26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr BOWEN presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Government convey as urgently as possible its belief to our American allies that all aspects of the war in Vietnam should be intensified while pursuing a policy of no compromise at the current Paris talks.
A similar petition from certain electors of the Division of Maranoa was presented by Mr Corbett.
Petition received and read.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Trade and Industry, with particular accent on his industry responsibility. I refer to the Commonwealth-State Committee of Officials set up nearly 4 years ago to study means of effecting better decentralisation of industry and population. I understand that the Committee has met only twice and I recall that the right honourable gentleman some time ago likened the Committee to a slow boat to China. Can he ascertain, after all this time, whether the boat has sunk and if so whether it has taken’ with it any hope of new Commonwealth initiatives in achieving more balanced development of industry and population?
– The activity in this respect is a joint Commonwealth-States activity. If the honourable member will put his question on the notice paper, I will obtain what information I can for him.
– Is the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs aware of the recent appointment of an Aboriginal, Mr Andrew Coulthard, of Leigh Creek in South Australia, as a warden among his people? I believe that this appointment deserves the congratulations of this Parliament’. His duties include inspection, supervision and protection of Aboriginal works of art, such as cave paintings, carvings, sacred places, etc. Has the Minister the power to appoint other Aboriginals throughout Australia to such positions? If not, will he include this matter as a discussion item at the forthcoming meeting of State Ministers responsible for Aboriginal affairs with the object of making further such appointments of these people to positions of responsibility?
– I am aware of this appointment only by reports but in common with other members of the House I received the news with the greatest gratification. The appointment was made, I understand, under South Australian law. The policy of my office will be to give employment in responsible positions to Aboriginal people. At the present moment, the funds to do this have not yet been made available but, as soon as they are available, this is one of the matters which we shall pursue.
May I say in passing that at a recent conference of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, the matter of employment of some of the Aboriginals who were in the correct ritual relationship to these sacred sites was discussed. This should be considered as a means not only of giving them employment and recognising their authority but also of preserving by retouching in the traditional way the paintings which would otherwise irreparably deteriorate. Honourable members may know that this has been a traditional practice for centuries and even millennia among Aboriginals. The recognition of and assistance to this practice by governmental authorities may be of advantage not only to the Aboriginals but also for the preservation of these very remarkable works of art.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Navy. Is any naval patrol vessel to be posted at Cairns, Thursday Island or Weipa? If so, when?
– No definite arrangements have been made to post any of the patrol craft at the three ports mentioned by the honourable member.
– I direct a question to the -Attorney-General. Is there any legislation in force in the Australian Capital
Territory to regulate the disposition of trust funds by solicitors and estate agents, similar to that in force in the States of Australia? If not, does the Attorney-General agree that such legislation is highly desirable, and that members of the public may be deprived of a very necessary protection against defalcation in its absence? If so, will the AttorneyGeneral inform the House how long it is likely to be before such legislation is promulgated?
– At present there is no law in the Territory governing this matter. This is something that I have had under consideration for some time. I have had a number of conferences with representatives of the Law Society. Following the last conference I had with them, we have been working on instructions for a draft ordinance to control not only this particular matter but also the legal profession generally in the A.C.T. The audit and trust provisions will be only part of this ordinance. This is a very substantial task, and we need constantly to be in touch with the Law Society and, indeed, to some extent, with the local Bar Association. My officers are keeping in touch with the local profession. But it is difficult to forecast how long it will take to complete the draft; indeed, it will depend to some extent on the availability of drafting staff. However, I hope that before 6 months expire the ordinance will be promulgated.
– In the absence of the Minister for Civil Aviation, my question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. I ask the right honourable gentleman whether the Department of Civil Aviation has any record of the number of flights to and from Lord Howe Island that have been cancelled or delayed this year. Is he aware that during the recess I was delayed for 4 days in Sydney when trying to get to the island to report to my constituents on the progress of my representations for the provision of an airstrip on the island? Is it true that the Minister for Civil Aviation, before leaving Australia earlier this week, announced that satisfactory arrangments had been made with the New South Wales Government for the construction of a strip capable of taking Fokker aircraft? If so, will the Acting Prime Minister provide me with a copy of the
Minister’s statement and convey my personal thanks and the thanks of the people of Lord Howe Island to the Minister for Civil Aviation for finally, after 15 years, heeding my plea?
– I am not aware of how many flights have been cancelled, but I shall ascertain the facts and inform the honourable member. Also, I was not aware that the honourable member had been detained in Sydney for several days by the lack of airline facilities. There is nothing I can do about that, but I am glad to receive the honourable member’s thanks to the Government for the construction of the airstrip on Lord Howe Island.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say when the Western Australian section of the micro-wave link between Western Australia and the eastern States will be completed and in service? Also, can he say whether when this section is completed it will enable a coast to coast telephone service to operate without the call delays that are now being experienced?
– It is expected that the east to west micro-wave link will be completed at. the end of 1969. I believe there will then be no delays but, of course, this depends on the increase in traffic and our ability to harness the various voice channels to meet it. I believe, however, that there will be no delays after the micro-wave link is established at the end of next year.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. I remind the Minister that on 14th May, in answer to a question asked after the publication of Press reports that he was unwilling to receive a deputation from the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation, he said that he would not willingly slight any pensioner organisation or any pensioner. Since that date has the Minister received from the Federation two letters, one dated 14th May and the other dated 30th May, seeking an interview with him? Is it a fact that he has not acknowledged receipt of those letters? Do these facts indicate the Minister’s real attitude towards pensioners?
– I shall make Inquiries about the two letters to which the honourable gentleman has referred. As he will realise, ray diary has been somewhat full of late. I have had to defer the making of some definite appointments until the business of this House is concluded. When the date of our rising is clear - it is not clear even today - I shall finalise a number of pending appointments with the utmost celerity so that I may see the people to whom the honourable gentleman has referred. He will realise that until the House has decided when it will rise it is not possible to make firm appointments, as I intend to do.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply a question about Government aircraft factories at Fishermens Bend and Avalon. Can a further statement on the future of these factories be made before the House rises for the recess? If the aircraft production programme is complete, is any alternative work likely to be available for the dwindling number of skilled personnel now employed in the factories?
– My colleague, the Minister for Supply,- has made a number of statements recently about the effects on Commonwealth aircraft factories of the approaching completion of the Mirage programme. Following representations, a conference was held last week between the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Supply, the Minister for Labour and National Service and representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in order to discuss this matter. After the conference a Press statement was released. I could make available to the honourable member a copy of that Press statement, together with copies of other statements made by the Minister for Supply. The Government is concerned about the situation that has existed over many years in the aircraft industry in Australia, particularly the problems that have, arisen from the introduction of a new programme, and delay, after its completion, before another programme can be introduced. I will be happy to make available to the honourable member such information on this matter as I can obtain.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration a question. The honourable gentleman will be aware that many migrants eligible for naturalisation have not as yet applied to be naturalised. Will he request managements of business undertakings and industrial plants to issue to migrant employees circulars setting out the many advantages of becoming naturalised, particularly the eligibility of naturalised persons to obtain certain social service benefits?
– When a person comes to a country as a settler the greatest privilege the country can give to the newcomer is citizenship. So, while we greatly encourage immigrants to apply for citizenship, we ourselves make the decision as to whether we will grant it. I will look into the suggestion that circulars should be sent to migrants through their employers.
– In some cases this has already been done.
– My immediate reaction to the proposal is not to favour it, because already the “ Department of Immigration sends to each migrant after he has resided in the country for 4i years, bearing in mind that he will be eligible for citizenship after 5 years residence, a letter drawing attention to citizenship and its privileges. As for the final part of the- question, relating to eligibility for social service benefits hinging on citizenship, if the honourable gentleman will give me details of what he has in mind I will be glad to look into the matter.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister recall meeting an objection to trade with Communist China by declaring that in his view there was no example in history where the political attitudes of a country were influenced by departing from normal trading relations? Does he still hold to that view7 If that be the case, can he give the House an assurance that the futile and illegal trade sanctions against Rhodesia will not be followed by the Australian Government?
– I do not recall making such a statement. I do recall making the statement that 1 had no knowledge of sane-, tions upon foodstuffs being the means of achieving an effective political result.
– My question, which 1 address to the Minister for Education and Science, is prompted by the annual report of the Chancellor of the University of Melbourne which was released yesterday and in which it is stated that the number of research students at that university this year is less than half the number last year and that the number next year will have to be less still. Is the University receiving less for special research grant purposes during the present 1967-69 triennium than it received during the preceding triennium? Is it a fact more particularly that the Commonwealth offered to provide half the grant of $1,800,000 recommended by the Austraiian Universities Commission and thereby recognised both that the University needed that amount and that the Commonwealth had some responsibility to provide it? Further, is it a fact that the Victorian Government provided $250,000 more than its share and that the Commonwealth provided nothing? Finally, is it true that as a result of the Commonwealth’s action the amount available to the University through the special research grant is $1,010,000 less than the amount recommended by the Commission and $390,000 less than the amount the Commonwealth itself recognised as necessary?
-The Leader of the Opposition has revived a question that was asked when similar statements were made earlier in this session. Research funds for universities come from three sources. They come from special funds made available now wholly by the Commonwealth through the Australian Research Grants Committee. It should be pointed out in relation to funds made available through this Committee that in the first year of the Committee’s operations in the 1964-66 triennium the Commonwealth and the States shared equally. The States themselves decided that for the current triennium they would not finance what had become their half share of the funds made available through the ARGC. Other finance has been made available through special research funds. And, of course, the universities have the ability to allot moneys, which are not inconsiderable, from their own general recurrent funds, for research purposes. These are the three sources of funds for university research.
It- is correct1 to say that at the beginning of this triennium agreement was reached that certain moneys would be made available through the ARGC and through special funds. The Commonwealth initially offered to make available half of each fund; the distinction being that ARGC funds are allotted for a particular purpose, for a particular research worker of note, because of the excellence of his project and the excellence of his own work, and the general funds are made available as block funds to universities to use as they see fit. Originally the Commonwealth and the States were each to contribute half of both these funds. When the States decided that they would not make their half of the ARGC funds available the Commonwealth undertook to pay the whole of the ARGC funds and in so doing actually increased the total funds that it was to make available for research under the other arrangements. I will get the precise figures for the honourable gentleman. I think I had them prepared earlier in this session for a Press statement that I released. They will show quite clearly that the Commonwealth, in total, has made additional funds available to universities for research and that the funds being made available to the University of Melbourne, through the ARGC funds, are much larger than the funds made available to that university in the last triennium.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question supplementary to the one asked by the honourable member for Moreton. In view of the reply of the Acting Prime Minister, does he consider that steel and rare minerals from beach sands are edible commodities? Also, in view of the fact that Communist China is the third largest exporter of rice - it exports at a higher price per ton than we obtain for wheat - is it therefore necessary for that country to import wheat on account of shortage of food?
– When I answered the last question I was doing what I was asked to do, that is, endeavouring to recall an earlier statement I had made - no more and no less than that. I think that the honourable gentleman’s question, which referred to steel and other items, obviously relates to exports to Communist China. In this regard I repeat what J have said many times before, that the Australian Government conforms to the policy of all the western powers in respect of exports to Communist China. We export to Communist China what all the other western powers, except the United States of America export and we decline to export to Communist China all the items which the other western powers decline to export to Communist China. This, I think, is an explicable and satisfactory attitude of the Government. It is well known that the United States of America declines any trade whatever either way with Communist China.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I refer to invalid and service pensioners, male and female, who are below the age of 65 and 60 years respectively. 1 ask: Are the pensioners to whom I have referred entitled to the same income tax concessions as are available to age pensioners and other aged people under the age provision section of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act? If not. are they entitled to some similar concession? If again the answer is in the negative, can the Treasurer say why these people are denied a concession when, like the age pensioners, they are limited under the appropriate Acts to a maximum income and can therefore be no better off financially? Will the Treasurer examine the position with a view to either including invalid and service pensioners in the age allowance or granting a similar allowance in some other form, to have effect in respect of this year’s income?
– J am not sure of the right of invalid and service pensioners to the kind of deductions mentioned by the honourable member which are available to pensioners under the Social Services Act. I will look into the problem and give him an answer as soon as possible. In the last part of his question, the honourable member asks whether or not, in the event of finding that they are not entitled to these concessions, I will look at the matter before the presentation of the Budget. I will do so and the answer will be made known to him in the Budget.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he is aware of any proposal put forward by the United Kingdom Government for the transfer to Australia of control of the British Solomon Islands and other British dependencies in the Pacific and Indian Oceans? If he is aware of such a proposal, could he indicate what the Government’s reaction has been?
– I am not aware of any such proposal.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In 1963 did R. W. Miller and Co. Pty Ltd purchase overseas and import, free of duty, oil tankers for the carriage of petroleum around the Australian coast? Since 1963 have all foreign owned oil companies imported, duty free, foreign built tankers to carry their petroleum products around the Australian coast? Did the former Ministers for Shipping and Transport - the honourable members for Corio and Forrest - give honourable members an assurance that if oil companies were given permission to import oil tankers then they would have to place an order with an Australian shipyard for a replacement? Is it correct that since that time only the BP Tanker Co. Ltd and the Shell Oil Co. have placed orders for a ship with an Australian shipyard? Is it true that at the present time there are 1 1 foreign built tankers operating off the Australian coast, ships of a total tonnage of about 146,000 tons. Mr Speaker, if the Minister is not aware of the information I will give him a list which has been prepared for me. I also ask the Minister: Has the Government changed its policy of requiring these companies to place orders for replacement tankers with an Australian shipyard? If the policy has not been changed, can the Minister say when these oil companies are going to place an order with an Australian shipyard?
– I am very grateful to the honourable member for his offer to supplement the services available to the Department of Shipping and Transport. However, the figures I have do not coincide altogether with those he read to the House. I understand that the dead weight tonnage of tankers now operating off the Australian coast is something in excess of 200,000 tons. As to the remainder of his question, it is true that the Government has required that orders be placed with Australian shipyards for the building of tankers to replace those being used at this stage by overseas operators. I am advised that two oil companies, to which the honourable member did not refer, intend placing orders some time before the end of this year.
– I address my question to the Acting Prime Minister and, if I may, I would like to express my personal horror at the irresponsible action yesterday which resulted in the shooting of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. I ask: Is the principle of parliamentary consent the basis of the Australian democratic process? Does this mean that the majority opinion must be respected, from one consensus of the opinion of the people to the next? If minority groups continue to demonstrate forcibly and to encourage civil disobedience, is this not the incipient start to the state of anarchy which has been witnessed in France and, indeed, in the United States of America recently? Finally, is the right honourable gentleman aware that during a recent debate in this House there were members of one party represented here who agreed that, under certain circumstances, the law should be disrespected?
– This is not a simple question to answer. It is quite accepted in this country, as in most other democratic countries, that the will of the majority of the people is expressed at parliamentary elections by the choice of the party or parties to form the government. This principle is accepted, but it does not mean that those who are not successful in an election, or those who have views differing from those of a government but who have not contested an election, do not have the right to protest or to be articulate. This right is an essential part of the democratic system. However, if the protest reaches, or threatens to reach, dimensions calculated to overthrow the democratically elected government, democracy itself is threatened. Therefore, proper steps should be taken to keep protests under control.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. Concern has been expressed, by an industry within my district which employs a large body of female labour, at the attempts by the Tariff Board & take over government policy and to assume the responsibilies of government. I ask the right honourable gentleman: If this is a fact, will the Government assume its proper responsibility for tariff policy in an attempt to prevent the closing down of such an industry?
– I know of no action or intended action by the Tariff Board which could be in any sense described as an attempt to take over the functions of government. The function of the Board is quite clear. The Board is a statutory body appointed by the Parliament for the purpose of giving advice to the Parliament .and to a government, lt is quite within the province of the Government, by executive action, or of the Parliament, by statutory action, to accept entirely or in modified form the advice of the Board or to disregard that advice. The Board is a highly respected and completely independent advisory body. But it is an advisory body, not a policy making body.
– I direct a question to tha Minister for External Affairs. Have ethical considerations disappeared from international diplomacy, with nations shaping their attitudes according to expediency and power diplomacy? Is Australia too small a country to set a new example to the peoples of the world by taking diplomatic decisions according to the merits of a case rather than as a result of international duress?
– I think that in reaching decisions on matters of international relations, each government pays regard to the particular needs and the particular interests of its own country and its own people. Qf course, in doing that, some governments may have a point of reference in certain established conventions of international conduct and certain principles of human relations, whereas other governments may have a different point of reference. So far as Australia is concerned, in making decisions on our international relations we put first and foremost the needs and interests of Australia and the Australian people. In order to ensure that these needs and interests are best served, we try to apply the standards and conventions of international conduct which we believe should be upheld. We also try to apply those principles governing human relations which we believe to have been established and well founded over the centuries of civilisation.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Newcastle. How many companies operate oil tankers on the Australian coast? How many of these companies have placed orders for tankers to be built in Australian shipyards? When is it expected that the remaining companies will comply with the Government’s policy and place orders for the construction of tankers in Australian shipyards?
– From a brief analysis of the tonnage figures that we have, it would appear that five overseas oil companies operate tankers on the Australian coast and two of these, the Shell Company of Australia Ltd, and BP Australia Ltd, to which the honourable member for Newcastle previously referred, have already had tankers built in Australian shipyards. It is thought that two others will place orders before the end of this year. If there should be any further information to supplement this answer. 1 will be glad to provide it lo the Leader of the Opposition after I have had an opportunity to examine the statistics further.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. During the framing of the Budget will the right honourable gentleman consider providing a fund to enable long-term low interest loans to be made available to primary producers who are in difficult financial circumstances due to prolonged drought and, in some instances, depressed prices and who in the light of the now favourable seasonal conditions could rehabilitate themselves only if long-term low interest loans were available to them? If so, will the Treasurer also consider the formation of a special section of the Commonwealth Bank to undertake the administration of such a fund?
– Some time ago I made a statement to the House pointing out what the Government had already done m order to assist primary producers who were affected by drought. One of the provisions made by the Government has been that at the end of the drought it will make funds available to State governments to enable primary producers to restock their properties. In cases in which State governments have given undertakings for this financial year which involve liabilities continuing into the next financial year, the Commonwealth Government will, of course, honour those undertakings. Secondly, not so long ago the Commonwealth did establish, or prevail upon the Reserve Bank to establish, a special fund which has been substantially strengthened in recent months in order to provide, for long term advances on reasonable terms to be made to primary producers. I understand that this fund is working satisfactorily and gradually the full amount of the money will be committed by the Reserve Bank. Nonetheless I will have a look at the problem raised by the honourable gentleman in the Budget context, and if it appears that something more should be done I can assure him it will receive sympathetic consideration.
– I desire to address a friendly question to the Acting Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister for Trade and Industry. Tt is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Bonython, and I preface it by saying I have received a telegram from a company in my district which says: 1 desire to lodge a strong protest at the Tariff Board’s attempts to classify industry: The Board’s actions are having serious effects on the confidence of directors of this and no doubt many other companies. Investment in industry cannot proceed with safety whilst a body not responsible to the electorate is able to publish a list which will result in the removal of tariff support for many industries.
-Order! The honourable member will frame his question.
– The broad terms of it are now known to the Minister for Trade. I now direct this question to him; Will he take the opportunity presented by the debate on a Customs Tariff Bill later today to inform the House on a number of problems that have arisen from the Tariff Board’s recent report? Will he say, firstly, whether additional members are to be appointed and, secondly, whether the Board is proceeding to classify industries in relation to the degree of protection they have? What is the condition of the motor car industry and how has it been affected by excessive imports of small cars?
– In the first place the Government has no intention of increasing the number of members of the Tariff Board specified in the existing statute. The honourable member asks about the position of the motor car industry. Certain facts were pointed out to. the Japanese motor car exporters in the presence of officials of the Japanese Ministry of International Trade, and they have agreed to amend their accounting and other practices so that it is expected that the price of Japanese cars in this country will rise without the tariff being altered in any way and that the Australian motor car manufacturing industry will then be stabilised. I think it is accepted that this will have the stabilising effect on the Australian motor car manufacturing industry that was expected to operate under the level of tariff that the Parliament has approved.
In respect of the other pertinent part of the honourable member’s question, it is true that in its last annual report the Tariff Board intimated that it intended - I hope I do not do it an injustice in this description - to classify industries as highly protected industries, as industries with medium protection and as industries enjoying a low or lower level of protection. The Board has not to my knowledge acted on this yet. Very strong observations have been made by industry, asserting that there is danger in this. Speaking in the Parliament on the last annual report, I pointed out that there were, if not dangers, consequences that could conceivably follow such a practice. I now say quite frankly that in my view to name and identify industries without normal review as industries requiring a high level of protection might well have the effect of deterring further investment in those industries and might well influence the value of the shares of such industries on the stock exchange. In the practice of this Government, these are consequences that we studiously attempt to avoid. I have no doubt that’ those people who fear that this may be a result will make their fears known, as 1 assume they have already made them known to the honourable member for Grayndler. This matter may well be raised and discussed in the Parliament, and I have no doubt that the Tariff Board, being a very responsible body, will carefully study the observations that are made about its views. That is where the matter stands at present. The honourable member referred to problems within the Tariff Board. I am not aware of any.
by leave - In his speech opening this session of Parliament, His Excellency the Governor-General indicated that it was the Government’s intention to introduce legislation to improve the scheme of compensation for death and injury which is applicable to employees of the Commonwealth. During the Budget session last year, in the course of his second reading speech on the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1967, the Minister responsible for the carriage of the Bill in another place said that it was the Government’s intention to introduce a further, and much larger, amending Bill during this autumn session. I regret to inform the House that, because of a number of unforeseen difficulties which arose during the review of the compensation legislation by a committee of Ministers and later during the drafting stage, it has not been possible to complete the drafting of a Bill that could be introduced during the present session of Parliament. However, honourable members will, I think, be interested in the changes that are proposed in this legislation, and it is therefore appropriate that I should inform the House in some detail of the contents of the proposed compensation Bill which the Government expects to submit to the House during the Budget session.
Let me first say that the Ministers on the committee spared no pains in dealing with the task that was allotted to them. They devoted a great deal of time and thought to it and. as a result, their review of this legislation involving consideration of the principles underlying the other legislation in this sphere and the practices of the respective administering authorities, has been the most comprehensive and wide ranging in the history of the Act since its inception in 1930. The proposed Bill will reject this, in that a completely new piece of legislation will be brought before the House and not merely a Bill comprising a series of patchwork amendments to the existing legislation. The Government believes that the new Bill will make the Commonwealth legislation in some ways the most beneficial piece of legislation in this field and fully comparable with State legislation in most respects.
Before proceeding to outline some of the improvements in existing benefits that are proposed and the new benefits that the Government intends to introduce, I want to mention the Government’s proposals to vary the form of administration of the Act and the appeals provisions. In relation to the first of these the most significant change proposed is to establish the office of Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation as a fulltime statutory office in lieu of the existing arrangements under which the office of Commissioner is vested in the Secretary to the Treasury. Associated with this change it is proposed, as was announced by His Excellency the Governor-General, that the ministerial responsibility for the administration of this legislation be transferred to my colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). As to appeals, at present a claimant may appeal from a decision of the Commissioner to a county court and thence to the High Court of Australia. As an alternative to the existing appeal to a county court in the first instance, review of claims by a special appeal tribunal will be provided. There will then be a further appeal from the decision of an appeal tribunal or a county court to the Commonwealth Industrial Court, where it is envisaged that the appeal would be to a single judge, except when the Chief Judge directs that the matter be heard by a full bench of that Court. A further and final appeal from a decision of the Commonwealth Industrial Court will lie to the High Court, but only by leave of that Court.
I come now to the improvements in benefits and the new benefits that are proposed. Several of these will be of considerable assistance to the family man. Provision is to be made for the allowance for a dependent child, that at present ceases when a child attains the age of 16 years, to be paid for a student child of either a deceased or an incapacitated employee up to the age of 21 years. Provision is also to be made for payment of the respective allowances in respect of post-injury dependants, that is, the wife and children of a marriage contracted by an employee subsequent to his injury. At present the allowances are not payable for such dependants. In regard to medical expenses and medical treatment, it is proposed, as was foreshadowed during the debate on the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1967, to repeal the provision which specifies that a maximum amount is payable by way of medical expenses. It is further proposed to remove the existing restriction on payment of expenses incurred in travelling to receive medical treatment. At present, reimbursement of such expenses is made only if the employee travels by ambulance or between places not less than 15 miles apart. Moreover, the definition of ‘medical treatment’ is to be extended to include treatment and maintenance of an employee while he is a patient at a rehabilitation centre operated by the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service, ft seems to me appropriate to mention here that provision is to be made for reimbursment of the cost of repair or replacement of artificial members and artificial aids damaged or destroyed as the result of an accident, regardless of whether the employee suffers personal injury in the accident.
The classes of persons eligible for the benefits of the legislation will be extended. For example, compensation will be payable to persons injured while travelling to or from a pick-up centre or while attending a pick-up centre and who were previously employed by the Commonwealth, after engagement under the pick-up system, and have not subsequently been engaged by another employer. Holders of statutory offices, members of Commonwealth authorities, members of committees appointed by the Government, some of whom render service to the Commonwealth for little or no remuneration, and certain classes of voluntary workers such as bush fire fighters in the Australian Capital Territory, will become eligible for benefits under the Act. The schedule of specified injuries - at present the Third Schedule - will be modified to eliminate the existing distinction that is maintained between left and right upper limbs. That is, the amount now payable for the loss of a right arm, hand, etc., will also be paid if an employee suffers the loss of his left arm, hand, etc. Provision will be made for lump sum compensation for the loss of the power of speech, for facial disfigurement and for the loss of genital organs or complete and permanent loss of sexual function.
Two other changes are proposed in the method of assessing compensation for specified injuries. The first relates to com’pensation for loss of sight and will mean that compensation paid for loss of sight as a result of an earlier injury will not be taken into account when calculating the compensation payable for the total loss of remaining sight resulting from a later COm.pensatable injury.- The second change will vary the present requirement that-, when an injury results in the permanent but partial loss of efficient use of a part of the body, the assessment of the degree of partial loss of efficient use must be made in relation to the employee’s employment at the time of the injury. Instead, it is proposed to pro: vide for the assessment to be based on the degree of diminution of use of the affected part’, except where an assessment on the basis of loss of efficient use in relation to the employment at the time of the injury would provide a greater benefit for the employee. In most cases these changes will permit larger lump sums to be paid than is now possible.
The Act currently provides in a number of places for claims to be determined by the Commissioner exercising a discretion, and from such decisions there is no appeal to the Court. For example, the present law gives the Commissioner such a discretion in cases arising out of travel during or after any substantial interruption of an employees journey to or from his employment, or any substantial deviation from the shortest convenient route for the journey. The Commissioner is empowered to accept liability if he considers that in the. particular circumstances of any case, the nature, extent, degree and content of the risk of accident was not materially changed or increased by reason only of a substantial interruption or deviation. Under the proposed Bill, however, it will be possible for a dissatisfied claimant to appeal from any such discretionary decision of the Commissioner. While on the subject of legal proceedings I think I should mention also that it is proposed to specify 3 years in lieu of 12 months as the time within which an employee - or his dependants in the case of death - may commence proceedings for damages against the Commonwealth after having received compensation under the Act.
A considerable number of other changes are proposed but I prefer not to go into them in detail at this stage. Some are only of a minor nature, .but they will, nevertheless, remove anomalies. Others are more or less machinery amendments designed to facilitate the administration of the Act. -
I wish to thank four Ministers of the Government for the assistance they have given me in preparing the elements to be incorporated in the Bill to be. brought before this House. These proposals have been under consideration for almost 18 months and a tremendous amount of work has been put into the preparation of the Bill, to make it a model for the guidance of State governments and, I believe, governments in other parts of the world. In particular I would like to mention the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) and the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen), each of whom has played a part in the preparation of the legislation.
– What about my speeches? .
– I know of nobody better able to- blow his own trumpet than the honourable member for Hindmarsh. I thank the Ministers to whom’ I have referred for the co-operation and help that I have received from them. I hope that when the legislation comes before the House honourable members will recognise the part that those Ministers have played in what I regard as a benevolent and humanitarian piece of legislation.
– by leave - I am pleased that at long last the promised amendments to this important Act are to be introduced. There has been a lot of delay in presenting these long promised amendments. That delay stands to the discredit of the Government. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has stated that he expects to submit these amendments to the House in the next Budget sessional period. 1 sincerely hope that there will not be any further delay in this matter. In his second reading speech on the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1967 - I led for the Opposition in the debate on that measure - the honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson), who was then Minister assisting the Treasurer, said:
I am happy to be able to inform (he House that the Government has now virtually completed its examination of the many other proposals for amendment of the Act put forward by honourable members and other interested parties in recent years, and it is hoped that it will be possible to introduce amending legislation giving effect to the Government’s decisions before the end of this session.
That was more than 6 months ago. It looks as though 12 months will have passed before the amendments are made. The other proposals which were referred to when the Bill was introduced last year include amendments that were proposed by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) when the Act was amended in 1964. The honourable member formally moved those amendments on behalf of the Opposition without putting them to a vote, because he had received an assurance from the Treasurer of the day that the amendments would be further considered during the next parliamentary recess. That was almost 4 years ago. Now the Treasurer is not prepared to give credit to the honourable member for Hindmarsh but I pay a tribute to the honourable member for what he did on that occasion. Speaking in the debate on the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill on 11th November 1964 the then Treasurer, the late Mr Harold Holt, referred to the work that had been done on this matter by the honourable member for Hindmarsh and said:
Hs has circulated a considerable number of amendments. I had already taken the opportunity of .studying them and I was in a position to assure him that these matters would be further considered during the forthcoming recess.
In the same debate the honourable member for Hindmarsh said:
I now intimate, on behalf of my colleagues, that we shall merely propose our amendments in order that they may be officially recorded, but we shall not press to a division the vote on any of th;m. May I express our appreciation of the Treasurer’s handling of the situation.
Since that time the handling of the situation has left much to be desired. There has been too much delay in dealing with this matter. The subject of workers compensation has been raised on many occasions by way of question and we have always been told that the legislation was just round the corner. We are hopeful that the Commonwealth will again lead the field in workers compensation legislation, as it once did. Today the Treasurer has indicated that this may be the case. We hope that the Commonwealth will break new ground and will establish new principles in providing compensation in respect of its employees injured or killed on duty. The Commonwealth legislation at present lags behind most State legislation in many respects. The Treasurer has indicated that the new legislation will provide for reimbursement of the cost of repair or replacement of artificial limbs, artificial eyes, hearing aids and other artificial appliances damaged or destroyed as the result of an accident.
There are other matters which I sincerely hope the Treasurer will bear in mind. As a result of the recent decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the minimum weekly wage is now $37.55. Bearing in mind the principle that was adopted in fixing compensation payments under the 1964 legislation, the new rates of compensation should be related at least to the minimum wage of $37.55. In 1964 compensation was related to the then basic wage and is still related to the nonexistent basic wage, with the addition of $1, if I remember correctly.
Let me draw the Treasurer’s attention to this matter lest it be not covered in the legislation. I mention the case of a worker who was off duty with a hernia and who was accepted as eligible for compensation. He has a wife and one child, and was off duty with his injury for 13 weeks. Let us suppose that he earned $60 a week - a little less than the average adult wage. Under the existing legislation he would have received compensation of S33.80 a week. His loss of income would have been $26.20 a week. Over the 13 weeks during which he was off work he would have lost income amounting to S340.60. Such a loss of earnings can be a tremendous setback to a young married man, who has commitments to meet on his furniture and his home. Hire purchase companies have to be paid. The mortgage on the home has to be paid. A worker who is injured on duty should receive while off work his average weekly earnings. He should not be at a loss financially. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has adopted the principle that a worker who is deemed to be totally or partially incapacitated for work should be entitled to receive during the period of his incapacity the amount of weekly earnings that he would have received but .for his injury. No justifiable reason has been given to explain why a worker and his dependants must suffer a substantially reduced rate of earnings in circumstances where a worker is unable to work because of some injury or disease sustained in. the course of his employment. Frequently injured workers and their families suffer severe financial burdens when the breadwinner is incapacitated in this way. The Government not only has the basic responsibility to protect the worker against industrial hazards but also has a responsibility to ensure that when a worker is injured, he and his family are justly and fully compensated.
The principle of ‘reduced income’ embodied in the Act and in other legislation dealing with injuries to workers is not just. After a period of incapacity most workers find themselves in considerable debt for some time. It is not uncommon to hear of injured workers having to obtain personal loans from banks and other borrowing sources in order to make ends meet while they are incapacitated and off work. I have referred to the case of a man who was off duty with a hernia. After being off duty for 6 weeks he went on to accumulated sick leave for the balance of the 13 weeks during which he was off duty, because he could not afford to stay on the reduced rate of compensation provided for in the Act. All workers compensation legislation already has built in safeguards to ensure that only legitimate claims are met and that compensation payments are made only while the worker is actually incapacitated for work. Simple reasoning and humanity must react against the archaic principle of paying a worker less than the full rate of compensation.
– In some cases workers are not paid while they are incapacitated.
– That is true. The ACTU and the Australian Labor Party contend that the principle of no loss of income should prevail in this legislation and in all Commonwealth and Sate workers compensation law. The New South Wales legislature has proceeded well along the path towards recognising this principle in respect of those persons employed by two of the largest employers of labour in New South Wales - the Department of Government Transport and the Department of Railways. The New South Wales Parliament has enacted special industry legislation which provides workers compensation coverage. I refer to section 124 of the Transport Act and section 100b of the Railways Act. Those sections provide, in effect, that an employee who is so incapacitated by an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment as to be unable to perform the duties of his classification, shall be paid not less than the salary for the time being payable to an employee with the same classification and with the same length of service. There is also provision in the two industry Acts to which I have referred for the employee to elect, within 6 months of the accident, to come under the provisions of the New South Wales Workers Compensation Act. This no loss of pay principle has been introduced, by consent of the employers, to cover employees in the electricity distribution and generation industry in New South Wales. It applies also to employees of the Sydney County Council. While these employees come within the ambit of the New South Wales Workers Compensation Act, the employer correctly has deemed it proper that the difference between the compensation rates under the Act and the employee’s ordinary salary should be paid by the employer. This means that Che employers of some 80,000 workers in New South Wales alone already have embraced substantially the no loss of earnings principle in lieu of the unjustifiable reduced income principle for injured workers and their dependants.
I ask the Treasurer: How can the Commonwealth justify the fact that its employees engaged in some cases in substantially similar occupational groupings as their State counterparts, particularly in New South Wales, are denied the more favourable benefits which exist in almost every category of employment? At the recent congress of the Australian Council of Trade Unions certain measures were adopted to eliminate procedural difficulties. It seems to me that the Minister has covered at least some of these in the proposed amendments which we will be examining closely when the Bill is introduced. We believe that all workers compensation legislation throughout the States and the Commonwealth should be co-ordinated with the object of ensuring uniform benefits and payments to all workers. This is reasonable and surely it could be the subject of discussion at a Premiers Conference.I have raised this matter in the Parliament but on other occasions the Treasurer has not agreed to this proposal.
His Honour Mr Justice McGrath spoke about the co-ordination of workers compensation legislation before the Industrial Relations Society of New South Wales and he suggested uniform legislation. Will the Treasurer consider this aspect between now and the Budget session to see whether we can achieve uniformity throughout Australia? We welcome the opportunity to study the amendments that the Treasurer has indicated and we will welcome the introduction of the legislation.
Mr McMAHON (Lowe- Treasurer)by leave - When I was thanking members of the Ministry for the assistance they had given meI should have stated also that many honourable members had made valuable contributions and recommendations to the Government. So far as it has been within my capacity,I have read all the speeches and all the comments that have been made. In particular I should have said that the speeches made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde
Cameron) and the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) were considered in detail. I think they both will recognise that many of their recommendations are, in fact, incorporated in the Bill. I thank all honourable members who were able to give the valuable assistance that was given to me and which is reflected in the statement I have just read to the House.
Reports on Items
– I present reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Bed Sheets and Pillow Cases, etc. (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
The reports do not call for any legislative action.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– I present the following papers:
Fourth Commonwealth Education Conference held at Lagos, February-March 1968.
I ask for leave to make a statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honourable members may recall that previous Commonwealth education conferences were held at Oxford, New Delhi and Ottawa. The fourth conference, at Lagos, was attended by 150 delegates representing 24 countries. The Australian delegation was authorised to indicate that, if a fifth conference were to be held, Australia would be willing to act as host. This offer was accepted and on present planning the fifth conference will be held in Canberra in 1971. These conferences discuss ways in which Commonwealth countries may assist each other in developing education. They are of special importance to new countries.
From the conferences has developed a scheme of Commonwealth co-operation in education. The scheme is bilateral and has, essentially, two parts. The first is the Commonwealth scholarship and fellowship plan under which more than 1,000 students, mostly postgraduate, hold awards in Commonwealth countries. One hundred of these awards are provided by Australia. The second is an aid programme under which educational assistance, in the form of training and the services of experts, is provided for developing countries. Australia provides training for about 100 educators from developing countries each year in special courses suited to their particular need and Australia has, at any one time, some 20 educational experts helping developing Commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
Let me make one final observation. From the Australian point of view this scheme of Commonwealth co-operation in education is not only an international scheme in which we co-operate with other countries, it is also a scheme depending, in Australia, on co-operation between different education authorities. Our delegation included, in addition to Commonwealth officials, two DirectorsGeneral of Education and one university vice-chancellor. It included also an inspector of schools from Papua and New Guinea. The members of the delegation represented the Australian contributors both to the Commonwealth scholarship and fellowship plan and also to the aid programme under Commonwealth co-operation in education.
– by leave - Following detailed discussions with the States the Government has decided to establish an inquiry into salaries in colleges of advanced education. Honourable members are aware, from the legislation in support of colleges of advanced education which has passed through this House, of the heavy financial involvement that the Australian Government and the States have in supporting the capital and recurrent programmes of these colleges. In view of this it was felt that the time was opportune to initiate an examination of the salary levels on which the Commonwealth might base its offers of recurrent assistance to the States. The advice of the inquiry will, of course, be taken into account by the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education in framing its recommendations to the Government.
The terms of reference of the inquiry are as follows: To advise on salaries of lecturer and senior lecturer in colleges of advanced education having regard to present levels of academic and professional salaries in Australia, with a view to such advice being used by the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education as the basis for recommending grants for colleges of advanced education.
The inquiry will consist of a judicial figure who will be assisted by two assessors, on the lines of the inquiry into university salaries which was conducted by Mr Justice Eggleston in 1964.
Mr Justice C. A. Sweeney, a Deputy President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and a presidential member of the Trade Practices Tribunal, will have as assessors Mr H. H. Dickinson, a member of the Public Service Board of New South Wales, and Mr D. R. Zeidler, Executive Director at the Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited since 1962.
The Government realises the importance that must attach to the responsibilities of the States on this question of academic salaries and, therefore, the inquiry will give all States complete opportunity to have their points of view made known. The two assessors to assist Mr Justice Sweeney were nominated by New South Wales and Victoria respectively. The inquiry will be serviced from the Department of Education and Science and it is hoped that it will begin its work immediately. Its report will be considered by the Australian Government and State governments and after that will be tabled in the House for the information of honourable members.
-(Mr Lucock). - The honourable member for West Sydney asks for leave to make a statement on the matter referred to by the Treasurer. There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I realise that this is a very awkward time to raise this matter, but I would not be doing my job if I did not say something on it. As I have been barred from taking part in the grievance debate, I take this opportunity to say a few words on behalf of a constituent from West Sydney. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has given thanks to everybody connected with the statement which he made, but in the case that I propose to raise I was on my own; I could not get anybody to help me. I made representations to all the members and senators who are barristers, but all they did was laugh at me.
My client was working at Tattersall’s Club in Sydney. He was not directly employed by the club. He was employed by a man who had a contract with the club. When I went to the club to try to do something for my client I found that there was nothing I could do there. I had to go and see the contractor. My client was in the process of shifting a sofa one day and the man who was helping him at the other end of the sofa dropped it and it finished up hitting my client in the testicles. After 3 days he was taken to hospital, and he came out of hospital with one less. He also received a bill for 120gns from the hospital, at Kings Cross. He returned to work for a week but was taken again to the hospital and he lost the second one. [ appealed to the former Minister for Social Services, Mr Roberton, who is now in Dublin, because after listening to my client’s story, to his wife’s story and knowing all the facts, I was quite certain that I would be able to get a social service benefit for him. But 1 was informed that the Social Services Act did not cover these circumstances.
My client went before the court, but the late Judge Rainbow decided against him because he had not been making his living by the use of the things he had lost.
His wife came to see me. She said that she had been to a barrister who had told her that if she had the money he would take the case to court because she would have a claim for the loss of conjugal rights. But she had no money. My client then got a job as a cleaner with Prouds Pty Ltd in Pitt Street, but he got the sack. From there on he could not earn a living.
I promised that I would take only 4 or 5 minutes to raise this matter. I will be able to raise it again at another time. I deeply regret the passing of the former Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, because he and the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) were the only two people who would give me any hearing concerning this matter. If something comes out of my representations my client might be able to be paid for what he has lost through not being able to obtain work. The reason why I raise this matter is that every day we read in newspapers of heart transplants and kidney transplants. Surely, if a case similar to the one to which I have referred happens again science could put a few pebbles the right way, though I should think it would be too late now to help my client, whose accident occurred 12 months or 2 years ago. This case has been quoted in the. ‘Australian Medical Journal’ and in the New York Times.’ Nobody other than myself can claim any credit for this, but, as I learnt long before I came into this Parliament, self-praise is the worst form of recommendation. Nevertheless, I thank the honourable member for Hindmarsh for taking part in the debate when I raised this matter on the previous occasion. I also thank the Treasurer for making his statement today which has given me an opportunity to discuss this matter again.
– On behalf of the Chairman I present the following reports of the Public Accounts Committee:
Ninety-seventh report - Treasury minute on the Eighty-third report;
Ninety-eighth report - Report of AuditorGeneral for year 1966-67; and
Ninety-ninth report - Treasury minutes on Fifty-fifth and Seventy-first reports.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The ninety-seventh report relates to the Treasury minute on your Committee’s eighty-third report which dealt with the National Capital Development Commission; the ninety-eighth report refers to your Committee’s inquiry into the report on the Auditor-General for the financial year 1966-67; and the ninety-ninth report relates to Treasury minutes on your Committee’s fifty-fifth report on the form of the Estimates and seventy-first report on the Northern Territory Administration.
In regard to the Auditor-General’s report we would again pay tribute to the AuditorGeneral and his staff for the sustained effort they have made, over many years, to ensure that the report is presented to the Parliament during August. The early tabling of that report facilitates greatly the work of your Committee in this important field of its operations. Your Committee’s inquiry for 1966-67 concerned eleven departments compared with six examined in the corresponding inquiry of the previous financial year. In some cases, such as those relating to accounting arrangements in New York and naval procurement problems, the evidence related to current issues requiring early solution.
In regard to the matter of fraud that had occurred in the Commonwealth Police office in Sydney, your Committee felt that while the immediate problem had been solved, the circumstances in which the fraud had occurred should be examined and reported upon for the information of the Parliament and for the guidance of departments generally regarding weaknesses in administration that permit frauds to occur. In the case of the stores and services trust account operated by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department on the other hand, we felt that, with accounting and procedural changes pending in that Department, a useful purpose would be served for the Parliament if we were to obtain information relative to the current operations of that account.
In regard to the ninety-ninth report your Committee would invite the attention of honourable members to the observations which it has made regarding the development of a formal, authentic statement setting out the structure of the Northern Territory Administration and listing the Commonwealth departments represented in the Territory with their respective functions under both Commonwealth and Territory law. We believe that the Department of the Interior, which is now concerned with the administration of that Territory should explore with the Attorney-General’s Department, the areas of difficulty that appear to have impeded the formulation of such a statement. I commend the reports to honourable members and move that they be printed.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill presented by Mr Bury, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill does two things. It extends to workers employed by the United States Navy at the Navy’s communication station at North West Cape in Western Australia the terms of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1967 as if they were employees of the Commonwealth. It also gives to such persons or,- in the event of death, another person, the right to recover damages from the Commonwealth independently of the Compensation Act, and again as if the Commonwealth were the employer, in the event of damage as a result of injury or death suffered directly as a result of employment with the United States Navy.
There are currently about 350 Australian employees engaged by the United States Navy at the communication station. I use the word ‘Australian’ to cover all the locally engaged members of the work force at the station which includes some migrants who may not be Australian citizens. Their terms and conditions of employment are laid down in an industrial agreement negotiated between the United States Navy and the unions in Western Australia under the auspices of the Trades and Labour Council of Western Australia. The agreement is neither an award of an industrial tribunal nor an agreement registered with such a tribunal by virtue of the fact that the United States Navy, as an agency of the US Government, is outside the jurisdiction of our laws and hence of our courts. There is nothing unusual about this immunity, lt is claimed by every sovereign state from the laws of other states. Thus Australia claims immunity from laws of the United States in respect of Australian Government activities in the United States.
Nevertheless, despite this immunity, the US Government has agreed to conform to, amongst other laws, our industrial laws. This arises from the Agreement entered into between the United States and Australian Governments for the establishment of the communication station and approved by this Parliament by the United States Naval Communication Station Agreement Act 1963.
Mr Speaker, the parties to the industrial agreement to which I have referred are to be congratulated on the way in which they have been able to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement as to the terms and conditions of employment of the employees concerned. I also take this opportunity to draw attention to the work opportunities that the establishment of the United States station has provided. The United States Government has undertaken, in the Agreement between the two countries, to make the maximum practicable use of Australian resources in the construction and maintenance of the station. Whilst the terms and conditions of employment of the Australian work force at the station are regulated by the industrial agreement to which I have referred, that agreement cannot deal with one important matter which forms part of Australia’s industrial laws for the protection of employees. 1 refer to workers’ compensation.
Because of the immunity of the United States Navy of which 1 have spoken, our workers compensation laws do not bind the United States Navy as they do other employers. Moreover, since our workers compensation laws can involve proceedings before courts or other tribunals it would not be possible for an employee of the United States Navy to take action in pursuance of his rights against his employer before such courts or tribunals. The same limitations would be faced by an Australian employee of the United States Navy at the Communication station were he to attempt to exercise what would ordinarily be his rights at common law against his employer for damages he might consider he was entitled to as a result of injury or death associated with his employment.
I should make it clear that no worker employed by the United States Navy at the station has been disadvantaged as to workers compensation. The scales of compensation in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act have been applied by the Americans to any Australian employee who has suffered a compensable injury. But the Australian employees have not enjoyed this as of right. Nor would any worker have been able to take action at common law had he wished to do so. In the light of all these circumstances, Mr Speaker, the Government made known publicly last year its decision to introduce legislation to enable locally engaged employees of the United States Navy at North West Cape to enjoy what are, after all, these basic rights of Australian workers generally. That, then, is the purpose of this Bill.
As I indicated in my opening remarks, the problem of the immunity of the US Navy from our laws and courts will be overcome by deeming the Commonwealth to be the employer of locally engaged labour for the purposes of workers compensation and, accordingly, such workers will be covered by the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. Similarly, if one of these workers or, in appropriate circumstances, another person decides to take action at common law in respect of damage suffered through injury or death that action may be taken against the Commonwealth.
Mr Speaker, I. now want to say a brief word or two on the clauses of the Bill. Clause 4 deals with the classes of employees to whom it will apply. Clause 5 applies the terms of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act to the Australian component at the station and modifies that Act so as to have it cover those employees of the United States Navy. The modifications are set out in the schedule attached to the Bill. Clause 6 establishes the liability of the Commonwealth in actions at common law which might be taken in respect of damage suffered through injury or death directly associated with employment at the station. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Webb) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
Thai the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make a number of minor amendments to the Bankruptcy Act 1966. This Act was brought into force on 4th March 1968. During the course of preparing the Bankruptcy Rules and organising the administrative machinery necessary for the operation of the new Act, it became apparent that some amendments of a minor nature would be required to enable the administration of the Act to be conducted more smoothly. The purpose of this Bill is to make these amendments.
The first amendment 1 mention is contained in clause 3 of the Bill, which relates to the deposit that must be lodged by a creditor when presenting a bankruptcy petition. Section 48 of the Act provides that the deposit may be used for certain specified purposes. These purposes do not cover some expenses that are necessarily incurred by an official receiver prior to the first meeting of creditors. The amendment will enable the deposit to be used for all expenses necessarily incurred by an official receiver up to that meeting. The amendment is in this respect consistent with the practice that was followed under the old Bankruptcy Act.
Clause 4 of the Bill relates to the consolidation of proceedings. When partners become bankrupt it is advantageous in the administration of the bankruptcies for the separate proceedings in respect of each partner to be consolidated. Under the new Act this can be done when sequestration orders are made against partners on a creditor’s petition but it cannot be done when the partners become bankrupt on their own petitions. The purpose of clause 4 is to correct this deficiency.
The amendments in clauses 5 and 6 relate to the public examination of a bankrupt, which is now required to be held before the Registrar in Bankruptcy. The purpose of the amendments is to enable a public examination in a country district to be conducted before the local magistrate, in any case where the Registrar thinks fit. This will avoid the expense of having the Registrar travel to a country district to conduct a public examination in those cases where the assets in the bankrupt estate are not very great. The expense of conducting a public examination is, of course, a charge on the estate.
The purpose of clause 8 of the Bill is to permit a trustee to pay a dividend to someone authorised by the creditor to receive it. Under the present Act, the trustee may send a cheque for a dividend only to the creditor himself. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, the following proposed work be referred to the Par Iia,mentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Proposed extension of Pier Telephone Exchange, Perth.
The proposal involves the construction of four additional floors at the existing exchange building to house telecommunication equipment to serve the Perth network. The estimated cost is $960,000. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: Hawthorn, Vic. - Extension to telephone exchange building.
The proposal involves the construction of a six-storey extension to the existing exchange building to house telecommunication equipment to serve the eastern sector of the Melbourne telephone network. The estimated cost is $1,400,000. The Committee has reported favourably on the proposal, and upon the concurrence of this House in this resolution detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That grievances be noted.
– On Tuesday of this week I asked the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) a question about the use of personnel of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and a report that was made to the Government. The AttorneyGeneral readily recognised the extent of public disquiet and concern in regard to the use of security apparatus and modern high powered spying mechanisms. For the first time in the history of the Security Service in Australia, an Attorney-General has made specific denials of charges that certain things might have been done. These denials indicate that the Government is prepared to set certain limits and safeguards on the use of security apparatus and spying mechanisms. This is welcomed by the Opposition and is accepted by me. But the Attorney-General has not done this readily. His admissions had to be urged and pressed upon him by the circumstances. The Press, radio, and television played a significant part. Almost all of the organs in these fields of mass communication are opposed to spying and eavesdropping except in what they call - and what I would call - ‘the highest national interest’. I suppose the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Haworth), who has just interjected, might agree with that. But one finds it rather difficult to discover what some honourable members on the other side of the House do agree with. It is hard to determine whether the honourable members agree that there should be any limitations upon spying. Anyway, the honourable member for Isaacs can speak for himself. Limits and safeguards of the kind now admitted by the
Attorney-General are welcome and must be maintained. I am glad the Press, television and radio organisations have acted in the way they have acted, because the result would not have been achieved without their efforts. As I said a moment ago, I would be equally pleased if some day we were to see a consistent approach by at least one or two Government supporters in this House.
The case I raised in my question to the Attorney-General was not one that touched the highest national interest. Its content was trivial. But despite this, the Minister has made only a partial denial of the propositions contained in my question. He did not answer the substance of it. He said my telephone had not been tapped. I did not say, in this case, that my telephone ever had been tapped. I did not ask him whether it had been. But the Minister chose to answer the question as if that were what I had asked. I did not say, in this case, that my telephone had been tapped.
– The honourable member was reported in the Press as having said that it had been.
– The tapping of my telephone, in this case, was never involved.
– The honourable member was reported in the Press as having stated that it had been tapped.
– I said I had been informed reliably in the past that my telephone had been tapped. But never, in this case, did I state that my telephone had been tapped. This was not a case of telephone tapping at all.
– Why did the honourable member bring in a reference to telephone tapping?
– Because I wanted to put the Minister in a position in which an answer would have to be given. And he gave an answer on that point. He said that while he had been Attorney-General he had never received a request to permit the tapping of the telephone of a member of this Parliament and had never issued a warrant for such a purpose. Assuming that the 6 months limit on such warrants still exists, we can now say that the telephone of no member of this Parliament is tapped. This we can now say for the first time. As communications between the public and members of this Parliament are of some importance, I would think that even some members on the other side of the House would welcome this situation.
The Attorney-General said that O’Donnell had not been followed to my home by any officer of the Security Service. He also said that no member of the Security Service had eavesdropped on any conversations that I had. I asked the Minister a question about this and I accept his answer. But O’Donnell was followed to my home and was kept under surveillance while he was there. This could have been done by officials. The Minister’s reply leaves the substance of my question unanswered. I said ASIO had made a report of a conversation between O’Donnell and myself that took place in my home. I asked the Attorney-General how the record of this conversation had been obtained. This was the substance of my question, but he did not answer it. This part of my question still remains unanswered. I inform the Attorney-General at this point that a senior government official told mc that ASIO had a report on 0’Donnell’s visit to my home and also on my conversation with him and that the report had been sent to Canberra.
– Name the official.
– Do not be stupid. Furthermore, in the presence of two witnesses who hold high and responsible positions, I was told by another government official that a report on 0’Donnell’s visit to my home and my conversation with him had been made by ASIO to the Government. Without my saying a word, this official, in the presence of two witnesses, told me of things relating to 0’Donnell’s visit to my home, and to the conversation, that were in the report. I agreed they were true. Furthermore, Pressmen have told me that as early as Thursday of last week a senior member of the staff of the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) had told them: ‘We know that O’Donnell saw Dr Cairns’. My own inquiries have established that copies of the report made by ASIO went to the AttorneyGeneral, the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), the Minister for the Army, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury), the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), who was Acting
Prime Minister at the time, and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). There are six copies of the report. That there is a report is known to at least eighteen people around Parliament House, but the AttorneyGeneral has said there will be no discussion of this report - to use his own words - whether real or invented, even if it happened to be flourished in front of us in this House’. But the report is real. It exists. Tt was made by ASIO. T ask the AttorneyGeneral: Can he deny that there is a report? I ask him again: How was it obtained? I ask him: Why was it obtained? Does the national interest require that a member of this Parliament’ should be spied on and reported upon - and for such a trivial purpose?
Yesterday I heard the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), who is always dropping security titbits, by interjection in this House say: O’Donnell told them about it’. I wonder if the Attorney-General is prepared to deny that the authorities have turned this boy from a resister into an informer, or is he prepared to leave him under suspicion? If the authorities have converted this boy. from a resister into an informer, which I do not believe, would the Minister say whether he thinks it is in the national interest to do so? If the authorities have turned this young man from a resister into an informer, it is no less reprehensible than if they had used a secret microphone io detect the conversation between myself and O’Donnell in my own home. I do not prefer the use of an informer, if one was used, to the use of a microphone.
– You have given no proof whatsoever, lt is a figment of the imagination so far.
– The honourable member can settle that with the honourable member for Chisholm. Perhaps he can suggest what was used to obtain the information in that report if it was not a microphone. The Attorney-General should go further. He should clear the matter up. I put it clearly, and I hope succinctly: Was a report made by ASIO of this incident? How was that report obtained? If it was obtained, why was it obtained?
– The AttorneyGeneral might evade but he will not lie.
– I am satisfied, as the honourable member for Hindmarsh has interjected, that the Attorney-General will not lie about this. He said that whether this report was real or invented, even if it happened to be flourished in front of us in this House he would not discuss it. But the conduct of his own officers has created a situation which cannot be left as it stands. If he will agree to a suitable inquiry, with safeguards for witnesses, I can guarantee to him that he will learn a good deal more than he has learnt up to date, and so also will the public. The matter is not closed. I would think that everyone in this House wants proper safeguards in the use of the security service, and 1 submit that the evidence 1 have placed before the House shows that ASIO has been misused in this case.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the consideration of Order of the Day No. I Government business, grievance debate, being continued until 3.25 p.m.
– Last Tuesday I departed from the very long-standing rule that the activities of the security service of this country will not be discussed in the Parliament or elsewhere.
-I think the reasons for this rule are extremely well known, lt is a rule which has been followed, as I said on Tuesday, by Mr Chifley and all succeeding Prime Ministers. In addition this principle has been adopted by my very distinguished predecessors in the office of Attorney-General, including Dr Evatt, who expressed himself quite forcibly on the subject. As I indicated on Tuesday. I was not prepared to depart from the principle except to a very limited extent in order to deal with two particular matters raised by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns). The first of these was the suggestion that his telephone had been tapped. The honourable member had been reported in the Press, in particular in an article by Jonathan Gaul in the ‘Canberra
Times’ - whether correctly or not I do not know - as having asserted that he had been informed that his telephone was tapped from time to time. It is simply not correct to say that when I answered the question last week telephone tapping was not one of the issues. It was. Indeed it was taken up by some of the editorials as one of the matters causing concern, and I felt it should be dealt with.
– Yes, I am not denying that. It is.
– The other allegation was that O’Donnell had been kept under surveillance and followed to the home of the honourable member, and that ASIO had eavesdropped on a conversation between them in that home. I explained to the House that I. had the categorical assurance of ASIO that this was not so, and I am pleased that the honourable member accepts that assurance. But this leaves the allegation, which he now presses, that he has been informed by, as 1 understand him, a senior government official that ASIO has a report and that this report refers lo a conversation between him and O’Donnell. He further asserts that he has been told by two other officials-
– One other in the presence of two witnesses.
– By one other official in the presence of two witnesses that ASIO has such a report. I pass quickly over the next point which I raise because time is short and it is not the subject of this debate. But I would express some surprise and concern if that were the position, because in this country, as in other countries that have security services, there are very tight statutory provisions about the disclosure of secret documents. 1 am somewhat concerned at this allegation by the honourable member. However. I go to the report itself.
– You are concerned because your pimping service has been breached.
– I am concerned at an allegation that there has been a breach of the law, and a fairly serious one.
– You make sure you do not misuse the law.
– The honourable member need not worry about that. I come to the substantive matter of the member’s remarks this morning. He wants me to discuss the existence of what he says is a report by ASIO. I see no reason to depart from the established rule. It is, as I think AttorneysGeneral have felt in the past, extremely tempting to do so, because an AttorneyGeneral is obliged by this rule to participate in almost any debate on this subject with a hand tied behind his back. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that it is a sound rule and I do not propose to yield to that temptation and to start discussing this matter. Indeed, I do not believe that this is a matter of serious public concern. What I think would be a serious public detriment would be the position which would arise if when allegations were made about the existence of a report, and the contents of that report an Attorney-General could be required to reply to each one of these allegations and could be moved to discuss, bit by bit, the whole field of security operations. Having started on that operation, one would have to call a halt at some stage. Then one would be accused of concealing something. Indeed I had such an experience last year when I answered a question on telephone tapping in this place. I said that when allegations were made I refused either to affirm or to deny them. Next day the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) was reported in the Press as having said: This proves that the allegation is true’. I do not know whether the honourable member, when he was a member of the police force, accepted a person’s refusal to admit anything, to discuss an allegation or to affirm or deny it as proof of the fact. I hope he did not. However, if the attitude taken by Opposition members is any indication of the way they would act, it will be a sorry day for Australia if any one of them has charge of the Security Service.
I propose to conduct the Security Service - and it is already acting - in accordance with the Act that established it. The Act requires it to have regard to the security of Australia in relation to espionage, sabotage and subversion. I am sure it is directing its efforts to those matters and as long as I have control of it I will continue to direct its efforts to those matters. If it should happen that, during its activities, someone crosses its path, I should imagine that I would receive a report about it. If ASIO was on a perfectly genuine operation dealing with espionage, sabotage or subversion and someone came into its orbit, I would expect some reference to be made to this. I would think that the Organisation would be failing in its duty if it did not report such an incident. In this instance I am not prepared to depart from the general rule and to say whether there is such a report in existence or indeed, if there were such a report, what it would contain. I am sure that this is the proper procedure to follow and that the public interest requires this attitude to be adopted.
– I think 1 state the views of most honourable members on this side of the House when I say quite categorically that we do not cast the slightest doubt upon the integrity, the honour and the veracity of the present Attorney-General (Mr Bowen). I believe what he said, lt is one thing for him to evade a question, but 1 am certain he would not lie to the Parliament. However, there are other possibilities. A Minister of the calibre of our Attorney-General, whose honour and integrity are above reproach - a view, I am pleased to say, we all hold - could be misled as the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch), whose integrity and honour also are above reproach, was misled by his officers. He has no guarantee that the information conveyed to him by his officers can be relied upon. A Minister, whether he be the Attorney-General, the Minister for the Army or the Minister for Air, is very much at the mercy of his advisers and can be misinformed.
The question of the tapping of telephones, as well as the document that has been mentioned, has been raised. Although the question asked of the Attorney-General on Tuesday last by my colleague the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) did not mention the tapping of telephones, the Attorney-General was perfectly entitled in the course of his reply to deal with the statement made by the honourable gentleman about the tapping of telephones, and he did so. I want to take up the matter from that point. The honourable member for Yarra said that the Australian Security
Intelligence Organisation, he believed, had tapped his telephone from time to time. He did not say when, but he believed that it was tapped from time to time. He is in good company. I believe that my telephone has been tapped from time to time. Moreover I have positive proof that it has been tapped.
Honourable members will recall the occasion when I was able to tell the House that a security officer questioned an inspector of the Aeronautical Inspection Directorate of Chrysler Aust. Ltd within 12 hours of his having a telephone conversation with me from Parliament House. Mr Galvin, who is no longer with us, and Mr Edmonds, who were once members of the Parliament, spoke of occasions when they had evidence of their telephones being tapped. There is no doubt whatever that this has happened. It is of no use anyone saying that it has never happened. If it could happen to me, to Edmonds and to Galvin and if it could happen to a former Minister of the Army, it can happen to the honourable member for Yarra or to anybody else now. J know that the Attorney-General does not approve of this activity, but he does not know about it. If he did know I am sure that he would take instant action to discipline the officer doing it.
– It cannot be done without my warrant.
-It can. The officers of the Security Service have the mechanical devices for doing it, but they do not tell the Attorney-General anything about it. That is the tragedy of the situation. The Attorney-General must rely on the honesty of other people. I have documentary proof in the form of a written apology from Field Marshal Blarney that a telephone conversation between a member of this Parliament and Mr Forde, who was then the Minister for the Army, had been tapped. The right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) has that letter and it will appear in his memoirs in due course for everyone to see.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to tap the telephone of one subscriber without also listening to the conversation of the person at the other end, although that person may be perfectly innocent. It is not possible to tap the telephone of Brown without listening to what Jones says to Brown. There is a well known and established principle that an Englishman’s home is his castle, lt ought to be, it used to be and it was until telephone tapping and electronic devices were used to pry into the most sacred, most intimate and most personal conversations that take place in people’s homes. Personal and private conversations between man and wife, between doctor and patient, between lawyer and client and even in the confessional are no longer absolutely free from intervention by these electronic spying devices. It is true that on very rare occasions the Attorney-General breaks the silence on probes by the Security Service. It was broken on a previous occasion to that mentioned on Tuesday. Sir Garfield Barwick broke it in 1960 when he admitted that there had been 1.82 instances of telephone tapping authorised up to that time. He also admitted that since 1949 telephones had been regularly tapped by both the Labor Government of the day and by his own Government. He admitted further that in 1950 the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, discussed the question of telephone tapping with the Director-General of ASIO.
I believe that we all agree with the sentiments expressed by Sir Garfield Barwick on 5th May I960, when he introduced the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Bill. He said:
Much of our normal life depends on the confidence we can repose in those to whom we lay bare our sentiments and opinions, with and through whom we wish to communicate.
He also made this worthy comment: . . avesdropping Ls abhorrent to us as a people.
Of course it is. Who will forget the famous letter from Sir Robert Gordon Menzies to Anthony Eden on the Suez dispute in which he said that Egypt has now become a police state? He said that Egypt had all the characteristics of a police state and the first characteristic he listed was the tapping of telephones, lt was not very long after he said that the tapping of telephones was a characteristic of the police state that he came into this Parliament and introduced a Bill to authorise the tapping of telephones. We cannot adopt the methods of dictatorship on the pretext that we are preserving democracy. To do so is like killing the patient to cure the disease. We must remember that we are a democracy. I am glad that we have men like Bowen, who is at the table now, because at least while he is there . . .
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh has been in this House long enough to know how to address a Minister.
– I am sorrythe Attorney-General. While we have men like him here - and this is the tragedy of it; only while men like him are here - can we know or feel absolute security that this will not be authorised at a governmental level. But even the Attorney-General cannot guarantee that the underlings in the Department will not encroach upon the preserves of people’s privacy.
The important thing that Sir Garfield Barwick did in 1960 was to admit that telephones had been tapped. He said that ever since 1949 telephones had been tapped by the then Government and by the previous Government. He went on to say at page 1424 of Hansard of 5th May I960:
Accordingly, at the end of 1950, the Prime Minister gave directions to the Director-General of Security with respect to telephone interception. 1 want to refer now to a previous statement by the then Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, who on 1st December 1 953- mind you, Sir, 3 years after he had discussed the matter already with the DirectorGeneral of Security, on the say-so of none other than Sir Garfield Barwick, who, when making a confession was more likely to be telling the truth than the other people who were denying this - at page 704 of Hansard replied to a question I asked. Hansard reads:
– Will the Prime Minister deny that the telephones of private citizens or of members of Parliament have beentapped by the security service?
What was the reply?
I have no knowledge of the matter one way or the other- said the rather snide Prime Minister - and I say snide advisedly because-
– Who said that?
- Sir Robert Menzies. I say snide because he made that statement 3 years after the date when, according to Sir Garfield Barwick, he had discussed the matter with the DirectorGeneral of Security.
– I rise to order.
– Now, I want to refer-
-Order! The honourable member for Gwydir has taken a point of order.
– I object to the use of the word ‘snide’ to describe a former Prime Minister of this country.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The matter did not end there. Mr Menzies, as he then was, was not the only one to deny that telephones were being tapped, when we know on the say-so of Sir Garfield Barwick that they had been tapped. On 19th November 1963, at page 294 of Hansard, we read:
– Will the Minister state whether the telephone lines are being tapped?
The then Postmaster-General is recorded as saying:
– 1 am defiling with the allegations
– Are the telephones being tapped?
– J have told you that your telephone conversations are quite secure.
Later, the honourable member for Watson at that time interjected, and the report reads:
– Are telephone lines being tapped?
– I have informed the House that they are not being tapped.
That was a categorical denial in 1953.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am informed, and I believe, that many years ago the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) followed the shearing sheds. Regrettably, I never saw him at work. But I am bound to say that if his shearing was in line with his argument today he could promptly be described as having been a pretty rough and willing shearer. I have never listened to such extravagent nonsense from the honourable gentleman in all the years that I have known him. He has read from Hansard today of debates in the past on reports of telephone tapping. It is a great pity that the honourable gentleman was not bothered to look up some of his other more extravagant remarks. I can recall an occasion when the honourable member for Hindmarsh went out of his way to accuse an attendant in this Parliament of being an agent for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. This was a person-
– We had plenty ot evidence that they were snooping around our rooms.
– I will come to the honourable member and his proof later on. This is the man who is the fighter on behalf of the worker, on behalf of the little man. The honourable member for Hindmarsh feels a rare sense of accomplishment when he boots into the little man who cannot answer back for himself. I refer to an occasion in 19S6 when a Bill was introduced putting the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on a statutory basis. On that occasion the honourable member for Hindmarsh slandered every person who had anything at all to do with ASIO. Then, in 1960, when telephone tapping was put on a statutory basis by the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Bill to prevent telephones being tapped, the honourable member for Hindmarsh had a field day on that occasion once more-
– Hear, hear!
– He agrees with me. He had a field day in attacking the little people, the men who cannot answer back for themselves. I ask the House to listen to this rapturous collection of words. The honourable member for Hindmarsh said:
I know that not only are the telephones ot members of Parliament being tapped but also that security service agents are installed in this House to check up on the correspondence which is received by honourable members, and to search the contents of the drawers of their tables.
– Hear, hear!
– They would have a pretty dull day, even if they did exist, if they read the honourable member’s correspondence.
Sitting suspended from 1.2.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before lunch I was dealing with the reckless, wild and extravagant charges made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) against the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I had alluded to the fact that on one occasion in the past the honourable gentleman had accused an attendant in this building of having been an agent of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. That man could not speak for himself; he was a cleaner in this place, and a newcomer to Australia. He had no right of protection against the wicked charges made against him by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. Over the years, if one examines the honourable member’s speeches on security matters, one finds this sordid line of conspiracy in every speech he has made on this subject. In quite an untrammelled way, he attacks the Organisation and every person connected with it. The honourable gentleman is so obsessed with the matter of security that he sees a security agent under every bed and behind every door. This is, as it were, the mediterranean of the honourable gentleman’s distress. He reflects very little credit indeed on the Australian Labor Party when he behaves in such an irrational and irresponsible way.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh turned to the Attorney-General and, striking a note of indecent condescension, referred to him as ‘Bowen’. He did this in a sneering way, and had to be pulled up as though he had no recognition or understanding of the procedures of this House. This was irresponsible and childish behaviour. He said: T do not for a moment think the Attorney-General is not telling the truth.’ If this is the case, the whole argument put forward by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr Cairns) and the honourable member for Hindmarsh simply evaporates because on Tuesday of this week the Attorney-General said in this House: ‘I have inquired from the Security Service and it has assured me categorically that it did not have Private O’Donnell under surveillance.’ The honourable member for Hindmarsh has gone on record as saying that he believes the Attorney-General, but on the other hand he tries to resile from this statement and attacks the Attorney-General and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
Then we come to the fountain or origin of this discussion - the honourable member for Yarra. If ever 1 saw the grim outline of the police state adumbrated it was in the honourable member’s speech here today. It contained a typical police state method - that of making a charge and not adducing a single piece of evidence to support it. Of course the honourable member for Hindmarsh has been doing this for years, and I suppose that, more or less, we have got used to it. But the honourable member is far too intelligent to behave in this fashion. How could he think for a moment that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation would flatter him and Private O’Donnell with their intelligence? This Organisation is interested in subversion on a national scale and in national issues; it is not interested in what the honourable member for Yarra and Private O’Donnell are doing. The honourable member for Yarra flatters himself in the extreme if he thinks otherwise. However, the honourable member claims that this report has been seen by a certain number of people. I ask him to consider this proposition: If Private O’Donnell had returned to his camp, would he not have been disposed to say to all those around him, ‘I have seen the great man - my hero, Dr Cairns’? Would he not bask in the reflected glory of those moments of serenity when he sat alongside the honourable gentleman, taking in all his words of wisdom, be they pertinent to the Army or to some abstruse point of philosophy?
– And incite people to break the law.
– Yes. The kernel of all this is the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, which is interested in ensuring that things which happen in many countries do not happen here. We know that certain things have happened in France, a number of the European countries, and regrettably the United States of America. We want no Blakes, Nunn-Mays, Pontecorvos or Fuchs. It is not that we do not have the material available to encourage these people. But, according to the proportion of our resources and capacities, we want no intrusion upon what we can do in this country.
This afternoon the honourable member for Yarra attacked the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Indeed, he attacked its Director, if not explicitly then certainly by implication. He attacked Sir Charles Spry, who is a very distinguished Australian. It goes beyond common sense to think that Sir Charles Spry would in any way condone any of his people bothering about what the honourable member for Yarra might be doing with Private O’Donnell. I hope the House will not lose sight of the manner in which the honourable member for Yarra referred to the report. He said: ‘I heard that the report has been sighted by about eighteen people’. But he did not name them. These are the nameless informers. If there is one characteristic of the police state it is the nameless informer. Let us imagine the honourable member for Yarra going into the witness box and being cross-examined as to his credibility on this issue. He would not last for 5 minutes. This is typical of him whenever we have a debate on matters that touch upon and concern the security of this country. The honourable member is always willing and ready to attack the Security Service. The same applies to the honourable member for Hindmarsh.
This morning the Attorney-General referred to the substantial principle that is involved. I hope the House does not lose sight of it. The principle is that the manner in which security has to be conducted in this country is not to be revealed to everybody. This was the principle adopted long ago. It was identified by the late Dr Evatt, who declared in 1949 that, to all intents and purposes, the Director-General of Security is free from ministerial direction. This arrangement is essential in order to maintain the internal security which, 1 have no doubt, all honourable members wish to have preserved. Is the Australian Labor Party today running away from the principles that were spelt out clearly by Dr Evatt some years ago? If that is the case, let its members stand up and be counted. Let us know where they stand on this issue. The reason why the Australian Labor Party is in opposition and will continue to remain there is that on matters of great national importance it has not the capacity to show any sense of responsibility.
– I wish to raise a matter of national importance concerning the people who are engaged in the apple and pear industry in my own State and other States. 1 take part in this debate to condemn the Government on its failure to announce earlier than it did the rate of compensation for losses due to devaluation of sterling, thus creating a lack of confidence earlier this year. Some injection of confidence was badly needed. The Government failed to produce figures to substantiate the compensation figure that was finally arrived at, that is, 50c a bushel for apples and 53c a bushel for pears. The Government also failed to take some positive action to combat rising freight rates. It refuses to underwrite the cost of production of the apple and pear crop while the industry is passing through difficult times.
The Australian Government rejected out of hand a request from the Tasmanian Government to underwrite this year’s apple and pear crop to the extent of $2.40 per bushel for cell packed apples and $2 per i-bushel case of pears, but it announced a couple of weeks ago a devaluation compensation payment on 1968 exports amounting to 50c a bushel for apples and 53c for pears. In announcing its decision the Government referred to the evident lack of confidence in the industry. This Government must take its share of the blame for the lack of confidence which was evident in this industry during the year. We sell our fruit either on consignment in the United Kingdom or f.o.b. to buyers. Approximately 70% of the total Australian export is sent from Tasmania. Approximately 70% of the total Australian exports to the United Kingdom and elsewhere comes from Tasmania. About 60% of the total is marketed in the United Kingdom and 40% on the Continent. In the 1966 season buyers who operated on the f.o.b. basis suffered when the delivery of the fruit was held up by dock strikes in the United Kingdom. This led to a lack of confidence in forward buying and the industry made a request to the Commonwealth Government last year for a guaranteed price. It is a pity that this guaranteed price was not granted, because as matters turned out the market improved greatly towards the end of last season. The Government would have brought confidence to the industry by granting a guaranteed price, and it would not have had to pay out on last year’s crop, because, as I have pointed out, returns later in the season exceeded expectations. This did not benefit growers as much as it benefited exporters.
However, of about 14% due to devaluation the position deteriorated early this season in the U.K. As everyone knows, the exchange rate in our favour had previously been 25%. This exchange rate acted as a type of inbuilt subsidy for the industry and was the main factor in keeping it going for so many years. Growers knew that this year the returns would inevitably be affected by devaluation. Although the Government stated that primary industries affected by devaluation could expect some compensation, it made the big mistake of not expediting investigations which led to the announcement made only recently. People with expert knowledge of this industry, such as members of the State Fruit Board in Tasmania and the Fruit Exporters Committee, had looked at figures over the past 2 years and had estimated that growers should receive between 70c and 80c a bushel for their fruit. We want to know what set of figures the Government used in arriving at 50c a case for apples. In answer to a question which I asked last week the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) cleverly sidestepped the main issue without giving any concrete information. We still want to know the formula used in arriving at the figure offered by the Government.
The annual value of Tasmania’s apple and pear crop is about $15m. There are about 1,200 growers, producing from 17,500 acres of orchard. Up to 7,000 casual employees are employed during the 4 months season. In 1966 total Australian apple exports exceeded 8.25 million bushels, valued at $25,863,000. Tasmania contributed 6.25 million bushels, valued at almost $19m. Shipments from Tasmania represented more than 72% of tie total exports.
In recent years costs to the growers have increased considerably, but increased efficiency and higher production per acre have enabled Tasmanian orchardists, until this year, to make ends meet. One of the biggest costs confronting growers is freight. In 1964 it cost 13s 3d to send a case of apples to London. Over the past 4 years the conference lines have increased freight rates by almost 80% and today it costs $2.34 to send a box of apples to London. If we add to that sum $2.40, which is the cost of putting a case of apples on the wharf, and $1 for handling charges, commission, etc., it will be seen that the grower has to get $5.75 per bushel in England before he starts to get anything back for himself for labour, managerial experience and all the risks involved. We have calculated the average return to growers over the last 6 years at 43s a bushel. This represents a loss to growers, through devaluation, of 77c per case of apples. We again ask the Government to produce the information on which it arrived at its figure of 50c a bushel. In making its announcement the Government recognised that there has been lack of confidence in the industry, which has been reflected in recent heavy cancellations of shipping space for fruit programmed to be shipped to European markets. Within the last fortnight the Chairman of the AustraliaUnited Kingdom-Continent Shipping Conference announced officially the cancellation of the shipment of more than 1 million bushels of fruit between the end of April and mid-May. Three ships were withdrawn from the shipping programme. Two of them - the ‘Port Quebec’ and the Canberra Star’ - were already on the Australian coast when large shipments were cancelled 3 weeks ago. The third ship - the ‘Westmoreland’ - was in the Indian Ocean when a further reduction of 250,000 bushels was announced. Because we were unable to meet our shipping commitments we will lose our freight rebate of about tic a case and we can rest assured that when freight rates for next season are struck the conference lines will increase rates in order to cover losses incurred by the vessels to which 1 have referred.
I want to refer to one other problem in addition to devaluation and shipping freights - the high cost of cardboard containers which cost approximately 70c each. Growers have no control whatever over matters such as this. They grow the fruit, but are then told by government agencies how it is to be marketed and how the crop is to be presented. Controls are exercised by government agencies, Federal and State, over factors such as the standard of the fruit, varieties and sizes, skin condition, dates of packing, containers and even the volume to be exported. Notwithstanding ail these controls, growers are subject to still further controls. They could import cartons from New Zealand and Scandinavia cheaper than the cartons they have to buy in this country, but are prevented from doing this because of the tariff imposed on the imported article. We all realise that tariff protection is necessary for secondary industries if we are to have a reasonable level of employment, but the Government should take into consideration the costs faced by apple growers and, remembering that the grower cannot pass on increased costs, should look closely into the matter of subsidising the cost of containers to the extent of about 11c each, this being the difference between the cost of local cartons and the cost of cartons produced overseas.
This Government stands condemned oh four counts. It stands condemned for its failure to announce earlier than it did the compensation rate to be allowed because of devaluation, thus creating lack of confidence. This lack of confidence was recognised by the Government in its statement that it would give 50c a case for apples. Confidence was badly needed at the beginning of the season. The Government stands condemned also for failing to produce the figures on which it has based the compensation rate which it has announced. It stands condemned for not taking positive action to combat rising freight costs, lt stands condemned for ils failure this year to underwrite the apple and pear crop.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This week or next week the House, will go into recess until the beginning of the Budget sessional period on or about 13th August. Today, therefore, is the last opportunity that I will have to bring to the notice of the Government two or three matters in relation to social services which I would like it to consider before the preparation of the Budget. Firstly I make a plea to the Government to review the basis on which invalid pensions are paid. For some reason which I have been unable to fathom, rates of invalid pension have always been tied to rates of age pension. I do not believe that any logical reason exists for invalid pension rates being identical to those of age pensions. I have recently seen a publication entitled ‘Social Security in Australia’, written by T. H. Kewley in 1965. Chapter 5 is devoted to the subject of invalid pensions. At page 85, there is a reference to a debate which took place in the New South Wales Parliament on the Old-Age Pensions Bill of 1900. Of course, this was before federation. Perhaps reference to that debate will throw some light on the nexus which has been established between the rates of invalid pension and of age pension. In his publication Mr Kewley writes:
During the debates on the New South Wales Old-Age Pensions Bill of 1900, many members spoke of old-age pensions being a right, or a reward for past services to the community, with a general implication that their remarks applied to the aged and not to the invalid. However, only P. E. Quinn said so explicitly:
. the case may be that of a man who, from physical or mental defects, has failed in the purpose of life: yet you cannot hold that the States owes that man anything.
Providence, which smote him down before his time, or sent him into the world with a frail constitution, may owe him some reparation, but the State, as an act of justice, owes him nothing, as it does in the case of a man who has laboured for 20 or 30 years and has put everything he had into his work in the building of the State.
That may have been the philosophy of some people in 1900, but it is certainly not my philosophy.
– Quinn did not have much of a philosophy.
– I do not know anything about him.I do not know to which party he belonged, but it was certainly horse and buggy thinking. People who are prevented from earning a living because of physical and mental difficulties are in a different category from people whose earning capacity has ceased because of age. The aged person has, in the majority of cases, had the opportunity to save or, in some other ways, to provide for his future and for the future of his wife if he is married or intends to marry. On the other hand, the invalid rarely has the opportunity to earn. The invalid pension ought to be related to the degree of incapacity of the applicant. It should be regarded as compensation for incapacity and not as a pension. This is something society owes to persons who are unfortunate enough to be invalid.
The position of the dependent wife of an invalid pensioner is even worse. A dependent wife is one who is under the age of 60 years and is unable to qualify in her own right for an age pension. Whereas in some cases the dependent wife of an age pensioner can supplement the family income by taking employment either full time or part time, the wife of an invalid pensioner who is at home - in most cases invalid pensioners are at home because the family income is not sufficient to permit them to be hospitalised - is fully occupied in caring for the husband and has no time to work. Where, in a family which has no separate income, the husband is permanently incapacitated the total amount which at present comes into the home for the invalid and his dependent wife is $.19 a week, unless the couple happens to be paying rent. In my opinion this is hopelessly inadequate to meet their needs. The persons who are paying rent get an additional sum of $2 but many of the people who are paying off homes have to pay a substantial sum in council rates.I recently encountered one such case and I asked why they did not seek to have their rates deferred by the council. The lady said: The only thing my husband has left is his dignity and he is not prepared to approach the council, nor am I, for any rebate or concession in this regard’. I hope that in the preparation of the Budget the Government will fix the rates of invalid pensions, and the allowance for the dependent wife of an invalid pensioner, on the basis of compensation for incapacity rather than by any other criteria.
WhenI was investigating a case such as the one to which I have been referring I learned that some people of charitable mind, but not unlimited means, have been trying to help such people financially. While I am quite sure that they do not expect the Government to meet part of the cost of their charity I should like to see our income tax laws amended to permit these people to claim as an allowance the amount they expend on such charity. A number of people pay out some hundreds of dollars in this way each year. Where the payment of this money can be substantiated at an official level, say above the signature of a council social worker, it should be permitted as a deduction for income tax purposes. At present they are not permitted to claim payment of this money as a deduction unless they are paying for the support of a relative.
Finally I want to quote from a letter written to me earlier this year. The lady who wrote to me stated: - Knowing your interest in social services and your belief that money should be spent where the need is greatest, 1 write to set out for your consideration the needs of a very special group of people.
This small group is made up of the 15-18 age group of children who are desirous, and considered capable of, achieving success at the level of Higher School Certificate, or matriculation, or whatever their State’s highest examination for secondary school leavers is called, and whose mothers are civilian widow pensioners.
Research into success at study has shown thai bright children from deprived homes are handicapped and although the Government cannot replace the father, it could relieve the stress on these bright, serious teenagers by providing a more liberal ‘children’s allowance’ for this small group of fatherless student children.
You are aware of widow pensioner benefits so it is unnecessary for me to state them in full, but you will agree that $1.50 a week children’s allowance for these bright young people is hardly adequate. Any increase in the allowance is needed for full-time student dependent children from the time they turn 15. Quite apart from the need to help the teenager at this vital non-recurring time in his life, there is the national need to stop the ‘brain waste’.
Both of us know that for those who feel they can stay on at school Commonwealth secondary scholarships are. available; we know that some States have senior bursaries for the later years at school, but there are not enough to meet the needs of all the applicants considered by their school principals as likely to succeed. Many good candidates are left without help. When these are children of social service widow pensioners it is a disaster.
The lady concluded her letter by pointing out that if the Government cared to investigate this particular aspect of social services it would find that the number of children in this category was not very great and that the cost of implementing some definite upgrading of financial help for them would not be excessive. I hope that what I have said will be brought to the notice of those who consider the needs of the less fortunate ones in the community before the next Budget is prepared.
– First, 1 want to refer briefly to question time today and to the cowardly attack then made on the Acting Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), who is the Leader of the Australian Country Party, by the honourable members for Moreton (Mr Killen), Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and Bowman (Dr Gibbs), which was followed by an attack on the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) by the honourable member for Bowman. I wonder why these three honourable members waited until the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) left Australia before they made their attacks. I think it is a shocking state of affairs when supporters of the Government indulge in this type of attack on the Leader of the Country Party. The great split between the two Government parties is revealed when members of the Rhodesian group who support apartheid and all that goes with it attack two right honourable gentlemen. It was a dastardly act to make such an attack after the Prime Minister had left Australia.
I am concerned with problems associated with fishing rights, and I refer to discussions that are taking place at present between the Australian Government and representatives of the Japanese Government. What concerns most honourable members is a statement that appeared in the Tokyo Press and which was reprinted here in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 21st May. That article states:
Japanese negotiators are to ask that Japanese trawlers be allowed to operate within the 12-mile limit between Sydney and Brisbane.
The request will be submitted when the second round of the Australian-Japanese fishery negotiations begins in Canberra on May 23rd.
At the first round of the talks in February, Australia agreed to allow Japanese boats to continue to operate in Australian waters for an interim period, except in specified waters.
Australia offered Japan a five-year fishing treaty.
However, a spokesman for the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture and Forests said today Japan would ask for a longer period than five years.
I am not acting on Press reports. I have made representations to both the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) on behalf of the fishing industry on the north coast of New South Wales, which is the area in which the Japanese wish to engage in this type of fishing. There are numerous small ports on the north coast which provide employment for hundreds of men and their families. This comment applies not only to the coast between Sydney and Brisbane, but to all the east coast of Australia where this type of fishing is being carried on.
The fishermen along the east coast of Australia trawl for prawns or trap fish. The traps are approximately 6 feet long and 3 feet high and wide. They are dropped over the side of the boat in anything upwards of 100 fathoms of water. Around daylight each morning the fishermen go round their traps and collect whatever fish are in them. They rebait the traps and drop them over the side of the boat again. The traps together with the ropes and floats cost the fishermen more than $75 each. The traps, together with the time and effort which the fishermen have to spend in setting the traps, mean a terrible lot to the fishermen. Each fisherman has between 25 and 30 traps.
If the Japanese are permitted to fish along the east coast in the way for which they have requested permission, that is, if they engage in long line fishing, they will run out a length of line over a distance of 50 miles. The Japanese drop one end of the line in the shallows. They run it out over the back of the boat, with hooks set all the way along the line. It might be referred to as a Jacob’s line, a kind which is illegal for use in enclosed waters. This is the type of fishing in which the Japanese will indulge. It would not be so bad if the long line was simply paid out and allowed to run in the current, and the Japanese could collect the fish that were caught. But something further will happen.
When the Japanese drop the line out, with the movement of the current along the coast, which runs at anything upwards of 8 knots, the line will become entangled in the Australian fishermen’s ropes running from the traps on the bottom of the ocean to the floats on the surface. What will happen is what has happened for many years along the east coast. The Japanese will lift the Australian fishermen’s traps and they will take the fish out of the traps. I know that the Japanese have been doing this for many years, because I have been associated with fishermen on the coast for many years. When the Japanese fishermen’s lines become entangled in the Australian fishermen’s traps they will pinch the fish and they will cut the traps off. In the result the Australian fisherman will lose the trap, the ropes and the floats which, as I said earlier, cost approximately $75 per trap.
On behalf of the Australian fishermen on the east coast I register the strongest possible protest in this House. I ask the
Government not to make any agreement or to grant permission to the Japanese to fish off the east coast. I think that we have to consider what is happening throughout the world today. On 20th May of this year I read in the Australian Press that twentyone Russian whalers were due to berth in Sydney on that date. What did this fleet of twenty-one whalers comprise? I do not have time to go into all the details, but the fleet was led by a mother ship of 44,000 tons. There were approximately 500 men and women on the mother ship and approximately 1,200 men and women in the total fleet complement. This figure represents approximately 10% of the total number of people who are engaged in the Australian fishing industry today.
I also refer to an article which appeared in the London ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 10th September of last year. It referred to a Russian survey team which had carried out a survey of Australian fishing grounds. The article went on to say:
Their research work is far in excess of anything Australia has tackled. It could give Russian fishing fleets an advantage of several years over home competition.
If we are to grant permission to the Japanese to fish along the Australian coast within the 12-mile limit, are we likewise to grant permission to the Russians to come here and fish within the 12-mile limit along the Australian coast? I draw honourable members’ attention to an agreement which was entered into in the United States of America. A report in the ‘New York Times’ of 26 November of last year stated:
Moscow, Nov. 25- After hard negotiating, the United States and the Soviet Union reached agreement here today on measures to reduce intensive fishing by Soviet vessels in waters along the Middle Atlantic Coast.
Further on the report stated:
Catches off the United States have declined recently and some specialists have attributed the drop to over fishing by large Soviet fleets, consisting of as many as 200 vessels.
I have not time to read further from the report, but it goes on to point out that the Soviet Union is the fourth largest fishing nation in the world and that Japan is the second largest fishing nation in the world. In the near future, as a result of this Government’s action in granting permission to Japanese fleets to fish along the Australian coast, will Australian fishing grounds be denuded of fish and will we then have to enter into an international agreement to keep Japanese fishermen out of Australian waters? We should be saying now to the Japanese, to the Russians and to everyone else that they cannot fish within the 12-mile limit of the Australian coast. This limit is recognised internationally. The United States is not prepared to permit foreign fishermen to fish within its 12-mile limit, and neither should we.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In the 10 minutes that are available to me I. want to bring the subject of decentralisation to the notice of the Government. This matter is of tremendous importance to the future balanced development of Australia, lt is a subject to which 1 and my colleagues in the Australian Country Party have devoted a great deal of time. It is one of the fundamentals of our Party’s policy. It is one of the major reasons why the Country Party is in existence. I do not agree with the proposition put forward that politicians only pay lip service to decentralisation. Over the years many people in the Federal Parliament and in the State Parliaments have introduced measures that have’ greatly assisted the decentralisation of population and industries throughout Australia.
The Australian Government has given consistent and valuable financial support to various industries, both primary and secondary, to assist the population development of Australia. Many towns in the north east part of Victoria and in the southern Riverina, which are the areas I know best, have developed into prosperous and soundly based communities because of the Government’s policies, which have been formed mainly through the efforts of Country Party members of Parliament who endeavour to help the agricultural and pastoral industries. The Commonwealth also has made further efforts in regard to water conservation, beef roads, the development of ports, the uniform petrol price legislation and the Commonwealth aid roads plan. Other aspects also have been helpful.
However, in spite of all these efforts the serious position still remains that the population of our six capital cities is continually increasing at a faster rate than the increase in our total population. There has been a consistent increase and it is very alarming to those of us who are interested in the balanced development of Australia. The bare statistics are that in 1933 our six capital cities had 46% of Australia’s total population. Today 58% of our people live in the six capitals. There has been an increase in our total population of about 3.8 million in the last 35 years and 3 million of our people are living in the capitals. This percentage can only continue to increase unless new policies are adopted and new lines of thought and new philosophies are generated in the governments of this country and, what is more, in the minds of our people.
– We need a new government.
– The honourable member should not interject because the Labor Party is in favour of diminishing the parliamentary representation of people living in areas outside our capital cities. This would be one of the worst things that could happen. Members of the Labor Party, when talking about decentralisation, make only a sham fight of it because they are bent on policies - they are dedicated to policies - which will reduce the parliamentary representation of people in the areas outside the great capital cities.
I want to draw particular attention, in the few minutes in which I have left to speak, to the joint Commonwealth-State decentralisation committee. This committee was set up in 1964 by the Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen) when he was Acting Prime Minister. The committee comprises representatives of the Prime Minister’s Department, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Treasury, the Department of National Development and relevant State government departments. It is all very fine to have this committee but the point is that it is just not working. It is not doing anything. As I understand the position it has met about twice in the last 4 years. That is what I gather from what little information I have been able to obtain. This is disgraceful. It is a sad reflection on the interest in this problem of not only the Federal Government but also the State governments. I was told, in answer to a series of questions, that there have been numerous meetings held by what is called the technical working party and that Commonwealth and State officials frequently contact one another in relation to this matter. But all my efforts, by way of questioning, to obtain definite information have met with practically no response whatever. In fact I have the feeling that 1 am getting the brushoff. I will not take the brushoff. I will pursue this matter until a satisfactory result is achieved. 1 want to address four questions to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Deputy Prime Minister and other members of the Government, lt is impossible for me to go into all the ramifications of decentralisation in the short time that 1 have available. I intend to get an answer to these four questions. It does not seem to me to be a tremendous problem to arrive at some remedy for this unbalanced development of Australia. The fact is that the remedy relies on finance and the Commonwealth Government is the only body in Australia that has the finance needed to achieve balanced development. Whilst decentralisation has been recognised traditionally as a State government field it cannot be so regarded any longer. The Commonwealth Government must come into the picture, as it has done with water conservation, roads and education and in other spheres traditionally recognised as State government responsibilities.
Referring again to the lack of activity by the joint Commonwealth-State decentralisation committee, I want to pose these four questions: Firstly, what is the name of the Commonwealth convenor of the joint committee and what department does he represent? Secondly, who are the members of the technical working party and how many meetings have they had? Thirdly, who are the Commonwealth and State officials involved and how often have they met? Fourthly, can a joint CommonwealthState or Commonwealth statement be made on behalf of this committee or the aspects that it has been studying and what stage has been reached?
– I want to bring a very important matter before the House and it relates to pensioners. I ask the Government, particularly the new Minister for Social Services (Mr
Wentworth), not to wait to receive representatives of pensioner organisations. Many such organisations in my electorate and other electorates believe that if they could only come to Canberra to meet representatives of the Government and tell them their tale they would get some relief by way of an increase in pension. Honourable members on this side of the House do not like to be too hard on the Government in having to tell the pensioners otherwise.
The point is that the pensioners are not in a position to pay out money to come to Canberra unless transport is provided for them. It will not be long before the Budget is presented and 1 think it would be proper for the Minister to give some indication of what he proposes to do for the pensioners in the coming financial year. Many of them are actually starving. Honourable members on this side go to meeting after meeting held by pensioners and see what they have to exist on. The shops are full of fruit and other kinds of food but pensioners are just managing to exist. We would not ask our own families to live at such a depressed standard if it were avoidable.
In the electorate of West Sydney alone there are about 5,000 pensioners. Their homes are in a very bad state. The Sydney City Council once helped them in some small way. When the Liberal Government came into office in New South Wales it gave orders that such-and-such assistance should not be continued and the pensioners were left in a mood of desperation. In West Sydney it costs at least S5, $6 or $7 a week to rent a room. The result is never in doubt if a person who depends entirely on the invalid pension or the age pension has to pay so much for a room. He will be subjected to many nights of hunger and will be without proper nourishment.
Constituents in my electorate of West Sydney have admired speeches made by the present Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) at meetings in the Sydney Town Hall when he was a Liberal Party back bencher. Many of them have said: ‘If only Wentworth were Minister for Social Services, we would get something done’. He made definite promises at these meetings in the Sydney Town Hall and he should now say whether those promises are to be kept.
Representatives of the pensioners will probably want to come to Canberra to see the Minister when the Budget comes round, and they should know this before they begin a fruitless trip. I do not like to tell them that it is of no use to come to Canberra to see the Minister for Social Services. Their position should be considered. After all, it is not easy for them to pay the bus fares or the petrol costs that would be involved in making a trip to Canberra. Rather, I believe it would be better for these people to make an appointment to see the Minister in Sydney.
I appeal to the Minister to do something worthwhile for the pensioners regardless of where they are or who they are. No pensioner today has any money left after he has paid for a few items of food for his table and paid rent for a room.
– Pensioners need warm clothes now, too.
– It is winter time and pensioners need warm clothes. But they cannot obtain warm clothing when business people tighten up and ask high prices for it. When one tries to get something done to provide clothing for pensioners, one runs into trouble. The relatively few rich people may be able to wear the warmest of clothing, but that is of no benefit to the many hundreds of pensioners who do not have warm clothes. Something could be done about this problem readily enough if the Government would only take the trouble. It should send representatives to meetings held by pensioners, to see what their needs are. My colleagues and I on this side of the chamber do not get any kudos for raising these matters and perhaps recounting a story of hardship that honourable members opposite do not believe. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and in these matters the pudding is never eaten by the pensioners about whom I am talking. There is no proof of anything good coming from this Government. It should do something about the plight of pensioners in the very near future.
When the Parliament adjourns for the winter recess, we will naturally attend meetings held by pensioners and we will be asked all sorts of questions. It is not very nice to have to slate a parliamentary colleague by saying that he does nothing about social services.
– Except talk.
– That is right. It is disappointing not to hear that the Minister intends to improve social services. After all the promises he made when he was a back bencher, he ought to do something now he is Minister. Why does he not do something spectacular and give pensioners increased benefits so that they can keep going?
The Government has contributed towards the establishment of homes for the aged. But land is not available to build such homes in my electorate, which is in an old established area of Sydney. It is almost impossible to establish homes for pensioners in my electorate. As a result, they have to pay more than half of their pension for a room, and not a very good room at that.
– The fellow who rents the room would probably be a Liberal Party supporter.
– He ought to have a change of heart. The only supporter of the Liberal Party who can help pensioners is the Minister. Why pensioners have not been given favourable consideration, I do not know. Pensioners living on Lord Howe Island also are in need. I suppose there are about half a dozen pensioners on the island. If they try to supplement their pensions by milking cows and separating the cream to make butter to sell to the grocer, or something of the sort, they have to pay taxation on any earnings they get. This position does not apply on Norfolk Island where, unlike Lord Howe Island, there are no taxes.
We have also had a long battle over the plane service from Lord Howe Island to Australia. Over the last 3 years it has cost the Federal Government, as it has admitted, more to run a flying boat service to Lord Howe Island than it would cost it to build an airstrip on the island. Some years ago, for this service, the Government purchased a flying boat in New Zealand at a cost of $200,000, but the machine was not suitable. A discussion between the Federal Government and the New South Wales Government was suggested. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) confided in me that if the State Government came to the party he would certainly attend such a discussion on behalf of the
Federal Government. I got in touch with the appropriate people on Lord Howe Island and we decided to call a meeting there on a particular day. But what happened? At 3 o’clock on the Tuesday morning, when I went to the flying boat terminal at Rose Bay to catch the plane to go to Lord Howe Island, I found that the service was not operating. The same thing happened on the following days, and I got across to Lord Howe Island only after a delay of 4 days.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. -
– In the limited time available to me, I intend to make a few brief remarks about the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and State governments and how they affect individual people. I have time to mention only a few specific points. The type of financial relations we have in our federal system are well illustrated by the financing of the Ord River development. I was at the Ord River in June last year with other members of the Government Members National Development Committee, and we were impressed by what we saw. Admittedly, we had some voices of dissent in the Committee. But this led to healthy argument. I was impressed also by the fact that the people of Western Australia, and particularly the people of Kununurra, had had instilled in them such great expectations that-
-Order! I remind the honourable member that under standing order 71 he may not refer to a subject matter that is already before the House.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I am referring to a visit to the Ord area last year by the Government Members National Development Committee. I am not referring directly to the agreement between the Commonwealth and Western Australia to provide money for the project. What I am referring to is the fact that for projects of this sort, of which the Ord scheme is an example, the Commonwealth, as part of its four-pronged national water conservation policy, is providing large amounts of money to fill gaps in State programmes. A similar project is the Nogoa scheme, in Queensland.
I point out that the same kind of grant applies to each of these projects. The Commonwealth is in no way committed to continue this type of grant, however. In fact, continuance would not be appropriate, because grants are made on an Australia wide basis. They are not made only for a particular State. The problem that arises is that each of the States already has its own capacity for building and constructing these works, but when they have massive injections of Commonwealth money for a particular work they must expand their capacity to handle it. Admittedly most of the actual construction work is done by contracting organisations which operate throughout Australia. But the organisation or the public authority, as the case may be, is still suddenly required to do the initial field investigatory work necessary for designing the structures, prepare the major contracts, and supervise the construction, and these activities require a lot of skilled men. What we tend to forget occasionally in the continuous development of our Federal system is that human beings are involved. In the case of the Ord probably some 7 or 8 engineers would have to be taken on as well as 2 or 3 surveyors, some construction inspectors and soil testers. In all something like fifty trained and skilled men are needed to see the project through. Something like 15 man-years are needed for the field research on which the designs are based. The design work also takes approximately 15 man-years. The men to do this work have to be found and put on the job. At the end of the job they are dismissed. There is. in my view, a completely unnecessary disruption of people’s lives, when something like 50 or 60 men required on a specific job are taken on and then dismissed.
Virtually the same situation exists in the case of the Nogoa scheme. In the case of the Ord and the Nogoa the Snowy Mountains Authority has assisted in some of the earlier work, although the value of the work it has done on the Ord has been only $7,600 to date. 1 believe that where these massive amounts of Commonwealth money are given for a specific work we should expressly tie to the offer of finance an offer of necessary manpower so that we do not disrupt the State organisations. I feel it would be perfectly acceptable to the States to have the supervision engineers, design engineers, major contract design people, construction inspectors and soil testers and others provided by the Snowy Mountains Authority. I do not suggest that the Snowy Mountains Authority should be the contracting authority in these cases, because in the two cases I mentioned the work could be more appropriately done by State authorities in the case of Western Australia by the Public Works Department, and in the case of Queensland by either the Irrigation and Water Supply Commission or the Public Works Department or by some other appropriate State organisation. It would be unlikely that they would have to take on, and subsequently dismiss, extra staff for the job of constructing authority, which is largely an administrative task. f want to mention one other thing. I do not have time to over-emphasise these points, but I think they are particularly important. In the design of all these projects involving irrigation and large water storages it is important to study profit and cost analyses within the overall benefit cost analyses - good ones have been done on both the Ord and the Nogoa - and to consider sizes of farms and farm productivity. The projects should be designed so that the farms themselves could afford to pay for water and for the headworks, even if the interest and redemption had to be spread over 100 years at a fairly low rate. The figures show that this could be done wilh both the Ord and the Nogoa. If this were done the whole project would be more viable, lt would also provide a built-in cushion, if I may describe it in that way. In both these schemes it is now proposed to supply the water without cost. My suggestion is that the farms should be large enough to pay for the water but that if the market or production situation later deteriorated so that the farms were less profitable the water could then be supplied without charge. This would be better than introducing a direct subsidy at that later stage. At least the farms would be designed to be big enough to stand on their own feet and pay for their own water.
On my present theme, which is that we should think of the people affected by our decisions, there are one or two other matters I should mention. The first is the recent decision by the Minister for Education in New South Wales not to allow people who are granted New South Wales teacher training scholarships to use them at the Australian National University. I know that the ANU has decided to charge fees in the case of persons resident at the ANU - not residents of Canberra or the Australian Capital Territory but tutors, professors and other people resident at the ANU itself. There is nothing in any decision of the ANU or the Commonwealth Government that prevents people granted New South Wales teacher training scholarships using them at the ANU. The only thing that prevents them is the decision of the New South Wales Minister to which I have referred. I ask the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to use his good offices to try to convince the Minister for Education in New South Wales that his decision should be reversed and that people whose normal place of residence is near enough to the ANU to make it their local university should be able to use New South Wales teacher training scholarships at that university. We must give more thought to the requirements and needs of the people involved and pay less heed to the details of some agreement between State and Federal Governments. I believe that people are more important than governments. We should remember this when we are working out arrangements between this Government and State Governments.
– The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) expressed some fears about Government decisions on joint ventures in fishing. I want to put bis mind at rest by explaining one or two points that I have explained previously in the House. Apparently he did not have the good fortune to read my speech in Hansard. The situation in respect of the extension of the prohibited zone from 3 miles to 12 miles is that Australia has followed very carefully the international practice of not declaring unilaterally an extension of the zone but giving an opportunity to those countries that have been traditionally and historically fishing in the waters between the 3 and 12 mile limits an opportunity to phase out their operations. lt is essential for the honourable member to realise that all we are doing is following international practice. He raised the question of what the United States has done. He is apparently unaware that in point of fact the United States of America has not taken unilateral action but has already negotiated agreements with Japan and Soviet Russia on fishing within this declared 12 mile zone. So our own practice is completely in accord with theirs.
To put the honourable member’s mind completely at ease, perhaps I ought to read to him a Press statement that was issued after my meeting with the Australian Fishing Industry Council yesterday. I had the opportunity of talking with this newly formed body which will represent the fishing industry in discussions held at Commonwealth level. Each State has a representative on this Council.I wish to read this Press statement because it shows quite clearly that the industry itself has no fears at all about its own future and about the Government’s policy on joint ventures in the fishing industry. The Press statement reads:
The executive of the Australian Fishing Industry
Council was satisfied that the interests of Australian fishermen were being safeguarded by the Commonwealth Government in its discussions with Japan over the extension of Australia’s exclusive fishing limits from 3 to 12 miles, the President of the Australian Fishing Industry Council, Mr A. W. Ellem, said today.
Speaking in Canberra after the first meeting of the Australian Fishing Industry Council Executive. Mr Ellem said that discussions were held yesterday with the Acting Minister for Primary Industry, Mr P. J. Nixon. . . .
He said that they were completely to his satisfaction.
– Order! The time allowed for this discussion has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 May (vide page 1553), on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Customs Tariff Bill 1968 gives legislative enactment to customs tariff proposals that have been introduced in the House from 4th October 1967 to 3rd April 1968. Most of the proposals do not make any changes in the customs tariff. They are drafting proposals or they do not increase or decrease the tariff. Quite a number of other proposals merely make very small changes and I do not intend to refer to any proposals except those that increase or decrease the tariffs to some extent.
The first change to which I would like to direct the attention of the House relates to the importation of New Zealand undressed Douglas fir. This may affect the production of timber of a similar kind in Australia. However, as far as I have been able to ascertain, there is no complaint from producers about this change. The existing tariff has been changed from$1. 44 per 100 superficial feet to free and from $1.68 for other timber to free. This proposal ought to be noted by honourable members. If any producers are concerned about it, we would expect them to say so. Another item that is worth mentioning is the provisionfor television receiver deflection yolks and parts. The tariff is slightly reduced, but presumably the industry has no objection to it. Another item, which is perhaps of only slight importance, relates to toy radio receivers and radio remote control apparatus for toys. There is a rather larger decrease on fishing rod blanks. The rate is reduced from 55% plus 5% primage on the general rate and 171/2% on the preferential rate to 221/2% general and 121/2% preferential. Here again, as far as I have been able to ascertain, there is no objection to the change.
It is also worth mentioning that the duty on safflower seed oil has been increased for the purpose of maintaining the price of the imported commodity. This may not make an appreciable difference to the Australian industry using this oil. The duty on photographic flat plates and film has been reduced by about 10% on the general rate and 21/2% on the preferential rate. A similar decrease applies to film in rolls. Sensitised paper, paperboard and cloth show a decrease of a similar amount. Sensitised exposed plates and film show a similar reduction. The next item that shows a significant increase, though it is not a very important item, is guitar cases. The general rate is increased from 71/2% to 45% and the preferential rate from free to 321/2%. I do not know whether this is a discrimination against demonstrators who seem significantly to be the users of guitars and guitar cases. If this is so, it may reflect the Government’s policy.
Another item of importance is metal reinforced rubber belts or belting. I remember this being opposed on more than one occasion when a duty of a similar kind has been proposed. This shows quite a significant increase from 74% to 35% general and from free to 25% preferential. I would imagine that this alteration will considerably increase the cost of rubber belts, unless there have been some changes in the industry in Australia. It may well have an effect on primary producers. It brings home to me one of the difficulties in ascertaining how these changes affect industry and of getting the reaction of users. I have contacted quite a number of people to ascertain what they think of the change, but I am afraid that very little response has come through those inquiries. I do not know whether we are missing the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly), whose position seemed to be more sensitive when he was on the back bench than it is now. This is perhaps one of the biggest increases proposed in the Bill.
Some reductions are made to the rates for woven fabrics. Woven fabrics of silk show reductions that are significant enough to have some effect. Then there is an increase in duty on monofil strip, imitation catgut and man made fibre materials. There is in increase of duty on elastomeric fabric weighing not more than 15 oz per square yard. Here the increase on the ad valorem rate is not very large. There is a decrease of duty on woven fabric of metal thread or metallised yarn of 5% in both the general and preferential rates. The duty on woven fabrics of flax or ramie is decreased. The amount is not very large. The duty on woven fabrics of true hemp is decreased fairly considerably. It was previously 45% general and 224% preferential. It has now become 74% general and 3% preferential.
Respecting woven fabrics of jute, there is an increase of duty from 224% general and 5% preferential to 45% general and 35% preferential. Regarding woven fabrics of other vegetable textile fabrics and of paper yarn there is a decrease in duty of a considerable amount. Woven pile fabrics and chenille fabrics show a decrease in duty from 45% and free down to 24% and free. Respecting any narrow woven fabrics and narrow fabrics consisting of warp and weft assembled by means of an adhesive, other than goods falling within item 58/06, an increase in duty applies. Wadding and other articles of wadding show a decrease in duty to about half what it was before. Another item which may have some significance to the industry in Australia is the provision for felt and articles of felt where a decrease in duty occurs. Previously the general rate was a varying one ranging from 74% to 524% with primage of 5% in the general rate while the preferential rate was free to 274% plus 5% primage. The new proposed duties are 25% general and 15% preferential. This could make quite a significant difference to industries in Australia using felt.
The provisions of this Bill, apart from those, that I have mentioned which give some indication of the changes, do not involve any significant alteration. Most of the others that I have not mentioned are drafting alterations with no change at all or increases or decreases of a very small amount. Looking at the Bill as a whole, the Opposition does not oppose it. But I point out that a number of these changes have come into the legislation not as a result of any report by the Tariff Board or by the Special Advisory Authority.
I was associated with a question from the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) this morning to the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). The honourable member for Grayndler asked the Minister to take the opportunity that would be provided by the debate on this Bill today to say something about some of the problems that had arisen in recent times in and around the Tariff Board. I listened to the reply given by the Minister. Whilst it was satisfactory as a reply to a question at question time, I regret that’ the Minister has not chosen to say more to the House about the existing problems of tariff making than he has chosen to do. I think it is about time that the Minister took the House a little more into his confidence. The particular problem that the honourable member for Grayndler and a number of other honourable members have been concerned about this week which has been drawn to their attention by many sectors of Australian industry is a proposal of the
Tariff Board mentioned in its 1966-67 annual report to classify industries into those which have (a) a high level of protection, (b) a medium level of protection, and (c) a low level of protection. A great deal of space was given in the Board’s report to the discussion of this proposal.
This morning, the Minister for Trade and Industry was asked whether the Tariff Board would proceed with this proposal. The Minister said that he agreed that there could be considerable dangers in this proposal, that industries could be seriously harmed if this proposal was carried into effect, and that if it was published by the Tariff Board that a particular industry was a high tariff industry, with the associated suggestion that it was lacking in efficiency, this could lead to a failure of investment in that industry and to the industry closing down. The honourable member for Bonython (Mr Nicholls) pointed out that there was such an industry on which a good deal of female employment in Elizabeth near Adelaide, I think, in fact, was dependent. The Minister recognises the dangers in this proposal. What is going to happen? The honourable member for Bonython has pointed out that this was a significant field for the implementation of Government policy. Is the Minister to leave it to what he said in the House? He said that he thought the Tariff Board was well aware of what was going on and that it would take notice. Is it going to take notice?
I direct the attention of the Minister to page 10 of the 1966-67 report, and specifically to paragraph 75 under the heading Time Table’. There the Tariff Board says:
The Board plans to complete, within the next twelve months, its initial study of the level and distribution of protection afforded final products. It proposes to publish, in its Annual Report for 1967-68, a classification of industries into high, medium and low protection categories.
So, the Board has said that in the next report that it presents it proposes to publish these very classifications of industries which the Minister for Trade and Industry this morning has admitted could be dangerous and harmful. The Board proposes to do this.
I think that we in this House are entitled to know whether the Board is still of that mind. Has anything that the Government has said or anything that the Board might have noticed changed its mind about this matter? It may be all very well for the Board to get some whispers, for the Minister to lean on it a bit. or for industry to complain and for it to change its decision so that it will not publish in its 1967-68 report what it said in its 1966-67 report it would publish. This may be all right. The ship, as it were, might be saved. But 1 think that if we had the opportunity to discuss a little more in this House what is going on in tariff making in this country we might be able to ask the question: Why is it that the Board makes such a fuss in 1966-67 about this proposal for the classification of industries into high, medium and low levels of protection? The Board devotes four pages to the subject. It says that it will publish in its next report the industries which come into those classifications. But perhaps the Board will not do this at all. Why does the Board go off at a tangent apparently in the development of a new kind of policy as though it has all been carefully considered and decided? After this, the Minister says that this policy could be dangerous and harmful. He thinks the Board is very sensitive, will take notice of the situation and will say nothing in its 1967-68 report. This seems to me to be symptomatic of the way in which tariffs are being made in Australia today, and the House is at fault for not requiring the Minister to give a better account of his operations in this field. It is insufficient for the Minister to say: ‘The Tariff Board is independent, and I am not going to interfere with the way in which it does its job’. One would have to be extremely naive to think that was the case; one would need to be very simple minded to imagine that what the Minister said this morning, and I am sure has said on other occasions, will not have a material influence on whether the Tariff Board publishes in its 1967-68 report this classification of industries that it has said it was going to publish. What does go on in this field? I shall not take up more time of the House now. I merely raise the question and suggest that it is time we had some answers.
– The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) quite accurately and correctly gave a fairly comprehensive list of his ideas about a proposal relating to earth moving equipment, material handling equipment, machine equipment, wooden planks, etc. He went on to speak about the possibility of the Tariff Board categorising the industries for high, medium and low level protection. I am unwilling to comment on what the result of this would be, for I do not know enough about it. However, I have my doubts.
This is the first opportunity 1 have had to speak on Customs Tariff legislation and, while being aware of the enormously complex issues involved concerning tariff and trade generally, I would like to say at the outset that I am more than a little worried over certain aspects of tariff protection in this country. As most honourable members will be aware, tariff is a field which has created a great deal of controversy, speculation and doubt in the minds not only of the Japanese but also the Australian public. As standards of living rise, as population increases, as demand grows and as trade assumes an ever-important role in Australia today, one does not have to be an expert to realise that, proportionately, the problems concerned with trade and tariff protection as a whole will increase accordingly.
Unfortunately, in a field as wide and as difficult as tariff, it is not possible to generalise on the issue of protection whether it be high, medium or low level protection; in fact, it is impossible to be particular as every case is different, as every tariff and request for tariff protection must be judged on its merits, and as the Board itself has to take into account many and varied considerations. Honourable members on both sides of the House will be aware of the controversy surrounding the importation of Japanese’ motor vehicles on to the Australian market. This is measured by the concern which has been expressed by our own manufacturers. I refer to the big four - General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd, Chrysler Australia Ltd, the British Motor Corporation and the Ford Company. Of course, the decision to raise the prices of Japanese cars announced some short time ago has given the country only a temporary respite from what must surely be termed a rapid increase in Japanese competition. I believe, however, that the decision made by the Australian Government which ultimately led to an increase in prices of
Japanese motor vehicles set a test case for what we can come to expect in the future. Every Australian must have a better knowledge of this duty; it is in his interests to do so. Tariff decisions made by the Board are vital to the continued success of industry, yet I firmly believe that some areas of grave doubt are evident.
Doubtless, the recent issue concerning allegations of dumping - whether they were true or false - has been resolved for the time being and, I believe, with some degree of satisfaction. At least the question as to motor car imports has been rationalised to a degree. Before I continue on the subject, may I say that I think the remarks made by the newly appointed Japanese ConsulGeneral in Sydney are very pertinent to trade between Australia and Japan, and consequently to this Bill. He said:
Basically, both countries are so complementary. We need enormous quantities of foodstuffs and raw materials. 1 can’t think of anything we wouldn’t buy from you and this remains at the base of everything. It can’t be changed.
He went on:
So long as we continue to trade at all, our trade will have to grow.
It was his latter remark which was of interest to me. Referring to whether Australia was becoming too dependent on the Japanese market for its raw materials, he said:
But at the moment there is no danger of Japan becoming too dependent on Australian supplies of essential materials. In fact, we want to buy more as our nation grows.
How true that is, but what of the side effects? Just before Mr Tanetani made these remarks, an excellent article appeared in the Australian ‘Financial Review’ dated 21st May under the heading ‘B.M.C., V.W. feel the Japanese challenge’. It revealed that preliminary figures for new car registrations suggest that the Volkswagen and BMC organisations, the two local producers that are suffering from the high level of Japanese imports, slipped further in the car market during April. Total new registrations reached 36,276, slightly less than the total of 37,096 recorded during March. On a seasonally adjusted basis, April registrations were 37,092, compared with 37,245 during March. Market shares have not yet been officialy released but preliminary figures are available in the industry. They show that General Motors-Holden’s
Pty Ltd sold 12,800 units during April, representing 34.5% of the motor car market. During March GMH’s share was only 32%, and sales reached 11,869. Ford’s share of the market eased from 19.2% in March to 19.1%, while Chrysler slipped from 13.8% to 13% during the same period. The total Japanese share of the market moved up from 14.6% to 15.3%, apparently on the strength of buying to beat the expected price rise during May.
As one who comes from a State whose economy is very much bound up with the successful operation and production of motor vehicles - 1 name but two organisations, General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd and the Chrysler organisation - this issue is of vital importance. The entry of the Japanese into the four-cylinder car range with the subsequent rapid increase in sales - as a percentage of the total car market it is almost a sky-rocket increase - has had an enormous impact on the whole industry. Japanese car sales exert a major influence, at about 15% of the total market. This challenge from the Japanese, unless it is checked or some quick answer is provided, will have very serious repercussions not only throughout South Australia but also nationally.
It is a well-known fact that the motor car industry in this country is the second biggest employer of labour. This is precisely where the problem comes in. Do you refuse a commodity - in this case cars - to a people who want and can pay for it, if the introduction of that commodity is going to hamper and affect job opportunity and employment within the framework of national industry? Or, to be more precise, do you protect those industries, particularly those major industries which have grown up under our protection and with our assistance, against highly competitive, low priced, high quality imports from a country which, comparatively speaking, has nothing like the same level of investment in this country as our own producers - from a country which because of lower production costs can afford to dump or sell at prices that the Australian industry cannot hope ever to match? I believe the answer is ‘yes’ for motor vehicles, simply because the automobile industry is so interwined with the economy.
Because of our current tariff policy, valuable assistance has been given to many industries, especially those engaged in the manufactures. I take this opportunity to compliment the Tariff Board on the independence it is showing at the moment. We have made mistakes in some lesser industries. However, the time has surely come for us to examine not so much why our policy is operating, but how - and how best assistance can and should be given, whether it be by bounty or tariff, to the industries that genuinely need tariff protection. Generally speaking, I believe the motor vehicle industry, which is allimportant to Australia, is one that does deserve this protection and assistance. But in 1968 we find ourselves in an increasingly difficult position - mainly in regard to the 4-cylinder range of cars - as the level of imports rises steadily, not yearly but monthly. 1 have mentioned the recent Japanese case, not because I want to deal necessarily with trade with Japan or to discuss the why and wherefore or the rights and wrongs of it, but because I want to try to establish in my own mind what our future prospects will be in the light of rapidly mounting pressure due, in part, to our favourable balance of trade with that country. While on this point of tariff protection it may be of interest for honourable members to know that at present about 24% of Australia’s imports are covered by protective traiffs. The other 76% are either free of duties or attract low duties intended only to raise government revenue.
A survey of tariffs by the Australian Industries Development Association found that in 1961-62 the average Australian tariff was 10%. This figure has, I believe, risen somewhat since that time. The subject of the Australian content of cars has given rise to serious concern on the part of many manufacturers, who are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain operations in the four-cylinder range on the Australian market while the Government insists on 95% local content in manufacture. If I am correctly informed, little or no profit is made in the marketing of four-cylinder vehicles. In some cases severe initial losses have been sustained. Motor car companies today cannot produce more than 7,500 cars a year in Australia without including in their manufacture 95% of local parts; if they produce fewer than 7,500 vehicles they must pay a 45% tariff duty. This is an awkard position to be in, considering that the market for four-cylinder vehicles is being hit hard by Japanese competition. Sales of Japanese passenger vehicles in Australia are running at an annual rate of about 49,000 - roughly one-third of the light car market and approximately one-seventh of the total car market. A decade ago such a figure would have been laughable. Australian manufacturers are justifiably concerned at the alarming grip which the Japanese now have on the Australian market. One has only to ask for the opinion of anyone engaged in the motor industry, from a fitter and turner to a managing director, to learn how the industry feels about Japanese competion. When one considers also that every Japanese car sold in Australia today could mean one Australian car not sold - this may be a somewhat loose analogy - one can perhaps understand the reasonable concern of manufacturers. I do not suggest that competition is bad - far from it - but I think manufacturers have a point, particularly when we remember that we are competing with a work force many times larger than our own and one which receives far less than does ours in terms of conditions and real wages.
I want to refer now specifically to our so called small volume plan. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that severe and important repercussions are now being felt throughout Australia because of the plan. The small volume plan, since its inception in 1965, has been the cause of much concern to the industry. I do not want to do other than examine whether the plan is best for the industry or, if it is not, whether some viable alternative may be found to take the place of a plan which now obviously has sand bags round its neck, reducing incentive in the fourcylinder market rather than encouraging sales of four-cylinder machines. From a market of 28,822 cars and station wagons in 1964 and a market share of 9%, Volkswagen, which is one of the big five manufacturers, has slipped a shattering 50% in 3 years to a meagre market of just 4.6%. Volkswagen is now no longer in the club as far as full local content is concerned. The British Motor Corporation is on the same down grade, dropping from a total local market of 36,000 in 1964 to 26,460 in 1967. Its market share declined in the same period from 11.2% to 7.8%. All over the local scene the picture is the same. Perhaps there are too many high quality four-cylinder cars on the market today or perhaps, bearing in mind our insistance on 95% local content, there is something drastically wrong with the small volume plan - so wrong that Volkswagen is all but wiped out, BMC is heading the same way, and the Japanese are the only ones apparently gaining. It may be of interest to know that in the 6 months ended December last imports from Japan increased by 96% over the same period of the previous year. It is in the light vehicle field that the whole success or failure of the plan lies. This we all must acknowledge. In the six-cylinder range the small volume plan apparently has not disrupted or unduly influenced the industry, as those producing were almost at 95% local content at the time of the inception of the plan in 1965. It is in the fourcylinder range that the industry has been hit hard. At the. inception of the plan manufacturers were in two minds as to what they should do. This has led to massive fragmentation in the retailing of four-cylinder vehicles. We cannot simply cut imports from Japan, for the Japanese would get round the cuts by introducing more vehicles under the small volume plan. This would lead to a further rise in component imports and even wider model fragmentation.
One could go on for hours on this issue, but it is not my intention to do so. In the interests of trade and of those local manufacturers who have invested heavily in this country would it not be wise to acknowledge publicly that the small volume plan has not lived up to expectations? Would it not be wise to consider the possibility of having the Tariff Board conduct a further exhaustive investigation into the merits or otherwise of the small volume plan and recommend whether a better alternative exists? I do not know whether the Board would recommend that we lower the 95% local content requirement in respect of production in excess of 7,500 cars a year or simply increase duties. I do know, however, that something has to be done, because the position continues to deteriorate steadily. Perhaps a reduction of the 95% local content requirement is the answer. Alternatively, to assist the manufacturer in the marketing and sale of fourcylinder vehicles, perhaps the limit of 7,500 vehicles could be increased substantially so as to give the manufacturer more room to flex his muscles, depending on demand for his product. All these ideas should be investigated. It is of interest to note incidentally that when the small volume issue was first raised the Tariff Board recommended a gradual phasing in of the 95% local content idea. It is interesting also to note that the recommendation was ignored. In the light of what I have said the Tariff Board may well have been right. 1 stress that action is urgently needed. 1 believe that the Tariff Board is well equipped to handle such an investigation in the interests of the industry, particularly the manufacturers, who would welcome any step towards greater rationalisation in the four-cylinder vehicle range. It is our job to ensure a booming economy. We can do this only if there is confidence within the industry. I am sure that the manufacturers would welcome an inquiry. After all, the Japanese buy our coal and iron ore. They ship it to Japan and use it to make cars which they sell to us, even climbing over a 45% tariff wall. Either the Japanese are awfully good at making cars or we have put square wheels on an industry which can run only on round wheels. I believe that this is what we may have done, and a realignment of our thinking in this matter is needed if we are to have any hope at all of competing on an equitable basis with mounting foreign competition. Increasing duties and pushing up prices merely staves off the inevitable, although there may be some result in the short term. Unless we recognise the need for a solid basis and a fair approach to the matter of local content and to market potential, I shudder to think what will happen to the manufacturers of fourcylinder vehicles in the future. I commend the Bill.
– The item to which I refer falls within sub-paragraph 44.05.993 of the First Schedule to the Customs Tariff and was dealt with on 2nd April 1968 by the Minister for Air (Mr Freeth) in introducing Customs Tariff Proposals No. 8 (1968). This item deals with undressed New Zealand timbers imported into Australia in sizes less than 7 inches by 24 inches. Originally these timbers came in duty free under the 1933 trade agreement with New Zealand. However the Tariff Board at its hearing in 1963 considered the competition that we were getting at that time from New Zealand timbers and after a comprehensive review it recommended, on 6th September 1963, that a duty of 22s or $2.20 per 100 super feet should apply to timber imports of sizes less than 7 inches by 24 inches. I should point out that at that time, for duty purposes, Douglas fir and a number of other timbers were divided into three groups according to the sizes in which the timber was imported. The sizes in the trade are 12 inches by 6 inches and over; 7 inches by 24 inches and upwards but less than 12 inches by 6 inches; and less than 7 inches by 24 inches. In the timber trade these groups are frequently referred to as overs, betweens and unders. In 1963 the Tariff Board recommended varying duties according to the size groups, the duties being lowest on the overs and highest on the unders. The purpose of the duties was to discourage the importation of the betweens and the unders, to encourage the importation of large flitches and their milling in Australia, and so assist employment opportunities in Australian timber mills.
When the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement was being negotiated discussions took place on a wide variety of products. Timbers were included in schedule A of the Agreement with provision for the duties on undressed New Zealand timbers in the sizes of less than 7 inches by 24 inches to be phased out in 5 stages over an 8-year period. Although the phasing out period was provided for in the Agreement this has been scrapped. I severely criticize the Government for this because the industry in Tasmania, and in Australia generally, was quite prepared to accept this phasing out. It realised that Australia had to trade with New Zealand and had to make some concessions. But the industry and its prospects had been geared to the proposition that the duties were to be phased out in 5 stages over an 8-year period. I have no doubt that under pressure from New Zealand the timber industry just went to the wall. I am all in favour of meetings between heads of governments and of our heads of government getting on terms with the heads of governments in our sister dominion of New Zealand. But why is it that each time there is a meeting our timber industry has to suffer? in September last year the New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr Holyoake, came here and was entertained by our own Prime Minister, the late Mr Harold Holt. As a gesture of friendship, or whatever we like to call it, our timber industry was singled out and our Prime Minister announced the remission of all duties on Douglas fir. Some time later, in April of this year, our new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) visited New Zealand and was entertained by Mr Holyoake. Again the Australian timber industry was singled out. He announced that we were going to lift all duties on timber in sizes of 7 inches by 2i inches and less coming from New Zealand. This is not good enough for an industry which recognised that Australia had to trade with New Zealand and had to make certain concessions but which anticipated, as it was well known, that the duties would be phased out in 5 stages over 8 years. The industry operates on a highly competitive market in selling timber, and salesmen and other people are affected. Overnight, in some gesture of friendship, the Australian timber industry was thrown to the wolves. On each occasion when these announcements were made there was immediate concern in Tasmania because of the importance of the sawmilling industry to Tasmania. We have 289 sawmills in Tasmania, employing about 3,000 people and producing about $30m worth of sawn timber and plywood each year, lt is the sixth biggest export industry in Tasmania and is worth about $12m a year in exports. We are fully aware of the damage than can be done to the industry by unfair competition in our traditional markets in Victoria and other mainland States.
– Other States are affected, too.
– Yes, other States will suffer. The Tariff Board inquiry in 1963 referred to the value of the timber industry in Tasmania. It said that timber is a major industry in Australia with an annual output valued at over $240m. The industry employs over 30,000 people in 2,500 sawmills. Possibly another 25,000 people are employed in the extraction of timber and in other forest operations. Most of the employment is in decentralised areas, and in some areas saw-mills are the principal employers of labour. I concur with my honourable friend who suggests that the timber industry is important to the whole of Australia.
When the announcements were made key men in the industry in Tasmania were concerned at the damage that was likely to be done to our markets in mainland States, because the New Zealand species are used for precisely the same purposes as our own timbers - for flooring, furniture, joinery and mouldings. I took this matter up with the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) on 5th April and received a reply from the then Acting Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) on 17th April. In his letter he referred to the firm New Zealand conservation methods exercised on the milling of indigenous timbers and he said that the Australian Government did not consider that the removal of the duties on New Zealand timber now rather than in 6 years time would create any real difficulty for the Australian industry. With reference to the New Zealand policy on conservation of its native species, Tasmania believes that the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry missed the point. Hitherto there has been an embargo on the export of these species from New Zealand, but it was removed towards the end of last year and the New Zealanders have been quoted as expecting increased sales amounting to Jim in Australia each year. In a letter dated 22nd April the Acting Minister for Trade and industry stated that imports of sawn timber from all sources amounted to 215 million super feet annually. I have had these figures checked by the statistical section of the Parliamentary Library, and I have checked them against figures supplied by the Forestry and Timber Bureau and I find that it has been 14 years since imports into Australia have been as low as that. I believe that the correct figure for 1966-67 is 343 million super feet and not 215 million super feet as quoted in the Minister’s letter to me. In fact, imports have been rising steadily over the past 14 years - from 118 million super feet in 1953 to almost 400 million super feet 2 years ago. Because of the huge imports of sawn timbers that are coming into Australia from all sources and the lowering of duties on New Zealand timbers that compete with ours.I think that the Tasmanian people have every reason to be concerned. Direct wage costs in New Zealand are approximately 25% lower than they are in Australia. Freight from New Zealand to Melbourne is $3.05 per 100 super feet, compared with $2.50 per 100 super feet from Tasmania to Melbourne. The approximate distances are 2,000 miles from New Zealand to Melbourne and only 250 miles from Tasmania to Melbourne. The difference in the freight rate is only 55c in favour of New Zealand. So I think it is obvious that our freight rates are far too high.
Our timber industry is not in the healthy state which the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry would have us believe. Over the last 3 years production has shown a distinct downward trend, and in the last complete financial year was approximately 7 million super. feet less than in the previous year. The first 8 months of the current financial year show a further fall of approximately 1 million super. feet. At the same time - and this is where the trouble occurs - our sales also have fallen with a resultant, unhealthy increase in stocks held in rack in Tasmania as well as excessive stocks of processed material being held in warehouses in mainland centres, principally in Melbourne. Our stock figures are currently the highest since records have been kept by the Tasmanian Timber Association, beginning in 1958. Stocks in rack in Tasmania stand at approximately 96 million super. feet.
I have pointed out before in this House that only half of our production is used within Tasmania; the balance is shipped to other States and overseas. Most of it goes to Victoria, with lesser quantities to New South Wales and South Australia. Our overseas exports go essentially to the United Kingdom, the United States of America and New Zealand, and minor quantities to various other countries. Within the last 12 months - and this is a very important factor that has caused a great deal of trouble in the trade - our overseas markets have virtually dried up owing to a combination of factors, such as the economic situation in the countries to which we export, shipping difficulties to the United Kingdom and devaluation in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The situation in our major market - Victoria - is also very serious.
Our main outlets for timber in Victoria are for flooring, furniture, joinery and mouldings and we sell a reasonable amount of framing timbers. However, in recent years, and with development accelerating, our markets are being eroded by concrete, aluminium, steel, particle board, plastics and laminates, plywood, hardboard, fibrocement and so on, with the result that the per capita consumption of timber in Australia has fallen from 210 super. feet per annum in 1952 to 140 super. feet last year - a decrease of 35%. In Victoria the fall has been even more marked, falling from 240 super. feet per head per annum to 142 super. feet - a fall of 41%. In these circumstances it is distressing to the Australian industry and, in particular, to the Tasmanian producers, to find themselves faced with severe competition from timbers imported from other countries. 1 have already pointed out the extent to which these imports have risen and the vast increase over the last 14 years. Current indications are that for the year 1967-68 imports will exceed the figures for each of the previous 2 years. The most severe competition faced by Tasmania from overseas imports is from Malaysia, Borneo and the Philippines whose timbers are used for furniture, joinery and mouldings. Flooring timbers are not imported from these countries, but if the volumes of furniture and joinery timbers imported were less, Tasmania would be able to cater for those sectors of the market by diverting some of its surplus flooring production in that direction. The recent advent of New Zealand indigenous species on the Australian market - species which are used for precisely the same purposes as Tasmanian timbers, that is, flooring, furniture, mouldings and joinery - has accentuated and will further accentuate our problems, particularly in the field of flooring, which is already the most depressed segment of our market.
New Zealand producers enjoy a number of advantages in that the species they deal in are easier and less costlyto mill; their royalties are lower, as are their labour costs - 25% - and they have gained a considerable advantage through the recent devalua- tion; and their freight costs to Australia are approximately $2 per 100 super feet lower than the freight cost from Australia to New Zealand. We have in the differential in freight rates from New Zealand to Australia compared with those from Australia to New Zealand, an inbuilt subsidy of assistance to exports from New Zealand. We cannot overlook the value of this assistance. To add to all these factors, and to our problems, the Australian Government now proposes to remove the duties on these undressed New Zealand native species. Any action such as this, which must inevitably make it easier for New Zealand to market its products in Australia in competition with Tasmanian species, must make our position worse. Already during the last few months large shipments of these timbers - and I refer to white pine, beech, rimu, tawa and matai - have arrived in Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and even Tasmania. Surely it must be the concern of the Commonwealth Government to ensure that the Tasmanian timber industry, which is the oldest industry, and one of the most important industries in the State, does not suffer any undue hardship.
I have here a statistical summary extracted from information supplied by the Deputy Commonwealth Statistician in Hobart, lt sets out the relative importance of the timber industry in Tasmania, in each municipality, with respect to two features, employment and the value of production. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate the summary in Hansard.
Of the forty-four country municipalities on the mainland of Tasmania, the timber industry (Class 10) which excludes furniture and joinery is, from the point of view of both employment and the value of production, the No. 1 industry in 29 of them, No. 2 in 9 of them, No. 3 in 5 of them and No. 4 in the remaining one. In Launceston, Hobart and Glenorchy it is No. 3, No. 5 and No 5 respectively.
It is worth noting, I think, that of the 44 country municipalities on the Tasmanian mainland, the timber industry, which excludes furniture and joinery is, from both points of view - that is from the point of view of employment and the point of view of the value of production - the No. 1 industry in 29 municipalities, the No. 2 industry in 9 municipalities, the No. 3 industry in 5 municipalities and the No. 4 industry in the remaining one. In Launceston, Hobart and Glenorchy the timber industry is No. 3, No. 5 and No. 5 industry respectively. It is important also to realise that these figures do not include various forest operations such as logging, roadmaking and maintenance, log cartage, forestry, etc. If these aspects of the timber industry were included, it would doubtless be No. I in practically every municipality.
We all know that the timber industry is a decentralised one. It is entirely responsible for the continued existence of many country communities where no alternative employment is available. It is also largely responsible for the maintenance of communications in many country areas, through its roading systems opening up otherwise inaccessible districts. One of our leading sawmillers is on record on 11th May last - almost 4 weeks ago - as saying that the reduction of tariffs on imported New Zealand timber was killing the Tasmanian timber industry. He pointed out that his business and many other timber concerns were just managing to keep their heads above water but that they could not last out much longer. He went on to say that a protest submitted to the Federal Government by the Tasmanian Timber Association had been disregarded so far and that the Government was being too generous with New Zealand while, at the same time, being too hard on Tasmania. The sawmiller pointed out that the Tasmanian export market was traditionally in Victoria, which was now accepting more and more New Zealand timber. With devaluation. New Zealand could offer timber of the same quality at lower prices. To maintain its export quota Tasmania was now selling well below the normal price. 1 have made investigations into this matter and have found, in effect, that the Victorian market cannot possibly absorb all the limber that is now on offer. The result has been a recent indulgence in cutthroat tactics on the timber market in Melbourne. I point out that we are experiencing other difficulties in our traditional markets. Wooden flooring is fast losing out to concrete slab flooring. In this regard I think it is up to the Tasmanian producers to put every endeavour into public relations work and advertising in order to keep before the public the advantages of wooden floors, for health reasons apart from any other. We do not allow the concrete slab floors in factories yet we encourage them in the vast blocks of flats that are taking the place of the usual and traditional wooden bungalow in Australia
This Government can help, and should help, the Australian timber industry. Under the terms of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement the Commonwealth supplies 70% of the finance for houses to the various State Housing Commissions. The Commonwealth should insist on at least 50% of that money being spent in the provincial centres. This policy not only would help decentralisation - which was referred to during the grievance debate earlier today - but would inevitably result in the construction of individual homes in provincial and country districts and thiswould use many more products from this great Australian industry than are used at the present time in the big blocks of steel and concrete flats in which people are herded together and in which the only timber used would possibly be in the doors. Most Tasmanian sawmillers are sympathetic with New Zealand and realise that it must follow the export market. But the Australian Government should help in this regard and should reduce timber imports from Asia and North America sp as to allow timber to come from New Zealand and to be absorbed in this country. The Government has not done this and sawmillers in Tasmania - and I feel throughout the rest of Australia - rightly complain that they are suffering. In the measure before us today the Government proposes to eliminate import duties on undressed New Zealand timbers in sizes less than 7 inches by 24 inches and. as 1 have indicated, New Zealand interests anticipate sales amounting to Sim from orders in Australia. ‘
In our already depressed market New Zealanders have several factors in their favour’ in the way of lower wage costs, advantages from devaluation and more favourable freight rates. It is inevitable therefore that the New Zealanders will increase their exports to this country. This Government has decided to encourage this course of action. It threw the timber industry into the melting pot and gave it away when the heads of government met, both last September and again in April. The Government has decided to encourage imports of New Zealand timber. If the Government has set itself on this course of action, I believe it must take steps to protect our own sawmilling industry because whole towns depend upon sawmilling for their very existence. The only way the Government can assist the industry, now that it has to face the prospect of duty free imports from New Zealand, is to put a curb on imports from Asia and North America. I stress the point again: These imports are not at the low figure supplied to me by the Acting Minister, for Trade and Industry but are coming in at an all-time record high and something must be done by the Government to curb them.
– The Customs Tariff Bill now before the House certainly covers an enormous range of commodities and reports by the Tariff Board. I certainly do not intend to comment on all of them before dealing with the Bill itself. I listened intently to the speech made by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) and I certainly appreciate his concern about the timber industry, particularly in Tasmania. I thought some of his comments about the Government’s attitude to that industry were exaggerated, particularly when he said that it had been thrown to the wolves. I do not think that was a fair and accurate comment. However, I can understand why he is extremely and intensely interested in matters affecting his own area. That is his duty.
There is no doubt that under the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement some industries will be adversely affected. I suppose it is all very well for one honourable member whose electorate has not yet been affected to say soothing words to another honourable member whose electorate has been affected. However, the Government has not thrown the timber industry to the wolves. I do not think that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) could be accused, in his long career with that portfolio, of having ever thrown any industry to the wolves, or of wanting to do so. I want to quote from a document prepared by the Department of Trade and Industry about this particular matter of free imports of timber from New Zealand. It states:
Before these decisions were taken the circumstances of the timber industry were investigated and the views of the Australian Forestry Council were obtained. In its consideration of these requests the Government also took into account the historical position relating to the duties on these limbers and the position under the Free T, ad Agreement.
The document concluded:
The decision to eliminate the duties on undressed timbers amounted to a restoration of the duty free position New Zealand had prior to 1963.
I shall not canvass this matter at length. I do not have the knowledge to enable me to do so. I have already expressed my appreciation of the honourable member’s concern and interest in the matter but 1 wanted to put on record that consultations had been held with the timber industry and that the situation was not exactly new. My final comment about the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement is that it is well known that every industry has the right of redress and appeal to the Government if it is being seriously damaged by the Agreement, whether it be an Australian industry or a New Zeland industry.
– Did Jack McEwen ask you to say this?
– I will answer the honourable member for Lang although he is out of order in speaking; he is not sitting at his own seat. The Minister for Trade and Industry did not ask me to say one word in this debate or to comment on any particular subject nor has he ever done so. What I say in this debate expresses my own thoughts. I express my own opinion on various aspects of our tariff making policies. I would like to comment on a couple of proposals before the House. One which I am particularly interested in was the reference to the proposal affecting the duties on imports from the less developed countries - the LDCs as they are called. It is stated in Proposals No. 7:
These amendments provide for reduced preferential rates for imports from less developed countries within the limits of existing annual quotas. The duty reductions follow the completion of procedures described by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. They will restore to the less developed countries several tariff preferences which disappeared when the normal rates of duties on certain textile items were reduced on the 6th January last as the result of the Government’s acceptance of recommendations by the Tariff Board.
The point I want to underline here is that Australia has given a real lead in this direction by extending preferential tariff duties to less developed countries. I believe that the Minister, the Government and the Parliament should be pleased that they have set an example to the more industrialised countries in giving tariff preferences to the less developed countries.
I now wish to refer to Proposals No. 5 which provides for a variation in the rates of duty on sand boots and shoes and on a small range of leather footwear. This action follows an investigation by the Special Advisory Authority. The Authority found that imports from Japan, Hong Kong, the Republic of China and India were produced at exteremely low cost. I express my surprise and concern at reports I have read from time to time to the effect that various chambers of commerce and individual importers and retailers have protested at the action of the Government in preventing the importation of cheap shoes from Communist China and other Asian countries. 1 strongly support the action taken by the Government. I say to the chambers of commerce and other organisations that are expressing concern at the Government’s action, that if manufacturing industries do not produce these goods in Australia, people will not be able to obtain jobs. As a result, they will be unable to buy the shoes or other products which are imported. People who oppose the Government’s action seem to support the philosophy that we should import as much cheap materia] as possible. I believe the chambers of commerce are very shortsighted in this regard.
I now turn to the general tariff making aspects of the Government’s policy and I want to comment on some of the generalised criticisms that are made from time to time by a small section of the community. Criticism is levelled consistently at the Minister for Trade and Industry mainly, and also at the Government, on the ground that tariffs - the general word tariff’ is used - are having detrimental effects on certain industries. I become quite annoyed at these generalised statements. If some of those who make them would only mention specific instances of the way in which tariff duties are detrimentally affecting industries relying on imports, perhaps honourable members would have a chance to determine whether these complaints are legitimate. In the main, we hear the generalised cliche that tariffs are having a detrimental effect on the economy of various industries in this country. My advice to these people, for what it is worth, is that they should be more specific and supply definite details of the tariffs that are detrimentally affecting them.
Tariffs, as we know - but it is worth saying again - are arrived at by a system which is recognised both inside and outside Australia as one of the most open, thorough and fair systems to be found in any country. In fact, a great number of people express considerable concern on the ground that our tariff hearings are far too open. It is suggested that our system gives too many people from foreign countries the opportunity of ascertaining information about our industries and enables them to present their own case on exactly the same terms as an Australian national can present his case. Several people in secondary industry have pointed out to me that the type of hearing adopted in Australia hardly exists anywhere else. Not many other countries would allow foreigners to come before their tariff making body and present a case on the same level as their own nationals. However, be that as it may, a tariff is arrived at only after due consideration under this extremely respected system of tariff making.
The other aspect of our tariff policy on which I would like to comment, and which causes many people great concern, is the ad valorem principle. This is the system of adding a percentage on to the import price. It has been pointed out to me quite factually and truthfully that, once again, Australia is one of the very few countries that rely practically solely on this principle. It has been pointed out that some of the great industrial countries impose not only ad valorem duties but also quantitative restrictions, exchange control, arbitrary controls and arbitrary duties. I will have something to say about these countries later. I consider that the Australian Government, over many years, has adopted a principle of tariff making that is really fair and gives all sections of the community an opportunity to put their case.
I want to refer briefly to remarks made by the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns). I must say that, for a change, I am in agreement with some of the suggestions put forward by the honourable member, although I am not in agreement with others. He made several references, as he usually does, to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Among other things, the honourable .member said that the Minister for Trade and Industry should give a better account of Australia’s tariff making policy: I believe that the Minister, from time to time in this House, has given a clear exposition of the tariff making policy of this Government. He has consistently said that the Tariff Board is asked to investigate whether industries are economic and efficient. I think the words ‘economic and efficient’ date back to the Ottawa Agreement of 1 932. They are the bench mark by which the Tariff Board operates. I want to make a suggestion here that the word essential’ be added to the words economic and efficient’. This would make the criteria ‘economic, efficient and essential’. I make this suggestion for several reasons. Most of them I will not canvass, but one major reason is that although I have made investigations and inquired of people in responsible positions, I have found that the words ‘economic and efficient’ are extremely difficult to define. I have not found anybody who can say just what ‘economic and efficient’ really means, so I would like to help to obtain precision by adding the word ‘essential’.
The honourable member for Yarra then implied that there was something sinister in the dealings of the Minister for Trade and Industry with the Tariff Board in relation to tariff policy by asking: ‘Just what does go on?’ I know he has asked this question in relation to a personal matter on a number of occasions in the last couple of days, but the Minister for Trade and Industry, when commenting on . this point in the House, has listed the times he has spoken to the Tariff Board or written to the Tariff Board. My memory does not carry the exact number of times he has either spoken or written to the Board. I fancy that over a period of 5 years he might have spoken to the Board once or twice, perhaps at the Board’s invitation, and might perhaps have written to the Board once, but I would nol say those figures are finely accurate. The Minister for Trade and Industry iri my opinion and in my experience has maintained a remarkably neutral attitude, indeed a distant attitude, to the Board and to its decisions.
The honourable member for Yarra
wanted to refer to a fundamental passage in the annual report of the Tariff Board.. This is the area in which I agree with him and the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones). It seems to me that representatives from, the three parties in this House are most concerned with the same aspect of the Tariff Board’s annual report. I particularly : refer to paragraph 75. of. the Board’s report, which reads:
The Board plans to complete, within the next 12 months, its initial study of the level and distribution of protection afforded final products’. It’ proposes to ‘ publish, itv its- ‘‘annual report for 1967-68, a classification of industries into high, medium and low protection, categories.
I know, as other members know, that this has caused great concern amongst a very wide range of industries important to Australia. There might not be as much concern perhaps if the Board proposed only to publish the list, because’ after all I suppose anyone who does some research can compile a list. In paragraph 79 the Board elabo-rates on its reason for publishing the list, and this is what really concerns me. I shall quote half the paragraph, lt does not take the matter out of context. It reads:
These proposals would’ largely preclude tariff assistance for new investment likely to require continuing protection . of a high order . . .
I suppose that is a -fair comment, but it is the next point that worries me:
In other words, if they- do not lay down a sufficient tariff, there will ‘ be pressure on the high cost industries:’ . . should induce a more economic and efficient use of production resources currently employed in these areas.
This is causing worry. In other words, is the Tariff Board going to take unto itself the responsibility of distributing Australian industry and population and resources around Australia where it will? Is it going to attempt to take this responsibility out of the Government’s hands? I sympathise greatly with the Tariff Board. It has a difficult and highly responsible job. But I reserve the right to suggest to the Tariff Board that it ought to keep its publications and statements and actions within the bounds of its responsibilities and leave the Government to decide whether industries are important or essential to Australia. The Tariff Board is an advisory body only. It should remember this. The Government should make a reference to the Tariff Board and the Tariff Board should investigate the industry on the facts, without considering whether it is a high cost or a low cost industry. After all, tariffs are only relative. We must have a tariff to protect an industry, lt does not really matter whether it is a huge tariff or a small tariff; the tariff is there to protect the industry. Qf course, this is an economic argument that has been going on for hundreds of years and I do not pretend to have the final answer. The point I want to make is that in my opinion the Tariff Board must be very careful not to overstep its responsibilities.
The honourable member for Yarra commented on this aspect and said that the Minister recognised the dangers to investors that can flow from this. We represent great numbers of small investors. Many people have small amounts invested in various industries. Many other people get their wages in return for the daily work they invest in these industries. The honourable member for Yarra asked the Minister whether he will leave the position as it is. The fact is that neither the Government nor the Minister has the statutory authority to prevent the Tariff Board from taking its proposed action. Let everyone be quite clear that the Minister does not have the authority to prevent the Tariff Board from acting as it says in its annual report it will act. I hope the Tariff Board registers the comments that have been made in this debate by members on both sides of the House.
I listened carefully to the honourable member for Adelaide, who was more than a little worried about our tariff policy. 1 did not quite pick up the full reasons foi his concern. I do not think he stated them, but he said that our tariff policy created doubts in the minds of the Japanese. I do not think our tariff structure could create much doubt in the minds of the Japanese, from what I have heard. I think they are most experienced in tariff matters and understand what the business is all about. We have heard a bit lately about their activities. Some people have expressed a doubt as to whether there was any breach of the Australian law by the Japanese. My flat reaction is that I have never seen anyone voluntarily increase the price of his product without some good reason. Turning the coin to the other side, I would be interested to have some of these critics of our tariff policy set up a motor car business in Australia and try to sell just one motor car to Japan. I saw a report in the newspapers recently that the Americans are very concerned about the restrictions placed by Japan on the importation of American cars into that country. The Americans are considering whether to restrict the import of Japanese motor cars into the United States because of Japan’s iron-fisted control of Japanese imports of motor cars and of all other commodities. I do not think that the honourable member for Adelaide need be worried about the possibility of our tariff policies creating doubts in the minds of the Japanese. 1 want to make one other point about our trade with Japan. I have been very concerned to note that practically every person who has come here from Japan, until about’ 3 or 4 months ago, has said: Of course, Australia should do more trade with us because Australia has a very favourable balance of trade with us’. This misrepresents the position. If we compare the two markets on a per capita basis, we find that our purchases from Japan are equivalent’ to $26 per person and their purchases from us are equivalent to $5 per person. On this basis, we buy four and one-half times as much from Japan as Japan buys from us. Surely this is a fair assessment of the situation.
These are the points that we should keep in mind when we discuss Australia’s tariff policies. There is, of course, room for differences of opinion on tariff making. There is room for balance and for a recognition by one industry of the problems of other industries. Tariffs have been the subject of argument down through the centuries. Adam Smith wrote 3,000 pages on the subject. Lord Keynes, the great modern economist, wrote almost as rauch and came out with an opinion directly opposed to that of Adam Smith. So we find that these two great economists have differences of opinion, and therefore there is room for difference of opinion on this subject in Australia, but let us have no doubt that Australia is regarded as a country with a medium tariff structure. It is essential to use tariffs if we are to achieve our objectives in the development of our country and the increase of our population. Our population must grow so that we can inhabit this great country and deter aggressors who may seek to take it from us. The tariff machinery used in this country, perhaps the most open and fair in the world, is ideal to achieve the twin purposes of building up our population and our defence. Of course, it will also encourage the acquisition of technical know-how and skill by our citizens and will provide jobs for our people in the future. I have great pleasure in supporting the Bill.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The House must be indebted to the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) who sparked off what has been a very interesting and informative debate on the very important topic of tariffs and tariff policy. The thoughtful speeches that have been made today show that honourable members appreciate that tariffs are vital to the prosperity of the country, the protection of Australian jobs and investment and the general development of industries. I was interested to hear the speech of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones). Whilst not agreeing with all that he said and without attempting to be frivolous, I thought his speech was a vast improvement on the book he wrote some time ago. His speech may not bring him the monetary return that the book will, but his speech was thoughtful and revealed his desire to understand the problem. He expressed the views that he thought might benefit our industries and the people employed in them. Like the honourable member for Indi (Mr
Holten), 1 do not have any worries about the Japanese. I do not need to be experienced to know that they are well able to look after themselves and that they really think they can look after the rest of the world as well. I certainly will not be awake tonight pondering over the effects that our tariff policy may have on Japanese industry.
The honourable member for Indi made a thoughtful contribution to the debate and I was interested in his views, particularly on the aspect of classification of industry. I want to address my mind generally to that aspect. The policy of tariff protection has been the established policy of the Australian Labor Party for as long as I can remember. Labor’s policy, going back especially to the time of the Scullin Government, has led to the establishment of many successful industries in Australia. Their prosperity and the contribution they have been able to make to the progress of Australia have depended on tariff protection. I understand fully the problems that face the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) in this changing world when he strives to maintain the standards that were built up by labour and people in industry and by governments that followed a policy of tariff protection. We have a responsibility to our own people, particularly to those in the manufacturing industries, to ensure that they receive the protection that is necessary if they are to continue to provide work for our people. We must ensure that we do not now, as we did prior to the last World War, employ people in other countries while our own people walk the streets unable to obtain employment.
The suggestion that industries be classified has undoubtedly caused grave concern in industrial circles and is a subject that could well be debated in the Parliament. The honourable member for Yarra referred to the answer that the Minister for Trade and Industry gave to a question I asked this morning. I do not object to the terms of the answer. It was a substantial answer to the question. However, the honourable member for Yarra stressed the need for a real statement of policy on this subject in view of the concern expressed by industry to honourable members on both sides of the Parliament at the effect that the classification of industries may have on their economic position, on the protection they have received and on their funds generally. On this point, I shall quote from the annual report of the Tariff Board for the year 1966- 67. In paragraph 61 the Board set out what it had in mind in these terms:
From its study of the structure and levels of protection the Board proposes to establish an initial classification of industries into those which have:
a high level of protection,
a medium level of protection, and
a low level of protection . . . 1 shall not read the remainder of the paragraph. In paragraph 62 the Board said:
As indicated later in this chapter, the Board proposes to publish in its next annual report a classification of protected industries.
The Board said that this matter was one of immediate concern to the people in industry, who wanted to know what would be done.. Paragraph 62 stresses the need for the Minister to make a clear statement of the Government’s attitude to the classification of protected industries and to say whether this would become the Government’s policy and whether the Government was ready to proceed on the lines laid down by the Tariff Board.
Paragraph 69 of the Board’s report defined the high cost industries and paragraph 70 dealt with industries in the medium range. Paragraph 71 stated the attitude the Board would adopt in dealing with industries in the medium protection range. In paragraph 72 the Board said:
Industries in the low protection category would not necessarily be the subject of review inquiries. However, some may need to be included in the programme, for example, where they are related to industries in the high and medium cost areas. In framing its recommendations, the Board would adopt a liberal attitude to low cost industries and aim at encouraging the maximum expansion in this area. This would include providing anticipatory protection to cover any new products likely to be produced economically.
I will not discuss everything the Tariff Board says because no doubt honourable members have read the report. The statements are available in detail in it. The Board has laid down a timetable. In paragraph 75 it states:
The Board plans to complete, within the next twelve months, its initial study of the level and distribution of protections afforded final products. It proposes to publish, in its annual report for 1967- 68, a classification of industries into high, medium and low protection categories. lt is that statement, among others, concerning the timetable that has prompted people from all over Australia to write to members on both sides of the Parliament because of the fear that this proposal would affect industry. Therefore, it becomes urgent to know whether or not the Tariff Board is to proceed along these lines and what is the attitude of the Government. Whilst the Minister today expressed some doubts and gave some kinds of assurance, there is a need for a definite policy respecting this matter or a definite statement of policy by the Government because of the concern that is being felt in industry. To show honourable members the effect of this announcement, I shall refer to the annual report of Bonds Industries Ltd for 1967, and in particular to the address of the chairman, Mr W. Russell Slade. The report was presented to shareholders at the annual general meeting which was held on Tuesday, 31st October 1967. What the chairman said in this respect is worth quoting. The report reads:
Moves to simplify the tariff and to adopt an industry approach to protection merits consideration, but any move towards the use of arbitrary measures to categorise industries or to determine protection worthiness, such as the bench mark concept involves, could have adverse consequences for a wide section of Australian industry.
The confidence of the public could be needlessly undermined by implementation of the Board’s latest proposal to classify industries according to whether they fall into high, medium or low tariff areas. Labelling an industry may fit the modem pre-disposition towards the use of guide lines by planners, but I suggest that such methods have more than an economic planning significance, they have also a public relations aspect of considerable importance.
We welcome, therefore, the expression of concern by the Minister for Trade and Industry over the proposed use of a classification procedure before the Board has had the benefit of a full inquiry into the relevant industries.
At a time when the mining industry in Australia has captured the public imagination to a degree threatening to discount the value of other established industries forming part of the fabric of our economy, it is necessary to avoid any precipitant action likely to divert investment away from essential industries, including the textile industry, a direct employer of over 75,000 people, excluding wool and cotton growers and employees of the clothing industry.
Comments should also be made about the mc. in the context of protection, of the term ‘capital intensiveness’ and ‘labour intensiveness’, in relation to industry.
That statement indicates the concern of this major section of industry at the comments of the Board and its intention to set down a timetable.
The whole industry, as I mentioned, employs over 75,000 people. Bond’s Industries itself employs 4,300 persons. These facts indicate the concern felt by the textile industry, of which a number of branches are established in my electorate, at the indication from the Tariff Board of its proposals. In the course of a letter to members of this Parliament, the company states:
The Tariff Board’s expressed intention is to categorise Australian industries according to their protective needs and to publicise such classification in a manner capable of undermining the confidence of the investing public in those industriesno doubt including textiles - which come within the high tariff category.
I interpolate to say that this morning I received a telegram from an industry in my electorate - not a textile industry - expressing in similar words concern respecting the proposals in the Tariff Board’s report. This shows that the concern to which I have referred has spread not only to the textile industry but also to other industries and that eventually it will range over the full field of industry. The letter continues:
This industry has the distinction of being the largest employer of female labour in the Commonwealth. Our company is acknowledged to operate at world standard efficiency, . but to maintain this standard and to accept the challenge of technical innovations with which we are now confronted, wc, and the industry, will need more capital and must attract more people of skill and technical capacity of a high order.
It is thus of great importance to avoid the diversionary effects on human resources and investment funds, committed or potential, which could flow from the proposed arbitrary public listing by :he Tariff Board. This action would have been initiated by an advisory body not charged with broad economic policy making and not responsible to an electorate.
That the Tariff Board’s proposal could have effects pertinent to the aim of securing the continued development of a balanced Australian economy should be evident, but we would welcome the oportunity of expanding on these so as to enlist your active support in opposing publication of the industry classification. 1 do not need to elaborate on the benefit or value of (he textile industry to Australia. What I have quoted does indicate the grave concern felt by this industry at the proposed timetable and decision by the Tariff Board. This gives further emphasis to the views that were expressed by the honourable member for Yarra in leading for the Opposition in this debate concerning the need for a definite statement by the Minister for Trade and Industry on what will be the attitude of the Government to this matter and what action, if any, can be taken, if the facts are as stated in the letters, to prevent this dire effect on Australian industries generally. this part of the report by the Tariff Board appears to have stimulated considerable interest in the industry. Consequently, most speakers have given much more of their attention today to this Bill than possibly they have given to other matters. I stress again the need for a statement on this matter in order to allay any concern or any worries that industry may have, so vital, is industry to our economy, employment and general prosperity. On the question of tariff policy, it is a fact that many industries are threatened by imported goods.
Recently I had occasion to write to the Minister for Trade and Industry about a textile industry in my electorate. My letter dealt with the importation of ready made shirts mainly from Hong Kong and China. This industry, which has been established with assistance from the Development Bank and is now employing in my electorate alone 140 men and women, with a payroll of approximately $314,000 per year, faces the prospect of paying people off in the near future unless it can get immediate, what might be termed, protection against imports of ready made shirts from cheap labour countries. These imports are completely undermining our industry here and may well force this company in my electorate to close.
These facts show the importance of tariff policy to out economy and illustrate the need for continuing what has been broadly the established policy of most parties here, and particularly the Australian Labor Party, that is, to protect Australian industries where jobs are threatened and the security of our people may be affected by imports from other countries - including Japan, for that matter.
I do nol wish to say any more on this subject. I support the honourable member for Yarra and other speakers on the question of classification. A certain amount of concern has been voiced from both sides of the Parliament about the effects of this, and just what might happen respecting it I think that general concern is felt in the Parliament that we maintain our economy against competition such as that instanced in the case of motor cars recently and that we should show that people from this country, even people with high reputations, are endeavouring to pull the wool over our eyes, as was brought out in the tariff inquiry into the importation of motor cars.
I am not unmindful of the fact that the Minister for Trade and Industry has made a great effort to see that Australia’s industries are protected. In his ministerial capacity he certainly has given a stimulating lead in that respect on the many occasions when Australian interests have been threatened. I hope that this question will not escape him - it has been the content of most speeches on this Bill today - and that the Minister will in his forthright way make certain that the best is done to protect Australian industry and, as I say, allay the fears and concern of those with huge investments involved, as well as the fears of many thousands of Australians concerning their security in employment. I hope also that the industry I brought to his attention, which is urgently receiving consideration, will before 20th June be given some form of protection whereby it can maintain its employing capacity and not be threatened with extinction by the import of cheap goods from countries where the standards are not as high as ours.
I conclude on that note, and ask the Minister for the Interior, who is at the table, to give an assurance to the House, to the people in my electorate, and to industry generally: This is not just something for one textile factory. We want a new announcement and a clear statement of Government policy, especially as the people concerned evidently sincerely believe that this will have a detrimental effect on their industry and on Australia generally.
– I have listened carefully to the debate. It will be seen that I am speaking without notes because I. did not intend to enter the debate. I have every respect for the Tariff Board. However, certain things that have been said have prompted me to say. a few words on the subject.
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) spoke about certain industries, but whenever he or other members of the Opposition speak about industries, they are all thinking of secondary industries. While one member of the Opposition was speaking chiefly about secondary industries, some aspects of the timber industry were discussed. No mention has been made of the great primary producing industries. The primary producer is not in the advantageous position that has been described in this House by honourable members; under no circumstances does he enjoy the advantages that have been mentioned. A manufacturer can buy and sell in Australia, and therefore has the advantage of the Australian economy. Indeed, secondary industries seldom attempt to sell outside Australia; only a small percentage of our export’s are contributed by secondary industries, which have priced themselves out of world markets. Wage rises come along, and I have often said that manufacturers and retailers just change their price tags and have ready sales. On the other hand, the primary producer can absorb these increased costs only to the extent that his industry is stabilised. However, if an exporting industry is not stabilised or has costs that go beyond the stabilisation amount, it is on its own when selling goods overseas to countries that have a lower standard of living. Selling under these conditions means that the primary producer must nearly always sell at prices lower than those obtainable in Australia.
Australian Country Party members represent, largely, the primary industries of Australia. Everyone knows that when a speech is made in this House by a member of the Country Party, he can generally be expected to put in the flavour of primary industry. On this occasion I want my speech to have a strong flavour of the industries that provide for the main factors in our economy -production and economic welfare. Of course, I refer to our primary industries. This does not please most members of the Opposition, but after all ft is well known that the majority of Labor Party members in the State and Commonwealth Parliaments represent metropolitan electorates.
– Order! I doubt whether the honourable member has mentioned anything in relation to tariffs. I remind him that a tariff Bill is being discussed.
– Let me finish this sentence, Mr Speaker: 1 was proceeding to say that not one member of the Country Party in any State or .Federal Parliament represents a metropolitan electorate. I shall give an illustration. This deals with tariffs, and I shall link it. up.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member should show some relevancy to the subject of tariffs, otherwise he will resume his seat.
– 1 shall link this illustration with tariffs. If a primary producer has $8,000 worth of produce, and notionally takes it overseas himself and sells it in an importing country, he might get $8,000 for it. While- he is there he might buy $8,000 worth of goods for his farm and bring them back to Australia. Having arrived back in Australia and having paid import tariff on the goods he has bought, he finds that they have in fact cost him, say, $12,000. That illustrates how tariffs affect the primary producer. The position is that, after notionally selling his goods overseas, he encounters the tariff wall when he comes back, and that increases considerably the cost of the goods that he has bought.
I am very concerned with certain things that are happening in this country. I believe that the only alternative to high tariffs is a continuation and extension of stabilisation. 1 am always willing to say that, so far as primary industries are concerned, the home market is the best, but when the home market is not large, the only method of combating the tariff effect on primary industry is a continuation and extension of stabilisation. We must have in mind that if our already high tariffs continue to rise, primary industries cannot continue to function satisfactorily. Primary industry is out of focus with reality if there is no stabilisation. This is known throughout the country. However, the danger is that the majority of the members of Parliament in both the State and Federal spheres come from metropolitan areas. Nothing but votes seem to matter much in politics. Of course, advocacy is desirable, but when it comes to the point votes are the things that matter. When the votes are favourable to secondary industry, and the Tariff Board is more or less influenced by speeches made by members who represent metropolitan areas, this country can get into a position of losing the very basis of the effective structure of primary industry that built the country - a basis on which we must continue for our future stability. lt was said by the Premier of Victoria not long ago - and by others also - that we are not so dependent now on primary industries as we were a good few years ago. But the moment primary industries show the effects of drought, the city members are complaining of the resulting unemployment in their areas. It must never be forgotten that we must either keep tariffs and prices down or the primary producers will be put out of business. The only other way to keep them in business is by stabilisation. The Country Party will continue to advocate in this House for the wheat industry, the dried fruit industry and many other industries effective stabilisation without which they will languish. Honourable members will now understand why I, as the Country Party Whip, rose to speak this afternoon.
– Schedule II of the Bill is designed to reduce tariffs on New Zealand timber and to eliminate the tariff on Douglas fir coming from New Zealand. As the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) has stated, this magnanimous gesture by Australia to New Zealand was part of an exchange of courtesies between heads of State who entertained each other on either side of the Tasman. The justification for suddenly removing the 8-year phasing out period for these tariffs was mentioned by the honourable member for Fawkner (Mr Howson) when he was Minister for Air and brought down Customs Tariff Proposals, No. 19, on 4th October last. He said:
Honourable members will note that the Minister did not say ‘The industry considers’, or ‘The Board considers’, or even The Government has evidence’; he simply said: ‘The Government does not consider’. We are entitled to have better reasons than arbitrary opinions for such sudden torpedoing of arrangements which our own industries had acceded to. So I disagree with the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) and support the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) in claiming that the Minister should take the House more into his confidence. Like the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies), I utterly reject the Minister’s claim that he has created no real difficulty.
The honourable member for Braddon obviously has done extensive research into this industry over long periods. Most Australians are aware of the pre-eminence of his home State in the production of softwoods. The people will be aware also of the total dependence of the paper industry on the production of softwoods. Whilst Queensland’s timber and paper industries are smaller than those of New Zealand, problems similar to those in Tasmania apply. Even a preferential freight system applies to many Queensland country areas because of the rail freight policies and priorities of the Queensland Government. Fortunately, the New South Wales Government has given a lead to Queensland, and a policy of tapering freights to favour decentralisation is under consideration as a replacement for the freight concessions now favouring centralised industry. The problem of decentralisation should be investigated and attacked by the Government, in particular by the Department of National Development, as I stressed in the early hours of this morning in a speech on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
The honourable member for Braddon stressed the value of timber milling for productivity and development of the country. I support the honourable member’s remarks but 1 wish mainly today to stress that all forestry industries, including reafforestation and logging, are ideal standby industries for primary producers in marginal farming areas. In central Queensland, one of the most intensive forestry areas also happens to be one of the best established dairying areas. It is more typical of Queensland than of the other States that we have a most unequal distribution of rainfall throughout the year. As the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) frequently reminds us, coastal Queensland in general is periodically devastated by drought. In such circumstances it is vital to the economic survival of many dairy farmers and their local industry that there should be nearby an industry where the farmers may obtain alternative employment when dairying is depressed. Months ago I appealed to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) to extend his efforts to alleviate the problems of marginal dairy farmers beyond the present proposals to improve or to amalgamate blocks of dairying land. I appealed to him to consider providing funds to transfer marginal dairying lands to timber production and other uses which, in many cases, are more profitable. In New Zealand, for instance, over a 40- year period afforestation has proved more profitable than dairying, in many areas.
The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) said that secondary industry has priced itself out of world markets. The only major primary industry in Australia which is not subsidised by this Government is the beef industry based on central Queensland.
– What about wool?
– The wool industry is assisted by the Government, but perhaps not to the extent that other industries are assisted.
The Minister or the Tariff Board should approach affected industries when a decision is made like the decision suddenly to eliminate the tariff on Douglas fir after our Australian producers had agreed to a tapering off of the tariff over 8 years. In such cases I think we can reject the claim made by the honourable member for Indi that the responsibility rests with the industry itself to protest or to protect itself against such one-sided actions. The honourable member for Indi found fault with the argument of the honourable member for Braddon that the Government was throwing our timber industry to the wolves. If it makes the honourable member for Indi happier I will agree that there are no wolves in New Zealand forests, but we have thrown the Tasmanian industry to the sharks who ply the routes from Tasmania and New Zealand to the mainland.
As regards the matter of stabilisation of primary industries, referred to by the honourable member for Mallee, I wish he would say who should do the stabilising. I have appealed to the Minister for Primary Industry to take some initiative in this matter, particularly with regard to the pineapple industry, which is suffering from wasteful gluts. The Minister’s reply has been that the initiative must come from the industry through the States. I wish the honourable member for Mallee would support me in seeking some initiative in this chamber.
– in reply- This debate has certainly sparked off some interesting speeches from all corners of the chamber. It seems that the main concern of honourable members, apart from particular items with which I will deal separately, is the latest report of the Tariff Board. I will deal with that in a moment. Let me refer firstly to some of the specific queries raised by honourable members. .
The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) made some point of the fact that there was a heavy increase in the tariff on musical instrument cases and on conveyor belts. The honourable member referred to a debate on the subject of conveyor belts, held a couple of years ago, in which the present Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) took a major part. The belts now under discussion are not the same kind of belts as were under discussion in the earlier debate. The belts which we are now discussing are steel impregnated belts, not the rubber belts that were the subject of the earlier debate. There has never been a tariff on steel impregnated belts; so, an inquiry having been held, one must come to the conclusion that the Tariff Board had the right to recommend protection for the manufacturers of these belts. The same reasoning applies in respect of musical instrument cases: There has not been protection in respect of these items before. An inquiry was held and the Tariff Board recommended protection. This was given.
The honourable member for Yarra referred also to changes in the duties on textiles. These variations arose from the concluding report of the Tariff Board in respect of an inquiry into the textile industry. The Board reviewed many items that had not been looked at for many years. It recommended a simplification and rationalisation of the tariff, removal of certain duties that were redundant, and an increase of some duties where changed circumstances made higher protection necessary. The important thing to remember is that the Board’s report was very large- - more than 190 pages. It was virtually equivalent to fifty of the smaller reports that usually come before the Parliament. So one could expect a number of variations. I will deal later with the other matter raised by the honourable member.
The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) and the honourable member of Capricornia (Dr Everingham) spoke of their concern for the timber industry following the removal of duties on New Zealand Douglas fir. They alleged that this action stemmed from the visit to New Zealand by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). They claimed in effect that the Prime Minister had generously given away’ something which he should not have given away. 1 will demonstrate that not a lot has been given away having regard to the overall situation so far as Douglas fir is concerned. Over the next decade New Zealand can expect to increase exports of Douglas fir to Australia from 2 million superficial feet per annum to 6 million superficial feet per annum. That does not seem a large increase when one has regard to the fact that we are currently importing from North America 172 million superficial feet of Douglas fir per annum. I give those statistics to put the matter in its proper perspective. Lest it be thought that the Australian timber industry has any qualms about the importation of Douglas fir from New Zealand, 1 point out that the Australian Timber Producers Panel, which is the voice of- the industry, has had discussions with the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) on this issue and has the right to discuss problems at any time with the Department of Trade and Industry. There is provision in the New Zealand- Australia Free Trade Agreement for consultation on any matter that can be shown to be severely affecting an industry in Australia or an industry in New Zealand. The honourable member for Braddon and the honourable member for Capricornia could quite easily advise their interested constituents as to the proper course of action. The timber millers have only to use their own Panel to get the same result. This afternoon the honourable members for Yarra, Grayndler (Mr Daly). Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones) and Indi .(Mr Holten), and during question time this morning the honourable member for Bonython (Mr Nicholls), spoke of the last Tariff Board report in which the Board recommended the classification of industries into three levels of tariff. To demonstrate the attitude of the Government on this matter I quote what the Minister for Trade and Industry said on tabling the report last year. He said:
The Board proposes to classify industries into those having . . . high protection, medium protection and low protection and to publish this classification in its next annual report. This will need to be approached with great caution. As honourable members know, the Government grants protection to an industry after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board and a finding that the industry is economic and efficient. After the level of protection has been determined, the industry itself then decides, on the basis of its commercial judgment, the direction and extent of the expansion that it will undertake. It would be a matter of justifiable concern if a preliminary judgment of the Board, without the benefit of the Board’s normal detailed and careful inquiry, were to be taken as a guide to future prospects of the industries involved.
The situation is simple. A reference is made to the Board, the Board makes a judgment on the criteria of what, is economic and efficient and makes a recommendation to the Government about tariff levels. It is a matter of policy whether or not the Government accepts the Tariff Board’s report. That ought to confirm in the minds of the honourable member for Yarra and others that the Government is not departing in any way from its policy or its judgment and is not abrogating its responsibility in respect of protection to Australian industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Nixon) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– The explanation given by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) of the Government’s attitude to the classification of industry does not seem to me to clear the point. It is still necessary for us to know the Government’s attitude and the attitude of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) to the proposed classification of industry that the Tariff Board said it would make in its 1967-68 report. We do not know their attitude.
– in reply - I am sorry that I did not give a fuller explanation earlier. The simple explanation is that the Tariff Board has not made such a decision yet. It talked about it in its last annual report but no decision has yet come before the Government. When it does the Government will be in a position to make a judgment on it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I present the second report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from 16 May (vide page 1554), on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill approves an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government for the payment by the Commonwealth of $10m towards the cost of upgrading the railway line between Parkes and Broken Hill. The total cost of the project will be about $25m, and the balance of $15m will have to be provided by the New South Wales Government Railways. As this plan proceeds it will be the responsibility of the New South Wales Government to keep the Commonwealth Department of Shipping and Transport informed of the progress of the work and to make sure that everything goes according to plan. After the $10m provided by the Commonwealth has been spent I do not think that the Commonwealth Government should just contract out of its responsibility by saying to New South Wales: ‘We have provided SI Om; you can find the next $15m the best way you can’. Often, when Commonwealth and State financial arrangements are involved, work of this type can be delayed because the State decides on priorities that it considers are more important than the work under discussion. 1 believe that not only has the Commonwealth the responsibility to keep this work under close observation but also that it should, if the need arises, provide additional finance by way of non-repayable grants or special loan allocations which do not interfere with the loan allocations for the State.
Labor governments in New South Wales pressed the Commonwealth Government for many years to provide funds to proceed with the work we are now considering. I have a letter from Mr Renshaw, the Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales, who was formerly the Premier of that State, in. which he states:
The subject is not one in which I am able to offer any lengthy comment. While the, Labor Party was in office in this State we were pressing the Federal Government to allocate finance for the purpose and the project is certainly one which is favoured by us.
It is likewise favoured by the. Labor Party in this House. Why was the work held up for so long? Why could not the Commonwealth Government come to some agreement’ with former Labor governments in New South Wales? It is well known in the railway industry that agreement could not be reached because the Commonwealth Government was holding up negotiations. The work, when completed, will permit the use of faster passenger trains and heavier and faster freight trains. Such efficient transport facilities are lacking throughout the Commonwealth. The work has been delayed unnecessarily because of the failure of the two governments to agree. Such work could have enabled transport costs to be reduced many years ago. It is part of the general standardisation of railway gauges throughout Australia. A direct link will be provided from Perth, through Port Pirie to Sydney and on to Brisbane. The necessary connecting line from Adelaide to Port Pirie is, I understand, one of the next jobs to be undertaken by the South Australian Railways Department in agreement with the Commonwealth.
Before this debate concludes I should like an assurance from the Minister that no bottleneck will be created between Cockburn and Broken Hill in respect of which agreement was reached recently with the South Australian Government. 1 question whether politics, has not been introduced in respect of this section of line. I have already mentioned that the New South Wales Labor governments led by Mr Renshaw and Mr Heffron could not reach agreement with the Commonwealth Government. Almost immediately the Hall Government was elected in South Australia agreement was reached, on the Cockburn to Broken Hill section of this line - notwithstanding that for the two previous years the Dunstan and Walsh governments in South Australia had tried to reach agreement. As I have said, I wonder whether there has been some kind of political skulduggery whereby a Federal Liberal-Country Party government was not prepared to reach agreement with a State Labor government, and so has embarrassed the State Government. This has happened from time to time. I know that such a situation embarrassed a New South Wales State Labor government . and embarrassed the Walsh and the Dunstan Labor Governments of South Australia. As I have said, when the Minister replies to this debate I should like him to- assure me that this bottleneck will not prevent the the completion of the line from Perth to Port Pirie to Sydney to Brisbane. I understand that the completion date of this line has been tentatively agreed upon as December 1969.
The Commonwealth Government has a responsibility in the field of transport. Unfortunately, in rail transportation throughout the Commonwealth we have six State railway systems under the control of six State Ministers and a Commonwealth railway system under the control of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), who is sitting at the table now. Up to date there has been no legislative enactment whereby the six State railway systems and the Commonwealth railway system have, to any degree, co-ordinated their activities. Such co-ordination would have to be reached by negotiation and agreement between the various railway systems.
All the State railway systems have been built with one objective in mind, that is, to direct all forms of traffic through the capital city or certain ports in each State. No attempt has been made to build railways so that export goods could bc transported to the closest port. Such a system would provide the cheapest rates for people who are forced to use the railways for either exporting or importing goods. So 1 strongly urge that a national transport planning authority be established. The authority would be presided over by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Parliament has the statutory powers with which to establish a national transport planning authority which would co-ordinate rail, road and air transport in Australia, which is a huge country with a small but expanding population. At the present time we should be preparing for the future transport requirements of Australia. It is no use waiting until our population reaches 20 million and then starting to think about what we should do with our transport systems.
Australia’s rail systems were devised preWorld War I. They are old systems - almost nineteenth century rail systems. We have to have someone in authority to develop completely the whole of the transport system in Australia. The large distances over which people and goods have to be transported place a very heavy burden on Australia’s economy. If we intend to reach a degree of price stability, transport is one of the matters that we must consider. As I have said, the establishment of a national transport planning authority could provide untold assistance in this direction. The whole of the railway system in New South Wales has been constructed with one objective in mind, that is, that everything should go out through Sydney. To a limited extent some traffic from the north west and the north coast is diverted through the port of Newcastle, but the freight rates, which are set by the State Government of the day, are designed to encourage shippers to send their goods through the port of Sydney.
What applies to Newcastle applies also to Port Kembla. Although at present some traffic flows through Port Kembla, that port could be used to a greater extent for the shipment of wool and wheat. Newcastle could handle larger quantities of wool and wheat and this would assist to overcome the transport congestion which occurs in Sydney today. The only way to overcome this congestion completely is to establish a national transport planning authority which would exercise some form of control over transportation, lt could say to the various authorities: ‘If you do this we will provide the necessary finance’. Ultimately this authority could take control of all the railway systems in Australia. The Leader of my Party has advocated this on numerous occasions, and I agree wholeheartedly with him. Our rail systems today are so large and are so diversified throughout Australia that it is important that they be under a single control and not under seven controls as at present. It is important that we do something about this matter.
If we take the southern section of the New South Wales railways, with one or two exceptions most of the traffic goes through Sydney when, in reality, on many occasions it would be much cheaper to export through Melbourne or Portland or possibly through Adelaide. These important facts should be considered by the Government. We on this side of the House believe that the Government has the constitutional power to establish a national transport planning authority. If the Government believes that it does not possess such powers it should seek to gain them by referendum, and we will support its case. If need be, negotiations could be commenced with the States, but I cannot imagine the States being prepared to hand over their railway systems. By ‘hand over’ I mean hand over both assets and liabilities. The railway authorities are complaining continually about the deficits they sustain and about the large debts which they hold. If we are to take over the State railway systems we have to take over both assets and liabilities. We have seen the amalgamation of councils and the amalgamation of electricity undertakings in the local government field. There is no reason why, on a much larger scale, the railway systems cannot be amalgamated in a similar way and taken over. We on this side of the House strongly urge the establishment of a national transport planning authority.
I am certain that with the co-ordination of rail, road and sea transport under the control of a central authority it would be possible to provide a better transport system than the present cut-throat system in which one form of transport is attacking the other. 1 also believe that the coordination of these three fields of transport would provide much cheaper transport in Australia. People tend to travel by air because they like to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. But at the same time there are millions of people in Australia who, either because of cost or because it is the only form of transport available, prefer rail transport to air transport. We must not forget bus transport over long distances, which is to be found in other countries. The United States of America is criss-crossed by road transport. People can travel by bus to almost any part of the United States. There is no reason why this form of transport cannot be provided in Australia. With the coordination of air, rail and road transport under the control of a central authority, passengers could be carried from point A to point B much more cheaply than they are at the present time. I believe that these matters must be closely examined.
As far as the economics of the various transport systems are concerned, the railways receive very little Commonwealth aid. I will admit that a considerable amount of Commonwealth aid has been provided in the standardisation of railway gauges. If it had not been forthcoming there would have been no rail standardisation in Australia today because the States would have held out and said: ‘We are all right as we are.’ I feel that the Commonwealth did embarrass the State governments into accepting rail standardisation. This could, in the years to come, have a marked effect on the transport factors in Australia. The railways are responsible for meeting all their costs. They have to pay for such things as the permanent way, their rollingstock, their stations - in fact everything associated with them.
Let us now consider the favourable treatment handed out to road hauliers. All honourable members know that the hauliers pay petrol or diesel tax and various forms of road tax but when all these things are added up they do not come near the cost of road construction and associated works such as bridges, culverts and everything else necessary for a national highway. The heavy road hauliers do not contribute one fraction of the real cost of these highways. It means that the road hauliers are operating with a very favourable advantage over their brothers using the steel rails. So far as airlines are concerned, it is a well known fact that they receive a very heavy Commonwealth subsidy by way of the provision of airports, air navigational aids and other things,’ all of which are financed by the Commonwealth Government. The airlines do pay a limited and minor amount towards these facilities. In 1966-67 the total cost of them to the Commonwealth was about S44m but the airlines contributed a miserly $8.2m! The same extent of aid is not being given to the railways. These are some of the things which would have to be considered by a national transport planning authority.
Turning now to shipping, I point out that we have an Australian internal shipping system which likewise receives favourable treatment from the Government. I have always supported this assistance because we need to have an Australian shipbuilding industry. A subsidy of some 33% is paid on shipbuilding. I completely agree with this form of assistance but once again it highlights the fact that the Commonwealth subsidises quite extensively all forms of transport with the exception of rail. Regarding shipping, the industry has to pay port dues and this money meets the cost of wharf maintenance, dredging and the like. This part of the shipping industry is at least on a par with the rail industry.
These are a few of , the things 1 want to mention in connection with this legislation. Since the 1939-45 war we have seen a great transformation in the rail system. There has been an almost complete changeover to dieselisation. This has brought numerous reductions in freight rates. It has brought a great change to the rail system. It has meant the up-grading of various lines, such as the one we are dealing with in this Bill, so that heavier loads can be carried. There is the changeover to containerisation and the piggyback form of transportation. These are just a few of the changes that have taken place in regard to railways. When one considers the passenger side of the system, one notes that all inter-capital services now have new air-conditioned trains. But although we have new trains they are. still far behind the standard of those in other countries.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– At the suspension of the sitting I was about to compare railways in Australia with railways overseas. I acknowledge that the ‘Southern Aurora’ is one of the best trains in Australia. Its facilities are widely considered in Australia to be equal to any in the world. Recently I had the opportunity of travelling on trains in other countries, and I came to the conclusion that the facilities on the ‘Southern Aurora’ and other Australian trains, are not the equal of those of the best trains in other countries. The speed of our trains does not compare with that of trains elsewhere. The Southern Aurora’ takes 13 hours to travel about 600 miles between Sydney and Melbourne. A train travelling from Paris to Nice, a distance of 676 miles, takes 9 hours 48 minutes to complete the journey. A train travelling from Rome to Milan, a distance of 293 miles, takes 5 hours 17 minutes. After one travels on such trains overseas, one realises the difference between them and Australian trains.
The ultimate in train travel is the world famous Tokkaido Express which travels the distance of 320 miles from Tokyo to Osaka in 3 hours 10 minutes. On this train the passengers do not even know they are moving unless they look out of the window. At the speed at which the train travels, the telegraph poles beside the railway line appear to fly past like the pickets of a fence. By contrast, the Newcastle to Sydney Inter-City Express takes 24 hours to travel a distance of 104 miles and it is almost impossible to write while the train is in motion. Passengers who wish to have a drink of coffee or tea can have their cups only half full; otherwise the contents spill. There is no perceptible vibration at all on the Tokkaido Express. I believe the type of rail transport provided in Australia is not up to international standards. It is up to this Government and this Parliament, as the controller of the economy, to make the necessary finance available to State governments to enable them to provide rail transport of better standard.
The railways are trying to attract passenger traffic from the airlines. Until such time as our railways are comparable with those overseas, passengers will never be attracted from the airlines. I travel between Newcastle and Sydney a great deal. I can say that an increase in the number of air services available is not the real reason for the decrease in the number of people that I see patronising rail transport between those cities. The rail service at present provided is not comparable with air services and is unsatisfactory. The Federal Government should make money available to the New South Wales Government so that rail transport can- be improved and can become a practical proposition for intending passengers. I would like to mention a lot of other matters concerning rail transport, such as freights. I do not propose to do so tonight. I prefer to deal with such matters at a later stage in some other way.
Now that the Government has made available money to improve the railway between Parkes and Broken Hill, I am concerned that a bottleneck might occur as a result of the additional traffic that will travel on this line. The crux of the argument on which the Government based its decision to make this money available was that more traffic will flow between east and west if the line is improved. Now that additional traffic will use the line, there is a possibility that a severe bottleneck will develop at the Sydney end. Statistics indicate that a bottleneck already exists there and that it will become worse as time goes on and as additional lines are improved and traffic increases. It is to avoid bottlenecks that lines have been standardised. So I believe the Government should give serious consideration to an additional line from the west to the coastline. I know the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) is well aware that the Sandy Hollow-Maryvale railway will link the western districts with the Hunter Valley. This project has been talked about for many years and the line is more than half finished. One of the Government’s policies is decentralisation. This railway line would contribute to decentralisation if completed. It would also contribute to the defence of this country and its completion could be classified as a defence need. 1 ask the Minister to give serious consideration to representations that have been made to this Government in regard to this line. He has recently received from the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce a very good publication setting out in great detail alt the reasons why aid should be forthcoming to facilitate the completion of this line. To give honourable members an idea of how work on the line is proceeding, I will list what progress has been made. The earthworks are 95% completed; four tunnels have been completed and lined for distances of 13, 19, 23, and 16 chains respectively; 48 chains of a fifth tunnel measuring 97 chains have been completed and lined; 16 major bridges have been completed; concrete abutments and piers have likewise been completed: 95% of the earthworks and drains have been completed; 395 waterways and flood openings varying from 2 feet by 2 feet to 10 feet by 10 feet have been completed; 23 rabbit stops and 49 cattle stops have been completed; 60 large steel spans are required for crossings, of which three 20-foot spans and six 24-foot spans have been completed; of thirty-six 40-foot spans still to be finished, twenty-nine are on piers and seven have to be assembled; and fifteen 80-foot spans have been removed for use on the North Coast line. So honourable members can see that a considerable amount of work has been done on this railway. The estimated cost of completing the line, as submitted to and accepted by the New South Wales Commissioner for Railways, Mr McCusker, is about $20m. So, for an expenditure of $20m this railway could be finished and would eliminate to a great extent the serious bottleneck in the Sydney region. It would also provide cheaper transport for the north and northwest of New South Wales. Further, it would provide easier access to southern markets for the growers of tropical fruits in Queensland and for banana growers on the New South Wales coast. These growers would be able to freight their products to Adelaide or Perth. So the completion of this line would help primary industry. As a member of the Country Party, the Minister should be interested in these great advantages for primary producers. The members of his Party are always talking about aid for primary industry and about decentralisation. This is one thing which will hasten decentralisation. It will eliminate what I consider to be a bottleneck at the Sydney end and it will also provide cheaper rail freights for the people who have to transport their products. The Macquarie Valley is one of the fertile districts of Australia. With the recent completion of the Burrendong Dam an extra 120,000 acres of land has now become available for irrigation. The produce from those irrigated areas has to be taken somewhere. In the main, it will be export produce. Already a Queensland company has acquired about 10,000 acres on which it will grow cotton. This cotton will have to go somewhere, and inevitably it will go to the seaboard. The most direct way from that district to the seaboard would be over the Sandy HollowMary vale railway, which would mean a considerable saving in distance and freight costs. These are some of the reasons why the Government should try to have the line completed.
The district to be served by the line is one of the best wheat producing areas of the Commonwealth. In 1967, 8 million acres were planted, and the yield was approximately 210 million bushels. Meat is exported from the Dubbo and Mudgee abattoirs, and huge quantities of wool are exported from this area. If the district’s wool clip was transported over the Sandy HollowMaryvale railway line instead of going through Sydney, there would be a saving of $1.18 per bale. The Minister knows what this means to the grower. Freight costs are among the growers’ major problems.
An additional problem arises in connection with wheat. Trucks bringing wheat from the properties to the terminal silos are frequently held up because there are not enough rail trucks to take the wheat away. This is all brought about by inadequate rail transport facilities. If the Sandy Hollow-Maryvale line were completed it would result in a more rapid turnround of rail trucks. This in turn would overcome a problem which has beset the wheat industry, the wool industry and all forms of primary industry. It was recently brought to notice by Australian Fertilizers Limited that the railways were failing to transport the products of the company in the quantities and at the times required. If this situation can arise once, it can arise again. A couple of years ago Australian Fertilizers Limited bitterly complained that it could not have superphosphate transported by rail from the works of the Sulphide Corporation at Cockle Creek near Newcastle. It had 70,000 tons on hand which should have been taken away at some earlier time. In Dubbo on 4th April 1966 the ‘Daily Liberal’ and the Macquarie Advocate’ referred to a record rail lift of superphosphate from Newcastle. Some twenty-three loads arrived in the district on that day, and it took 48 hours for that superphosphate to be transported from Cockle Creek, which is only about 7 or 8 miles outside the city of Newcastle, to Dubbo. If the shipment had been taken over the Sandy Hollow line, it would have taken 8 hours. It would also have travelled fewer miles, which in turn would have meant a considerable saving in freight. The company in question has already stated that if this line is opened it will represent a considerable saving to primary producers because the concentrates the company uses and which are brought by rail from Broken Hill will cover a shorter distance. Admittedly it is only 63 miles shorter but whereas at the present time freight trains have to be broken coming through Sydney and reduced to a maximum of 1,000 tons loads, over the Sandy Hollow line they could carry. 2,000 ton loads at a speed of 60 miles an hour. This speed is not possible through the Sydney section. On the Sandy Hollow line trains will have a double carrying capacity and will be able to travel much more quickly than trains coming through the Sydney bottleneck.
When we are talking about trains of 1,000 tons and 2,000 tons, it is time we had a look at the rail systems which have been introduced in Western Australia, where at the present moment ore trains of 15,000 tons can be brought to the seaboard, and it is anticipated that before very long the trains will be able to carry 24,000 tons. When we talk about bringing 140,000 tons of ore only from Broken Hill to Newcastle - and this figure will increase to 176,000 tons by 1971 - at a freight rate at the present time of $16.50 a ton, the primary producer and the manufacturer are entitled to ask the Government whether this is the most economic form of transport for raw materials and finished products. The Government has now agreed to provide finance for strengthening the line between Parkes and Broken Hill. This may create the same kind of bottleneck that now exists, and I strongly urge the Government to have a look at the proposition that has been submitted to both State and Federal Governments for the completion of the Sandy Hollow-Maryvale line.
There is also the question of backloading. It is all very well to bring 140,000 to 176,000 tons of ore over this line to Newcastle, and to bring wheat, wool, beef, and now possibly cotton, and all the things that are produced by primary industry, but what are you going to take back? Empty trucks? The answer is clearly no, because this section of the State of New South Wales has a great demand for nitrogenous fertilisers and superphosphates and such commodities. Members of the Country Party know the benefits of these things much better than I do. I know that the farmers want them and they want them at as low a price as possible. This line would satisfy their needs. Not only can the raw material be taken over this line to the coast, it is also possible to take backloads in the manner I have referred to. Primary industry requires large quantities of steel products, wire, galvanised iron, steel sections, sheet iron, steel pipes, building supplies and timber from the north coast. These goods at the present time are railed through Sydney and then to the west, north west or central west. This line would represent a considerable saving to primary industry.
Other things on which freight savings could be made are tractors and farming equipment, which are manufactured in the Newcastle district. Masonite is required in considerable quantities by primary industry. I made reference earlier to tropical fruits such as bananas. Statistics which have been made available to me by the banana growers on the north coast of New South Wales disclose that in 1967, 376,225 bushel cases of bananas were sent from the north coast of New South Wales through to Adelaide and 102,803 bushel cases through to Perth. In all, this represented 31.1 trains to Adelaide and 11.1 trains to Perth, a total of 42.2 trains annually. This is not be ignored.
It is important for the primary industries to be able to get their production to the market as quickly as possible. Earlier I mentioned that it took 48 hours to get superphosphate from Newcastle to Dubbo, but over the Sandy Hollow line it would take only 8 hours. Similarly, with the transport of tropical fruits - I used bananas as my example - a saving of 40 hours would be made if the goods were taken through
Newcastle and over the Sandy Hollow Line. In fact, they would not go into Newcastle. They would be diverted at Telarah, would go to Sandy Hollow and on to Dubbo. They would then go to Adelaide and across to Perth. The primary producer knows how important it is to get perishables of this type- to the market quickly. These are some of the reasons why the Government should open this additional line as part of the standard gauge scheme. It would provide another important access from the west to the coast.
I could give many other reasons why the Government should follow this course. One relates to gradients. As I said earlier, trains would not have to be broken down to go over Cowan. At this point, trains must be reduced to a maximum load of 1,000 tons. The line I have mentioned will take loads of at least 2,000 tons and trains can travel at 60 miles an hour. This would effect a considerable saving in freights and so on. But there is another important aspect. As I said earlier, our Country Party colleagues are always talking about decentralisation. I refer briefly to a statement made by Mr C. E. Ferrier, Chief Planner of the New South Wales State Planning Authority, on 10th November 1965. The figure he used at that time was £ 1,000m; 1 will convert it to our present currency. He said that $2,000m would have to be spent every 7 years on Sydney’s rail, transport, water and sewerage systems if Sydney’s population grew to the expected 5- million by the year 2000. We must bear in mind that the year 2000 is not far away. If the Government does nothing about the line I have mentioned, it is only increasing the cost of maintaining existing services and providing additional services in the metropolitan area of Sydney. This is an opportunity for a Country Party Minister to encourage decentralisation.
I could talk at length about the defence aspect. A few years ago the Royal Australian Air Force conducted an exercise in which the Mirage aircraft attempted to intercept the old, antiquated Canberra bombers. Everyone agrees that the Canberra bombers are antiquated; they were antiquated 10 years ago. In the exercise the Canberra bombers were the attacking force and they succeeded in getting through the defence of the Mirage aircraft. The bombers knocked out the Hawkesbury bridge, the Wyong bridge and the Swansea road bridge. This demonstrates the vulnerability of the rail .system along the east coast. I would have liked to have spoken for a little longer, but my time has expired. The Opposition supports’ the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Dobie) adjourned.
– by leave-Honourable members will recall that, shortly before the House rose last year I intimated that 1 would make a statement in the House on the subject of frequency modulation broadcasting. In accordance -with that undertaking I propose now to trace briefly the history of the investigations which have been made into FM’ broadcasting in this country and to make -some comments also on the Government’s attitude towards the representations it receives for the introduction of the facility as a’ regular service.
Firstly, let me make the point that all sound broadcasting services in Australia - that is, the internal national and commercial broadcasting networks*- operate with amplitude modulation in the medium frequency band. Apart from the fact that this band is already substantially occupied, the technical characteristics of FM make it suitable . for use only .in the very high frequency or ultra high frequency bands. As to television, AM -.is used for carrying the picture portion of,a programme, while FM is employed for. the. sound portion.
In 1947 it was .decided to carry out trials with FM broadcasting in the very high frequency band, principally to enable a study to be made pf the propagation effects of FM in typical areas and also to obtain experience in the design and performance of FM equipment, both transmitting and receiving. The decision stemmed from a report by a Parliamentary Standing Committee’ on Broadcasting. Experimental transmitters were set up by the Post Office, first, in Sydney and Melbourne and, later,, in Brisbane and AdelaideTransmissions in FM totalled about 84 hours a week from the experimental stations in the four cities. For part of each day the normal programme of one or other of the two medium frequency national stations was also broadcast through the FM transmitters.
In 1948, amendments which were made to the Broadcasting Act explicitly prohibited the use of FM by any commercial station. This prohibition was repealed in 1956. Following the repeal, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board held a public inquiry into the matter of ‘the introduction of broadcasting services by stations in the VHF band and using frequency modulation’. The Board, by advertisement in daily and trade newspapers, invited evidence from interested people and organisations. Only nineteen persons presented evidence although a number of written statements were received. On the evidence submitted, the Board concluded that there were practical objections to the introduction of FM broadcasting, one of the main difficulties stemming from the fact that television services had commenced in the capital cities and were to be extended to a number of country areas - a development which affected basically the matter of frequency channels available in the VHF band.
Honourable members may recall that the 1954 Royal Commission on Television had recommended that television should be developed in the very high frequency band. Although at the time of the Commission’s report only seven VHF channels were available for this purpose, subsequent reallocation made three additional channels available - a total of ten. When the Government decided to extend television to thirteen country centres, and to provide for a national and at least one commercial station at each centre, it became clear that ten channels would be insufficient for proper development in the future of television in the VHF band. The extraordinary popularity of television in the capital cities and the desire for alternative programmes had demonstrated a likely need for a greater number of stations in the various centres than had been envisaged previously.
This problem was investigated thoroughly by a technical conference arranged in 1960 by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board as part of its hearing of the applications made for commercial television licences for thirteen provincial and country areas. The conference was attended by a number of the applicants, a number of manufacturers, representatives of the Post Office and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. One of the questions posed was whether adequate space could, in fact, be found for television to expand within the VHF band or whether a partial or complete transfer to the UHF band might be necessary. The general view of the conference was that television should be extended within the VHF band and that the Postmaster-General should be asked to see how many VHF channels could be made available for its development.
In its report to the Government dated August 1960, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, after considering the views of the technical conference, expressed the view, that thirteen VHF channels would be necessary for television expansion and that the 92-108 megacycles reserved for FM broadcasting might be used to provide two of these television channels, if required. The Board pointed out that the alternative to making sufficient VHF channels available for television was to use channels in the ultra high frequency band immediately, a course which has been strongly opposed in many quarters and which experience overseas had shown to have inherent disadvantages for television compared with the VHF band. In the meantime, the then Postmaster-General, Sir Charles Davidson, had announced his intention of appointing a Radio Frequency Allocations Review Committee to examine the allocation of frequencies for all types of radio services following an International Frequency Conference in 1959 in Geneva. That Committee, which was set up under the chairmanship of Professor Huxley, was asked to suggest, among other things, methods by which additional television frequencies could be obtained.
In its examination of the frequency problem as a whole, the Committee found among other matters that the number of fixed and mobile radio services used by business, industrial and professional organisations and byessential services was growing rapidly. From 1955 to 1960, for example, the number of such services licensed had increased over 200% from less than 8,000 to 24,013; on indications at the time, it would be necessary to accommodate a further 20,000 stations, within the next 5 years, in the VHF band. While it would not be impossible to transfer some of these, or to allot new ones, to the UHF band, a number of very real difficulties were involved for many of these services due to the characteristics of UHF propagation. For instance the range of UHF mobile services, such as taxi services, is reduced compared with sendees operating at VHF, while at UHF there is an increased number of pockets of poor or very poor reception. While it was believed that some services of this kind must ultimately go into the UHF band, it was clear that there would still be a very serious problem in accommodating those which, for various reasons, must remain in the VHF band. Professor Huxley’s Committee concluded that, by using two channels in the frequency band which had been reserved for FM broadcasting, they could just barely meet the requirement of thirteen television channels in the VHF band and make reasonable provision for the growth of essential fixed and mobile services.
In the reallocation of frequencies recommended by the Committee, that portion of the band 92-108 megacycles which lies between 92 and 94 megacycles was allocated to fixed and mobile radio services to meet the growing government and commercial requirements for such services. The PostmasterGeneral stated at the time that he was aware of the suggestion that a frequency in the 92-94 megacycles portion of the band might be made available to allow the FM transmissions to continue. However, quite apart from the reduction in frequency space for the fixed and mobile services which would result, undesirable interference effects to reception of television would occur in some areas. It was therefore not possible to have thirteen channels for television in the VHF band and, at the same time, make adequate provision for the development of fixed and mobile radio .services without closing down the FM broadcasting transmissions which had never been on anything but an experimental basis. Even were it practicable to continue operation of the FM stations in the VHF band, it would be quite impracticable to expand the service throughout the Commonwealth in that band because of the requirements for television and others. And it must be remembered, Mr Speaker, that later television was extended to twenty more country areas to make a total of thirty-three areas outside the capital cities. Accordingly, the experimental FM broadcasts in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide were discontinued in June 1961.
Following the announcement of the termination of the experimental FM transmissions, representations were made to the Minister - both directly and through other members of Parliament - by about 200 people. In addition, the Minister received some petitions, one of which contained 400 signatures. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board received about eighty letters from listeners - many of whom were interested in high fidelity reception - members of the radio industry, trade journals, and so on. As compared with AM, the principal characteristics of frequency modulation are first, that noise or static - whether it originates from natural or man made sources - can be less serious in an FM system, and, secondly, that FM provides a higher fidelity of sound that enables, for example, a musical composition to be reproduced in the full frequency range with an appropriately designed receiver. With these advantages as their guide, people who have urged the introduction of FM contend that it would benefit the country listener particularly and that broadcasting services generally would be improved. But it must be remembered. Mr Speaker, that if FM broadcasting were introduced in Australia, it could only operate in the ultra high frequency band, since I believe I. have indicated quite clearly that there is no vacancy - if I can use that term - in the VHF band. Now, it is quite true that the limited number of frequencies available in the medium frequency band does handicap the development of our broadcasting services, but on the other hand the great majority of the population receives a good national and a good commercial service.
Some of the shortcomings in the MF broadcasting service can be overcome by the use of improved techniques such as directional aerials. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board keeps in close touch with the technological research and development in regard to MF broadcasting and the results of the Board’s studies in recent years have been encouraging. Sixteen national and 6 commercial stations have been established since 1960. Further I have recently, on the Board’s recommendation, approved the inviting of applications for the grant of commercial licences in the Gladstone area of Queensland and the Port Lincoln area of South Australia. This has been made practicable by the planned use of directional aerials by the proposed stations, and investigations in other areas are proceeding concerning both national and commercial services. Frequency modulation has certain merits including lower noise levels and higher fidelity of sound. While these characteristics are real they are not, in the opinion of this Government, sufficiently significant to justify the introduction of a new service. They would be valued, of course, by a limited section of the community, such as music lovers and those who could afford the costly receiving equipment. But to-days radio programmes, which include a lot of pop music, open line programmes, news sessions and so on, would not make good use of the qualities Of FM even if it were introduced.
Furthermore, it must be remembered that the majority of broadcast receivers today are small portables and car radios. I understand that the British Broadcasting Corporation recognises the large size of the listening audience which use transistor receivers and have adjusted programmes accordingly. Claims have been made of the superior characteristics of FM on the basis that the sound channels of television stations are heard better in many country areas than are medium frequency broadcasting stations. This is undoubtedly so in some areas, but it must be remembered that most television viewers use efficient outside receiving aerials, whereas the general practice with broadcast listeners is to use indoor aerials or aerials incorporated in the receiver itself, as with transistor sets. The use of efficient outdoor aerials for medium frequency reception would in many cases result in a marked improvement in reception.
It has been claimed consistently that FM has arrived in many overseas countries and that Australia is lagging behind. Without a proper examination of the situation, one could come to this conclusion. But I submit that the stimulus to FM overseas has been not so much because of its intrinsic merits but because of the degree of overcrowding and interference in the medium frequency band, arising from very large populations to be provided with service. Interference and overcrowding to such an extent fortunately do not exist in Australia. In the United States of America it has been stated that some medium frequency stations are limited in coverage by signals from stations operating on the same channel to a distance of not more than about 4 miles at night time. This is borne out by the fact that there are 4,000 stations in the MF band in the United States, whereas in Australia, in about the same land area, there are fewer than 200. There is evidence to show that the public has been slow to accept FM services overseas by the reluctance of people to purchase FM receivers which in general cost more than medium frequency receivers. It is understood that, in the United Kingdom, the number of FM receivers sold is only about one-third of the number of households. In the United States there is evidence that the popularity of FM services is growing, but receiver production figures indicate that the MF services are still providing the basic service to the population. It is expected that this will be the case for many years to come.
I think it must be realised that the main justification for introducing a new system of broadcasting would be the inability to meet present deficiencies by expansion of an existing service. The shortcomings now present are relatively few and would not in themselves warrant the introduction of FM broadcasting with its wide implications. Such a step would involve high expenditure on the part of the Government, which it would be difficult to justify, and by the operators of the stations and the general public. Moreover, further development of other types of service such as MF broadcasting and television stations would be affected because of the resources which would need to be diverted to the new project. It is the contention of my technical advisers that a sufficiently strong case on the grounds of inadequacy of the existing broadcasting service has not been made for the introduction of FM at the present time. Special experimental licences have been issued for experimental FM transmissions to be conducted in Sydney and
Melbourne, using frequencies in the ultrahigh frequency band. The grant of licences has been justified on the basis of the need to determine some of the unknowns in techniques and performance of UHF transmissions.
It is of interest to consider what would be the coverage achieved by an FM service in the UHF band. For many reasons, at least as far as the national service is concerned, the logical place to site UHF stations would be on the same sites as are used foi television stations. The same general technical requirements apply to sites as for television; buildings, power and roads, which in some cases have been very costly, are available, and the same staff can be used. The establishment of a UHF station at each of the 39 national television sites would enable provision of service over an area embracing about 95% of the population of the Commonwealth.
However, because of the propagation characteristics of UHF, there would be more pockets of poor reception than with very high frequency broadcasting, requiring a considerable number of translator stations adequately to serve these pockets. Even with VHF sound broadcasting in the United States of America there are difficulties with aerials for portable receivers, including car receivers, and such difficulties would be more pronounced at UHF.
Although about 95% of the population could be served by main stations supplmented by translators, certain areas where national service could do with improvement would be no better off unless local UHF stations independent of television operators were established. Because of the distance of such centres from the larger centres of population and the limited population involved, the economic question becomes of prime importance.
With regard to the commercial service, it cannot be said that there are too few stations in the major capital cities. In some country areas, there are admittedly some towns of considerable population where the commercial service is of a marginal nature and, if frequencies were available in the MF band, there would be no difficulties in the establishment of commercial stations. As I have said earlier, some of the difficulties may be overcome by the use of directional aerial techniques. In any case, the number of these areas is not sufficiently large to justify the introduction of a new service. In some of the larger centres with only one commercial station, possibly a second commercial station could operate economically, but again the number of such areas is not large.
With regard to the national service, while listeners in the capital cities and Newcastle have two national services available to them, the majority of country listeners have only one continuously available national service provided by regional stations. However, an alternative national service is available during night hours from the high-powered capital city stations, and in outlying areas national service is provided from short wave stations located in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Lyndhurst. The provision of two national programmes continuously available throughout country areas would require the introduction of a new type of service such as FM, but having regard to the services now available, the introduction of such a new type of service would not be justified in this purpose. I should say here that more than 95% of the population has available to it at least one good national broadcasting service, while 95% of the population has available television services. Although the needs of the people who are not served satisfactorily are recognised and, given time, some improvements will be made as far as they are concerned, it is to be emphasised that it is not they who would be the main ones to benefit from the introduction of FM. I might also say that in no English speaking country in the world is it claimed that all the population is completely served with broadcasting or television services.
It has been claimed by some proponents of the introduction of FM that the electronics industry needs such projects to keep the industry in a healthy state. I repeat that the principal advantages claimed for FM are high fidelity and freedom from noise; but neither car sets nor portable sets would, I believe, sell to the public on those characteristics because, due to their limited size they are not designed for high fidelity reception; also, I do not believe that generally they would be used where the freedom of FM from noise would be important. The position could be different with sets of the other type, normally used in a fixed position in the home, but these account for only about one-quarter of production. They are, of course, the more expensive sets and it is probably in this category that the main market would be for FM. The market could, however, be disappointingly small. It is, I think, also problematical to conclude that a great number of people would be persuaded to purchase special FM receivers or adaptors for the purpose of receiving programmes which would be little different in content from those available to them now. In any case, I would not regard this as a ground upon which to justify the introduction of a new type of broadcasting service.
I hope honourable members will agree that, having regard to the situation as I have outlined it, a need for the introduction of FM broadcasting is not at present apparent.
I present the following paper:
Frequency Modulation Broadcasting - Ministerial Statement, 6 June 1968 - and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
– It is clear that Australians will not be permitted to develop or to enjoy frequency modulation broadcasting as long as the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) holds office. He has made it clear that this Government will not initiate the decisions which are essential for the rational and orderly development of our broadcasting and communications system, particularly in new forms of radio, such as frequency modulation, and in new forms of television, such as educational television.
On 23rd March 1965 in an address to the Institution of Radio and Electronic Engineers the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), who was at the time Minister for Supply, said:
When most technically advanced countries are making increased use of FM for the extension and improvement of broadcasting services we have managed not only to resist the demand for an extension of FM services but to close down such experimental services as we had.
Our internal national and commercial broadcasting networks operate with amplitude modulation in the medium frequency band. In this band there are only 108 clear channels, whereas there are over 200 transmitting stations. This means that there is a high degree of sharing of channels. Generally, during the daylight hours, provided the stations are some hundreds of miles apart, those stations which share channels do not interfere with each other. However, at night, due to conditions in the earth’s upper atmosphere, the propagation pattern for medium wave stations changes and there is a great deal of interference from many miles away. This is further complicated by other atmospheric changes which depend on the .season of the year and can produce phenomena such as fading. Then, too, we receive static and electrical noise from natural and man made sources such as lightning, power generation, car ignitions and so on.
Every honourable member will have had the experience at night time of . receiving interstate stations and even New Zealand stations on a normal household transistor set. There is much less interference when frequency modulation is used. Frequency modulation sound is practically -free from noise. Neither static nor man-made noise affects the programme. It is barely affected by day and night time fluctuations and seasonal atmospheric changes. A large number of stations may operate and share the same channel without interference when geographically spaced. Programmes of high quality and stereophonic sound can be transmitted. In short,- FM would provide better sound quality, less static and more channels. More channels would be a boon in country areas where the listener normally has a choice pf not more than one or two stations of reasonable clarity. I still cannot understand how the last Australian Country Party PostmasterGeneral presided over the dissolution of the experimental FM system. Frequency modulation not only would enable people in the cities to receive better reception, even while they were travelling to and from work, but also would enable country people to have reception where ‘ they now cannot ‘ get it at all or to have better reception at all times. In the country in particular, people depend on market reports, meteorological information and news disseminated by their radio: In many parts of Australia there is, as we know, no television reception and very inadequate radio reception, if there is radio at all. All these things would be cured or supplied as far as the country is concerned and improved as far as the city is concerned if we . had the option of frequency modulation. We cannot have even the choice unless the Commonwealth makes FM available.
A significant point which the PostmasterGeneral seems to have overlooked in making his decision is that our present facilities are loaded virtually to the limit. Speaking in this House on 23rd March 1961, the present Minister for Defence referred to the very great deficiencies in the coverage of Australia by our broadcasting system. We cannot increase the number of our stations and the quality of reception within the existing medium frequency system. The Postmaster-General should be planning for the period ahead, laying now a framework which will permit an orderly and co-ordinated introduction of frequency modulation to provide for the demands which are generated by an expanding population with increased expectations - a population using and requiring more and more efficient and sophisticated methods of communication.
The Postmaster-General referred to the use of FM in the United States of America. The next two most sophisticated and technically best qualified countries already use frequency modulation to a great extent. They are Japan, adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, as we are, and Germany. Germany introduced FM transmissions when she lost most of her amplitude modulation frequency allocations after the Second World War. She now has one of the most advanced broadcasting systems in the world. I am told that the general public in Germany shows its preference for FM transmission even where a limited amplitude modulation service is locally available. Extensive amplitude modulation services are available from surrounding countries.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting could foresee in 1946 that the development of FM would be required in the future. For this reason the Committee recommended the establishment of experimental FM transmission facilities. That recommendation was acted upon and experimental transmitters were set up in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and
Adelaide. However, in 1961 this Government closed down those experimental facilities. The Postmaster-General has said that there was no public protest, and hence no great public demand for frequency modulation. I can remember no other matter of communications upon which I received and transmitted so much correspondence. Of course, the answer to the Minister’s claim is that the service was always regarded as experimental; no encouragement was given to the public to listen to the broadcasts or to invest in equipment; and no guarantees were given as to the regularity of programmes.
Although the present Postmaster-General believes that there was little interest in frequency modulation, his colleague, the Minister for Defence, believed otherwise. For the third time tonight I will quote the remarks of the Minister for Defence, who may be indifferent to people but who is fascinated by gadgets. We all would recognise that he has shown a consistent interest in this subject outside the chamber, and, for the present Postmaster-General, an uncomfortable interest inside the chamber. Speaking in this House on 23rd August 1961 the present Minister for Defence said:
The main complaint that 1 have about this is that before the report of the Frequency Allocation Review Committee was made public decisions had been taken on the basis of that report. In other words, it seems to me that here we have a bureaucratic Administration which proceeds to wipe off frequency modulation, and gives completely inadequate explanations for doing so. It has done all this at a time when the Parliament, in particular, and the public, in general, have been denied a clear understanding of the grounds upon which this decision has been made. In one fell swoop frequency modulation has been suspended, the stations have been closed and perhaps 50,000, 70,000 or 100,000 receivers have been rendered inoperable and, perhaps, completely valueless. I have broadened the estimate to 100,000 because there is really no way of estimating the number of people who have provided themselves with frequency modulation receivers in order to hear this superior type of broadcast. But certainly these are among the keenest listeners in Australia and their rights should be protected to say nothing of the future benefit to Australia in the preservation of channels for frequency modulation broadcasts.
There are several other matters in the Postmaster-General’s speech I would like to mention. The Minister implies that the lower noise levels and higher fidelity of sound would be valued only by a limited section of the community and that frequency modulation receiving equipment would be much dearer than present receivers. I am sure that everybody who has had to suffer the fading and static and interference because he lives in a country area or is visiting a country area, while travelling from one town to another, would welcome frequency modulation. As for cost, I am told that a receiving set which would otherwise cost $50 to $60 would, if required to receive frequency modulation signals, cost approximately an additional $15.
The Minister has made a statement presenting a great deal of technical data as though it were a clearly established fact. It is not. Almost every one of his major contentions about the adequacies or inadequacies of our broadcasting system and any alternatives might be disputed most bitterly by industry and by those technically qualified to give an opinion. They would be disputed by his own colleague the Minister for Defence. On 4th April last I asked a question on this subject of the Postmaster-General. I submitted the answer he gave me to persons who have prospered in the community because they are experienced in this field. I will read my question, the Minister’s reply and the comments I was given. My question was as follows:
I ask the Postmaster-General a question. He will know that more and more people outside the capital cities are coming to resent the inferior reception from the present AM radio transmitters compared with the strength and clarity of the FM transmissions they are now receiving on their television sets. Could many of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and commercial television facilities -towers and so on - inthe country be used to provide FM broadcasts? When will he be able to make, as he promised the House last September, as full a statement as he can about FM broadcasting and give Parliament the opportunity to debate the subject?
The Postmaster-General replied:
I understand that technically the television towers could be used for FM broadcacsts. However, the Leader of the Opposition and other people within the Australian community may not understand that an FM transmitter can cover only a very small area.
Is it any smaller than the area covered by a television transmitter?
The Minister resumed:
It is smaller even than the coverage of a television transmitter. This is my understanding of the information given to me by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. We would, therefore, need a tremendous number of transmitters for FM broadcasts, if this system were introduced. I did promise a few months ago that I would make a statement on this subject. The statement is in course of preparation, but it is not always easy to do what one wants to do. I hope that before this autumn sessional period concludes I will be able to make a statement that will enable a debate to take place.
Firstly, the comment on the Minister’s statement that an FM transmitter can only cover a very small area is as follows: It is true that the area covered by a VHF television transmitter is limited. Originally, it was thought that such transmissions were limited to line of sight; however, experience in Australia and throughout the world has shown this to be not so. The advantage of the limited area of such transmissions lies in the fact that transmitting stations geographically separated can utilise the same transmission frequency without interference one with the other except under exceptional circumstances. This is not the case with AM radio transmissions of medium wavelength, where stations sharing the same frequency but widely separated interfere with one another, particularly at night, making reception from either difficult and in many cases, impossible.
The actual service area covered by a very high frequency FM transmitter is dependent on the terrain in which the transmission takes place. It may be claimed that an ultra high frequency FM transmitter will not cover the same area as a VHF FM transmitter. This is correct for equal effective radiated powers; however, at UHF it is possible, without increasing the actual power of the transmitter, to increase the effective radiated power of the transmission by the use of higher gain transmitting aerials. Because of the higher frequency and the shorter wavelengths involved, the physical size of such aerials can be kept to reasonable proportions and still be capable of being mounted on existing television towers. In this way, UHF FM transmissions can be made to cover the same area as VHF FM transmissions. UHF transmissions, however, offer a further advantage, inasmuch as they are less susceptible to man-made noise than VHF, and therefore signals of smaller intensity can be usefully received. This factor in itself results in an even greater service area.
Secondly, the comment I received on the Minister’s assurance to my interjection that the area covered by an FM transmitter is even smaller than the area covered by a television transmitter is as follows: In the case of a television transmission, both picture and sound must be adequately received before the service can be claimed to be satisfactory. With correctly designed television receivers the sound transmission is received long after the picture transmission has disappeared. It should, however, be understood that the standards employed for the FM sound transmissions used in TV are not optimum for FM sound broadcasting; they are, however, adequate for the purpose for which they are employed. An FM broadcast transmission using optimum standards received on a receiver specifically designed for FM broadcast reception will produce a greater service area than that achieved by the sound part of a TV transmission at the same frequency and with the same effective radiated power. It should be noted that in the reception of TV signals over long distances, the section of the receiver that receives the picture is the limiting factor; the sound section is therefore only designed to give adequate performance. In the case of FM broadcast receivers, greater care is taken in design to give better reception over a larger area.
Thirdly, the comment on the Minister’s statement that ‘we would, therefore, need a tremendous number of transmitters for FM broadcasts if this system were introduced’ is as follows: The present VHF television system covers most of the populated areas of the Commonwealth, and gives a choice of programmes to the viewers. In some cases, so-called translators have been installed to ensure adequate reception of both picture and sound in some areas. In many cases, adequate sound was already being received, and the translator was virtually required only to improve picture quality. This means that the same area of the Commonwealth could be covered by UHF FM broadcast transmissions with fewer transmitters than are at present used for television, if the FM broadcast transmitters were co-sited with the television stations. In those cases where small pockets of population exist that are not at present covered by the television service, small and inexpensive FM transmitters could be installed to cover the local area. Programmes for such transmitters could be derived from telegraphic landlines, or else locally originated. It should be noted that these areas generally are not covered by amplitude modulation transmissions at the present time.
In view of the inquiries I made and the information I received after the Minister’s earlier reply to me, I have misgivings as to the completeness or finality of the technical conclusions which he has given us tonight. Decisions of such importance to the future of our communications and of the industry they support should not be received in this secret, official fashion or - as the Minister for Defence put it - ‘by a bureaucratic administration which proceeds to wipe off frequency modulation and gives completely inadequate explanations for doing so.’ I repeat that those are the words of the Minister for Defence on the Postmaster-General’s Department’s attitude to FM transmission. There should be an open inquiry into the question so that points can be put and refuted publicly and recommendations made upon an impartial assessment of all the evidence. Accordingly, as an amendment, I move:
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
Debate (on motion by Mr BridgesMaxwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 2130).
– I do not intend to take up much of the time of the House for I support the Government’s decision to make this S i Om grant as a contribution towards the cost of improving the existing railway line between Parkes and Broken Hill. In accepting the need to have this vital part of the rail standardisation network completed so that the national network may work to the level of efficiency that is planned and hoped for, it must be conceded that all the States are now faced with the problem that confronted the New South Wales Government on this occasion. In determining its works priorities each State is faced with the dilemma as to Whether it should give preference to those undertakings which will give benefit to that State alone or to those undertakings from which the State will derive some benefit but which, in essence, provide for the national good. The danger could well be that lack of Commonwealth support may force the States to concern themselves with matters which, while not of such vital national importance, would be of great importance and concern to them in the more local sphere.
Quite obviously, with the development and expansion of containerisation and its dependence on rail transport, finance for the railway systems of Australia is going to take on more and more of a national characteristic. States are going to find themselves progressively more concerned with the national scene and its implications for their own particular State systems than has been the case to date. The acknowledgment of this by the Gorton Government can be seen in the Bill before the House. I am sure that all the States would co-operate in other financial undertakings of this kind and, though the Minister has not said so, I would hope that the Government will now take the initiative to ensure that transport facilities that are vital to the national progress are not overlooked or postponed by any of the States through lack of funds. The Federal Government must take the initiative and it must face the reality that, important as northern development is, much remains to be done in the southern States, particularly in the field of public transport. It is realised that the work planned under this Bill is concerned with the rail standardisation programme and it would be out of character if any delay in implementing this agreement had been due to the Federal Government.
Those of us who live in New South Wales have put up with the consequences of’ State Labor governments and have suffered long enough from their inefficiencies and lack of initiative and drive irrespective of which Labor Premier was leading them. We did not realise just how inefficient Labor had been until the Askin Government, with its drive, imagination and concern for efficiency was elected some 31 years ago. There would be very few who would disagree with the fact that the present New South Wales Minister for Transport. Mr Milton Morris, is the best one the State has had for a very long time. But surely the answer to our railway problem lies in the need for co-ordination rather than control by the Commonwealth as advocated by honourable members opposite. Of course, the initiative will have to come from the Federal Government, but let us not set out on a policy of wholesale takeover of the functions which should properly remain with the States.
Such an initiative takes on a special relevance when one considers recent Press reports that the Victorian Government is seeking a grant of $40m towards an $80m underground railway system while the New South Wales Government is said to want a substantial grant towards its very costly eastern suburbs underground railway system in Sydney. Surely there is going to be some difficulty in relating these projects to national development, and no doubt these two States have the job in front of them to convince the Federal Government to this effect. However, I cannot accept the view put forward by the former Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, in this place on 26th October 1967 when he said:
The Commonwealth decided against the provision of special financial assistance for the eastern suburbs railway on the basis that urban transport has been an area of responsibility of the States in which the Commonwealth has traditionally not participated.
With the present legislation and the philosophy behind it I would hope that this view about urban transport no longer prevails. No-one dares to say that Australia can function properly if the urban rail systems in Victoria and New South Wales grind to a confused crush of outdated, outmoded and largely unused collections of tired rolling stock and inefficient railway lines. I sincerely hope that the Ministers for Transport from Victoria and New South Wales are successful in their endeavours to prove that efficient urban transport is a vital component of national development and welfare and is justly due for Commonwealth financial assistance. I congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) for bringing in this legislation during this session as presaged by his predecessor in November last year. I can hope only that the railway systems in the urban areas will he recognised now as having as vital a place in Australia’s development as any other form of transport in any other part of the country. Above all, we must see that the railways of Australia are used properly and to maximum economic efficiency.
In other countries, where distances are great, rail passenger figures are trailing off. However the concentration is towards greater and more efficient rail transportation of cargoes, particularly in containerised form. Experience in the United States of America and Canada shows this to be the pattern which Australia will have to follow. There is immense capital investment in the Australian railway systems and it would be wrong if we were to let it rest unused. Most of this investment is in fixed assets and the Bill shows that improvements to this investment involve large initial capital outlay. However, we must not let costs deter us from grappling with the problem of establishing a co-ordinated, efficient transport policy between the States and the Federal Government. Obviously this cannot be achieved without further financial assistance of the type stated in the Bill. I would hope that the philosophy behind the Bill will indicate the trend that financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States is going to take in the years ahead.
– 1 did not intend to talk on this measure because it is so necessary in its entirety. The only thing that prompted me to speak was that the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Dobie) spoke about the efficiency of the present Minister for Transport in New South Wales. Let me remind him that this Bill is the answer to repeated appeals for this type of assistance from New South Wales Labor governments over a period of many years. The work would have been finished long ago had it not been for this Commonwealth Government. What is this money to be used for? It is proposed to spend $10m restrengthening and ballasting 422 miles of line with 80 lb steel. An attempt will be made to reduce the curves to 40-chain curves. This means that in a short time the New South Wales Government will be faced with the expense of re-railing the entire 422 miles because the 80 lb rails will not support speeds of 70 miles an hour for very long. The 80 lb rails are out of date.
The high speed at which the trains will run along the line will be made possible by dieselisation. When I hear people talking about government inefficiency in the past, and matters of that kind, I do not think they know anything at all about railways in Australia. Railways in Australia have progressed more since the Second World War than at any other time and this progress has been achieved, no matter what government has been in power, mainly because of dieselisation. Think of the interstate running now taking place. Fancy trying to run a 2,000-ton train on 80 lb rails with a hammer banging steam locomotive.- It would be impossible to do so. Mr Morris, the present Minister for Transport in New South Wales, was named as being a great Minister. But it was a Labor government that introduced diesel locomotives to this country.
However, I will put this matter above party politics because it is a national one. One of the things we forget when talking about railways in Australia is the great advantage they bring to the people in the far flung areas. Much of the railway system in our outback is run, without profit, in the interests of the nation. We hear people praise the service given on the short lines in Japan or some other country. I wonder what the Japanese would do if they were faced with running a service from Brisbane to Perth. Would they do as well as we are doing? Would they be able to run a 52-hour service between the two cities as we shall do in a very short time?
I think the classic example of what dieselisation has done to railways in New South Wales is provided by the steel traffic from Wollongong to Melbourne. This service, because of its efficiency and the New South Wales diesel system, has taken the traffic away from the shipping lines. Steel trains are made up at Wollongong and despatched to Melbourne and because of the efficiency of the service today they are brought back empty. Think of the country districts of New South Wales and towns like Narrabri and Dubbo. There are 50 miles an hour services to them from the metropolitan area every night, whether the trains are fully loaded or not. They provide a service for the country districts. Material loaded onto the train in Sydney at 5 o’clock in the afternoon can be transshipped at Narrabri station at 9.30 o’clock next morning. There is a guaranteed 50 miles an hour return service from the city to the country districts. And if anybody dares brake that train by reducing the speed from 50 miles to 35 miles an hour he will be suspended from duty when the chief gets to work the next morning.
This is the kind of service that has been made possible in this country as a result of dieselisation. To talk about running fast trains from Brisbane to Perth without dieselisation would be ridiculous. I was a party to preparing the plans that are now coming into effect. One of my friends whom I see in the Ministry today was also associated with the planning. We knew that with steam locomotives this kind of operation would be impossible. Dieselisation now makes it possible for a train to run 2,000 miles after being refuelled at one centre. All the arduous work of coaling has gone and this has made the fast service possible.
I do not think we ought to pass this legislation without remembering the kind of service which is being rendered by the men who run the railways today. I know that some of my friends would like to see the ‘Southern Aurora’ stop at Yass; but the train runs non-stop with one crew from Goulburn to Albury. Members of the unions I have the honour to represent never dreamed that they would be running up to 260 and 270 miles and finishing their shift in less than 6 hours. This is the kind of operation made possible by dieselisation.
The public fails to appreciate what the State railway systems have done for this country since the introduction of dieselisation. I think members of the Government parties and members of the Opposition should sometimes make a study of what has been done by railways for the development of Australia. Too often we come into this House and talk about the airways. We spend millions of dollars on airlines as though they were the all-important requirement of this nation. If all the airlines stopped their services tomorrow this country would still function. But if the railways stopped running tonight this country would be beaten. That is the situation but it is not appreciated generally.
The thing that hurts me about the type of legislation we are now debating is that John Citizen of New South Wales has to repay this loan. The work is a national effort. The present line between Parkes and Broken Hill would have been good enough for the people of New South Wales for the next 40 years. It would have done for them, even with its 80 lb rails and the present lack of ballast, because they have never needed a better line. This line runs for 422 miles between Parkes and Broken Hill and there is nothing of much value between those two centres. At one time a special passenger service was introduced on this run so that Broken Hill would not be isolated; so that the people who lived there could have a school children’s special and the like. There was a time when there was industrial trouble on the Broken Hill line and the Commissioner of Railways, the late T. J. Hartigan, shut it down. It did not matter. The only people who suffered were the residents of Broken Hill. New South Wales can still do without a new line between Parkes and Broken Hill because it is good enough to be profitable. But because there is the city of Broken Hill, and because people live in scattered places all along this line, at Menindee and elsewhere - as there are people on the line through to the Queensland border in another direction, and people at Bourke in another direction still - the improvement of the railway system has become a national need.
I wonder sometimes whether we stop to think of the great service that the railways have given to this nation. Has anybody ever stopped to think what would happen to the great inland areas where the wheat, the wool and other commodities are produced if all those goods had to be hauled out by motor vehicle? Has anybody ever- stopped to think of the exertions - the blood, sweat and tears - of our forefathers in building the railway systems that have made the development of this nation possible? It is time someone started to think of what has been done by railways in Australia; of what has been done by the men who went out to live in humpies so that the lines would be built in all kinds of weather.
Let this Bill be a commencing point for the granting of assistance to the State governments. I am sure that national control, in the way the Constitution provides, is a very great need for this country. If it were brought about, we then would have the type of control over freights and fares that is possible in the United States of America. Yes, we could have Commonwealth control of railways, but I hope we never live to see the day when a Commonwealth government with control of the railways considers that the railway services in our far flung areas should be arranged on the basis of economics. If this were ever done it would destroy the backbone of this country. It would destroy the right of people to live in country areas and their right to move their produce at the lowest possible cost
I invite honourable members at this stage to consider the rail fares between Melbourne and Sydney and compare them with the air fares. Rail travel in Australia today has become the poor man’s means of travel. I say to honourable members that this Bill should have been placed before us a long time ago. This Government received no fewer than four requests for assistance of this kind before it agreed to provide the help sought by the New South Wales Government I repeat: The line as it is would have served the needs of New South Wales for the next 40 years. This money is being provided for a national need and should come out of Federal funds. The people of New South Wales should not have to reimburse the Commonwealth.
This Bill is a step in the right direction. I say to the Government that the more it moves towards this kind of thinking the better, whether it be about the metropolitan area of Sydney and electrification of rail services, or the Melbourne metropolitan area. I dare say that in the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne today the economic loss represented by the wastage of petrol caused by vehicles having to stop at traffic signals morning, noon and night is enough to pay the interest on the money spent in the national interest to build a railway system capable of taking all the traffic off the road.
These are the national economics we should be considering if we are to look further ahead than tomorrow. Never mind whether railways are a Federal or a State responsibility. They are really a national responsibility because they fulfil a national need. Let us have more of this kind of thinking and not consider merely the line between Brisbane and Perth. In my book the people of Narrabri West and Moree are just as important as the people to be fed by this service. So are the people of Cootamundra and other centres. So are those in the country districts of Victoria. It is true that we now run fruit from the New South Wales border to Melbourne in 5 hours but that is not good enough. If the line were strengthened the time for the journey could be reduced. But no one State has the finance required for this work, although the States have the capacity to organise their own internal arrangements. The Victorian Railways Commissioners have undertaken to tranship railway wagons from one bogie to another and have earned the applause of the world for the speed with which they are able to do so.
This legislation is only the commencement of a new era of great development if we think in the same terms as our forefathers thought, because they, with their money, blood, sweat and tears, made the economy of this nation possible. They provided the railway system that now makes the proper advancement of this nation possible. If we were to think in the same terms for the next 10 years as a people anxious to develop this nation, we would pay more attention to railways than we have ever given them before.
Mr JARMAN (Deakin) (9.31]- Mr Deputy Speaker, some weeks ago when I raised a plea in this House for sympathetic consideration of a proposal being put forward by the Victorian Premier for financial assistance for the construction of an underground railway loop in Melbourne, I was criticised by a certain radio political commentator for being parochial. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) implied much the same thing in the House the next day. I believe that as members of Parliament it is our duty to represent not only our electorates but also our States. If we do not put the views of our own States, how can we expect people from other States to do so. They cannot understand our problems as well as we ourselves understand them? I believe that we should advance the interests of our own States. I am not suggesting that we should not think as Australians. But I believe each of us should look at the problems of his own State and bring them before this Parliament.
During the past few weeks legislation has been introduced to assist several States to extend and modernise their railway systems. The Railway Agreement (New South Wales) Bill embodies arrangements for a Commonwealth grant of $10m towards the cost of improving the existing railway between Parkes and Broken Hill. The Railway Agreement (Queensland) Bill provides for a further loan of $600,000 to be made available to Queensland for the CollinsvilleTownsvilleMount Isa railway project. This sum will supplement the $34.5m Commonwealth loan granted to Queensland under the Railway Agreement (Queensland) Act 1961. I thought that the Australian Labor Party would be happy that the Railway Agreement (New South Wales) Bill has come before the House tonight. But what is the attitude of the Opposition? The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), instead of complimenting the Government and saying that the arrangement was a good one, only wanted to know why the work had been held up for so long. He claimed that because of the policy adopted by the previous New South Wales Labor Government and the previous South Australian Labor Government in refusing to reach agreement with the Commonwealth Government, this Bill had been held up. He said that now these two States have Liberal governments, the Commonwealth Government is prepared to go ahead. I think this proves that a State Liberal Government is a better negotiator than a State Labor Government. New South Wales and South Australia can be very happy that they have Liberal governments.
I wish to express my support for the assistance which the Commonwealth Government has given to both New South Wales and Queensland for these railway systems. It is important for Australia’s future development that modern transport facilities be provided in our northern and outback areas, and it is apparent that, without financial assistance from the Commonwealth, the States would find great difficulty in completing these projects. This Government can look with pride to what has already been achieved in the process of the standardisation of the Australian railway system. After years of procastination we can see considerable progress in the process of standardisation. This Bill will not, in the true sense, provide for standardisation of the rail line between Parkes and Broken Hill. That line is already of the 4 feet 8i inches standard gauge. It is however, an old line of early construction and was designed to carry relatively light traffic.
The current rail standardisation projects, when completed, will take the ParkesBroken Hill line into the standard gauge system, which will then link all the mainland States. When this happens next year, the present Parkes-Broken Hill section will not be suitable to carry the fast express interstate passenger and freight trains that will be introduced. As the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) has said, seven freight and two passenger trains will run each way each week in addition to the present traffic, and it is expected that this rate of traffic will probably double in 3 years. The New South Wales Government has found that expenditure of the order necessary to complete this project was outside its capacity to finance in the time available, and I commend the Commonwealth Government on the assistance which it is giving to New South Wales. Cost and efficiency in production are closely related to speed of movement. We must have fast and efficient transport systems in Australia in this day and age. I believe that if the States find that their financial resources and commitments are insufficient to complete these projects, the Commonwealth should and must step in and assist.
I was very heartened, during the byelection campaign in the electorate of Higgins earlier this year, to hear the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) lay strong stress on national development. I was especially impressed by his statement that our transport systems must be improved and modernised, and particularly by his observation that we must not neglect the transport systems of our major southern cities. It is well known to all honourable members that there will be, in the near future, a joint approach from the Government of New South Wales and the Government of Victoria for assistance with rail projects in Sydney and Melbourne. The New South Wales Government has already embarked on the eastern suburbs railway but, owing to financial problems, it will not be completed for many years. I was very pleased to hear the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Dobie) speak tonight on behalf of his State. He suggested that some assistance should be given by the Commonwealth to finance completion of the eastern suburbs railway. He is a good member and he represents his electorate well. Melbourne, for its part, is still trying to find means of financing a short underground loop railway which would enable the present system, which is basically a first class one, to double the carrying capacity of Melboure’s present suburban network. Approximately one-sixth of Australia’s population lives in Sydney and another one-sixth lives in Melbourne. One does not have to be a mathematician to see that one-third of Australia’s population lives in these two great southern cities. So, while I am fully behind the Government in its proposals for better transport in the outback areas of Australia, I firmly believe we must not forget that if the big productive and financial centres become bogged down with antiquated transport facilities, our productive capacity and our earning capacity as a nation will be considerably reduced.
Flinders Street station is one of the busiest in the world. Its pasesngers are emptied out into the south side of the central business area, causing much congestion. Expansion of the station will not solve the problem of commuter concentration on one point, and an underground loop is necessary to enable passengers to be readily taken to the north side of the city area and also to permit the fast turnround of trains.
Mr Deputy Speaker, it is not possible for me tonight, within the scope of this Bill, to put to the House all the arguments in favour of a Commonwealth grant to New South Wales and Victoria for these two projects. The amount being sought from the Commonwealth by the two Governments is, I understand, only about >$40m each. I believe it is within the capacity of the Commonwealth to assist in these two projects. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) will give some consideration, when he is framing his Budget, to making some money available for these projects. Speaking as a Victorian - I make no apology for that - I can say that such assistance would not be forgotten by the Victorian workers and business people who have for so many years put up with the present system. 1 know there is much business before the House. I will not delay it further. I am pleased to see that the Government is assisting Queensland and New South Wales with the modernisation of their railway systems. I express the hope that the request by New South Wales for assistance with the eastern suburbs railway and Victoria’s request for assistance with its underground loop railway will receive a similar sympathetic response.
– When we discuss rail transport in this House, we are discussing what is the life-blood of commerce in this country. Airlines carry passengers, mail and, to a limited degree, freight. This Parliament spends a tremendous amount of time and money to make sure that airlines are comfortable and efficient. If half the time was spent on the efficiency and improvement of our railways, and considerably more money than is spent now, a great many of the problems which affect country areas would be not nearly as great as they are at the moment. It is unfortunate that in trying to secure a political point the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) said that the present agreement had been seriously delayed because of the failure of a South Australian Labor Government and a New South Wales Labor Government to reach agreement. My memory is that the Labor Government in New South Wales was defeated at the time that the Labor Government in South Australia was elected and for no effective period was there a Labor Government in the two States to do any negotiations.
The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr E. James Harrison) mentioned a very important point, that it is useless doing up a railway line without installing adequate rails. Trains can run on sleepers and ballast, but only for short periods, and after they have done so the line is closed for some considerable time while the mess is cleaned up. This is exactly what will happen and what has happened in the past because of inadequate attention to the need to keep trains on the rails in more modern and faster conditions and with the more continuous running which has resulted from dieselisation. The technological change which dieselisation brought about in rail services and operations took some years to show what its effects could be, but in Victoria a couple of years ago it showed them with very dramatic effect when almost every day we had newspaper articles on derailments. I am afraid that if long continuous running occurs on the Broken Hill line on the rails which are at this stage recommended, derailments are inevitable, because the rails are light gauge rails and not capable of carrying heavy traffic. If the line is worth doing up and it is worth connecting Adelaide and Sydney in this way with a standard gauge link, it is worth doing the job properly and putting in the type of rail and standard of track which will enable first class performance. You cannot get first class performance on light gauge rails. There are many areas in which one could suggest Commonwealth involvement in rail transport. I have suggested a number of times in this House that I believe the standard gauge from Sydney to Melbourne should be extended to Geelong. I still think this is quite a practical proposition and one which could be proceeded with. It can be done only if the Commonwealth is prepared to put up the money, because I am quite sure that the Victorian Government could not afford it.
The rail services of Australia, apart from the locomotive fleet and some modern rolling stock, are still in a pretty antiquated state. If one travels in trains between country centres he is likely to be travelling in carriages which are 50 years old. Most of the rolling stock is still of the four-wheel variety which is not sufficiently modern to cope with the type of traffic we would like to see on our railways. In Victoria, for instance, the railways are still carrying great amounts of wheat in fourwheel vehicles. This reduces the speed of the operation, because these vehicles aru not capable of high speeds. In Victoria these wheat trains run at 45 miles an hour. Apparently they run at 35 miles an hour in New South Wales. Trains with diesel locomotives operating continuously are capable of running at far greater speeds than this.
I believe there is room for a considerable amount of improvement not only on the line covered by this Bill but in railways generally in Australia. I should like to see the Commonwealth Government go into this matter very deeply and decide exactly what level of rail service is needed for Australia and then to do something about it. It should set about ensuring the standard of rail services necessary to the commerce of the country and then make the funds available to the States to do the necessary jobs and, where necessary, do the jobs in co-operation with the States, as was done with the standard gauge between Albury and Melbourne.
– in reply - I think that generally members have recognised the purport of this Bill, but a couple of members seem to have been under the misapprehension that this contribution being made by the Commonwealth has to be repaid. This, of course, is not so. This amount which is being contributed is for the up-grading of the Parkes-Broken Hill line in New South Wales which has been in operation for many years. It is a section of the line which has earned and which will continue to earn substantial domestic revenues for the New South Wales Government Railways, and it is for this reason that it has in the past not been accepted as being part of the standardisation programme. It is now necessary, of course, that it be capable of carrying the through traffic that is expected. The capacity of this section of the line must not be less than that of the remainder of the line. The Commonwealth contribution is intended to enable the New South Wales
Government railways to improve thenfacilities specifically to cater for the traffic that is expected on the fully standardised line. There will, of course, be a consequential improvement in the standard of the line and of the service it will be possible to give to domestic traffic and the people who travel or send their goods on this line and also, of course, to the State of New South Wales itself. But the grant has been made primarily because it is necessary that this part of the line be capable of carrying the traffic which will follow the completion of the fully standardised line.
There has been considerable comment on railway policy in various areas throughout Australia. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) suggested that there was a need for a further Commonwealth contribution towards certain railway systems. In fact he ranged over the whole field of transport. The debate on this measure, of course, is hardly the occasion on which to discuss the full range of railway policy. Other honourable members have expressed an interest in railway operations in other areas. It is difficult to foresee just what will happen in the transport systems of Australia. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr E. James Harrison) spoke of the pioneering days when the railway systems were established here. There is no doubt that railways have contributed in very great measure to opening up the outback.
Looking into the future, perhaps road transport may play an increasing part in developing outback areas. Already road trains are operating in many places. In many regions of Australia road transport holds a position which is quite unique in that the kinds of goods being carted by road would in the past have been transported by rail. Quite a deal of work will be necessary to determine the relative economics of various transportation methods. In any event, however, we should realise that the States still preserve their responsibility for their individual transport systems. There is a need for co-ordination and co-operation in this sphere and, of course, the Commonwealth can give a great deal of assistance. But we must realise that the States retain the principal responsibility for the operation of their domestic services and, indeed, for all the transport systems within their regions.
There has been a measure of agreement on this Bill. I think all members of the House hope that as a result of the improvement of this section of the line and the ultimate completion of the east-west standardised line there will be a tremendous increase in the speed of traffic from one end of Australia to the other. This must necessarily be to the advantage of us all.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16th May (vide page 1561), on motion by Mr Fairbairn:
That the BUI be now read a second time.
– The object of the Bill before the House is to provide funds for the construction of beef cattle roads in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia, within the framework of the $50m beef cattle roads programme announced by the Government, Funds for this purpose in the Northern Territory are provided separately. The provision of funds for beef cattle roads is, I am sure, applauded by all honourable members. These roads are fundamental to the development of northern Australia. It is useless to talk about the development of a region unless transport to the region is available. During the debate on the previous Bill we heard of the great value of railways, and no-one will deny that they are valuable. But in areas where railways are not available, it is essential that the provision of wheeled transport on roads be encouraged by the government of the day. It is essential also that priorities for the construction of beef cattle roads be established. Few issues cause more controversy than the provision of roads. Every beef producer would like to have a road at the front of his property. I recall an amusing incident that happened in 1960 when we were investigating the possibility of constructing a road in the Channel country. After consultation with the United
Graziers Association, it was thought that we should ask the graziers in the Channel country where the road should be located. There are not very many cattle producers in- the Channel country and we asked them individually for their opinion. Almost without exception, every one had a plan that made certain the road went through or past his property. We cannot blame the producers for advocating that the roads should adjoin their properties. But it is obvious that there must be some semblance of priorities for the disbursement of the limited funds available for this purpose.
The value of beef cattle roads has been discussed in the House on many occasions. I do not think that anyone would dispute their value. I notice that the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) is not in the House tonight. He may take the same view as he did last night on the Ord project and say that roads too have no value in the northern part of Australia. The value of beef cattle roads is self-evident to those who deal with cattle in areas where transport is not readily available. But let me list some of the benefits of these roads. If a property has no access to a road and the owner must drive his cattle over long distances, obviously the animal husbandry of that property must suffer, firstly, in terms of the carrying capacity. The owner cannot stock his property to the extent of the average carrying capacity in normal circumstances, because he must make provision for a drought reserve. He cannot get his cattle out if the stock routes are closed. The breeders and other cattle he can carry are directly associated with his ability to get the cattle off the property. One of the immediate benefits of the availability of roads, therefore, is that property owners can turn off a greater number of cattle and can turn off cattle that could not be marketed under normal droving conditions. The more extensive the property, the larger will be the number of culled cattle, of mickey bulls and of aged or crippled cattle that cannot normally walk, say, 100 miles over a stock route. The provision of road transport enables an owner to off load from his property a lot of cattle that could not walk under unfavourable conditions.
I come now to the more permanent benefits. Beef cattle roads allow cattle to be turned off at younger ages. This is obvious and applies especially in the store breeding areas. Store cattle can be turned off right from their mothers. It is obvious they cannot be turned off at this stage if they must walk long distances over a stock route. Not only can younger cattle be turned off, but cattle can also be turned off in better condition. They can be turned off when the owner considers that they have reached their prime. He need not wait until a mob is gathered together to be taken along the stock route. Another benefit is that more breeders can be carried in the breeding and fattening areas. The age at which cattle are turned off can be decreased and this means a corresponding increase in the breeding stock. The value of beef roads has been shown time and time again in those areas that are highly susceptible to drought. A good example is the Channel country. In areas that are highly susceptible to drought, it is essential for owners to be able to take their cattle out of the areas very quickly at the crucial time.
Beef cattle roads have brought a change in the animal husbandry practice not only on properties but in whole areas. I take as an example of this the Gulf of Carpentaria where there is a definite tendency now to change from breeding and fattening to the breeding and selling of very young store cattle. The young cattle are put on wheeled transport and taken to the coast or the better class country where they are fattened. Animal husbandry practice in the Channel country is also changing. The Channel country has tremendous natural fattening capabilities. However, after water has flowed through the channels with the consequential growth of the parakelia and lignums, it is very difficult to assess the tremendous carrying capacity of this country. But no property owner can afford to base his carrying capacity on that food value at that point of time. Over a long period of years most owners still have a nucleus of breeding cattle rather than relying principally on buying stores and taking a great risk with respect to droughts.
With beef roads we see a greater tendency now to go into the exclusive fattening of cattle on some properties and at the same time to increase the breeding herds on other properties because of the increased carrying capacity that results from the provision of roads. Another advantage of beef roads is to be found in those areas where a tremendous wastage of cattle occurs. Here again one can quote such areas as the Cape York Peninsula, the Gulf country, the top end of the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys. These are areas where cattle are run under extensive conditions. In some areas the mortality rate is so high that calf survival is only around 50% per annum. Various royal commissions and inquiries over the years have established a very high mortality rate in some areas due not only to the absence of roads but also to lack of conditions and lack of improvements on the properties concerned. One of the great advantages of beef roads will be that they will attract capital into the area because a great amount of the risk will be taken out of the area with the provision of better transport facilities.
Thus I think it is fair to say that when one looks superficially at the advantages of beef roads one can hypothesise that a good case exists for the provision of those roads. But as we saw in the debate last night concerning the Ord River project, the same hypothesis can be argued with respect to water. A good case exists for the provision of additional water conservation programmes. But economic considerations cannot be ignored. Every government has limited resources. It is a question of how much money is available and, given that amount of money, which are the best roads to put that money into. I stated last night that most of the decisions with respect to development finance are flavoured heavily with respect to political matters. This also applies with regard to beef roads but the application with respect to beef roads is mainly as to the time of announcement rather than the roads themselves.
I have no quarrel at all with the Government regarding the roads that it has selected over the years. I could quarrel perhaps with the provision of $lm for South Australia for the Birdsville to Marree track. But that road must be viewed in a completely different context from the other roads proposed. It is a road which is not justified on strict economic grounds, but it cannot be judged by the same criteria as the other roads. It is a road which is needed as an alternative for the lower Cooper Creek country, the Channel country, and also foi the area in the north eastern part of South Australia. Taken by and large, I believe that every road that the Government has agreed to finance up to the present time is a good road. These roads can be justified on economic grounds.
There is still one omission as regards roads which should receive top, urgent priority in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. All of these roads have now been approved by the Government with the exception of a section of one road in the electorate of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). I refer to that section from Currawilla to Monkira. As the provision for this road exists, the road will go from QuilpieWindorah to Currawilla. The extension from Currawilla to Monkira is not provided for yet. It should be provided for because it goes to the edge of the Channels. There is little sense in building a road to Currawilla if the cattle have to walk from the Channels from Monkira to Currawilla. It is quite obvious that the road must be extended to Monkira.
The argument that I have used there is exactly the same argument as was used for the extension in this programme of the road from Windorah to Currawilla. There was little point in building a road from Windorah to Quilpie when the main cattle area is west of Currawilla. The Government has seen this, but it has still to complete the missing section of the road. That is the only criticism that I have with respect to the road programme because all the major roads that have been recommended as a result of the various investigations that have been made have now been agreed to. This was done in the first beef roads programme, in the interim beef roads programme or will be done under the beef roads programme which is presently before the House. Acceptance of these recommendations has been announced. All of these roads, as I have said before, are good roads.
How does the Government arrive at a decision as to whether or not the building of a road is sound? I believe that the Government has arrived at these priorities on the basis of common sense. It has not been influenced to any major degree by politics or by the pressures of various areas with respect to these priorities. The basic criterion which has been used in determining priorities has been whether a particular road would add to export income and whether it would develop a certain region. Every road which is accepted in this scheme will meet both criteria.
The principal evaluation method for determining priorities respecting beef roads is a complex one. I would say this: The use of the benefit cost calculus with respect to beef roads has been used correctly. In determining the justification of the brigalow scheme and water conservation projects the application of this benefit cost analysis criteria has not been strictly correct, lt is being used in isolation. The correct use of benefit cost analysis, as it has been used respecting beef roads, is to use it for the determination of priorities based on a comparison of like alternatives. I stress the word ‘like’. Absolutely no justification exists for using the benefit cost analysis for comparing water conservation projects with beef roads. The methods used for determining these priorities is the static benefit cost analysis or, the dynamic benefit cost analysis in some cases for an analysis of fluctuating variables.
Let me list three types of benefits which can be used in determining priorities. The first is the immediate benefit which arises, one might say, immediately a road is constructed. Secondly there are the benefits which can be achieved with the building of a road and no property improvements. Thirdly there are the benefits which can be achieved with improvements. Whichever criteria may be used, certain ratios are arrived at for each road, singly and in combination. By singly and in combination I mean this: When a number of roads in a certain region are compared, it will be found that some of them are overlapping roads as alternative or supplementary outlets. Consequently, one has to take this fact into account when considering the relative costs and benefits of overlapping roads.
They are considered singly and in combination for determining the various evaluation criteria. One must be conscious also of the regional analysis. If the beef cattle industry in the northern parts of Australia were studied, it would be seen that it follows a pattern. I shall not go through the various regions. The eastern Barkly Tableland, for example, is integrated with the northern Channel country or the fattening areas on the Queensland coast, but principally with the Channel country. Many of the stations in the Channel country are like stations in the sense that they are under the same ownership. Similarly, there are areas of a homogeneous nature in the Gulf country, in the Burdekin area, in the Fitzroy Basin, and now in area 3 of the Brigalow country. It is a compact region in which cattle movements are well established.
In determining the priorities one must take into account the type of enterprise that is being accepted on particular properties and in particular areas. For example, some areas of northern Australia are concerned with breeding only. In the Gulf country they swing towards breeding and turning off young stores; this is replacing breeding and fattening. In the Burdekin breeding and fattening are undertaken. In the Bellyando and Suttor River area, breeding and fattening are pursued. The trend in all these areas now is the infusion of the exotic brahmin breed cattle into the herds. No point is achieved by getting into the controversy about whether British breeds are to be preferred to other breeds in the Gulf country. Taking all points together, there is a definite improvement in animal husbandry not only as a result of the construction of beef roads in these regions but also as a result of the benefits that have accrued from higher and better prices over the years. This has been accompanied by the breeding of a higher standard of cattle.
The benefit cost analysis is used to determine the relative priorities of roads, and certain ratios have been established. From those the Government has been able to determine which roads should be given higher or lower priorities. There is no point in discussing the benefit cost calculus, except to say that it is accepted in comparing like alternatives. By the use of such techniques as the capital recovery factor, one can determine the annual payments required to repay capital and interest charges for a road. For instance, one takes the capital figure, applies the relevant interest rate - which might be 5% - and then makes the calculation over the relevant period, which might be 50 years. There was great controversy last night over the justification for the Ord River project, and also a few weeks ago over whether the Nogoa scheme was justified. I only wish that the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) were here tonight for I would like to hear his views on this matter. But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind - I have never heard anyone express any doubts about it - as to whether the beef roads are justified on economic grounds. That does not mean, of course, that all beef roads are justified; I am referring to the beef roads that the Government is putting forward.
The only time that politics have come into the matter of priorities is in respect of the division of the finance between the States. However, even if it can be said that politics have come into determining priorities, they have been used only in regard to the amount of money that would be available to, say, Queensland as against the Northern Territory, or as against Western Australia. In all cases the roads that have been chosen in the two States and in the Northern Territory could be justified on economic grounds. Some roads in Queensland, for example, have a higher economic priority than some roads that have been built in the Northern Territory, but the Government is faced with the problem of having only a certain amount of money to spend. It has to decide whether to spend it all in one State or to adopt a welfare approach and divide the cake between the various States. That is what has been done, and I have no quarrel with it, because we on this side of the chamber advance the need for balanced development in certain areas. I should tike to make myself clear. I do not believe that any road in Queensland has been left off the list which has a higher priority than the roads being constructed. The same thing applies to the Northern Territory and to Western Australia, when one considers the three areas separately rather than as one big area.
One of the most important points to be remembered with beef roads is the standard to which they are to be constructed - whether it should be sealed or unsealed. This is a vexed question, for many people argue, on perhaps sound grounds, that it is more economical in the short term to leave a road unsealed under certain conditions. Their argument is that, if a certain amount of money is available, more miles of unsealed road can be built with it than it the money were spent on a sealed road.
– What about dust?
– I shall come to that in a minute. I am developing the argument about sealed roads versus unsealed roads, and I am submitting that some people in dust-free areas argue that in the short term it is better not to seal the roads, thereby obtaining a greater mileage. This may mean, in turn, that in the short term more cattle could be transported. The choice is as to whether a super-highway beef road should be built in one area, leaving another area without a road. As a general rule it can be stated quite categorically that all roads should be sealed wherever possible. In the Northern Territory all roads should certainly be sealed, because the climate alone is detrimental to the best of roads that have been put down under the best of gravel standards and under beef road standards. To take the Dunmarra to Top Springs road as an example, it is only 2 or 3 years before corrugations appear. The wet seasons come and most of the gravel is to be found on the side of the road and within 5 years the road is back to being a bush track. In a matter of time roads that are not sealed usually develop into bad roads. A wide road becomes narrower and narrower; the pavement becomes narrower, dusty and corrugated, and before long jump-ups develop and drainage problems arise. Anyone who has driven on the roads that are covered with bull dust will appreciate the problem. There can be no quarrel whatsoever that in these conditions roads must be sealed. If, on a dusty road, one passes a road train, which may be from 130 ft to 200 ft long, there is only one rule to observe; one should get off the road as far as he can and sit there until the road train has gone past. It is impossible to proceed before the dust settles. Anyone with experience of these conditions knows how dangerous it is to pass a road train on this type of unseated beef road.
– How does one pass them?
– If a person is seated at the side of the road, a road train must still pass him, but he is stationary whereas the road train is moving. If a motorist attempts to pass a road train he will travel blind for some distance through a cloud of dust.
I do not think there is any argument about the fact that where there are problems of corrugation and dust, roads should be sealed. We should not forget that the dust factor is a major problem in the movement of cattle. On the KatherineWillerooTop Springs road we have had a perfect example of what can happen to cattle transported through miles of bull dust. The mortality rate amongst cattle carried on that road has been high. The road is now being improved to beef road standard. When cattle are carried over unsealed roads transportation costs increase. Economists have estimated that the transport of stock by road trains on unsealed roads costs an extra lc to 2c per ton mile.
It think it is obvious, without my stressing the fact, that the bruising problem becomes very serious when cattle are carried over unsealed or rough roads. I can remember seeing at Borthwick’s meatworks in Bowen in 1950 cattle that had been moved by road transport from Marian Downs to Butru and then by the Mount Isa railway. The cattle averaged 1,070 lb dressed weight. Bruising among them was so bad that the condemnation rate was higher than 40%. That was an extreme case. Today we do not see cattle of 1,070 lb dressed weight or anything like this weight. The cattle to which I have referred were Northern Territory cattle that had come into the Channel country. They were 6 or 7 year old beasts which had been moved by road train across a bad road, resulting is severe bruising.
I have no quarrel with the Government’s plan so far as the system of roads is concerned. The roads are designed in such a way as to be fully integrated. The first plan introduced was criticised, as was the interim plan, because superficially the roads did not appear to be co-ordinated. It was not until the Government announced - naturally, on the eve of the last Senate election - a $50m programme for beef roads, to be built over 7 years, that the plan unfolded into a composite pattern of roads. We saw then the culmination of the hopes of cattlemen and the various graziers’ associations for a thorough beef roads plan.
Perhaps the most important beef cattle region in Australia is the GulfBurdekinFitzroy region. There are more cattle in the hinterland of Rockhampton than in the whole of the Northern Territory and the Kimberleys put together. There are more than 2 million cattle in the hinterland of Rockhampton. It is in this area that a large percentage of the money earmarked for beef roads has been spent. Although it may seem that the areas behind Rockhampton, Mackay and Townsville are not isolated, they are in fact isolated so far as the transport of beef cattle is concerned. More money has been spent on beef roads in these areas than in any other region. But this expenditure is all part of the programme. The roads are designed for bringing cattle from the store breeding areas to the fattening areas, from the fattening areas to the meat works and from the fattening or store areas to the rail heads. Everything is part of a pattern.
The programme of beef roads construction, which was announced in 1960 by the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), who was then Minister for Primary Industry, was a judicious arrangement of roads from Normanton to Julia Creek in the Gulf country; from Windorah to Quilpie in the Channel country; and from Mount Surprise to the old Hann Highway. In the Northern Territory there were two arms of the programme on the eastern and western sides of Alice Springs, from the Stuart Highway to Yuendumu and from the Highway to the Plenty River. On the Barkly Tableland there was the road from Anthony Lagoon to the Barkly Highway. In the Victoria River district there was the road from Dunmarra to Top Springs and the road from Top Springs to Auvergne and Newry via Timber Creek. In the Kimberleys there were the roads from Wyndham to Hall’s Creek, from Wyndham to Nicholson via Mistake Creek, and from Hall’s Creek to Broome and Derby. All of those roads were designed for a specific purpose, namely, to permit the turning off of greater numbers of cattle. At a later stage more money was made available for expenditure in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. We then saw the development of roads such as the road from the Battery to Townsville, which was built to overcome the obvious bottleneck in the stock route caused by the location of an Army camp and the Townsville University College. That was an urgently needed road. Another road which was built at that time was the road from Mareeba to Laura.
The Cape York Peninsula is one of the areas most deficient in roads. It is essential that a beef road be constructed to Coen, and, if necessary, to Weipa. One of the most important roads in Queensland is the Mount Flora to Dingo road. When sealed that road will cost about $6m. That road is of fundamental importance to the brigalow area. An obvious omission from the interim beef roads programme, and one about which I have had a lot to say in the last few years, is the road from Oxford Downs to Mackay. I am not certain why this project was omitted; I have a few ideas but we need not develop them at this stage. The important point is that the road is now included in the programme. The missing link in that area has now been rectified. In the high density cattle area behind Rockhampton and Mackay, in the areas of the Belyando and Suttor Rivers, we now have a maze of beef roads, all designed to play a specific part. We have the Mount Flora to Dingo road, in area 3 of the brigalow scheme, to feed cattle into Lakes Creek meat works and to Field’s meat works at Rockhampton, or to bring store cattle down from the areas of the Belyando and Suttor Rivers; we have the road from Oxford Downs through Nebo to Mackay; and we have the road from the Battery to Townsville to bring cattle from the Gulf country to the meat works at Townsville. Then we have the roads leading into Collinsville to serve Borthwick’s at Bowen. We have the road from Mount Coolon to Collinsville. We have the road from the Belyando area through Mount Coolon to Nebo. All these areas which T have mentioned were formerly highly deficient in roads. There are still road deficiencies in parts of Cape York Peninsula. I assume that this matter will be considered at a later stage.
In conclusion I point out that this is the first occasion on which the Government, in providing finance for development work, has accepted the principle of long term planning. I think that every honourable member will agree that it is most unsatisfactory to adopt an ad hoc approach to the question of roads. When beef roads were first constructed the priorities were reasonably sound, but an uncertainty was always there. The State Governments of Queensland and Western Australia and the Northern Territory Administration were not sure where the next $1 was to come from to complete the roads and to bring them up to the standard where feeder roads could he built on to the arterial roads. Similarly, there was no certainty regarding the completion of roads under the interim programme. But there is a plan now. It is planned to spend $50m on beef roads over the next 7 years. Of that amount, $39.5m is to be spent in Queensland, $9.5m is to be spent in Western Australia and $lm is to be spent in South Australia on the Birdsville to Maree track.
The pleasing feature of this Bill is that neither this Government nor any State Government can lightly alter the priorities for the building of these beef roads. The States have their priorities, and political influence cannot be exerted to alter the beef roads programme in the future. I believe that the best way to plan development is to work out a plan and to ignore, as much as possible, pressure exerted by pressure groups. The Commonwealth has decided on the criteria of export income and development. It should keep those criteria and plan over a period of years. I hope that the Government of the day will not sit back for the next 7 years and wait until the present scheme is completed before it begins further planning. It is essential that the ball be kept rolling all the time, because every road constructed is a good road. If we follow the principle of attempting to build good roads and to seal roads, even though it costs a little extra money, I do not think we will go far wrong in beef roads development in northern Australia.
– I agree with a great deal of the fairly long survey of the beef roads scheme which has been given by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). There is no doubt that we do not have sufficient railways, and we cannot have sufficient railways, as the honourable member for Dawson said. Therefore it is essential that we have a system of road transport that will enable us to move cattle from the outlying parts of the Commonwealth into the cattle fattening areas and also move cattle there at times when conditions are such that these areas are able to pasture more cattle than usual.
I commend the Government for the provision of further finance for the beef roads scheme. The Government is to provide $50m over a 7-year period commencing 1st July 1967. The purpose of the Bill is to seek approval to grant this assistance. Queensland’s share of the $50m to be provided during the 7-year period is $39.5m. This goes part of the way towards answering the criticism that is sometimes expressed, that this Government discriminates against Queensland. In this instance, certainly no such claim can be made. This Bill is a good example of the Commonwealth-State co-operation which has existed continuously since 1961. Up to June 1967, $28.9m was allocated to Queensland and Western Australia, of which Queensland received $20.5m. Of that amount, S 11.95m was made available by way of direct grant and $8.55m was in the form of interest-bearing loans.
The honourable member for Dawson referred to the value of the beef roads scheme to the States concerned and, through them, to the Commonwealth as a whole. I should like to add that in Queensland alone some 600 miles of road has been completed and work on another 600 miles is in progress. In addition, because of the finance made available by the Commonwealth, a great deal of work has been done on beef roads in Western Australia and in the Northern Territory. In the 6-year period from 1st July 1967, some $17.7m will be spent in the Northern Territory on improving beef roads. It is pleasing to note that under the Bill a grant of £lm will be made available to South Australia to undertake permanent roadworks on the Birdsville track. To further emphasise the extent of the scheme, with the passage of this Bill no less than $107m will have been made available under the beef roads scheme.
There is no doubt that the roads which have already been constructed under the scheme have been of great advantage to the beef production of the Commonwealth. The desire of the people in these areas to have the scheme extended can perhaps be illustrated by the fact that the Chairman of the Jundah Shire Council travelled all the way to Canberra and together with the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and myself, waited on the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) to present a case to have the Windorah.Currawilla road included in the scheme. I am pleased to see that the road has been included in the scheme. As the honourable member for Dawson said, it is but a portion of of the plan to take that road through from Quilpie into the Channel country. I agree with him that the full benefit of this road will be realised only if it is completed through to Monkira.
One of the important factors which has been mentioned to a certain extent but which I should like to emphasise regarding the economic benefits of the beef roads scheme is the condition of cattle after they have been brought in from the outlying areas. In the past, many cattle have been fattened in the Channel country and in other outlying areas of the Commonwealth, but there was no way in which to bring them into market without their losing very valuable condition. Today, as a result of the construction of beef roads which allows road transports to move cattle, stock are being brought in in prime condition. This allows the most economic use to be made of the country. As I have said previously, it is the responsibility of the Australian people, through the Australian Government, to use every possible area that can be utilised in the production of food and in any other production, for that matter. But it is only with the construction of beef roads that we can fully utilise the very highly productive areas of, for example, the Channel country in south west Queensland. The beef roads scheme has done much to enable full use to be made of that area. Another angle that I do not think has been mentioned yet is that there are not many ways of providing the people in outback areas with the benefits they require. The establishment of roads is a means of giving assistance to people who live far away from the amenities that most of us enjoy and, at the same time, is a sound economic investment for the Government. Beef roads enable easy communication with outlying areas.
There has been some shift of emphasis in beef production from the south west area of Queensland to northern Queensland. Nevertheless it is desirable to develop that area and I regret that the north could not have been developed concurrently with the development of south west Queensland. The doubts that existed about the extention of the road from Windorah to Currawilla emphasises the desirability of promoting the construction of beef roads. It is a great shame that some roads must be delayed. I earnestly trust that the Currawilla to Monkira section of the Quilpie to Monkira road will be considered and that if there is another review of these roads before the 7-year period expires it will get the priority it deserves. In 1965 this road was given the highest priority as a beef road in Queensland. Nothing has happened since then to lessen the need for that road or to affect its economic feasibility. Indeed, if there has been any change in the situation it has been to make the road an even better economic proposition than it was then. Another road that was given a high priority in 1965 was the Cunnamulla to Thargomindah road. It, too, would be an even more economic proposition now. I hope that this part of Queensland will be considered in relation to beef roads because money spent there could be of economic benefit to the Commonwealth as a whole.
Apart from enabling the expeditious movement of stock, beef roads are a means whereby people can travel to and from outlying areas. If we want people to remain in such areas it is essential to provide them with suitable roads. I support what the honourable member for Dawson said about the advisability of sealing the beef roads, but 1 would not have taken nearly the time he took in emphasising the value of sealing such roads. Not long ago when I was driving from Cunnamulla to Bollon I had to pass six road transports. Of course, it was not until I pulled out to pass the first transport that I discovered that there were six transports together. Anyone who has had to pass that number of big vehicles will appreciate 1 the difficulty one has in passing them. If the road had been sealed it would have been much easier.
– The beef roads in my district are in a shocking condition.
– I should not say it, but I am not surprised. I appreciate that it would be difficult to finance the sealing of all beef roads but I hope that they are sealed at the earliest opportunity. No road should be left unsealed for any length of time because of the damage that can be done by heavy transports to its foundations. Consideration should be given to providing funds to enable the construction of other beef roads that have not been provided for yet and to make possible the provision of roads capable of carrying the traffic that will pass over them. The ability to undertake such projects can be related fundamentally to the stability of our economy, . which is due to the sound government that has been provided in Australia by the present Government. This has enabled the provision of money for beef roads and for other purposes. My main regret in connection with this scheme is that only one road in south west Queensland has been proposed in the new programme. Many more roads in that area could, if brought up to modern standards, assist in creating a high production of class beef. I congratulate the Government on what has been done and what is proposed to be done and I hope that earnest consideration will be given to expanding further this development scheme which is contributing handsomely to the efficient operations of outlying areas.
– The Bill is designed to grant financial assistance to Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia in connection with the construction of certain roads that are to be used primarily for the transportation of beef cattle. The amount to be made available is $50m, of which Queensland is to receive $39im, Western Australia $ 9 1/2 m and South Australia Sim. Actually the Bill enables the continuation of a scheme that was proposed and put into operation by the Chifley Labor Government in 1949 and which has been carried on in stops and starts since then by the present Government. Unfortunately the rate of progress has not been as fast as it should have been and would have been had a Labor government remained in office and been given the opportunity to pursue the scheme. The Bill that Labor presented provided for the granting of financial assistance to Queensland and Western Australia for the purpose of encouraging the development of meat production by means of improved roads and other facilities for the movement of livestock. The amount involved was $4,332,000 spread over 5 years and was considered by the States at that time to be sufficient to carry out the work that was included in the initial programme. But after this Government took office costs rose generally throughout the Commonwealth and, as a result, the States found that they did not have sufficient money to complete their programmes. This Government made further grants available so as to enable them to finish off the work that was in progress. Apart from that, nothing more was done about beef roads until 1961. Actually this Government wasted 7 years which could have been put to very good use had further finance been made available to carry on the plan envisaged by the Labor Government.
– What a cock-and-bull story that is.
– This was the situation. As a matter of fact, in a minute or two I shall refer to a few things that the honourable member for Fisher said in 1949. At the second reading of the 1949 Bill the Labor Minister for Defence and Post-War Reconstruction, Mr Dedman, spoke about the measure. I will quote what he said because this will leave no doubt as to what the Labor Government had in view. He said:
The purpose of this Bill is to make available to the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia special grants to meet, first, the capital cost of constructing or improving roads in the Channel country of South West Queensland and the East Kimberley area of Western Australia and, secondly, half the capital cost, up to specified limits, of improvements of stock routes in those areas. The new and improved roads will facilitate the marketing of cattle from the two areas by enabling transport by road vehicles, thus obviating the losses in both weight and quality at present caused by arduous journeys on foot.
So it can be readily seen that there is nothing original about the Bill we are now discussing. It is not the result of any new ideas by the Government. It merely shows an acceptance by this Government of the ideas put forward by the Labor Government in 1949.
I read the debate on the 1949 Bill with a great deal of interest. I was rather surprised to see that the right honourable member for Fisher, who was at that time the honourable member for Maranoa, the then honourable member for Swan (Mr Hamilton), the present Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and others who were then on this side of the House, did not favour at that time the provision of money for beef roads. They were all very dubious as to whether road transport of cattle was a wise idea. Their argument was that road transport would cause considerable bruising with a resultant wastage of meat. The position was, of course, that that would occur only if the roads were not kept in good condition and if the steep rises or dips were not levelled out in the first place. So we can only conclude that the members of the coalition parties were either taking a very short view of the situation and were not competent to envisage what could be achieved in the future, or that they were opposing the measure simply because it was put forward by the Labor Government.
Of course it soon became very apparent, particularly to those engaged in the industry, that Labor was pursuing the correct course when it introduced that measure. The only fault was that this Government failed to’ carry on with the plan. It did not provide sufficient money to push ahead with road improvements and construction or to allow proper maintenance on the work already completed. It is a great pity that in 1954 this Government only saw fit to complete what had been the initial programme instead of pushing on with additional work.
The goal of the beef road programme, as was pointed out in 1949, is not only to make it possible or more convenient to present cattle at the meat works or port in better condition but to build up the number of cattle in the area concerned. Increasing the number of cattle in the area is very important and is a very good reason for pushing ahead with the programme as rapidly as possible. It is a great pity, as I said earlier, that full advantage was not taken of the years between 1954 and 1961. It is a great pity also that a long term plan was not developed much earlier. The position now is that no further time should be lost in pursuing this project. In fact, we should be doing everything possible to make up the time that was lost. We must pursue more actively the objective of building up our cattle numbers in the north and we must build up our meat sales to Asia, Germany, the United States of America and other countries where the markets are available.
At the moment it is estimated that there are about one million cattle in the Kimberley area. That number can be increased, and definitely will be increased, in the not too distant future. The Ord River project will play a large part towards achieving that end, particularly when oil mills are established, as they must be as soon as possible. The oil mills will permit the proteins of cotton seed and other oil seeds to be made available in a concentrated form to cattle stations. This will in turn cut down the cost of bulk transportation. It will make feeding much easier and will make it possible on a much more advantageous basis. In its natural state cotton seed is too bulky and costly to handle. Also, at present the Japanese market is such that the cattle people cannot compete with the price in addition to absorbing the costs associated with transportation and other factors. But when it can be obtained in the concentrated form I feel that the picture will be completely different. I doubt whether supplementary feeding of oil cake will be an economic process for fattening cattle in those areas for killing but certainly it would be of great value in overcoming the problem of the heavy mortality rate in calves. The natural increase of cattle numbers would be improved considerably and the cows could be kept in reasonable condition while carrying calves.
The wet season in the Kimberley area starts late in the year. Normally there is no feed problem until about April. But when the dry season sets in the feed deteriorates quickly and from then on until the following wet season the condition of the cattle falls off very rapidly. It is during this time there is a fairly heavy death rate, particularly of cows with waives, and cattlemen sometimes are faced with the situation that the cows do not conceive. The possibilities for improving turnoff and improving the calf drop rate, together with a reduction in the heavy death rate of older beasts as a result of supplementary feeding, are considerable. There are problems attached to making protein available to the cattle, even in concentrated cake form, but I have do doubt that these will be overcome and that cattle numbers will increase. Goods roads for transportation of cattle to meat works or ports become even more valuable as the turnoff increases.
There is one .very welcome change I see in this Bill and that is that the money to be provided is not to be subject to matching grants by the States. For instance, it will not be necessary for the Western Australian Government, or for any other State Government, to spend a like amount each year or during the sevenyear period on these particular roads. There is no doubt that Western Australia and those other States will spend quite a considerable amount of their own money. They may spend more or less than the amount provided by the Commonwealth. However, they will have to spend quite a bit of their own money if they want the road works to progress as quickly as they should progress. I would have been interested to hear the remarks of the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) about this particular matter because he is on record in Hansard as saying that he is a great advocate for the matching grant principle. I do not know whether he has put forward his own views or those of his party in Western Australia It could well be that his party in that State does hold strong views in this regard. It could well be that it objects to moneys being made available to the State of Western Australia for work in the north unless the State Government has to provide a like amount.
But irrespective of whose views the honourable member for Swan was expressing at that time, I point out that, when a State is obliged to provide matching money, this can and undoubtedly does create a situation where either the project or the grant is slowed up; otherwise it delays or denies the construction or completion of such things as schools and hospitals. So I am pleased to see that this matching grant principle has been cast aside on this occasion. After all, road work like all other development work in the north, has a very considerable national value and is of great benefit to the nation. Because of this there are some very good reasons why the Commonwealth should have made a greater contribution to the beef roads programme and by so doing allowed the States to make more use of their money for roads which are not included in the programme of beef roads. For instance, in Western Australia such assistance would have allowed additional spending of State moneys on roads such as the North Coast Highway between Carnarvon and Port Hedland. Bringing this highway to sealed condition by the target date of 1976 is expected to cost something like $ 17m to $20m. That date perhaps could have been advanced quite a bit had the State Government not had to put money into beef roads. The Commonwealth should contribute larger amounts of money for projects of this kind in the national interest.
I have heard it argued that because, on every occasion, money for beef roads has been provided under an agreement arrived at between the Commonwealth and the States, no criticism should be directed at the Commonwealth. But, of course, that does not mean a thing. The States have no option but to accept the money and terms offered by the Commonwealth; otherwise they go without. They become grateful, I suppose, for the few crumbs which at odd times drop from the Commonwealth’s plate. I am pleased to see that the Gibb River road is provided for in the Bill. We must pursue the continuation of that road to a stage at which Derby and Wyndham will be linked by a road through Gibb River. This would be of tremendous value, because there is some very good cattle country right through the area. But the going is extremely rough and tough. Nevertheless, a good road for the transport of cattle to either Derby or Wyndham, and one by which necessities could be more readily and less expensively brought in, would also, to some extent, end the present isolation and make all the difference in the world.
Another advantage of this road would be that protein rich oil seed from the Ord River scheme, to which I referred earlier, would be more readily available and less costly to obtain. Such a road could even make the difference between economic and uneconomic production of this commodity. The distance over which this product would have to be carried would be much less if this road were built. So there will be many advantages to the cattle industry in this area if the road goes right through. But these things need to be done on a long term basis. We should know whether the Commonwealth intends pursuing the proposition of linking Derby with Wyndham via Mount House and Gibb River. We should know now whether further finance will be provided so that Western Australia can push on with this project.
The Western Australian area containing the beef roads in question is one of about 170,000 square miles. No railway communication whatsoever exists there. 1 understand the same situation applies to a large extent in Queensland. We are entitled to express some surprise when we realise that members of the parties that in 1949 were against Labor’s proposals for beef roads were also quite vocal in their argument that railways were the only worthwhile method by which cattle could be transported to market. Yet we find that after being in office for more than 18 years the present Government parties have done nothing towards achieving that objective and the situation today is very little different from that of 1949. The right honourable member for Fisher was quite firm in 1949 in his view that railways were the only answer to the transportation of stock. He dwelt on the subject for some time and in one speech said:
The difficulty of marketing stock in a satisfactory condition and the distances stock are required to travel to railheads over inferior and overtaxed stock routes have always been a serious obstacle to increasing the production of beef. That obstacle will remain until railways are constructed along the required routes.
I am not quoting the right honourable member for Fisher, or the honourable member for Maranoa as he was then, in an attempt to ridicule his statements. 1 am quoting him because in 1949 he was leading for the then Opposition in the particular debate, and therefore it must be accepted that the views he expressed in relation to beef roads and railways were those held by members of the parties which are now in office. When we see today, more than 18 years later, that no moves have been made to provide railways, surely we are entitled to question the integrity of some Government supporters.
Another interesting point in relation to the debate on beef roads in 1949 and the Bill now before the House is the argument put forward in 1949 regarding all weather roads. This argument was advanced by members speaking on behalf of the parties which are now in office and which for so long have had the opportunity, as a government, to give effect to what they said was necessary in 1949. Members of the parties in opposition in 1949 were very critical of Labor’s proposals on the ground that they did not provide that all roads constructed or improved by the moneys provided would be all weather roads. They voiced sentiments similar to those voiced by the then honourable member for Swan, Mr Hamilton, who stated:
Unless the roads put down are .all weather roads and are sealed in some manner, it will not be very long before they become quagmires, and the jolting that the stock will experience in those conditions will affect them to a degree that we cannot assess now.
As a matter of fact, Labor’s proposals in 1949 provided for an all weather road from Wyndham to Nicholson Station, a distance of some 280 miles. I would like honourable members to keep that mileage in mind because the 1966-67 annual report of the Western Australian Main Roads Department draws attention to the fact that up to July of 1967 the beef roads programme had provided only 230 miles of bitumen beef roads in Western Australia. Only 230 miles had been provided by 1967, whereas Labor’s target in 1949 was 280 miles. Under the present Government we have averaged about 13 miles of ‘bitumen for every year it has been in office - more than 18 years after members of the present Government parties advanced criticism of Labor’s proposals, during which time the Government has had ample opportunity to make provision for sealed roads. Yet, at the moment we are debating a Bill that does not make any demand at all for the provision of all weather roads which we all agree are very necessary if we are to obtain the real benefit and return from the beef roads programme.
The roads in Western Australia previously approved to receive attention under the beef roads legislation were that part of the Great Northern Highway between Broome and Wyndham, a distance of 713 miles, and the Duncan Highway which is the road from Halls Creek to Wyndham via Nicholson and the Derby-Mount HouseGlenroy road. The grant under this Bill is to be used for the purpose of upgrading these roads, plus an extension to the Gibb River road. In addition to their value for the transportation of cattle to either Wyndham, Derby or Broome meat works or to the ports for shipping out, the Northern Highway and the Duncan Highway have great tourist value. A few years ago, as I knew from personal experience, it was certainly no pleasure to drive or be driven on any part of the northern or north western roads. Indeed, there were plenty of real horror stretches which a traveller could never be sure of getting through. As travelling vehicles in those times naturally were few and far between, one could never be certain just how long he could be stranded before someone might come along and give some assistance. Many of those horror stretches were on roads now included in the beef roads programme and many were on roads further south from Port Hedland to Broome, from Meekatharra to Port Hedland, and from Geraldton to Carnarvon and on to Port Hedland along the coast. In fact, the majority of roads once a traveller left Geraldton or Kalgoorlie, depending upon which way he travelled - or, more to the point, which way he hoped to travel - were in pretty poor condition. Today, due mainly to the activity of local authorities and work carried out by the Western Australian Main Roads Department with the help of moneys from grants, the roads I have referred to are very much improved and are used quite extensively by tourists travelling either by coach or by private vehicles. Some of them, incidentally, would not have enough gear to mend a puncture or fill a radiator, and one wonders how many of them would have lived to tell the tale had they been on the track a few years ago. But most of those roads are still untraffickable during the wet and can be rough going at times during the dry. Much more remains to be done. We cannot be satisfied until we have brought them to a condition where rain, except in abnormal quantities, will pose no problem.
Dirt or gravel roads are forever a problem and a continual source of annoyance and trouble both for those who use them and those who try to keep them trafficable. There are corrugations or sand holes in the dry. and wash-outs and pot holes or slippery and boggy patches in the wet. Dangerous sections can develop overnight and, of course, as a result bring about very high maintenance costs. The answer of course is bitumen. If we could afford to bitumen ise every yard as we went along, it would save no end of money in the long run. We could afford to do this if we were concerned only with short distances, but in the north, indeed in many other parts of Australia, when road costs are so high, we have to decide whether it is better to put down the maximum mileage of bitumen with the finance available each year and leave the rest of the road in very rough condition and often untrafficable, or to put down less bitumen and keep the rest of the road reasonable. There does not seem to be much point or purpose in putting down 20 or 30 miles of bitumen and leaving the rest of the road in such a condition that the bitumen cannot be reached anyway. Therefore, I come down in favour of as much bitumen as possible each year, allowing at the same time sufficient finance to keep the rest of the road in the best possible trafficable condition. But the target must always be total bitumenising as quickly as it can be carried out. Because this target is so very important, I feel that much more money should be made available each year and on such terms that the States can organise several years ahead. Otherwise it will take far too long to reach the happy stage of total bitumenisation of the northern roads.
Let us have a look at what the Loder Committee on Transportation Costs in Northern Australia had to say about the roads in the north of Western Australia, and let me point out that the roads referred to in the Bill now before the House are only a few of the total which require bitumenising in the north of the State generally. For instance, one would have to travel some 1,750 miles from Perth along the great northern highway via Meekatharra before reaching the commencement of the roads built under the beef road programme and, while there is some bitumen, by far the greatest mileage is gravel or graded road, which just cannot stand up to heavy or continuous traffic or bad weather conditions. Admittedly it is much better than it was some 15 years ago, but it will require several million dollars and many years of work at the present rate of progress before we will have a bitumen or even an all-weather road right through. Let me point out that about 1.400 miles of the road which runs from Meekatharra to Broome, which is not included in the programme of moneys under this Bill, runs through cattle or sheep country practically the whole of the way. A bitumen road would be of immeasurable benefit for stock transportation, for the tourist trade and for normal travel by residents of the north and north west, and this also is very important.
In addition to the main highway through Meekatharra there is the coastal highway which runs from Carnarvon to Port Hedland. Many miles of this highway are still not bitumenised and will not be for a few years yet. In addition, many feeder roads need a lot of attention to make them trafficable during bad weather; so it can be readily seen that in Western Australia we will require money at a much higher level per year if we are to press ahead at the rate of progress which is so very necessary if we are to obtain maximum results in the north. To get back to the report of the Loder Committee, the report which the Government was so loath to present to Parliament, only last year I participated in a debate on a motion calling upon the Government to make the report available. But that report refers to information supplied to the Committee in December 1964 by the Main Roads Department in Western Australia and deals only with that part of the Kimberley area that comes within the scope of this Bill. Bringing a certain number of the roads in that area alone up to a reasonable standard - not bitumen or all weather standard, but just a reasonably good, trafficable condition - was estimated to cost $32m at that time. So, looking at that figure and the amount of money which is provided under this Bill and which is spread over 7 years, as well as the rise in costs that is certain to occur, we can safely say that at this rate it will take 40 years to do the work outlined in the Loder Committee’s report just in the area north of Broome, which is only a small part of the area involved in the overall programme.
I support the Bill, but I emphasise that the amounts provided by the Commonwealth will have to be increased if we are to carry on the work and finish these roads as quickly as we can and if we are to derive the full benefit from them. In the Top End, we will have to have not only main roads but also feeder roads right through the Ord River area so that the cattle station people in that area can derive the full benefit from what can be produced from the area in the form of oil-seed cake, forage and that sort of thing.
– The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) have ably put a case for objective economic priorities for beef roads. The honourable member for Dawson, in his former position of Director of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development, prepared a report on beef roads which specified, among others, the Windorah- Yaraka road as a high priority road that should be sealed. That road is of importance in providing an alternative rail outlet to Rockhampton for beef. This added flexibility of outlets will help both growers and buyers and so will help to stabilise supplies and prices. I support the plea made by the honourable members for Dawson and Kalgoorlie for high quality roads. There is not much advantage in building a road which will be out of action in wet seasons and which will produce sick and damaged stock due to bruising and inhaled dust, apart from the discomfort that dust causes to road users. Like my colleagues, I support the Bill and commend its longer term planning precedent; but 1 deplore its timidity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– 1 know that the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) is not here.
He spoke to me before he went away. Nevertheless, certain clauses of this Bill need explanation. 1 refer specifically to clause 4 (1.), first of all. It provides: For the purposes of this Act, the Minister may-
I am concerned to ascertain what is meant by ‘vary such an approval’. Approvals are given only for certain works or certain roads. But what are the roads? Roads have been prescribed, but priorities between the roads have not been settled. We have already seen one argument develop in Queensland over the Mount Flora-Dingo road. The State decided to start building the road from the southern end. Engineering considerations may have influenced it in making this decision, but, to be of major benefit to the cattle industry, it should have been started at the northern end. The road was designed to bring cattle into the area through the brigalow.
My first query is: What is meant by ‘vary such an approval’? Does it mean to vary an approval with respect to a specific condition or specific standard of construction of a road? Or is this such a wide clause that it permits the priority allotted to a road to be varied? If, for instance, the State decides to construct the Mount CoolonCollinsville road first and the Commonwealth decides that it does not want that road to be constructed first but would like to have the Oxford Downs-Mackay road constructed, who makes the decision? What does the clause mean?
Clause 6 provides:
The Minister may, for the purposes of this Act, approve standards of design or construction for any approved work to be carried out by a State to which this Act applies and if, after standards so approved have been notified to the State, expenditure is incurred by the State in carrying out that work otherwise than in accordance with those standards, the Minister may direct that payment under this Act shall not be made in respect of that expenditure.
I assume that the Minister is the Minister for National Development. In all the other Bills that have made grants for beef cattle roads, this responsibility has been given to the Treasurer. 1 assume that the responsibility is now being given to the Minister for National Development. My query is this: Is it the Minister for National Development acting in collaboration with some other Minister, such as the Minister for Works, or is the Minister for National Development to be advised on priorities by the engineers and technical officers of the Northern Division of the Department of National’ Development? It is essential that the Commonwealth obtain advice from a technically qualified officer who understands the problems of beef roads. We have already seen some wastage of money allocated for beef roads in Queensland. This applies particularly to the Boulia - Winton road. I do not mean that the wastage has occurred in the construction of the road, but the wastage has occurred as a result of the estimates that were supplied. The original estimate given by Queensland to the Commonwealth was very low in comparison with the true cost of the construction of the road. Once the Commonweatlh agrees to build a road, it has committed itself to build that road. If the State gives an estimate of the cost of the road and the true cost is double or treble the estimate, there is not much the Commonwealth can do. Therefore, it is essential that we know who is checking on the standards of the roads in consultation with the engineers or the main roads authorities in Queensland, as the case may be.
Clause 7 of the Bill provides: (1.) The Minister may request a State to which this Act applies to furnish to him, not later than a specified date before the commencement of a year to which this Act applies, such information as he specifies in relation to the expenditure proposed to be incurred by the State during that year in connection with specified approved works and, if the Minister so requests, the State is not entitled to financial assistance under this Act . . .
In other words, the Minister for National Development still has the same authority as he had before. It is very important also to know how the Minister acts with respect to this. Honourable members will recall that the Government made a decision relating to the construction of the Wave Hill to Top Springs road but the Northern Territory Administration decided to alter the route of the road. Then we had the fiasco of the Public Works Committee investigating the road and recommending a reversal of the decision of the Northern Territory Administration that the road should go south of the original route. There was over 12 months delay because no-one could really interpret the requirements of this particular road. Who was right? Luckily the Public Works Committee investigated the proposal with such thoroughness that the road was restored to the correct alignment.
A question arises in relation to clause 6. Who will make the technical decisions on behalf of the Commonwealth with respect to changes in roads or standards? Will it be the Department of Public Works or will it be engineers in the Northern Division of the Department of National Development? It is important that whoever makes these decisions should know something about the characteristics and objectives of beef roads. This is not simply an engineering matter.
[11. 27 J - The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has raised two points in relation to this matter at the Committee stage. As to the first one, if the honourable gentleman looks at the second reading of the speech of the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) as reported on page 1559 of Hansard of 16th May he will see that the Minister said:
Provision is made in the Bill for variations to the programme if these should prove to be desirable as the works proceed. Honourable members are aware that the beef cattle industry in northern Australia is going through a period of pronounced development and that it is possible that some change in the programme may be warranted in the light of some future development. The Commonwealth will, of course, consider any possible variation only after the closest consultation with the State Government concerned.
As my colleague pointed out, there is a situation of change and movement and it would be undesirable for a static situation to be created statutorily so that the changed situation could not be met through consultation between State and Commonwealth Governments.
I direct the honourable gentleman’s attention to clause 4 (l.)(a) which provides the root authority for the Minister to approve a work. Following the point made in the second reading speech it was necessary to have in paragraph (b) authority to vary such approval. In point of fact it is a very common occurrence for a person who has power to approve to have also power to vary the approval. Indeed, as a matter of construction, usually when a person is given power to make a decision or to give approval the grant of that power involves, by inference of construction, power to vary the approval. Paragraph (b) states that explicitly. I venture to suggest that the honourable gentleman will agree that it is desirable that it should be done in that way.
The second point raised by the honourable member for Dawson relates to clause 6 of the Bill which provides:
The Minister may, for the purposes of this Act, approve standards of design or construction for any approved work to be carried out by a State to which this Act applies and if, after standards so approved have been notified to the State, expenditure is incurred by the State in carrying out that work otherwise than in accordance with those standards, the Minister may direct that payment under this Act shall not be made in respect of that expenditure.
The honourable gentleman asked this question: If the Minister is given the power to do this, on what basis will he make his decision? I think that it is fair enough to say that the possibility of this situation arising is quite remote. However, there must be authority to do this. There is in existence an inter-departmental committee, the technique of which the honourable gentleman will be very well versed in and which consists of representatives of the Department of Works, including engineers, the Department of Shipping and Transport, the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads, again including engineers, the Department of the Treasury and the Department of National Development, the representative of which chairs the committee. The honourable gentleman asked incidentally what the term Minister’ meant in this Bill. The honourable gentleman will understand that 1 need to have just a minor escape clause, but I am satisfied in my own mind that 1 am correct when I say that under the Acts Interpretation Act, the term ‘Minister’ when referred to in an Act means that Minister to whom the responsibility is assigned under the Administrative Arrangements Order. I think that the honourable gentleman will find that in the Administrative Arrangements Order the Minister for National Development is the Minister assigned. He would be the Minister in the terms of that clause.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Snedden) - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 11.33 p.m. to 12.3 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 7 June 1968
Motion (by Mr Wentworth) proposed:
That orders of the day Nos 5, 6 and 7, Government Business, be postponed until a later hour. [Quorum formed.]
– I have no objection to altering the order of business but I have some reluctance to dispatching all of the business in a short space of time. All we are arguing about is whether certain, measures ought to come on before certain other measures. I have no objection to that. I am supposed to make about six speeches between now and when the House decides it is reasonable to adjourn until - I am told - Thursday of next week. I make the reasonable suggestion that at this point of time the Government ought to indicate when it proposes that honourable members come back. At least we might then argue, reasonably, about how and when we shall dispatch business. I am sure that no member on this side of the House has any objection to finishing at a reasonable time tonight. What is reasonable must be flexible, having in mind that the House sat until 2.26 a.m. last night and until 1.21 a.m. the night before. I understand that we are to come back next week. I suggest that, if so, a reasonable compromise would be to continue until, say 2 o’clock this morning; we might then adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday of next week, when some of the measures that will be rushed through this evening might be reasonably contemplated.
The motion before the House seeks to vary the order of the business, and I am suggesting that it is not sensible to contemplate this variation without our having some indication concerning the final sittings of the House. I know it is easy for the
Government to have a sort of cut and dried arrangement - which it decides itself - that we shall come back at 2.30 p.m. on Thursday next. Why not 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday or Wednesday? The only reason why the Government wants to come back at all is that certain events taking place in another part of this Parliament are causing the Government some disturbance. We had a little bit of rebellion in this chamber last night from a Government back bencher, who discussed this sort of thing.
– There will be more to come.
– That may be, but at least back benchers opposite are the people who, I hope, might support me in this sort of protest. I suggest to the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden), who is not here at the moment, that this is the course that should be followed. I am quite willing to discuss items 5, 6 and 7 before items 30, 40 and 45, but I think that, before agreeing to this, we should have a reasonable indication of how far the Government intends to go tonight and what it intends to do next week. Surely it is not only the Cabinet, in the absence of the Prime Minister, that has decided to come back at 2.30 p.m. next Thursday, hoping to rise by 5 o’clock on Thursday, rather than come back on Tuesday of next week in the normal way.
Before the Minister commits us to this proposal, I wish to make this suggestion: I am willing, in the interests of peace, amity or co-operation - whatever one likes to call it–
– Sweet reasonableness.
– That is right- sweet reasonableness. One cannot have light without heat at this hour of the night unless business is arranged in a reasonable manner. The Government should give some indication of the proposed hours of sitting, instead of these subterranean and labyrinthine suggestions that the House will sit at 2.30 p.m. on Thursday of next week to discuss any business that may be referred back from the Senate. There are at least eight Bills that I want to speak on. It is true that three of these Bills will be amalgamated as what we call cognate measures, but nevertheless they are significant matters and should be debated. I wish to speak on the next four Bills after that and I do not claim that I am the only one who wants to debate these Bills.
If it is regarded by the Government that we should conclude debating these matters at some unknown hour this morning and that we should then come back at 2.30 p.m. on Thursday then I for one - and I am sure that my colleagues support me - protest about this way of handling business. I am willing to continue now until, say 2 a.m. in order to get rid of a reasonable amount of business, and then to come back at, say 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday to debate sensibly the important measures that are on the notice paper. It should be remembered that Her Majesty’s birthday is being celebrated in three States on Monday and that some events that are important to the Australian Labor Party are being conducted at the same time, so that there may be some difficulty in meeting at 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday. Before the Minister moves this motion I hope that he will make a statement as to how far the Government intends to go tonight and whether it is the decided opinion of the Government - and I hope the backbenchers know something about this - that we are going to reassemble here at 2.30 p.m. on Thursday in the hope that we will finish the session by 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. I do not wish to have the business of the House conducted in this fashion. I suggest that a reasonable compromise would be to continue for a couple of hours this evening, and then come back at 10.30 a.m. on Thursday at the worst and 2.30 p.m. Wednesday at the best to finish the rest of the business.
– I think that the request of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) is reasonable. The Government was planning to adjourn at some time between 2 a.m. and 2.30 a.m. and this is more or less what the honourable member has asked for. It was previously agreed between the parties that we should sit until that hour this morning. I think we will let it go at that.
– Could the Minister at the Table give some indication of when the House will resume on Thursday of next week?
– The House is expected to meet again at 2.30 p.m. on Thursday of next week.
Mr CREAN (Melbourne Ports) - by leave - I ask the Government seriously to reconsider its decision to have the House meet on Thursday next at 2.30 p.m. I submit that the Government is being unreasonable in asking the House to meet on Thursday next to deal only with business that comes from another place. We should meet earlier next week to consider the large volume of business still on the notice paper. In addition, my colleagues on this side of the House may wish to debate next week matters of urgent public importance. I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Wentworth) to place all these facts before the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden). I venture to suggest that the sentiments that I. have expressed are shared by some of the Minister’s back bench colleagues. It would be a much tidier arrangement not to rush through too much business tonight but to resume the sitting at 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday next.
– Let us get on with the business and I will place the honourable member’s comments before the Leader of the House.
– I wish to express my complete opposition to any proposal to continue the sitting tonight. I think the Government has gone stark raving mad. Last week we were subjected to two late nights. This week we have sat on two occasions until the early hours of the morning - 1.21 a.m. and 2.26 a.m. We have been told that it is proposed to continue tonight’s sitting until about 2 a.m. In the last fortnight Bills, which, under normal circumstances, honourable members would have been most anxious to debate, have been pushed hurriedly through the House.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority .. ..23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 7 May (vide page 1 149), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– There being no objection, J will allow that course to be followed.
– Normally these Bills would have been handled by my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). But he has left the country to go to the United States of America and he has asked me to deal with the Bills on his behalf. These are mainly technical measures. They refer to the fund that is set up for those members who are permanent and near enough to being permanent members of the Services. The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill was introduced some weeks ago by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), and the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill (No. 2) was introduced as recently as last week by the Minister for Air and Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Freeth). The Treasurer, when he introduced the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill, said:
The defence forces retirement benefits scheme was inaugurated in 1948 to provide a common superannuation scheme for the three permanent arms of the defence force.
He was referring to the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. He continued:
In essence, the scheme was limited to regular officers of the three services and to other-ranks members engaged for 6 years or more. Following the introduction of the national service scheme and the increase in the numbers of citizens, reserve and supplementary force members on full-time service, there are now over 21,000 service men and women who, although serving for extended periods on the same basis and alongside members of the permanent forces, have not access to the scheme.
Therefore the scheme is being widened to encompass these people. We on this side of the House have no objection to it. The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill (No. 2) seems to cover those members who extend their service or those pensioners who serve again.
Whatever is sometimes rather sneeringly said of honourable members on this side of the House, we believe in the defence of this country. But primarily we believe in the defence of this country on a voluntary basis. People should be able to enter the Services - whether it be the Army, the Navy or the Air Force - on the same basis as they enter banking institutions, the Public Service, school teaching, or private enterprise. They should be guaranteed reasonable conditions and pay while they serve and reasonable security when they retire. It is acknowledged that because of the very nature of the forces we do not want doddering generals of 80 years of age serving in them. Sometimes when I look at the men who have been generals, colonels and majors I do not wonder that wars have lasted as long as they have. I am not reflecting upon my friend the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes) in making that remark. He is engaged now in at least as honourable an occupation as was his former position, and I hope he is serving in it as competently as no doubt he served in the Services. People who are serving in the armed forces might well have applied to them the same retiring age of 60 years or 65 years that is applied elsewhere. On the other hand, people enter into that occupation at various ages. They wish to retire from it at various ages. Some of them might sever their connections with the Services and later may want to rejoin. It seems to me that the measures before us recognise that there are these difficulties in the Services.
Members of the Government parties have paid tribute to the honourable member for Maribyrnong. I have no hesitation in supporting those tributes. The honourable member has been an indefatigable mover behind the scene. I hope there will be some indefatigable movers behind the scenes in the next hour or so in the conduct of the business of the House. The honourable member for Maribyrnong has moved in the direction that this legislation has taken. The provisions of the legislation before us seem to be reasonable compromises of the various points of view. On 29th May last the Treasurer gave details of the quinquennial review of the scheme. It seems to show that contributors prior to 1959 have a surplus in the fund. Contributors after 1959 have a deficit in the fund. That seems to be the assessment of the actuarial position. As was experienced with the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, there are great difficulties when hundreds of thousands of contributors are found to have contributed to a surplus. It is not easy to determine the amount of the surplus that has been contributed by each member. That difficulty has been set in abeyance, as it were, for the present. The Government has indicated that it will act as quickly as possible to overcome that difficulty.
I am glad that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is at the table. 1 think that ultimately in respect of all benefits payable on retirement - the age pension, Commonwealth superannuation, private superannuation payments and Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund payments - we must realise that we should try to build into them what might be called an inflation factor as a recognition that a man on retirement from a particular occupation expects to be able to occupy in retirement a place which economically has some relation to the position he occupied at his retirement. I do not suggest that that position can ever be maintained, that people who are not working may get the same income that they received when they were working. I do not think any society can properly acknowledge that as a principle, but at least on retirement - by reason of savings and contributions to a superannuation fund - one can reasonably expect to have a standard of living roughly consonant with the standard enjoyed at the time of retirement. Of course, this goes back to the maintaining of the real value of weekly income that is supposed to be actuarially determined. This is not an easy proposition in a community but it seems to me that in some respects it is being acknowledged in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund contributions which now relate to a certain percentage of the salary on retirement, and the pension on retirement is related to a percentage of the then salary. But what may happen over a 5, 10 or 15 year period? After all, when people retire at the age of 60 years or less they have a life expectancy of 25 or. 30 years.
We must recognise in this affluent age that people are probably entering the economic field later in life than they used to do. No longer do most people leave school at the age of 12, 13 or 14. After all, it is compulsory for children to remain at school until they are 16 years of age, and a large proportion of children continue their secondary education until 18 years of age. Their working years, say from 18 to 60, tend to be not much more than half of their actual life expectancy. Therefore, in their working years, people have to be able to earn enough to support themselves and their families and to have some reasonable guarantee that upon retirement they will be able to maintain themselves and their wives, when their children are off their hands, at somewhere near the standard that in the later years of their life they had reached. These are the kind of factors that correctly are being built into our contributory schemes, whether they are public or private schemes. We also have the great gap. which is the responsibility of the Minister for Social Services, represented by those people who have not been fortunate enough to be members of contributory schemes during their working lives.
It seems to me that the defence forces retirement scheme is recognising some of these difficulties. This is the correct line of approach. The honourable member for Maribyrnong and I have talked about this matter on numerous occasions, and I think we agree that these measures represent an improvement for the section of the community to which they relate. The Opposition does not begrudge this improvement, but we suggest that if the community as a whole increases its per capita income there ought to be some means whereby those who are ostensibly on fixed incomes can share in the benefit. To some extent this is being done in these measures and we offer no objection to them. We look forward with interest to the scheme that the Government will put forward next session concerning the distribution of the surplus in one fund and assessment of the equities of the deficit in the other fund. To some extent the Government has indicated the formula that it will apply in relation to the deficiency.
– I thank the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) for his generous remarks. He, of course, has ranged over the general matters of superannuation and I hope that the House will forgive me if I go into a little more detail on the particular measures that are before us. We are discussing three separate Bills as cognate measures. It may be profitable, for the sake of the record, to restate the individual Bills and the purposes of each. The original Bill amending the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-66 deals mainly with the extension of the legislation to cover national servicemen and full time duty personnel of the Citizen Military Forces. [Quorum formed] I thank the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) for giving me a larger audience. The second Bill amends the Superannuation Act and gives effect to some of the provisions of the first Bill in respect of national servicemen and the other full time duty personnel who prior to such national service were contributors to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund by reason of their normal employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. The third Bill - the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill (No. 2) - relates to former or present members of the Regular Forces who after completion of their regular service either join after discharge or immediately transfer to a reserve force. When 1 spoke during last year’s Budget debate on the general proposals which had been first announced by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his Budget speech, I said, as reported at pages 750 and 751 of Hansard of 5th September 1967:
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.
I spoke also of the necessity that the main Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund which as honourable members know, covers retirement superannuation benefits also, be protected against any costs arising out of the new proposals. The present Bill includes a number of provisions to preserve the financial stability of the main Fund, chiefly by the Commonwealth underwriting any additional costs. I also mentioned at the time the problems of national servicemen and eligible CMF personnel on full time duty who were already contributors to other superannuation schemes. The superannuation Bill makes special provision in respect of contributors to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, but apart from the fact that any personnel in private schemes will be able to use their refund of contributions against their commitments to other schemes, no special consideration has been made in their cases, nor, indeed, is this possible. In the case of a contributor to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, he will be exempt from payments until completion of national service or withdrawal from the fund by resignation.
I also referred in the last Budget debate to the question of greater or lesser benefits as between the proposed DFRB scheme and the invalidity and death provisions in existing superannuation schemes. Again the present Bill and the ancillary Superannuation Bill provide, in respect of contributors to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, that the more favourable benefit will be paid and that in the event of the DFRB scheme being the more favourable the member’s contributions to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund will be transferred to the DFRB fund.
However, there is a matter which gives me some concern. I refer to the case of an original contributor to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund who comes under the provisions of this legislation when he is invalided out of the defence Services as class B, which means that he has an incapacity of between 30% and 60%. It may be possible, because of the different standards of medical fitness in the Public Service and the defence Service, that such a member may be considered fit enough by the Public Service Board to return to duty. However, the question of differing medical standards has a wider application. There are many regular servicemen discharged class B or class C - which involves less than 30% incapacity - who wish to join the Commonwealth Public Service as permanent staff but who at the moment are considered unfit because of the medical standards in the defence forces. [Quorum formed.] It has long been held that people in these circumstances should be considered de novo as to their fitness according to the Public Service standard instead of being arbitrarily excluded as they are now. It will be interesting to see how this matter is finally resolved.
The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill (No. 1), will have retrospective operation as promised by the Government. Under this legislation eligibility will date from 30th June 196S, which was the date of the first national service intake, and will apply not only to national servicemen but also to other categories which are specified. However, entitlement to the payment of a pension will commence from the date that this Bill and the complementary measures receive royal assent, which is expected to be some time in July next. In the event of a contributor’s death after 30th June 1965 but before the date of his entitlement to a. benefit, his widow can claim. Such retrospective beneficiaries will be required to make a token payment of one fortnight’s contribution to give them technical standing as contributors. This payment will be deducted from their first pension cheque. However, apart from this initial contribution, the cost of providing these benefits for retrospective payment will be borne wholly by the Commonwealth and not by the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund.
Another question dealt with in the Bill is pre-enlistment disability. Where a recurrence of such a disability or discovery of it causes a discharge within 3 months of entry, personnel shall not be entitled to any benefit but merely to a refund of contributions. In addition, where there is any additional actuarial risk for a national serviceman - this is a matter which will be reviewed by the Actuary on 30th June 1969 - and there is additional cost in servicing this group, the Commonwealth will be responsible for it as a protection to the main Fund.
I should like now to refer to gratuities for short term service. At present these gratuities are paid under Service regulations. In the legislation before the House new provisions have been made for the benefit of personnel in this category to be paid under the DFRB scheme. But there are one or two exceptions. These are certain medical and dental officers who are entitled to special benefits by way of bounty and gratuity. They will continue to receive their benefits under the Service regulations. I should add that the gratuities payable under the DFRB scheme are greater, apart from the two exceptions which I have mentioned, than those formerly paid under Service regulations. There is also the question of the increased actuarial risk to the Fund of people who are engaged on active service. There already exists in the Superannuation Act provisions which state that where death or disability is due to war service the Commonwealth shall meet the full cost of the active service risk. The legislation with which we are now dealing will incorporate provisions by which the Commonwealth will meet the full cost of active service risks where that cost exceeds the normal in respect of all contributors to the DFRB scheme, whether they are existing contributors or future contributors. This will be ascertained actuarily each year.
Thus I make the point that the Government has gone to great lengths to ensure that any additional costs which will arise by virtue of this legislation shall not affect the financial commitments and the stability of the main Fund. However, this legislation will give to those whom it covers, and particularly the national servicemen, a more favourable cover for death or invalidity than would be possible under either a life assurance policy or a court award under the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act. They will also receive the benefits of the Repatriation Act and rehabilitation as well as war service homes finance where disability occurs through active service.
As a matter of interest - I think this is worth mentioning - a single national serviceman who unfortunately suffers injury or disability arising from active service will, if he is a private soldier at the time and is assessed as class A for purposes of the DFRB and for the total and permanent incapacity benefit, receive $30.50 per week repatriation benefit and $29.75 per week DFRB Fund benefit, making a total of $60.25 per week. If he is a sergeant he will receive S38.50 a week from the Fund and a total, with repatriation benefit, of $69 a week. If he is a second lieutenant he will receive S45.50 from the Fund and a total, with repatriation benefit, of $76 per week. 1 ask honourable members to mark that the DFRB benefits I have mentioned are paid to national servicemen who contribute to the Fund for only 2 years.
To receive benefits from the Fund, a private soldier contributes S4.36 per fortnight, a sergeant $5.63 and a second lieutenant S6.63. [Quorum formed] I was trying to illustrate that a Government in conferring these benefits under the Act to national servicemen has done a great job. The Government has come in for a great deal of criticism since the introduction of national service, but I am sure that no one will deny, after the passage of these Bills and the supporting legislation which will follow next session, that the Government has made ample and generous provision for the benefit of those people who render a service to this country, as well as of their dependants. - I would now like to deal more specifically with the provisions of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill (No. 2). One of the clauses of this Bill deals with those retiring from the permanent forces who continue their full time service without a break in some other element of the forces, for example, a reserve. At present, under the existing Acts, those in this category would cease contributions to the DFRB Fund but would be paid the Fund share of the pension only during their service on the reserve until completion of that tour of duty. Under the provisions of this Bill, such members will continue their contributions to the Fund during the further continuous service and will qualify for a higher pension on ultimate retirement. Similarly, a member who has reached retiring age for rank without sufficient service to qualify for pension, and who immediately transfers to a reserve, will be given credit for his service in the reserve, which, if of sufficient duration to take up the short fall of his prior permanent service, will enable him to qualify for a pension. However the member who has been discharged after reaching retirement age for rank and who does not join the reserve until a later point of time is in a different category altogether. Where he has qualified for a pension he is exempted from again contributing but he will be covered for additional benefits during his service on the reserve in the event of death or substantial incapacity. Where he has not so qualified for pension but received a refund of his contributions plus a gratuity, he can become a contributor de novo during his service on the reserve and once again at the conclusion of such service receive only the refund of those contributions and the appropriate gratuity even though the sum of both periods of service - that is on the permanent force and the reserve - would have created a total service equal to or in excess of the minimum length of service which would have made him eligible for pension if he had served through as a member of the permanent forces.
Honourable members may recall that the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr Freeth), in introducing the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill (No. 2) in his second reading speech referred to this position and to the representations which I had made on the subject. I think it reasonable to state at this stage that the matter which I raised concerned granting to members in the category that 1 have just mentioned the right to exercise an option of repayment of the benefits already received consequent upon retirement from the permanent forces so that their earlier service would count towards ultimate qualification for pension. J am pleased that this matter, together with the others raised by the Government Members DFRB Committee, are being examined with a view to being included in further legislation to be introduced during the next sessional period. [Quorum formed.]
I hope that when the reports of this debate which are circulated throughout Australia and Vietnam are read by the servicemen, they will know the attitude of Her Majesty’s Opposition to their getting some information on this legislation. I revert to a matter which I raised in my speech during the Budget Debate last year. T said:
The Government’s decision te 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 con- tributions. 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 about15 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 benefits at all.
I have been informed that a number of different proposals affecting this issue have been considered and that now a definite decision has been reached. I understand that in general all those under 20 years of age will become contributors upon enlistment and the extensions in their period of service beyond 20 years will cause their contributions to be adjusted downwards actuarily to compensate for their longer period of service. The Treasurer has promised that this matter will be included in further amending legislation to be introduced in the Budget session.
Whilst the legislation now before the House and that promised for the Budget session represent a tremendous advance, the operation of the general scheme is still bristling with complexities. The intention, expressed by the Treasurer in his recent statement when tabling the quinquennial report, to initiate an intensive study into the possibility of transferring pre-1959 contributors to the post-1959 scheme is undoubtedly the best approach yet made to the removal of some of these complexities. This idea originated with the Treasurer. If the proposed investigation justifies such action, all regular servicemen will owe him a deep debt of gratitude.
Despite all that has been done to improve the existing scheme, as well as the future proposals, it is my firm opinion that we are only patching up a weak system introduced to meet a situation of 20 years ago. In 1948 the regular forces, particularly the Army, contained large numbers of nonregular servicemen, especially officers. These stood in the way of the promotion of the serving regulars as well as the future graduates. The Government of the day, in a period following extensive defence expenditure, was naturally anxious to cut costs. Thus the reduction in the retirement ages was introduced. This caused the removal of service personnel from the
Commonwealth Superannuation Fund where retirement was based on 60 years of age. During more recent years the whole defence situation has changed. Presently we suffer from an acute shortage of trained officers and senior non-commissioned officers. Various expedients have been introduced to retain their services. These include the Australian Staff Corps list or the Regular Army Supplement.
Surely it is timewe recognised that the situation has changed. Surely it is time we reversed the policies of 1948 to meet the needs of 1968 and the foreseeable future. This is one time when: to go back to pre- 1948 conditions, is a forward concept. What I am advocating is the restoration of the retirement age of 60 years with special provision to cover an earlier retirement after 20 years service in certain categories. I appreciate that this debate is not the forum to develop this argument, but I intend to develop it fully later in the year.
The Bills now before the House confer material benefit not only on all the regular servicemen concerned but especially on the national servicemen. The Government has taken a responsible attitude and has shown great generosity in admitting national servicemen to the scheme and in underwriting the additional costs so that the Fund will not be affected. Because of these actions and the benefits conferred, I commend the legislation to the House.
Motion (by Dr Patterson) put:
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr E. N. Drury)
Majority .. ..21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr E. N. Drury)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation received.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Wentworth) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 30 May (vide page1 8 1 2), on motion by Mr Freeth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Wentworth) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 7 May (vide page 1150), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Wentworth) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 30 May (vide page 1811), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I hope that it will be understood by the Government that there certainly is some resentment of the attempt to pursue a full notice paper at this very late hour in the evening. I was chided by one of my colleagues - I think pretty rightly - when I used the phrase ‘sweet reasonableness’. It seems that in some respects reasonableness is not understood on the Government side of the House as far as the arrangement of business is concerned. This measure is important enough. It deals with the contribution that Australia makes to the International Development Association, which is an auxiliary of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, commonly known as the World Bank. Its objective is to provide loans, on what in economic jargon are called soft terms, to under developed areas - a rather vague term - to enable them to encompass economic development. Generally speaking, soft terms’ means that the sums are advanced at either no interest or at nominal interest rates, to enable these countries to pursue essential economic development and the sort of development that can assist only what are known as the poorer parts of the world. In this way it is intended, somehow, to bring these countries within a reasonable time to a better standard of living.
The IDA arrangements began in 1960, and Australia contributed slightly more than $4m in each of the first 5 years of the development of the bank. In 1963 it was realised that the bank would need to replenish its funds; it did so at the rate of $250m per annum, commencing from 1965, and from 1965 to 1968 Australia’s contribution was slightly more than $6m for the 3-year period. It is now estimated that the bank needs further to replenish its funds, and the suggested arrangements are that in each of the next 3 years, commencing from 1968-69, there should be an augmenting or replenishing of the IDA funds by $400m, with Australia’s share being set at 2%, or $8m, in each of the 3 years.
The Opposition supports the measure because we regard the IDA pattern as one that should be extended on a world-wide basis, for it is one of the bodies in the world that lends substantially to countries that are less fortunately placed than others in the stage of their economic development. I commend for the consideration of honourable members the 1966-67 report of the World Bank, which contains a section that sets out the contributions made by IDA. It shows that during 1966-67 a total of more than $350m was contributed to fourteen countries. Tables and statistics contained in the report show how this money was divided among the various countries. The principal beneficiaries of the aid were India and Pakistan, two of the most populous countries in the world, which have a relatively low standard of living.
Had this debate come on at some other time I might have gone further into the details of this organisation. Nevertheless, it should not be overlooked that in many respects one of the most significant economic problems facing the world is how in this age of what is called the revolution of rising expectancies, to lift the standard of living in what are described as the underdeveloped parts of the world. Just how grim the situation is is highlighted in a document that I commend to the consideration of honourable members. This is one of the documents that was presented to the recent meetings of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Everyone seemed to be disappointed with the results of this Conference, which met in New Delhi in February and March of this year to consider serious matters. One of the documents presented for consideration at that Conference was a document known as the Charter of Algiers, which was agreed to by seventy-seven countries that are signatories to the United Nations, of which UNCTAD is an offshoot. These seventyseven countries could all be described as undeveloped countries. The following extract from a report of that Conference is an example of the sort of observations that were made:
The share of the developing countries in total world exports declined from 27% in 1953 to only 19.3% in 1966. In the first half of the 1960s total world exports grew at an average annual rate of 7.8% and exports of developing countries, excluding oil exports, grew at an average rate of 4% only. While the value of exports of manufactures from industrial countries increased between 1933-54 and 1965-66 by $65 billion and from socialist countries by $10 billion, the increase from developing countries amounted to only $3 billion.
This is despite the fact that these developing countries comprise more than half the population of the world. The report goes on to note the factors that obstruct the passages of world trade. One is the wide fluctuations and variations that can take place in the prices of the products which these undeveloped countries try to sell to the rest of the world. For the most part these undeveloped countries - and Africa, Asia and India are good examples - are dependent upon one or two primary products, and in many cases only one, for their export earnings. A drop of a few pence in the price of rubber or a few dollars in the price of. tin can severely alter the economic situation of one of these countries. The report also notes the disparity occurring in these countries because on the one hand they are borrowing for capital development but are losing on the other hand by reason of the fact that they produce the same quantity of goods for export but they do not continue to earn a constant price year by year for those goods.
In many respects the debt between the haves and the have nots is widening all the time. One of the few ways in which this gap can be narrowed is by the application of modern technology in these developing countries. But modern technology can only be applied by the flow of certain kinds of equipment to these countries. The money to finance this equipment must come from the developed parts of the world. The International Development Association is one of the means of effecting this kind of transfer of capital resources that will ultimately result in the shifting of technology and skills to the undeveloped parts of the world. The rate at which those resources are transferred is still very insignificant in view of the great problems that have to be overcome. Nevertheless, we welcome the extension of Aus- tralia’s contribution to the International Development Association.
I do not have time to deal with this matter in great depth. It is a pity that we should be transacting the business of the House in this fashion. Our contribution may not seem to be very significant. After all, $8m out of a gross national product of $25,000m is not a very large amount for Australia to find. Our contribution represents only. 2% of the total contributions to the Association. If properly handled these contributions could generate the kind of economic development that is so vitally needed in other parts of the world. I think that sometimes we of the Western world, living in our affluent societies, fail to comprehend the magnitude of the problems that surround us. For the interest of the House I would like to quote an observation that was made in the Massey lectures delivered over the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation network in 1965. The current series of Massey lectures is still being delivered from Canada by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the name of the late Martin Luther King. The series from which I propose to quote were delivered 3 years ago by Professor C. B. Macpherson, who said:
I am conscious that in these lectures I have raised more questions than I have answered, and such answers as T have seen and suggested have not included specific recommendations for action.
The professor continued:
If you want an operative conclusion, it is this: Tell your politicians-
That is the like of us - that the free way of life depends, to an extent they have not yet dreamed of, on the Western nations remedying the inequality of human rights as between ourselves and the poor nations. Nothing less than massive aid, which will enable the poor nations to lift themselves to recognisable human equality, will now conserve the moral stature and the power of the liberal democracies.
Those words are pretty pregnant now when you find that the greatest democracy in the world cannot conduct its democratic politics without the threat of assassination. All I suggest is that this shows that the moral stature and the power of the liberal democracies are sometimes threatened when those democracies deny economic equality at home or attempt not to remedy economic inequality where it exists elsewhere. I remember that at a meeting which I attended some years ago the late Walter Nash, who died only a day or two ago in New Zealand, said that prosperity everywhere is menaced by poverty anywhere. This is something that we in the affluent parts of the world sometimes fail to recognise. If the Government had a better attitude to the situation it would not be asking the House to consider legislation as significant as this at such a late hour. We should have had a proper opportunity adequately to debate this legislation. We could have quoted statistics to support our arguments.
One fact that was brought vividly to my attention while on a recent trip abroad was that Australia’s gross national product was about equal to that of India. The gross national product of India was supposed to serve the economic needs of 520 million people whereas the gross national product of Australia had to serve the needs of only 12 million, which gives some idea of the disparities that exist between one part of the world and another. And they are not disparities that will be bridged in a very short space of time unless, as Professor Macpherson says in his address, massive aid is given by the affluent parts of the world to remedy the situation.
One of the tragedies is that massive aid is given for destruction while very little aid is given systematically for purposes of reconstruction. Much the same sort of sum as the gross national products of India and Australia, which serve the economic needs of 520 million and 12 million people respectively is being expended in Vietnam alone by the United States, and it is being expended for purposes of destruction rather than purposes of social reconstruction. The purposes of the International Development Association are purposes of social reconstruction, and the rate at which its capital is being replenished - $400m per annum in each of the next 3 years - is somewhat less than the amount which is expended in a week in Vietnam alone in the prosecution of the war. This gives an idea of the magnitude of the way in which some problems are approached* while others are not systematically approached at all.
We of the Opposition welcome this particular measure. We hope that in a short space of time Australia may do what some other countries such as Canada have contracted to do. They have contracted to increase the contribution they make from all internal sources to a sum equal to 1% of their gross national products to assist under developed countries, and they have agreed to do it in the next 2 years. A sum equal to 1% of Australia’s present gross national product would be about $250m, yet at this period of time, even if we take into account the funds which go to Papua and New Guinea, our contribution is approximately only half that sum.
Here it is proposed to contribute a little more. The International Development Association is to have about $8m in each of the next 3 years to assist countries which are in the regions rather oddly described statistically as the under developed areas. This is by no means sufficient, yet it is an improvement and therefore, for what praise I can give the Government at this time of night-
– It is morning.
– It is still night, as I understand it. if one goes out from this welllighted chamber. It is a little hard sometimes to know while in this chamber just what the temperature is outside, or whether it is night or day. I think that sometimes this beguiles the Government into forgetting just where it is in either time or history. Nevertheless, I congratulate the Government for supporting this addition to the Bank’s capital and 1 hope that it may not be very long before we are being asked to increase its capital even further.
Before commenting on the measure J wish to support the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) in his protest at our being asked to debate at this time of the night important legislation such as the Bill before us and the one to be discussed next. As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports has pointed out, contributions made to the International Development Association are related to the operations of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The honourable member referred to two aspects of the Bank. I do not recall that he referred to the International Finance Corporation, which is the third wing of the World Bank complex. I also commend to honourable members the most recent annual report of the World Bank and of IDA. It is a worth-while document and I commend it to anyone who is interested in the question of overseas aid. The report indicates that the facilities which are available through IDA are to be extended for terms of approximately SO years. I think that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) referred to the fact that the loans are repayable over 50 years with a 10-year period of grace. The Bank is to charge an interest rate of three-quarters of 1% per annum to cover administrative expenses. The International Finance Corporation handles the private investment side of the business. The World Bank has indicated that approximately $10 billion has been lent over a period of 21 years. I think that the 21 -year period finished at the end of 1967. lt is quite obvious, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports has indicated, that in the three wings of the World Bank there is a striving for what might be termed wider flexibility in the application and use of world monetary resources. In the last few days the Treasurer made a statement on the question of special drawing rights from the International Monetary Fund. When the money received under the special drawing rights is absorbed in the not too distant future, greater use of other world monetary resources might well be made. President Woods of the World Bank, in his address to the annual meeting of the Bank last year, suggested that groups or countries should try to work together to provide a more common strategy for providing assistance. He pointed out that multilateral agreements and arrangements have better success in a world context.
One of the great advantages of the World Bank is that in the expansion of big schemes it is able to draw together, not only the monetary resources but also technological resources and perhaps management knowhow. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports emphasised that we should direct technological resources into the under-developed areas. I remind him of a philosophy which is now emerging in the European theatre, particularly under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development: The technological gap is not necessarily as great as it has been made out to bc over recent decades. The OECD has indicated that there is much scope for management improvement and that the gap in the technological field, particularly between the United States of America and the European countries, is not quite as great as it has been made out to be over past decades.
President Woods in his speech at Rio de Janiero in 1967 also emphasised the value of the instruction and guidance offered by the World Bank in preparing projects and in regulating priorities and forming policies or plans for gradual development over a period of time. The plans were made and as money became available it was fed into the system. It has helped the under-developed countries to get themselves organised to adopt set policies. The Treasurer, in his second reading speech, indicated that IDA was formed in I960 and that now it has more than 100 member countries which are divided into two broad categories. The point I want to emphasise is that the member countries in the first section are obliged to contribute all their contributions in convertible currency, while the countries in the second section are obliged to pay only 10% of their contributions in convertible currency. The original 1960 arrangement required a total contribution of $150m over 5 years. Then there was a big jump in contributions to $750m over 3 years. A contribution of $400m a year is called for over 3 years, giving a total of $ 1, 200m, or a grand total to the end of 1971 of about $2,1 00m. These are unquestionably good figures and it is very satisfactory to see expansion of the activities of the Bank and the good that it may be doing.
One might well ask whether these figures are enough, in view of my earlier reference to the fact that $10,000m has been forthcoming for the activities of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development over a period of 21 years. Taking away from that the sum of $2, 100m that will be contributed here over a period of 1 1 years, a difference is left of about $7,900m over the two periods; that is to say, with 9 years to run, there is still a difference of $7,900m. Contributions of the order of about $ 1,000m a year will be required to measure up to a figure about equal to that which has been achieved in the IBRD over a period of 21 years. Honourable members may well ask whether that is what we are trying ;o achieve. This is probably the very point in respect of which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports emphasised that despite contributions to people in the lower categories, or the less developing countries, if that term is preferred, the gap between the haves’ and the ‘have nots’ is getting wider all the time.
Reports have stated that the original proposition to that now before the House called for $600m for the first year, $800m for the second year and $ 1,000m for the third year, which would give a total of exactly double the proposed $l,200m. This would certainly have given a grand total of $3,300m by 1971 and would have left a balance of only about $6,700m, or about $750m a year to achieve something like the IBRD standard. No particular reason is given for the reduction by these groups, although one can well imagine in the situation of world liquidity today that some will have balance of payments problems and some will not. Some countries are able to contribute more than others. Mr Woods, the President of the Bank, has indicated that the demand is still there and that the Bank at the end of 1967 had more projects ready for finance than could be financed from available resources. He hastened to add that this did not indicate a decrease in the resources available but was a good sign of steady progress in the ability of the particular countries to prepare and carry out productive investigations. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports might take that into consideration in view of his comment upon the lack of direction or the insufficiency of -funds and development in these areas.
Are these people able to absorb the amounts of money that are directed into these groups? We would hope that we would be able to step up their capacity to absorb these funds and even to take more. At all events, there is no question that it is good legislation. It is a pity that greater finance is not available, as has been suggested by many people, particularly the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Commonwealth Government. The measure contains two or three disappointments of which the main one is the commodity price drop and the decline of the position of the developing countries in world trade. I shall give a graphic example of the situation in 1966-67. If the developing countries could have held their position in world trade, they would have had an improved result of about 1%, or about $ 1,000m. A comparison shows that that is equal to the amount for one year under the new special drawing rights proposals for more liquidity in the International Monetary Fund, or 2i years contributions as determined by this measure. That situation illustrates the results of the failure of those countries to hold their situation in world trade.
The second point made by the President of the Bank was that aid itself is eating up the money generated every year. The money is used immediately it is forthcoming. It has occurred to the IBRD that greater leniency and flexibility in the amount of loans and the interest rates thereon would be eminently desirable if the less developed countries were able to absorb into their economy funds that may be available in future decades.
Perhaps the third cause for disappointment is that when the Bank sought a greater share of the gross national product, as it did in 1966-67, Australia had to decrease its contribution to 2%. I can understand the situation that confronted the Treasury and the Government. Australia is spending between 30% and 32% of its gross national product on capital works and defence. This is the highest percentage of any country, including Japan. If we are to continue in this fashion, difficulties will arise as the general standard of living in the private section improves. People look to the Government to provide the services that are part of every day living - education, social services, water supplies, power and transport. The Government will have to keep a close watch on the requirements of the community. I have no doubt that knowledge of community needs has motivated the Government in cutting back Australia’s contribution to the IBRD. I compliment the Treasurer on introducing the Bill and the Government on making the contribution. I hope that soon we will be able to make a bigger contribution to this worthy organisation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Snedden) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 30 May (vide page 1808), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a measure which, according to the last available statistics - those for the year ended June 1964 - cost the Australian Government about$10m in rebates given to people who qualify for the pay-roll tax exemption. It is a device that enables firms, which are engaged in economic activity in Australia but which export part of their product from Australia to other countries for final sale to secure a rebate on the pay-roll tax that they pay in Australia.
The measure is peculiar, I suppose, for two reasons. It is an example of the use of taxation for other than revenue purposes and it is also a way in which internal taxation is twisted in order to account for obligations that have been entered into externally. After all, there would seem to be no good reason why, if a firm had achieved a certain result on its external trade, a bonus should not be given to it outright, but that is restricted because of commitments that Australia has under international arrangements such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. It is regarded as unfair competition internationally if export trade is encouraged by taxation devices operated internally.
Sometimes at the international level we call it dumping if what is sold in one country purports to be sold externally at a price that is considered to be unfair when regard is had to all the costs that ought properly to be taken into account in arriving at the cost of production. That is one of the reasons why this sort of restriction is placed in the GATT arrangements. It is recognised that an international agreement can be honoured more in the breach than in the observance if devices are available whereby taxes, which in other terms would be called costs, which ought normally to be applied in assessing total costs can be evaded, or rebated, or abated to some extent. The payroll tax advantage as it operates in Australia has operated since 1960 or 1961 and, as I have indicated, in the last year for which complete statistics are available it operated in such a way that 1,205 firms in Australia which engaged in export trade received rebates on their payroll tax of $9,749,000. But 436 of the 1,205 firms, something over 40%, were in the field described as metals, metal manufactures and machinery, and they were responsible for almost half of the total of the rebate, in aggregate $4,513,000. As I understand it the scheme, when it operates as a result of the amendments that are before the House, will exempt from the operation some of the metal firms and metal manufacturers that are currently encompassed. I understand, for the sort of reasoning that was expressed by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his second reading speech, that there is a limit on how much the Government can allow in the form of rebates, that if you forgo a tax that should properly be collected at home for one purpose you limit your ability to distribute benefits in other directions. That is a prudent enough reservation to make, I suppose, and probably the Treasurer feels that metal, particularly crude metal, exporting is doing reasonably well at the moment without any need to resort to an incentive in the form of an export bonus, and at least I am in accord with him when he exempts certain of those kinds of activity. I would like to draw the attention of honourable members to a document I referred to on another occasion when this Act was up for amendment. It is a report prepared and presented by the Australian Manufacturers Export Council and which was published from Industry House, Canberra, in May 1966 - about 2 years ago. The report is entitled ‘A Report With Recommendations On The Australian Taxation Incentives for Manufacturing Exporters’. In section 2:9 it is stated:
It is considered essential, therefore, that a schema be devised to ensure that all manufacturing exporters who have reached the ‘cut-out’ stage have a continued incentive to increase exports beyond that stage.
What the article pointed out was that, according to the old formula, once exports were increased by more than 8% in a given year, in essence you ran out of the rebate that was available. At that stage you reached the full amount of payroll tax that you would pay and therefore there was no incentive to export further or, if you did export further, you received no advantage. As I understand the position, the new formula to some extent corrects that position, at least to this degree: That whilst in one year you cannot claim more than you actually expended, nevertheless you can carry forward from one year to another the amount of payroll tax that you have not expended by reason of your performance in one year. The new formula operates in such a way that a figure of 10.5% is arrived at. I have examined this measure fairly carefully and must express my curiosity as to how the figure of 10.5% was arrived at. It is a pretty illogical sort of figure. T cannot see why it is 10.5% and not 10%, 11% or some other figure. Perhaps the Minister in charge of this Bill might give me some information as to why the specific figure is 10.5%. Certainly it is an improvement on the previous provision. It seemed then that the maximum advantage in a year was only 8% whereas here it is about 25%, except that the ultimate cut off is there if your exports reach a certain point.
I pointed to another difficulty when the legislation was before us previously. The Government may think that this sort of device has some virtue. At the moment the device operates in such a way that the biggest advantage is given to those industries which happen to be labour intensive rather than capital intensive. At this late hour of the night 1 do not want to go into the technicalities of those two terms. The measure of modern industry, at least in advanced societies, is judged by its capital intensity rather than its labour intensity. In other words, one uses more machines and less manpower and achieves this rather mystical figure that is called productivity.
– Could the honourable member explain that a little more fully?
– I could do so for the honourable member for Hindmarsh but I would prefer to do it in private a little later this evening, if he does not mind. One of the deficiencies with which this measure starts off is that there is a limit to how far you can go in the use of this device, as I have already tried to point out, because of international contractions under such arrangements as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Therefore you have to find some kind of device upon which legitimately to make a rebate. Nevertheless this falls down on any sort of systematic economic appraisal. It tends to be a gimmick rather than a well based scheme. I suppose the Treasurer has contrived to do this as best he could; the new formula is some measure of the success of his contrivance. However, I do not believe that in the long run sensible economic transactions ought to depend on contrivance; rather they should have some systematic economic basis. It is for that reason that I suggest that perhaps the whole scheme should be re-examined in the future. I should think that at the moment nobody on either side of the House would dispute the. need to increase Australia’s exports, although we may have some doubts as to whether exports should be encouraged by this kind of device which really is available to a limited few only. As I have tried to suggest from the statistics, this device seems to favour the bigger exporters.
One of the interesting things pointed out by the manufacturers’ committee was that in many ways the most enterprising of exporters have not been the big firms in Australia but the small firms. The committee noted that its survey reflected a trend towards significantly better export performance by the small firms than by many of the larger ones. Again, it is the smaller firms which pay limited amounts of pay-roll tax and which therefore can avail themselves of very little of this concession. Yet it seems that they have been the more enterprising ones in venturing into export markets. Some of the bigger firms are not very interested in selling goods abroad as long as thy are able to sell them successfully at home, but many small firms can survive only by export trade. Yet they get no encouragement by a bonus of this kind. I suggest that this whole field should perhaps be reviewed to see whether some other device can be thought of to assist the smaller firms rather than the larger ones. I know that in some other parts of the world great arguments are going on about this subject. I suppose that this only highlights the need in Australia to re-examine the whole structure of taxation.
In some parts of the world there is recourse now to what are called value added taxes, wealth taxes, turnover taxes and so on. Apparently one of the virtues of the turnover tax or the value added tax is that at least it enables one to give special concessions for export trade without falling within the limitations of one’s international agreements. Again it seems to me to be a contrivance, in whatever way it is done. It is just another form of protection under another name. At a time when the world is trying to get away from protective devices I suppose we should be careful about entering into new ones. The hour is late and tempers are frayed. Interest is not very keen on this sort of proposition at this time of night. Therefore I indicate that we do not oppose the measure. I hope that some other more adequate opportunity will be given to the House to discuss the fundamentals of this sort of scheme much more comprehensively and, I am sure, in a much better frame of mind than we are able to do tonight.
Anyone who does not support the principle of fostering Australia’s trade is not conversant with the needs of this country to any degree whatever. This in itself strengthens the argument that I put forward when we debated the International Development Association (Additional Contributions) Bill - that a Bill of this magnitude and importance not only should not be debated at such a late hour but, indeed, should have been brought forward to be dealt with much earlier in the session. Another comment I want to make about the Bill concerns the lack of information that was available to support the arguments that have been put forward. It has been extremely difficult to get information which would prove to be of benefit.
I think it is fair to say that most people assume that any sort of stimulant to the export industry is of great value. But a considerable amount of money has been expended by way of rebates on payroll tax. Although conclusive figures are available only up to 1963-64, 1 imagine that on the interim figures for1966-67 the pay-outs on payroll tax are running at the order of$24m. It seems to be extremely difficult to ascertain detailed figures to show what we are really gaining for the $24m that is being paid out, or, as the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes) says, for the $27m, which is the figure for this year. What are we really getting? If statistics are not already being kept, I ask the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), who is in the House at the moment, whether in the next stages of application of this legislation a system could be worked out whereby we might measure the value of the investment of millions of dollars each year in payroll tax rebates. As I said earlier, this Bill is an obvious move in the right direction so far as trade is concerned, particularly since the manufacturing side of industry this year has been easing down or tending to ease down. This is indicated by the figures available for the last 9 months. These figures cover all sections except perhaps the area of unprocessed primary products, including the products of the mining industry. Anything that can be done to stimulate production naturally is in the best interests of the country and certainly is in the best interests of our balance of payments. I reiterate that such legislation ought to have been discussed at a much more appropriate period of the session and that more information would have helped to substantiate the Government’s case.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– I wish to speak only briefly. I refer to clause 4 (7.) of the Bill because I would not like it to be said that something the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said in his second reading speech had not been observed. Clause 4 reads:
Section 11 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following subsections: (7.) Where the Treasurer is satisfied that it is desirable to do so for the purpose of enabling the Government of the Commonwealth to review the operation of the provisions of this Act … he may, by writing under his hand, request the Commissioner to communicate to him, or to a person specified in the request, being a Minister of State, the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury or the Secretary to the Department of Trade and Industry, information relating to such matters as are specified . . .
I can well understand the reason for this clause. Nevertheless I do not think its provisions ought to be undertaken lightly. I believe that the Commissioner of Taxation needs to be armed with various powers to protect himself from the predatory per- son, the evader and like members of the community. But the Government is using the offices of the head of a department to communicate information to another department. lt is a fairly dangerous practice in some respects. 1 do not want to debate the matter this evening. I ask that my observations be noted now and I suggest that the merits of the matter be debated at some other time. I can understand the purport of the scheme, but I want to see how the scheme is running. Various arguments have been advanced as to whether the rebate is worth the money expended in getting it, and whether certain evasions are occurring, and so on. I think it is a dangerous practice when one department can have information referred to it by another and that information can be used to assess the rights or wrongs of an individual case.
– That is not the purpose of the clause.
– I know that, but it is a new precedent.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without , amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Snedden) - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Thursday, 13 June, at 2.30 p.m.
– In relation to the motion before the House, I move:
That the word ‘Thursday’ be omitted and the word ‘Wednesday’ bs inserted in lieu thereof.
Normally the House would meet again at 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday. I can understand some difficulty arising as a result of the Queen’s birthday holiday weekend. The House still has a considerable amount of business to transact - not only its own business but business referred to it from another place. In the interests of democracy and the allowing of ample discussion on the measures I ask the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) to reconsider the motion that he has moved. Earlier I Spoke about this matter. I do not want to repeat my views at this stage. I think that the way in which the business is being transacted is wrong. Some honourable members on the Government side have expressed certain sentiments about this practice. Honourable members on this side of the House have expressed united sentiments opposed to the practice. I ask the Minister to consider meeting again at 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday instead of at 2.30 p.m. on Thursday.
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) proposes that we should come back at 2.30 on Wednesday. I cannot accept this proposal. However, I will put a proposition that may be suitable to him. I would be prepared to withdraw the earlier motion and move that the House meet at 10.30 a.m. on Thursday next. However, I want to draw the honourable gentleman’s attention to one point. At 10.30 on Thursday we would proceed with questions. Thursday morning is normally a general business day. If we were to come back at 10.30 in order to gain more time, I take it the honourable gentleman, speaking for his side of the House, would agree that we should not have general business on that day.
– The consequence of that will be that the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton), whose general business motion would have priority on that day, would lose his priority.
– He would lose it if we met at 2.30 p.m., would he not?
– No, he would not lose it then, because we would not be taking general business. His motion would come on for debate on the next day that general business was taken. I would be prepared to withdraw my motion that we meet at 2.30 p.m. and make the commencing time 10.30 a.m. on Thursday morning.
-Does the honourable member for Melbourne Ports seek leave to withdraw his amendment?
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
– It is understood we will not have general business?
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Thursday next at 10.30 a.m
House adjourned at 2.33 a.m. (Friday)
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The attention of the Minister for Defence was not specifically drawn to the particular resolution of the RSL South-East Queensland Conference regarding the security of north Australian waters, though other representations of this kind have been made. Consideration was being given to the protection required by Australian fishing resources against encroachment and the Minister made known the general results of this examination to honourable members in a reply to a question by the honourable member for Herbert on 29th May. The attention of the honourable member for Ryan is drawn to that statement.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Is he able to say what pronouncements or approaches have been made by South American countries concerning French nuclear tests in the South Pacific?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia expressed opposition to French nuclear testing in the Pacific area in 1966, when the French Government conducted its first series of tests in the region.
The final act of the Preparatory Commission for the Denuclearisation of Latin America, of 12th May 1966, included a resolution entitled ‘Appeal to the Nuclear Powers’. This expressed the hope that no new nuclear tests would take place which might endanger the health of the people of Latin America or damage their maritime resources or other natural resources. The countries present at the meeting were Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, El Sal vador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica. Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela.
I am not aware of any recent protests by Latin American Governments.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
What quota of electors is applied by the Distribution Committee in determining the boundaries of the eleven Northern Territory Legislative Council electorates about which he made a statement on 16th May (Hansard, page 1514)?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A distribution of the Northern Territory into electoral districts is effected under the provisions of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act but that Act does not require the determination of a quota.
The Distribution Committee must give due consideration to distribution of population, community or diversity of interest, means of communication and physical features but the Committee is free to determine such number of electors for each electoral district as it thinks fit.
Land Tenure in Asian Countries (Question No. 311)
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Colombo Plan. They came from the following countries:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The name of the person appointed as a Distribution commissioner for Victoria in place of the Commissioner whose appointment was revoked because of ill health, was on a list of names submitted to me by the Chief Electoral Officer. In accordance with usual practice, it is not proposed to make public the names included in any list nor it it proposed to make public the names not included in any list.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
How many (a) men and (b) women were unemployed in (i) each State and (ii) Australia at the latest date for which the information is available?
– The answers to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I presume the honourable member is inquiring about the numbers registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service. These figures al the 26th April 1968 (the latest date for which the information is available) are shown in the following table. The numbers relate to persons who when registering with the Commonwealth Employment Service had claimed that they were not employed and who were recorded as unplaced. They include those referred to employers with a view to engagement but whose placement was not confirmed at the date shown and those who may have obtained employment without notifying the Commonwealth Employment Service. They include also recipients of Unemployment Benefit.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice: 1. (a) What Northern Territory ordinances has the Administrator reserved for the GovernorGeneral’s pleasure since the Legislative Council was last reconstituted in 1959? (b) Which of them has the Governor-General returned in that period with amendments that he recommends? (c) On what date in each case did (1) the Legislative Council pass the ordinance, (2) the Administrator reserve it, and (3) the Governor-General return it and/or assent to it? 2. (a) What ordinances has the GovernorGeneral disallowed in that period in whole or in part and on what date did he do so? (b) What amendments has the Governor-General recommended in that period arising out of his con sideration of an ordinance? (c) On what date in each case did (1) the Legislative Council pass the ordinance, (2) the Administrator assent to it, and (3) the Governor-Generaldisallowit or recommend amendments?
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
What names have the several Attorneys-General directed the Registrars of Companies not to accept for registration under the Companies Acts and Ordinances?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Directions given from time to time by the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth under section 22 of the Companies Ordinance 1962- 1966 of the Australian Capital Territory require the Registrar of Companies in that Territory not to accept for registration, without the consent of the Attorney-General, any of the names mentioned hereunder.
Names suggesting connection with members of the Royal family or Royal patronage, e.g., names which include the words ‘Royal’, ‘King’, Queen’, or ‘Crown’.
Names suggesting connection with the Crown, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia or of a State or of any other part of the Queen’s dominions, possessions or territories, e.g., names which include the words ‘Commonwealth’, ‘Federal’, ‘State’, Empire’, ‘Imperial’, or ‘National’.
Names suggesting connexion with the government of a foreign country or with the United Nations.
Names suggesting connection with a government department, authority or instrumentality or a municipal or other local authority.
Names containing the following words or any words of like import: ‘Executor’, ‘Trust’, ‘Trustee’, Chamber of Commerce’, ‘Chamber of Manufactures’, ‘Chartered’, ‘Stock Exchange’, ‘Guarantee’, Co-operative’, ‘Building Society’, ‘Star Bowkett’, Bank’, ‘Banker’, ‘Banking’, ‘Savings’, ‘Scientology’, ‘Dianetics’.
Names suggesting connection with an exservicemen’s organisation or that its members are totally or partially incapacitated, e.g., names which include the words ‘Anzac’, ‘Ex-servicemen’, Returned Soldier’, ‘Blind’, or ‘Blinded’.
Names that are misleading as to the nature, objects or purposes of the company or in any other manner.
Names that are blasphemous or likely to be offensive to members of the public.
Names that are likely to be confused with or mistaken for .the name of an existing company, foreign company, registered association, firm, cooperative society or a business name.
Names that are likely to be confused with or mistaken for the name reserved by or on behalf of a company, a foreign company, a proposed company, or a company which it is proposed to register as a foreign company.
Directions in respect of the same names have been given to the Registrar of Companies of the Northern Territory. 1 understand that directions substantially similar to the Australian Capital Territory direction have been given to State Registrars by the AttorneysGeneral of the States.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice: ls he agreeable to obtaining the views of eminent counsel in Sydney and Melbourne as to whether the Commonwealth of Australia can engage in acts of war in Vietnam without a formal declaration of war, and tabling the views sought as soon as they are obtained?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
No. Such low-tide elevations are in fact being used in implementing the baselines policy that I announced in the House of Representatives on 31 October 1967. This is in accordance with Article 11 of the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
Australia has objected to Indonesia that Indonesian claims to draw baselines connecting the outer islands of the Indonesian archipelago are not in accordance with recognised principles of international law.
The whole point with regard to the Great Barrier Reef is that other means than the drawing of baselines are available for fully preserving the reef and its resources, including live and dead coral and resources such as clams. Some measures are already in existence. The Commonwealth is discussing with Queensland what further legislation is needed, particularly to protect the coral reefs themselves. AH these positive steps can be taken in accordance with recognised rules of international law relating to the resources of the continental shelf. They are in fact in line with recommendations that have been made to the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments by the Great Barrier Reef Committee, a well-known private body of experts which devotes ils attention to matters affecting conservation and the proper untilisation of the reef.
Indonesian Fishermen on Ashmore and Cartier Islands (Question No. 332)
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Regular inspections are made of the uninhabited Commonwealth Territories of Ashmore and Cartier Islands. In recent yean these have revealed occasional landings, presumably by Indonesian fishermen, and sometimes presence of fishing vessels in nearby waters. The landings appear to have been for the purpose of replenishing fresh water supplies, the tending of a small number of graves in the Ashmore group and for fishing off the reefs. No attempts appear to have been made for permanent habitation or to interfere with the automatic weather station located at West Island in the Ashmores
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answers to the honour able member’s questions are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 June 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680606_reps_26_hor59/>.