in using legumes as a rotation crop or to build up nitrogen in the soil. The pastoral industries, of course, are able to plant clovers and get nitrogen in that way. However, the Minister said in his speech that one of the main objectives of the Bill is to encourage the increased use of nitrogen for the growing of grass and consequently the development of our meat and wool industries. He said that the other purpose is to improve the sugar, fruit and vegetable industries and also to improve cereal production as a result of research work that has been undertaken in these fields. I agree completely with all the contentions of the Minister. I believe that this is a most important measure. The case for the use of nitrogen has been extraordinarily well put to the Parliament and the Bill undoubtedly deserves the support of all honorable members.
The Minister referred specifically to the fruit and vegetable industries. He said that they have been major users of nitrogenous fertilisers. He added -
The fruit industries, especially, contribute signicantly to export earnings but export markets are highly competitive and price-conscious and there is need to reduce costs or to produce more wilh no greater cash outlay on fertilisers.
I have referred to the fruit industry. In particular, I refer to the citrus industry centred on Gosford in my electorate. The orange industry will face big difficulties in the next five or ten years with a tremendous increase in plantings, particularly in the areas covered by the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers. The Bill will be of benefit to the fruit industries. The quantity of oranges exported from the central coast of New South Wales is not large. The oranges go mainly to the Sydney market. But as a part of a national industry it will face quite a few problems. I agree that the encouragement given by this subsidy is needed. There is a need to improve productivity for a whole range of our primary industries and this will come from the use of nitrogen and the improved techniques that may well follow. This will undoubtedly result in a saving on imports of fruits and vegetables and will also improve our competitive position with the products we export.
The cost of the subsidy is shown in the figures that the Minister gave in his second reading speech. He said that the total usage of nitrogen in Australia is about 70,000 tons a year. The subsidy is $80 a ton of nitrogen. The cost of the subsidy for a full year on these figures will be approximately $5.6 million, but the value to the Australian economy will undoubtedly be many times this figure.
This Bill, significantly, eliminates one form of nitrogenous fertiliser - blood and bone - which is a byproduct of the meat industry. It is, of course, the main organic fertiliser. The fertilisers specifically covered by the subsidy are inorganic or manufactured nitrogenous fertilisers. Blood and bone is a fertiliser that is primarily used for fruit and vegetable industries. It is an expensive fertiliser on a per unit basis of nitrogen, but it does have special application, particularly on sandy soils and soils where there is a heavy rainfall and where inorganic fertilisers are liable to be leached out. Blood and bone fertiliser, when put on to such soils, is slowly released into the soil and made available to the plants. It has special application in an area like the fruit and vegetable growing districts in the mountains behind Gosford, where these conditions are apparent - where there is a relatively high rainfall, where there is sandy soil and where inorganic fertilisers are liable to be leached out of the soil. The New South Wales Department of Agriculture recommends the use of blood and bone manure if the economics and price are right.
About 30,000 tons of blood and bone fertiliser are produced annually in Australia as a byproduct of the meat industry. In 1961, 28,889 tons were produced; in 1962, 33,064 tons; in 1963, 30,821 tons; in 1964, 27,559 tons and in 1965, 31,942 tons. Figures have not yet been produced for this year. There is a fluctuation in the annual production. It depends on the number of beef and sheep slaughtered, but production averages about 30,000 tons annually. Blood and bone is a registered fertiliser under State legislation. Its nitrogen and phosphorus contents vary between abattoirs. I have been advised by the New South Wales Metropolitan Meat Board that, for instance, an analysis of the blood and bone fertiliser produced at the State abattoirs at Homebush indicates that it has an 8 per cent, nitrogen content and a 6.5 per cent, phosphoric acid content of which I think 4 per cent, is citric acid soluble and 2.5 per cent, insoluble. However, there is a variation in the blood and bone fertilisers sold in Gosford today. I checked with a couple of companies and was informed that the nitrogen content varied from 5 per cent, to 10 per cent. There is also a difference in price. It seems that we can expect an average nitrogen content of 8 per cent. Blood and bone is a registered fertiliser and the abattoirs have to adhere to certain standards because the fertiliser is checked by State departments, and the producers are liable to be fined for any deficiencies.
Blood and bone can be described as a dual purpose fertiliser in that it provides both nitrogen and phosphorus to the soil in almost equal quantities. Where the
State department recommends, for an orange tree producing about four or five bushels a year in the Gosford district, the application of 1 lb. of nitrogen a year and approximately the same quantity of phosphate, this can be achieved by applying 121 lb. to 15 lb. of 8 per cent, blood and bone manure. This fertiliser does not provide potash, which may be needed. However, I have been advised by the State department that in the Gosford district at present there has possibly been an over use of potash.
Blood and bone fertiliser is an expensive proposition, but where young trees are growing on sandy soils its application can be of great benefit. The total production in Australia each year averages about 30,000 tons. If this is reduced in terms of nitrogen, it represents 2,400 tons annually, so there is not a vast quantity of nitrogen produced as .compared with the richer nitrogenous fertilisers of an inorganic nature - for instance, urea, which has a 46 per cent, nitrogen content. Blood and bone manure is applicable dependent on the economics and the price. It will be placed at a considerable disadvantage by this legislation. Why has it been left out of the subsidy? It cannot have been left out because of the cost factor. The quantity of blood and bone fertiliser produced each year would not increase substantially, because it is a byproduct of the meat industry. However, if it is placed at a disadvantage this could have some effect on the meat industry, because that industry will have to stand the cost if other fertilisers become more popular than or replace blood and bone manure. I am informed that the quantity of blood and bone fertiliser used in home gardens is small. I think this can be confirmed in same ways, although I have not been able to get actual statistics from the Commonwealth Statistician because he does not keep such records, nor do the abattoirs keep records of what quantity of this fertiliser is distributed in small packs. But one has only to Vis; t a produce store and look at the stocks of fertiliser there to realise that blood and bone manure is not quite so popular as other fertilisers, either for the retailers or the householders, because it smells somewhat.
Blood and bone fertiliser cannot have been left out of this legislation because of the cost factor. A I said, it represents only 2,400 tons of nitrogen annually. If this attracted the subsidy of $80 a ton, this would cost $192,000 each year. In this legislation assistance is given to the use of inorganic nitrogenous fertilisers as a food supplement. In the Minister’s second reading speech he said that 2,000 tons would be used for this purpose and this would cost $160,000. I ask: Why has blood and bone manure been left out? I have written to the Minister about this, but he has not supplied the reason for its omission He has advised me that blood and bone manure has been rejected. 1 make a plea that it be included, because it is a valuable fertiliser in certain parts of Australia, and I speak for my own particular district. I have received representations from citrus growers and vegetable growers who use this fertiliser, and I have forwarded them to the Minister. The cost would not be great when compared with the total cost. It would add approximately $200,000 a year, and this legislation provides for an expenditure of $5.6 million.
If a subsidy were applied to blood and bone manure, its production would not be increased, because it is a byproduct of another industry. If blood and bone does not attract the subsidy, it will be placed at a considerable disadvantage in relation to other fertilisers. I support the measure and I ask that blood and bone and organic manures be included in the subsidy. The only other organic manure I know of is vegetable meal, and although I have not heard of its being used as a fertiliser the Stale Department of Agriculture advises me that it is so used. The Minister has said that the fruit and vegetable industries are important and need encouragement, but, as I have said, certain parts of Australia, because of climatic conditions, are ideally suited to the use of this valuable fertiliser, blood and bone.
.- The Australian Labour Party is known throughout the Commonwealth as being prepared readily to make available its support to any project that will assist our primary producers. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has given ample proof of the support that the Australian Labour Party has always given over the years to propositions such as those contained in the Nitro genous Fertilisers Subsidy Bill now before the House. On many occasions, I have heard the honorable gentleman speak of the great assistance that he gave to the wheat industry in order to stabilise it when it was in the doldrums. We now have a highly prosperous wheat industry, thanks to the launching of the bounty system by the honorable member for Lalor when he was a Minister in the former Labour Government.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), in his second reading speech, has said that the proposal before us is to give some consideration to the sugar industry as the sugar industry is the principal user of nitrogenous fertilisers. While anything that can be done to reduce the cost of production of our primary producers, particularly those that have to be heavily subsidised, is very desirable, it is worthwhile bearing in mind that some people feel that the difficulties which the sugar industry is encountering will be with us for a long time.
I wish to quote from the latest report of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, which deals with this important matter. At page 1 1 the report reads -
Harvesting of the 1966 crop is estimated to produce a record 15,000,000 tons of cane and 2,100.000 tons of raw sugar.
The market outlook is chequered. On the one hand the industry benefits from the protected domestic market to the extent of about 600,000 tons while the U.K./Commonwealth Sugar Agreement provides an assured market for 325,000 tons at satisfactory prices. In addition, sales to the United States of America account for a further 150,000 tons at comparable prices.
On the other hand, almost two-thirds of Australian exports are sold on the basis of free market prices. These were severely depressed throughout the year, falling to £16 15s. stg. per ton in early June, the lowest since World War II. The lower price was a direct result of lack of demand and the sale of a large parcel of sugar by Brazil from substantial surplus stocks. At the end of the year, prospects were not bright for any immediate improvement in the free market price.
The proposal to subsidise nitrogenous fertilisers will be of considerable assistance to the sugar industry which is going through this shocking period.
Nitrogenous fertilisers are very necessary to enable the sugar industry to produce a higher rate of growth in the cane. The Minister for Primary Industry who is noted for a remarkable flow of the English language has given a graphic description of the way in which nitrogen acts in certain respects. The Minister has described the operation where it is possible to use plants for fertilising by way of nitrogen. I think that his remarks bear repetition as I am afraid that, whilst he was speaking last Friday when presenting the second reading of this Bill, not a great number of members displayed any great interest in what he said. For that matter, there are not many more members in the House tonight.
– The honorable member would chase anybody out.
– I notice that the honorable member for Gippsland is staying. The Minister said this -
Leguminous plants, such as clovers, arc host plants for nitrogen fixing bacteria which live in nodules on the roots of the legumes and have the ability to extract nitrogen from the air.
This means that the clovers can obtain nitrogen free by extracting it from the air. The Minister continued -
This nitrogen then becomes available to the host plant and ultimately to non-legumes in the same soil. Where legumes can be grown in association with other plants, or in a crop rotation, they are responsible for a substantial accretion to the nitrogen status of the soil and may go a long way towards meeting, the nitrogen needs of nonleguminous plants.
However, there are many regions of Australia, where the role of legumes in nitrogen fixation is limited by climatic or other factors.
This would apply to the sugar fields in north Queensland. The Minister states further -
Despite the tremendous importance of legumes to our agriculture and the enormous quantities of nitrogen added to our soil annually by reason of the growth of leguminous plants, there is undoubtedly scope for much greater use of applied nitrogen in our cropping and pastoral industries.
This is where we are proposing to use nitrogenous fertilisers as it is impossible to use the rotation method because of the high cost of the lands engaged in sugar production.
I wish to refer to the disaster that has taken place in the sugar industry and also the representations that have been made by the Queensland Cane Growers’ Council regarding the need for some assistance to the industry relating to fertilisers. If it is possible to reduce the cost of fertilisers to the sugar grower, this should assist him through the difficult days through which he is passing at the present time, and the days may become years, I am afraid. I wish to quote for the information of honorable members the prices that the industry is receiving for sugar in its overseas markets. The total amount of the value of sugar exports during the year 1965-66 was $100 million. Reliable authorities estimate that the cost of production of sugar is $93 per ton. Australia received from Canada for the sale of 111,364 tons of sugar, $54.24 per ton. Australia sold 402,355 tons of sugar to Japan for which it received $45 per ton. From Malaysia, Australia received $64.76 per ton and it exported to that country 51,497 tons of sugar. We exported 44,983 tons of sugar to New Zealand and received from that country $41.28 per ton. Exports of sugar during the last financial year totalled 1,252.572 tons. The average price that we received was $74.09. As I have pointed out already, the estimated cost of sugar is $93 per ton. So, honorable members can see the difficulties that the sugar industry is facing.
Some lime ago the Queensland Cane Growers’ Council wrote to the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) and asked that something be done to assist the industry by way of a subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers. It was pointed out in this letter that the recent bounty on superphosphate was really of not much value to the sugar industry because Queensland uses less than 2 per cent, of the total consumption of superphosphate in Australia. However, concerning nitrogenous fertilisers, the total usage in Queensland is 50,869 tons of which the sugar industry uses 43,642 tons. Those figures lend colour to the statement that 1 have made to the effect that nitrogenous fertilisers are an essential part of the sugar industry. They will be of considerable benefit to the growers when this Bill becomes operative. We understand that the average cost of this fertiliser to individual sugar growers is about $900 a year, but the fertiliser is of considerable value to the industry. When the curfew tolls the knell of parting day and the ploughman homeward plods his weary way the nitrogenous fertiliser really gets stuck into the cane with gusto, and the cane grows and grows. That is why the sugar content of cane grown in North Queensland is about the highest in the world.
The proposal in this legislation will be of great value to this important industry. It is true, as the Minister has said, that the fertiliser could be of value in the production of wheat and oats. He has said that if it were applied to about 2 million acres of wheat it would give an increased production of about 15 million bushels. I am sure that this will give a great deal of comfort to the members of the Country Party because with this additional production they would be able to sell more wheat to Communist China at a price less than the present cost of production. But 1 am no! as concerned at present about wheat as I am about sugar. Anything that can be done to assist the sugar industry will be well worth while, because this is the industry’s hour of trial. There are members of the Country Party in the Queensland Parliament who have openly advocated an increase in the domestic price or sugar from 9c per lb. to something higher. I hope that the domestic price does not rise because it would place a really heavy burden on the Australian housewife. I agree with the honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) who has said in previous debates that any assistance needed by the sugar industry should be borne by the taxpayers of Australia as a whole; in other words, it should be by way of a grant from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. However, I do warn the Austraiian people that there is a very strong body of opinion in the Queensland Parliament amongst Government supporters, particularly those belonging to the Country Party, which is the majority Party in the coalition government in Queensland, that there should be an increase in the domestic price of sugar.
No doubt the proposal in the Bill to pay a subsidy of $80 a ton on nitrogen fertiliser will give some boost to the proposal to construct a fertiliser plant at the mouth of the Brisbane River. My colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard”! has spoken in a most explanatory and informative way about the use of natural gas in the production of fertilisers. Queensland has proven natural gas fields which it is unable to develop at present because of some reluctance on the part of industry and the gas companies in Brisbane to make use of natural gas. However, I have been informed, I hope reliably, that there is a proposal - to be financed unfortunately by imported capital only, from the United States and Japan - to erect a fertiliser works, using natural gas, at the mouth of the Brisbane River. This has been talked about for some considerable time. The suggestion was extensively canvassed during the last State election campaign, but nothing has been said about it since except when the Premier was in London. I feel that it will be talked about again a good deal between now and 26th November. But whether the proposal is used for political purposes or not, I do hope that this industry will eventually be established in Brisbane and that it will use natural gas from the Roma field.
I was particularly interested in the statement of the honorable member for Lalor that it will be possible to produce nitrogenous fertiliser with natural gas at a price of about $30 a ton.
– Half the present price.
– Yes, the present price would be halved, bringing it down to about $30 a ton. This demonstrates the value to Australia of the natural gas proposition, lt is in my view God’s greatest gift to Australia, because it is a source of untold wealth and power. We are proposing in this Bill to provide a subsidy of $80 a ton on nitrogenous fertiliser, and the experts say that it is posible to produce this material with natural gas for $30 a ton. This shows that every assistance should be given by this Government and by State Governments to develop and use our natural gas resources as soon as possible.
We are proposing in this measure to make available for the subsidy for nitrogenous fertiliser $5.6 million for one year. The subsidy would not be required if we were producing this fertiliser with natural gas. The honorable member for Lalor quoted an eminent authority who cannot be doubted. The honorable member did not mention his name, but it can readily be ascertained. He estimated that the fertiliser can be produced for $30 a ton, and this is something that should spur the members of the Country Party to urge the Commonwealth Government to give every assistance towards the construction of pipe lines for natural gas. It should do this either on its own initiative or in co-operation with State
Governments, in which case the pipelines would be owned by both the States and the Commonwealth and we could ensure that natural gas would be brought into use as soon as possible, and this in turn would reduce the costs of primary producers and enable them to reduce the prices of the commodities they produce.
As the Minister has said, the Bill is designed mainly to assist the sugar industry, which is Queensland’s principal primary industry. It is an industry that needs all possible assistance at the present time. It is going through a very bad period of depressed prices, and from observations in all parts of the world I can see no immediate prospect of an increase in the free price of sugar. If the free price of sugar continues to fall there will be a very grave danger that the price of sugar in the protected markets covered by agreements will also fall when the agreements come up for renewal. So any assistance we can give to this valuable Queensland industry will be well worthwhile. 1 believe that the greatest possible assistance will be provided by the Governments of the States and the Commonwealth co-operating in the construction of pipelines to bring natural gas into use. The pipelines will then remain under Government ownership and we will be able to ensure that the gas is piped to the places of manufacture of the nitrogenous fertiliser. This, as I say, would be one of the greatest benefits that the Government could convey on Australian industry generally and On a great primary industry in particular.
– I would like to associate myself with the Bill before the House which is to give a subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers. I believe that we are dealing with a Bill which is going to promote agricultural productivity in this country to an extent at least equal to, if not more than, what the subsidy on superphosphate brought about. Superphosphate sparked off the development of tremendous stretches of country in the temperate areas of Australia. I refer to those areas of Australia comprising southern New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, large parts of South Australia and the southern part of Western Australia. Here were areas where there was quite a degree of variation in agricultural productivity. There were pockets of lush, rich country but, overall, until about 1940 there was a rather muted type of agricultural activity. About the time of the late 1930’s we saw the advent, through science and research, of certain types of legumes which could be grown only with the assistance of phosphate. This was principally in the form of superphosphate. The miracle legume was subterranean clover.
This clover, with the assistance of superphosphate and, in some areas, certain trace elements, sparked off the development of intensive pastoral activities. It sparked off intensive agricultural activities principally in the growing of grains such as wheat, barley and oats. In addition we saw greater use of irrigation in portions of Victoria and in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area in New South Wales. Today, with the combination of superphosphate, subterranean clovers, other types of clovers and irrigation, we have in those areas some of the most agriculturally productive parts of Australia.
This sort of thing can happen in other regions through the use of chemical nitrogen. The success in the southern areas through the use of superphosphate is due almost entirely to the fact that this superphosphate is the catalyst which starts a series of events which enables atmospheric nitrogen to be fixed in the soil for plant use. Once having established legumes you have a plant which has a capacity through the use of rhizomian bacteria to absorb nitrogen out of the air and fix it into nitrates which can be taken up by other types of crops or pastures. In the tropical and semi-tropical areas of Australia there has been a problem in establishing legumes. This problem has principally been due to bacterial and insect factors. Subterranean clover has been tried in these areas, but because of disease, insects and climatic conditions it has not succeeded. Nor have other types of legumes succeeded until more recent years. Then we obtained a degree of success with what are known as summer growing types of legumes. The principal successful legume today in the tropical area is Townsville lucerne. This is showing enormous prospects in the northern regions of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the northern parts of Queensland.
– Is brigalow a legume?
– It is, and it has a capacity for fixing nitrogen. But brigalow is a perennial type of shrub. The ground having once been cleared, the nitrogen is immediately available in the soil, but, that nitrogen once being exhausted, there is nothing with which to replace it. There is this area in Australia today - the semi-tropical area between the area where subterranean clover will grow and the area where the Townsville lucerne appears likely to succeed - in which there is great difficulty in getting cheap and readily available supplies of nitrogen. This area was one of the most fertile areas in Australia over the past half century. It was fertile because there had been a natural build up of nitrogen such as, as 1 explained to the honorable member for Hindmarsh, is provided by the use of brigalow. In many of these regions, as in my electorate for instance, there were enormous rain forests. Over the centuries the leafage formed a mulch on the ground and through bacterial activity and the breaking down of this mulch there was a build up of nitrogen. This land was enormously rich when it was first cleared by the pioneers. They started farming it for various purposes, such as for cropping and for pastures. It had tremendous fertility; it was as rich as any country in the world and pastures grew to the top rail of the fences. Cabbages, lettuces and tomatoes were enormous. But over a period of time the nitrogen was used up and exhausted and there was a decline in the fertility of the soil.
We have recognised this problem and have done a great deal of work to counter it by putting a theory to work; that is, by growing legumes. But there has been a problem in growing legumes, and this attempt has not really succeeded although, as I mentioned, there has been partial success recently with new types of legumes. If we can find an economic way of overcoming the necessity for legumes, such as the use of chemical nitrogen, we can achieve all we want. We can then grow crops readily and well. In the case of pastures in my region, which were of low nutritional value, we have discovered in the last year or two that by the use of sulphate of ammonia, calcium nitrate, aqua ammonia and anhydrous ammonia we are able to build up the productivity twofold, threefold or even more. But the profitability of building it up depends upon the price of chemical fertiliser.
This Bill is designed to provide producers with nitrogenous fertiliser at a reasonable price. It will bring the price of nitrogenous fertilisers somewhere into line with the price that producers have to pay in other countries with whose producers we have to compete. In England sulphate of ammonia costs about S50 a ton. In the United States of America it is $30 a ton. In New South Wales, without the subsidy, it has been about $68 per ton. The subsidy will reduce this price by 28 per cent. That is a very considerable reduction. The people who will get the principal benefit from the subsidy immediately are the cane growers, the fruit growers, the vegetable growers, the cotton growers and those people in the pastoral industries who have just discovered its value. I believe that within a period of 5 years, or perhaps within 10 years, we shall witness the almost universal use of nitrogen throughout Australia. Chemical nitrogen will be used not only for the crops such as cane to which I have referred but also for wheat, barley and oats. The overall production of the grains could be doubled in a very short period if nitrogen could be obtained at a sufficiently economical price for the growers to use.
I believe that the price at which nitrogen is now offered in Australia is one that enables them to use it economically. The point is that growers have not become adapted to using it and have not got into the habit of using it. I know that there has been research into the use of nitrogenous fertilisers, but it has not been used or experimented with sufficiently for people to have become aware of its great value. In parts of the Darling Downs in Queensland where a fertiliser of any type has seldom been used some growers are discovering now that their yields can be almost doubled by the use of sulphate of ammonia or urea. One of the inhibiting factors in the use of nitrogenous fertilisers in the past has been that we have not made sufficient advance with the type of equipment which is necessary to apply fertilisers to the soil. Today we have the most up to date equipment which is needed to handle such things as aqueous ammonia and anhydrous ammonia, which are compressed gases in the form of liquids which have to be injected into the soil to get the maximum benefit from them.
Some years ago I had the pleasure of travelling through the United States of America. Being a farmer I was very conscious of the activities in that country in the use of fertilisers. Enormous use was being made of nitrogen, because the price was at a level that enabled farmers to use it economically. In addition producers had been educated in its use. They were aware of it and they had the proper equipment and appliances to enable them to use it. The same sort of thing will happen in Australia. America’s enormous agricultural productivity is due largely to the high use of nitrogenous fertilisers and the trend in the use of nitrogen there is on an escalating scale. In the year 1900 the world used very little nitrogen, other than in the form of organic fertiliser which was mainly animal manure. It has been estimated that in 1900 only .34 million tons of organic fertiliser were used, whereas in 1964-65 the quantity had increased to 17.4 million tons. Its use is still escalating at an ever increasing rate. But this will be necessary if we are to keep pace with the increasing world population.
One of the most pleasing types of overseas aid which has been given to India, Pakistan and Ceylon has been in the form of fertiliser factories. Two years ago, with a parliamentary delegation, I visited a nitrogen factory at Nangla in the province of Punjab. This factory was built with the aid of American and British technicians. It cost the Indian Government $50 million, but 1 could see clearly that the factory would do more to increase food production in India than possibly any other single factor.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) mentioned that the subsidy is to be given for two reasons. First, it would create a new trend in farming, lt would encourage farmers to use nitrogen in the same way as they have been encouraged to use superphosphate. The superphosphate bounty has rewarded the nation in many different directions. It has built up the wealth of the country and has enabled enormous areas to be opened up which would never have been developed otherwise. Nitrogen can do exactly the same thing.
Nitrogen has provided a great benefit to the cane industry which is particularly in need of help at the moment. In his second reading speech the Minister calculated that the average sugar producer spends between $800 and $900 per annum on nitrogen. The subsidy will reduce that cost by 28 per cent., which is a very substantial reduction in the cost of his farm operations.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) introduced into his speech the suggestion that natural gas be used for the production of nitrogen. This is probably the most economical means of producing nitrogen in the United States. Like him. I believe that there could be an enormous potential if we could fully tap and utilise our natural gases for the production of nitrogenous fertilisers. I hope that this is done because if we train people to use nitrogen the demand for it will increase. We want to be sure that we have the capacity to meet the demands without relying on overseas sources.
There are two reasons why we do not want to rely on overseas sources of nitrogen. The first reason is that this would make a considerable drain on our overseas reserves, and the second reason is that the reliability of supplies from overseas is doubtful. We had experience before, particularly in the late 1940s and the early 1950s, when there was an acute shortage of nitrogen throughout the world. Australia had almost to beg throughout the world in order to obtain enough nitrogen to keep the sugar and fruit industries going, and it had to pay an extremely high price for the product. It was for this reason that we encouraged companies such as the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd., which set up a plant at Risdon in Tasmania.
– Whom does the Minister mean by “ we “? It was the Labour Government.
– lt was this Government.
– We pioneered that project.
– It was this Government which actually did the work. There was an extreme shortage of nitrogen when this Government took over. 1 imagine that the shortage was brought about by a lack of foresight. I am sufficiently well read to know that there was an acute shortage a*, that time and that those who overcame the difficulty were men such as the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), who personally interviewed the representatives of Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Ltd.. Australian Gas Light Co., and the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. Those three companies were the basis of the production of sulphate of ammonia in Australia. Tonight we shall have before us two Bills, one proposing to pay a bounty on the production of sulphate of ammonia, and the other providing for a bounty on the production of urea by Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd. The latter is a new bounty. This is good. 1 am quite sure that, as the companies’ throughput increases with the increased usage that I have been predicting - and I am sure I am right - they will be able to produce without any bounty. But they must be given help at this stage to enable them to operate o:i a low unit throughput.
But we are not only concerned with the production of urea as a by-product of the synthetic rubber industry, or with the production of sulphate of ammonia as a byproduct of zinc smelting, of steel making or of the gas industry. We would like to see other types of nitrogenous fertilisers manufactured, but the only means by which they can be manufactured economically is by the use of natural gas. 1 refer to calcium nitrate, anhydrous ammonia and aqua ammonia, each of which has its own specialised function in agriculture. If we are to be a great agricultural nation, wc need to have available adequate supplies of each of these types of nitrogen for their specialised functions. 1 have spoken longer than I intended to do. I believe that this Bill will do great things for this country. We are basically a primary producing country. If the primary producing industries are to keep pace with increasing costs, if they are to be able to meet the competition of other countries, then they must increase their productivity. Productivity per beast, productivity per acre and productivity per man unit must go up if standards of living are to be maintained in our agricultural areas and if the wealth of this nation is to continue to rise. I believe that this Bill will do as much as, if not more than, the superphosphate bounty has done for Australia.
.- I do not want to go over the ground that was traversed by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Bridges-Maxwell) and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony). This proposal to pay a subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers is. as the Minister has said, further evidence of the Government’s policy to promote increased primary production. The House may recall that last week I asked a question of the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) about making further finance available to the Development Bank because of the world shortage of food. With our natural resources and our potential for primary production, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to assist in this way. As T have said, this Bill is further evidence of the Government’s policy of promoting increased primary production in this country. The Government’s record in relation to assisting primary producers is one of which the members of the Government can justly be proud.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) said -
The introduction of a subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers will mean that use of the two major plant nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous, to promole the production of bigger crops, more wool, meat, milk and butter, fruit and vegetables and other products of the land, will bc directly encouraged by the Government meeting a significant part of the cost of fertilisers containing these plant nutrients. 1 do not need to refer here to the role which the Government’s bounty on phosphate has had in increasing rural production over the past three years.
I should like to express the hope that the Government will give further consideration to the superphosphate bounty, with a view to increasing it at some time in the very near future. These fertilisers are of vital importance, especially in view of a recent statement in the Press that the results of medical research into cancer have raised hopes that vitamin A may hold a clue to a cure. The report stated that vitamin A has been found to inhibit the development of lung cancer in preliminary tests on laboratory animals. Everyone knows, of course, that vitamin A is contained in, amongst other things, butter, milk and cheese. Therefore, in this medical opinion we find agreement with the claims that so mat” of us have been making for so long about the high food value of primary products, especially dairy products. In view of the vital need for primary production in many spheres, bounties such as the one proposed in this measure will be extremely advantageous.
I commend the Government on its move to grant a subsidy on the production of nitrogenous fertilisers, and again express the hope that, with the many other things it does to assist the primary producers, it will review the subsidy on superphosphate with a view to increasing it in the very near future.
.- It is not my intention to delay the House for very long, but I want to add my congratulations to those already expressed to the Minister for introducing this Bill, which will bring great benefit to a large area of Australia. I was very interested to hear the last part of the speech by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), in which he spoke about the possibility of manufacturing nitrogenous fertilisers from natural gas. As the largest natural gas discovery so far is off-shore of Gippsland, I have a keen interest in developments of this kind. I do not entirely agree with the method proposed by the honorable member for Lalor for piping this gas to Melbourne. He may be interested to know that the Victorian Government has made a statement about the control of this gas line, which I think will meet with his concurrence.
The total volume of gas in the field tapped by the two successful wells off-shore of Gippsland is estimated to be 3,000 billion cubic feet. With this huge volume of gas, it is obvious that a large, complex chemical industry will eventually be established. Where it will be established, one can only guess. For my part, I would say that the present plant at Altona will receive the dry gas and that the liquid hydro-carbons, removed at the Sale treatment plant, will be pumped to the Altona plant for the purpose of making nitrogenous fertilisers, plastics and so on.
– What is wrong with a plant at Gippsland itself?
– I agree with the honorable member for Lalor. In fact, I have submitted such a proposition to those who are keenly interested in the development of this gas find. I think it is a matter of sheer economics at this stage. I had hoped that Gippsland would benefit by the establishment of a large chemical plant, but it would seem that in the early stages the development is to be as I have spelt it out. The liquid hydro-carbons will be separated and pumped to the plant already established at Altona. I join with the honorable member for Lalor in expressing disappointment that the plant is not to be established in Gippsland. I look forward with a great deal of pleasure to the day when nitrogenous fertilisers are. manufactured in plants such as this and when we see a reduction in price from S80 a ton to the $30 a ton mentioned by the honorable member for Lalor. The great benefit of this subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers will go to the sugar industry as well as to the pastoral industry in the not so temperate areas in the north.
The honorable member for Dawson (Dr. Patterson) will be interested to hear - I am not speaking politically, of course - that when I was in the Dawson electorate during the by-election campaign, the Australian Country Party candidate, John Fordyce, who, I thought expressed himself very forcefully when necessary, speaking ::t a meeting in the main street of Mackay, proposed a bounty on nitrogenous fertilisers. I know that John Fordyce will be delighted that the Government has finally seen fit to introduce this subsidy which will be of great benefit to the sugar industry. When I was in the Dawson electorate, 1 found that he took a very keen interest in the sugar industry and had a thorough knowledge of its problems.
– He will be an asset to the Parliament.
– The honorable member puts it plainly when he says that John Fordyce will be an asset to this Parliament. He spoke with an obvious and deep knowledge of the problems of the sugar industry and with clarity and forcefulness that I had to admire as one who was visiting the Dawson electorate to assist him in the by-election campaign. I just mention this by the way, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
One of the great disappointments of the sugar industry has been the international price, which has fallen as low as 2c per lb. in Japan. I know that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) has been very active in trying to obtain for Australian sugar better access to markets in the highly industrialised countries. I join with the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) in expressing disappointment at the fact that the Government has not been able to increase the bounty on superphosphate. Bearing in mind the great benefit that was derived throughout Australia by the introduction of that bounty, I am sure that the Government in its wisdom will have another look at the possibility of increasing it at some future date. In conclusion, I congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann).
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise to support with a few brief remarks the Bill now before the House. This is a measure that will contribute very substantially to the progress of agriculture in Australia, lt will have a direct effect on certain sections of primary industry. I wish to refer to the tremendous importance of the subsidy to the subtropical part of northern New South Wales, which is predominantly dairying country and where subtropical legumes are now being developed. We hope that these will be very useful in raising pasture standards in that region. For many years, we have been trying to develop a kind of pasture that will provide feed round the year for dairy stock and beef herds. This is being attempted by the introduction of new varieties of legumes. To achieve success, boosting of their growth by the application of fertilisers is essential. Some outstanding experiments have been conducted in recent times in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales. These have given positive evidence of the value of nitrogenous fertilisers when applied to both tropical legumes and Kikuyu grass. At Kempsey in the electorate of my colleague, the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock), and further north in the Bellinger River district of my electorate, remarkable results have been achieved in boosting dairy production. In some trial areas, increases in production of up to SO per cent, and 60 per cent, have been obtained. It has been shown clearly that the methods being tested can be commercially successful. An interesting fact is that long before the announcement of the proposed introduction of the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers, the consumption of these fertilisers on the north coast of New South Wales rose quite steeply. The farmers saw the value of nitrogenous fertilisers and on their own initiative began to use them in large quantities. They welcomed the Government’s announcement that this special subsidy would be introduced.
The sugar industry will benefit considerably, as we have just been told so ably. The banana growing industry also will benefit, though there is one section of that industry that would like to see the subsidy proposal carried a little further. This subsidy is not to apply to organic fertilisers. Though organic fertilisers with a low nitrogen content are used extensively, they will npt bc subject to this subsidy, which is to apply only to inorganic fertilisers. I hope thai the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) will have another look at this aspect of the matter. A survey might very well reveal that the actual consumption of nitrogen elements would be so slight that only a small sum would be involved if a subsidy were paid on organic fertilisers of low nitrogen content.
– Has the honorable member ever written to the Minister about this?
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh, of course, is the sort of fellow who comes into this chamber and raises all sorts of matters though he has never bothered to discuss them previously with the relevant Minister or anybody else. I can assure him that I certainly do not do that. Of course I have talked to the Minister about this matter. I have discussed it also with other people. We in this quarter of the House are debating this measure thoughtfully and not ranting about whether somebody has or has not done something. I submit - properly, I believe - that the matter that I have mentioned is worthy of consideration. However, I do not at this stage propose that the Bill be amended. The important thing is to have it passed and to get the scheme working. Any modifications required can be considered subsequently.
I now wish to discuss briefly the importance of encouraging the production of nitrogenous fertilisers. Events overseas show that wherever fertiliser plants are established they provide a ready supply of a wide range of fertilisers. This has a direct impact on the efficiency of agriculture and farming generally. This sort of thing has been a big factor in the development of the Tennessee Valley area in the United States of America. Munition factories established there during the First World War were subsequently converted into fertiliser plants. Research conducted there over a long period has proved conclusively the value of modern fertilisers. In more recent times, Japan, Germany and numerous other countries have shown very clearly that the prudent development of fertiliser plants greatly benefits a nation’s economy. Australia, I believe, is on the threshold of vast expansion in this field. This will have twofold effects, lt will improve the status of primary industry generally and bring about a vast improvement in our overall economic structure. 1 am glad to have an opportunity to support this measure. I hope that in the next few months any slight impediments that may arise in the implementation of the scheme will quickly be ironed out. It is pleasing to find that the departments concerned have shown a very practical approach to the minor problems that have cropped up in preparing for the introduction of this scheme. We already have clear indications of the steps that should be taken by distributors and the farmers themselves. I pay tribute to the Minister for Primary Industry for the manner in which he has dealt with the preliminary aspects of the administration of the scheme. I am sure that it will operate smoothly and that it will give a great deal of satisfaction to the Government and to primary industry generally.
– in reply - Mr. Speaker, there is no contention about this Bill, which has received general and enthusiastic support. I rise only to answer one question that calls for a reply. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Bridges-Maxwell) raised the matter of blood and bone fertiliser in the first instance. He was supported by the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. Robinson). When the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) announced in his Budget Speech that the bounty would be paid, he said that natural organic fertilisers would not be eligible for bounty. Since then representatives have been received, mainly from manufacturers of blood and bone fertiliser, seeking payment of the bounty. I myself received a deputation and discussed the matter fully with it. As a consequence, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) and I had a further discussion with the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt). After considering the matter further the Government decided not to alter the original decision.
A number of organic products are used to a limited extent in fertilisers. They are mostly by-products obtained from processing other animal and plant products. In nearly all cases the nitrogen content is low and variable and the quantities small in relation to the total nitrogen fertiliser use. Examples are blood and bone meal, poultry manure and residues from seed and grain processing. Of these, blood and bone meal is the most important. Although the annual output of blood and bone meal is between 25,000 tons and 30,000 tons, the nitrogen content does not exceed 1,400 tons. The honorable member for Robertson gave a figure in excess of that, but this is my information. The 1,400 tons to which I have referred is less than 2 per cent, of the nitrogen used in fertilisers last year. It is likely that the quantity available will decline, for the trend is to divert raw materials to the higher priced meat meal production.
Because of its low nitrogen content and its high selling price, blood and bone, if eligible for subsidy, would attract a subsidy ranging from S3. 20 per ton where the nitrogen content was 4 per cent, to $5.60 per ton where the nitrogen content was 7 per cent., compared with subsidy of $16.80 per ton on sulphate of ammonia. In addition there would be considerable difficulties in administering the subsidy and ensuring that it was passed on to the user. At present the Government is not prepared to vary the bounty and submits the Bill in its original form. I thank the House for its support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
.-I have been intrigued and gratified with the concensus expressed tonight. Honorable members are unanimously in favour of the payment of a bounty on the production of nitrogenous fertilisers. I greatly enjoyed the speech made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), who displayed substantial technical knowledge of the production of nitrogenous fertilisers. He touched lightly but sensibly on the production of nitrogenous fertilisers from natural gas. Generally speaking, speakers from the Government side were fulsome in their praise of the Government for introducing this legislation. I am not mean; 1 congratulate the Government for belatedly giving effect to a proposition which the Labour Party submitted to the electors in 1961. By 1963 the Government had become convinced, so far as the subsidy on superphosphate was concerned, that the Labour Opposition was on the right track. Prior to the 1963 election the Government promised to introduce a subsidy on the production of superphosphate. Now, just before another election, the Government has belatedly introduced legislation providing for a bounty on nitrogenous fertilisers. But as far back as 1961 Labour said that it would provide a subsidy for the production of superphosphate and related fertilisers if it became the government. As ever, we blazed the trail and induced the Government to recognise that it is essential to agriculture in Australia that fertilisers be available at a reasonable price.
I was intrigued tonight to hear the Minister for the Interior confirm my prognostications that nitrogenous fertilisers could be produced from natural gas at half the price of similar fertilisers produced from other sources. I was intrigued also to hear the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) say that he hoped that the natural gas deposits off-shore in Gippsland would be treated at the Altona refineries in my electorate.
– That is not true.I referred to what was likely to happen.
– Well, he said this was likely to happen. He said that these off-shore deposits were likely to betreated in the great Altona petro-chemical complex in my electorate. I am not a parish pump politician. I hope that nitrogenous fertilisers will be produced in the vicinity of Sale from the natural gas deposits in off-shore Gippsland.
– I said that in my speech.
-I have said that I am not a parish pump politician. I hope that nitrogenous fertilisers are produced in vast quantities in Gippsland in close proximity to the source of the natural gas. I am sure that the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) will agree with me. This will be to the detriment of my electorate, but I am an Australian, not a parish pump politician. Might 1 express the hope that these fertilisers will be produced under the supervision of a national authority, as is the case in Italy, and not a private enterprise complex? 1 am disgusted that the negotiations between the Esso-B.H.P. combine and the Victorian Gas and Fuel Corporation to fix the price of the gas should have been so prolonged. No doubt the Premier of Victoria has connived in the delay and perhaps even encouraged it. The latest development is that a separate authority will be established to build and control pipelines. Did honorable member ever hear of such a proposition? The authority will enter into negotiations with the Esso-B.H.P. combine to fix the price of gas to consumers in Victoria and elsewhere. What will be the personnel of this pipeline authority? I am something of a prophet tonight. The personnel of this authority, which will be appointed in Victoria to control the pipeline, will be conservative. It will negotiate a price with Esso-B.H.P. that will be to the detriment of the industrial and domestic users of the gas in Victoria and in other parts of Australia. The Commonwealth Government has absolute constitutional control of territorial waters. It can control the use of the natural gas and petroleum deposits that are off the shore of Gippsland, and I indict the Government for its failure, after more than 12 months of negotiations between the combine and the Victorian Government, to fix a price for delivery of the gas for domestic and industrial users.
– Is the honorable member an expert?
– In the meantime the people who are allegedly represented by honorable members in the corner are deprived of nitrogenous fertilisers that can be produced from natural gas, according to the estimates of competent authorities, at half the cost of the nitrogenous fertilisers that are now used.
– The honorable member has had a bad turn.
– Never mind about the bad turn. You work it out for yourself. I listened today to compliments being flung around the Parliament. From 1942 or late in 1941, the Labour Administration paid a subsidy on superphosphate. In 1952, the present Government abolished it. It was not until 1963 that the Government restored it, and it did so then only because of election pressures. Now it unctuously advocates the payment of a subsidy on the production of nitrogenous fertilisers, whatever the source may be. Honorable members on the other side of the House have never raised a voice against the apathy, the indifference and the indolence of the Victorian Government in not taking prompt action to make available the natural gas from which the nitrogenous fertilisers can be produced at half the cost of the present fertilisers. I have been conscious for a long time of the fact that the supply of nitrogen to the soil from legumes is extremely limited in some circumstances and can be considerably accelerated by the application of artificial fertilisers. But the Government has not taken action to ensure the use of a source from which nitrogenous fertilisers can be readily obtained.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
Senate’s amendment No. 1 -
After clause 19, insert the following new clause: - “ 20. Section 8 of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1966 is amended by omitting subsection (2.).”.
Senate’s amendment No. 2 -
First Schedule, leave out the heading “ Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1959-1965”, insert the heading “ Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1959-1965, as amended by the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1966”.
Senate’s amendment No. 3 -
Second Schedule, leave out “Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1959-1965”, insert “Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1959- 1965, as amended by the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1966”.
– I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
Since the Statute Law Revision (Decimal Currency) Bill was prepared, it has been ascertained that a bill to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1959-1965 will come into operation before the Statute Law Revision (Decimal Currency) Bill comes into operation. The amendments made in another place amend the references in this Bill to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1959-65 and take into account the new citation of that Act as amended to 1966. No amendment of references to amounts of money is involved.
.- I admit that this matter appears to be beyond my capacity. On a quick glance, it seems to be purely a machinery matter. The Opposition does not oppose the amendments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 25th October (vide page 2103), on motion by Mr. Howson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a Bill to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of agricultural tractors.
It is of particular interest to me. You, Mr. Speaker, and I are probably among the few members of the Parliament who have lived long enough to see the transition from the horse to the tractor. I should think that, apart from the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon), the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King), no one else in the Parliament could break a horse to saddle or to harness.
– What about me?
– The honorable member for Gippsland, in conversation with me earlier in the evening, intimated that he can still break a horse to saddle or to harness.
– Not to harness.
– Do you deny it now?
– I can to saddle but not to harness.
– I think the Minister for Territories could break in a Clydesdale or could break a horse to the saddle and maybe the honorable member for Wimmera could do so.
– Order! It may be wise to stick to the tractors and leave the horses alone.
– Mr. Speaker, I am substantially in agreement with you.
– Did the honorable member mean the honorable member for Mallee?
– I do not think the honorable member for Mallee could break in a horse to do anything. He might be able to sell one. He would sell poor old Nugget cheaply, as long as he had his commission. I know the honorable member for Mallee-
– What about the honorable member for Hunter?
– They tell me that despite his weight he could ride a pony. However, let us return to the question of tractors. It has been my interest throughout my lifetime to watch the development of the agricultural tractor. I recollect being employed on a job which involved the use of one of the first agricultural tractors imported from the United States of America. It was a huge contraption with wheels about six feet in diameter. It had a one cylinder motor power. It was not very effective; it was a pioneer in the field. From that day in 1911 I have watched the evolution of the agricultural internal combustion tractor. The engineering capacity involved in developing the modern tractor has been altogether admirable. It has produced a remarkable instrument for increasing agricultural production. I doubt whether more than 10 per cent, of the rural holdings in Australia today have any horsepower other than the horsepower generated by the farm tractor.
Early in the history of the internal combustion tractor some Australian engineering firms produced fairly good tractors, but ultimately manufacturers in Great Britain, Europe and the United States of America overran the Australian manufacturers, who at that stage had very few orders to fill. Today the Australian market is for 18,000 tractors annually, but only about 6,000 are produced in Australian engineering works. This Bill is designed to encourage Australian engineering works to manufacture tractors and, if possible, to make Australia self sufficient in tractor production. For many years this House has regularly enacted legislation to provide a bounty to the producers of Australian manufactured tractors, but so far our annual production has not exceeded 6,000. I believe that the Australian engineering industry could produce a tractor as good and as efficient as any tractor that could be produced elsewhere. The Opposition will support this Bill, which provides for the payment of substantial bounties. For instance, a bounty of’ $800 will be paid on a tractor of up to 80 horsepower. This represents a considerable encouragement to Australian engineering industries. I believe this is justified. This country cannot view with equanimity the possibility of some future international conflagration cutting off our overseas source of supply of tractors, thus severely restricting our capacity to produce food for our own use and for the use of our allies and friends. We support the general principle of paying a bounty to encourage the production of tractors in Australia.
The Bill provides that the full bounty shall not be payable unless the Australian content of the tractor is equivalent to 90 per cent, of the total content, and the bounty reduces until no bounty is payable if the local content is less than 55 per Cant
This is fair enough. I note, too, that the bounty is to be payable until 1971. This is encouraging to the Australian producers. Incidentally, there are only two at present - Chamberlain Industries Pty. Ltd. and the International Harvester Co. of Australia Pty. Ltd. I wish that Massey-Ferguson (Aust.) Ltd. in my electorate would produce tractors as, indeed, I wish other Australian engineering works would undertake such work. A market of 18,000 tractors annually is not a bad market.
I have watched the evolution of the internal combustion tractor and while I am a supporter of the Australian industries I wish that the Australian engineering industry would devote more attention to ensuring that the components it manufactures are of a much higher grade than they have been in the past, lt is indisputable that some of the steel and metal parts of tractors and other agricultural implements have not been as good as imported metal parts. Clause 11 of the Bill provides for the payment of a bounty on tractors produced on registered premises. The Minister is not to register premises unless he is satisfied that such conditions as may be prescribed are complied with. The clause provides also for the cancellation of registration. The clause seems adequate, but what conditions will the Minister lay down for such premises? Does the Minister know? Is this a question of the provision of sanitation, light, shade or air space for the employees? Or have these conditions something to do with the quality of the parts of the tractor to be manufactured?
In my opinion, this is the all important question confronting the Australian engineering industry and Australian primary producers today. What is the use of buying an Australian tractor or a tractor from any other country unless the steel and cast iron components are of very high quality. Anybody who understands anything about tractors or any other agricultural implement knows that there is a vast difference between the quality of the steel and cast iron used in the manufacture of Australian machines - I regret to say this - and the quality of the materials in some cases, but not all cases, used in imported machines. I want the Minister to assure me that the conditions of the registration of a factory will include provision giving the Minister the right - I think the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) will agree with me on this point - to place technicians in, or to have them visit occasionally, these Australian factories in order to take tests of the steel used on the parts of tractors and also to test the quality of the components of other Australian manufactured machines. Unless and until the Government does so, it will find that despite its tariff protections and its favorable bounties Australian farmers will purchase in ever increasing quantities what they consider to be implements of superior quality produced in other parts of the world.
As one who knows something about the matter, I can tell the House of tests carried out on imported manufactured parts of tractors. These tests revealed from my point of view, unfortunately, the superiority in quality of the steel used in components in comparison with that used in the local product. I want the Minister to say tonight in this Parliament that one of the conditions of registration of a factory of any manufacturer of Australian tractors - and we make some mighty good tractors - will be that a qualified technician will take tests according to standards laid down by the defence standards laboratories at Maribyrnong. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) knows the organisation to which 1 refer. Such tests will ensure that the materials are okay in comparison with the materials used in the manufacture of imported tractors. Until the Minister does so it will not matter whether he grants bounties or imposes duties because the Australian farming community will continue to buy imported tractors come what will.
I speak as one who is an ardent Australian, in favour of the Australian article, first, last, and all the time. But I do require the Australian article to live up to the standards to be found in the imported article. Sometimes these standards are much better in the imported article than they are in the Australian article. But the Australian manufacturer can achieve quality in his implements and machinery. If any honorable member wants confirmation that Australian manufacturers can do this, I refer him to what is a nationalised industry, the munition works or armament works at Maribyrnong. The defence standards laboratories there turn out for defence purposes articles that are better in every respect than anything made anywhere else in the world. If the Government can apply to Australian engineering works the same standard of quality as it insists upon within the confines of its own nationalised armament production works, it will obtain a standard of tractor manufacture second to none in the world.
The Opposition has indicated its viewpoint regarding this measure. I hope that the Minister will be gracious enough, not only because of his natural graciousness but also by virtue of his conviction that what I have said is right, to tell this Parliament tonight, and also the tractor producing manufacturers of Australia, that he will insist on an investigation into the quality of tractors that will make Australian produced tractors beyond a shadow of a doubt the best in the world. The Opposition supports the measure. We hope that it will achieve the objective that it sets out to achieve.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr. Howson) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I have had no indication from the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson) that he has taken the slightest notice of my remarks regarding the necessityto insist on quality in the production of tractors in Australia. This is imperative. It is no good treating this matter as facetious. I repeat: It is imperative. What 1 have suggested could be easily done. We have at Werribee in my constituency a tractor testing station. It is the function of this station to check all types, makes and quality of tractors and to ascertain whether they come up to production standards regarding horsepower. As everybody who has any knowledge of tractors knows, horsepower is tested by measurement of cylinder capacity and so on.It would be the easiest thing in the world for the defence standards laboratories to arrange that, every time a tractor is sent to the Werribee tractor testing station for power rating or general performance study, tests will be taken also of the tensile or other strength of the steel in that tractor. Other tests could be conducted also to determine the lasting qualities of the steel, cast iron or whatever may be used in the production of those tractors.
The Minister, after all the requests that have been made in this debate, has not replied to them. I have not opposed the Government’s measure. It continues a measure that has been in existence for many years. Despite such measures and bounties, no substantial increase has taken place in the demand for the tractor produced by Australian engineering works. I ask why this is so. 1 think I am justified in asking this question. Is it due to lack of quality? Is it due to lack of certification of the quality of the tractors? Are they not as good as the imported machines? If the reason is not any of those that I have put forward, will the Minister tell me what it is? Is the Minister taking any notice of what the Opposition is saying in regard to this matter or is he just passing by our queries as being entirely facetious? I expect the Minister to give us some indication of whether he proposes to deal with the suggestion that I have put forward on behalf of the Opposition, or whether he is prepared to let the matter go. If the Minister is lucky enough to be returned after the forthcoming Federal election to the position that he now holds - I doubt it - will the Minister say to the House at the end of the period for which this protection has been given - that is 1971, which is a long period of protection, if I might say so - that he has another tractor bounty bill to present because Australian manufacturers have not yet obtained the output of tractors that is desired? Will he confess that the efforts of the Government and the support of the Opposition have been ineffective with regard to the end result that all good Australians desire?
– in reply - I always take a great deal of notice of what the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) says in this place. I think his comments are always extremely wise and I am always grateful to have the benefit of his wisdom in these matters. He knows, I think, that these provisions have been in the previous Act and the Comptroller-General has had the power to examine these matters of quality and to prescribe such conditions as he may require.
– Will the Minister enumerate those conditions and say what tests have been made in the past?
– So far the ComptrollerGeneral, as I understand it, has been satisfied that the tractors have been of good and merchantable quality.
– How did he test these qualities?
– I shall examine these questions and when the legislation again conies up in this House I shall let the honorable member for Lalor know the answers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– by leave - Yesterday I introduced Customs Tariff Proposals No. 17 relating to a report by the Tariff Board on industrial chemicals and synthetic resins. Bearing in mind the short time that will elapse between the tabling of the Proposals and the presentation of the Bill to validate the tariff changes I have thought it desirable to enlarge on my comments of yesterday. In order to facilitate further useful debate on these matters honorable members have requested that I should produce also some facts concerning the method of administration of these new measures, particularly those dealing with this novel concept of support prices.
Honorable members will recall that I said that the Government had accepted the second alternative recommendation of the Tariff Board; that is, that protection should be mainly through tariffs with continuation of existing bounties. On that basis the Board’s recommendations were as follows. First, there should be a bounty of 5c per lb. on cellulose acetate flake. This will be a continuation of past arrangements. The second recommendation was for a bounty of $8 a ton on sulphate of ammonia - again a continuation of the existing procedure. Thirdly, there should be a bounty of $16 a ton on urea. This, of course, will be a new bounty which we will debate in a few moments. These three bounties are to be payable until 31st December 1969, with maximum amounts of bounty in respect of sulphate of ammonia and urea payable in any one year, but without profit limitations.
Then we come to a recommendation that duty be payable on a range of chemicals set out in Schedule III to Appendix N to the Board’s report. Those are essentially the main changes that are the subject of these proposals, and they are to be found in that Schedule. Then we come to the next matter. Special duties shall be collected when the duty paid cost of certain chemicals named in the Schedule falls below a price nominated in the report for those goods; such special duty to be at the rate of 90 per cent, of the amount by which the duty paid cost is below the support value. I will explain that in detail in a moment.
Further allegations of disruptive low pricing are to be dealt with by some reasonably fast moving machinery for the application of support values in future cases where it can be established that normal protection is being rendered ineffective and the local industry is suffering detriment from disruptive low pricing. If local industry can establish a prima facie case to that effect, the question whether urgent action should be taken by the application of a support value will be referred under section 18a of the Tariff Board Act to a Special Advisory Authority who will inquire into the question and report within 30 days.
The next point is that a review of goods subject to these special duties is to be undertaken by the Board once every year in order to determine the need for and the level of support values, and there is to be an overall review of the whole question in 1969. The report then deals with the question of substitute chemicals which are to be dutiable at the rates set out in Part I of Appendix P; this means that the substitute chemicals are to be dutiable at the rate applicable to the goods for which they are substitutes. There are to be checks made on future developments of substitutes, and a system of by-law admission for substitutes when they are used for purposes peculiar to the qualities of the substitutes. Where anticipatory protection has been given - that is, for chemicals that have not yet been made - by-law admission is to be granted in the meantime. The final recommendation dealt with a by-law system to replace the drawback system in relation to goods for export.
Let me deal with these matters now in greater detail. This is a case where the Tariff Board has reported on all products of an industry, rather than on specific commodities, and the recommendations of the Board are designed to solve the broad problems of the industry.
The Tariff Board found that chemicals can be divided into two broad groups, one requiring protection at rates of 40 per cent. (General) and 30 per cent. (Preferential) and another at rates of 25 per cent. (General) and 15 per cent. (Preferential). For certain chemicals of fundamental importance and for which economies of scale nf the Australian industry demand higher protection, a General rate of 60 per cent, has been recommended. These industry rates were set after an examination of 80 key chemicals, and are set to meet the needs of the production complex involved. Certain products which do not form part of a production complex do not have these industry rates applied to them. Citric and tartaric acids, and pigments and colour lakes, recently the subject of a Tariff Board Report, are examples of these.
One of the main problems of the chemical industry is that substitution of one substance for another is relatively easy, although there are few chemicals which are completely interchangeable in all applications. The Board’s recommendations cover the problem of substitution as it affects the Australian chemical industry at present. However, new chemicals are continually being developed and undoubtedly new problems of substitution will follow. Furthermore, new uses may be found for imported chemicals resulting from changes in technical qualities, and these, too, could lead to substitution for local chemicals. The Board is of the opinion that action in line with that now recommended should be taken in cases of future substitution as they arise. This action will be implemented, both in the specific cases covered in this report and in future cases, by applying a protective duty through a change in the relevant legislation - that is, by amending the Customs Tariff Schedule.
In one important aspect, the Board recommended a substantial change in practice to cope with disruptive low pricing. Due to the size of chemical plants overseas, further additions to such complexes often result in excess capacity, which may be used in export markets. This has, at times, resulted in prices for imports, which, while not breaching the present anti-dumping legislation, has had serious consequences for local industry. The Tariff Board has therefore recommended that for certain chemicals which have been subject to disruptive pricing, special prices should be established, and that any imports which fail to reach this special price when their cost, transport and insurance charges and ordinary duties arc totalled, should be subject to a further duty to bring their landed cost up to that special price. To allow an element of competition, the extra duty will be imposed on only 90 per cent, of the differential.
The special price, to be known as the support price, has been determined by comparison with imports under normal conditions during the period of the Tariff Board’s inquiry. The prices will be subject to annual review and in any future instance the support price will be established only after an inquiry conducted under the provisions of the Tariff Board Act. To elaborate: Price support duty is the name given to a duty payable on a restricted range of goods, principally chemicals and synthetic rubbers, whenever their landed cost falls below a predetermined level called the support price for those goods. Landed cost is ascertained by adding together the free on board price of the goods, the overseas freight and insurance and the duty ordinarily payable on the goods. If the landed cost is less than the support price then price support duty will be ordinarily payable.
The application of price support duty means that an amount equal to nine tenths of the amount by which the landed cost is less than the support price will be payable, unless the goods are admissible under customs bylaw or other concessional items in the Second Schedule.
I want to emphasise this next point. The method by which this duty is imposed can be expected to be substantially changed when legislation is brought forward in the autumn period to amend the Customs Tariff, and specific sections will need to be inserted in that Act to impose the duties.
However, before we do this there will be a period of three months in order to allow the present system to be put into operation and this will give honorable members the opportunity to examine this new machinery. We Will have the opportunity, on the occasion that the full Bill comes before us, to examine the whole of this new method. Honorable members will then have the opportunity to debate the matter at length.
– Will the Minister explain what all he has said really means?
– I thought the honorable member for Lalor might ask me that question. I think we will have the opportunity to deal fully with this matter when the Bill comes down in the next Parliament. 1 trust this further explanation of the matters dealt with in the Tariff Board’s report on industrial chemicals and synthetic resins will be of assistance to honorable members. There is one final point: The honorable member for Lalor asked me to deal with the question of profitability. This is set out in section 9 of the Tariff Board report. I have taken that section out and as the time is getting late, with the concurrence of honorable members, I will incorporate it in “ Hansard “.
Evidence on the profits and earning rates of its member companies as a whole, for the years 1953, 1956 and 1959-1964 was submitted by the A.C.I.C. Corresponding details for individual companies were also supplied, in confidence, to the Board. For comparison, evidence on the profitability of other manufacturing industries in Australia and of chemical companies in a number of overseas countries was also submitted by the A.C.I.C.
Table No. 13 sets out, for the years 1953, 1956 and 1959-1964, net earnings from the production of chemicals as a percentage of funds employed for the member companies of the A.C.I.C. Total funds employed are also shown.
Since 1960 there has been a marked change in the situation. Earning rates have fallen considerably and in 1961 fa year of general economic recession) the industry incurred an overall loss. Earnings in subsequent years showed some improvement but profits were still below a level which the Board would consider as satisfactory.
The figures shown in Table No. 13 for funds employed include the value of plant under con.struction. Net earnings as a proportion of funds employed adjusted for the value of plant under construction, therefore, generally show a better level of profitability, particularly in 1960 and 1964 when the value of plant under construction increased by a significant amount.
An examination of the profits and earning rates of individual companies since 1960 showed that in most years all the six major companies in the industry have obtained profits which the Board considers to be an inadequate return on funds. Some of the major companies had, in fact, incurred extensive losses over the period. By contrast, most of the smaller companies in the industry earned reasonable profits during the period. These companies were found to specialize in the production of a restricted range of products, using comparatively unsophisticated processes which are suited to smallscale operations. However, they only accounted for about 5 per cent, of the funds employed in the industry.
In analysing these trends in profitability, the Board noted that earnings from the production of long-established chemicals, principally the inorganic chemicals, were generally more satisfactory than the earnings from the production of newly introduced chemicals, principally the organic petrochemical products. Major companies which concentrated their production on petrochemical products largely accounted for the losses incurred in the chemical industry in recent years. For example, in 1963 overall profitability in the chemical industry amounted to a return on funds of 5.5 per cent. Excluding petrochemical production, the chemical industry’s net profits as a percentage of funds employed was about 10 per cent.
However, by 1964 most companies associated with petrochemical production showed improved earnings as the level of unused capacity was reduced. Some companies earned profits for the first time and others greatly reduced the magnitude of their losses. That the improvement in earnings was achieved against a background of falling prices emphasises the importance of capacity utilization as a determinant of profits.
I have not dealt with many of the other details raised by way of interjection yesterday during my second reading speech and I have not dealt with the minority report of the Tariff Board. I felt that further matters of that nature could be raised during the debates which will now take place on the various bounty bills and validating measures. If any further specific points are mentioned I feel that we could deal with them then.
Debate resumed from 25th October (vide page 2105), on motion by Mr. Howson -
Thai the Bill be now read a second time.
– This measure provides for a bounty on ,m production at registered premises of urea which is sold in Australia. The period of operation of the bounty is until December 1969. The annual payment is not to exceed 5500,000. Provision is made for averaging of bounty claims, where claims exceed amounts available for payment. The bounty payable in respect of urea which is not of good and merchantable quality is dealt wilh. The Bill also deals with bounty not being payable unless this Bill and certain regulations are complied with.
The Opposition supports the provision of this bounty. The rate of the bounty is $16 a ton and the bounty overall will not exceed an amount of $500,000 a year. Most honorable members know that urea is a superior type of nitrogenous fertiliser as compared wilh sulphate of ammonia. Il is more easily dealt with so far as transport, storage and utilisation are concerned than is sulphate of ammonia. I suggest and, indeed, suspect, that the bounty payment on urea will result inevitably in a greater demand for it than for sulphate of ammonia. I am not too sure whether or not producers of sulphate of ammonia who have been provided with bounties in the past, and are to be provided with a continuation of bounty payments, will not be placed at a very substantial disadvantage as compared with the producers of urea. We know that urea has been produced since 1964 on the shores of Botany Bay in New South Wales by, J think. Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand. This Bill will encourage the producers of sulphate of ammonia who supply Australian agriculturalists - and who have received a bounty in the past - to do more to meet Australia’s demand. Production of sulphate of ammonia, so far as I can recollect - and I speak subject to correction - has never been sufficient to meet Australia’s requirements, and it has been necessary to import about 44,000 tons a year. I am not sure whether that figure is right, but I think it is somewhere near the mark.
However the Opposition does not oppose the payment of this bounty on the production of a desirable type of nitrogenous fertiliser. What we again emphasise, of course, is the vital need for the production of nitrogenous fertiliser from natural gas. If only this Government would do something to galvanise into activity the Bolte Government to make this plain to the B.H.P.-Esso group which owns the productive wells off the Victorian coast near Gippsland. Those companies should bc told that the nation is not going to tolerate interminable d;lay in making this gas available. When it is available we will have some prospect of getting a nitrogenous fertiliser at substantially below the price at which it can be bought now, despite the bounty provided in this Bill for urea. I think, Mr. Speaker, that you would agree that 1 have spoken for long enough on that strangely termed fertiliser, urea. What the derivation of this name is, whether it is Latin or Greek, I do not know, but we can discuss that later. The measure is to operate until the end of 1969 - long enough - and by that time I hope that our primary producers will be using nitrogenous fertiliser produced from natural gas, purchased at half the price that they now have to pay for that very desirable substance.
.- I want to make two rather plaintive comments on this Bill. One, in particular, is on the way it has been handled. I have certainly no objections to the Government assisting this industry by way of bounty instead of tariff. It would have been unthinkable to put a tariff on such important raw materials. However, there arc two things which should be mentioned. One is that this measure springs from a Tariff Board report which was signed on 30th April and which was brought into this House only yesterday. That means that the Government has had six months to work on it whereas honorable members have had only one day. It seems a little unreasonable to expect us to handle the subject now when the report has been in our hands for such a short period. This is why I, being a rather slow witted person, cannot give the matter the attention 1 should have liked to give it.
I should like to make another complaint and to criticise the original explanation given by the Minister for Air (Mr. Howson). The information it contained was far too scanty. However, I should like to express my appreciation to the Minister for the information which he has since given. I hope that this will be taken as a standard for the introduction of tariff matters in future. I appreciate, probably more than he realises, his courtesy and kindness in giving the House a much fuller explanation of the chemical industry report and the action which the Government took on which this matter is based. However, the Parliament should look at these things with care. I am making it quite clear again that I am glad that the Government is not imposing a tariff and that the industry is to be assisted by a bounty so that the price should not increase. But one cannot help wondering about the recipient of the bounty. The Minister said that only one company was making urea, and that was Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd.
– That is at present.
– Yes, at present, so only one company will get the bounty.
– Does not the producer get the benefit of the bounty?
– No, the producer gets the benefit of the subsidy under the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Bill.
– But it is the same under this Bill.
– No, this Bill has been brought in specifically, as I know the Minister will agree, to protect the industry by bounty and not by tariff. Consequently, the benefit does not go to the user of the fertiliser. The I.C.I, company made a profit of $9 million last year after paying §5.1 million in tax and allowing $11.5 million for depreciation. Obviously that company will receive protection worth $i million because the urea usage last year in Australia was 45,000 tons. Let us assume that the local manufacturer gets most of the market. If he sold 40,000 and received $60 per ton, which is the rate of bounty, he would get $640,000. However, the limitation of the bounty is $500,000, so it is quite clear that I.C.I, will receive $500,000. I am not saying that this is wrong, but I am saying that it is a pity that the House did not have the opportunity to examine this kind of generous treatment in greater detail.
– in reply - I am glad that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) has drawn attention to the fact that this is a bounty for the manufacturer and is not to be confused with a subsidy for the user, a subject which is dealt with in the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Bill which was discussed earlier tonight. I have noted the other points made by the honorable member and I am glad that he has given the BUI such an expeditious passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Howson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 25th October (vide page 2106), on motion by Mr. Howson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- This is another bounty bill. It provides for the continuation of a bounty payment on the production of sulphate of ammonia, which is a nitrogenous fertiliser less potent and less effective than urea. The bounty has been payable on the production of sulphate of ammonia for a considerable time. Although the benefit of the bounty was intended to seep through to the primary producers, I am not altogether sure that such has been the case. The direct beneficiaries have been the Australian Gas Light Co., the Australian Iron and Steel Pty. Ltd., the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd., and Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd. They are the ones who have received the bounty for the production of sulphate of ammonia. The bounty has been limited to a maximum annual payment of $900,000 in respect of all producers and a 10 per cent, profit limitation has applied to individual producers. However, in the legislation with which we are now dealing, the 10 per cent, profit limitation has been eliminated.
I feel impelled to ask why the profit limitation has been removed. A reading of the Tariff Board report indicates that the Board recommended the elimination of the 10 per cent, profit limitation, in respect of not only sulphate of ammonia but also tractors and certain commodities used for primary production. The Tariff Board considered that the 10 per cent, profit limitation was not effective and in fact militated against the encouragement of production. Whether the Tariff Board was correct or not I do not know. I assume that it examined exhaustively the information at its disposal. However, I am not very happy about the decision.
This measure provides a bounty payment to a maximum of $61,500 for the period ended 25th October 1966, a maximum of $1,183,500 for the period ending on 31st December 1967, rising to $1 million for the period ending 31st December 1968 and a similar amount for the period ending on 31st December 1969. The profit limitation of 10 per cent, is eliminated.
I mentioned previously in connection with the measure dealing with urea that it appeared to me that the encouragement for the production of urea, which is already produced on the shores of Botany Bay by Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd., is likely to cause a diminution of the demand for the sulphate of ammonia which is produced by gas companies, by the Electrolytic Zinc Co. and by various processes in the metalliferous industries. However, I do not want to be dogmatic about that. I recollect that during the war period the government of the day established factories at Albury, at Ballarat in Victoria, at Mulwala on the banks of the Murray in New South Wales, and, I think, at Villawood outside Sydney. In those four centres, provision was made for the extraction of nitrogen from the air, to be used in the production of explosives for war purposes. With the coming of peace, the Labour Government of the day, realising that there would be a big demand for nitrogenous fertilisers, proceeded to convert these plants to the pro duction of sulphate of ammonia for agricultural purposes. Despite some economic difficulties in competing with the production of sulphate of ammonia from sinter gases and from zinc concentrates, and by the gas companies, we managed to keep these plants in production. They made a very valuable contribution to the economy of the country. The Administration which followed us - the Menzies Administration - in keeping with its antagonism to public enterprise, promptly sold the plants. Those which were on the property of Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd. were sold to that company. The others were sold to other private enterprise organisations. So the whole process of producing this fertiliser is now back in the hands of private enterprise. This transfer was tragic. We have imported substantial quantities of sulphate of ammonia from abroad ever since.
I agree that a good case can be made for the payment of a bounty. Like urea, sulphate of ammonia is a most valuable product. I emphasise that it could be produced from the natural gas at Altona and Moonee.
– It sounds like a disease. What is urea?
– It is a very potent product for the stimulation of growth. Urea and sulphate of ammonia are wonderful products. What they do for plant life is remarkable. We cannot use them too much. The important factor, of course, is the price at which they can be made available - and that depends on what .the Government proposes to do with natural gas. Vast private investments are involved there, and as yet no government in Australia has had guts enough to deal with the problem. This is because those involved are anti-Labour Administrations. Imagine them, wilh their territorial rights over anything off-shore of Australia, allowing a dirty argument to proceed as to who will pay whom and for what, in relation to what is produced offshore of Australia. The sovereign rights of Australia over off-shore discoveries are unchallengeable. If the Commonwealth cannot arrive at unanimity with the Victorian Government, then it should either do the job itself or tell the Victorian Government to get on with it. That is the way to deal with commercial bushrangers. I do not blame the commercial bushrangers for doing a bit of bushranging. The authority that will call their bluff is the Commonwealth of Australia. It is time that it did this. We support the measure for the time being and hope that another government will succeed this Government and get to work to increase the quantities of this valuable product. Sulphate of ammonia will increase Australia’s agricultural production. Make no error about it. It has contributed more than anything else to increased production in the last quarter century.
Thursday, 27th October 1966.
– in reply - The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), as he foreshadowed yesterday, has referred to the question of profit limitation. I am glad that he has had the opportunity since then to read the annual report of the Tariff Board on this matter. I think i should emphasise again the reasons why the Government has accepted the Tariff Board’s recommendation. The view taken by the Tariff Board in its annual report was that a limitation of the Tate of return on funds employed often frustrated the purposes underlying the grant of a bounty. The manufacturers involved, and the administering Department, are faced with clerical and administrative costs, and there may be a lack of incentive to increase production and sales once the specified rate of profit is achieved. In effect, it can act as a disincentive towards increased efficiency, reduced costs, technological development and cost control improvements. The incentive to export can also be reduced as a profit limitation becomes a disincentive when the profitability of export is less than the reduction in bounty, lt will also be noted that the alternative to bounty assistance, which is tariff assistance, is not subject to any profit limitation, and there seems little justification for bounty assistance to be discriminated against. It is for these reasons that the Government has decided not to insert a provision relating to profit limitation as such in this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr. Howson) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
.- I indicated some doubt about the justification lor the abandonment of the 10 per cent, limitation. I. think I should give the Committee some indication of the reason for my doubt. Take these facts regarding some of the people in the fertiliser industry. Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd. has British and Australian assets totalling $1,400 million. Since 1959 it has acquired the entire capital of Commonwealth Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd. Commonwealth Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd. consisted of a merger of Cuming Smith and Co. Ltd., Mount Lyell Chemical Co. Ltd. and Wischer and Co. This was a multi million pound deal in 1961. I.C.I.A.N.Z. has a 53 per cent, interest in Australian Fertilizers Ltd. and operates mainly in New South Wales. A.C.F. and Shirleys Fertilisers Ltd. in Queensland is in turn 50 per cent, owned by Australian Fertilizers Ltd. The “ Age “ of 1st October reported -
I.C.I.A.N.Z. has strengthened its position in the fertilizer industry by acquiring the interests of E.Z. industries, Mr Lyell investments and Cuming Smith interests in Australian Fertilizers Ltd. These three companies hold 268,533 £1 ordinary shares in Australian Fertilizers Ltd.
The iS Age “, in its issue of 24th February, reported -
Cuming Smith and Co. reports a record year in 1964 and has increased dividend to 144 per cent., equal to an improved earning rate of 15.7 per cent., the highest dividend yet paid by Cuming Smith. The Company’s principal is its holding of 235,801 £1 shares in I.C.I.A.N.Z. Another holding is a large holding in Cuming Smith-Mi. Lyell Farmers Fertilisers Ltd.
In Western Australia, Cuming Smith and Co. Ltd. and Westralian Farmers Superphosphates Ltd. had a net earning for the year of £1,020,000, a return of 23 per cent, on an issued capital of £4.45 million. Recently, Mount Lyell Investments Ltd., which is owned by Boral Ltd. and which has a one third holding in Cuming Smith-Westralian Farmers Superphosphates Ltd., sold its holdings to the British Petroleum Co. of Australia Ltd. at a book profit of £2,263.712. The company has now changed its name to C.S.B.P. and Farmers Ltd. The
Press reports that investments in C.S.B.P. will reach £12 million. Mr. Cuming is Chairman of Australian Fertilisers Ltd., which has an earning rate calculated on an annual basis of 14.3 per cent. Its earning rate in 1963-64 was 17.7 per cent. So we have I.C.I.A.N.Z., Australian Fertilisers Ltd., A.C.F. and Shirleys Fertilisers Ltd., Cuming Smith, Mount Lyell and British Petroleum all well linked, as well as the earlier merged Commonwealth Fertilisers and Chemicals Ltd. On 27th October 1965, the Press reported -
I.C.I.A.N.Z. yesterday announced plans lor a £12 million nitrogenous fertilisers project with Conzinc Riotinto at Newcastle to counter the strong challenge from Esso and W. R. Grace for a major foothold in the rapidly growing nitrogenous fertilisers Reid. The new plant will be adjacent to Greenleaf Fertilisers al Newcastle.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I could go on ad infinitum demonstrating how profitable this fertiliser is and how every day these mergers are taking place. I do not deny that in some circumstances mergers reduce overhead costs and may be desirable. If we consider the increased profits that have resulted from almost every merger that I have mentioned, we can see that the primary producers and the people of this country are not getting much in return. Let us consider just one case. A particular firm - 1 think it was Boral Ltd. - sold out to another firm in Western Australia at a net profit of £2i million. One need not wonder why the prices of fertilisers to the primary producers have been increased if one considers the fact that W. R. Grace and Co., the largest fertiliser and chemical producer in the United States of America, boosted the shares of Cresco Fertilisers Ltd., a fertiliser company based in South Australia and Victoria, from 50s. to 90s. each. When that sort of thing happens, one does not wonder why the prices of fertilisers are increased. If one examines every merger that has occurred in the last 12 months, one will find that high prices are always paid to those who are bought out. But who is paying for all this? Those who agree to pay the high prices to those who are being bought out do not pay. In the ultimate, the primary producers of this country pay.
I have supported every bounty measure that has been before the House this evening, Mr. Deputy Speaker. But I am rather doubtful about the justification for such measures sometimes. The Government at some time in the future should act to ensure that the people of Australia are not detrimentally affected by the activities of these private fertiliser enterprises. I am not averse to a reasonable return on any investment but just imagine one company buying out the interests of another company and raking off a net return of £2i million. Is it any wonder the primary producers are beginning o wail about how they are being treated? They are gradually being pushed beyond the point of no return in their operations on behalf of the nation. I leave it at that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 25th October (vide page 2106), on motion by Mr. Howson -
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
.This Bill provides for the continuation of the existing bounty of, I think, 6d. lb. on the production of acetate flake. If my memory serves me correctly, acetate flake is a product used in the spinning of certain fabrics. The Tariff Board has reported from time to time on the justification for a bounty. Its last report indicated that it considered a bounty was justified. In those circumstances, without further comment, because this particular subject is perhaps less debatable than have been certain other bills relating to bounties, the Opposition is prepared to approve the continuation of the existing subsidy on acetate flake. However, notwithstanding the Tariff Board’s report, I emphasise again that I am not enthusiastic about the elimination of the provision for a limitation of 10 per cent, profit.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Howson) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) proposed -
Thai the House do now adjourn.
– I want to mention to the House the position in the Teachers Federation in New South Wales in relation to the elections which are at present occurring. The ballot papers have been distributed and will be returned, 1 understand, on 4th November. In previous elections, only about one-half the members of the Federation have voted. Because of this, it has fallen and remained under the control of a clique of proCommunists and Communists. I want particularly to refer to a man named Sam Lewis who is president of the Federation.
– How long has he been president?
– For many years, unfortunately. This man Lewis is, in point of fact, a Communist agent and he uses his position in the Teachers Federation to further the Communist cause. I am not certain whether honorable members realise how far this has gone, but I would like to point out that this man is a Communist of long standing.
This matter was raised in the House as long ago as 1947 by Mr. Lang, who was then a member of the House. He gave a long history of Mr. Lewis, naming him as a Communist. I will not repeat that history, but I will recall to the House some words of Mr. Chifley, spoken on 30th October 1947 when he was Prime Minister. Speaking of Mr. Lewis he said -
I have no knowledge of the political views of Mr. Lewis. However, I have seen reports in the Press that he has denied any association with the Communist Party.
I have not been able to get the Parliamentary Library to check these 1947 Press reports but I have no doubt that Mr. Chifley spoke the truth. I think the reports must be accepted at their face value. If Mr. Lewis then denied that he was a Communist, he was a liar and this charge must be laid squarely on the line.
I have in my hand a copy of a statutory declaration in this regard. I am prepared to lay a copy of this declaration on the table of the House before it rises. The declaration is by a Mr. Kelly of New South Wales and reads -
Round about 1942, when I was living in Wagga, I visited the house in Sydney of Mr. Sam Lewis of the Teachers Federation. He and his wife (whom I had known before she was married) were both present.
Mr. Lewis, regarding me as a Communist, told me in the presence of his wife that they were both undercover members of the Communist Party, and worked in the Teachers Federation on behalf of the Communist Party.
Although about that time I was briefly a member of the Communist Party, I left them as soon as 1 found out the nature and objectives of their organization and ever since I have worked actively against them. i have read to the House the text of a statutory declaration. Mr. Lewis was a Communist in 1942. He has consistently remained a Communist. He has prostituted the Teachers Federation for Communist purposes. It is a shame and a disgrace that teachers, who in the main are not Communists - the teachers of New South Wales are not a Communist body - should be misrepresented by a man of this character. It is instructive to sec that the man Lewis - this Communist - was defended in this >use only last week by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant). It is instructive also to note that when a question was asked in the House with the object of getting a higher poll in the Teachers Federation so that there would be a vote to take Lewis out of office, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, stepped in to protect Communist interests. I invite honorable members to look at “ Hansard “ for Friday last in this regard. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition stepped in to stifle the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Bury) on the ground that teaching was not an industry. Yet he must have known that the Teachers Federation was represented both on the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Labour Council of New South Wales. That being so, it was hypocritical of him to take that point of order. I am afraid that the House must draw a very bad conclusion as to his motives in taking it. I say that in passing.
The main thing that I want to say is that there is now on the record a statutory declaration saying that Mr. Lewis is a Communist of long standing and has been using his position in the Teachers Federation for Communist purposes. That declaration is supported by the evidence that was brought into this House as long ago as 1947 by Mr. Lang - some time Premier of New South Wales and at that stage a member of this House. It is supported by evidence as to the nature - » -
– What is the honorable member talking about?
– The honorable member for Kingsford-smith is interjecting in order to cover up for the Communists. He is playing the usual Labour game of endeavouring to protect the Communists in the Teachers Federation. All I am saying is that I hope the members of the Federation will vote at the coming election. I hope they will vote for the anti-Communist candidates, namely the candidates sponsored by the Federation Reform Committee, which, in the teeth of opposition from the Labour Party, is endeavouring to break the stranglehold of the Communists on the Teachers Federation.
It is very instructive to be here tonight, listening to the interjections of honorable members opposite and realising that the purpose of those interjections is to prevent any attacks being made on the Communists in the Teachers Federation. I ask members of the Opposition to examine their consciences and their motives in these matters. I particularly ask the members of the Teachers Federation who are not Communists, and who in the past have not exercised their right to vote, to fill in their ballot papers and to send them in before 4th November. I ask those members to vote for the candidates who they can assure themselves are opposed to the Federation being Communist run by this man Lewis, who has perverted the aims, objectives and policies of the Federation for Communist ends.
.We have heard another one of the full moon addresses to which we in this place are subjected from time to time. It is most unfortunate for honorable members that, every time the moon is almost full, they are subjected to this type of thing.
– They go like that.
– They go like that, do they?
– He is a self-taught idiot and he has never had a lesson.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, Mr. Speaker.
– I wish to refer to some matters that relate to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I regret that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) is not here at the moment to give us the benefit of his knowledge of these subjects. I think it was the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) who, by way of a question this afternoon, directed the attention of the Postmaster-General to poor mail deliveries between Sydney and parts of my electorate. I have here a heap of correspondence in relation to poor mail deliveries between Sydney and Newcastle. This clearly indicates to me that there is something the matter with the Postmaster-General’s Department, particularly the mail section. It is about time something was done to straighten it out and put it on a better level than it is on at the moment. At present it is possible to have a letter posted in England delivered to a person in Newcastle more quickly than a letter posted in Sydney.
Only last week I wrote to the PostmasterGeneral and drew his attention to a letter which was posted at Burwood on 18th October, was cleared at some time in the morning of the 19th - I think it was 12.20 a.m. - and was not deliverd in Newcastle until Monday, the 24th. Taking as long as that to deliver a letter is not good enough. Recently the Secretary of the Boilermakers Society of Australia wrote to me. He wrote on the Friday, the letter was mailed at 5 o’clock that afternoon and the envelope clearly showed that it was collected at 12.15 a.m. on the Saturday, some seven hours later. The letter should have been delivered at the very latest by the first delivery on Monday morning. It was delivered to my home by the first delivery on Tuesday morning. The letter took from 5 o’clock on Friday until midday on Tuesday to reach me. Is this the year 1966 or the year 66?
During the parliamentary recess I wanted a publication urgently. I telephoned the Papers Office here on Tuesday, 28th June, and asked to have a document sent to me at my office, lt arrived on Monday, 4th July. Mail from Canberra to Newcastle took six days. Later in the same month, on Wednesday, 6th July, I again telephoned the Papers Office and asked for a publication to be posted to me. I received it on the following Monday. The Postmaster-General informed me that action was taken lo correct the delays, but the fact of the matter is that for some considerable time a delay of two or three days has occurred in the delivery of mail from Canberra to Newcastle. This is just not good enough. O’n 6th June, I wrote to the Minister on behalf of a lady. I said that mail addressed to her from the New South Wales Supreme Court was not delivered to her at her address until three days after it had been posted. This is assuming that the letters were posted at an inter-city mail box al the conclusion of business at 5 p.m. I enclosed six envelopes showing that this was not one odd occasion on which mail posted in Sydney had taken three days to be delivered in Newcastle. 1 have another example of the inefficient workings of the Postmaster-General’s Department and one of the excellent way in which it works. A gentleman in June of this year showed me an envelope that had contained mail sent to him from England. It was addressed to him in Bull Street, Newcastle. Newcastle has only two Bull Streets, one in the city and one in Mayfield, a suburb of Newcastle. Both Bull Streets are long. The letter was taken to 92 Bull Street, Newcastle. The addressee was not there, so the letter was sent back to England. It contained an important document; it had been sent to him by a firm of solicitors. No attempt was made to ascertain whether the gentleman lived at Bull Street, Mayfield. It was not until he wrote to the solicitors in England some months later asking what had happened to his inquiries that the solicitors realised they had addressed the letter wrongly. They sent him the envelope, showing that it had been addressed to 92 Bull Street, Newcastle. Newcastle has only two Bull Streets, but the postal authorities could not find the second one. I can also cite examples of how efficiently the Postal Department employees can work at times. A letter addressed, “ Wife of Alderman, near Picture Theatre, Newcastle “ was delivered correctly.
– The Post Office has even delivered letters addressed to Santa Claus.
– That may be so, but the cases I am referring to are fair dinkum. A letter addressed “ Olive, Mother of Schoolboy Peter, Islington “ was also delivered. I have also received a letter complaining of inefficient mail delivery in the Armidale area. A letter was posted at Armidale railway station on 9th February, containing an order for several hundred pounds worth of business, lt was posted by a commercial traveller for the firm receiving the order. The letter was not delivered until 2 p.m. on Friday, 11th February. The Minister discovered from his inquiries that the mail collector had not bothered to clear the letterbox on 9th February, so that the letters it contained lay there until the next day. Just for good measure, the letter to which I have referred was misdirected to Sydney.
– What would the honorable member do with those employees?
– The position is that the whole service is inefficient. I want to know why it is inefficient. It is the Minister’s job to ascertain the reasons why the mail delivery system is inefficient; why it takes three days for letters to go from Sydney to Newcastle, and as long as five days in some instances; why it is that letters on occasions take six days to arrive in Newcastle from Canberra. I could give numerous other examples. The gentleman who posted the order at Armidale, to whom I have just referred, posted another letter in the same box at 5.50 p.m. on 16th March. It had not been received by Saturday afternoon, 19th March.
If I had the time available to me I could go further into this subject. I could give more details of the posting of a parcel marked “ Urgent “, which was lodged at the Sydney General Post Office at 4 p.m. on a Monday and was not delivered until the following Friday. The wrapper had been torn, and the stamps had been removed. I believe that a mail contractor was responsible for the delivery of the parcel. I have raised these matters tonight because I believe that a better mail delivery service should be provided. 1 consider that the present system is unsatisfactory. Mail posted after 7 p.m. is not cleared until 9.30 the next morning. Something is wrong in the mail section of the Postmaster-General’s Department. What is it? Is insufficient staff employed, with the result that mail cannot be cleared regularly? I have been told that when mail comes into the sorting room it is tipped onto a table. If it is not cleared by the end of the shift, it lies there.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.I wish to refer to the proposed construction of a new Commonwealth clothing factory at Coburg, Melbourne. It is to be transferred from South Melbourne. I and some of my colleagues - the honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten) for instance - are disappointed that the Government has not been able to see its way clear to construct the new clothing factory in a country area, as a practical example of decentralisation. 1 have been handed a statement by the Minister which explains why the Commonwealth believes that the factory cannot be transferred to the country. I would like to examine the reasons that have been given. The explanation begins by saying that Sir John Allison and Mr. Brewster, two specialists in the subject, examined the possibilities of locating the factory in a country area. They rejected the proposition. I do not know what are the particular skills of those two gentlemen, but I believe that the information given to me by the Minister does not bear the light of examination. It states, in part -
The sole purpose of building a new clothing factory is to rehouse existing facilities at present in use in the old factory.
As I said, they are not going to rebuild at South Melbourne but at Coburg. This will mean that those persons who are employed in South Melbourne, which is south of the River Yarra, will have to travel to work at Coburg, which is on the north side of the Yarra.
– The honorable member should get his facts straight. There is a factory there.
– That is true, but I am talking about the factory in South Melbourne.
– There is a factory in Brunswick.
– Order! I think it would be better if the honorable member for Gippsland were to address the Chair.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong can make a speech on this, if he likes.
– There are 792 people employed at the South Melbourne factory and they are now to be transferred to Coburg. No survey has been made of where these people do, in fact, live. I ascertained this from the Minister. The honorable member for Maribyrnong who is interjecting apparently knows more about where these people live than does the Minister. Of the 792 employees, 20 are supervisors. I am informed that these employees are the key to the functioning of this factory. It is the belief of the Department that these 20 supervisors cannot be expected to transfer their employment from South Melbourne to, say, the Latrobe Valley, Ballarat or Wangaratta.
– Why should they?
– Is the honorable member going to argue about this, or am I going to speak to the House? In normal business - in banks, for instance - employees are transferred to the Latrobe Valley, Wangaratta, Ballarat and such places.
– So are school teachers.
– Yes, this applies to school teachers, too. I believe that if a survey were taken it might well reveal that these 20 supervisors would prefer to live in a country area. It would be better for their health if they were able to do so. I have been informed that 33 expert embroiderers are involved. I submit that these employees, if they do not want to live in a country area, could well remain in Melbourne. Only 33 are involved. I have seen them working in
South Melbourne and I believe they are only a minor part of the total consideration. The next group of employees concerned comprises 46 expert cutters. Here again, I submit that these people could well transfer their employment. To my knowledge no attempt was made to find out whether they would be happy to transfer. I believe that the Government could have made an approach to each of these individuals to find out whether they would be interested in transferring. A total of 65 storemen is involved, but they should not come into consideration as they are not skilled employees, nor are the 18 pressers skilled workers. Pressers can be taught their trade also. So we come back to what seems to be the real issue, namely, the 559 seamstresses at present employed. It has been suggested that 559 seamstresses would not be available in country areas like the Latrobe Valley, Gippsland, and the other places I have mentioned. The Department has not made a survey to determine whether the seamstresses would be happy to transfer to country areas. It is quite obvious that many of these seamstresses would be married women whose husbands are employed elsewhere and, therefore, it would not be practicable for them to transfer to the country. Despite this, a six months’ period will be involved in transferring from one factory to the other, so plenty of time is available in which to train new seamstresses.
The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) will agree with me that the Advance Latrobe Valley Association is a responsible organisation. It is a progressive organisation which has made a study of the needs of the Latrobe Valley. From its survey it is apparent that female labour experiences difficulty in finding employment in the Latrobe Valley. I submit to the Government that it could easily have conducted an inquiry into this matter before it made a firm decision to spend $335,000 on land in Coburg. I know for a positive fact that the Traralgon City Council for one - and there would be other councils which would do the same - would supply a large industrial area for a few thousand dollars, perhaps even for nothing. Added to this, we have the schools which have already been built in the area. Housing would not be a problem. Many of these girls who could be seamstresses and who are already in the Latrobe Valley are having trouble in finding jobs.
Let me return to the statement as time is running out. One of the reasons given for not establishing a clothing factory in the country areas was that if the new factory were located outside the metropolitan area, liaison with design, inspection and ordering facilities would be made more difficult. I ask: How does the Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd. get on? How does the State Electricity Commission of Victoria get on? How does Bruck Mills (Aust.) Ltd. at Wangaratta get on? It is nonsense to talk like this. Another reason given was that it is important that the factory should be in close contact with the textile and clothing industries already established in the metropolitan area. The Postmaster-General is in the House. He provides these people with the most modern facilities in the world. They can ring up and have a chat over the telephone at any time.
Another reason given for not establishing a new clothing factory was that maintenance of specialised plant, carried out by contractors, would be much more difficult if the factory were to be located outside the Melbourne metropolitan area. Again I ask: How does any factory get on that is already established in the country areas? This has some bearing on the matter. The honorable member for Maribyrnong will be pleased with the next reason, which is that because of additional movement of materials and of the finished products there will be some higher costs. This is accepted. But I think that the advantage in the establishment of a factory of this nature would be so great that the additional costs would not matter. The next reason given was that in deciding to relocate the new factory in the Melbourne metropolitan area the major factor was the immediate availability of the skilled and trained work force. No study has been made of the loss that will be incurred when the factory is transferred from South Melbourne to Coburg.
I submit that there is a good case for the Government to have another look at this matter. There are several country areas in Victoria where something like this could be done, but I am plugging for Traralgon where I know there is an employable work force and there are facilities available. If the Government were to do something about this matter, it would be a practical demonstration of the Government’s interest in decentralisation. It could save itself $335,000, which is the cost of the land alone. 1 ask the Government to have another look al this matter.
.- I want to raise a matter tonight which I consider will be of vital importance to every decent thinking Australian. It concerns the circulation of pamphlets in the Singleton Army Camp where our 20 year old conscripts and soldiers are being trained for this unpopular, dirty war in Vietnam.
– They are not conscripts. They have chosen to do it of their own freewill.
– Listen to the educationist. Interjections by members opposite represent a deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to prevent me from giving to this House vital information which I consider will be of interest to every Australian. The document that I have in front of me will show that there is reason for severe censure of the Government. I am glad that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) has entered the chamber. I paid the Minister the courtesy of informing him that I intended to raise this vitally important matter.
I am in possession of pamphlets that have been circulated in the Singleton army camp, which I allege are brainwashing our soldiers before they go overseas. One of the documents is called “ Conversation on Vietnam.” It has come into my possession and it is a most interesting document. It measures about 8 ins. by 5 ins. and contains at the top left hand corner of the cover piece the emblem of the United States Armed Services. But it also has interesting features. It is prepared by the United States Information Service. It is printed by the Free Asian Press in Manila. It contains 37 pages, with 37 questions and 37 answers. Possibly the most interesting feature of the whole matter is that this is essentially a United States based pamphlet, presenting, I believe, the standard brainwashing formula for the conscripts serving at the Singleton army camp. Who was it who said: “ All the way with L.B.J.”? The only thing that this pamphlet lacks is the personal signatures of the President of the United States and of Air Vice-Marshal Ky. Truthfully, I must admit that the pamphlet does not actually record that Air Vice-Marshal Ky is a great admirer of Adolf Hitler and has to live on an American airfield because he is scared to live among his own people in South Vietnam.
Let us have a look at this hateful little book, this foreign document that is used to instil hate into our 20-year old conscripts. This hateful little book says -
Question 1: Why is the United States waging war against North Vietnam?
Answer: The U.S. is not doing that at all.
We are helping the free Government and the people of the Republic of Vietnam defend their freedom and independence against attack, directed and in part supplied, from North Vietnam. Our purpose, like that of the South Vietnamese, is peace in the Republic of Vietnam - a peace which guarantees South Vietnam’s independence and right of self-determination.
That is what the booklet says. This is a brilliant answer to a brilliant question. Firstly, the United States of America is not waging war against North Vietnam. That is the type of brainwashing that this document contains.
I ask: Just what is the United States doing? A lot of Vietnamese would like the answer to that question. The United States is said to be seeking to give them selfdetermination. What happened to the elections that were to be held way back in 1 956. They would have given the Vietnamese selfdetermination. But they have not been held even now. Perhaps they will never be held. The 1 956 elections were cancelled for the reasons stated in Eisenhower’s book “ Mandate for Change “. Eisenhower said that if free elections had been held in 1956, 80 per cent, of the people would have voted for Ho Chi Minh. So the elections were never held. The Vietnamese would have liked selfdetermination but the United States would not be the boss if this had happened. So, the United States Government gave the South Vietnamese another form of self-determination. It gave the Vietnamese Ngo Dinh Diem and it also gave Diem some Marshall Aid. What does George Marion say about Marshall Aid? I refer honorable members to an interesting reference in his book, “ Bases and Empires “. I quote from page 37. George Marion says -
The overwhelming financial position of the United States is the decisive expression of its economic strength. The dependence of most of the worid on American financial or economic cooperation provided the opportunity for the launching of the Marshall Plan. The plan in turn would legalise and make permanent the dependence. Apologists for the plan assert the opposite. They say the plan is the very negation of imperialism because it tries to put the war battered nations back on their feet. But the official summary says it would impose American limitations on the amount of factory construction, power plant establishment, and even home building, that any participant in the plan might undertake. Steel mill construction and shipbuilding were particularly restricted. Thus it is clear that the plan attempts to make American advantages permanent by control of key sections of the economy.
This, then is the form of self determination that the Americans gave to the Vietnamese - a puppet dictator and control of the economy. They did more than this. They gave to the Vietnamese a whole series of puppet dictators. Now, 12 years later, they are still going to give the Vietnamese self determination. They propose to do it by brainwashing our Australian soldiers at the Singleton camp, which is under the control of the Minister for the Army. I hope that the Minister will see that it is discontinued forthwith and that the Army is allowed to stand on its own two feet. The Australian Army is capable of doing that.
We had the spectacle recently of Australian schoolchildren waving American flags. Now we have the disgraceful situation in which Australian conscripts are being brainwashed by the United States Information Service through documents that are being circulated at the Singleton camp and which have been printed in Manila. It is high time that the Minister for the Army declared himself. He should declare whether he is in favour of these documents being circulated amongst Australian soldiers and whether they are being circulated with the authority and approval of the Australian
Army. It is bad enough having conscripts. Now we have conscripts being brainwashed by the Americans.
When France was fighting with her back to the wall in Vietnam, she did not send conscripts to that war-torn country. According to official documents, she did not dare to send conscripts to Vietnam, nor did she increase the draft at home for fear of public opposition to the war. The French Parliament and the French people never regarded Vietnam as being vital to French power. Obviously the United States thinks differently - so differently that she is prepared to brainwash our 20 year old Australian boys in the Singleton army camp. As I said earlier, I hope that this is not approved by the Minister for the Army. The document states, at page 5, that more than 30 nations have responded to South Vietnam’s call for assistance. I remind the Parliament that there are not 30 nations fighting for South Vietnam. Only four nations are fighting there. The rest of the world regards this as being a dirty war and will not participate in it.
I ask the Minister to do all in his power to have these brainwashing documents withdrawn immediately from the Singleton camp. Our boys are capable of thinking for themselves and of making up their own minds without having these misleading documents, without being brainwashed, without having their minds poisoned and without being taught to kill and hate. Such things are abhorrent to every decent, thinking Australian.
– Mr Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Fairbairn) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.58 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
Nursing Homes. (Question No. 2065.)
A Commonwealth benefit of$2.00 a day is payable in respect of each qualified nursing home patient. This benefit is paid direct to the nursing home proprietor who must deduct it from the patient’s gross fees.
r asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1 and 2. No. Medical benefits organisations are obliged to comply with the provisions of the National Health Act before paying Commonwealth benefits. Section 4 (4) of the National Health Act specifically excludes the payment of Commonwealth benefit for a professional attendance in consequence of which spectacles are prescribed. Organisations are required to ensure that the question on their claim forms asking whether spectacles were prescribed as a result of a consultation, is properly answered.
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will the discontinuance of Salk vaccine production by the Commonwealth Scrum Laboratories mean that the Laboratories’ share of the commercial drug market will be reduced below the limit of two per cent, which his predecessor undertook to maintain on 10th December 1965 (“Hansard”, pages 3913 and 3914)?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
It is not anticipated that the discontinuance of Salk vaccine production by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission will affect the overall position.
t asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
Both of the stations have been inspected by officers of the Commonwealth Department of Health who formed the opinion that a number of improvements are required. These reports are being discussed with officers in the Northern Territory Administration.
t asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honor able member’s questions are as follows -
Vietnam. (Question No. 1889.)
b asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that United States and Australian soldiers captured in Vietnam by the Vict Cong are treated as war criminals because the United States and Australia have not made an official declaration of war?
– The Prime Minister has suppliedthe following answer -
The Government has no reason to believe that the Viet Cong attitude on the treatment of prisoners is determined by the absence of a formal declaration of war. While the Viet Cong have indicated that they do not consider themselves bound by the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war, they have also asserted that they treat prisoners humanely.
No Australian soldiers have been captured in Vietnam by the Vict Cong.
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers -
Direct financial aid was granted by the Commonwealth to Catholic secondary schols in the last two financial years and continues during the current financial year. It began with the introduction of the science facilities scheme for all secondary schools in July, 1964. Information in the form requested by the honorable member in relation to the first two years of the scheme is provided below -
Education. (Question No. 2160.)
s asked the Prime Minister -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers -
son asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
What was the (a) average cost of maintaining (i) a public ward bed and (ii) an intermediate ward bed, (b) daily rate charged per bed and (c) Commonwealth assistance given per bed in each State during each of the last twenty years7
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Radioactive Substances Legislation. (Question No. 2139.)
m asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice -
What wasthe commencing date and what has been the progress of the review ofthe model
Radioactive Substances Act and Regulations of the National Health and Medical Research Council in the light of the articles and provisions of the International Labour Convention No. 115 and Recommendation No. 114 concerning Radiation, 1960, mentioned by the Minister for Labour and National Service in his statement presented on 22nd September 1966?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Ever since the Model Radioactive Substances Act was recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council in May 1954, and the Model Regulations were recommended by it in November 1957, the model legislation has been under more or less constant review. The Radiation Technical Sub-Committee of the Council, in particular, is specifically undertaking a detailed review.
In this detailed review, consideration is being given not only to International Labour Convention 115 and Recommendation 114, but also to the recommendations and surveys of other international and national bodies such as the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the International Atomic Energy Commission and the World Health Organization.
The National Health and Medical Research Council will in due course recommend the technical basis for a new Model Radioactive Substances Act and Regulations which will take account of changes in circumstances brought about through international and national experience and recommendations.
Apart from the revision of the Model Act and Regulations, the Council and my department in other ways take action to improve the standards and practices of those using radioactive substances and irradiating apparatus. Between October 1962 and May 1966, the council adopted six codes of practice and nine recommendations or statements prepared by its committees. Currently, three further codes of practice are in preliminary draft form and others are at the planning stage.
These codes, recommendations and statements have been widely distributed and have proved very valuable not only to the authorities administering radioactive substances legislation but also to the persons actually working with radioactive substances and irradiating apparatus.
rns asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
son asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1. (a) During the period 1st July 1961 to 30th June 1966, there were 204 references to the Medical Services Committee of Inquiry to inquire whether there had been excessive attendance on pensioner patients by medical practitioners enrolled in the Pensioner Medical Service.
These figures include references in respect of partnerships of two or more medical practitioners and individual medical practitioners whose claims have been the subject of more than one reference.
As a result of the inquiries carried out by the committees of inquiry during this period the Pensioner Medical Service Agreement with four doctors was terminated and reprimands were made in 37 cases. Disallowance of a portion of the doctor’s claims was made in a further 109 cases.
Medical Services Committee of Inquiry. (Question No. 2178.) Mr. Daly asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
I have received and considered the report of the Medical Services Committee of Inquiry in respect of Drs. R. G. and G. P. Perkins. 2. (a) 1 have given my decision on the report and this has been conveyed to the medical practitioners concerned.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 October 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19661026_reps_25_hor53/>.