26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Health whether he will earnestly consider restoring to the free drugs list the drugs Alupent, which costs $3 a bottle for a supply lasting only approximately 8 days, and Tedral, which costs $2.30 for 100 tablets? ls he aware that these drugs are essential to those unfortunate persons who suffer from bronchitis, asthma and emphysema and that the high prices put these preparations beyond the reach of all pensioners who suffer from those complaints?
– As I am sure the honourable member is aware, under the terms of the National Health Act I am not empowered to include drugs in the free list or to remove them from it. As has been stated many times, there is in existence a committee known as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, the function of which is to recommend to me those drugs that should be listed and any restrictions that should be applied to their use. The action taken in respect of the drugs that the honourable gentleman has mentioned was taken on the recommendation of that Committee, which has regard solely for therapeutic considerations. In view of what he has said, I shall refer his remarks to the Committee for its consideration.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs satisfied that the presidential elections in South Vietnam last Sunday were conducted in as reasonable a manner and as democratically as possible in the circumstances existing in that country both during the election campaign and now and in view of the continuous and violent opposition of the Vietcong to those elections?
– The Government has received from its Ambassador in Saigon a preliminary report on the observations of himself and his staff, and Australian correspondents, including some of great experience, who were in Saigon at the time of the elections have reported to their newspapers. The observations by the newspaper correspondents to the general effect that, having regard to all the circumstances, the elections were conducted as fairly and as properly as could reasonably be expected are fully supported by the confidential reports that we have received from our Ambassador. Of course, at this stage I do not want to anticipate the report of the team of observers, which is something which will be presented in due course.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs clarify for the House recent conflicting reports about deteriorating diplomatic relations between Australia and Cambodia?
– At the outset I would not concede that there has been recent deterioration in relations between Australia and Cambodia. One particular matter in which there is a conflict of opinion between the Cambodian Government and ourselves concerns the terms in which we expressed our respect for the frontiers of Cambodia. The Cambodian Government had placed great store on receiving from a number of governments a declaration of respect for its frontiers. We drew up a formula and submitted it to the Cambodian Government. We understood that the form in which we proposed to express our respect was fully acceptable to the Cambodian Government. We therefore made that statement. Subsequently the Cambodian Government has expressed disappointment that the expression was not made in other terms.
– My question is also addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. At a recent meeting of student teachers in Adelaide a booklet called ‘The Children of Vietnam’ was distributed by members of the Labor Clubs of the Adelaide and Flinders Universities. Photographs have been used to illustrate graphically injuries sustained by the alleged victims of allied bombing together with so-called authentic editorial comment by a Mr William F. Pepper. Mr Pepper is identified as the Executive Director of the New Rochelle Commission on’ Human Rights, instructor in political science at
Mersey College, Dobb’s Ferry, New York, and Director of that College’s children’s institute for advanced study and research.
-Order! The honourable member’s preface to his question is far too long.
– This is to identify the person concerned.
-The honourable member will direct his question.
– Is the Minister in a position to give the House any information on Mr Pepper and his qualifications, on the authenticity of the photographs reproduced and on the organisations or individuals financing and distributing these and similar booklets in South Australia?
– I have no comment to make on Mr Pepper. He certainly is an editor, he certainly occupies the position of Executive Director of the New Rochelle Commission on Human Rights, and he holds a teaching position at one of the colleges in New York. We are informed that he spent several weeks in Vietnam in 1966. Apart from that, we know nothing about him.
Regarding this booklet, I will say quite explicitly that, on the face of it, it contains a great deal of falsification. I think that if one can prove deliberate falsification in some instances there is a reasonable presumption that there has been falsification in other instances. In the case of two photographs, the photograph on page 15 shows a small Vietnamese girl with a bandaged arm, walking with a stick. We have definite and completely verified information that the original photograph was taken by a photographer named Horst Faas. It was the photograph of a girl 12 years old who was wounded during the battle for Dong Xoai in June 1965. That photograph which was taken by the American photographer was later issued by the American Information Services, labelled plainly as a photograph of a girl who had been orphaned by a Vietcong attack. She had been so orphaned in the attack by the Vietcong guerillas on that village in June 1965 when 400 Vietnamese were killed, including scores of women and children. That photograph, which was originally issued in the way I have outlined, was published in ‘Life’ magazine, again with a correct ascription to it. The editors of this booklet have picked it out and given it a completely false title, and have represented the victim of a Vietcong atrocity as having been the victim of American action.
The second photograph, which appears on page 18 or 19, shows in an orphanage two children - one bandaged - who, in the words of the booklet, sit big-eyed with hope. This is a reproduction of a photograph that was taken by Mr George J Szabo, again an American official photographer, in Saigon on 14th March 1966, and which was issued officially by the United States authorities with its true description as a picture of two orphaned children in the national orphanage south of Saigon, with the explanation that the Vietcong had thrown a hand grenade into the bus in which the boy was riding with his mother and father, both parents being killed and the boy suffering a shrapnel wound. Once again the editors of this booklet have taken a picture of victims of Vietcong atrocity and have inserted it in thenbooklet purporting to show the subjects of the picture as victims of American action. These are two definite cases of deliberate falsification.
When one examines the other figures and statistics in the booklet one finds in some places fabrications and in all places a most malicious and distorted exaggeration of the situation. There have been unfortunately, as all of us know quite well, civilian casualties as a result of war in Vietnam, but the cause of those casualties has been distorted in this booklet, and the number and extent of civilian casualties have been very much exaggerated.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Is it generally conceded that there is a connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer and heart disease? If so, who has authority to control the advertising of cigarettes on television and radio and in the Press? What action is being taken to exercise this control? Have the Minister and the State health ministers made any attempt to reach a common basis of approach to the control of advertising or the publicising of the dangers of cigarette smoking? If not, when can some determined and concerted action be expected?
Br FORBES- I think the answer to the honourable member’s first question is yes; lt is generally recognised that there is the connection he has suggested. There have been quite a number of discussions at Commonwealth and State health ministers’ conferences about this matter, the last of them being at the conference which I attended in Perth earlier this year. The ministers surveyed the situation. They took under notice the fact that the National Health and Medical Research Council is currently conducting an attitude survey on the question of what leads people to take up smoking in the first place. All ministers agreed that no further action should be taken in respect of such things as advertising until more information became available as a result of this survey. I think the answer to the honourable member’s question is that this matter has been carefully considered both by the Commonwealth and by the States, which have the primary responsibility in respect of it. The State governments have indicated their intention to press on with health education programmes in this field which they have already begun and which are now in progress.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. Has there been any change in the terms of the offer made to the State governments of a grant of $50m over a period of 5 years for selected additional water conservation works? Has the Government of New South Wales availed itself of the offer?
– No, there has been no change since the announcement made by my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, who was acting on my behalf while I was temporarily out of the country towards the end of May last. We announced that the water conservation programme was designed to increase water conservation and primary production and to reduce the hazards of drought. AH States have indicated their willingness to participate in the programme but some have indicated that it may take them up to 3 months to prepare their cases fully. The 3 months period would expire at about the end of this month. We have already heard from some States and we hope to hear from the remainder by about the end of this month.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Trade and Industry, whom I am glad to see back in the Parliament. I trust that he is quite well. In a speech to the Queensland Cane Growers Council on 3rd March last the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, the Minister for the Interior, made a rather dramatic forecast that a new international sugar agreement would be reached by January next. He said that the agreement may be reached sooner than January - perhaps even in October. Is the right honourable gentleman aware that current reports from international authorities suggest that an international sugar agreement is still a long way off and in fact may be no closer than it was 2 or 3 years ago? This is due, no doubt, to the politics of Cuba and other countries. What is the latest position with respect to an international sugar agreement? Are we any closer to negotiating a bilateral agreement with Japan?
– I answer in the belief that I am sufficiently in possession of the facts. If it happens that I put my foot down wrongly, I will correct my answer later. The negotiation of an international sugar agreement, unlike most other commodity agreements that I can think of, will be conducted through the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development rather than the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Wheat and other commodity agreements have been discussed in GATT but sugar which goes to export is almost exclusively cane sugar and most of the cane sugar which goes into world trade is produced in the less developed countries. These countries desire that the negotiation of a sugar agreement be conducted in UNCTAD, which is an institution specially formed as a forum for the less developed countries.
The conference which I attended some time ago was a conference of UNCTAD. It failed, as I have explained to the House. Apart from the generality of the problem, the tensions between Cuba and the United States seemed to me to dominate the situation and as Cuba is the biggest exporter of sugar it became impossible to obtain an agreement. There has been an unceasing continuation of effort at two different levels to set the stage for another major conference. At one level there has been an attempt to sustain the old International Sugar Council, which, apart from discussing sugar transactions from day to day or month to month, has been searching for a basis on which another convention might be established. Apart from this the SecretaryGeneral of UNCTAD, Dr Prebisch, has been communicating with and visiting various countries with a view to trying to establish a basis on which another great conference might he held which would not be foredoomed to failure. About April or May of this year it was believed that such a conference could be held this October or November with a reasonable prospect of success. Discussions continued and it was later felt that a conference should not be convened until next February.
There was a general acceptance that there would be a conference about February. However, the latest information that I have - and this has come to me within the last 10 days or so - is that there is now a confident expectation that the UNCTAD conference will be held next April preceded by preparatory work over the next’ few months. There is a generally accepted view that it would be better not to hold a conference unless there was a better than even money bet that the conference would succeed. So if the conference is held then it will bc held in that atmosphere. That answers the general question factually, if not very clearly. If I am wrong on any point of fact, I will inform the House accordingly. As I have explained to the House, I had confidently hoped to arrange with Japan a bilateral sugar agreement within the context of the Kennedy Round discussions, but I am sorry to say that I did not succeed, nor did anyone else succeed. But our relationships with Japan will continue under discussion.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs and refers to his revelation last week in the House that some trade union secretaries had sent a message to the Governor of Hong Kong, which was also transmitted to Peking for publication there to aid our Communist enemies. I ask him whether h« has any knowledge of any similar message being sent by trade union or Labor Party officials of other Australian States?
– Mr Speaker, the only other case that has come to my notice concerns a petition which was in identical terms to a petition to which I referred last week. It was addressed to the Governor of Hong Kong and was signed by R. H. Rickard, General Secretary of the Milk and Ice Carters and Dairymen’s Employees Union of New South Wales, Trades Hall, Sydney. It said:
Please find enclosed 13 petition sheets signed by Australian unionists who are strongly opposed to the attitude and actions of the British authorities towards their trade union brothers in Hong Kong. I have been directed by a special general meeting of the above union to register to you the very strongest possible protest of the members of the Milk and Ice Carters and Dairymen’s Employees Union of New South Wales for the recent action taken against the citizens and trade unionists of Hong Kong by the British authorities.
The wording of the petition was identical with that which I read out last week, calling on the British Government to stop ‘all Fascist measures’, to free arrested persons and to guarantee against a recurrence of a similar incident. I. am informed in general terms that the signatories for the majority of the petitions were members of the Waterside Workers Federation and, as I understand - subject to checking - they signed as individual members of the Waterside Workers Federation rather than claiming to sign as officials of the union.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he is aware that Mr Askin, Premier of New South Wales, has threatened to ban the import of bulk cement into New South Wales from the Goliath Portland Cement Company Ltd at Railton in Tasmania even though it represents only 6% of the total cement production of NSW. If carried through by the NSW Government, would not this action be a contravention of section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution which guarantees free trade between the States? Has the AttorneyGeneral knowledge of this sort of action being carried out anywhere else in Australia by one Australian State against another?
– All I know on this subject is what I have read in the newspapers this morning. As 1 read them, I understood that what was proposed was that in future any contracts which required the supply of cement should contain a clause specifying locally manufactured cement. If this is all that is proposed, then it would not appear to infringe section 92 of the Constitution which, as the honourable gentleman no doubt appreciates, only prevents certain laws being passed or certain executive action from being taken. Section 92 does not reach down to touch contracts between particular parties in the way mentioned by the honourable member. If the proposal goes no further than appears from, my reading of the newspaper report, it would not seem to infringe section 92. I am not able to answer the second part of the question in any useful way. I am not aware of any action being taken in this direction in any of the other States.
– Has the Treasurer noticed the concern being expressed in South Africa concerning the price of gold and the far reaching effect a rise in the price would have on the industry in that country? In view of the very great effect any price rise would have on the industry in Australia, especially in Western Australia, will he once again press, at an international level, for an increase in the price to be agreed to7
– In recent weeks there has been considerable speculation on the exchanges about the possibility of an increase in the price of gold, mainly because the Group of Ten was meeting and it was thought that, due to the influence of France, the Group might agree to an increase in the price of gold. Since then, a contingency plan has been prepared to create additional drawing rights in the International Monetary Fund. Consequently it appeared that those people who were pressing for an increase in the price of gold would no doubt abate their insistence for an increase in price. It therefore seemed unlikely there would be an increase in the price of gold and the exchanges have in fact fallen. I can understand the difficulties and disquiet that might be felt in South Africa. Equally can I feel the disquiet that might be expressed in Western Australia. I shall give the honourable gentleman an assurance that when I am at the meeting of the International Monetary Fund in the course of the next 10 days I shall do as my predecessor has done and strongly press for gold again to take its rightful place on the international exchanges and for an increase in the price of gold.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry whether he is aware that Australian imports in August of this year were valued at $340m, the highest in our history, and that the value of footwear and manufactured clothing imported during the month of August last was over $1.5m greater than the figure for August of last year. Does the honourable gentleman agree that there are sufficient skilled workmen and factories in our country for the manufacture of all the footwear and textile needs of Australia? Will he also explain how these goods, being paid for with foreign capital and not with returns from Australian exports, are contributing to Australia’s national development?
– It is true that imports for August of this year were at a very high level. The value was of the order of $3 14m as against $289m for August of the previous year. That is a substantial but not dramatic increase as the whole economy is growing. There is always a measure of fluctuation in the level of imports and exports, and certainly there is seasonal fluctuation. The balances of foreign currency which the country holds leave us with no ground for concern about the present level of imports in comparison with our level of exports and other commitments. The position is that we could produce probably all of our own basic requirements of footwear. However, many other countries could produce all of their own requirements of wheat or wool and various other things. We believe in international trade.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. In doing so I refer to an earlier question about material produced in this country concerning both sides of the war in Vietnam and publications sent through the mail which, I suggest, would never get through the
Department of Customs and Excise if an attempt were to be made to import them. They would be banned on the basis that they were depraved and disgusting. I ask the Minister whether he will investigate the possibility of the States clamping down on some of this material that must be printed internally.
– As the honourable member remarked in the course of his question, this is primarily a matter for State governments and not for this Government. However, I shall pass on his question to the Minister in another place to see if anything further can be done in the matter.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question which is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Griffith. In his answer, the Minister for Air appeared to give his imprimatur to a form of political censorship. Is that the view of the Government?
– Order! The honourable member may not discuss or debate a previous question. He will direct his question.
– Does the Prime Minister support the implied suggestion of political censorship which has just been put to the House in the answer by the Minister for Air?
– This Government has never, within my recollection, supported political censorship. The only instance of this which comes readily to mind is the action of the Labor Government which suppressed a number of newspapers in New South Wales at a time when it felt they were publishing material which was detrimental to the political prospects of the Labor Party.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral: Has his attention been drawn to the charge by a member of the House of Assembly of Papua and New Guinea that a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission had tried to engineer a racial incident recently? Will the Minister discuss this matter with the Minister for Territories, and if necessary, raise it with the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
– I have not seen the report to which the honourable member refers. I am not aware whether he means a member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or a member of the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. However, I will obtain details from the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and consult my colleague, the Minister for Territories. The honourable member will understand, of course, that the Australian Broadcasting Commission operates in Port Moresby and Rabaul. Broadcasting in the remainder of the Territory is under the control of the Department of Territories.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he is in a position to tell the House of any action the Government intends to take to help halt the fall in wool prices. Can he tell the House of schemes that have been submitted to him and to his Department? Has he received proposals from the committee for the retention and improvement of the auction system and can he tell the House what other proposals have been received? Finally, can the Minister tell the House of any action the Government proposes to take, either to call a meeting of those engaged in the industry or for any other purpose?
– I answered a question on this subject in the House during the week before last. I think I then gave the economic policies adopted by major wool consuming countries as the main reason for the fall in wool prices. These policies to some extent hamper the buying of our wool and have been applied by the United Kingdom, some of the countries of the European Economic Community and, to a degree, the United States of America. Of course, any policy determined by wool growers, or even by this Government, cannot affect the economic policies of other countries. As I have stated on other occasions, the industry has a Wool Marketing Committee and two sub-committees reporting to that Committee. The two subcommittees have now reported to the Marketing Committee, and the Marketing Committee will report to the Australian Wool Board. The Board, after considering the report, will make its recommendations to the Australian Wool Industry Conference in October. It will then be a matter for the Conference to decide upon any recommendations it may wish to make to the Government Some plans have been announced by individuals, including wool growers. However, I think we are really looking for the industry’s own viewpoint on this matter, and that will come to the Government through the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. 1 refer to the proceedings of the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in February last and the reference to long range proposals relative to Commonwealth and State financial relations. In an endeavour to answer satisfactorily the continued complaints of some States, I ask the Prime Minister whether an examination in depth might be undertaken and a White Paper issued to the Parliament to indicate the ramifications of the existing arrangements and the probable lines of future improvements in this vital field of taxation and the equitable distribution of finance by way of payments to the respective States.
– The Government at all times has before it the desirability of maintaining a satisfactory financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the State governments. We believe in a federal system and we want to make that system work. The fact of the matter is that over recent years many big increases have been made in the grants from revenues and other financial sources of the Commonwealth Government to State governments, by way of direct revenue payment, by assistance to them for their housing programmes and by means of special project arrangements that have assisted in the development of many important enterprises, some of which have produced additional export income for Australia. We have had a good deal of discussion on these matters at the regular meetings of the Australian Loan Council and the Premiers Conferences. I have had talks individually with a number of the Premiers. We have sought their suggestions as to ways in which we might produce some greater satisfaction, in their eyes, in this system.
What we are finding is that the electorate, in its demands in both State and Commonwealth spheres, presses governments to do more in a great variety of directions. But as good democratic governments we try to respond to the requests which come to us. At the same time we have to bear in mind the desirability of maintaining an effective economy, not depressing incentive by imposing unduly heavy burdens upon the tax paying community, individuals and companies, or by levying heavier charges on essential services such as the States sometimes need to make in respect of power, water and other services which lie within their jurisdiction. We hold ourselves open to discuss these matters with the Premiers. Frankly I am not attracted by the idea of trying to put all this down in a compendious document. I assure the honourable gentleman from long experience in these matters that it would take not only much longer than would meet the desires of the Premiers but also, in the end result, we would have to resolve these matters as among ourselves. I hope that our continuing consultations will produce some greater degree of satisfaction. That certainly is our desire.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Is it correct that a person coming to Australia for more than 12 months may be treated as a visitor and be exempt from Australian income tax on moneys earned in Australia? Is it also correct that in certain circumstances or conditions an exemption, either in full or in part, may be granted where the time in Australia exceeds 12 months? If this is correct, or substantially so, can the Treasurer say whether Japanese or others brought to Australia to work on short term projects could come within this field of exemption? If so, in what way and to what extent?
– I am not certain of the position under the income tax law. I shall obtain an answer from the Commissioner of Taxation and let the honourable member know just as soon as I can.
– My question to the Treasurer concerns the role of the United Kingdom as banker for the sterling area. B> way of brief preface may I say that some observers have suggested that one of the conditions which would be imposed upon possible British membership of the European Economic Community is that the United Kingdom should abandon her role as banker for the sterling area. I ask the right honourable gentleman: Is this a topic upon which British Treasury officials have communicated with the Australian Government? If so, is he in a position to give to the House an indication of what has been passed to him? Alternatively, is this a matter in which his own Treasury officials have interested themselves?
– -There has been no communication from the United Kingdom Government either to the Treasury or myself as to what its position would be as a sterling banker if the United Kingdom went into the European Economic Community. If it were proposed that before Britain entered the European Economic Community she would have to give up her role of a reserve currency or as banker for the sterling community, I doubt that she could willingly agree to these proposals. I know that some of the Rome Treaty countries would not like Britain to be a reserve currency area and to play the role that it now has in the sterling area. I believe that France, at the moment, would take strong steps to see that this relationship did not continue. I am able to say also that recent statements indicate quite clearly that it is the intention of the British Government to sustain its role and, above all, its intention to see that the value of sterling is retained.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question. It has been reported that the Australian-New Zealand Shipping Conference is participating in a freight rate war with its adversaries on the Australia to Japan routes. Has the Minister any information on the matter? Are Australian exports likely to benefit from this alleged freight war and, if so, to what extent and for what duration? Is there any chance of this freight war spreading to United States and European ports? If not, will he try to bring it about, by fair means or foul?
– I am not quite abreast of everything because I have not been attending my Department for several weeks, but I understand that the conference which operates between Australia, New Zealand, Japan and other places in the Far East is being subjected to some non-conference competition. We have a state of affairs in which there are two conflicting interests. If competition brings lower freight rates, obviously on the face of it that would appear to be an advantage. On the other hand, if the breaking down of a shipping conference leads to a state of affairs in which there is no total group of the ship owners capable of lifting the whole of the freight offering in a particular trade, this leads to a state of affairs in which there is no one with whom the exporting interests can negotiate how much tonnage can be placed at what ports and at what times to take up refrigerated cargo, cargo from a series of wool sales or other kinds of cargo. This is clearly contrary to our interests.
The historic attitude of both the Australian Labor Party and the non-Labor parties when in office has been that on balance it is in the interests of the Australian economy and Australian exporters that a conference exists in relation to all the major trades so that the Australian exporting interests can negotiate agreements to ensure, for example, that when the Tasmanian apple crop is in, the required ships will be available in certain months to pick it up and when the Queensland beef killing season is in progress the requisite number of refrigerator ships will be available at specified ports. This has been regarded since about 1930 as being on balance in the interests of the Australian economy and Australian exporters. Whatever may be the competition that is current, we hope that it will not be destructive of the existence of an efficient shipping conference that would bc available for negotiations.
Reports on Items
– I present the following reports by the Tariff Board which do not call for any legislative action:
Ethylene oxide derivatives (Dumping and
Suspension file holders and parts (Dumping and
Severally ordered to be printed.
– by leave - This statement relates to last week’s tragic Mirage aircraft crash at the Royal Australian Air Force base, Williamtown. It is based on a preliminary report I have received from the RAAF Director of Flying Safety whose officers carried out an immediate on the spot investigation of the accident. A RAAF court of inquiry has also been convened and 1 expect that the findings of this court will be available shortly.
The circumstances associated with the crash are as follows: On Friday, 1st September 1967, Flying Officer Karpys of No. 76 Fighter Squadron was carrying out a practise solo aerobatic sequence over RAAF base, Williamtown, in preparation for Air Force Week flying displays. This display sequence consisted of two steep turns, followed by a climb and wing over leading into two aileron rolls as a finish to the sequence. The pilot flew the sequence successfully until he attempted the final roll, whereupon the aircraft appeared to enter control difficulties and crashed. Flying Officer Karpys had successfully carried out six practise flights of this sequence since 28th August last, and the manoeuvres in question were well within the capability of both aircraft and pilot.
All the indications from this preliminary investigation are that the flying performance and technical or maintenance arrangements of the aircraft were not at fault, and that the most likely cause of this unfortunate accident was that pilot disorientation occurred at some stage during the first roll, leading to loss of aircraft control.
I am sure that honourable members will join with me when I express deepest sympathy to the wife and relatives of Flying Officer Karpys. Flying Officer Karpys who was aged 29 had served with the RAAF for over 7 years. He had completed a squadron operational tour on Sabre aircraft, had successfully completed an operational conversion course to Mirage aircraft, and had IS months experience of Mirage squadron operational flying. He was selected to participate in Air Force Week flying displays because of his overall experience, his sensible approach to flying and his proficiency on Mirage aircraft.
My Department has taken immediate action to examine the laid down flying safety rules and procedures for aerobatic manoeuvres of this nature, to determine whether any additional flying safety requirements are necessary. I can assure the House that if any additional safety procedures art; required, they will be implemented immediately. Indeed over the weekend, I have personally emphasised to the Chief of the Air Staff that Service flying safety procedures covering aerobatics and low flying limits are to be brought to the notice of all RAAF pilots, particularly those taking part in Air Force Week displays. Also, as I have previously said, the official court of inquiry is still proceeding, and if this reveals any fresh evidence or information I will inform the House accordingly. 1 feel that 1 should also in this statement make some reference to earlier accidents which have involved the loss of RAAF Mirage aircraft, particularly in view of some Press reports over the weekend that there may be some more general faults with Mirage aircraft. The House will be aware that since 1964 when the RAAF first took delivery of the aircraft, there have been five crashes involving the loss of Mirage aircraft in which two pilots have been killed. Currently the RAAF has taken delivery of 75 Mirage out of a total order of 110 aircraft including 10 dual Mirage aircraft. Two RAAF fighter squadrons are fully equipped with Mirage, and a third fighter squadron - No. 3 - is in the process of being re-equipped.
It might be useful if I reiterated the point 1 made in answer to a question in another place recently, that we have complete confidence in the aircraft. This aircraft is fully meeting our requirements, its squadron operational and technical performance have been excellent, and there has not been an unduly high incidence of mishaps to RAAF Mirage aircraft. As I indicated earlier, last week’s tragic crash could not be attributed to aircraft failure in any way. I might also remind the House, perhaps, of the evidence available from recent events in the Middle East of the effectiveness of this aircraft.
I repeat that the Air Board and the Royal Australian Air Force have complete confidence in this aircraft and I can assure the House that any matters involving flying safety that arise out of last week’s tragic accident will be promptly dealt with.
– by leave- The Opposition joins the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) in expressing very sincere regret to the widow of the pilot who lost his life in this unfortunate accident. I was very pleased to hear the Minister tell the House that he intends to have a full scale inquiry into the cause of this crash. There is evidently some concern in the minds of many people on the performance of the Mirage aircraft. It is the Minister’s responsibility, therefore, to have a full scale inquiry so that this disquiet may be removed.
As the Minister has said, this is the fifth crash of Mirage aircraft in this country. Three of these crashes have occurred this year. The loss to the Commonwealth has been somewhat more than $10m. It seems to me unusual that there should have been five crashes of Mirage aircraft, bearing in mind the relatively small number of fatal accidents involving other aircraftin this country. There may, of course, be some very good reason for this. One does appreciate that in the case of every previous crash an inquiry has been conducted. I understand that a report submitted following an inquiry into a crash which occurred in the Northern Territory earlier this year showed that the crash was due to a clip having been left off the aircraft. There may be some explanation for the other crashes also, but the fact remains that there have been five crashes of Mirage aircraft in Australia and that three of them have occurred this year. I hope the Minister will not only inquire into the cause of the most recent crash, but that his Department will also thoroughly investigate why there should have been so many crashes of Mirage aircraft and conduct a detailed investigation of the causes. If people with experience and knowledge have any reason to believe there is some mechanical cause for this latest crash, then the Minister has a serious responsibility to ensure that these fears are dispelled as quickly as possible.
– I have reported to the House every crash that has taken place, and the reasons for every crash.
– I acknowledge that, but I repeat that the Minister has a responsibility not only to the people who have expressed concern, but more particularly to the people who fly these aircraft.
Debate resumed from 31 August (vide page 673), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House condemnsthe Budget because -
it places defence costs on those least able to pay them;
it fails to curb administrative waste and extravagance;
it defers and retrenches development projects; and
it allows social service and war pensioners to fall still further behind their fellow citizens’.
– Despite the fact that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his Budget speech gave some priority to mentioning the Government’s proposals in connection with the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund, most Opposition speakers chose to neglect the proposals. Little was said in the Press about them, despite the great impact they will have on national servicemen and deserving retired members of the regular forces who have already served their country so faithfully and well. The proposal to extend the scheme to provide death and invalidity benefits for all national servicemen and members of the Citizen Military Forces on full time duty for 12 months or longer will override the existing condition whereby a minimum enlistment for 6 years is necessary before one may participate in the scheme.
The new provisions will mean that people enlisting for full time duty in the regular forces for a continuous period of 12 months or longer, and all national servicemen, will contribute, during the full period of their engagement, for the special purpose of achieving eligibility for the invalidity and death benefits provided under the scheme. Further, in the event of their discharge from the regular forces without having been claimants on the fund they will receive a refund of contributions made. In addition, where full time members of the CMF or national servicemen are serving in specially proclaimed areas which invoke repatriation benefits - areas such as Vietnam - they will receive, if their disability is adjudged as war caused, the assessed repatriation war pension. In the event of death from war causes, if married their widows and children will receive the normal repatriation benefit as well as the entitlement under the new Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund proposals.
With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a table setting out the contributions which a national serviceman will make and the benefits he will receive under the proposed legislation.
The table shows that a national service private aged 20 years receives a fortnightly pay of $86.80, from which he will make a contribution of $4.38. He would receive a class A invalidity pension of $1,547 per annum. In the event of death his widow would receive $966.88 per annum. A sergeant with a fortnightly pay of $111.16 will make a contribution of $5.63 a fortnight and would receive a class A invalidity pension of $2,002 per annum. In the event of his death his widow would receive $1,251.25 a year. Honourable members will agree, I am sure, that this is a very generous and good provision and one which the Government has given notice of its intention to introduce.
Although the enabling legislation will be introduced, I understand, during the current session, there are a number of points in relation to it which I feel I should raise for the information of honourable members. Some aspects of the enabling legislation will merit consideration. The proposed scheme will need to be compartmented away from the general scheme which additionally covers superannuation benefits. This could be done by the establishment of a special fund or of a separate accounting system within the general fund so that the operations on the special fund do not intrude in any way on the conduct of the general scheme. Another matter to be considered is the effect at some future time of an increased national service call up or a situation warranting more generous mobilisation. Under these circumstances it could be that the cost of benefits under the special scheme will exceed the capacity of the special fund to meet its obligations. Therefore I feel that there should be provision in the enabling legislation for automatic subvention by the Commonwealth of any shortfall, over and above its normal contribution in order to ensure the solvency of the special fund should the eventualities which I have envisaged duly arise.
Another matter which will need consideration is that of contributions made to other funds. There is no doubt that some eligible CMF personnel and national servicemen will be already contributing to some type of superannuation fund, either a Commonwealth or State fund or a private fund. It may be that the invalidity and death benefits provided under the private fund will be less than those accruing under the proposed defence forces retirement benefits scheme. If this is so, perhaps some arrangement could be made to exempt these people from making contributions to the other funds or perhaps their payments to those funds could be deferred during the period of their military service. These are matters to be considered if it is not possible for them to contribute to two funds at the one time. After his discharge and his return to civilian employment the former serviceman could use his refunded Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund contributions to pay deferred contributions to his private superannuation fund. On the other hand it may be, particularly in the case of members of the CMF enlisting in the regular forces, that greater benefits in respect of invalidity and death accrue under private superannuation schemes than under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. I make these observations merely to emphasise that it is necessary to devise some form of protection for the types of people I have mentioned.
The Government’s decision to establish this special scheme also raises the matter of those people presently serving in the regular military forces who are under the age of 20 years. Section 42 (4) of the principal Act requires a regular serviceman to contribute from the age of 18 years for invalidity and death benefits until he attains his 20th year, whereupon he becomes a contributor under the full scheme, including superannuation benefits. However, at that point he does not receive any refund of his earlier contributions. It is now proposed that such refunds will be made to national servicemen and specially enlisted. CMF personnel. Further, there are many apprentices in the Services who begin their apprenticeships at about 15 years of age. Also, there are recruits in the Army aged 17 years. These people are not even covered for invalidity and death benefits under the defence forces retirement benefits scheme. Until they attain the age of 18 years they are not required to contribute for any benefit at all. I ask the Govern ment to consider allowing these apprentices and regular servicemen under the age of 20 years to contribute from the time of initial enlistment in a like manner to that proposed for other people - that is, to contribute for invalidity and death benefits until they qualify at 20 years of age to participate in the main scheme. I would also ask that all those under the age of 20 years be refunded their prior contributions upon becoming contributors to the main scheme, as is proposed to be done in the case of national servicemen. There is no doubt in my mind as to the equity of my submission or the beneficial effect it will have on the Services, particularly as a stimulus for recruitment.
At this stage I would like to refer to the Treasurer’s announcement of the intention to adjust superannuation pensions, and in particular those under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. Whilst those more recently retired have had the benefit of progressive salary rises and the ability to increase the number of units, the earlier retirees have had to accept a much lesser amount for equivalent rank or category. The Government is aware of this position and it adjusted these original pensions on two former occasions. In 1961 pensions were adjusted to the 1954 salary level and in 1963 pensions were adjusted to the 1959 salary level, lt is pleasing to see that the presently proposed adjustments are based on retirement at 30th June 1967 and so are right up to date. The Government has always resisted any pressure to accept the principles of automatic adjustment or even regular periodic adjustment. However, the Government has demonstrated its appreciation of the problem and shows a willingness to make adjustments from time to time, whenever it is able to do so. These adjustments are now based on a formula which has the effect of increasing the Consolidated Revenue portion of the pension, representing 5/7ths of the whole, to an amount equivalent to that being paid to those of similar rank or category number who retired on and after the selected date, which was 30th June 1967 in this instance. As this calculation is not widely understood, perhaps an example based on a hypothetical amount may be of interest. Let us assume that the pension now being paid to a person who retired some time prior to 30th June 1967 is $28 a week. This amount would be made up of $8 a week from the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund and §20 a week from the Consolidated Revenue component. If the pension payable to a person in a similar category who retired after 30th June 1967 is $35 a week, which is $10 a week from the Fund and $25 a week from the Consolidated Revenue component, then the adjusted pension for the earlier retiree will be the original $8 a week that he received from the fund and $25 a week instead of $20 a week from the Consolidated Revenue component, making a total of $33 a week. The increase in superannuation pensions will not only give much needed relief to the earlier retirees but to the widows and orphans of deceased regular servicemen.
Whilst the Government has been criticised for deferring any action to increase the base rate of social service and repatriation pensions, many people seem to have lost sight of the plight of those who have contributed for their pensions. Although the pensions were thought to be adequate at the time these people took out their units, they have also been subject to the same economic changes which have affected social service pensioners. However, whereas those on superannuation have had only two increases in the past, social service pensioners have had more regular and more numerous increases. It might be as well to examine the position more fully. In 1954 the base rate for a single aged pensioner was $7 a week. In 1955 this was increased to $8 a week; in 1957 to $8.75 a week; in 1959 to $9.50 a week; in 1960 to $10 a week; in 1961 to $10.50 a week; in 1963 to $11.50 a week; in 1964 to $12 a week; and in 1966 to $13 a week, which is the current rate. There were other benefits introduced in 1965, including the increase from $1 a week to $2 a week for supplementary assistance and a substantial easing of the means test for eligibility for this assistance. In March 1967 the means test was further liberalised, with the property component being raised from $4,040 to $5,600 and the permissible income being increased from $7 a week to $10 a week. I ask honourable members to contrast this position with the position of the superannuated pensioners, who, having directly contributed for their pensions, have had only two in creases. In 1961 increases were introduced based on the 1954 salary scale - 7 years earlier - and in 1963 increases were introduced based on December 1959 levels, nearly 4 years earlier. In other words, whereas the single rate for an age pensioner has increased since 1954 from $7 a week to $13 a week, with many other complementary benefits, the pension of, say, a superannuated mail officer in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department who retired in December 1951 on $17.50 a week increased to only $18.75 a week in 1961 and to $22.50 a week in 1963. I ask the House to note that this is $1 a week less than the current rate for an aged pensioner couple. In fact the percentage increase in the two categories is 85.7% for the aged social service pensioners and only 20.8% for the superannuitant. Also in the period from 1954 to 1966 there were eight increases in the age pension rate as against two in the superannuation pension rate.
Mr Speaker, it is obvious that the Opposition has had to struggle to manufacture any real criticism of the Government in respect of this Budget. But for the deferral of any increase in the base rates for social service and repatriation benefits, the increased defence expenditure and in particular our involvement in Vietnam, the Opposition would have found great difficulty in getting any props at all to hang out its line. It has been said that the base rate pension has eroded 35c a week since last year’s increase and that a 50c a week increase was justified. I find no fault with this line of reasoning. However, whilst the Treasurer, in common with all members of this Parliament, has great sympathy for the pensioner, we must accept the fact, whether we like it or not, that the Treasurer and Cabinet are in possession of all the relevant information and have exercised their discretion as a judgment of the whole.
Opposition members have made allegations that social service pensioners were financing our commitment in the war in Vietnam on the basis that the increase in the defence vote precluded an increase in the pension rate. During this debate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said, and I quote from page 298 of Hansard:
This year the Government is even more clearly placing the burden of the Vietnam war on the people in our community least in a position to pay for that burden.
On page 299 he continued:
Pensioners of this country can quite correctly infer that they are paying for Vietnam. Have they not made sacrifices enough already? What sacrifices are high income groups making today?
Later, when he referred to the elements in the prospective increases in the Budget expenditure, he mentioned the 4% increase in social service and repatriation benefits and added: lt is quite clear that the last two items will carry the defence burden.
I might mention that those two items, together with health, account for 21% of the budgetary expenditure as against 17% for defence. The implication engendered by the Leader of the Opposition was that by holding the increase in respect of social services and repatriation to 4% of the total increase, the Government had mainly financed the increase of 18% in the defence vote. This is patently absurd. The defence vote increased by S168m. An increase of 50c a week in the base rate of social service pensions would cost about $20m per annum and an increase in repatriation pensions would perhaps cost another $5m. How can the Leader of the Opposition justify arguing that a deferral of increased expenditure of $25m in the social service and repatriation sectors will carry the defence burden of $1,1 18m? Obviously $25m represents only 2.2% of $1,1 18m. That is hardly carrying the burden. The Leader of the Opposition has also said that the pensioners are paying for the Vietnam war. 1 take it that in saying that he is referring to something other than the full general defence burden. It is difficult to assess correctly the cost of our commitment in Vietnam because it is so involved with the overall defence programme. But we do nol have to be mathematicians to realise that it certainly will be a greater proportion of the whole than the $25m which represents only 2.2% of the total defence cost. In any case, it cannot be denied that those paying the highest amounts of taxation are those bearing the greater burden of our defence expenditure.
Income tax from individuals alone is estimated to return Sl,484m in the current financial year, which is a goodly share of the estimated total receipts of $5, 887m. As pensioners pay little or no tax, this cheap political exercise engaged in by the Leader of the Opposition is now exposed as being completely without foundation. I would also remind the House that this allegation forms the basis of the first item in the Opposition’s proposed amendment to this Bill.
I now turn to the Opposition’s criticism of the Government’s defence policy. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) is reported on page 385 of Hansard as having said during this debate:
The Australian Labor Party is quite firm about defence. It has always been Australia’s defence party. About 1910 the Labor Party introduced national service training, or universal military service, as it was known in those days.
But he did not tell the House that it was also the Australian Labor Party which, about 1929, cut out universal military training. He also said, referring to the Australian Labor Party:
It founded the Royal Australian Naval College and the Royal Military College, acquired a fleet and mobilised our resources in both World Wars.
But again he did not tell us that it was the Australian Labor Party of the 1930s which drastically cut down the strength of naval personnel and put most of the fleet into mothballs. In fact, between 1929 and 1932, the Scullin Administration retrenched the naval strength from 5,135, all ranks, to 3,360. In other words, it sacked 1,775 naval personnel. At that time, the Scullin Administration reduced the number of naval ships in commission from eleven to four. In other words, it put seven ships out of commission. Again, of the fifteen ships in reserve, the number was reduced to eight This is the Labor Party which acquired a fleet. But it was very quick to get rid of that fleet when it did not suit it to retain the vessels. This is the great defence Party about which the honourable member for Wills speaks.
During his contribution to this debate the honourable member for Wills also accused Government members of having double standards. On page 387 of Hansard he is reported as having said:
Members opposite have no standards of their own. They have a double standard.
During his speech on the Budget he took unto himself the role of the great military strategist - the great defence expert. He told us how he would mobilise the country for war. He told us how he would mechanise everything - that every infantry soldier would have his own private set of wings and that there would be no more movement on foot. He is entitled to his opinions. But this is one standard which he has adopted when standing in this place. I ask him how he reconciles this attitude with some of his other activities.
The honourable member for Wills was for some years, and possibly still is, a member of the Association for International Cooperation and Disarmament, or whatever it calls itself now. In fact, he was the chairman of the northern region of the movement in Victoria. I can recall producing evidence of this in this chamber some years ago and challenging the honourable gentleman to deny the truth of my assertion. At no time has it come to my knowledge that he did so. Yet he talks of double standards. Who can ‘ accept his military judgments which stem as they do from an avowed dedication to the pacifist principles enunciated by this Communist front organisation? I ask that advisedly, because, not only has this Government condemned this organisation as a Communist front, but it has also been condemned by the former Government and the present Government of the United Kingdom. In fact, quite recently the New South Wales Executive of the Labor Party moved to have this organisation proscribed and any members of it who may be within the Labor Party expelled from the Party. Unfortunately, I understand the left wing elements overruled the request of New South Wales at the Federal Conference. The Queensland branch of this Association for International Co-operation and Disarmament of which the honourable member for Wills was a member produced a filthy and vile pamphlet against American troops coming here to spend their rest and recreation leave. That pamphlet contains such statements as: ‘Send them home. Australian girls do not want to be regarded as necessary commodities’. This is the disgusting sort of thing put out by the movement with which the honourable member for Wills, who talks about double standards, is associated.
I cannot for one moment allow to lie the challenge that we have double standards. I challenge the honourable member for
Wills with having double standards. I have laid them on the line pretty definitely. I repeat that this debate has shown how difficult it has been for the Opposition to generate criticism of the Government in respect of this year’s Budget. The amendment move by the Leader of the Opposition certainly reflects this fact. The electorate generally has accepted the Government’s decisions and recognised the Opposition’s puerile attempt to discredit its administration for exactly what it is.
– I rise to support the amenment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) which is:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House condemns the Budget because:
it places defence costs on those least able to pay them. . . .
Although this point has been thoroughly explained by several speakers from this side of the House, it would seem on listening to the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes) that the argument has not yet sunk in to members of the Government. It is all very well to argue that our defence costs far exceed the amount that would be required to give some form of social justice to pensioners and others and those on low incomes who are rearing families, but I emphasise that these unfortunate people are the very ones who, because they are being denied social justice, are being asked to bear an unfair proportion of our defence costs. The Australian Labor Party has said in many places - it has never denied this - that if the security of Australia is at stake then all the resources of the nation should be mustered in its defence, not only a few 20 year olds who are selected by ballot to be put with some members of the regular defence forces.
Let us look now at who is paying for the defence of this country. Immediately after the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) made his Budget Speech, some of the newspapers described his Budget as a ‘family Budget’. The Treasurer himself described it as an investors’ Budget’. If it is a family Budget, I should like to know what it does to help the family. The Treasurer told us that if a man has nine children he will get $5 a week more under the Budget proposals. Let us examine that point a little more closely. The Treasurer also spoke about certain taxation deductions that would be allowable. When we look at this, we find that the rates of deduction help those in the higher income brackets to a far greater degree than the family man and those on low incomes. It has been said that those with the largest families do not necessarily have the lowest incomes. I admit that. However, this certainly does not recognise the responsibilities of a person on a low income with a family who tries to give his family a better way of life than he himself enjoyed.
The increase of the allowable amount for superannuation and insurance from $800 to $1,200 could not assist the family man. What family man can afford to pay $23 a week for superannuation or insurance? That is impossible. I notice that one feature writer in a weekend newspaper suggested that this increase will be of benefit to Cabinet Ministers. I think this is being petty. I do not think Cabinet Ministers would introduce such a measure to assist themselves. I think the increase was introduced for the purpose of assisting the people who are supporting the Government. They are the people who will be able to take full advantage of this increase. The family man will certainly not be able to do so. At this point I am indebted to the Courier Mail’ which on 16th August of this year published an article which set out tax deduction figures. It showed that a person with a wife and four children on a weekly wage of $36 would save $14.63 a year. Such a man, with five dependants, will benefit by the magnificent sum of 28c a week in additional endowment. A man on $80 a week will save $39.28 a year.
We are also indebted to the Bank of New South Wales, which is the senior bank in Australia, for its annual report which includes a statement on the means test. The report points out that some increases were justified in the field of social services and in child endowment payments, lt states that taxation deductions are not assisting the people generally. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has also put this point forward on many occasions. The benefits are not designed to look after the welfare of people with responsibilities or those who are no longer able to take care of themselves, but are of greater advantage to people on higher incomes. The report of the Bank stated that since child endowment was introduced there had been an increase of 50c a week for the third child and for subsequent children. The last increase was in 1964. The report goes on to state:
The welfare value of either benefit is only marginal for those people at the higher end of the scale of incomes, yet the cost and the administrative effort required to apply a means test . . . lt has been suggested by some honourable members opposite that there should be a means test - would scarcely be worthwhile.
The report also states:
Since child endowment is distributed regardless of income, the combined effect of government policy in the two areas is to give assistance in inverse proportion to the need. Although it would probably be wildly unpopular politically, it would appear more logical in terms of maximising social welfare to cancel tax deductions for children altogether and give a major lift to endowment rates.
We must take some heed of the cost of living. I have heard many honourable members on the Government side say that they regretted that the Government had not seen fit to increase the social service benefits to pensioners. They are aware that the cost of living has spiralled since the last increase was granted. They are also aware of the increase in the cost of living that has followed the conversion to decimal currency. I believe that if a ic had been introduced we would not have seen the steep rise that occurred immediately after the introduction of decimal currency. I made a number of pleas to the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) who was then the Treasurer that he do something to prevent increases in the cost of living. Of course, all that he and his colleagues did was to shrug their shoulders and say that this matter was the responsibility of the States and that they should look after price rises. However, they said that they would deplore anyone using the changeover to decimal currency as an opportunity to increase their prices. We know that many people in business took the opportunity to introduce increases as a result of the changeover. It was said that the change to decimal currency would make things much simpler.
Among the people who said this were the newspaper proprietors. But. most of the newspapers of this country took the opportunity to increase their prices by 20% to 25%. Of course, we are not likely to hear anything about that in the newspapers. These are the people who have time and again deplored any increase in wages that has been handed out to the workers by the courts of this land.
I would like to mention something that has happened in recent times concerning increased costs. I refer to the increase in the cost of petrol by 1.3c. I have made numerous inquiries to find out why this increase has occurred and whether it is justified. We are told that the increase has been necessary because of the closure of the Suez Canal. This, I suppose, is a good story. However, I have never heard of the petrol companies going before a tribunal to decide whether increases are justified. The increase in the price of petrol must add to the cost of other commodities. Even people who do not own motor cars are affected. They purchase goods that are carried in motor vehicles and consequently the increased cost of transporting these goods is passed on to them. I know that honourable members are allowed some latitude in a Budget speech and therefore I would like to devote a few minutes to the matter of petrol prices. In regard to this I asked the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) a number of questions. T asked him what oil companies operated refineries in Australia. He has given me a list of the refineries. I also asked him whether the Government knew the costs of refining petrol and whether they were comparable in all refineries. In his reply to my question upon notice, the Minister stated:
Refining costs depend on the type and size, of the processing units incorporated in the refinery, the type of crude oil processed, and the required product pattern. Costs for individual Australian refineries are not available to the Government but as each refinery is different to the others and each processes a different crude oil blend, it would be expected that each would have different refining costs.
He submits that there could be a difference in the refining costs but he has no idea why this should be.
I am concerned about petrol advertising. I notice that in the advertisements one brand of petrol is said to have ‘Zoom’, another brand puts an animal in your tank, and other brandis have various additives. It makes one wonder just how effective these additives are. I would like to make a simple comparison. In my electorate there is another type of refinery, lt is a distillery which manufactures the famous Bundaberg rum. The excise officers should operate at the oil refineries in the same way as they do at the distillery. 1 asked the Minister for National Development to tell me the difference between the standard and the premium or super grades of petrol. He told me that the standard grade is 87 and the premium grade is 97. 1 do not know whether this is proof or what it is. He also said:
There is no control over quality standard’., of motor spirit, other than that exercised by the oil companies themselves. The companies aci in unison from time to time to raise octane levels in response to the pres-ure of demand from m»i >r engine manufacturers as balanced against additional costs to the oil industry of increasing octanes.
Once the octane ratings are established, no person is responsible to see that they are maintained.
However, once rum leaves the distillery, inspections are made at various times. The rate of excise is fixed on the basis of the proof spirit. A person may walk into any hotel and buy rum, and he probably docs not worry about whether it is the correct strength. However, inspectors visit the hotels at various times. If they see thai a certain brand is being sold as overproof or underproof and. on testing it, find that it has been diluted, the retailer may be prosecuted and fined. Warm milk suppliers also were in this positon. At any time, an inspector could confront a milk supplier on his run and take a sample of the milk. If too much water had been added, the supplier could be prosecuted. lt is all very well to say that these beverages are consumed by human beings. I do not know how the engine of my motor car feels about the various grades of petrol, but if 1 pay for a super grade of petrol I should know that I am getting a super grade. However, there is no way for -ne to know this, because once the petrol has left the refinery no official inspection of it is made. If I pull up to a petrol bowser and ask for a premium grade, I pay for a premium grade, and I have no way >f knowing that I am being supplied wilh a premium grade. Perhaps it is very hard to dilute petrol with water, although various suggestions that this was being done were made in the days of petrol rationing. But what is to prevent a retailer from selling the standard grade petrol as premium grade? The public should be protected from this sort of activity and snap inspections should be made by officers of the Department of Customs and Excise to ensure that the public is getting the grade of petrol that it is paying for, especially if prices continue to rise.
This is not an outlandish suggestion and would not involve a great deal of work. But I am sure it would do much to improve the confidence of members of the buying public if they could be sure that they received the grade of petrol for which they paid. The demand for premium grade petrol is increasing. In the last year for which I have statistics, 1,219,936,000 gallons of super grade petrol were sold and only 520,547,000 gallons of standard grade petrol were sold. This means that about 35% of the petrol sold in Australia is standard grade and that most of the petrol is sold as super grade. We are led to believe that of the two grades the super grade is better. If the people pay for the better grade, they should have some protection so that they will know that they are getting the grade of petrol for which they pay.
The Leader of the Opposition also mentioned the cost of defence and questioned whether we are getting value for the money we are spending. Other honourable members have mentioned the Fill aircraft, and I do not want to dwell on this subject. However, I mentioned that the price originally was $112m, and it was a good buy at that price. It is now $212m, and it is still a good buy because the price is still rising. The method of purchase of our defence equipment adopted by the Government means we must face rising prices. In addition, we must pay higher charges for spare parts. But I believe that in Australia we have people who are competent to carry out the maintenance of the equipment and even to manufacture the items that are needed. Australian manufactured weapons nave been placed on the Charles F. Adams class destroyers in preference to American weapons. The Opposition doubts whether we are getting bur money’s worth. The people who are being denied social justice are paying part of the wild costs of our defence equipment.
The Budget also deserves, condemnation because it makes no mention of development, particularly of the northern part of Australia. This also follows an established pattern. It is said that we can learn to forecast weather by studying the cycles over the years. Similarly, we find cycles in national development. The. biggest move for development followed the 1961 election when the people of Australia, particularly those in the northern areas, rejected the candidates of the Liberal and Australian Country Parties and went within one seat of putting Labor in office. Immediately afterwards, the Government made money available for the development of the northern part of Australia. But after the 1963 election, when the Government had a larger majority and was not under the same pressure, schemes for development were shelved. Only the incessant demands of the people in the northern areas have caused the Government to do anything about development.
After the Budget was introduced last year, the States were forced to raise additional revenue. They had to increase transport charges and hospital charges. After the Premiers Conference at the end of June of this year, the States were in much the same position. The Premier of Queensland lifted the lid off the kettle. He said that the Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr McMahon) had suggested that the States should use other taxes to raise revenue. The suggestion passed around was that the States should impose a purchase tax. With this tax, after a purchaser had paid the price of an article, he would also pay a percentage of the price as a purchase tax. This form of taxation is used in some States in the United States of America. I would npt like it to be introduced into Australia. Later the Treasurer denied that he had made this suggestion. I have known the Premier of Queensland for many years and he has always had the reputation of being honest. I do not think he would make such a statement if it had not been put to him.
In fact, the Queensland Government introduced a purchase tax on motor vehicles. The purchaser of a motor vehicle in Queensland now pays a purchase tax as well as the Commonwealth sales tax. 1 at well aware of the reaction that followed the introduction of this purchase tax and I can well understand the State Premiers having second thoughts about introducing a purchase tax generally. Yet the Commonwealth is denying to the States funds which will enable them to carry out what they believe to be necessary works. Consequently, they may yet have to turn to the imposition of a purchase tax to raise finance. We will wait and see what happens when the various States introduce thenBudgets. Because of the Commonwealth’s penny pinching attitude to the States, which have been starved of funds, developmental projects have been and are being held back.
I pay tribute to the honourable member for Maribyrnong, who preceded me in the debate, for the interest he has shown in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund and the work he has done in that connection. I have heard him speak on this subject on a number of occasions. I know of his interest in the people who benefit from the Fund, with many of whom he has a close association. He knows the sacrifices that have been made. He believes that recipients of fund benefits should have a better deal now that they are getting old and are in the twilight of their lives. But I should like to refer also to remarks made by some honourable members, particularly a couple of the younger ones, who have paid a tribute to the lads who are fighting in Vietnam. As has been said, some are there of their own free will but others have been drafted and sent there. Honourable members have said how much we owe to these lads and how we must never forget them. These are phrases that were heard during the early days of the First World War. It was because of sentiments such as these that the War Pensions Act was introduced in 1914 and the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act was passed in 1917. Both these Acts were repealed by and their provisions incorporated in the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act 1920. At that time the total and permanent incapacity rate was fixed at 9s above the then basic wage because it was considered that war pensions were an acceptance of disabilities earned by men and women in the defence of their country. It was recognised that the disabilities would affect their earning capacity, irrespective of any skills that they might have. This attitude to war pensions continued until 1932 when the TPI rate was 18s 4d - $1.83 in present currency - above the then basic wage.
We have the situation today in which lads aged 20 or 21 years are being drafted - or conscripted, if that term is preferred - and sent to Vietnam where they could he wounded and permanently disabled. They could come back to Australia to find that they will have to spend the major part of their lives on a TPI pension which is less than the basic wage. Is this the measure of our gratitude? When we hear it said that we must not forget the debt that we owe to these boys and how wonderful they are, how hollow those words sound when the Government condemns them to spend their remaining years and to raise a family, if they are able to do so, on a pension which is less than the basic wage, which is considered to be a minimum. Those statements sound very hollow now. They do not sound like the echo of a voice of a grateful nation when its government is not prepared to give those who are disabled a living standard at least equal to that provided by the basic wage. For these reasons we support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. Among the reasons listed by the Leader of the Opposition in condemning the Budget the amendment states: it allows social service and war pensioners to fall still further behind their fellow citizens.
In the light of the injustice to pensioners, it is no wonder that they suggest that their members should move about the cities of Australia wearing arm bands with the words Give us this day our daily bread’, words which they say have a hollow ring.
Pensioners have given the best years of their lives in building this nation. In the main they are no longer able to work. They receive no benefit whatever from the Budget. Because they and their families have gone without, the deduction provisions in the Budget are of no benefit to them. This is certainly not a family Budget. It is of benefit only to those in the higher income brackets, to those people who are in a position to make at least some financial contribution to our war effort and to those who have the greatest stake in Australia and the most to lose should our security ever be threatened. It is these people receiving tha higher incomes who are in a position to make some contribution - not those in receipt of social service payments, those who depend so much on child endowment benefits which have been whittled away by rising costs under a government which refuses to recognise that the cost of living has seriously affected the purchasing power of social service payments. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition when he says that the Budget places our increased defence costs on those least able to pay for them.
– When I was making a statement to the House recently on international affairs I gave an assurance to honourable members that at the first suitable opportunity I would say something about our external assistance programme. I want to direct attention now to the provision made in this year’s Budget for external aid of various kinds. I leave out of consideration the very substantial grants made to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea for they fall under the administration of my colleague, the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes). I confine myself to the other forms of Australian external assistance.
In the Budget which is before the House there is provision for a total of $50,132,000 to be given as external aid. Of this, $15,226,000 is to be given under various schemes of multilateral aid in association with other nations and $34,906,000 is to be given in bilateral aid in direct relations between Australia and the receiving country. This amount is an increase of 23% over the actual expenditure in 1966-67. In the year before I took my present office, that is, in 1963-64, the comparable total was $24,606,000, which was slightly less than half of what it is today. I mention those figures simply to give a flat contradiction to a statement that appeared recently in an Australian newspaper to the general effect that my Department was supine, that I was indifferent and that the Government was neglectful in matters of external economic assistance. I think a doubling of the amount of external economic assistance in a matter of 3 years flatly contradicts that statement.
In addition to the increased financial provision I can say with confidence that at the present time our external assistance is being given in a more effective and better controlled way than it ever has been given before. We have made in the Government a basic re-examination of the principles underlying the policy of external assistance and we have also made additional provision for the administration of external assistance and strengthened the organisation within my own Department for dealing with it. Among the other features of increased attention to this subject, I would recall to the mind of honourable members the fact that Australia has become a foundation member of the Asian Development Bank. Indeed, this country played a very active part in helping to form that organisation. We have gained membership of the Development Assistance Committee, which is the major world organisation of the donor countries and which discusses and examines the world wide application of external assistance.
In the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), has pioneered the move to give preference to the products of the less developed countries in the markets of the more highly developed countries. We have also associated ourselves, as I shall recount in greater detail later, with the measures for emergency aid to Indonesia following the ending of confrontation. Again mainly through the instrumentality of the Minister for Trade and Industry, we have taken a prominent part in the world wide campaign that has resulted in attempts to establish a world food aid programme rather than continue the former somewhat unsatisfactory situation in which food producers only were expected to deal with the problems of hunger throughout the world.
It is quite plain that, although Australia prefers the method of bilateral aid in the application of many features of our own programme, aid is not a matter for any single country but requires the co-operative efforts of many nations. That co-operation extends both to defining the purposes of aid and choosing the forms of aid that will be most useful and also to trying to stimulate one another, by both precept and example, to increase the amount of aid given. Some of the aid that is given by the more fortunate countries to those that are less fortunate is designed to deal with emergency situations. A very good example of such a situation is the recurrent shortage of grain that has beset India in recent years, partly as a result of drought, partly as a result of great increases in population and partly as a result of other economic causes. When faced with famine in India, human compassion, as well as concern for international stability, leads countries to make gifts of food to relieve the famine. Another emergency situation was the one that was faced by Indonesia after its former President had reduced that country to a state of economic chaos. Yet another example of an emergency situation would be a national disaster such as those that sometimes result from flood, fire or earthquake.
Then we have the longstanding international schemes for relief and the longstanding international schemes for assistance. A great number of these are being applied in various continents. Some are carried out by agreement between a number of nations giving aid separately under bilateral arrangements but directing that aid to a common end. The Mekong basin scheme provides an example. Others of these great schemes are conducted by international agencies such as the International Development Agency. In addition, each nation from time to time makes decisions in furtherance of its own policy of giving aid in particular directions. As examples of this, I could mention, say, the defence aid that Australia has given to Malaysia or the special aid that we have given to countries of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation under our SEATO programmes. 1 mention all these things to show that aid is an international activity that has many facets and is applied in many different places by many different methods. The point that 1 want to emphasise at the outset is that there must be international co-operation. This is not a field of activity - if, indeed, there is any such field of activity in international affairs - in which one nation can act alone with satisfaction only to itself. Perhaps it is a matter for the historians to record that at this time in the history of human affairs there is possibly a greater measure than ever before of the will to relieve the distresses of the poorer nations and a better standard of actual performance in this effort by the richer nations. The need touches the international conscience and spurs many nations in all continents to co-operate in providing relief.
But while we congratulate ourselves and perhaps take unto ourselves some unction because there is so much international co-operation in the giving of economic assistance to the less fortunate nations, I ask whether we are just falling into an assumption that relief is enough. We surely cannot accept the assumption that an age of relief will be with us forever - that from now on to the end of time our only solution to some of the economic problems of the world will be the handout. We should recognise that the prospect of always having to make the handout is unsatisfactory to the donors. But perhaps the more serious problem is what the handout does to the nations that receive it. Living on the beneficence of someone else is not a state that is entirely satisfactory to any nation. Nor is it a state that stimulates a nation into measures for self help or leads a nation towards a higher measure of self respect. So I believe that we have to work for a hope that goes far beyond the hope that the handout will continue.
– Would the Minister concede, however, that the amount currently being spent on defence is certainly a barrier to any greater spending on aid?
– I certainly would not concede that point. As 1 shall show in a moment, the incapacity of many nations to make economic progress is due primarily to the fact that they have not security and political stability. Until we can give to some of these unfortunate nations security and political stability, all our hopes and all our efforts to bring economic progress to them are bound to be futile. I will not be diverted from my main subject in the way in which the honourable gentleman has attempted to divert me.
We have to try to bring about in the world a wider and higher hope than the hope for a handout. This surely points to the importance of international cooperation over the whole field of international economic relations. And international economic relations here mean the provision of the investment, in whatever form it may be, in such a ‘manner as to allow the development of resources to take place. This requires the application of the knowledge and the skill of all mankind to what are the problems of virtually all mankind. Above all, it emphasises the importance of ensuring that countries that do begin to develop their resources have some opportunity to dispose of the products of their labour at an economic return. To ask a nation to produce without giving it access to markets is just as futile as to ask a man to work for no wages.
We have to recognise that in the world today there is a very great problem set by the enormous gap between the affluent and the poor. I want to emphasise this by drawing on an example that came to my notice in a recent dispatch from one of our ambassadors in Africa. He was visiting a neighbouring country to the one to which be is accredited. In a dispatch which he sent to me, commenting on what he saw, he drew a very striking comparison between the conditions in this African country and those in an area of comparable size and population - the State of New South Wales. For obvious reasons I will not name the African country, but it is a country comparable in area to New South Wales. It has a population of 4.6 million whereas New South Wales, on the figures I use, has a population of 4.2 million.
Let us think of those two countries which are similar in population and area. In the case of the African country, the total provision in the Budget - converted into United States currency - is $US33m a year. In the case of New South Wales, the State Budget - again converted into United States currency - totals $US1,835m a year, which is over fifty times as much governmental expenditure on a population which is roughly the same size. When one turns to the total trade of this African country - the sum of the imports and exports - one finds that in 1963 it was $US42.6m. The trade of New South Wales for the following year, which was the closest, comparable year I could find, totalled $US5,200m. The trade of New South Wales was one hundred times greater than that of the African country with a comparable population and area. I just quote that example to show that there is in this world an enormous gap between the affluent countries, among which we can count ourselves, and the poor countries.
We also have to recognise that in the world today there is an enormous problem concerning food. Countries either cannot produce enough food to feed themselves or as well as not producing enough food they lack the foreign exchange in order to purchase food from the food producing countries. There is real hunger in many parts of the world. The solution to this problem in the long term in the poor countries and in the hungry countries is not a handout. The solution in the long term is to do something to develop the latent resources of these countries and to give them the opportunity to trade and to face the reality that this is a problem of investment, skilled manpower, management, administration, technology and access to markets.
We would be foolish if we did not recognise that over the face of the globe there is a very unequal distribution of nature’s riches. Not all countries have the natural resources that other countries have. We also have to face the reality of unequal pressure of need. One of the disturbing things that are happening in the world today is that the greatest rise in population is taking place in those countries with the lowest resources; it is taking place in the less developed countries. So the pressure on the poor countries is growing at the same time as they have less opportunity to develop their resources. When we get this combination of the pressure of need as a result of growing populations and the inability of the less developed countries to finance or to administer their task of development we realise, too, that through government and other expenditure this impinges on the capacity of those less developed countries to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. They do not have the money to put in schemes of higher education. They do not have the money from their own savings to produce capital for development. They do not have the technical and managerial skills, nor do they have the ready means of producing them.
I have tried to set the problem to the House as plainly and as starkly as I can. What I have said about the unequal distribution of resources throughout the surface of the earth, of course, leads us to ask: Is it possible, and are we aiming, to achieve complete equality among all the nations of the world so that every nation will be as rich as every other nation and so that everyone will be on exactly the same level of affluence? I do not think that is possible and I would hope that it was not the ambition of every country in the world. This is, after all, largely a matter of standards of value. Perhaps in this generation we are a little mixed up in our standards of value. We probably think it is better to have the most of everything and the best of nothing as though that were the chief end of life. Of course, there are countries which can be very proud of themselves, acknowledging that they are smalt and that they are not as rich as other countries, but realising that in some facet of life they have something which is good; that they have something which gives them pride and self-respect and which entitles them to recognition and respect of others. We do not all have to be great nations with what, with respect, I will call a ‘department store mentality’ - the most of everything and the best of nothing. We do not seek equality in that sense. But we do seek equality for all nations to develop whatever capacity is in them, to take advantage of whatever opportunity lies before them, and to realise the life that will give them satisfaction.
I come to the matter to which I referred a little earlier. That is the problem of instability and insecurity. This problem is interlocked with the problem of economic advancement. It is not quite a paradox, but it can be stated as a paradox that a country cannot proceed to great economic advancement so long as k is in a state of insecurity and political instability. On the other hand, the lack of economic and social advancement so often contributes to insecurity and political instability. The two things are interlocked. They involve the whole of our thinking about the nature of international affairs and relations between the nations.
The point to which I wish to come is that behind all this is a broad problem of world economic relations. Unfortunately in the world today our capacity to deal world-wide with the problem of economic relations between the nations is aggravated by the great power divisions in the world and the great ideological divisions in the world. It would be so much simpler if there were no power struggle. It would be much simpler if there were no ideological struggle. But we would be just plain fools if we did not accept as a fact that in the state of the world today there is an ideological struggle and a power struggle. We have to grapple with these problems as well as grappling with the economic problems. If ever we hope to go far in grappling with the economic problems while ignoring the other problems we will be foolish. On the other hand, if we hope to go far in grappling with the ideological and power conflict while ignoring the economic problems we will be equally foolish.
One of the difficulties - and I think it is the outcome of the situation itself - is that internationally at the present time we have no world-wide agency with a comprehensive membership and with a wide enough charter to deal with the great economic problems of the world. When the United Nations was founded the Economic and Social Council was intended to be such a body, but for reasons that lie in history and derive from the state of the world, the Economic and Social Council today is not such a body. In particular fields we have the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. We have regional bodies such as the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. We have specialised bodies such as the International Labour Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and we have special efforts being made within such activities as the World Food Programme. But by and large the present state of inter* national relations is that we are working very diligently in our separate backyards and there is no world-wide effort. One of the backyards in which we are working very diligently and, I think, very successfully, is in the field of international economic assistance. It has been the endeavour of your Government to apply itself to these problems of external economic assistance in a way that will not merely relieve distress - although we try to do that - but in a way that will also to an increasing extent help to contribute to the economic growth of our neighbouring countries.
Before I close I want to say something rather rapidly about a particular matter which has been receiving the very close attention of the Government; that is the economic recovery of Indonesia. After the end of confrontation Indonesia found itself in a state of economic chaos, but we have a hopeful prospect there. Indonesia under its present Government has decided that there will be no foreign adventures. It has decided to concentrate on its own economic problems. The first step that was taken, in association with countries that had previously assisted Indonesia, was to have a succession of meetings to reschedule the country’s overseas debts. The burden of those overseas debts was such that Indonesia had no chance whatsoever of restoring its economy unless the obligations under those debts were deferred. A series of conferences with the non-Communist countries led to a rescheduling of the debts which relieved Indonesia of some of that burden. A separate direct negotiation between Indonesia and the Soviet Union also resulted in an arrangement for the deferring of the debts due to the Soviet Union. This having been achieved we have now embarked on measures for the restoration of the Indonesian economy.
The major problems that were confronting Indonesia were the drastic reduction of her export earnings, the heavy overexpenditure on military forces, the increasing burdens of debt servicing, and a very severe run down in the domestic production of food and other basic consumer commodities. Accompanying all this, of course, there has been an absolutely fantastic rate of inflation of the rupiah. As I have said, the first step was to become relieved of the burdens of debt servicing. This having been done, the position was reached, largely as a result of consultation with friendly governments and after a review of the entire situation by the International Monetary Fund, in which it was found that Indonesia had to bridge a gap of about $US200m a year if it was to reach some degree of equilibrium in its balance of payments position. To accomplish that task two principle actions had to be taken. The private sector of the Indonesian economy had to be liberated from the controls which had been imposed on it so that market forces could come into play again and links with foreign markets could be re-established; secondly, additional foreign aid of up to the $US200m that I have men tioned had to be found in order that measures could be taken to trigger off the re-growth of a free and viable economy.
The Indonesian Government drew up a programme which took both of these requirements into account. A decision was taken to introduce a system known as the bonus export system, and the Australian Government, having been a party to these various discussions, agreed to join in this scheme, and a provision of $A5.2m is set down in the Budget now before the House. This is the equivalent of $US5.8m, and these funds will be used through this bonus export system. The exact procedures for using these funds are at present being negotiated between the Australian and Indonesian Governments and I hope to be able to announce the results of those discussions within a matter of days. When I am in a position to do so I hope to be able to inform the House in some detail about the procedures. In the limited time available to me at present I will simply say that Australia provides this aid. The Indonesian Central Bank will sell for rupiahs what will be known as Australian B.E. certificates, and these certificates will entitle their holders to Australian currency to pay for imports from Australia. The minimum value quoted on any certificate will be $1,000. Purchases made with these Australian B.E. certificates will be limited to goods having a prescribed Australian content and appearing on the Indonesian B.E. list, that list being designed to ensure that no luxury goods but only goods having a value for the restoration of the economy will be purchased with this foreign aid. Payment will be made to the Australian exporter out of funds made available by the Reserve Bank on presentation of claims by the exporter’s own bank. That is only a cursory and very brief description of the system but it will indicate the way in which Australia is co-operating in an international effort.
– The Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) should be congratulated on the success of his efforts to increase Australian aid to other countries, and I warmly and sincerely congratulate him. By and large, he will need to be content with the realisation that only the recording angels will note that he has managed to get from the Treasury payment for $35m worth of wheat for India in the last 2 years. They will also no doubt take note of efforts he may have made which have not totally succeeded. Very little attention is given to these matters in the Press. This success and any other success he attains are contributions to sanity. But the West, the affluent West, including Australia, is not making the effort of will, mind, compassion and intelligence it could make to tackle the problem of starvation. If things persist as they are the problem is quite certain to worsen into chaos, and the West’s present level of effort will not avert chaos and disaster.
Starvation is more destructive than armies, and it is destructive not only of human life but also of morale. The most urgent material need of the world today is food. Starvation cannot be alleviated by anything but food. Unless people are fed, the best political arrangements, constitutions and treaties will come to nothing. I have been reading recently a letter from a friend in Bengal who speaks about the growing unrest, violence and disintegration in that part of India, to which very little attention has been given in the Australian Press. The world is now moving into sustained famine crises of a severity unprecedented in history. The fundamental political issue in the world today will be proved to be not Communism or anti-Communism but starvation. There arc some factors which come within the control of countries that are faced with starvation. There are factors of usury and land holding systems within famine liable societies which must be remedied by those societies. An agrarian country cannot rise when its farmers are not only half starved but chained by usury. However unjustly some landholders may have acquired title to land in the past, it is automatically passed along from one generation to the next as a matter of inherent right. I set those problems aside, however, to concentrate on what we can do.
Barbara Ward classifies countries as rich and poor, not as developed and underdeveloped. All countries are developing countries, but the rate of growth is so uneven that the world is heading towards chaos. Poverty remains poverty because it does not generate the capital necessary to lift the countries of poverty out of poverty.
If we compare per capita incomes, the units of income in the world are like this:
Expressed in Australian dollars, the United States in 1964 had a gross national product of S575,000m and in that same year it increased by $42,500m. In one year the United States added to its gross national product more than all of Africa’s current income and 50% of Latin America’s current income. Both Africa and Latin America have populations greater than has the United States. If, somewhat arbitrarily, we regard a per capita income average of $425 as the mark of a wealthy country, 80% of mankind lives below that mark. In the United States and Canada the average income is more than four times above that mark. In India the income is $50. On present trends the group of Western nations including Australia whose per capita income is $1,900 per year will in the next 20 years move to $4,000 a year, while Asia and the underdeveloped world drop from $130 to $80.
The day after India gained independence in August 1947 an American publisher cabled Mahatma Gandhi: ‘Kindly give us a 2,000-word statement entitled “Our New Rights under Independence”. Honorarium $5,000.’ Gandhi replied: ‘We have no rights; only new duties.’ Self government was the beginning of the most terrible problems. 1 do not suggest that Australia can itself shoulder the economic problems of the Indian sub-continent, Asia and Africa, but 1 do believe that Australia can play a critically important part and, what is more, I think Australia should work to influence the great powers to call a summit conference on food and food preservation and storage, agriculture, capital investment, technical aid, technical training, animal husbandry, nutrition, quarantine and health. Australia’s own specific role I will mention in a minute.
Why a summit conference? Because I believe that Wilson, Johnson, Kosygin, Chou En-lai, Indira Gandhi, de Gaulle and the other leaders of the great powers, or such of them as will meet, should face the fact of the threat of widespread starvation, malnutrition and agricultural and economic backwardness. What the two most powerful of these leaders are doing in the world is to engage in what I honestly think is a childish battle for prestige. Said Arnold Toynbee:
The present expenditure on spacemanship and armaments is as wrong morally as Louis XIV’s expenditure on Versailles was.
Said New Zealand Nobel Prize winner for medicine, Professor Sir John Eccles:
I think that the extremely high expenditure on space travel is unjustified and that much more effort should be channelled into the development of this world. In particular the oceans offer a great challenge and will undoubtedly provide immense food resources.
Indians won their independence from the white man and they are not yet ready to invite him back as a businessman with capital to invest. But their fear of investment is obsolete. New technology rather than new territory has become the new sphere of investment. Money is ploughed back at home to create technological leadership or to keep abreast. As a result changes in technology become more frequent and open up further new frontiers - frontiers in chemicals, electronics, energy and power. There is no need for India, Indonesia or any African state to snub foreign investment. Scarcely any is offered.
Both India and Red China neglected agriculture. In India life expectancy has risen from 32.6 years to 48 years, so food is more urgently required. There was some real progress industrially. In 15 years electric power increased fivefold. Steel production increased fourfold. But faced with the choice of feeding a 50,000,000 increase in population in 5 years by putting scarce capital into agriculture or by importing food, India chose importation of food. The result is that Indian farmers, because of chronic shortage of fertilisers, can put only 2 lb of fertiliser on each acre. For $l50m we could bring five fertiliser plants that would, within 5 years, increase India’s fertiliser production by 500,000 tons a year. This is a factor which could transform agriculture.
India in fact needs $5 billion of investment in agriculture in the next 5 years. Specifically we should erect fertiliser plant and utilise our experience in food storage. A recent statement by the Food and Agriculture Organisation revealed:
Waste is one of the world’s most vicious ailments. Waste largely caused by pests now robs hundreds of millions of the food they might be eating. In some areas the loss is put even higher - 50%. . . . Food losses are greatest in the regions where there is already serious under-nourishment.
Grain is consumed by rats. Grain is consumed by mould. Both losses can be answered by efficient storage. Fruit and vegetables are ruined by slow transport and lack of refrigeration. Each year in Brazil 300,000 children under the age of 2 years die from malnutrition and 40% of production is lost through pests, defective storage and mould. Argentina estimates its losses at $300m a year. Uruguay produced 500,000 tons of grain and could store only 60,000 tons. Australian silo experience, which we take for granted, is extensive and is one of the valuable and unique things we could contribute to the world. We could do much to mobilise the capital to protect from rats the 10,300,000 tons of grain in India estimated to be eaten by them each year. That amount is equal to the total United States gifts of grain to India.
Britain has developed inflatable plastic warehouses which offer protection from mould. A metal or corrugated iron wall around existing storages, or something like the rainwater tanks that we used to see alongside all houses in Australia, can protect ordinary farmers crops. I believe that we have the men who, if backed by the Government, could introduce practical ideas for small farmers. These could include matters relating to crop dusting, windmills, fertilisers, irrigation, storage, steel ploughs instead of wooden ones and well drilling. The underdeveloped world needs the capital assistance to establish an efficient infrastructure for port facilities, storage, transport, water supply, sewerage and power. In the last 2 years Australian gifts of wheat to India have been worth $35m. When the urgency of famine in Bihar has diminished, comparable expenditure by Australia on fertiliser plant and silos in India might assist to avert future famine. The West can, if it will, do the job. The capital to transform the world from famine exists. It is the will and the purpose that must be created.
There were rumours that the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) was to have made a statement this afternoon immediately after question time. Rumour had it that he would outline the Commonwealth’s policy in exercising its new powers over the affairs of people of the Aboriginal race. I am disappointed that such a statement did not eventuate, but we live on in hope. I propose, therefore, to urge certain action. The Commonwealth has a new census power and a new legislative power. The census power should enlighten the legislative power. We live in a world of guesswork about the Aboriginal people. It seems we have chosen not to collect separate statistics. Those we have are disturbing. I want to begin with the question of survival, and especially survival in infancy. The evidence indicates that as Aboriginals concentrate in settlements neo-natal mortality, infant mortality and child mortality rise. This is because, in the absence of the elaborate hygenic precautions we would take for a European population, gastro-enteritis spreads rapidly among them, lt is also because their ideas of hygiene are adapted to a nomadic life, not to a stationary life. To concentrate them in stationary settlements takes more skill, care, staff and thought than we have ever been prepared to give. I hope that the Commonwealth will now mount a total offensive under its new powers. The need is clear. F. Lancaster Jones, in his study “A Demographic Survey of the Aboriginal Population of the Northern Territory, with Special Reference to Bathurst Island Mission’, at pages 96-8, writes: it should be emphasised that we do not know how complete the registrations of native infant deaths are compared with those of native births. It is quite possible that children whose births were not registered but who died while infants were included among infant deaths but were not among the births. This could produce an unduly high infant mortality rate. Since we do not know which of these two possibilities is more likely, it seems best to assume that the registrations of native births and native infant deaths did not differ in respect of the degree of their completeness. We might note that even the ‘favourable’ assumption that native infant death registrations were 100% complete but those of native births only 90% complete produces only a relatively small reduction in the infant mortality rate, from 143 to 132 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
I might interpolate that the European death rate is about one-sixth of that 132, or 22 per 1,000 live births. F. Lancaster Jones continues:
On any reasonable assumption the infant mortality rate among Aborigines remains extremely high. In Central Australia, indeed, the registered infant mortality rate was 208 per 1,000 live births, which must be among the highest, infant mortality rates in the world. In the district of North Australia the rate was very much lower (122) but even this was well above that recorded at Bathurst Island Mission.
These registered infant mortality rates are considerably higher than those quoted by the Minister for Territories in reply to a question in the House of Representatives, where it was stated that according to figures compiled by the Welfare Branch of the Northern Territory Administration with the co-operation of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, the infant mortality rates among Aborigines in 1957, 1958 and 1959 were 117, 114 and 102 respectively … As well as being lower than those derived in the present study, these latter rates might be taken to suggest declining infant mortality among Aborigines in the Northern Territory. Such an interpretation would not be justified. Although the registered rates similarly disclose a lower rate of infant mortality in 1959 than in 1958 (rates of 112 and 149 respectively) in 1960 the infant mortality rate leapt to 176 per 1,000 registered live births. This indicates that the causes of infant mortality among Aborigines in the Northern Territory are not yet under control and that no immediate decline in its incidence can be anticipated. The rapid increase in the number of Aborigines at many Government Settlements and Mission Stations has tended to foster conditions conducive to the rapid spread of diseases such as gastroenteritis, dysentery and pneumonia, all of which have caused excessive mortality among Aboriginal infants and children. Unless higher standards of hygiene and sanitation can be achieved - and this is admittedly no simple task - mortality at young ages may well increase quite substantially before it ultimately declines. It seems almost unnecessary to emphasise that the causes and the extent of infant mortality among Aborigines in the Northern Territory need closer and much more extensive examination; for although the above statistics may well be imperfect, the general picture of a disturbingly high mortality among infants is undoubtedly accurate.
Many of us who supported the Commonwealth referendum on Aboriginals did not do so in the belief that the Commonwealth in the Northern Territory, where it always had power, had set up any model for the States to follow. I think that there are many matters that need to be looked at if we are going to have an all-over Commonwealth policy for Aboriginals. The education system that we have set up in the Territory, for instance, tends stubbornly to discourage any Aboriginal’s right to an education in his mother tongue. Hermannsburg Mission, where Albert
Namatjira came from, establishes literacy in the mother tongue and then most successfuly uses that as the basis for establishing literacy in English. But this procedure is discouraged because we cannot be bothered building a core of people with a knowledge of any Aboriginal tongue. The small child must battle in English - a language in which he does not think. We need to face the fact that if a people have their language discouraged, no title to land occupied from time immemorial, no right to equality of wages and no particularly strenuous health programme, their status is not truly that of citizens but of conquered people, and there is no question that this is what we would say of a similar situation in any other country. The decisions that are needed now are that we will eliminate tuberculosis, leprosy, yaws and hookworm and drastically reduce infant mortality within 5 years everywhere among the Aboriginals. This will require a much larger corps of medical staff than we have ever employed on this before. There must be devised some acknowledgment of tribal title to land. There must be a willingness to ratify the International Labour Organisation Convention concerning land and languages. A recognition needs to be made that there is not a single Aboriginal problem but separate problems for tribal full bloods, detribalised full bloods, fringe dwellers and persons of mixed descent. These categories of people ask for quite different things, but their first need in every case is that the Commonwealth should listen to them. The States and the Commonwealth simply have never listened to them. In fact, welfare officers rarely speak Aboriginal languages and in many cases are not qualified to listen to them. When the Select Committee on the Grievances of Yirrkala Aborigines went to Yirrkala, in Arnhem Land, it had the services of Aboriginal and European interpreters. Aboriginals who were quite inarticulate in English proved to be magnificent orators in their own languages. The welfare officers admitted that they had no idea that the Aboriginals held the opinions or possessed the information that they revealed in their statements.
What many Aboriginal heads of families need above all else is an income. Where they get adequate wages from mining com panies, as at Weipa and Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory, they use the wages well. When they leave the tribal state they need the same freedom from financial worry in sickness as do Europeans. Their social service payments should be paid direct, not through intermediaries. There should be adult education scholarships and a family living allowance while Aboriginals are undergoing adult education. Aboriginal settlements now without water supplies and without dignified facilities for living need to be treated with the same consideration as white men’s towns of equivalent population. Adolescents need hostels when they go to town for jobs; they need remedial education and vocational guidance. They are particularly vulnerable and need special help. The Commonwealth should establish an Aboriginal scholarship system. Too often Aboriginals drop out from high school because of the lack of background on the part of their parents and because there is not the family income to carry them through schools. On the reserves where fringe dwellers live there is need for sanitation, housing, power and water.
The massive vote that swept every subdivision of every electorate of the Commonwealth for the first time in our history was not a vote for correcting the grammar of the Constitution. It was an exhibition of compassion and concern on the part of the Australian people. The Commonwealth should mobilise its own institute of Aboriginal studies to advise it. It should face the fact that it must underwrite Aboriginal policies with adequate finance which may well be five times existing State and Commonwealth expenditure. If should confer wilh the States and with the Aborigines themselves on policies, and it should survey Aboriginal needs throughout the Commonwealth. The finance which will mobilise the anthropologists, the educationists, the health authorities, the housing authorities, the agriculturists and the resources necessary to do the job should be forthcoming. The Aborigines are increasing in numbers. The old policy of smoothing the dying pillow must be forgotten. There is a new generation to serve and to lead to a future.
I want to stress the fact that most of the sufferers from tuberculosis today are Aborigines and most of those are in the
Northern Territory. Technicalities deprive them of significant tuberculosis benefits. Similarly, technicalities deprive the Aborigines in the Northern Territory of unemployment benefits. They are not eligible for tuberculosis benefits unless they have been earning full wages. The harshness which deprives them of adequate wages becomes a reason for delivering a further blow of almost total exclusion from effective help in sickness or unemployment. We would never, on technical grounds, leave white people and their families so critically deprived in such circumstances of personal disaster. I do appeal to the Government to abandon all of the kinds of double talk which Committees have heard in evidence from welfare officers in the Northern Territory. For example, if we asked whether it would be a good idea to give Aborigines land, the answer would be: ‘Ob, no, they are Australian citizens and we do not give other Australian citizens land*. But if we asked whether it was a good idea to give them equal wages it could be seen that somehow or other there was a difference. Race was discernible so far as wages were concerned. Race was not discernible in relation to mortality statistics. These are instruments that will enable us to measure whether our policies on survival are succeeding or not.
The Australian Labor Party’s platform gets a fair amount of quotation, mostly from the Government side of the House. I would like to put certain points from it relating to the Aboriginal policy because I think they are sensible points. They aTe:
A Ministry of Aborigine Affairs to be established to administer and exercise the new powers conferred on the Commonwealth Parliament by the 1967 Referendum.
I hope there will be established a ministry of Aboriginal affairs because the moral standing of this country is tested by this question. I also hope that because of its significance such a Ministry will be under the control of the Prime Minister himself. A further plank of the platform is:
Aborigines to have rights and opportunities equal with other Australians.
Aborigines to receive the standard Tate of wages for the job and to receive the same industrial protection as other Australians. Special provision for employment to be provided in regions where they reside.
I mention this especially because in previous debates remonstrances about the wages paid by the Services have been answered with the statement that Aboriginal servicemen, if there are any, are paid the same allowances as European servicemen. The people referred to were not attested servicemen but aboriginals employed as labourers by the Services. Some commanding officers complained about the poor quality of the work done by the Aborigines. As their wage is about a quarter of that paid to Europeans, it is obvious that they would not put in the same effort. The level of nutrition of the home maintained by such a wage level makes that poorer effort inevitable. The next platform points are:
Detribalised Aborigines to have free and compulsory education, and tribal and nomadic Aborigines to have special provision for education. Adult education to be fully available.
Special provision for Aborigines to secure houses wherever they choose to live.
A health offensive to be launched to eliminate leprosy, yaws, hookworm, tuberculosis and contagious diseases and to reduce infant mortality. Efficient mortality statistics to be maintained to measure the effectiveness of these policies among Aborigines.
Aborigines to have the right to receive social services in the same way as all other Australians.
Special provision for Aborigines to reside in reservations wherever they prefer. Forms of titles and land ownership to be investigated.
Every form of discrimination against Aborigines to be ended.
A Parliamentary Committee to be established to study all aspects of policy affecting Aborigines.
I do hope that a parliamentary committee will be established. It was a recommendation of the Select Committee on the Grievances of Yirrkala Aborigines, Arnhem Land Reserve, that there should be a parliamentary standing committee. I know that the last thing departments ever want is a parliamentary standing committee. But the status of Aboriginals and their conditions are questions which should be way out in the open.
I am not sitting in judgment on anybody. The relations of races are terribly difficult problems to administer. I do not think anybody has yet proposed Aboriginal policies which, in operation, could be regarded as fully successful. In the 19th century, of course, governments did not desire them to be successful in some areas of Australia for they did not desire the survival of the Aboriginal people. But we have, I believe, at least made the decision that the Aboriginal people should survive. They are entitled to be recognised as a distinctive race, and I say emphatically that there will never be anybody in this or any parliament who can speak effectively for Aboriginals unless it is an Aboriginal representative. There was no real traction in New Zealand’s Maori policy until there were four Maori members in the New Zealand Parliament. At the present time I do not see how we can devise Aboriginal representation for the Commonwealth Parliament although it may be possible. But it can be devised for the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory where the Aboriginals form a significant part of the population. 1 do not profess to be speaking the mind of the Aboriginal people but I certainly think that they would agree on the desirability of their survival and on objectives like the elimination of disease. It is imperative that in the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, or in any legislative assembly that succeeds it, they should be represented. They are entitled to be regarded as a distinctive race but I suspect that very often when we want to put them in under the blanket heading Australian citizens’ like all other citizens, it is because we feel, unconsciously perhaps, that this is a new and useful device for covering up what is really happening. The statistics and the truth should be out in the open so that we and all the world will know what is really happening to the Aboriginal people. Then we are likely to produce policies of which we will have no need to be ashamed.
– It is very difficult in the time available for any member to cover all the matters to which he might like to refer in connection with the Budget. This is evident from the speech just delivered by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) who dealt with two particular matters - external aid and the problems associated with Aboriginals. I think every honourable member has been here long enough to realise that any of the matters which are under discussion must, in total, be related to the Budget itself.
The honourable member for Fremantle gave the impression that we should be carrying more responsibility in connection with aid to the undeveloped nations. Sometimes one does not hear from the Opposition any credit given for the things which are being done. I suggest that Australia is in fact accepting a real responsibility in connection with external aid, especially in Papua and New Guinea. Most honourable members would know that that Territory is Australia’s responsibility. We do not receive assistance from other countries in carrying out our obligations towards Papua and New Guinea. 1 come now to the second subject with which the honourable member dealt: It is not very long since the referendum in relation to Aboriginals was carried. Honourable members opposite sometimes give the impression that they expected that we were going to have overall policies the next day. I believe that the Government will in fact have a policy. It will not necessarily be acceptable to everybody, but it will be a policy which will have regard to the new decision of the Australian people with regard to Aboriginals.
It is not my intention to spend my time this afternoon on these two matters as I want to say something about a couple of other things. If there is one thing that is consistent about members of the Opposition, it is their inconsistency. Every, year at Budget time the Opposition has criticised the Government’s defence allocations as being insufficient and somewhat less in relation to the gross national product than in other countries. This year the defence allocation has been trenchantly criticised again by the Opposition, but lo and behold, this time it is too high. In fact, the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) went so far as to describe it as:
What does the Opposition want? Does it want a secure Australia or one that is wide open to any aggressor who might feast his hungry eyes upon it? Obviously the Opposition has no thought at all of making Australia secure and keeping it that way. Its attitude towards our involvement in Vietnam is proof of this. A Labor government would pull out; it would leave our allies high and dry; it would shatter for all time the Australian-American alliance; it would abrogate our obligations under the ANZUS and SEATO treaties; and, in short, would hold Australia up to the contempt, not only of the world generally, but of our neighbours in Asia particularly.
The Opposition policy is quite explicit. In part, it is in these terms:
The Labor Party is opposed to the continuance of the war in Vietnam, and to Australia’s participation in it. The Party will work to end the war and to end Australia’s participation in it.
Let us analyse this. Firstly, who is not opposed to the continuation of the war in Vietnam? On simple humanitarian grounds, we all want to see an end to it. As for Australia’s participation, the latest gallup poll made it clear that the Australian people, who as recently as last November endorsed the Government’s Vietnam policies, still approved of this country’s defence policies, particularly in view of Britain’s stated aim of withdrawing its defence forces east of Suez in 8 or 10 years time. In fact, 53% of the Opposition’s own supporters were among those who agreed with our increased emphasis on defence and, by inference, approved our involvement in the Vietnam conflict. The Labor Party goes on to say:
The Party will work to end the war . . .
How will it do this - by asking Hanoi very nicely to cease hostilities and withdraw beyond the 17th Parallel? That would cause some amusement in the councils of the Communist warlords. The crux of the matter is the statement: . . and to end Australian participation in it.
We all know how the Opposition would do this - by wholesale withdrawal of all Australian fighting men and materials. The Australian Labor Party says that it would: transform operations in South Vietnam into holding operations . . .
Whatever that might mean. Perhaps the Opposition could tell us what it means. The most significant point in a Labor government’s policy is the blunt assertion that it would: recognise the National Liberation Front as a principal party to negotiations.
In other words, the Australian Labor Party would be happy to get together with the people who have wrought a reign of terror on innocent people almost unparalleled in the history of the world. The Opposition would cease bombing North Vietnam and would stop the use of ‘napalm and other objectionable materials of war’. By ceasing the bombing of North Vietnam a Labor government in Australia would give the North Vietnamese industry an unbridled freedom to build up the manufacture of war materials to be used against the South Vietnamese people and those helping them. I suggest to honourable members that this would be regarded by the Australian people as a shameful policy. The Opposition contends that napalm is being used against civilians. This is what Dr Howard A. Rusk, a world renowned authority on physical rehabilitation and President of the World Rehabilitation Fund, had to say following an inspection he made of hospitals in Vietnam:
This writer personally saw every burn case in the twenty hospitals he visited. Among them was not a single case of burns due to napalm and but two from phosphorus shells.
I hope the Opposition would not be so foolish as to doubt the word of such a distinguished medical man as this. Dr Rusk’s experience parallels that of several dozen other American doctors engaged in treating civilian casualties whom he consulted during his trip. Earlier this year, the Columbia Broadcasting System telecast an interview with three doctors - a plastic surgeon, an internist and a pediatrician. The doctors said that they found 278 war-injured children in the hosiptals they visited. Only fifteen of these were burned, and these were from household accidents. The Opposition, in its pious utterings about bombings and the use of napalm, makes no mention of the terrorism the Vietcong inflicts on innocent civilians in South Vietnam. Let me tell honourable members opposite that over half the civilian casualties in South Vietnam are caused by Communist booby traps, terrorism, torture, land mines and kidnappings. Here are typical examples for one week of civilian casualties caused directly, purposely and wilfully by Vietcong activities. Let our friends opposite ponder on this and search their consciences when they talk of doing a deal with the National Liberation Front.
The list contains statistics of confirmed civilian casualties from Vietcong terrorism for the week ending 19th August 1967. I point out to honourable members that this is not very long ago. In this week there were 167 people killed. This number included 12 rural development workers, 1 military policeman, 1 deputy village chief, 1 hamlet chief and 3 deputy hamlet chiefs. In this week 252 people were wounded, including 3 military policemen, 1 rural development worker and 5 combat youths. Also, during this week, 126 people were abducted, including 1 village council member, 1 information employee and 2 deputy hamlet chiefs. The total number of civilians killed this year is 2,027; the total number wounded is 3,683; and the total number abducted is 2,783. This gives a grand total of 8,493 civilian casualties. This is what one might call a normal week, if such a word can be used to describe these terrible happenings.
Last week the South Vietnamese elections were held and we find that the stepped-up Vietcong reign of terror accounted over a few days for 200 deaths. The number of wounded in this period rose to an all-time high of 1,200. Reports from Saigon tell the story of polling day. These reports present such statements as:
Millions of South Vietnamese ignored widespread Communism terrorism and voted in Government controlled areas of the war-torn nation.
Vietcong attacks prevented voting at only three of the 8,824 polling places.
Vietcong attacks were reported to have killed twenty-eight people today. (Polling day.)
Nineteen of the people were civilians killed during the 10-hour voting period.
Sixty-seven civilians and fifteen soldiers were injured by the guerilla attacks.
In the 36 hours before the polls closed, Communist gunners rained mortar attacks on 69 towns, villages and hamlets. They kidnapped 237 hamlet chiefs, women and children.
It is not a pretty picture. It concerns a situation which the Australian Labor Party says we should turn our backs on. Labor says we should stick our heads in the sand like ostriches. Why is there never any outcry from Opposition members about Communist terrorism and aggression? Quite frankly, this is an attitude that I and honourable members on this side of the House will never understand.
Now let me turn back specifically to our defence expenditure. Lest we forget our vulnerability in this part of the world, we should refresh our memory from time to time by looking at a map of the Asian area. What lies between Vietnam and Australia? Only the Malay Peninsula, the Indonesian islands and a couple of strips of water. In these circumstances, can anyone doubt the Government’s wisdom in increasing, and always increasing, the amount allocated for the security of this country. The Opposition doubts the wisdom of it. Certainly it does. But then honourable members opposite doubt the wisdom of anything that does not line up with their own muddled policies. I believe that Australia’s stature throughout the world is at an all time high because, being objective, other countries can see something splendid in the fact that 12 million Australians are in effect providing about $85 each per annum to ensure the security of their country. This, in my view, is a tremendously praiseworthy effort and one of which this Government is proud.
I have made this point before, but it is worth repeating: The Opposition wants increased expenditure on the full range of social and welfare services, national undertakings and so on. But not one Opposition member has put forward any concrete proposal for the raising of this money. Let us assume that a Labor budget provided for the expenditure of $ 1,000m a year more than this Government’s budgetary provisions, and it would not be less than that amount if Labor were to implement all the suggestions proposed in speeches made in this Budget debate. I ask honourable members, as I have before: Where does the Opposition believe that this money would come from? The first slice, and the largest slice, would no doubt come from the defence vote and we would revert to bows and arrows or flint-lock muskets for defence. But the remainder would come from the pockets of the taxpayers or we would start pouring out unsecured treasury notes. Either way would be disastrous for Australia - the first because it would reduce to negligible proportions the weekly pay cheque of millions of Australians; and the second because it would lead to galloping inflation that would take years to rectify and from which Australia may never recover. It is because of the policies outlined so naively by our friends opposite that they are still on the Opposition benches after 18 years. The people of Australia are too sensible to vote them into office to ruin our way of life and to gum up the works generally. 1 am sure that the people of northern Australia will not be hoodwinked by the hypocrisy of Opposition barnstormers. In the matter of defence, for example, northern Australians are realists - they always have been - and they understand the necessity for a defence programme that will contain aggression off our shores and not on them. Remember, of all people in Australia, they are closest to Asia. Nor will they be hoodwinked by fatuous statements on northern development expounded by people such as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), who is ensconsed comfortably well to the south and visits northern Australia only when he wants something. In fact, the people of the north are becoming rather tired of these people talking all the time of northern development. The people in Queensland especially know that this Commonwealth Government and the present State Government have done more to accomplish the so-called development of the north than any other two governments have in the nation’s history.
Let me nail this matter once and for all. A Labor government was in office in Queensland for more than 30 years before, during and after the last war, and for most of the time had autonomy over its own finances. Its accomplishment in regard to so-called northern development was the building of one bridge which took so long to finish that it became a standard joke throughout the north. I know that I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Not once during its mammoth term of office did this Labor Administration put up one worthwhile proposal to the Commonwealth for any joint State and Federal development programme. Even as recently as several years after the last war, the highway between Brisbane and Cairns was a series of horror stretches avoided by all but the most hardy. Today it is fully sealed. Let us look at industry. It was commonly known among industrialists that it was useless to approach the Queensland Labor Government for co-operation in establishing a factory. The co-operation just was not forthcoming. On the contrary, every obstacle was placed in the way. Schools were run down, understaffed, overcrowded and of 1 9th century vintage. Queensland, in fact, was stagnating. It was in the doldrums and no relief at all was in sight until the Liberal and Country Party Governments in both the Commonwealth and the State undertook a programme of growth. A visitor of 20 years ago to north Queensland would be amazed, if he returned today, at the progress that has been made.
The Leader of the Opposition and his little echo sounder, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), go through the north and bleat about water conservation, power reticulation and so on with no real knowledge at all of what they are talking about. Let me place on record the fact that every scheme that is outlined with such a flourish by the honourable member for Dawson has already been considered by the Commonwealth and State Governments. The fact that the honourable member for Dawson knows of these projects at all stems from his service as a public servant. There is nothing new at all in his utterances and had he not seen service in the Department of National Development his knowledge of the area would be slight indeed. For the present he has pulled the wool over the eyes of the people of the north. However, as I have said, these people are realists and sooner or later they will get around to assessing their member at his true worth. I repeat also that the Leader of the Opposition and his henchmen visit the north only when it suits them, and this means when they want something. There they trumpet their policies, knowing quite well that they will never be called to account for them. But of course their policies sound good, in a specious way.
Now let us look at what has been done in the north. Within an area of 1.5 million square miles - about half of the Australian continent - 400,000 people live. About 70% of them are concentrated on the coastal districts of north Queensland. The population growth in this area over the past five years - I ask honourable members to take particular note of the percentages - has been approximately 11 65%. It is in fact higher than the growth rate for Australia as a whole. For Australia, it is a steady 10%. Before, during and for some years after the last war, the population in the north remained static.
I submit to honourable members that, if the north has been so grievously neglected, as the Opposition claims, why did these additional people go there and why are they raising families there? Perhaps the honourable member for Dawson will ponder on the figures that I have just put to the House.
Going a step further, let us look at industries. Queensland, the Northern Territory and the Kimberley district of Western Australia carry about 9 million head of cattle or 60% of all beef cattle in Australia. The same areas produce 80% to 85% of the beef exported from Australia. Queensland’s north is in fact Australia’s most important beef producing area. Since 1949, cattle numbers have increased spectacularly. The Commonwealth’s beef roads programme - undreamed of in a 30- year State Labor Administration - the improvement of stock routes and ports and the provision of new slaughtering facilities have in part been responsible for this. But the development of the beef industry has been due principally to the insight of beef producers and their confidence in the future of the north. They would hardly have this confidence were it not for the knowledge that they would receive the active support and co-operation of the State Government in Queensland and the Commonwealth Government. Since 1961 more than 4,000 miles of beef roads have been completed, are under way or have been approved, at a total cost to the Commonwealth of $58m. The Commonwealth believes that there should be a continuing beef road programme and it offered recently to contribute a further $50m over 7 years for this purpose. Since 1962 the Queensland Government, with financial assistance from the Commonwealth, has been developing nearly 11 million acres of brigalow land in central Queensland to increase beef cattle production still further. The total Commonwealth allocation for the brigalow projects in three separate areas is $26m. What government has ever contemplated this sort of operation previously?
At Mount Isa is Australia’s largest copper mining enterprise. About 70% of Australia’s copper production is from Queensland, and most of it is from Mount Isa. Mount Isa Mines Ltd has spent Si 20m over the past few years on expansion projects, including the Mica Creek power station and the Townsville copper refinery. The total value of the company’s production is not less than $70m annually. The recently completed rehabilitation of the Townsville to Mount Isa railway was complementary to the development programme carried out by Mount Isa Mines Ltd. The Commonwealth loaned the Queensland Government $34.5m for this project. The initial stage of development of the bauxite deposits at Weipa is now complete. By 1970 more than 3 million tons of bauxite are expected to be shipped from Weipa each year. At Gladstone an alumina refinery has been built for the refining of bauxite from Weipa. At Gladstone the Queensland Government has provided funds for community services, such as water supply and housing, and has contributed towards the cost of the shipping facilities for the alumina plant. The Commonwealth made an urgent job of installing a $250,000 automatic telephone exchange at Gladstone to cope with development in the area.
Sugar production, which is now more than 2 million tons a year, has been one of the main factors in the development of coastal areas in north Queensland. The sugar industry is a major beneficiary under the bounty granted by the Commonwealth on nitrogenous fertilisers. This has reduced the cost of growing sugar by about $2m per year. The Commonwealth only last year made an advance of $19m to the sugar industry to maintain the average return on 1966 sugar production within mill peaks at about the level applying to the 1965 season. This year up to $15m could be provided by the Commonwealth Government for this purpose. Moreover, the Commonwealth has made available as loans $1,750,000 to individual cane growers affected by drought in 1965 and has been able to influence the availability of bank loans to the industry. Loans from these banks to sugar producers on overdraft and from term loan funds are now being supplemented from the $50m Farm Development Loan Fund which the Government sponsored in 1966.
I turn now to water resources. The Commonwealth has launched a national water resources development programme which could cost $50m over the next 5 years. The programme will aim at increasing water conservation work, reducing the hazards of drought and expanding primary production. The anticipated Commonwealth grants will be over and above the present expenditure by the States on rural water conservation works. Already the Queensland Government is spending millions of dollars on water conservation projects and has a 548m programme in hand for the future. This will include completion of the MareebaDimbulah, Coolmunda and Wuruna dam projects, together with the construction of a further ten schemes. In 1965-66 the gross value of production from 332,000 irrigated acres was $82m which was 13% of the State’s total rural production. Yet we are being accused almost weekly by the honourable member for Dawson of doing nothing in these areas.
I could go on with a very long list, but I want to mention before I close some of the other matters which could be in the minds of honourable members. The list includes tobacco research and assistance, pasture improvement projects, the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in northern areas, the development of airport facilities, the tremendous sums of money spent by the Post Office in providing broad band telecommunications systems throughout the north, the expansion of broadcasting and television services, the development of an Army manoeuvre and training area near Rockhampton, the new Army establishment at Townsville, the development at Exmouth, mineral research activities, mapping of the northern coastline, hydrographic surveys, land use surveys, fishery investigations, wharf development, new jetties, the Ord project and so on. I suggest to the House that the list is almost never ending.
These things I have outlined because they have been carried out by this Government in conjunction with the Queensland Government. I believe they are a monument to progress and give the lie to the bleatings of the Opposition about development of the north. 1 believe that the people of north Queensland understand these matters much more precisely than members of the Opposition, including the honourable member for Dawson. He makes a lot of noise, but we all are familiar with the old expression. 1 believe that the people of north Queensland will, before too many years have gone by, discover that the honourable member for Dawson makes a lot of noise but is not able to get much achieved. But by reliance on this Government, in conjunction with the Queensland Liberal Country Party Government, Queensland, particularly in the north, is leaping ahead now and will continue to do so in the future.
– The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) has sought to impress the people in the division of Capricornia. I think they can be thankful indeed that elections promote interest in their electorate. Interest from a Minister of this Federal Government comes rarely. At no other time does the Government show interest in this area. I should have thought that the Postmaster-General would have dodged the subject of water because of the $900m set aside by the Commonwealth for power and water. How much has Queensland had? The people of Capricornia in Queensland can feel shocked when they find that not one cent has been set aside by the Federal Government for water conservation in Queensland.
– That is in the last 17 years.
– That is true. In recent years the total of Commonwealth payments to Queensland has been lower per head of population than for any other State. Queensland is the Cinderella State of the Commonwealth and nothing that the Postmaster-General can say will alter this fact. The only time that the Government shows any interest in Queensland is after it has received a setback at elections. Do honourable members recall 1961?
– He lost his seat then.
– That is true. After 1961 the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), who was then Treasurer, went about Queensland with his money box shaking it out everywhere to get a few votes back and to win back a few seats. It seems to me that the people of Queensland ought to show their objection to being a Cinderella State and indicate their objection through the ballot boxes to give the Government a shock.
Out of the total Budget of more than $6,000m we have new expenditure for northern development of only $4m for beef roads. Yet the Postmaster-General has the hide to get up in this place today and endeavour to impress the people of Queensland with what his Government thinks and does about the north. I suggest that if ever a Government needed a kick in the pants it is this Government now. It needs it in north Queensland and in central Queensland - in fact, right throughout Queensland. Queensland has become a Cinderella State because of the actions of a Federal Liberal and Country Party Government. The Budget debate has been taking place for several weeks. A great number of subjects have been covered.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, it is notable that this Budget debate has developed into a concentrated attack on the Australian Labor Party by Government supporters. There has been much waving of the booklet containing the decisions of the recent Federal Conference of the Party, and the debate that we have heard from honourable members opposite has borne little to the provisions of the Budget. It is obvious that the old saying that attack is the best means of defence is appropriate in this instance. The Government is certainly on the defensive. What a Budget it has to defend! Timid, dull and entirely lacking in imagination, this is a Budget that promotes the interests of the rich and discriminates against the poor. No wonder Government supporters have shied clear of debating the pros and cons of the major issues raised by this Budget.
You know, Mr Deputy Speaker, I feel a little sorry for the backbenchers on the Government side of the House, both Liberals and members of the Australian Country Party. We who belong to the Opposition have had just as much say in the preparation, completion and approval of this Budget as they have had, and that is nil. Indeed, that goes for the majority of Ministers, too. How much say did Government backbenchers and the fourteen Ministers who are not in the inner Cabinet have in the consideration of this Budget? They had none at all. They customarily have no chance of taking part in the framing of Budgets and they have no chance to either approve or disapprove of them in their party room. The inner Cabinet of twelve men is all powerful. The Budget sets the economic pattern for life in Australia. Consequently, the fate of all Australians, collectively and individually, is in the hands of these twelve men. It is government by the top twelve - a political jury of sorts. Judging by their findings and their actions as exemplified in this Budget, they are not too good and true, either.
What of the rest of those who make up the ranks on the Government side of the Parliament - the backbenchers and the minor Ministers who are regarded by their electors as their representatives who will watch their interests in the framing of the Budget? They hear the terms of the Budget at a meeting of the Government parties only a few minutes before it is presented in this chamber. They are presented with a fait accompli. Twelve men dictate this country’s policies and the rest of the members in the ranks of the Liberal and Country Parties merely make up the numbers. They become the professional apologists for the Government’s omissions as it proceeds on its way with its piecemeal approach to this nation’s development and welfare. There are exceptions, of course like the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner), who are game enough to stand up and speak their piece.
I know that there are many honourable members on the Government side of the Parliament who greeted this Budget with anything but enthusiasm, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I venture to say that if the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and his eleven Cabinet colleagues had had to meet the criticisms of their fellow party members in the party room and had had to obtain for the Budget the approval of a combined party meeting, this would have been a better Budget. Indeed, the Government’s ill timed attempt to increase postal charges a few months ago might not have occurred. But the proposals on that occasion did not even go to the Government party room. The members of the Government parties were not even consulted. They were told what was to be done only about IS minutes before the proposals were presented in this House.
The truth is that the decision makers in the Liberal and Country Parties have become Canberra bound. They are out of touch with life outside this capital city. Long years in office have removed the zeal that once went with their private enterprise philosophy. Their lesser colleagues who sit on the back benches could have told them at first hand of the needs of the Australian people and of the economy. But the backbenchers and the minor Ministers may as well stay at home for all the say that they have in the decisions of this Government. In sharp contrast is Labor’s attitude when in office. Every elected Labor senator and Labor member in the House of Representatives has his opportunity to approve or disapprove of or to amend a Labor budget. Indeed, I recall that the Curtin Government amended a budget when Labor’s Caucus voted in favour of a change in certain of its provisions. This, unfortunately, will never happen while the present Liberal and Country Party Government presides in this Parliament. At present, we have government by the top twelve - government by the Executive - and Government supporters who speak out against it risk their political skins. We may sneer at Russia’s Presidium, but this Government in fact is little different. Indeed, it is perilously near dictatorship. In the interests of democracy and the parliamentary institution, it is time this Government gave the majority in its ranks a voice in its actions and decisions. Meanwhile, Australia’s citizens who are represented by Government backbenchers and the minor Ministers are entitled to ask why their representative does not have a say in the decisions that affect their future and their livelihood.
We in the Australian Labor Party do not expect much from a Liberal budget, Mr Deputy Speaker. That is natural enough. But I confess that this Budget has gone beyond my worst expectations. It is timid in its approach to the development of the Australian economy and to the physical development of our continent. It will place a totally unfair burden of expenditure on those who can ill afford to bear it. Indeed, to the shame of the members of the Cabinet, it completely ignores the sections of our community whose need is greatest. I shall return to these matters in greater detail later. I just say now that for these reasons alone the Opposition is justified in its criticisms of and opposition to this Budget. When we think about it, we could spend a great deal of time listing and contemplating the deficiencies of life In our country. We have great potential, it is true, though we have not as yet realised it. We are a free people. Some, because of their economic circumstances, are freer than others. We are a prosperous people, but many are touched by the hand of poverty. We have a great deal to achieve if we are to make a better way of life for the great masses of our people. This Budget, unfortunately, will not go far towards achieving it.
How anyone can find praise for this timid Budget is beyond my understanding. Is it because we are not setting our sights high enough? Have we been lulled by a few years of comparative plenty after the tough days of the 1930s to such a degree as to make us scared to reach out for better things in terms of social services for our people, particularly pensions, health services and the like? Labor governments in the war and postwar years made great strides and put this country ahead of most comparable countries. But we have now fallen behind. Our social services standards have been whittled away by rising prices and a long period of administration by a coalition government whose attitude to social services is that it is sufficient to throw the underdog a bone to keep it quiet - in election years, that is, when its bite might prove painful and dangerous. To me and to the Labor Party, Mr Deputy Speaker, this is a rich man’s budget. We welcome the increases in child endowment and the other minor concessions given to people who need them. But this Budget generally promotes and accentuates the inequities that have flourished under Liberal and Country Party governments for 17 years and more. The Prime Minister, when explaining the philosophy of his Government to President Johnson recently, described it as a fair deal government. How can the right honourable gentleman equate that statement with the provisions of this Budget? It is full of inequities because it provides greater relief for those in the high income group than for those in the low income group. It completely disregards the poor in our community, particularly the pensioners.
Let us look at the so-called family concessions. The Budget provides for an increase in the concessional deduction for a wife. This is a flat rate deduction that places greater value on the wife of a rich man than on the wife of a poor man. The wife of a man who pays tax at the rate of SOc in the dollar of taxable income will be worth $156 a year to him. The wife of a man who pays tax at the rate of only 10c in the dollar of taxable income will be worth only $31.20 to him. The same sort of thing is found right through the concessional deductions at different rates allowed for the first child under 16 and for subsequent children. Surely it would be more equitable, after calculation of the tax payable, to deduct an equal amount from all taxpayers in respect of their dependants. In my view, that would be completely fair.
This Budget provides for an increase in the deduction allowable in respect of life insurance premiums and superannuation contributions. When we examine this, it is clear that the benefit will go to those who are well to do, certainly not to the average family man. The existing maximum limit is already $800. Who pays insurance or superannuation premiums greater than $800 per annum or $16 per week? I suggest - and I invite disagreement here although I am sure that I will not get’ it - that to pay this rate of premium a person obviously would have to have an income in excess of $6,500 per annum or $130 per week. So it is a benefit for the people at the top - the few with the most. It smells of a foul deal, not a fair deal. Already this concession has proved to be a boon to life insurance companies. I remind honourable members that this concession was granted in a Budget which the Treasurer said could not afford a rise for pensioners. There is something for the rich and nothing for the poor.
In this Budget there is a continuation and extension of indirect taxes. To my mind nothing can alter the fact that indirect taxes are sectional. They tax people regardless of their circumstances and their income. Indirect taxes are a hangover from the time of Charles I and George III. That is how far back the thinking of our Liberal-Country Party Government is. Why in heaven’s name should parents of school children, for instance, be forced to pay sales tax upon school bags, exercise books and other school requisites? The present Prime Minister, when he was Treasurer, in answer to a question from me a year or two ago said: Other people use exercise books’. In making a survey in my electorate I have found that 98% of exercise books are sold to schools or to school children. This argument just does not hold water. Let us take the case of an average school child, say, in the third form returning to school at the end of January or the beginning of February with a large list of books to buy. Out of $30 or $40 spent on those books, at least $1 would go in tax to this Government. To me this is a shame. Surely it is time for a revision of this tax. This sort of thing is completely ridiculous.
It is no exaggeration to say that the incidence of taxation is now more unfair than ever before in the history of federation, and that it is falling on people who can ill-afford to bear it. The Prime Minister told President Johnson that he led a ‘fair deal’ Government. Has not he forgotten about the hundreds of thousands of people who live in poverty in this country? What about the widows, the aged, the infirm - pensioners generally? Let me contrast the benefits about which I have spoken for those people who have incomes in excess of $6,500 a year with the Government’s callous disregard for pensioners. As I have said, it is a rich man’s Budget and it ought to be condemned. That pensioners are forced to eke out a living on their meagre incomes for a further 12 months is a national disgrace, and nothing less.
A survey recently carried out by the Melbourne University found that in Victoria there were 138,000 people living in poverty, and a majority of these people were pensioners. Surely it is the responsibility of the Government and of this Parliament to remedy this blot on our so-called affluent society. Every Government supporter should think clearly about this matter. No amount of sympathy in words can dodge that responsibility. A vote for this Budget is a vote to condemn tens of thousands of Australian senior citizens to slow starvation, although the Treasurer said that we are in for a good year. I think it is a shame that these people should not be given a fair share of the. things that they require to live. The Government ought to be condemned for this.
Let me contrast the Government’s attitude to pensioners and to those in poverty with its purchase of VIP aircraft for $22m. I appreciate the importance of the Prime Minister and his job. I also appreciate the importance in a democracy of the Leader of the Opposition and his job. But so far as I am concerned the purchase of this fleet of VIP aircraft on order is over the fence. It is extravagance. To use the Treasurer’s words in another context, it is something we cannot afford. I have no objection to the Prime Minister and to the Leader of the Opposition using VIP aircraft. But I object to the twenty-six Ministers who comprise the Ministry traipsing around the country in luxurious VIP aircraft.
I recall the by-election which was held in the electorate of Dawson approximately 18 months ago. The airport at Mackay had never seen so many aeroplanes. There were VIP aircraft coming in and out. At one stage one Minister of the present Government had two aircraft on the Mackay airfield. In my view this is unnecessary extravagance and the Government ought to be condemned for it. It would be better to spend a large proportion of this money on jet aircraft fitted out to bring home the wounded and the sick from Vietnam. I remember as a young man in 1949 that the then Prime Minister Chifley went to New Zealand for a conference. A great storm was created in this House by the then Opposition which comprised political parties now forming the Government because Prime Minister Chifley went in a Royal Australian Air Force bomber. The aircraft was not fitted out with any luxury at al], but a great storm arose over the use of it. Now we find that there is a fleet of jet aircraft on order. I can only say that the Government has its priorities mixed.
I want to say something about how this Budget affects primary producers. Indeed, they and their vital rural industries received scant mention in the Budget. With the exception of a brief two line reference, the Budget Speech maintained a strict silence on the primary producers’ most pressing problem - the cost price squeeze. While greater dividends and capital gains are the order of the day for secondary industry, primary producers, especially in the wool industry, are being squeezed into unprofitability. Indeed, since the Budget Speech was delivered 3 weeks ago, substantial falls in wool prices have accentuated the position. The wool industry is faced with a critical situation. The falls varied according to types, with the finer merino wools doing better. But on an average there was about a 10% fall over the July-August period. This was a staggering blow to the people in the wool industry and to Australia itself. The Treasurer in his Budget Speech said he was confident of a rise in wheat prices, but even as he spoke prices were falling. He was wrong. So our two most important primary industries are facing difficulties.
The position of wool, of course, is so serious as to bring expressions of grave concern from industry leaders all around Australia. Indeed, a troubled wool industry means a troubled nation. A loss of lc a pound in the average price of wool means a loss of approximately $16m a year in export income. Certainly, woolgrowers will await with a great deal of interest the decision of the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Australian Wool Board regarding wool marketing. I shall speak about this matter in greater detail during the Estimates debate. But price is not the only factor affecting the industry. The relationship between price and ever rising costs is the critical factor for the individual grower. Yet the Budget remains completely silent on costs. It contains no provision for encouraging greater productivity or for stabilising cost of production in rural industry. Again, it made no mention of drought and the need for a national plan to meet this unfortunate but always possible phenomenon.
A further factor accentuating the situation and reducing both the return to primary producers generally and to the nation has been the continual rise in shipping freights. These freights have been lifted disastrously by the closure of the Suez Canal. Indeed this crisis and the brief war in the Middle East have had serious worldwide effects. Regrettably, many people are dead and thousands of refugees are homeless and hungry. They need compassionate assistance from the rest of the world, including Australia. I noted with pleasure the offer of the Prime Minister to settle some of the refugees in Australia. But I have heard nothing since that brief news item. I express the hope to the Prime Minister that it was not a statement easily made and easily forgotten.
Here in Australia we are already paying for the dislocation of the Suez waterway. Exporters and the general public have been hit financially and of course this all adds up to higher costs and lower export income. Freight rates on our exports have risen substantially. For instance there has been a 25% rise in shipping freights on wheat from the Australian east coast since the end of May. The price of petrol has risen throughout Australia as a direct result, we are told, of the Middle East war and the Suez closure. Australian apple and pear producers, principally Tasmanian but also from three other States, have been bit by the entrapment in the Suez Canal of four vessels carrying more than 300,000 cases of applies. The issue is as yet unresolved as this problem is, I understand, unique in insurance history. But it would be totally unfair if the Government stood by and permitted apple growers to go bankrupt as a result of a war in which Australia was only an interested bystander. Unfortunately this is the prospect for some if the fruit is lost and no compensation is forthcoming.
The Arab summit conference at Khartoum has reflected a moderation in views brought about by outside pressures and by economic pressures. Middle East oil will now flow, but the Suez Canal still stays closed. We in Australia have an enormous economic interest in this waterway. So too have Britain, the United States, Russia, India, France and indeed every trading nation. For Britain it is vital; for India delayed wheat shipments could mean the deaths of tens of thousands of citizens. Obviously President Nasser, despite the loss of revenue - and that is substantial enough - is using the Canal as a bargaining point. He wants the rest of the world to pressurise Israel into returning the occupied Territories. Of course no nation should be permitted to retain territories won by force of arms. On the other hand, Israel is entitled to a guarantee of her security and territorial integrity and, indeed, of freedom of passage through the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aqaba.
It is not my purpose this evening to canvass all the aspects of this problem, but everything should, of course, be done to bring the combatants together to work out a permanent solution. It is difficult to see how peace and harmony can descend on the Middle East quickly. The point I want to make is that many nations are being hurt, big and small alike. But it is the big ones, the United States, Britain, France, Russia and others, which can, individually or through the United Nations Security Council, apply tremendous pressure on Egypt and the Arab world. Russia’s influence in Egypt is unquestioned. Russia is being hurt by the Suez closure - she admits it. This is one issue upon which all the great powers are united. Surely it is an issue upon which the Security Council could take action without the use of the crippling veto.
We in Australia are being grievously hurt. What I want to know is: What initiative has the Australian Government taken to commence some action to end this deliberate closure of an international waterway? Eleven years ago the United Nations lost no time in restoring the Canal to traffic. It seems that everyone but President Nasser and his Arab colleagues wants the impasse ended. Has the Australian Government sought action by the Security Council? Has it displayed any initiative in this problem which affects financially our exporters and indeed every Australian? The answer appears to be no. My examination and search of Security Council and General Assembly records has failed to reveal any such action. Any nation has the right to seek Security Council action. I have read the speeches of our United Nations representative at the General Assembly. They were fairly good and in general I agreed with him, but those speeches did not mention the continued closure of the Suez or the need to reopen it.
In terms of initiative our Australian Government has been diplomatically dead for years. Our Liberal-Country Party Government, for so long tied to Mother England’s apron strings, now awaits the smoke signals from Uncle Sam’s pipe before it speaks or acts. Indeed it does not just follow meekly; in its anxiety to embroil the United States further in Asia its voice has become the shrill shriek of the hawk. Well, our Government’s voice has been muted indeed on this critical issue of Suez. I ask the Prime Minister what initiative has been taken. What is being done? Has he attempted to refer the matter to the Security Council?
We are of the Western world. Our friendship and attachment to our allies is natural but we are Asia’s next door neighbour. To follow slavishly the opinions of our great and powerful ally is to lower our standing in the eyes of the world, including those whom we follow. To follow and never to lead is, in my opinion, to abdicate our responsibility as a nation. I think the people of Australia are entitled to ask at this Budget time what sort of government they have. What sort of government is it that in a Budget of over $6,000m can spare not one cent for pensioners while it can grant taxation concessions to citizens earning incomes of more than $6,500 a year? What sort of government is it that can only guess the amount of instalments it will have to pay on Fill aircraft ordered 4 years ago? What sort of government is it that has no control over, nor the right of examining or auditing, escalations in the price of this aircraft? This is an astonishing situation which would curl the hair of any businessman, yet it is one which is described by the Government as a good package deal. In this affair there seems to me to be a complete lack of normal business practice.
What sort of government have we whose contribution to northern and national development is to arrange for the takeover of millions of acres of our best northern country by foreign companies? What sort of government have we that can thumb the nose at the greatest expression of goodwill ever exhibited by the Australian people? I refer to the referendum on the rights and needs of Aboriginals and the complete absence from the Budget of any suggestion of even interim action to alleviate their desperate conditions. What sort of government is it that pays its totally and permanently incapacitated ex-soldiers less than the basic wage? What sort of Government have we that can complacently praise its health scheme as the best in the world, while many Australian hospitals cannot pay their bills because thousands of the ill and injured cannot afford to pay their health and hospital bills? Indeed, what sort of government is it than can babble about balanced development and yet load the country and outback users with higher trunk telephone charges? There is a saying in the country that STD - subscriber trunk dialling - really means stung to death, and it appears to me that there is a good deal of truth in it.
– The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) is an amiable, pleasant-mannered fellow, and he has done his best tonight to lash himself into a fury through the written script that he has just given us. But I do give him full marks for brazen effrontery because in the earlier part of his address he told us that the members of his Party were in a position to amend a budget if they chose to do so. The honourable member knows that not one in ten of the parliamentary members of the Australian Labor Party has any say in the formation of policies which are adopted and which the members of the Opposition are required to pursue, like dumb, driven cattle, in this Parliament. I would like to spend some time on some of the extravagant things that the honourable member said, but my own time is limited tonight. I hope that in the course of what I have to say I will cover several of the matters to which the honourable member has directed attention. I would like to deal particularly with some of his references to social services and matters of that kind.
Let me start by saying something about those who are the spokesmen for this regimented band who sit opposite us. First, to do him the honour that is due to his position of Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, I quote Senator Keeffe. It is only because he holds that office that I think it desirable or appropriate to refer to his statements, but when he happens to head the body which decides the policies which the elected representatives of the people on the Opposition side of the House have to follow he is entitled at least to this nominal recognition. Long before my colleague presented his Budget Senator Keeffe said, as reported in the Melbourne Age’ on 1st August: ‘The Australian economy is like a worn out motor vehicle. The Government has patched it up here and there but basically the economic machine is no longer roadworthy*. I merely ask honourable members to note those remarks arid bear in mind that they come from the head of the supreme policy making body of the Labor Party. I then ask honourable members to dismiss the remarks from their minds as being completely without entitlement to the regard of this place, certainly as they apply to the state of Australia as we know it at the present time. But, of course, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) had his own comment to make. He professed to find in the Budget no sense of purpose or direction, no guide lines for national growth and no evidence that the Government is prepared to take initiatives and accept responsibilities in order to achieve that growth. He asserted that the Government is neglecting national development, social services and the needs of the States.
Let us look at a few facts. It is not easy, of course, to go back and compare what a Labor government in office has done. It is not easy to find from the professions of policy what a Labor government would do. If we look at Labor’s printed platform we see in its modern form a picture on the front cover of the man of destiny. The old car has been given a new coat of duco, but the works are the same if we bother to examine it. But even if we examine this document we will find there is a gloss or an interpretation of policy provided to suit the audiences of the day - something which differs very much from the precise statement appearing in the printed document. So I have to go back a long way, but there have been in this country, so far as national politics are concerned, periods when a Labor government has been in office, but on those occasions the people of Australia have quickly had cause to regret that Labor was in power. And when the people have put the Labor government out they have kept it out long enough for another generation to come along which has forgotten the kind of government that existed earlier. So if I want to show what a Labor government would have done in circumstances corresponding to those which exist now I must go back far into the past.
Frankly, we on this side are getting a little fed up with the humbug from honourable gentlemen opposite who claim that they have some monopoly of concern for the less privileged sections of the community, who claim that only they have concern for the pensioner, the widow, the children or the repatriated soldier. They can make these sweeping generalisations and these offensive sneers, but what counts with the people are the facts, and I have the facts. The last Budget brought down by a Labor government was in 1949-50. That Budget provided a total of $1 85.6m for national welfare in Australia. In this Budget we have provided a total for national welfare of $l,071m. We may talk about changes in the value of money and population growth, but we still cannot avoid the proper conclusion that there has been a very substantial improvement in the real benefits conferred on those people who are beneficiaries under the National Welfare Fund.
We have just been chided about our health scheme. What sort of health scheme existed when Labor was in office? There was a hospital benefits scheme of a sort. In 1949-50 Labor spent $610,000 on pharmaceutical benefits. This year we are providing in the Budget $75.2m for pharmaceutical benefits. Under the last Labor Government there was no medical benefits scheme. This year we are spending in this field $45. 8m. Honourable members opposite weep their crocodile tears about the pensioners. What about the provision of pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners? Not a cracker was spent in this direction when Labor was last in office, but this year we will spend $38. lm on pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners. Under Labor there was no medical services scheme for pensioners. This year in this area we have provided $16.5m.
I could talk about the aged persons homes scheme, which is an innovation of this Government. I could talk about the liberalisation of the means test under this Government. I could talk about the improved position of the single pensioner, whether man or woman, widowed of unmarried, under this Government. All these facets go to make up the whole: Labor in 1949-50 provided $ 185.6m for national welfare, whereas we in this Budget have provided $1 ,071m. We have been able to do this because under our leadership the economy has expanded and thrived. From it, without wrecking initiative or preventing people from getting on with the job, we have been able to provide an increasing amount for the pensioners of this country.
There is another practical test of the Government’s concern for national welfare and that is the proportion of the Budget devoted to social welfare. It must be borne in mind that compared with 1949-50, we have had to more than double the proportion of the Budget devoted to defence. In 1949- 50 only 8.3% of the Budget was earmarked for defence. That was the last Budget presented by a Labor government. This year’s Budget provides 17.25% of total expenditure for defence. But despite the claims on us of defence, development, international aid and education, in this Budget we have provided 20.55% of total expenditure for social welfare. This compares with a figure of 18.7% provided for social welfare when Labor was last in office. I referred to our commitment in the field of education. Relatively speaking, the allocation for education in the last Labor Budget was negligible. I concede immediately that the Labor Government’s last Budget was very much smaller than today’s Budget for a variety of reasons.
But today we are making a larger percentage of the total Budget available for social welfare, and it is an infinitely larger budget because we have been able to promote the growth of the country enormously. As the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has pointed out, over the last 5 years we have averaged, in terms of constant prices, an increase of 5i% in our gross national product. This figure has not been exceeded in that period by any industrialised country with the exception of Japan. I remind honourable members that in the period to which I have referred we experienced a dreadful drought year during which the increase in our gross national product was of the order of only 2%. And still honourable gentlemen opposite sneer at us and talk about a worn out motor. Whom do they think they are talking to? Do they think they are addressing the fully employed people of this country who know that no other country has succeeded in maintaining a level of employment so consistently high as has this Government since it came to office in 1949? Who has devoted such a large proportion of the Budget to social welfare? Who has been able to provide the best defence set-up in the history of Australia apart from a period of all out war? The people are not fools. They cannot be misled by such specious nonsense as comes from honourable gentlemen opposite.
I do not want to devote all of my time tonight to these matters. The Leader of the Opposition has found the Budget unsatisfactory. He cannot find it extravagant and unrealistic as regards promises because of what was put to us from his side at the last elections. He will not find in the Budget the kind of bureaucratic plan that gladdens his heart. He will not find a detailed blueprint to predetermine the future pattern of growth and structure of an economy which can point to the kind of record I have indicated. This Government does not go in for that kind of thing. What is to be found is a record of achievement which most countries and most objective observers applaud. He will find a continuation of the sound and responsible policies which have made our achievements possible and which offer the best prospects of further rapid progress in the future. He acknowledges - we accept his acknowledgment - that there is a fundamental difference between the approach of this Government and the parties that support it towards the development of the nation and the approach of the Labor Party. He says that the Budget is highly doctrinaire, expressing the old blind faith in the natural superiority of private enterprise over public endeavour. It is not the Government that is doctrinaire in its approach. This is plainly shown by our record. In the Government’s view the public sector and the private sector each have essential and complementary roles to play in national growth. At times circumstances will call for a faster expansion of public sector activities than private sector activities and at other times the converse will be appropriate. Over the past few years circumstances have made it necessary to give greater emphasis to the public sector. The Government has done this. Between 1962-63 and 1966-67 public sector spending as a proportion of total spending increased from 19% to 21%. In the past 2 years 44% of the increase in employment has gone to the public sector. But now, as my colleague the Treasurer pointed out so convincingly, there is a need to ensure that the private sector and particularly private developmental activity is given scope for greater growth.
The Leader of the Opposition’s speech was directed almost wholly to decrying what the Government has done and is doing, and on this I have mentioned some of the important facts. Defence is another element. As our present defence build up began 5 years ago, we might well review briefly what we have achieved in the economy during this period, despite the diversion of a very large amount of resources to defence. The facts about the increases in defence expenditure are well known and I need not repeat them beyond observing that the provision we are making for defence this year is nearly $700m or 1 60% greater than in 1962-63 - 5 years ago. What has happened in other directions? Notwithstanding this rapid build up in the defence effort, the economy has kept growing at a good rate and on sound lines and the high rate of investment, both by the public sector and the private sector, has been sustained. Only one country, Japan, retains more of its gross national income for capital investment purposes than does Australia. Exports have been rising strongly and our external financial position has been kept sound. Considerable improvements have been made, as I pointed out, in social and welfare services, and assistance to the States has also been rising rapidly. I do not need to go into all the figures because I have a more important task tonight, and that is to examine the alternatives which would be presented by a government from the other side of the House. Our aim is balanced economic growth. We have achieved that to an unparalleled degree in the last 5 years.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the economy was barely rolling and had been in a downswing in the past 2 years; but he did not quote any figures on the growth of the economy to support his assertion. He did not because he could not. I have already indicated to the House the extent to which we have sustained the growth in our national product over these years in a more even way, despite a drought, than almost any other country.
– Come on. Liven it up.
– Order! The honourable member for Stirling will cease interjecting.
– I am trying to get the right honourable gentleman moving.
– I will get moving all right. I am coming to the honourable member for Stirling right now. I hope to remind him where he stands. Honourable members opposite sometimes chide the Government on high prices. When we came into office, despite all the controls that the doctrinaire Labor leaders had been applying, inflation was running at the rate of just under 10% per annum.
– That is an invention.
– I shall give the honourable gentleman the precise statistics. I shall read a comment that a well respected Labor authority, Professor Arndt, made in the Chifley Memorial Lecture in 1956. He said:
And it has remained lamentable over the 10 years that have elapsed since then. What is the policy of the Opposition? It is not easily ascertained because Labor has not been in office for many years. The Labor Party has a document which purports to contain the official platform and programme of the Party but whenever members of the Party are asked to explain it they give a different interpretation. They were pinned down on the subject of Vietnam in quite precise terms the other day and decided on a policy of troops out unless the United States accepts conditions which the Opposition knows to be entirely unacceptable to that country. The honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) claimed this decision to be a vindication of his policy and the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) said it was something that justified his position. The decision was described by Mr Brown, the State President of the Labor Party in Victoria, as a ‘troops out unless’ policy. So that is where the Opposition stands on that issue. But where does it stand on its Socialist pledge because I am dealing now with economic issues and if Labor is the alternative government the country is entitled to know its economic policy. I understand the Leader of the Opposition is unavoidably absent tonight. I regret that because I would have liked to say this to his face and I expect to do so as time goes on. I will quote from an article that he wrote. I do not think he will challenge its accuracy. This article was published in the ‘Australian’ of 18th February 1967, after the honourable gentleman had been appointed Leader of the Opposition. The article is headed ‘Labor and the Future’. I would happily incorporate the entire article in Hansard should anyone so desire. In the course of the article the Leader of the Opposition said:
There never was an age when socialism was so nearly inevitable; there never was a country where it was so necessary.
I ask the House to dwell on those two sentences because there will be a lot of receding from them at a later point. I will repeat the passage:
There never was an age when socialism was so nearly inevitable; there never was a country where it was so necessary.
I remember the former Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Melbourne, saying publicly that he wanted to change the face of Australia and the present leader is reported to have said - I think in a Chifley Memorial Address - that the intention of the Labor Party was not simply to redistribute income but to remould Australia. I do not know how many Australians want the face of the country changed or how many want the country remoulded. The country is doing pretty well. It has the high standard of progress that I have mentioned, it has a happy people, and it is increasing its standing in the eyes of the rest of the world. Nobody who votes for honourable gentlemen opposite in a desire to remove this Government will be able to say to us afterwards, ‘We didn’t know it was loaded’, because the Opposition has shown that it is loaded. Anyone who cares to study what the Leader of the Opposition has been consistently saying over the years will realise that it is in the tone of the sentences I have quoted. In the same speech, the honourable gentleman continued:
Australia’s danger is that it may acquire a sort of ‘socialism’ in a fit of absence of mind, under the uncomprehending glare of a Government whose doctrinaire objections to what is happening become more obsessive as they grow more irrelevant.
As units in the economy grow larger and become more international and as society becomes more technological and urban, so socialism becomes more relevant and urgent. The forces which man is unleashing in the world must be the subject of public and not exclusively private decision and control.
Our social and political advance - the degree to which the people, through their elected representatives, control and fashion their own future - is badly lagging behind scientific and technological change.
Democratic socialism is a philosophy about the value of man.
I say Liberalism is a philosophy about the value of man - the freedom, the opportunity, the incentive, that can be given to man. There is a fundamental cleavage between the viewpoint of those who sit in support of the Government - we cannot get them all on this side of the House, but 1 embrace those who support the Government on these matters - and those who support the Socialist doctrines opposite. Public ownership and public control of the economy are more than ever central to a Labor programme for government. The members of the Labor Party sometimes plead the limitations of the Constitution. But the Leader of the Opposition does not. In the same article, he says:
The limitations of the Constitution are real. They are not absolute. I have no sympathy with an attitude which finds in the presumed limitations of the Constitution an excuse for avoiding the search for constructive, relevant and realistic methods of applying our policy and attaining our objectives.
The honourable gentleman has indicated where he stands. He will gloss it over, he will blur it, he will fog it up, he will make it impossible of discernment to a critical audience. But there it is in plain black and white. If that is not what the Opposition stands for, what does it stand for? I would like to have quoted from what the shadow Treasurer said. He said that the Budget is an engine for the redistribution of the wealth of the community, which is only a polite way of saying: We are going to take from him and give to him or to her. Up to a point, that is so. Up to a point, that is what we do. I do not know any free country in the world where what is produced by the community is more fairly and evenly distributed amongst the community than it is in Australia. If anyone opposite can point to a country where it is, then let him point to it. What honourable members opposite would do would be to kill the productive forces of the community. We realise the good sense of keeping incentive alive, of encouraging people with a willingness to take risks to put their effort into the job, to hazard their savings in order to do something better for themselves. We realise the importance of encouraging capital, not just of domestic capital, although 90% of our own investment in Australia comes from our own resources, but the capital of others who come here and take the risks with us. Honourable members opposite chide us about northern development. I wonder whether they know that at this moment projects are going on in the north of Australia to the value of $2,000m. Do they know that the rate of population growth in the north of Australia has been greater than in the south of Australia over the last significant period of years - I think it is the last 5 years - for which I have statistics? They chide us that there is not this development going on and they say that private investment will not undertake it. But this is what is being done, and it is being done because we have created the kind of climate in which people who are prepared to take risks feel that there will be a reward: - a return for their risks.
We are told there is no Australian equity in this sort of investment. Why, from every $100 of profit we take $42.50 in tax. If any of the remainder apart from what is ploughed back into further development in the business is remitted overseas, then we take 15%, or 30%, according to the relevant rate of tax, of what is remitted. So we have a very real practical potential interest in the profitability of investment in Australia. I repeat that the investment made by our own people represents from 85% to 90% of the total of the investment which others from overseas are prepared to make. It is because of that that we have had the enormous growth in our national income which has not merely enabled us to more than double the defence provision of this country over the last 5 years but which has enabled us to go on steadily improving the provision for development, the provision for social welfare and the provision for international aid.
I feel that my colleague the Treasurer is to be congratulated on bringing down a Budget which has enjoyed a more favourable national reception than any Budget that 1 can recall in my public lifetime. He has done that with a full consciousness that he is keeping alive the spirit of enter prise, that he ls giving encouragement to incentive, and that he is building up a national income from which our standards are improved and from which our defence effort can be strengthened and because of which confidence in the future of Australia will be strongly sustained.
When the people of Australia know these things, when they consider in far more detail than I can give tonight, but in the kind of detail which I hope honourable members on this side of the House will be giving in the period ahead, what alternative is offered in terms of policy by honourable gentlemen opposite, then I do not think they will have any doubt as to where they should turn. I can recall a very respected Labor leader in this House telling us years ago of Labor’s attitude to employment. We have sustained full employment. I refer to the late Mr Chifley.
– The Prime Minister called him a Communist.
– I have never called him a Communist in my life, but I know people in the honourable member’s Party who helped to bring him to an untimely end. The honourable member should not stir up these old embers. I have been in this place a long time and I know the factors which operated on some former Labour leaders. The late Mr Chifley, dedicated as he was to full employment, made it clear that Labor’s view on full employment was not the voluntary movement of people from job to job. He pointed out that there might have to be transfers of whole communities. I can remember his saying something to this effect - and honourable members opposite will not challenge it: ‘You need not think you are going to sleep in the same bed every night or look at the same Town Hall clock. You will go where a job is provided for you.’ We have sustained full employment in this country on a voluntary basis. We have enabled people to take the jobs of their own choosing and the economic climate has been so right that not only have they had the jobs but the great mass of new settlers who have come to us have been quickly placed in employment and added to our strength.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– What a great disappointment the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) is. Instead of addressing himself to informing the nation of what is contained in the Budget and what it means to the people of this country, he has engaged in a muck raking speech which does not do him justice. I remind the right honourable gentleman, as I remind others who sit behind him, that it is a great mistake to have a short memory. In his first major speech as a Minister of the Crown following on the defeat of the Chifley Government, the Prime Minister is reported on page 411 of Hansard, volume 206, of 7th March 1950 as having said: we say that in the course of the last ten years there has been a major social reform in this country which has brought into more even balance the incomes available to the people. We have a much more democratically based community life and we welcome it. Another community improvement is in the realm of Social Services which are spread over the whole field of wage earners. Social Service payments have increased from £31 million in 1939 to £103 million in 1949. This is a big improvement. Another matter that is an overwhelming consideration to men working on a weekly wage is security of employment. Not only is full employment enjoyed in Australia at the moment but there is every prospect, as far as one can see now, that it will continue. . . . That is a tremendous improvement on the state of affairs that existed before the war. . . . Clearly, this great social reform, this transfer of purchasing power, and this assurance of security and stability have become accepted features of our community life. We all applaud these developments.
These were the words of the Prime Minister as a Minister of the Crown in 1950 upholding the former Labor administrations of John Curtin and Ben Chifley. In this speech he praised and extolled these men and set them up as models. But, tonight in different circumstances and having returned from a conference of the faceless men of his party who have reminded him of his loss of face and how his party’s fortunes have gone down since the retirement of Sir Robert Menzies, he has felt it necessary to come into this Parliament to make a fighting speech. He came in to impress his supporters with this curious type of leadership that the public certainly will reject. The performance of the Prime Minister tonight and in recent weeks reveals his panic and concern. The Prime Minister’s authority in this Parliament and in the electorate is visibly seeping away. He is helpless to remedy the situation and tonight’s performance certainly proves conclusively that this is so.
The Prime Minister spoke about Labor in office and of its achievements. Honourable members know that in the history of federation, Labor has been in office for but a short period of time. What are the outstanding achievements of this country and what are the high water marks of national effort? I suggest that the establishment during the term of the Fisher Government of the Royal Australian Navy is one. Others include the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, the trans-continental railway line, the great effort during the Second World War, the Snowy Mountains scheme and the rocket research establishment in Central Australia. Surely all of these achievements indicate the great quality of Labor in government. These achievements also indicate that people can trust a Labor administration, as the present Prime Minister in a period of cold logic and truthfulness stated in a speech in 1950. Who among the community today would not like to return to the Chifley £1 with its purchasing power despite the promises that the present Government has made. I do not intend to wade through the morass of comments made by the Prime Minister. Like most Government supporters who have spoken in this debate, he refused to defend the Budget or to uphold it in any way.
What are the features of the Budget that the Government itself has refused to discuss? Indeed, this is a calculated document. It is cold in its humanity, negative in its approach to balanced development and devoid of any features of national planning. The Budget contains concessions for the well-to-do but has nothing for the pensioners and the needy on fixed incomes. For them, it is a cruel, harsh Budget. There are minor concessions for a few people but no-one escapes the increasing cost of living and the sales tax which bears unfairly on all sections of the community. To most Australians the Budget is a great disappointment. In a world of dramatic development and rapid change, the Government of Australia has failed to make provision in this Budget for one major work of national importance. Tragically, complacently, this bickering coalition Government watches the dispersal of the skilled planners, scientists and work force of the Snowy Mountains Authority and the destruction of this world renowned organisation. The Chowilla Dam has been stopped with the loss of millions of dollars spent on preliminary work. The Ord River conservation scheme is at a standstill despite repeated pleas in this House by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard). The Prime Minister has said that by agreement with New South Wales, some of the Snowy men will be used on building the Eastern Suburbs Railway. This reveals the cynical disregard of the Holt-McEwen Government for the urgent tasks of water conservation and development.
Queensland has been forgotten and the claims of that neglected Slate for a major water project have been ignored. Detailed information is available on a number of Queensland rivers and the case for a major scheme on the Burdekin and the Dawson.-Fitzroy Rivers has o’ften been stressed in this Parliament by Labor representatives from that State. The Darling River system calls out for a statesmanlike decision. The compelling case for a large scale scheme for the head waters of this important river system has not rated serious national thought. Certainly, no money has been made available for it. The Labor Party believes that a positive national plan should be implemented in co-operation with the States. Nothing short of a national conservation authority is required. Instead of the Snowy men building an underground railway in Sydney they would be better employed in removing the causes of floods and providing life giving water for this nation. To the incessant call for action in water conservation, all the people of Australia have received from the Federal Government are promises, platitudes and procrastination. The Government does not believe in national planning and refuses to make adequate funds available to the States to deal with major problems of water conservation. Western Australia has reason to complain because of the Commonwealth Government’s refusal to complete the Ord River project and the lack of funds for the Gascoyne River, the development of which is economically sound. This has been proved by the work that has been conducted there and the success of those engaged in farming. I put it to the Parliament that people who say that the Government has plans are wrong. Let them produce the plans.
I have in my possession a reply to a question asked of the Prime Minister concerning water conservation projects in Australia. This reply deals with all water projects since 1950 - for 17 years. The Prime Minister refers to the Ord River scheme in Western Australia, which has been halted by his Government. He indicates that the main scheme is not to go on although a grant was made for that project. He speaks about the comprehensive water scheme in Western Australia for which there was a grant. He also speaks about the Chowilla Dam which has been stopped despite the expenditure of some S5m. This has been done either because of a failure to investigate the project or because the Government is not prepared to go on with this important work. The Blowering Dam is put forward as a project of the national Government. It is nothing of the kind. It is financed in New South Wales by a loan given to that State. Again, provision has been made for a loan in the south western region of Western Australia to help with work in regard to the supply of water. One may run through the whole of the Prime Minister’s statement and find such examples.
I want to emphasise to the Parliament this evening that nowhere in this document is Queensland mentioned in regard to a water project of any kind at all. There is not one word or one syllable about Queensland. It is the neglected, forgotten and abandoned State of the Commonwealth. But there will be a change in the course of the next week or two when the campaign for the Capricornia by-election warms up. A great feeling of concern for Queensland will be expressed from the hustings, but it has not been shown in fact, despite the representations made by all my honourable colleagues from Queensland who have revealed the needs of the State.
The Government’s excuse for its failure to develop the water resources of Australia is completely rejected by its scandalous neglect of the Northern Territory. Its repeated apology that water conservation is a matter for the States falls to the ground when we consider the Northern Territory. The Territory is the exclusive responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, but not one major water project has been undertaken in the whole of it. The Government’s record of indifference deserves the strongest censure of the Parliament. The north has been treated as an expendable area. The appalling tragedy of drought and its personal cost will never be fully assessed. Noone can count the loss. We have become accustomed to living with droughts, accepting them as inevitable and refusing to take action to minimise their severity and incidence by the storage of water and the irrigation of the parched soil. To adopt a scheme of water conservation would, of course, require money and the Government does not have money for the development of the nation and the provision of water for this the driest of all the continents. The achievements of the Snowy Mountains Authority could be repeated throughout Australia. The Country Party members from Queensland who are interjecting should stand in this House and speak for their State. Instead they remain silent or engage in a heckling competition, because they do not like the truth. It reveals that they have been silent on a matter about which they ought to have been vocal in the defence of their State and of this nation and in demanding action from the Government.
The weakness in this Government is well known. It refuses to accept national responsibility and it has constantly failed to give leadership to the States and become the pace setter in national development. A Federal Labor government will give top priority to water conservation and will establish an authority to work with the States to implement a national programme of selected works. There is no likelihood of such a programme being undertaken by the present Administration. But when we go more deeply into these matters, it is easy to understand why programmes of national development are not implemented. The great volume of voters from Sydney and Melbourne is the deciding factor with the Liberal Party and seems to dictate the tone, the tempo and the conduct of the Government.
Another matter of supreme importance that has been neglected by the Govern ment and touched only lightly in the Budget proposals is the urgent need for rapid population growth. The primary factor in population building is the birth of young Australians. More help must be given to young married couples establishing their homes. If this is to be done, the compelling need for young mothers to go out to work to earn money for the normal essentials of modern life must be removed. The highest priority must be given to home and family. Figures supplied by the Bureau of Census and Statistics reveal a disturbing picture of civilian employment in the year ended 30th June 1967. Only 73,000 persons were added to the work force for that year. This was lower even than the 80,000 in 1961. The worst feature of these distressing and startling figures - I ask the Parliament to listen to this carefully - is that, of the 73,000 persons added to the work force for the year ended June 1967, 43,100 were females and only 29,900 were males. This is the year of the woman worker. In fact. 13,200 more women than men were added to the work force, although men are the normal and nominal breadwinners in our community. But these are the sort of figures the Prime Minister puts forward as growth. This is the sort of masculine, vigorous development about which the Prime Minister speaks - an economy in which more women are sent to work than men. This is the tone and tempo of the development of this country.
Almost as many males were out of work as females were added to the work force during the year. The total number of unemployed to 28th July of this year was 65,385. These were 32,444 adult males and 8,477 junior males, making a total of 40,921 males. Adult females out of work numbered 13,790 and junior females 10,674, making a total of 24,464 females unemployed out of a total of 65,385. No nation should be satisfied with its national growth when the increase in the work force is so slight and when more women than men find work.
Just let us run briefly over the figures for the work force. The increase in the year ended 30th June 1962 over 1961 was 80,300. In 1963, the increase over the previous year was 101,000, in 1964 the increase was 145,900, in 1965 the increase was 143,400, in 1966 the increase was 100,300 and, for this year, the increase of which the Government boasts was 73,000, more than half of whom were females. Australia must step up its immigration programme. It must try to bring more people to this country. We need people from overseas with their skills and techniques and we do not want to lose from Australia the specialists on the Snowy Mountains scheme who have been compelled to leave Australia because the Government has been unable to find useful work for them. We must go ahead with a national programme and we must make the new settlers feel at home. The national health programme must be expanded to meet the needs of those who come to Australia. The drift of people from Australia must be arrested. It is our duty to discover the reasons for the drift and to take appropriate action to correct it. Australia is still a pioneering country. Jobs still remain to be done in the great outback and heavy industries still remain to be built. Our new settlers should be given an opportunity to apply themselves to these tasks.
Many comments have appeared in the Press about the Budget. Most of them have been unflattering. Not one really congratulatory statement has been made. The ‘Canberra Times’, when reviewing the Budget, described it as ‘a dull, uninspiring strategy for growth’. This undoubtedly is true. Basic to national growth is the housing of the people of Australia. In this the Government has failed to make adequate provision. Figures revealed in a publication issued by the Economic Research Committee of the Housing Industry Association in August 1967 confirm the lack of homes. Although the population of Australia continues to grow, the Government is not making adequate provisions of funds to keep pace either with the natural increase in population or for our migrant intake. Over the last 3 years the population has increased by approximately half a million people, and yet 1,000 fewer houses and flats were completed to 30th June 1967 than in 1965 and 1,100 fewer than in 1966. The figures are as follows: In 1965 a total of 112,651 new homes and flats was completed; in 1966 there were 112,766; and for 1967 there were 111,668. There were more people in Australia and greater needs but less accommodation. This is the programme for the
Government. This is why rents are high and why people have problems settling in this country.
The building industry is an indicator of national growth and this is all too slow for Australia, faced with its new problems of nationhood with Britain withdrawing east of Suez and at the same time with Britain pressing her claims for admission to the European Economic Community. At pages 15 and 16 of the annual report of the Reserve Bank of Australia for the current year it is noted, dealing with employment:
As a consequence of the relatively slow growth in expenditure and production in 1965-66 and the initial period of 1966-67 civilian employment and non-farm output per head increased only modestly. During the 9 months to March 1967 civilian employment increased at an annual rate of only about 2% - it had increased by 2.8% in the 12 months to June 1966 and by 4.1% between June 1964 and June 1965. During this period, employment in the building and construction sector actually declined while employment in the manufacturing and commerce sectors, the two largest employers of labour, continued to increase at a slow rate.
This is from Dr Coombs of the Reserve Bank. Surely these are views that ought to be respected. The figures have been clearly stated. They are revealed in a publication from the industry. All this emphasises the need for this Parliament hot to accept as satisfactory what the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has submitted to Parliament. It is to be deplored that other responsible members, the Prime Minister and others, have not seen fit to deal adequately with the Budget which has been presented to the Parliament.
One might refer to the closing words of the speech delivered by the Treasurer. The whole of the last paragraph is question mark after question mark, all pandering to the Basic Industries Group and all throwing doubt on the very Budget that he himself presented to the Parliament. I ask honourable members of the Country Party in particular to read the closing passages of the speech delivered to the Parliament by the Treasurer. He asked:
Is it growing fast enough for all the tasks now crowding upon us? Management has a critically important task to fulfil. Is management everywhere doing the job national greatness demands?
I have been saying that the job is not being done and it is not being done by the Parliament. It is no use passing responsibility to people outside the Parliament. Yet this is one of the questions posed by the Treasurer. Then he goes on to say:
Are we mobilising the capital we are accumulating and allocating it to the right uses?
These are the words of the Treasurer, throwing doubts on his own documents and on his own papers. He continued:
Are we sufficiently conscious of the critical necessity to control costs of production?
It could almost have been written by one of the spokesmen of the Basic Industries Group. He asks:
Are we efficient?
This is a popular phrase for the Basic Industries Group. Yet these are the closing words of the Treasurer in presenting his Budget to the Parliament. These words are not good enough. They should be words upholding the Budget. They should be words extolling the virtues of the Budget. They should be calling upon the nation to galvanise its efforts behind a forward thrust of a government which is faced with the facts and realities of life in 1967 for this nation on the fringe of Asia - this nation with all its responsibilities, with all the need for rapid industrialisation, with all the needs for people educated in science and to an excellence second to none in the world. But instead of this the speech of the Treasurer closes with a series of questions, one after the other. It is a deplorable state. Ail I can think is that the Treasurer felt that he had to damn his own document with faint praise.
This document is not good enough. It does not meet the needs of the pensioners of Australia, lt does not meet the needs of those on fixed incomes. It does not do enough for the families. It fails in its responsibilities to develop this nation, either on the land or in its mineral resources, to build up the necessary manufacturing and processing industries. Too often we allow our ships to pass along the coastline of Queensland with iron ore to a southern port when there ought to be a steelworks in Queensland to fabricate the steel. With its blast furnaces and ironworks it should be manufacturing for that northern State and helping to satisfy the markets of the world. But this is too much of a vision and too much of the future for a Government which is complacent, self-satisfied and tired, contented to stay in the rut in which it has been for the last 18 years.
– The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti), who has just resumed his seat, made a reference to the Country Party and to what its members should be doing. His speech certainly made no impression upon me. I feel that perhaps I might be biased in this direction, so let me turn to a field where an opinion without bias can be brought into the debate. The honourable member for Macquarie lives in the area where the electorate of Bathurst in the State Parliament has recently been contested. That electorate was held for many years by the late Gus Kelly, but it is now held by the Country Party. So apparently his arguments have not only failed to convince me as to their merit but also have failed to convince the people who live in his own district.
I turn now to the Budget which is one in which Australia has to face an increased expenditure of $56 1 m, including an increased defence expenditure of $168m, increased payments to or for the States of $130m and an increase of $51m in total Commonwealth expenditure on education, which is more or less a new field for the Commonwealth Government. Of this extra expenditure about $500m will be found without any increase in the general rate of taxation, which is a fine achievement. I believe that the confidence that the Government has shown in our country’s capacity to absorb this increased expenditure will be justified. It is already evident that, encouraged by a Budget designed to maintain the stability of the economy, private enterprise is responding and will continue to advance the rate of progress and development that has made Australia rank high among the most progressive and most envied nations. I do not ask the House to accept my opinion alone on this. I refer honourable members to page 6 of the annual report of the Reserve Bank of Australia for the year ended 30th June 1967. This is the very publication that was used by the honourable member for Macquarie a little earlier. The report states:
At the end of the year most economic indicators were tending to follow an upward trend and this suggested that the general level of activity would continue to rise. It was clear that a modest acceleration in aggregate spending was continuing.
It has been stated by the Opposition that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) is gambling on a good year. I would say that that gamble is a much wiser one to take in the interests of the Australian people than the gamble that the Opposition would take with the economy of this country in pursuit of the unsound and, indeed, irresponsible financial policy advocated by it during the last general election campaign, consistently expounded by honourable members opposite since that time and still evident in their speeches in this debate. That policy was deservedly rejected by the Australian people at the last election, and it is just as dangerous today as it was then. The increasing development of secondary industry and the exciting new discoveries of minerals, natural gas and oil, all of which have been so effectively encouraged by sympathetic Government policy, have contributed greatly to the prosperity of Australia and her people. In support of my contention, it is interesting to note what was said in a Press statement issued by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) on 18th August 1967, which was in these terms:
Applications for petroleum search subsidy approved by the Minister for National Development in June totalled eighteen. There were eleven for geophysical surveys and seven for drilling operations. These together with three applications for additional subsidy amounted in all to a maximum approved amount of almost $1,800,000 and brought the total expenditure incurred or committed under the Commonwealth Petroleum Search Subsidy Act since it began in 1957 to just over $65m.
I repeat that these activities have done much for the prosperity of Australia. In fact, they have done so much as to lead to a tendency for the tremendous difficulties of a large number of people engaged in many primary industries to be overlooked. Due to long periods of drought in many areas, floods and hail in others and unfavourable markets, coupled with continually rising costs that cannot be passed on, the margin of profit in relation to capital invested is small indeed. This lack of prosperity is affecting all sections of the community in inland areas and is resulting in a continuing loss of population. This is indeed a serious matter. It is not enough, however, to acknowledge that these difficulties exist. It is necessary to examine the situation with the object of providing whatever alleviation is possible.
Freight, for one thing, is an important factor in the cost’s of all people living in the inland. The time has come when the Commonwealth Government must consider including in the funds made available to the States a special grant for the reduction of transport costs to the inland. I suggest that this proposed fund should be administered similarly to Commonwealth Aid Roads funds, in that it could be administered by the States but it should be applied to provide for the reduction of freights and for steeply tapering freight rates to inland areas, thus allowing for a reduction in road transport fees imposed by the State, which, in Queensland at any rate, have been used to protect the State railway system from undue competition. An added and very real advantage of reduced freight rates achieved by means of such a fund would be the encouragement given to the establishment of new secondary industries in inland areas and the assistance given to existing industries. As an illustration of the need for this assistance, let me quote from a recent speech addressed to the Queensland Government by the chairman of directors of an inland manufacturing firm operating in my own electorate of Maranoa. This firm has had the distinction of winning an export award - indeed, the only one to go to Queensland out of nineteen awards made by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia in 1966. I quote from the speech inter alia:
In the year ended 30th June 1967, this one firm had to meet $100,708 freight between where it is based and the port, which it would not have to meet if it functioned in the vicinity of Brisbane; approximately $2,000 for trunk calls between the factory and Brisbane; an excess of approximately $2,000 for electricity; and approximately $1,000 expenses necessary in relation to visits to the capital by executive and managerial officers. These are only some of the added expenses occasioned by the factory’s being located away from the port. I am sure that a detailed exercise would reveal that excess costs would be between $120,000 and $150,000, which on a paid up capital of $950,000 would pay a dividend of from 124% to 15%. I know that there is no thought of the Company’s transferrins its present activities. It has a work force of which it is justifiably proud and these men have all their interests in the town in which it is located. But the present trend suggests that expansion must take place. Increased business means increased fringe expenses. Business is becoming more competitive every day and this could force the Company to consider locating the necessary expansion near the port. What i have said about this one Company applies to others and i suggest that the Government, if it really desires decentralisation, give consideration to assistance in some form or other.
I quote those observations in support of the arguments that I advance in support of decentralisation. I realise that these measures and others that I shall mention would make added demands on Commonwealth finances, but decentralisation is essential to the balanced development of Australia. The sooner governments and people alike realise that this benefit like many others will have to be paid for, the better it will be for the future of Australia. It must never be forgotten that if is our clear responsibility to utilise all the areas within this Commonwealth that we are capable of using to contribute to the gross national product of this country. It is not good enough to populate and develop only the coastal fringe of Australia. Our pioneers did a better job in this respect than we are doing today, and it is high time that the problem was faced in a realistic way.
This brings me to the need for greater concentration on water conservation, which is one of the most effective means of promoting decentralisation. For example, in my own electorate, an irrigation project at St George has been so successful that the State Government has embarked on a programme of extension by the construction of another weir that will also make the area a potential source of fodder production hundreds of miles closer than any present fodder producing district to areas that are subject to recurring droughts. This is the kind of development which I hope we shall see much more of and which I trust that this Government will proceed with. Last year, more than 80 bushels of wheat to the acre were produced by some farms under irrigation and this area is suited to the production of many other crops as well. I commend those responsible for what has been done by both State and Federal Governments. But much more remains to be done. There are many good sites that could be used for water conservation. Progress in this field of activity must be accelerated, because it offers perhaps the most economic and most effective way of promoting decentralisation and providing the basis for the establishment of secondary industries in the inland. I urge this Government to give closer attention to the expansion of its activities in this field. Water conservation is particularly important to the northern half of the continent, which has much less control of streams than applies in the southern half of Australia.
Improved telephone services provide another means of promoting decentralisation. More automatic exchanges in rural areas are urgently required. Apart from the difficulty being experienced in retaining operators of manual exchanges, there is a need to provide more continuous services in rural areas. It has been brought very strongly to my attention that some of the conditions that will have to be met before improved services will be provided are very costly indeed to the individual subscriber and should be provided at a much reduced cost. It appears that there will be an undue delay in providing improved telephone services in rural areas, including the provision of automatic exchanges, unless the Postmaster-General’s Department devotes a much greater percentage of available finance to the provision of automatic exchange equipment and the training of technicians. I urge the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) to give urgent consideration to this section of departmental activities with the object of catching up with the provision of these essential services.
I am very disappointed, too, with the inability of the department to provide more multi-coin boxes even for such places as sisters’ quarters at hospitals and at other necessary sites. Surely this must be overcome. It would only be equitable to allow all extended local service areas - commonly called ELSA - a local access call to the nearest or most suitable town with medical and professional services available. Let me take, for example, a case where towns with these services are 120 miles apart. Even if the ELSA areas surrounding these towns were of a 30 miles radius, there would still be an ELSA area in the middle with no other facilities available to it. Surely there is no justice unless this area were given a local access call to one of these towns. There is not a great number of such areas and it would cost comparatively little in relation to general expenditure to assist our hard-pressed inland residents in this way.
There is another point that I wish to make in connection with the ELSA. I submit that the areas covered by this zoning principle are far too small in rural areas in comparison with metropolitan areas, and the further one goes out the more this principle applies.
When it comes to a redistribution of seats, many honourable members in this House contend that there should be an equal number of electors in each division. Would they be prepared to advocate that there should be an equal number of subscribers in each ELSA zone? I do not go so far as this, but I contend that the number of people, as well as the area involved, should be a reasonable minimum. I have accepted the increased telephone charges believing that the Postmaster-General’s Department will thereby be enabled to provide increased and better telephone facilities - generally, but particularly to country people, many of whom now have services inferior to those provided in earlier years. They are entitled to expect a worthwhile improvement with the finance which will become available.
I would also like to lend my wholehearted support to a proposal which has been made to allow for the purchase of bonds, which would be a deduction from taxable income, for the purpose of providing drought reserve finance. This concession would be very valuable in the medium to long term approach. The merit of this scheme is recognised by people other than land holders. In this connection I would like to quote from the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 14th February 1967. The article relates to a somewhat similar proposition that I had the pleasure of putting up to the Federal Country Party Conference on behalf of the Queensland delegation to that conference. The article is as follows:
The Country Party’s decision to seek the establishment of a drought relief fund is a courageous suggestion - but it is merely ohe phase of the problem.
That is what a metropolitan newspaper said in support of the Country Party’s proposal.
Long term low interest loans are also, in my opinion, a necessary part of a drought recovery programme. I was very pleased to hear the Treasurer say in reply to a question from my colleague, the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong), that he was giving thought to this matter. Now let us have a look at the Opposition’s attitude towards those people who have suffered, in some instances, financial ruin as a result of one of the worst droughts in our history. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on 17th August, said:
Drought in India brings famine; drought in Australia merely cuts our export income.
It would have been a good experience for him to have visited properties where men are working desperately in an endeavour to save a proportion of their flocks; where men are carrying on without assistance because of sheer economic necessity; where the women folk are helping on the properties; and where children have had to be brought home from school because of the economic depression that these people are suffering as a result of the drought. This matter has been glossed over. It is not regarded with any degree of feeling by the Opposition. It would have been a good experience for the Leader of the Opposition to have visited some of our country towns in the drought areas where business was reduced to a minimum and where business men were in financial trouble because they had provided credit for the hard pressed land owners. It is obvious that land holders generally can expect little consideration from a Labor government because it would understand the problems little and it would care less.
I now turn to the Commonwealth Aid Roads Grants. These moneys have played a very important part in developing Australia’s road system, which is improving year by year. One of the very wise provisions of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Grants was that which compelled at least 40% of the money granted to be spent on rural roads, that is, roads other than those under a main roads department. It is of little use to have a good main road if the people living in the area cannot get to it. This 40% of the grant which is applied to rural roads, together with the assistance of council funds, is helping to overcome this problem. But much remains to be done in this direction, and an even higher percentage for this purpose would, I believe, contribute to a better balanced road system. I was pleased to hear the Treasurer say that at least there would be no reduction in the percentage.
Now I want to comment on airline services. Just recently the major airlines - Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-ANA - reduced services to the inland. I believe that these airlines should be compelled to justify this reduction of services when viewed in relation to profits made from those profitable services where they are fully protected from outside competition. I was pleased to receive from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) an assurance that he was discussing this problem with the major airlines with the object of solving it. Something has been done about it. Commuter services are about to be introduced. It is to be hoped that the commuter services will prove to be a suitable replacement for airline services recently discontinued. But the fact that the burden of providing those services has been lifted from the shoulders of Ansett-ANA is an added reason why it should restore the frequency of services on the routes where it has just recently reduced them. I refer in particular to the Brisbane-Cunnamulla service via Goondiwindi, St George, Dirranbandi and Bollon.
– These characters have never heard of those places.
– That might be so. The dividends paid by this company also indicate that it should be able to provide the services previously provided, less the unprofitable services which it has been allowed to completely discontinue, and still show satisfactory profits. TAA has also shown sufficient profits to allow it to restore the reduced services that now apply in inland Queensland and still to operate on a sound basis. The restoration of these services is not more than a reasonable price to pay for the protection from competition on the inter-capital services. With regard to TAA, it is interesting to note that yesterday I was unable to book a seat on the Monday flight from Miles to Brisbane. I had to travel to Dalby by car. to connect with a bus service to Brisbane. After arriving in Dalby I was advised that a cancellation had been received and I was then able to proceed by plane from Dalby. Admittedly, there were some students oh this plane. As a last resort - and only as a last resort - an increase in subsidy should be provided in order to maintain these services. If there are less than three services a week you lose the value of them because the gap between them is so great that you have to find alternative transport
Because my time is running out I shall turn to a couple of other subjects. I agree with the claim that an increase in pensions will have to be made so as to provide a better standard of living for our pensioners. But here again this increase must be based on a sound economy. It is only too easy to grant monetary rewards and see them almost immediately discounted by rising prices brought about by an inflated economy - and the economic policy of the Opposition is designed to do just this. The money that it would hand out would be taken away immediately because of the failure of its economic policy to keep a stable economy.
Another matter which is causing concern to many people is the increasing cost of departmental running expenses which aic up by a total of $31,635,000 in this Budget. It is noted that some $3im is attributable to increased rates of wages and salaries and some $3m to the census. But there is little indication that automation and generally improved machines and methods are making the savings expected of them. This is being done in other industries, and I feel that this Government and, indeed, all governments should from time to time review departmental running expenses with the object of making economies so as to prevent overlapping. This would be an opportune time to make such a review, with the Government facing heavily increased expenditure and private enterprise seeking all available manpower. We need enough public servants to carry out effectively the many Government services, and 1 pay tribute to the excellent and dedicated work that so many of them are performing. But it is also important that we have manpower available to increase Australia’s gross national product through the activities of private enterprise, to the benefit of every Australian.
I mentioned earlier some ways- in which I believe we might effect a reduction in costs for people living in the inland areas. I now wish to point out also that to keep people in these parts of the Commonwealth more amenities will have to be provided. High among the priorities is the provision of television services. While the Government has provided these services for a large proportion of the population, many deserving people are still without it, and as the more densely settled areas are provided with television, so the number of people required to provide this amenity should be reduced. In some areas even the standard of radio reception is far from good, and this is a matter in which it should be possible to effect an improvement without any great cost to the Government. I hope this matter will be further investigated, although I know that some investigations of it have already been made.
I commend the Government on its defence programme. This matter has been referred to constantly during the debate. Suffice it to say, therefore, that I stand solidly behind the Government in its policy on Vietnam and in its determination to honour its obligations to our allies in South East Asia, and also in its support of the United States in the endeavours of that country to prevent Communist expansion and Communist aggressors from subjugating small countries which have not adequate defence services of their own.
– Wheat to China and steel for the guns of China.
– We hear the parrot cry again. One can find red-breasted galahs that are pretty good at repeating a few words over and over. I also commend the Government on its contribution to international aid. I trust that the Government will continue to use the funds so provided in helping, as far as possible, the needier peoples of the world to help themselves. I believe that our emergency assistance to Indonesia is justified because that country has serious economic problems and it is in the best interests of Australia to assist in whatever way we can to enable a sound democratic regime to become established in this, our nearest neighbouring country. If such a regime can be established we could well see a great increase in the volume of trade between Australia and Indonesia, to the mutual benefit of both countries. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) covered this aspect very effectively in his speech in this debate today. A recent visit that I made to Indonesia has confirmed my impression that that country realises the programme needed for recovery but is desperately short of finance to implement the programme.
I have referred on a number of occasions to the stability of the economy. I would now like to enlarge on that phrase. Far too many people, busy with their own affairs, are inclined to think of economic stability as something that would interest economists only. The fact is, however, that stability of the economy is of vital importance to everybody. It is the foundation of security of employment for the worker. It is necessary in order that the children of today, from whatever walk of life, may have full opportunity to follow their chosen vocation when they leave school or college or university. Only with a sound economy will there be avenues of advancement for our young people to give them the opportunity to make the success in life that we all want to see them achieve. The stability of the economy therefore, has an effect on every home. It is of real importance to us all. I have left it until this stage of my speech to emphasise that all the promises made in the Budget will be nullified if we have an economy which is not stable and sound. We have seen many examples of the results of an unstable economy. Perhaps the most recent and impressive has been in the United Kingdom, where we have seen the effects of the policy followed by the British Labor Government.
– Do not forget Tasmania and South Australia.
– The honourable member mentions the Australian States which now have Labor Governments, but I was referring to the United Kingdom, where there has been a Labor Government for 3 years which has claimed that its difficulties were inherited from the previous Conservative Government. But in 3 years the Labor Government there has not been able to do anything effective because it has failed to base its policies on the principle of a sound economy which has characterised the policy of the Liberal-Country Party Coalition Government of Australia since 1949. This economic stability is one of the most vital principles on which this year’s Budget is based. We must have a stable economy if we are to gain any real benefits from Budget concessions and proposals. This
Budget has been designed to achieve stability of the economy and this is what it will achieve, despite the increased commitments which have to be met, because it is based on sound economic principles. By contrast, the reckless disregard of fundamental economic principles which the Opposition has so consistently displayed would bring the economy of this country to the sorry position in which the economy of the United Kingdom is placed today.
– What a marvellous position the country is in!
– It is a lot more marvellous than the position we would be in if Labor was in power. Of course, Mr Speaker, if we put some people in paradise they would not be satisfied. It is very easy for the Opposition to condemn this Government’s policies, but, as the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has asked, what is the alternative policy offered by the Opposition? We have not heard one yet. I do not think the Opposition has one; if it has we certainly have not heard it.
In reviewing the Budget I have made some suggestions which I believe well deserved putting forward, and I hope that the Government will consider them with the same sincerity as I have presented them. At the same time, I fully agree that the Budget will achieve its main purpose, which is to maintain the stability of the economy and advance the rate of development and progress of Australia to the benefit of our nation and our people.
– We have all listened, I am sure, with considerable interest to the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), but there is much of what he said with which I disagree. He started off with the honeyed words about the magnificent Budget recently presented by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). He continued in that vein for about 5 minutes, and then the main body of his speech contained a shocking indictment of the Government for many of its policies and for the way in which the application of those policies has affected the electorate of Maranoa - and many of the things that he said were quite true. Then in the closing stages of his speech, one might even say the dying stages, he returned to his original exercise of praising the Government, and he took us well away from the electorate of Maranoa and to a few overseas countries.
Throughout his speech the honourable member condemned everything associated with the Opposition. He condemned all the ideas and policies of the Australian Labor Party. Let me say to the House that in certain respects I agree with the Australian Country Party. I agree that it is important to improve the lot of the man on the land, particularly in the backblocks and in the north. In this direction the Australian Labor Party could well agree with Country Party policy. We do not condemn everything that is put forward by the Country Party or by the Government. We look at all suggestions on their merit and we give credit where credit is due.
The honourable member for Maranoa spoilt what I thought was a worthwhile contribution by dealing with the needs of his electorate in a manner that was too blatantly party political. He said that the men engaged in primary industry have been neglected. There has been a LiberalCountry Party Coalition Government in Australia since 1949, and there has been a Country-Liberal Party Government in Queensland since 1957. The honourable member referred to the loss of population, transport costs in the inland, the need for water conservation and for improved telephone services. He said he was very disappointed at the lad: of consideration shown by the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme). He said that present day telephone services in his electorate are inferior to those which were previously enjoyed - and this is after the Liberal-Country Party Government has been in office for 18 years.
The honourable member referred to alleviation of drought. I thought his comment on the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was a little unkind. We are well disposed towards the men on the land who have been suffering the effects of drought. We wish that the Country-Liberal Party Government in Queensland had shown the same consideration to men on the land as we do. I well recall people in the Eidsvold area who had for a long time supported the Country Party telling me, at the time of the Dawson by-election last year, how their property valuations had recently been increased. Consequently the fees paid to the State
Lands Department were to be raised. And this in time of drought. They said that when the Labor Party was in office they had approached the Honourable Tom Foley seeking alleviation of their plight. The Labor Government at that time agreed that the rates should not be increased while the drought continued. They compared this treatment by Labor with the treatment accorded to them by the present Government.
I do not think there is any honourable member who does not feel for the man on the land who suffers during time of drought. I agree that our efforts and thoughts should be devoted to improving the lot of the man on the land in these circumstances. But’ since entering this Parliament in 1961 I have been continuously amazed that something more practical has not been done to relieve the distress caused by drought. Tt seems to me that the drought schemes put into effect from time to time assist the least efficient man. The man who has made proper provision for water conservation and storage of fodder frequently suffers substantial losses from drought, but because of his efficiency, his frugal nature and his hard work he does not qualify for government assistance. On the other hand the less efficient man - the man who overstocks and who takes advantage of the good seasons - gets assistance when he comes face to face with a drought. This is a situation that is an indictment on all governments, but particularly on the present Government which contains a Country Party component and which has been in office for so long.
I feel that I should get back to my comments on the Budget. The Budget was received by the Press unexpectedly well. I think most business people and people on higher incomes were frightened that there would be a substantial increase in taxes due to this Government’s War commitments and because of the Commonwealth “s increased involvement in fields such as education. Probably a great proportion of the Australian community heaved a sigh of relief when it found that there was very little in the Budget in the way of increases in taxes and no increase at all in income tax. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) obviously made this his principal aim in the year of a Senate election.
In bringing down his Budget he operated within the restrictions imposed by the war in Vietnam and the political restriction of the forthcoming Senate election campaign.
I would first like to deal with the many attacks made on the Australian Labor Party, particularly the attacks on its policy making bodies and its defence and foreign affairs policies. Government supporters have devoted much of their speeches on the Budget not to the country’s financial affairs but to Labor’s defence and foreign policies. At this stage I should say that the Labor Party stands for the defence of Australia, the maintenance of its treaty obligations and the proper equipment of its armed forces. The attacks made on the Labor Party’s policy making machine - the Federal Conference - continually astonish me. Over the last few days the old story of the faceless men has been dragged out. They used to be 36 faceless men. Now we are told that we have 47 faceless men. I can best deal with the State with which I am most familiar - Queensland. The hundreds and thousands of Labor supporters in the branches and affiliated unions sent delegates to conventions from whom six men were elected to be sent to the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party. One of those men was my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). One was Mr Jack Houston, Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland. One was Alderman Clem Jones, Lord Mayor of the City of Brisbane. One was Mr Bert Milliner, Secretary of the Printing and Kindred Industries Union and Labor’s No. 1 candidate for Queensland in the Senate elections. One was Mr Burns, State Secretary of the Labor Party. The sixth was Mr Adsett, who was at the time Secretary of the Storemen and Packers Union. So I make the point that three of the six Queensland representatives on the Federal Conference are directly responsible to the public. If any honourable member from the metropolitan area of Brisbane - indeed, any honourable member - dares to suggest that Messrs Hayden. Houston and Jones are faceless, all I can say is that he does not read the Brisbane metropolitan newspapers. I venture to say that the ‘Courier Mail’ would hardly bring out an edition that did not have in it a photograph of the Lord Mayor carrying out some of his various public duties. So again the Government is endeavouring to provide a smoke screen behind which to mislead the people of Australia. At the Federal Conference 50% of Queensland’s representation consists of men elected to public office. Under the new arrangement approved at the recent Federal Conference, this percentage will increase in the future because the Leader of the Labor Party in the State Parliament as well as the Federal Leader of the Labor Party attend the Federal Conference.
I do not propose to deal at any length with the subject of Vietnam, because I had the opportunity of dealing with it in the recent debate on international affairs. I do not suggest that all of the Budget is entirely bad. Honourable members opposite have given a long list of the areas in which improvements have been made. They have referred to increased expenditure on education. We all welcome the improvements that have been made in these areas. But it is my task as a member of the Opposition to refer to some of those areas in which improvement is sorely needed. The first matter I deal with is that of social services. I acknowledge the improvements in social services that have been made by the Government, but they have been very modest improvements. The Government has increased child endowment for families with four or more children under the age of 16 years. It has provided benefits for the moderately retarded. It has provided benefits for pensioners requiring hearing aids. In cooperation with the States it has provided relief for deserted wives and wives of prisoners. I am particularly pleased with the last mentioned proposal. I am aware that my colleague and friend, the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) spoke on this subject in his speech on the Budget. But at present the amount paid by the Queensland Government to deserted wives under its relief assistance programme is nothing short of scandalous. No increase has been made in the amount in the 10 years since Labor went out of office, and the amount was nearly scandalous then.
I regret that the Commonwealth has not seen fit to increase the unemployment and sickness benefit or pensions under this
Budget. I know that it is easy to say that pensions should be increased. The Labor Party believes that we should continually increase pensions in line with increases in the cost of living. Whilst from time to time increases have been made in pensions, particularly during this Government’s last term of office, no increases have been made in the unemployment and sickness benefit since 1962. The unemployment and sickness benefit was increased in 1962 only because when this Parliament resumed in February 1962 about 130,000 Australian breadwinners were out of work. Unfortunately, because of the rather small number concerned with the unemployment and sickness benefit, insufficient consideration has been given to the rate of the benefit. The pension for a single pensioner stands at $13 a week compared with $8.25 a week for a person in receipt of the unemployment and sickness benefit. I think the Government retains this disparity between the two rates in order ‘.o encourage people to get back to work. In other words, the rate of unemployment benefit is kept at a level insufficient to provide a person with the means of existing at any reasonable standard so that he will make greater endeavours to get employment.
I do not subscribe to this point of view. It is never a just point of view and it is particularly unjust in the situation that we have in Queensland from time to time. During all of this year in Queensland we have had a fairly substantial rate of unemployment. With the exception of the last month I think that the rate of unemployment in Queensland has been the highest in the Commonwealth and in most months it has been about double the national average. This is a particular problem for Queensland because of this hard core of unemployment. Governments in Queensland and, indeed, many of the people in Queensland have to some extent grown accustomed to unemployment because Queensland has the highest proportion of seasonal workers in the Commonwealth and it follows that in the transition period between employment in the meat, sugar or wool industries, and some other form of seasonal work, there is a fair amount of what may be called disemployment. But in recent times there has been this hard core of unemployment in the building and metal trades and in other areas of the community. It is very sad indeed to see a man who has not been able to get employment in his trade for a substantial period of time, or a person who has been ill for a substantial period of time, reduced to a state of penury. I would certainly hope that some consideration will be given to this problem in the next Budget. It may not affect a lot of people because, sadly enough, in our community we tend to have an ‘I’m all right Jack’ attitude and not to be concerned with underprivileged people. I hope we do not have to get back to the stage where 100,000 people are unemployed before there is an increase in the rate of benefit payable.
I am disappointed with the failure of this Budget to provide for development. The Budget makes no new provision for development in Queensland or northern Australia, lt is true that the Budget provides an amount to continue work in area 3 of the Brigalow scheme, for which legislation was passed in the previous session, but there is no further contribution towards the Ord River scheme or any other scheme in the north of Australia. Further, there is a decrease of $7m to $42m for the Snowy Mountains Authority. It is obvious that we have now arrived at a stage where the Snowy Mountains Authority’s expenditure will gradually trail off. I feel it would be a useful exercise for the Government to consider channelling the money that it no longer needs for the Snowy Mountains Authority into development projects in northern Australia. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has advocated a revolving fund into which the profits of the Snowy Mountains scheme could be paid in order that they may be spent on other development projects, particularly in northern Australia. In case somebody thinks that I am being party political I would like to read an article that appeared in the ‘Courier-Mail’ on Monday, 4th September 1967, written by Harold Richter, the Queensland Minister for Local Government and Conservation. He said:
A strong case has been submitted for $33.6m of the $50m Commonwealth funds to be made available for water conservation in the next 5 years to be spent in Queensland.
The case provides for the $26.6 Emerald Irrigation Project in Central Queensland and a 820.8m first stage of the Kolan Project to serve drought prone sugar cane lands in the Bundaberg District to be built simultaneously. lt also provides for a further $33m scheme for sugar cane lands in the Bundaberg-Isis area and a $22. 5m scheme to serve lands astride of the Bowen River near Collinsville or the Lower Burdekin River to follow the first two projects.
This is on the assumption that the Commonwealth will continue to make funds available for this vital development work.
I am not sure just what that means because the. Commonwealth has never provided funds for water conservation in Queensland, with the sole exception, if my memory serves me, of some money made available in early 1962 for unemployment relief, which was spent on channelling at Paddy’s Green in the Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation scheme. That article continued:
Concurrently the State proposes to spend $4£m to $5m annually from its own funds on completion of the Mareeba-Dimbulah, Coolmunda Dam and Wuruma Dam Projects and construction of a further ten smaller schemes, the total cost of which is estimated at $48. 8m.
We are told by the Queensland Minister for Local Government and Conservation that these schemes have been submitted to the Government. I hope that they will receive the sympathetic consideration of this Government. I regret that some contribution in this field is not made in the present Budget. The greatest area of potential in Australia is in central Queensland. The Brigalow scheme is under way and we can pay full credit to this Government for assisting with that scheme. There has been development in coal and in railways, and private enterprise has found much of the money for this. There is very great room for improvement in the meat industry, but the great needs of central Queensland and northern Queensland are for water and power. Forty per cent of the nation’s water resources are located in Queensland and much of the water is associated with potentially arable soils. This area has minerals and coal. There is spear grass country for the expansion of the cattle industry. Indeed, there are all the resources necessary for the cattle industry. But there is a need for water for sugar growing on the Burdekin River and the Burnett River. These needs have not been met in the present Budget.
The Labor Party is not doctrinaire. It does not believe that the Government has to provide all the money for these projects. We believe that because the south eastern corner of Australia has the capital resources, the industry and sufficient population to maintain its momentum, there is a need for public expenditure in the north of Australia in order that the proper climate may be created for the development of private enterprise and private industry. There is a very great necessity to develop that sort of climate in northern Australia.
I wish to refer now to the Aboriginal people of Australia. The Treasurer said in his Budget Speech:
I mention at this point that the action to be taken by the Commonwealth in relation to Aborigines, following the approval by referendum of an amendment of Section 51 (26) of the Constitution, is now under detailed and careful consideration by the Government. The Commonwealth’s object will be to co-operate with the States to ensure that together we act in the best interests of our Aboriginal people.
Unfortunately the Treasurer made no provision in the Budget for the results of this consideration to be given effect in the current financial year. I hope that does not mean that any action will await the next Budget. It would seem to me to be a reasonable administrative procedure to make some provision in the Budget for action that is obviously crying out to be taken.
I endorse the speeches made earlier today by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton), who dealt with the problems of the Aboriginals more fully than I shall be able to do tonight. The referendum is not a mandate for action after 15 months. The Labor Party’s view is that the majority vote given to the referendum proposals was obviously a call by the people of Australia for immediate action. Recently in National Aborigines Week a very fine book was presented by the Department of Territories, in co-operation with the departments of Aboriginal welfare or native affairs in the various States. Very largely that was written by the much respected Professor Elean. I feel that if the Government is unable to go ahead with Commonwealth proposals then it should have made emergency grants to the States in the present Budget. I want to pay a tribute to what the Queensland Government has done in recent times for the improvement it has effected insofar as Aborigines are concerned. It has introduced new legislation. I do not believe that it goes as far as it should but it is certainly a great improvement on the old legislation. New personnel have been appointed. Responsibility for the administration of the settlements and Aboriginal communities is now in the hands of younger men, whose thinking is more in line with the 1960s, who believe in the equality of man and who are exploring new frontiers in this field. The Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Queensland has developed a system of in-service training which will be of great benefit in the years to come. I hope that advantage can be taken of more widely accepted training when money is available. It has improved housing. Again I am not suggesting that it is satisfactory, but it has been substantially improved. It has improved the standard of schools in some of the areas of responsibility. The fact that these improvements have been effected without any Commonwealth assistance does not reduce the need for housing, schools and other amenities on the missions and settlements that still remain. The State Government requires money to take over from the mission stations the responsibilities which they should not be exercising today.
Again, I am not attacking the missions. I feel that in their day, in the financial circumstances that existed in the days gone by before the Second World War many dedicated missionaries did excellent work in the preservation of the Aboriginal people of Australia. But the need today is far greater than can be met from reliance on charity, missionaries and other untrained people however worthy their motives may be. Obviously, the very great area of need is financial assistance to bring these communities up to the standard of ordinary communities of the same size in the Australian community. To give an example, one could mention Yarrabah. There is a very fine school there. Tremendous improvements have been effected. But there is an urgent need for a road. Where else in Australia would one find a settlement of 1,000 people, whether they be Aborigines or others, unconnected by a road, unless it were on an island? I repeat there is an urgent need for a road there because roads are the only means by which timber and agricultural resources of the country can be brought to a proper state of development.
These are the horizons of the future. They need to be investigated. Whichever way the Government in its wisdom or otherwise decides that these matters should be looked at, I feel that I would be neglecting my responsibility if I did not register my disappointment at the fact that no provision has been made in the current Budget for even an interim emergency grant to the States. That is not to say that I am suggesting that the Commonwealth should abdicate its responsibility by giving finance to the States alone. The attractive, well produced booklet to which I referred a moment ago has selected for its purposes the best areas in each State. For example, when dealing with land matters, it refers to South Australia. As I have said, it has selected the best features from the various States and put them all together in a sort of plum pudding conglomeration which, to anybody who understands the complexities and the areas of need of the Aboriginal people, can only be described as being misleading.
I believe that the Commonwealth is in the best position to face up to this problem and to provide leadership because only the Commonwealth has the responsibility, in respect of its Territories, such as Nauru, to face up to the scrutiny of the United Nations. It follows, therefore, that the officers of the Commonwealth - the Department of Territories, in the main - have wider horizons and greater ambitions than have the officers of the various State departments concerned with native affairs.
On this occasion, as we always are at the time of the Budget debate, we have been treated to a host of wild, enthusiastic claims as to the merits of the Budget. I have tried to be fair by saying the Budget is not entirely bad; but if we are going to judge the worth or otherwise of the Budget merely from the fact that it makes no increased demands on the Australian community, that it provides for no increases whatever in taxation, irrespective of the new horizons the Budget explores, then 1 feel that we would be failing in our understanding of the Australian community.
I sincerely believe that the people of Australia would be prepared to pay more in income tax or other forms of taxation in order to provide better education, better defence, better health services, more de velopment in all parts of Australia, particularly northern Australia, and in order to assist in the expansion and development of our territories, and to assist the Aboriginal people of the Commonwealth. I regret very much that in this time of great need the Treasurer has brought down a Budget of such limited horizons as the one he presented on 15th August.
– I mean no offence but I would like to begin by saying that I find it very difficult to get cross with the honourable gentleman who has just sat down. As the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) knows, I have a warm and quite genuine affection for him. On the whole he, like myself, manages to subdue political passion and does not, as a general rule, engage in any partisanship across this chamber. But even though we share that quality I am bound to tell him in candour that I was surprised this evening that he managed to work himself into such a fever in trying to establish the lustre, purity and perfection of the forty-seven people who now run the Australian Labor Party. He sought in aid, those illustrious gentlemen who come from Queensland. He named them one after the other with all the sombreness of a bell toller. He named even the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). ‘Oh’, he said, ‘Mr Hayden - look at him. Could anyone possibly think that there would be any imperfection in our councils so long as this honourable gentleman is there?’ I do not know. 1 do not want to upset the honourable member for Oxley, but he has always impressed me as having something of the quality, in an inchoate state, of a freak. He got into the police force by accident and it is rumoured of him that he is the only police constable in Queensland who ever arrested himself.
I just want to put one thing to my honourable friend from Brisbane with relation to these forty-seven illustrious, perfect gentlemen of the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party: The honourable member has a great capacity for candour and honesty. I think he will agree with me that these forty-seven gentlemen remain, in the final analysis, the bosses of the Australian Labor Party. Let none of us in this chamber forget that - as though honourable members opposite could forget it. But I hope that the people outside this Parliament will not forget it. Having said that, may I reassure my honourable friend that from time to time I shall return to him, trimming here and there with the blades. I want to turn now to other affairs.
Let me start by saying that this has been a fairly long Budget debate. I have listened to many arguments. I want to cull out what has struck me as being the most impressive pieces of nonsense. As honourable members know, when one is culling sheep, one stands at the race and picks out those which show definite promise of being objectionable to one’s standards. Let me tell the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) who is seeking to interject that if I were standing at the drafting race and he came down the race he certainly would go in with the wethers. We know that the honourable member for Hunter is one of the most prominent monadnocks in this Parliament. But I do not want to hurt the honourable gentleman. Here again, personal affections clench my sense of partisanship. I do not want to hurt him because I am very fond of him.
I turn to the opening speech for the Opposition, that given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). He started off on a profound note. He said the Budget is the principal instrument of economic policy in a modern economy. ‘Well’, I said; At long last the millenium has arrived because I can agree with my honourable and learned friend’. But then I found that our agreement was short lived because he entered upon what I thought was a criticism of some violence of the Government. I suppose, in all consciousness, we should expect some measure of criticism but he started out - I hope the House will note this - with what I would describe as one of the most carefully prepared pieces of scurrility that I have heard in this House. I was surprised to hear the honourable gentleman claim - I say this to the front bench - that the Government has in effect suborned the Tariff Board to do its bidding. I thought, listening to this language, that it had some quality of offensiveness about it. The Leader of the Opposition, as reported at page 297 of Hansard of 22nd August, said:
Further, the Department of Trade and Industry stands in very close relationship to the Tariff
Board whose decisions can have vast effects on the welfare of this country and the profits of individual companies.
– Hear, hear.
– The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith agrees and I am glad to hear it although I wish he would be more virile about it. We have agreement from the honourable member opposite who is a member of the Australian Labor Party. The statement I have just referred to was made by the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. If one goes through the portion of his speech dealing with the Government’s attitude to the Tariff Board, we find in effect that the plain charge that he makes is that the Government simply turns on the Tariff Board as though it is a tap to pour out the quantity of water that the Government wants. I thought that this was a very serious charge to make. I know I have described the Leader of the Opposition in various ways at various times. When he made this statement I thought that he possibly thinks he is a King Charles spaniel, a type of dog that is protected by a special statute. It is a criminal offence in all circumstances not to allow it to go into a house. But jokes aside, the honourable gentleman has made a serious charge against the Tariff Board. It is well to remind the House and people outside that the Tariff Board is a completely independent advisory body.
– It can only recommend.
– Certainly. It is up to the Government to accept or to reject the recommendations that the Board has made. The Leader of the Opposition says that members of the Department of Trade and Industry are whistled into the Tariff Board and brought back as though the Government were calling sheep dogs.
The honourable member fails to recognise that the Tariff Board Act provides that at least two members of the Board shall be members of the Public Service. I want to know whether the honourable gentleman is serious in what he says. Does he believe that of all the expertise available to the Tariff Board in Australia, the Department of Trade and Industry should be ignored? Does he contend that when a person goes from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Tariff Board he becomes, in effect, a former civil servant?
If honourable members are not impressed by looking at the statute which has been passed by this Parliament, and has been approved by subsequent Parliaments over the years, then I invite them to look at the record. This is the record that the Leader of the Opposition attacked when he opened for his Party in this Budget debate. Since July 1958 there have been 369 Tariff Board reports tabled in this Parliament. Of this number, 202 have recommended increases in duties and 74 have recommended actual reductions. Of the total reports available to the House, the Government has adopted 337. Is this a policy of treating the Tariff Board as though it were some malleable instrument to be controlled by the Government at will? I think the sheer record of this asserts, if nothing else, the independence of the Tariff Board and the scrupulous fashion in which the Government has handled the reports of the Board. Of the thirty-two reports unacceptable to the Government, the Government has departed from the Board’s recommendations in nineteen reports. The Government has referred back five reports for further inquiry and it did not adopt the Board’s report in only eight cases. So, I say to the honourable gentleman who leads the Opposition that it is neither fair, proper nor accurate to accuse the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Government - ‘because this would be a Government decision - of using the Tariff Board to further its own policy.
Having said that may I now turn to what I thought were two further conspicuous weaknesses in the attack made by the Leader of the Opposition. Firstly, we have had variations on this theme by all honourable members who have spoken since he spoke. The Budget must be considered as a whole. To use the honourable gentleman’s own words, it is the principal instrument of economic policy. The Budget is the case put for the Government. One would have imagined that the Leader of the Opposition would have given some indication of the economic policy he had in mind. But, as we go through his speech, we find that it is as barren as the desert. There is not a word at all about what the Leader of the Australian Labor Party would do if he were in office. I remind the honourable gentleman that he has failed lamentably to refer to the fact that this Budget has been prepared against a background of falling prices in three of the country’s principal primary products. I refer to wool, wheat and sugar.
It is all very well for some Fabian socialist, some graduate of the London School of Economics, some degenerate socialist who scribbles away in a Fabian journal such as ‘Dissent’, to come along and say: ‘Here it is - we have the solution. We have the formula. We will solve the problems.’ This country’s whole economy is geared to its capacity to export and as the prices of primary products fall so too is our economy going to be put in jeopardy. I remind the House that 13% of our gross national product today depends on imports. We cannot import if we fail to export. However, we have heard no comment about this from the honourable gentleman who leads for the Opposition in this attack. He was taken up on this by my friend from Maranoa (Mr Corbett). It is all very fine for these people to make sneering and slighting remarks about the effect of drought in this country. But when a person is faced with the problems of drought the story becomes an entirely different one. There has not been a word from the honourable gentleman about this, although it was brought home to him in terms of figures. Our imports in 1965-66 amounted to $2,800m. When the invisibles are added to this sum it becomes $4,200m. We have, in short, to find exports of $4.200m in order to balance our imports bill. But, this is not a problem that the honourable gentleman even acknowledged to exist.
I remind the House again that if our rate of development is to continue - that is, an average of some 5% of gross national product by the mid-1970s - this country will have to meet an import bill of $4,200m plus invisibles. This is going to pose a formidable task. I say to honourable gentlemen opposite that as far as the security the welfare and the development of this country are concerned, we need something more solid than a miserable gallimaufry of slick ideas, doctrinaire theories and crackpot schemes. Let us come to the schemes that have been trotted out. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) is a great schemer. He would have been an outstanding success during the ground nuts scheme in East Africa. Ground nuts were produced for 3s 6d sterling each. All the honourable gentleman seems to think is required to solve a problem is to come forward with a scheme. I am sure my honourable friend from Kennedy (Mr Katter) will agree with me that the honourable member for Dawson would get lost in a horse paddock and it could well be on open, rolling downs, Mitchell grass country. But here he comes into the House posing as the great expert on northern development and on schemes. I hope that the honourable gentleman will realise, as the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) said this evening, that when he talks about schemes, this Government’s record in terms of northern development is not confined to blueprints or to be found hidden away in his drawer. The record is there. The honourable gentleman this evening spoke about water.
– Dry up.
– No, not in the least. I can assure the honourable gentleman that I am still flowing and will continue to flow. The honourable member for Dawson said that no water schemes are in progress. I remind him that some seventeen projects dealing with irrigation and water are going on in Queensland today. I remind him that over a period of a few short years some $23m have been spent on brigalow development, $50m on beef roads-
– Of course, I have not the slightest doubt that the honourable member is an impeccable judge of the best variety qf peanuts. Finally, on the matter of development, $3.5m have been spent on Weipa. Once again I come back to my honourable friend from Kennedy who would agree that the Australian Labor Party would not have the sense of direction to guide an old milking cow into a bail. Now I come to what I describe as the principal economic objection to the Budget of the Leader of the Opposition. He said that the economy is barely rolling, that it is in a down swing. I thought this argument was brilliantly analysed by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). He absolutely switched every piece of meat ofl the bone of the argument used by the Leader of the Opposition. As the honourable member for Lilley clearly pointed out, for year after year this country has sus- tained a growth rate of more than 5%. The Prime Minister reminded us this evening that, with the exception of Janan, no other country can point to a comparable record.
– That is not so.
– It is all very well for honourable members opposite to say that they are not impressed. They should look at the job opportunities, which have increased in this country, and the number of people employed today compared with, say, 1962. I will give my honourable friend some basic figures. He should look at the production of electricity. In 1962 it was 29.2 million kilowatt hours. What is it today? It is 41.2 million kilowatt hours. Is this an economy that is barely rolling? Is this the down swing about which the Leader of the Opposition speaks? In 1962, 75,000 houses were completed. In 1966, 81,000 were completed. Is this the down swing? Is this the economy that is barely rolling? In 1962, 2.3 million motor cars were registered. In 1966, more than 3 million were registered. Is this the economy that is barely rolling and the economy that is in a down swing? Consumer goods, manufacturing goods, mining development - no matter where we go we must either be blind or stupid if we do not know how the country is developing.
The National Welfare Fund increased by 41% over 5 years, Commonwealth capital works and services increased by 48%, State works and housing increased by 50% and revenue grants to the States increased by 43%. We have a growing role in New Guinea, in South East Asia and in the matter of international aid. This is not the record of failure; this is the chronicle of success, and all the cat-calls from the Australian Labor Party will not wipe it away.
On the question of pensions, it is very easy for honourable gentlemen opposite to make all sort of demands, claims and charges. But the fact remains that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) is a warm-hearted person who, in terms of the totality of the Budget, has done everything possible. The adjustments that have been made on this occasion point to that. I say to honourable gentlemen opposite that the principal person involved in the preparation of this Budget is one who does not look to some evanescent electoral advantage but is interested in long term security, development and stability. It is very easy to gain political advantage but, let me remind honourable gentlemen opposite, it is very easy to lose it. What lasts is integrity; what survives is courage; and what impresses is achievement. When the Leader of the Opposition says, to use his own words, that the fundamental difference between us is about the proper role of government, I say that I agree with him. The Labor Party comes forward with the gimmick, something that is meretricious, something that attracts the bower bird, something that is fleetingly popular. The Government is interested in the substance, the genuine and the honest and frank endeavour.
The last matter to which I wish to turn before I sit down is defence. The House will recall that the Leader of the Opposition made a great to-do about defence. Indeed, I go so far as to say that not since the lamentations of Jeremiah, not since the virgins of Jerusalem hung down their heads to the ground, have we heard anything like what came from the Leader of the Opposition on the matter of defence. No party in the post-war world is less fitted to talk about defence than is the Australian Labor Party. Who opposed the establishment of the St Mary’s ammunition filling factory? The Australian Labor Party. Who was opposed to national service training? The Australian Labor Party. Who wants to turn the South East Asia Treaty Organisation into a cultural association? The Australian Labor Party. We can imagine the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) coming along accoutred as a ballet dancer. Who opposed the establishment of the North West Cape communications base? The Australian Labor Party. Whose whole defence and foreign policy is one of scuttle and appeasement? The Australian Labor Party’s.
The financial policies of the Australian Labor Party were referred to by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) this afternoon. There is not one suggestion in the whole lot of them of any cut in expenditure. They are all ideas. If they were rubbed together Lord only knows what they would be worth. But they are ideas. Every one of them calls for more money. They are simply pie in the sky.
Let me conclude by referring to the policy statement from the Adelaide Federal Conference of the Labor Party.
– Sit down now.
– I do not propose to deprive the honourable member of the joy of listening to this. I asked the Opposition whether I could have a copy of the Adelaide Federal Conference decisions. This document was put into my hand as a forward looking document. When I first looked at the cover, to be quite honest I thought it was a photograph of the other side of the moon. When I had a second look at it I thought it was possibly a still shot of my honourable friend as he stood outside the Hotel Kingston in the sparsely broken darkness of the night waiting to receive the decision of his bosses on the North West Cape communications base. Then I looked at this photograph more closely and saw in it the etched imperiousness of a hankering Caesar. May I presume to remind him of what was said of another Caesar a long time ago by Artemidorus:
Caesar, beware of Brutus; take heed of Cassius; come not near Casca, have an eye to Cinna; trust not Trebonius; mark well Metellus Cimber; Decius Brutus loves thee not; thou hast wronged Caius Ligarius. There is but one .mind in all these men, and it is bent against Caesar. If thou beest not immortal, look about you: Security gives way to conspiracy.
I am quite sure that the Leader of the Opposition as he goes about picking his cast will do so with a fine judgment, but if he is having any difficulty in picking Cassius I will tell him who has the lean and hungry look. May I say that at the Adelaide Conference not one Socialist objective was modified and not one Socialist aim was dropped. The ‘Keep left’ sign still hangs over the Australian Labor Party. It has a disastrous foreign policy and a calamitous defence policy. It would impose upon this country crippling domestic policies. The policy of the Government is to maintain the security of this country, to go on with stability and development, to preserve initiative and free enterprise, and to give to every person in Australia the opportunity to live a full, complete and happy life.
– The honourable member for Morton (Mr Killen) deserves some fullsome praise for his efforts in putting into proper context the Australian Labor Party’s approach to the Budget.
– The honourable member should be in Vietnam.
– If the jackals will keep quiet for a moment I shall continue with my remarks. In my opinion, the honourable member for Moreton is worthy of being classed with the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in providing us with an analysis of the Labor Party’s opposition to the Budget. The debate has ranged over many questions during the past few weeks and it is now coming to its closing stages. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) raised two or three questions at the end of his speech. They are challenging questions indeed. He said: ‘Are we efficient?’ He asked also whether we are doing enough about rising costs. He made it quite plain that he wants to see a reduction in Government spending and a transfer from Government spending to the private sector. This is a proper attitude and one that would be expected from a government of this nature. This attitude has been welcomed by many sections of the community and by the Press in general. But there is nothing in his speech to give any hope to those on fixed incomes, to the woolgrowers or the primary producers. Nothing is done about the problem of rising costs. The one regret that I have about the Budget is that it does nothing about this problem.
On the question of efficiency I believe that we should start to look at the role of government itself. We work under a federal system, ideally there are three parts to government under this system and each part is quite separate and distinct. The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia which was enacted in 1901 sets out the role of the Federal Government and all matters outside the Constitution are considered to be in the purview of the States. The role of local government, which is the third arm of government, has developed over the years. Local government today has an increasing and a more responsible position with a greater work load than it has ever had before. I do not think the House can doubt the wisdom of our forefathers when they wrote the Constitution. Nevertheless, that was a long time ago. That was about the time that the motor car was invented and was before the days of the aeroplane. It was in the days when clippers took many weeks to reach London. Now we live in the age of jumbo jets, computers and supersonic flights. I believe that because of the change in times a study of the role of government is needed. I speak not only of the Federal Government but also of the other two arms of government.
– The PM is like a jumbo jet.
Order! The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith will come to order.
– The honourable member is not noted for his wise and witty interjections. I think we should look at the role of government and see whether some rationalisation is possible. It is important to lower the cost of government, which is an ever-increasing cost to the taxpayer and to ratepayers. Because of the changing times in which we live the central government of Australia has become involved in matters which previously were simply matters for the States, lt might be more accurate to say that because of these changing times matters of this nature have come to be laid more and more at the door of the Australian Government. The greatest single cause of the predominence of the Commonwealth Government, in my view, was the introduction of uniform taxation. This has had far wider implications than one can see. Certainly it has caused the loss of initiative by State governments. It has caused a stronger central government. I believe that it has weakened the Federal system.
I wish to deal somewhat with duplication. There is an apparent fear among the State governments - this is common to all the States - that the Commonwealth net is spreading wider and wider in the field of power; that the Commonwealth Government is becoming stronger and stronger; and that this is to the detriment of the States. 1 beleive it is true to say that more matters require one policy for the whole of Australia. Censorship is a typical example. It is a bit silly for one State to ban a certain article when one can have the banned article posted to one’s home from another State or drive across the border and buy the article in the other State.
Agricultural matters are thrashed out at meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council. The Attorneys-General of the States and the Commonwealth hold meetings at which common problems of law are thrashed out. The list is endless. It includes committees concerning forestry and fisheries. The results of these conferences no doubt are good in achieving uniform policy for the whole of the nation. Nevertheless, in my view this state of affairs weakens the initiative of the States. The Commonwealth Government is becoming interested in the fields of education, housing and transport; strongly interested regarding industrial relations; and interested also in health and the housing of aged people. Most of those interests have State counterparts controlled by State government departments. Most of them were originally within the sole province of the States.
The Australian Government entered most of these fields in the first place under the provisions of section 96 of *he Commonwealth Constitution. The section reads:
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit. ‘
Now, the benefit of section 96 is obvious. It allows the central government to maintain economic and social equilibrium across the nation. Thus it is that when there is a flood, fire or some other natural disaster in one State the central government - in other words, the Australian Government - is able to alleviate the problem caused thereby to the economy of that State by assistance through State grants under section 96 of our Constitution.
But section 96 grants are operated in another way. The Commonwealth makes grants in many fields. Let us take education as an example. States can readily ask for these Commonwealth grants if they are to apply to areas that accord with State priorities and where the States themselves believe that the need is the greatest. States can also ask: Why not just give us the money? We have the responsibility. We have the control. We have the organised departments’. The answer to this question is obvious. Some States cannot resist it. They have to play politics with the money. They do not spend the money in the areas in which the Commonwealth believes it ought to be spent. Therefore the grants are tied.
Many criticisms are made of the intrusion of the Australian Government into State affairs. Some of these are justified; many are not. I asked a question of the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) last week concerning the $50m allocation for water conservation. There is the fear among the States that after State teams - and the States are using not only engineers but also agricultural economists to make sure that their projects meet the criteria set down by the Commonwealth - have investigated a proposition, the Commonwealth Government will then re-investigate it. The State governments have perfectly sophisticated water conservation bodies that are able to assess these matters. The Minister for National Development has assured me that no further duplication of effort will take place in this respect.
Fear exists among the States concerning the formation of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. Here is a typical example of my point in which the central organisation is required to obtain common rules of the road, similar highway construction and priorities in adjoining States, and to find out the needs for the nation as a whole in the transport field. Yet the States have some trepidation because they think that the Commonwealth may well be interfering and would like to interfere further with the efficient State road construction authorities. Without a doubt, one of the main benefits given by this Government through grants has been extended through Commonwealth Aid Roads funds, 40% of which must be spent on unclassified rural roads. This requirement gives some hope to isolated settlers and encourages people to settle in remote areas. It would be a long time before roads in those areas reached reasonable standards without these funds. I was pleased to hear the Treasurer, in reply to a question asked in this House, last Thursday, say that he intends that this provision for the expenditure of 40% of Commonwealth Aid Roads funds on unclassified rural roads will remain. ‘
There is no doubt that the central problem in Commonwealth and State relations is finance. Those of us who are familiar with the scene in Canberra are used to the spectacle every year of the Premiers coming to Canberra. Every year, we read in the newspapers in the Parliamentary Library that each Premier is coming to Canberra to demand more money for his State. And inevitably each Premier gets more, because there is always a betterment factor to take into account as well as the growth of the economy. Nevertheless, I believe that the Premiers sell themselves a little short and cheapen themselves by the tactics that they employ. Attached to the Budget papers there is an excellent document that gives the history of Commonwealth and State financial relations and sets out the grants and loans that have been provided by the Commonwealth over the years. It is worth some study.
The cause of what the States regard as the present financial problems was the introduction of the uniform tax system which was adopted as a wartime measure and which has been continued since the war. Though it has been the subject of several challenges, it remains with us. I believe that all thinking people will agree that in a country where a sophisticated approach is necessary to maintain stability and balance in the economy, it is impossible for us to go back to a system of six State income taxes and one Federal income tax. The operations of the fringe finance institutions are now extensive enough to cause a Federal Treasurer trouble in trying to work out his budgeting problems. However, most of the criticisms of the present system and the methods employed stem from uniform taxation. Some critics say that the Commonwealth claims credit for itself for distributing funds to the States without exercising responsibility for seeing that they are spent efficiently. But it is more important and probably more pertinent to say that the States want the funds without the responsibility for raising them. I have heard it said publicly many times by members of State parliaments that they would like to do this or that but the Commonwealth will not give them the necessary money. In my view, this represents a complete lack of responsibility by the States and constitutes buck passing of the worst kind. The simple fact is that there is only so much money available in both grants and loan raisings, and once the formula for tax reimbursements is agreed on, the States must accept the fact that if they want more money they must raise it themselves. Indeed, they have done fairly well over the years, as one sees when one looks at the figures.
A typical example of the increasing funds available to a State at Premiers Conferences and meetings of the Austraiian Loan Council in Canberra is to be found in the funds received by Victoria. In 1955-56, that State received in grants $79rn. It is estimated that this financial year it will receive $226m. Furthermore, there is not even agreement among the States about the allocation of the available funds between them. They cannot agree that each State receives its proper share. The physically smaller, more populous States are a bit chary about the larger per capita grants going to the physically larger and less populous States. But I am sure that even they must recognise the need for the development of Australia as a whole. I do not doubt that each State has its own particular problems. Queensland, for instance, is a vast State with a small population. The problems of communications and transport there must be immense. Tasmania is small in area and has a small population, and these circumstances create their own special problems. Victoria is small in area but is the fastest developing State and is taking the most migrants. This very growth within the State is creating special and immense problems in the provision of schools and teachers to staff them, hospitals and various community services.
New South Wales makes criticisms that it is unjust for Victorian local government and semi-governmental authorities to borrow as much as New South Wales authorities may borrow seeing that Victoria is much smaller and has a population one million less than has New South Wales. Western Australia makes criticisms that as it develops and provides costly services to its new mining industries, the Commonwealth gives to the State $1 less for every $1 earned in royalty. The criticisms are endless. All States complain that the Commonwealth raises money from taxes and lends it to the States at interest. But this applies only when Loan Council borrowings fail or fall short of the desired target in which case the Commonwealth may well have to borrow internationally at a higher rate of interest than the rate it charges the States.
The only other form of lending in this way is for special projects which are always in the interests of the States. In Victoria, for example, the only two loans of this nature that I have been able to discover have been a forestry loan, where the royalty would go back to the State, and a loan for the standardisation of the railway gauges. There again the State would gain the benefit. In short, direct benefits accrue to the States, whether the loans be for the construction of beef roads, dams or anything else.
We hear criticisms also of the fact that this central Government finances capital works out of revenue while forcing the States to borrow money. Certainly the Australian Government does that, but it has to carry the odium of the tax level necessary to permit such undertakings. An added advantage is that a legacy of debts is not left to future generations. In times of reasonable prosperity and growth the Australian Government is doing a service to future generations by maintaining tax levels. It is politically easy and attractive to lower taxes.
Each State has difficulty financing its capital works. State borrowings, and therefore State debts, have increased. I have no doubt that the States could increase their taxes or find other avenues of taxation to improve their position if they wanted to do so but this is politically unacceptable to them. Not only have they had the advantage of a growing economy as a result of this Government’s economic policies but also they are receiving an increasing share of the gross national products. In 1954-55 the States received 13.6% of the gross national product and in 1966-67 they received 16.1%. Despite this, while the Commonwealth national debt has decreased over 20 years - in fact it has been reduced by about one-half and this has been due no doubt to prudent housekeeping - the debts of the States have more than trebled from $2,000m to S7,090m. This is an alarming financial position for the States to be in. It is apparent that State incomes do not meet rising demands for expenditure. Perhaps there is room for prudent housekeeping in the States. The activities of a strong Public
Accounts Committee could be useful in the investigation of State spending.
However, the pattern is too uniform to be a matter of mere extravagance or wasteful spending. The real question is whether the formula for grants allows a big enough base amount so that when the betterment factors are added the States receive enough money. If there is not some change in the situation there can be only two end results: Either this Government will need to give more and more special grants under section 96 of the Constitution to alleviate the position - this will have the effect of weakening the influence of the States and turning them finally into mere administrators of Government spending which, of course, leads only to further predominance by the Central Government and a weakening of the Federal system, as the State Governments must recognise - or, if the State Governments want to play a part in the government of this country they will have to face up squarely to their responsibilities both in the tax field and in the spending of tax raisings.
The Government should undertake a survey of the whole relationship immediately and see whether changes are required in the base formula, lt is apparent that by propaganda the Premiers of the States are appealing to the people of Australia, over the head of the central Government, to obtain more money. In my view, appealing in this way depreciates the powers of the States and possibly causes some loss of faith by the people of the respective States in the State governments and in the system. This financial strain has extended beyond State governments to local governments, which have increased responsibilities and provide increased services. This places heavy demands upon local ratepayers. Local ratepayers in many areas are paying maximum rates because of very high valuations. Sometimes because of a State government’s financial position local government grant ratios have been reduced. I think that the three forms of government have to have a very close look at the system as it now exists. I do not believe that in 1967 the system is working as satisfactorily as those who drew up the Constitution in 1901 would have hoped it would. It has certainly done a great deal. We have a strong and viable economy under the system, but I think now is the time when the central Government of Australia should have another look at the whole question of Commonwealth-State financial relations.
– Last year the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Calwell, described the 1966 Budget as depressing, unsatisfactory and unimaginative. He said that it would assuredly be the Treasurer’s last. How wrong he was. But then this was not the first time that the right honourable gentleman has been wrong. Had he been here when his successor was attacking the present Budget I think I would have seen him sitting on the benches over there shaking his head and repeating the words depressing’, ‘unsatisfactory’ and ‘unimaginative’, because that is exactly what the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was. Now a new Leader of the Opposition, more smooth and suave perhaps than the last person who occupied that position, is decrying a new Budget. The. words are different but the sentiment is the same.
This, of course, is the Opposition’s duty. Even though it knows that this is a good Budget it must of course oppose it. When we look at the prosperous state of the economy today we realise, in retrospect, what a sound, financial course the Treasurer set in the 1966 Budget, because today, despite the effects of drought, floods, bush fires and the increase in defence expenditure the economy has never been sounder. Although there have been increasing demands on resources by governments and other public authorities once again taxation has been kept down, and this is no mean achievement. This is a Budget which will continue to take Australia along the road to prosperity. I believe that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) is to be congratulated on his wisdom and foresight.
Despite our defence commitments this Budget is not, as the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) claimed it to be today, a ‘guns before butter’ Budget. It is a ‘guns and butter’ Budget. Handouts, of course, could have been given by the Treasurer to all and sundry. Had he been as irresponsible as are many honourable members opposite, he could have made Father Christmas look like a small time operator. There is probably not one honourable member in this House who would not have liked to have seen something done for the pensioners, but these things could have been achieved only by increased taxation, and members of the Opposition would have been the first to have thrown up their arms in horror had that occurred. None of us, of course, was surprised to see the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) riding his hobby horse of northern development around the House. He claimed in his speech attacking the Budget that the Government’s policy was one of discrimination against the north. That is, in essence, what he said. He must surely be the most verbose member in this place on this matter. In the 12-odd weeks that Parliament has sat this year he has spoken no fewer than seventeen times on northern development. This, of course, does not take account of the numerous questions he has asked or of the number of times that he has claimed to have been misrepresented.
During the recent recess, as a member of the Government’s mining and national development committees I was able to travel fairly extensively throughout northern Australia and see the great development that is being fostered in this area by the Federal Government. As a Victorian, and unlike the honourable member for Dawson, I have no political kudos to gain by supporting northern development. I give the lie to the statement by the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) that the people of the south do not care what happens to the north. I do not agree with some people who point out - often quite truthfully - that the same amount spent in the south would bring a greater financial return. There is more to northern development than just that. Nor do I think that irresponsible statements made by the honourable member for Dawson, such as that which he made during the recess in Kununurra to the effect that the south was milking the north, help the situation at all. As the honourable member well knows from the figures, that is not true. Nothing is to be achieved by setting the north against the south or the south against the north.
The honourable member may well be sincere in his desire to see the north prosper. I believe that he is. But I suggest to him that if he were to approach the matter in a more rational and reasoned manner, divorced from emotion and political carping, he would advance the cause with more effect. I believe that there is a great future ahead for northern Australia. With vast mineral resources it may well be termed the treasure chest of Australia. By wise exploitation it can add greatly to the balance of payments and the general prosperity of the country.
But this is not the sole reason why it should be developed. Northern Australia is our frontier to overcrowded Asia. If it is not developed by us there will be others ready and willing to do it. We cannot close our eyes to the massive and persistent pressure of the Communists to our north. This pressure is on in Vietnam. It is on in Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and India. It is not very long since a Communist coup was averted in Indonesia. What is going on today in Peking and London should show very clearly to honourable gentlemen opposite that even Socialist governments, no matter how they kow tow to international Communism are not free of the wrath of Mao Tse-tung. This is, of course, why we must have a stronge defence policy. This is why 5% of our gross national product, $1,1 18m, has been provided in the Budget for defence.
We can no longer rely on assistance from Great Britain. Under the Labour Government Britain has deteriorated to a state of decline of which Sir Winston Churchill said he would never remain Prime Minister and permit. Harold Wilson, continually prodded by his leftwing supporters, has introduced a littler England complex. The British Labour Government is utterly lacking in understanding of Australian thinking and feeling we can no longer rely on assistance from socialist Britain. What of the United Nations in which our friends of the Labor Party profess to have such faith? Since the death of Dag Hammarskjoeld and under the influence of Secretary- General U Thant the United Nations has slid along the same path of doom as the League of Nations which preceeded it. The United Nations now is no more than a forum of propaganda for Soviet Russia, her satellites and the so-called emerging nations. Its impotence in a time of crisis has been revealed time and time again. No, Mr Deputy Speaker, we cannot look to the United Nations for protection.
– To whom are we to look?
– The honourable member has asked a good question. We have a strong alliance with the United States of America which has been fostered by this Government and which the Opposition by its policies, whether by design or not, has done its best to destroy. Together with the Americans we have stood up to Communist aggression in Vietnam. This, of course, has not pleased honourable gentlemen opposite?
– Why is the honourable member not over there?
-Order! The honourable member for Scullin will cease interjecting.
– Before the last election their former leader made it plain that if Labor were elected it would unconditionally withdraw Australian troops from Vietnam. This would not have meant disaster militarily for the South Vietnamese, as we all know or for the Americans. The 6,500 Australians could no doubt have been replaced, perhaps with some difficulty, by South Koreans or Americans. After all, it is worth noting that the annual financial cost of our contribution in Vietnam is less than the final bill of the Sydney Opera House will be. But the propaganda blow to the Americans and the use to which this would have been put by the Communists would have had alarming results. The Australian people, however, sent this Government back to the treasury bench with the largest majority in the history of the Australian Parliament.
One would think, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the Labor Party would learn from all this. But what do we find? Admittedly the members of the Labor Party made some attempt. They dumped the old man of the sea from their shoulders and they came up with a brand spanking gold-plated new leader, and he had plenty to say and said it more glibly than his predecessor. This man of vision doing his dance of destiny across the pages of the nation’s history knew that it was Labor’s anti-American Vietnam policy which was largely responsible for the debacle at the last election, and although he did not have the permission of his left wing faceless men or even, to use his own phrase, the witless men, he decided to alter the policy himself. In an interview on the television programme ‘Four Corners’, referring to the participation of Australian troops in Vietnam, he said: They are now committed. The only way the troops can come back now is if there is a settlement.’ As late as 10th June this year he was quoted in the Melbourne ‘Age’ as saying: ‘We do not believe in unilateral withdrawal of troops either by Americans, by ourselves, by the North Vietnamese or by anyone else’.
At the same time his Deputy, who had been to Vietnam and seen for himself, was saying that the Labor Party must have a closer look at its Vietnam policy. The Opposition Leader also attacked the left wing Victorian Executive of the Labor Party, and he pledged himself to reform the Party. He used bold and menacing words, but only words, and the Victorian Conference contemptuously disregarded them. There are two faces to the honourable member, Mr Deputy Speaker - the angry face denouncing the left wing Victorian Executive, and the meek pouting face which accepts the left wing policy drawn up by these people.
What happened when the honourable gentleman reached the Adelaide Conference and faced his masters? During a 2-hour debate he sat in silence while the Party policy makers carried a hard line policy on Vietnam. If Labor was to form a government, they said, it would put certain demands to the Americans - not to the enemy, mind you, but to our American allies. The demands on the Americans were that they must cease bombing North Vietnam, recognise the National Liberation Front and transform operations in Vietnam into holding operations, and also cease using objectionable weapons of war. If the Americans did not obey these demands the Labor Party would withdraw all Australian troops from Vietnam. They knew, as most thinking people know, that it would be impossible for the Americans to accept these terms unless the Communists were to be allowed to take over in South Vietnam. If the Americans refused, as refuse they must, the Labor Party could then, with priggish morality, withdraw Australian troops, regardless of the position in which it might leave our allies.
The Opposition leader was shown in Adelaide Very clearly who runs the Labor
Party. By a little double talk, however, he was allowed some saving of face and some room to manoeuvre. Under the new scheme of arrangement it would be possible for the Opposition Leader and the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) to interpret the policy in various ways - depending, of course, on the type of audience to which they were speaking at the time. Even the Press was confused. I have here two newspaper cuttings reporting the Adelaide Conference. The ‘Australian’ carried the headline ‘Labor Plans to Reverse Vietnam Policy’. On the same day the Melbourne ‘Age* carried a headline to exactly the opposite effect: ‘Labor Men Reject Viet Policy Change.’ So there you are, Mr Deputy Speaker; that is their policy, as vague as you like. As the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) said, if you want it they have got it, but you may be sure when the chips are down that the foreign policy of the Labor Party would do nothing to further Australian-American relations.
In his attack on the Budget the Leader of the Opposition broke out in a rash of alliteration, demanding of the Americans armistice, amnesty and asylum. This policy could not fail to strengthen immeasurably the hands of both the Vietcong and North Vietnam. If I may be excused in this one instance of following his literary style, may I say that in my opinion such a policy would result in mayhem, misery and murder of the South Vietnamese people, for how can the Americans be expected to provide asylum for anti-Communist South Vietnamese when, under the Labor Party’s policy, they would be forced to retreat to isolated holding bases which can be defended only by what the Communists claim are unobjectionable weapons of war?
Let us take these points of blackmail one by one. The Labor Party wants the Americans to sit tight and conduct a holding war. It says that the Americans must not attack the Vietcong; they must wait until the Vietcong attack them. Of course, that will be done on the terms of the Vietcong and when they can inflict the greatest loss of life on Americans and Australians. Have honourable members ever heard anything so silly and ridiculous? It is comparable with Ron Barrassi’s telling the Carlton football team that they could not kick the ball until it came to their feet; that they could not run out and pick it up. It is not the way to win a football match and it is not the way to win a war.
As to. the Labor Party’s second demand, I say to honouarble members opposite who claim that the bombing of targets in North Vietnam may bring Communist China into the conflict, that Communist China will come in only if and when it feels it is to its advantage to do so. Despite what the. Communists and their supporters in this country say, the bombing of North Vietnam has been greatly effective in reducing the flow of Russian and Chinese arms and equipment to the Vietcong. If honourable members opposite require proof of that statement, let them ask themselves why the Communists and their supporters, both here and in America, so fervently want the bombing to cease. What would Churchill have said during the Battle of Britain if honourable gentlemen opposite had told him that he was not to bomb Germany, that he was to sit in Britain and confine, himself to holding operations and that he was not to use objectionable weapons of war? We would never have won that war and we will never win the war in Vietnam if we listen to the soft sell of the twittering doves opposite. Or are they more like ostriches, as was said earlier today?
As a result of the bombing of North Vietnam, the lives of many Australian, American and South Vietnamese servicemen have been saved. This is our only real weapon of offence in Vietnam. I state unashamedly that as an Australian parliamentarian I put first the interests of Australia and Australians. If the bombing of North Vietnam is saving Australian and American lives - and I profoundly believe that it is - then I am all for it. The North Vietnamese cannot murder the people of South Vietnam at will and then scream to high heaven when the war is taken to their own doorstep.
Let us examine the Labor Party’s further demand that we must recognise the National Liberation Front. This is the motley gang of murderers and blackmailers who are daily hounding and abducting innocent South Vietnamese men, women and children. Over 1 million of these people had already fled to the South to escape this sort of terror from the Communists in North Vietnam. Of course, our friends opposite are always too busy trying to unearth socalled American atrocities in Vietnam to find time to criticise the National Liberation Front. They are assisted by the selfnamed Liberal Reform Group which seems to be able to find unlimited funds from one source or another and whose proCommunist publication entitled ‘Children of Vietnam’ contains certain photographs purporting to be of American atrocities but which are in fact, as the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) pointed out today, actually American photographs of Vietcong atrocities.
The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) today in his speech in this debate gave the figures of the South Vietnamese civilians who have been murdered, wounded and abducted by the Vietcong. We have read in the Press of their terrorist campaign to disrupt South Vietnam’s first free elections. These are the people that the Labor Party claim should be recognised by the Americans and ourselves as having a claim to the rightful government of South Vietnam. I believe that the responsibility for the prolongation of the war falls heavily on the shoulders of those people who are undermining our effort at home and the efforts of the United States Government. They are only adding weight to the view of the Communists that the democracies are decadent from within and that if they hang on long enough we will give up.
I would like to quote a letter written to the President of the United States by the parents of a 19-year-old American lad who died fighting the Vietcong. He was John Laning of Michigan. The couple said in their letter:
We cannot in good conscience accept your letter of sympathy because we believe that you, as President of this great country and as commander-in-chief of its armed forces, together with your staff of advisers, are in part responsible for the death of our son and the thousands of other brave men because of your refusal to permit our airmen to bomb strategic targets in North Vietnam.
I hope that honourable gentlemen opposite will remember that letter when they put the demand to the Americans to stop the bombing of Communist supply lines in North Vietnam. To those who are ridiculing the efforts of the South Vietnamese to hold free elections under difficult conditions I point out that if the National Liberation Front were genuinely confident of popular support it would not have been bent on destroying the voting in South Vietnam. Let us always remember that Ho Chi Minh has never held elections in North Vietnam.
I believe it is important for the Australian people to realise that not only are we fighting a guerilla war in Vietnam but that also we are fighting a propaganda guerilla war at home. There are many manifestations of these pro-Communist fronts. They change their names so often that it is difficult to keep track of all of them. Possibly the most malicious of all are the activities of the various university labor clubs in sending money and aid to the Vietcong. Is it any wonder that our Australian troops returning from Vietnam have stated that they would like to give these people a good punch in the nose to drum some sense into them. Our servicemen have seen the Vietcong murderers in action. I think it should be to the Labor Party’s eternal shame that it adopted the attitude it did to the Defence Force Protection Bill.
– I rise to order. I find the honourable member’s remark offensive. He implies that the Labor Party wants the Vietcong to win this war. University labor clubs have nothing to do with the Australian Labor Party.
-Order! There is no substance in the point raised by the honourable member.
– It is true that under the pressure of public opinion the Opposition did eventually vote for the Bill, but it did so grudgingly and only after much debate. We all know what was said by the Opposition in another place in regard to this matter. There is only one way to bring peace to Vietnam. Peace will not be achieved by the policies of armistice, amnesty and asylum advocated by the Leader of the Labor Party. The only way to bring the Vietcong to the conference table is to speak from a position of strength. .Given 6 months of concentrated and uninterrupted bombing of military targets in North Vietnam, I believe that the allies will obtain an entirely different reaction on the part of the North Vietnamese. Only when they realise that they cannot win and that we mean business will the Communists come to the confer ence table. The Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, the Right Reverend K. J. Clements, told the. Annual Synod of the Diocese in Goulburn recently that it is necessary to face the fact that defeat for South Vietnam would mean the slaughter of between 50,000 and 100,000 political victims. Perhaps honourable members opposite would not worry about this. I do not know.
I have spent considerable time tonight on defence because I am greatly disturbed by the policy of armistice, amnesty and asylum advocated by the Leader of the Opposition and I have deliberately tried to show the tragic consequences that such a policy would have. I believe that it is quite hypocritical for the Opposition to waffle on attacking the Budget because not enough money is available to do all of those things which the Treasurer would most earnestly have liked to do. It is easy to be a critic. It is not always possible to be constructive. With the situation in Asia as it is at the moment, I believe that any government which did not put Australia’s defence first would be seriously lacking in its duty to the nation. If the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope), who is interjecting, does not consider that defence has anything to do with this Budget, all I can say is that he has been in this place a lot longer than I have and should know better. Defence has been a major item in this Budget and it has been a very essential item. All the social security in the world would mean little if we were not free to control our own destiny. Rather than being piecemeal and plan-less as the Leader of the Opposi-tion said, this Budget is directed economically and nationally to soundness and security.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, my colleague the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) quite rightly placed his greater emphasis on our defence expenditure. No person who has read the reports from a variety of sources about the elections in South Vietnam on Sunday can doubt that the Government’s position at present is justified. That justification has been underwritten by 85% of the South Vietnamese people who were eligible to vote at those elections in spite of continuous, violent and bloody, opposition by the Vietcong and by units of the North Vietnamese regular army. The opposition to these democratic elections is as significant as the support they received from the people of South Vietnam generally. There now is a government in South Vietnam, or the beginnings of a government, which can claim realistic popular support. This is an extraordinary advance. It is a particularly magnificent achievement to have been able to conduct this election under the present conditions of civil strife and war in that country.
The well balanced nature of the Federal Budget for 1967-68 has been best recognised, perhaps, by the lack of any constructive criticism from the Opposition. There has been plenty of destructive criticism but this has served only to underline the fact that the Labor Party, the Opposition, has not been able to propose anything better. In a backhanded sort of way, this is probably a greater endorsement of a well balanced Budget than its ready acceptance by the public at large.
Of course, in any Budget there are disappointments to a member of Parliament, wherever he sits in this chamber. I know that I speak for many honourable members on this side of the House when I say that the absence of an increase in age and invalid pensions caused some disappointment. However, I hasten to assure the House that at least the Liberal Party and Country Party members will be paying close attention to this matter over the months ahead.
The crocodile tears shed by some members of the Opposition over pension rates do not carry very much weight. If pensions had been maintained at the rate at which they were fixed by the last Labor Government they would be only about i of what they are now. If any honourable member doubts this, I invite him to examine the figures and relate pension payments in 1949 and now to the cost price index. There is no more solid way of establishing a realistic evaluation. Honourable members opposite could have done this if they so wished because they have had ample opportunity, but I notice tonight that they have withdrawn most of their speakers. Obviously the Opposition is played out; it has nothing left to say about the Budget. The single rate pension would now be $9.06 if Labour were in office. Previously, when Labour was in office, there was no differential rate. The Labor Party did not give a single pensioner any advantage. It did not give any consideration to a pensioner who had only the pension on which to live and to pay rent. A single pensioner would be $3.94 - almost $4 - worse off under Labor than at present and in the case of married pensioners each person would be $2.69 worse off. But if we then take into consideration the single pensioner who is paying rent, on a pension of $15 a week, that pensioner would be nearly $6 a week worse off if there were a Labor Government in office. And this does not take into account all the other matters that the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) covered in his speech earlier today and which I need not cover in detail again, such as the medical benefits now available to pensioners and all the other associated benefits that were not available or even apparently contemplated under Labor policy. Even if we add all this up and treat it as a gross amount of money, it was less under Labor, and if we regard it as a proportion of national expenditure, it was less under Labor. Whichever way we look at it, the record of the Labor Party in this regard is deplorable; so it is not at all surprising to find it trying to find some beef to bite on but missing the point every time.
The honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine) made an interesting statement on the cost of living, and I am glad to see that it has been faithfully recorded in Hansard at page 375. He said that no-one can deny that the cost of living has not increased over the past 12 months. I am sorry, but I am going to deny that. I must point out to the honourable member for East Sydney that costs have in fact risen over the past 12 months and although this has only adversely affected pensions by a few shillings a week to date, we on this side of the House are conscious of the fact that every shilling counts in a pension and we will be carrying a watching brief in this matter on a continuing basis.
However, in the overall picture this Budget makes a solid provision for the security of the nation in substantially increased defence expenditure. It provides for a steady growth in our standard of living, real and substantial progress in national development, the encouragement of thrift and an economic climate in which we can confidently build for the future, and it succeeds in doing all this without any tax increases.
A number of honourable members opposite have suggested that any form of indirect tax is thoroughly bad. I only quote that as an example of the irresponsible suggestions that we have heard from the Opposition during this debate. It has suggested that the only responsible form of taxation is straight-out direct income tax. I suppose it would be happy to wipe out customs duty estimated to bring in some $303m in 1967-68; excise duty, which will bring in approximately $843m; and sales tax, which will bring in approximately $41 4m. This totals something in excess of $1,500. The Opposition does not make the slightest attempt to say how it would replace this money. Obviously by inference it would replace it by adding enormously to the income tax burden of this country and there is no doubt that this would have the effect of very greatly depressing our growth potential and our development this year and in the years ahead. However, the most solidly reassuring aspect about the whole Budget is that the Treasurer has shown that we can stand by its provisions and can deliver its promises. This is the sort of thing which the people of Australia have come to expect from the present Government parties, and its value can be seen only by contrasting it with the rash proposals, some of which I have just mentioned - which have not been costed and which honourable members opposite have not stressed in this debate - which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) has drawn to our attention from the platform of the Labor Party which, of course, is drawn up by the nonparliamentary organisation that still controls the Parliamentary Labor Party.
Honourable members opposite have objected to our increased defence expenditure. Right throughout the debate on international affairs and the current Budget debate they have acted as though they wanted to treat foreign affairs as something completely foreign to their own political thinking. The Australian Labor Party has not yet recognised that security is basic to any country. It is basic to development in South East Asia and South Vietnam and to the long term security of development and prosperity in Australia.
Honourable members opposite do not seem to be capable of conceiving that a peace keeping operation is worth while and that such an operation involves military commitments short of total war. They seem to waver between craven appeasement and the total war concept.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has said that his Party’s policy is armistice, amnesty and asylum. But he has also made clear the fact that the armistice would be unilateral. That is to say that we would lay down our arms and see what the enemy would do. His next step, amnesty, is left rather up in the air without bothering really to define who would forget what. But his third step is logical, as an asylum would certainly seem to be an appropriate location for the planners of such chaos.
In fact, his outside organisers have told him that his Party’s policy is to be for withdrawal of our troops unless the Americans agree to the general demands which would be made by a Labor government to stop bombing the north and withdraw to a holding operation in sections of South Vietnam, in spite of the fact that previous experience has proven that this only helped to feed the fires in North Vietnam.
What the policy of the Leader of the Opposition really boils down to is appeasement, abandonment and attrition. One-sided withdrawal on our part would be an appeasement action of which the- enemy would take the fullest advantage. It would inevitably lead to our abandonment of the people of South Vietnam and then to a situation of continuous attrition and gradual wearing away and crushing of the independent nations of South East Asia, which would progressively and certainly place our own nation in very great jeopardy.
By contrast, this Government’s four point programme is for pacification and political stability followed by progress and eventual prosperity so that South Vietnam can eventually take its place with the independent developing nations of South East Asia and so that peace can really be kept and the peoples of these countries can be helped towards higher standards of living.
This year’s Budget provides the financial capacity for us to continue the basic necessity of strengthening our defence forces and the modernisation of our equipment while at the same time fitting this increased expenditure into an evenly balanced Budget which can ensure the continuing development of the nation and steady progress in our improving standards of living.
One particular point in our defence expenditure has occupied a great deal of time and attention of honourable members opposite. That is the expenditure, not yet fully determined, on the Fill flying weapons system. In spite of very full and definitive statements by the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) and the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) and others on this side of the chamber, honourable members opposite have not yet realised that this is, in fact, an Australian participation with America in a research and development programme. This is the kind of programme that cannot possibly be costed from the beginning. There are many parts of our defence expenditure which are thoroughly costed from the beginning and some which necessarily are not if we are to have equipment that is completely up to date and less likely to become obsolete in the near future.
The other point which honourable members opposite have failed to absorb is that at all times > we are ready, and without preconditions, are prepared to negotiate with North Vietnam for a peaceful settlement. This offer is continuously reiterated and there can be no doubt in the minds of the North Vietnamese leaders that it fs available to them when they choose to use it. There is very little doubt on our side that, from past history, they will not be prepared to negotiate until they have decided that they cannot win in a military way. Therefore in this Budget it was basically and fundamentally necessary to make certain that we would continue to contribute in the effort and always be a difficult prospect ourselves to knock over militarily in the future. As the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) has said, we hope that some of this rather sophisticated equipment will never have to be used,, but the fact that it is sophisticated and up to date and the fact that we have it will make it less likely that it will ever have to be used. If we were not prepared to take these moves, if we were not prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to equip ourselves thoroughly, then the risk that we would have to defend ourselves directly would be vastly increased.
This Budget does not cover everything. No single parliamentary Act or Budget could possibly solve every problem in a country. But quite evidently it does provide for steady growth in the year with which it deals. It also provides for these not altogether costed items to which the Commonwealth Government has committed itself in aid to the States - water conservation, forestry and a number of other long range commitments. The capacity to deal with these not completely costed and detailed items is within the Budget, and it is a particular tribute to the Treasurer that he has maintained that capacity within it.
Again, the Budget does not of itself deal with or solve the problem of the costprice squeeze which has become an increasingly difficult, onerous and almost impossible problem for some people on the land in some parts of Australia, particularly those engaged in the wool growing industry. On the other hand, it does provide the capacity for dealing with this kind of problem once we have worked out how to deal with it. It is not an easy problem to deal with. I would like to draw the attention of thi* House to the fact that earlier this year we included in the Dairying Industry Bill a provision for some consultation between the Government and the dairying industry to solve some of the problems of that industry. As I said at the time, I believe that, arising from these discussions, we might get some sort of clue as to how we can go about helping to combat or even partially defeat the perennial problem of the cost-price squeeze on the land. If we can find out how to do it, this Budget and, I am confident, successive Budgets brought down by the present Government Parties will ensure that we have the capacity to do something about the cost-price squeeze problem on the land and also to handle every other problem in connection with growth, whilst at the same time ensuring that we maintain that fundamental security without which no development in this country would be worth while.
Debate (on motion by Mr Erwin) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
House adjourned at 11.57 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Trinidad and Tobago
Trade with China: Strategic Goods (Question No. 384)
asked the Minister for
External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The United States cannot foretell at this stage whether this maximum figure would be reached. The rest and recreation programme is scheduled to begin in October, initially using Sydney only, on the basis of about 2,500 personnel each month. 2 and 3. Rest and recreation personnel will be confined to a pre-embarkation centre for 24 hours before departure from Vietnam, during which time their inoculation certificates will be checked and physical tests taken for the presence of any communicable diseases. Any personnel whose inoculation certificates are not up to date or who are found or thought to be suffering from any infectious disease will not be permitted to proceed on rest and recreation leave. This procedure has been accepted by the Commonwealth Department of Health.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Consideration is being given to proposals to develop a pre-fabricated medical evacuation unit, which can be fitted to or removed from Hercules C130E aircraft. Ohe overseas proposal has been received and evaluated, but it has not been adopted. Local development and production proposals are being made by the Government Aircraft Factory and these will be fully examined.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
Statistics of sales tax collections are not classified according to the geographical area mentioned and do not, therefore, disclose the information sought by the honourable member.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
Income tax statistics extracted from returns lodged’ by taxpayers are not dissected according to Zones A or B and do . not, therefore, reveal the details sought by the honourable member.
Pay-roll Tax (Question No. 440)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice: c
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
Pay-roll tax statistics extracted from returns lodged by employers arc not classified according to Zones A and B. Available statistics do not, therefore, reveal the information sought by the honourable member.
asked the Minister for Primary industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Hon. Ian Sinclair, Minister for Social Services and Minister assisting the Minister for Trade and Industry.
Mr A. J. Campbell, Deputy Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry.
Mr A. P. Fleming, Special Commercial Adviser, Australia House, London.
Mr J. Makowski, Senior Trade Relations Officer, Australia House, London.
Dr W. A. T. Summerville, Queensland Government Agent-General in London.
Mr P. T. Wheen, Assistant . General Manager, Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd (export agents for the Sugar Board) - as adviser on technical aspects of sugar marketing.
At the conference there was a full and confidential exchange of views on the likely effect of British entry into the European Economic Community on imports into Britain of sugar from those countries which are parties to the C.S.A. Representatives of the cane growers organisations were present at discussions with Mr McEwen, Mr McMahon, Mr Sinclair and myself plus officials of our Departments before Mr Sinclair departed for. London to lead the Government mission to the conference. Representatives of the cane growers organisations have of course been fully informed on a confidential basis, following Mr Sinclair’s return, of the outcome of the discussions at the conference.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What is the retail price of sugar in (a) Hobart, (b) Perth, (c) Bundaberg, (d) Mackay and (e) Cairns?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Sugar Agreement’ Axes the maximum refined sugar price to manufacturers and wholesalers at specified cities. Neither the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Government nor the sugar industry has any control over retail refined sugar prices which are established solely by free competition on retail outlets.
The current retail prices, as ascertained by observing prices offered in a limited number or shops in each location are as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Are the profits or losses of sugar refining companies taken into the calculations of the Government when determining the domestic price of sugar in Australia? If not, why not?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:.
Yes, in so far as the results relate to the activities of these companies in respect of sugar refining, it being appreciated that these companies have other significant interests apart from sugar refining. See also the answer to Question 461.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The overall profits and/or losses of these companies are available by a perusal of the companies’ published accounts. As mentioned in the answer to Question 460, it is however important to note that both companies are engaged in a number of activities other than sugar refining. The published profits and/or losses of these companies are consolidated figures taking into account the results of these other activities, and are therefore’ not relevant to the question asked by the honourable member.
Under the’ longstanding arrangements by which the two refining companies manufacture Aus-‘ tralian refined sugar requirements, these companies agree annually with the Queensland
Government the charges to cover the costs of the refining services provided. These charges are based on the refiners’ accounts which are subject to annual audit by the Queensland Government. The actual charges on a year to year basis are normally confidential to the Queensland Government and the refiners. However in the context of the recent discussions between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government relating to the rise in the domestic sugar price, certain information was provide to this Government on refining costs, on a strictly confidential basis, which gave an up to date picture of Australian refining costs.
I may add that the Sugar Enquiry Committes appointed by the Commonwealth Government in 1960 closely examined refining cost information which was disclosed partly publicly and partly on a confidential basis to the committee. While it was not possible to publish the committee’s report in full because it - properly - drew heavily on confidential information, a summary of conclusions was published which included the following:
There is no evidence of inefficiency in any section of the industry. There is on the contrary evidence that there has been no relaxation of efforts further to improve efficiency.’
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What are the names of the sugar refining companies in Australia, and what proportion of total sugar produced in the last 5 years is manufactured by these companies?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The names of the companies refining sugar in Australia are:
The Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd.
The Millaquin Sugar Co. Ltd.
The following statistics of sugar sales over the requested 5 year period reflect an accurate picture of proportions produced by each company over the same period.
SUGAR SALES BY C.S.R. AND MILLAQUIN
Five Years 1962-63 to 1966-67
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Has the Government undertaken any investigation of the refining costs of raw sugar in the last 10 years? If not, why not?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In1960 the Government appointed a Sugar Inquiry Committee chaired by the late Sir Mortimer McCarthy, a former Chairman of the Tariff Board, to investigate all aspects of the sugar industry. Two of the terms of reference of this committee were as. follows:
changes which have taken place in the sugar industry since the report of the 1952 Sugar Inquiry Committee was considered by the Government; 2. the cost of production of sugar; the cost of distribution of raw and’ refined sugars and profits and prices received by the raw sugar millers and growers for their commodity;’ In response to these terms of reference, the larger of the two refining companies submitted extensive evidence on refining costs of raw sugar at its refineries in Australia at the time of the inquiry. Information was also submitted for comparative purposes on costs of raw sugar refining in a number of overseas countries. Much of this evidence was tendered by the refining company, and accepted by the committee, on a confidential basis.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
In fixing the price of sugar under the terms of the domestic sugar agreement, how did the Government arrive at the cost of production of raw and refined sugar and/or the increase in production costs since the last price increase?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In regard to the recently announced price of refined sugar established under the terms of the sugar agreement, information on costs of production of raw and refined sugar was provided by the industry and examined by the Government.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Is the Federal Government’s Lability to underwrite cane growers’ returns to an equivalent of cost of production by means of the home consumption price confined to the volume of mill peak sugar of approximately 1,300,000 tons as applying at the time when the current agreement was negotiated, or does it apply to the increased mill peak figure of approximately 2,200,000 torn?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The honourable member has made specific reference to cane growers’ returns. There is not and never has been any undertaking by the Commonwealth or the Queensland Government relating to cane growers’ returns as distinct from industry returns.
In my reply to a previous question asked by the honourable member in August 1966 (Hansard, 18th August 1966, page 256) I set out the position of the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments in relation to supporting industry proceeds. This position is unchanged. In particular the Commonwealth has not been asked to extend to the increased production the cover provided for production costs under previous arrangements,
I would only add that this Government has devoted and is continuing to devote considerable attention to the sugar industry. The most recent illustration of the Government’s concern for the sugar industry was contained in the Budget. ment for an extension of the domestic sugar agreement- and the increase in the retail price of sugar as recently announced?
If so, is this amending legislation necessary because of inadequate provisions in the Act authorising the current domestic sugar agreement?
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
I confirm that, as the honourable member’s question implies, the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the State of Queensland have agreed upon the variation and extension for an interim period of one year of the sugar agreement that expires on 31 August 1967. Although the agreement in this case is not conditional on the ratification of Parliament, it is the intention that legislation to approve the further agreement will, in conformity with the past practice in relation to the sugar agreements, be introduced into Parliament.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
If so: (a), under what Commonwealth powers is this action possible;
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
As these questions seek legal opinions, I refer the honourable member to standing order 144.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
How many clubs had to pay income tax in each State and Territory in each of the Hist five years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Separate statistics have not been maintained in respect of clubs. Many clubs are specifically exempt from income tax on the ground of being established for musical purposes, or for the encouragement of music, art, science, literature, or an athletic game or athletic sport in which human beings are the sole participants. Statistics are available in respect of taxable non-profit companies which fall within the category of ‘Amusement, Sport, Recreation’ - a technical classification that would include social and racing clubs. The number of such companies in each State and Territory was, during the last five years for which figures have been collated, as follows:
Australian Tourist Commission (Question No. 560)
asked the Minister in charge of Tourist Activities:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
. The names of the voting members of the Australian Tourist Commission and their places of residence are:
Mr Bates ; engaged in travel industry for 48 years; member of Board of Australian National Travel Association since 1954 and Chairman from 1956 to 1967.
Mr Greenway ; engaged in tourist industry since 1951; Managing Director of largest accommodation company in Australia; Vice-President of Australian Accommodation Council; member of Board of the Australian National Travel Association since 1961.
Mr Shaul ; connected with tourist industry for 30 years; graduate of Ecole Hoteliere, Lausanne, Switzerland and Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, United States of America; member of Board of ANTA since 1959.
– Travelled extensively overseas; long experience in journalism, including assembly, presentation and dissemination of information.
Mr Williams ; Assistant Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry responsible for tourist activities; member of Board of ANTA since 1964.
Mr Gaven; Director, New South Wales Department of Tourist Activities since 1960 and previously Deputy Director, member of Board of ANTA since 1961.
Mr Southey ; Director, Tasmanian Government Tourist and Immigration Department since 1964; connected with tourism promotion for only 3 years; member of Board of ANTA since 1964.
Smuggling of Drugs
– On 31st August the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Lee) asked the following question:
I understand that the nature of the Sydney waterfront presents difficulties in the control of smuggling. In view of the reported growth of drug addiction in that city can the Minister assure the House, firstly, that there is sufficient control over people who would be able to bring small packages ashore from the many ships which tie up around the harbour; secondly, that there are adequate customs checks of aircrafts and aircrews moving in and out of Australia; and, thirdly, that penalties are sufficiently severe to make it widely known throughout the world that it is most unprofitable to attempt to bring dangerous drugs into this country?
The Minister for Customs and Excise has supplied the following information:
Honourable members are no doubt aware of the recent and continuing extension and reorganisation of the Prevention and Detection Service of the Department of Customs and Excise.
I assure honourable members that both the Sydney waterfront and airport are constantly patrolled to apprehend any person illegally importing goods.
As a further stage in the development of the prevention and detection service, this week another 44 officers have commenced training in Sydney, and this number includes 4 females - the first female Preventive Officers to be employed in that port.
Honourable members will recall that during the last session of Parliament, legislation was passed which not only increased penalties generally, but which also set particularly high penalties for narcotic drug offences. The maximum penalty for these offences is now a fine of $4,000 or 10 years imprisonment, or both a fine and imprisonment.
I am confident that an efficient prevention and detection service, supported by the imposition of appropriate penalties, is capable of establishing for Australia the reputation to which the honourable member refers.
Western Australian Airports: Night Landing Facilities (Question No. 451)
asked the Minister for Civil
Aviation, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
At Jandakot runway lights have been available since February 1965, and a radio Non-Directional Beacon (NDB) is scheduled for completion in January 1968.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 September 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670905_reps_26_hor56/>.