26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W.J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the
House that a party of members of the House of Assembly for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is at present in the Gallery of the House. On behalf of the House, I extend to the visitors a very cordial welcome. Honourable members - Hear, hear!
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask: In view of his statement in the House yesterday that he proposes to make arrangements to facilitate an early debate on the present industrial unrest in Australia, can the Prime Minister now indicate when that debate is likely to be held and how much time will be made available for the debate?
- Mr Speaker, without being confined to this answer as being one which must necessarily follow, at the moment I would not object to a debate tomorrow should the same sort of motion as the honourable member for Stirling sought to move yesterday be moved tomorrow or early next week.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it true that all who register for national service and who claim that they have conscientious objection to service in a particular war have the opportunity to do part time service in Australia instead by joining the Citizen Military Forces? Has it been recognised by the Australian Council of Churches and the other organisations which have made submissions to the Minister that this gives those alleging selective conscientious objection an honourable alternative?
– All who register for national service have the choice of entering the ballot for full time service under the provisions of the National Service Act or of rendering part time service with the Citizen Military Forces. If they elect and opt, which all can do of their own choice, to join the
CMF they are normally not expected to go overseas or to be involved in any particular war. This choice is made as clear as can possibly be done on the registration form itself; it is drawn very prominently to everyone’s attention. The CMF provides an honourable alternative for those who maintain that they have selective conscientious objection. In order that the option to join the CMF can be made effective for all registrants, new special CMF units have been formed so that those who live some distance from existing CMF units or whose work does not permit them to attend regular parades may also service in the CMF. The option is thus open to all those concerned. As far as reference to this option, which is really the effective answer to many of the critics, is concerned, no, this has not been recognised in any submission that I have received on selective conscientious objection. In fact, the difficulty in dealing with these issues is that so many people listen only to the critics and not to the facts or to what is said by the responsible authorities.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Does the Government intend to ignore the decision of the Senate against the lifting of the embargo on the export of merino rams and also to ignore the Australia-wide opposition of primary producer organisations which also are against lifting the ban?
– Mr Speaker, I wish first to answer the second part of the question asked by the honourable member. He said that there was Australia-wide opposition to the partial lifting of the merino embargo. Might I inform the honourable member that in the area that he represents, the Darling division of the Pastoralists Association was absolutely unanimous in its decision supporting the recommendation of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. Furthermore, of the 16 Australian industry organisations at both Federal and State level, 13 supported the recommendations of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. So, it is quite unfair for the honourable member to say that the great bulk of Australian organisations concerned with wool production is against the recommendations of the Conference. However, I would like to say that, in implementing the recommendations of the Australian Wool Industry Conference which seek only the partial lifting of the 40-year old export embargo, we must recognise that the recommendations mean that these rams must be sold at one of the five public auctions that are held annually across the nation and that the number of rams exported will be limited to 300 per annum. Because all the administrative arrangements which would be required, and about which I have informed the House before, have not been resolved satisfactorily, the partial easing of the embargo will not apply for the Sydney sales next week.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Works. Will the Minister consider making the Expo ‘70 model available for exhibition in Tasmania? Could arrangements be made for people of the north, north west and south of Tasmania to view this model? If such arrangements can be made, will the Minister agree that the Launceston and Hobart shows, both of which are held during the month of October, would be appropriate occasions on which to place this model on exhibition?
– I can understand the interest that the honourable member for Franklin takes in this matter. 1 think that the Department of Works team and the private consultants concerned with the design of the Expo building have brought great credit to themselves and to us. I have no doubt that the building when erected will live up to the promise inherent in the model. T understand that the model will be available for exhibition in Devonport at the end of September at an industrial and scientific exhibition held at that time in that town. It would be available, I understand, for exhibition at the Launceston show between 8th and 11th of October, provided that application is made and space is available. I think that some doubt exists about the Hobart show in that there is a firm commitment for the mode) to be on the mainland at that time. If this commitment could be altered, the model would be available for the Hobart show. If not, it would be available for exhibition at the Tasmanian Parliament House, the art gallery or the museum.
– I address my question to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that pensioners who obtain serum for vaccination against the Hong Kong ‘flu through their medical advisers are being vaccinated free of charge? Why are pensioners who are being similarly vaccinated by local government authorities being charged $1 a needle? How does this charge fit in with the free pensioner medical service? Can anything be done to have the charge that is being made by the local government authorities discontinued?
– There is only one way under the law of this Parliament that 1 can make a substance, a drug or a vaccine available as a pharmaceutical benefit for a pensioner, or anyone else for that matter. This is on a prescription written by a doctor and dispensed by an approved chemist. Therefore, the only way that this vaccine can be provided free of charge at the expense of the Commonwealth, in the circumstances that the honourable member indicated, would be if the local government authority or any other body concerned obtained it in the way I have outlined.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact, as claimed by some sources, that certain wheat growers have been investigated by Commonwealth police, seeking evidence that these farmers had grown and sold Wren wheat? Is the growing of Wran wheat for sale, except by a registered grower, illegal? If so, has this fact been publicised and what penalty can be imposed on growers so offending?
– I did see some certainly overdramatised statements regarding Commonwealth inspectors who were ascertaining whether the Wren variety of wheat had been sold without the authority of the Australian Wheat Board. Wren is a registered variety of wheat. However, the standing advisory committe of the wheat industry makes recommendations as to whether different types of wheat can be sold for planting and the recommendation of this authority is against Wren wheat. This is because Wren wheat tends to lower the f.a.q. quality of wheat being grown in the south western region of New South Wales. The inspectors have merely investigated to see what growers have been growing this wheat and marketing it without authority. Until their report is presented to the Australian Wheat Board, I cannot say what action will be taken. But the Australian Wheat Board, as honourable members know, is an organisation consisting of grower representatives and whatever action it takes will be in the best interests of the Australian wheat industry.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. The right honourable gentleman will remember that yesterday I asked him whether representations had been made to the Australian High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur by Tun Abdul Razak for special aid to handle the crisis in western Malaysia. 1 ask the right honourable gentleman: Did he receive confirmation yesterday afternoon of this meeting and, if he did, is he now in a position to inform the House on the nature of the request?
– Yes, we received notification from our High Commissioner in Malaysia last night that he had in fact been asked to provide equipment, including weapons but equipment generally, for some new force which the Government of Malaysia proposed to raise. We have a number of queries on the equipment itself which has been requested. When the answers to those queries have been clarified then the whole matter will be considered by the Government in the light of what has been requested, what has been our past policy and what is our general policy.
But I should, I think, emphasise again that there has been no request whatever for any troop assistance from Australian sources, and that the equipment is asked for within the next 2 months rather than within the next few days.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware of dissatisfaction on the part of a number of Army officers and their wives concerning housing conditions, present pay rates and delay in connection with removals from one post to another? Can the Minister assure the House that all complaints of this nature will be carefully considered and, where possible, rectified?
– I am aware that there have been some complaints concerning officer pay rates, and I know that the officers of the Australian Army are anxious to receive confirmation as to when next their pay rates will be reviewed. However, officer pay rates are determined by making a comparison with Public Service salaries, with some recognition being given to the professional engineers award. Applications are presently before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, but as yet no determinations have been handed down. But the honourable gentleman can be assured that my Department is ready to present a case for alignment of officer pay rates with any increases which might be awarded by the Arbitration Commission to professional engineers and also to members of the Public Service. Once these decisions have been made, timely and positive action will be taken to ensure that any increases given will be considered for application to officer pay rates at the earliest opportunity.
So far as the question of housing is concerned, the tremendous build-up which has occurred in the Army in recent years has of course led to a considerable increase in the demand for housing and accommodation. I am sure the House would be well aware of the new bousing complex which has been established at Townsville to meet the needs of 3 Task Force at Lavarack Barracks. In addition, the Army has had to provide accommodation for two infantry battalions and supporting arms at Holsworthy, one infantry battalion and supporting arms at Enoggera, an officer training unit for national servicemen at Scheyville and recruit training battalions at Singleton, Kapooka and Puckapunyal. In the great majority of cases houses are provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and these houses are built to State housing commission standards and specifications. Additional facilities such as hot water services, storage cupboards and kitchen floor coverings are being added at Commonwealth expense where these facilities are not initially provided. I can tell the House that since the financial year 1964-65, some 3,300 homes have been provided for the Army at a cost of some $26m to the Commonwealth. This is a very good sign of what action has been taken and what progress has been made.
So far as the final part of the question, relating to removals between postings, is concerned, I understand that it takes approximately 3 weeks to negotiate a removal contract, and the ensuing time for the completion of the removal of course relates to the question of the distance which needs to be covered.
– Will the Minister for the Navy confirm that a fierce fire in one of the Navy’s new patrol boats has disabled the vessel? Is the vessel now moored in Sydney among other craft of its class, and have other steps been taken to camouflage the damage? Will the Minister make a prompt report to the House on the cause and extent of the fire, in view of the unsatisfactory way in which information at last emerged about the fire in HMAS ‘Albatross’ at Christmas 1967, and also report on any necessary modifications to the design and fittings of this class of patrol boat, in view of the advice by the Flag Officer Commanding the Australian Fleet that twenty more of the craft should be ordered?
– A fire did occur in the patrol boat HMAS ‘Ardent’ on 14th April this year. It began in the galley and spread, I understand, across the access chamber to the engine room and then to the bridge. There is no attempt to camouflage or hide anything away in this matter. The question of the fire has been the subject of a naval board of inquiry but the board has not yet released its findings. The Navy is acutely conscious of the problem of fire at sea. Indeed, some time ago we issued an order to the Defence Standards Laboratory for a smoke chamber which will soon be installed at Garden Island.
– But the ship was moored at the time the lire broke out, was it not?
– Yes. The smoke chamber will be put into use to test the fire retardant qualities of the materials used in naval ship construction, including the materials used for the patrol boats.
– Can the Acting Minister for External Affairs indicate what sales tax concessions are applicable to foreign diplomatic staffs which are stationed in Australia? Is there any evidence of these people taking advantage of concessions to iia de in expensive items such as cars, boats and refrigerators? How do our sales tax concessions compare with those applicable to our diplomatic representatives stationed overseas?
– Sales tax concessions available to members of diplomatic missions in Australia are confined to imported goods and excisable goods of Australian origin, [n addition, under an arrangement administered by the Department of External Affairs, Australian cars can be bought fice of sales tax but only under certain conditions. Cars bought free of sales fax cannot be sold in Australia under 2 years without the sales tax being paid. To the extent that there have been some sales, but strictly under the conditions 1 have referred to, there is no evidence of any trading, nor is there any evidence of diplomatic missions taking advantage of these concessions. I think the honourable gentleman might be advised that the average country overseas treats our diplomatic missions on about similar terms, but there are a few countries whose concessions to our diplomats are even better than ours to theirs.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service tell the House in what other countries of the English speaking world it is lawful for a court to impose labour sanctions against trade unions and to deprive a free man of the sacred right to give or to withhold his labour power from the service of a fellow human being?
– The honourable member certainly applies a most distorted view of what he wrongly implies to be Australian conditions. I do not know to what particular case he is referring. If he is referring to the last case, it has been made clear repeatedly by all except the Leader of the Opposition, who naturally always muddies waters, that this was a sentence imposed by a court for contempt of that court by an individual in refusing to answer questions in that court. If the honourable member will put on the notice paper precisely what provisions he has in mind in this legal process I will endeavour to obtain particulars for him concerning the practice in other countries, always assuming that this does not involve a quite excessive labour on the part of officers who are highly qualified and whose services are much in demand.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Territories. Is the Minister aware of disquiet amongst all the peoples of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea over present events in West Irian? Would it not be desirable from ethnic, geographic, economic and political points of view for New Guinea to be a single entity? Is not the world committing New Guinea to unnecessary and perpetual partition too precipitously? Will the Minister confer with his colleague the Minister for External Affairs with a view to seeking a continuing Indonesian trusteeship of West Irian with strict United Nations supervision and with help from United Nations agencies so that no final decision is taken until the people of West Irian can express themselves freely and effectively?
– My colleague the Minister for External Affairs has made the Government’s policy very clear in various statements he has made. These statements I accept. Any change from Government policy would be a matter of Government decision. I am afraid I am unable to comment any further on the honourable member’s question.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I congratulate the Minister on his decision to incorporate a wider range of statistics in his monthly review of the employment situation. Firstly, is the fact that too many men and women chase too few jobs a better economic indicator than too many jobs chasing too few men and women? That is, does the Minister think what some writers call the ‘labour market gap’ is better positive than negative?
Secondly, is he aware that when aspects of the statistics of unemployed and unfilled vacancies are examined rather than aggregate statistics, they exhibit simultaneously scarcity of labour power in some categories and scarcity of jobs in others? Thirdly, is he aware further that these statistics reveal disparities as between States, disparities as between city and country areas and disparities as between employment of the sexes - disparities so obvious as to make an aggregate approach to the situation almost totally misleading?
– I have never had an aggregate approach to the problems of the various features of the economy to which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports has drawn attention. It is a fact, though, that a large part of public opinion and people of various sorts do take a strong interest in the aggregate figures. I am fully aware that if we have, for example, a patch of unemployment in Perth with overfull employment or too few men for jobs available in Melbourne this would meet the situation and one does balance off the other. But there is some interest in the movement of aggregates. One of the main purposes for which the statistics have been produced, particularly in detail in individual employment regions, is that over a period members of Parliament and others have shown a desire to get the fuller particulars relating to their districts.
Obviously there is a limit to the detailed information which can be shown in a monthly report which is passed out by the thousand to many different interested individuals and institutions. But the object of the innovation is to improve the information so that it can be seen in detail and what is called quite wrongly and mistakenly the breakdown’ of what is occurring in different trades, sexes, ages, districts and so on can be seen more clearly. In other words, this is for the intelligent and discriminating student and operator rather than for just the general multitude who merely read the aggregate figures.
– My question which is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for
Riverina. I ask the Minister: Was not the decision not to release the Wren variety of wheat in New South Wales due to its known poor milling characteristics, particularly in respect to flour quality and flour yield? Further, because this variety of wheat has now escaped - if I may use that term - will the proposed quota delivery system be used to refuse a quota to the growers of this illegal variety and therefore be consistent with the decision to give to NSW more than its fair share of the Australian national quota on the ground that it produces high protein wheat?
– Some of this variety of wheat was released for commercial trials but on examination it was found that it did have certain defects, such as the honourable member and I mentioned earlier. For this reason the further expansion of the use of this type of wheat was not recommended. This variety of wheat is now classed as an illegal type, unless it has the specific recommendation of the Wheat Advisory Committee. The question as to its being within or outside the quota is a matter for each State to decide, but at the moment this variety of wheat is considered to be an illegal type of wheat other than for experimental purposes. There have been rather bold statements made about the tremendously high yielding qualities of this type of wheat but I am afraid that many of these statements have been exaggerated.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister studied the terms of the Beattie Report? If so, has his Department any plans at this stage to implement those recommendations in the report which apply to the Commonwealth?
– I have read the Beattie Report. The New South Wales Minister for Labour and Industry was kind enough to send me an early copy of a very good summary of the report. My Department and I have looked into the recommendations and the substance of the report which is a most useful contribution to the study of training apprentices in this country. Supplementary to this report there will shortly be available a report by an expert mission which has been through the training schemes or apprenticeship systems of thirteen countries in Europe. This mission was mainly directed towards the metal working and electrical trades. It was a tripartite mission of employers and trade union and government officials who have experience and competence in this field. When their report is received it will be studied very carefully not only by my Department but, I am sure, by everyone in Australia who is interested in training and apprenticeship.
There were a number of recommendations in the Beattie Report as to what the Commonwealth might do. As the honourable member is well aware, those recommendations included some taxation concessions which were thought to be useful to encourage apprenticeship and particularly the training of more apprentices. No doubt when this matter is fully gone into consideration will be given to all the various proposals. But we certainly have not reached the stage of making any recommendations, least of all about those recommendations in a report from one State about the tax measures of the Commonwealth concerning the use of taxpayers’ money.
– J wish to direct a question to the Attorney-General. It is supplemental to the question asked by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. Is it a fact that when the Chifley Labor Government amended the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in 1947 not only did it fail to remove from that Act the penal provisions under which Mr O’Shea was gaoled but it actually strengthened the legislation by making the Commonwealth Industrial Court a superior court of record, which enabled the Court to impose penalties for contempt of court?
-I should first point out that when one speaks of the penal provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act there is an ambiguity. Sections 109 and 111 are generally referred to as the penal provisions. They were introduced in 1951 and 1956. However, in substance, what the honourable member for Henty says is correct - that is to say. Mr O’Shea was gaoled not under these sections but under the provisions relating to contempt of court. In the face of the court Mr O’Shea refused to be sworn or to be examined. He was given the opportunity to consider his position, offered an adjournment and told that perhaps he ought to get legal advice as this was a serious attitude to take in the face of a court of law. He chose not to take any time or to get any advice. He indicated that he was aware of the position. He therefore had to be committed to gaol by the Court for this contempt of the Court. This power to gaol persons for contempt was one that was sought to be introduced by the Chifley Government in 1947. lt was at that point that the Government made the Court a superior court of record that was capable of committing persons to gaol for contempt of court. As things turned out, it was subsequently shown in the High Court of Australia that there was a defect in this power. The power was strengthened by later amendments to the legislation. However, in substance, what the honourable member for Henty suggested in his question is correct.
– Can the Prime Minister advise the House as to who or what prompted the tragic circumstances which occurred recently, to the detriment of the Australian nation, when a vessel called the Australian Enterprise’ was launched from a Japanese shipyard to the strains of Advance Australia Fair’ and the ironic cheers from Japanese dockyard workers while Australian shipbuilders walked the streets in a vain search for work?
– I cannot call to mind when the order for the building of the ship called ‘Australian Enterprise’ was placed. Were my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, here no doubt he could enlighten the honourable member on that. But I understand that the Minister himself has pointed out that there was a requirement for speed for the provision of this vessel and that Australian shipyards, as far as 1 understand it, have plenty of contracts to carry on with at the moment. I would also say that it was scarcely a tragic circumstance that a ship belonging to Australia should be launched to go into the Conference trade with Japan, to carry Australian goods, to save Australian overseas exchange and to be of benefit to the Australian nation.
– Will the Attorney-General indicate whether any other State is planning to follow the monstrous example of the Victorian Government of allowing stipendiary magistrates to authorise the police force to use bugging devices? Will the Attorney-General agree that such an infringement of the rights of the individual should be authorised only by a supreme court judge and not by a stipendiary magistrate or a senior police officer?
– All State AttorneysGeneral have under consideration the topic of anti-bugging legislation. Legislation of this kind has been introduced in Victoria. The suggestion is that the provision that police should have to obtain approval from a magistrate before using a bugging device is in some way a monstrous attack on civil liberties. I think this matter should be placed in perspective. At the moment the police do not have to get the consent of anybody to use bugging devices. So, to suggest that to impose by law the requirement that police go to a magistrate for a warrant constitutes a monstrous attack on civil liberties is somewhat overstating the position. This requirement is one of the devices for imposing some restriction on what is at present unrestricted. The various States would have to determine what they regard as a proper kind of restriction. So far as magistrates are concerned I should point out that a magistrate is the person to whom one must go in order to obtain a warrant to enter premises. Magistrates have traditionally exercised this kind of jurisdiction. I would not be prepared to accept the implication that they are not sufficiently experienced or qualified to hold power of that kind.
– The Prime Minister will remember that early last year the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry told me that he had had a discussion with the Prime Minister about his proposal for an Australian industry development corporation and that the Prime Minister had agreed that the proposal should be discussed by Cabinet at an appropriate time. I ask the Prime Minister: Has Cabinet discussed the proposal of the Deputy Prime Minister for an Australian industry development corporation?
– The answer is no.
– I ask the Minister for
Defence a question. As Australian armed forces are currently engaged in countries where English is not the common language and as our sphere of defence interest is likely to continue in such countries, what action is being taken by the armed forces to encourage proficiency in Asian languages? Is any preference in enlistment in the Permanent Forces exercised in favour of prospective entrants who have some knowledge of appropriate languages? Is any trade group allowance or payment for skill in this capacity made to any member of any Service who takes the trouble to learn an Asian language or to acquaint himself or herself with Asian culture and customs?
– Troops, particularly officers, serving in countries where a language other than English is commonly used are given every encouragement to become proficient in that language. Clearly some difficulties would arise with short term postings. The Royal Australian Air Force operates a school of languages in which officers of the armed Services generally may enrol. To the best of my knowledge a pay increment is made to those who qualify in other languages, but I would need to check the amounts and conditions. I will look into the matter and give the honourable member a more detailed reply.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Education and Science been drawn to a comment by Mr K. S. Brown, Technical Director of Standard Telephones and Cables Pty Ltd, in the course of a paper delivered at the radio and electronics engineering convention held in Sydney yesterday that:
The Industrial Research and Development Grants Act of 1967 was a belated and inadequate, albeit welcome, attempt to increase the level of Australian industrial research and development.
In view of the tremendous importance of industrial research and development to our economic development and the sort of improved living standards which may be provided by the economy as a feed back from such activity, not to mention its importance in developing competitive export industries, will the Minister now arrange for his Government to reconsider allocations under the Act and to arrange for the provision of increased assistance for industrial research and development?
– The House is no doubt aware that the legislation in question comes under the administration of the Minister for Trade and Industry. I am quite sure that the subject of the honourable gentleman’s question will be brought to that Minister’s attention.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. In mid-1967 the Minister announced the appointment of a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Martin to report upon the setting up of a defence academy which would ultimately incorporate the cadet colleges of the three Services. I ask: What progress has been made? Is the committee still deliberating?
– I am pleased to inform the honourable gentleman that very considerable progress has been made. There are, of course, considerable problems to be overcome. The provision of accommodation, the question of curricula and the tying together of the different requirements of the three Services are matters which have to be worked out before we can develop any school of the kind referred to. I shall supply the honourable member with further details. The committee is very busy and well forward in its considerations.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, I present the report relating to the following proposed works:
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s delay in planning and implementing measures to promote decentralisation and regional development.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places.)
– Decentralisation and regional development have a key role to play in Australia’s economic and social development. They have a key role to play in the provision of an adequate urban environment for an expanding population at a cost which that population can afford to pay. At the same time, they are andertaking to which successive Liberal-Country Party governments have given lip-service and lip-service only. The honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) told the annual conference of the Victorian branch of the Australian Country Party at Wangaratta on 24th April that:
At the 1965 Premiers Conference under the Acting Prime Minister, Mr McEwen, it was decided a Commonwealth decentralisation commission be established. It has had three meetings since then and nothing has been done. The Committee is a joke.
The Country Party is, of course, the most vociferous exponent of decentralisation policies. It is also the group with most to lose when decentralisation is in fact achieved. The Country Party has been for the last 20 years an influential partner in a coalition government which has resisted at all times taking the initiative in new developments. It has been a partner in a government which has resisted above all taking the initiative in matters such as decentralisation, where little or nothing can be achieved until the Commonwealth plays the leading role. Sir Robert Menzies promised in his 1949 policy speech to implement ‘A positive decentralised national programme for rural production, to be carried out co-operatively with the States and with regional and local authorities’. The Government which he was subsequently able to form in part as a result of this undertaking did nothing about it.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has asserted as recently as 20th September 1968 that: ‘Ways must be found to arrest the drift’ to the cities ‘and the Country Party has devoted itself to this problem during the whole of its existence’. The efficacy of the Country Party’s endeavours may be gauged fromt he fact that since its foundation in 1919 the proportion of Australia’s population resident in capital cities has risen from 43% to 58% and in other urban areas from 19% to 25%. Australia’s cities and regional centres now contain 83% of our population whereas in 1919 they contained about 62%. Moreover, the County Party has opposed and frustrated attempts both by its own members and by members of the Labor Party to obtain action on decentralisation.
The former Country Party member for New England, Mr Drummond. moved on 27th April 1961:
That this House notes with grave concern -
That more than one-third of the total population of Australia is centred in Sydney and Melbourne; and recommends to the Government asa matter of extreme urgency in the interests of balanced development and defence that -
He proposed that:
the committee consist of representatives of-
His motion was supported by the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) who spoke immediately after him.
Mr Beaton, the then member for Bendigo, moved an amendment on behalf of the Labor Party suggesting that the Committee consist of representatives of the Commonwealth and State Parliaments so as to be more manageable and that evidence should be sought from the other bodies which Mr Drummond had suggested should have representatives on the Committee. Then, I supported the amendment moved by Mr Beaton. Mr Drummond proceeded, and the honourable member for Lyne, Mr Beaton and I supported the concluding portion of his motion which was:
the expert committee make recommendations in regard to-
The time for the debate ran out. I was given the right to continue my remarks. The matter remained on the notice paper. The debate was never concluded. No vote had been taken when the Parliament was dissolved for the 1961 elections.
In 1965, Mr Beaton himself moved a similar motion. He was followed by the then Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr McMahon). The Minister was followed by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) who was followed by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). The Minister for Primary Industry said, about the motion introduced by Mr Beaton:
His suggestion that a joint parliamentary committee should be set up to deal with this problem is a bit late, really. His proposal would not fit the bill as well as what the Government has proposed already. At the Premiers’ Conference held in July last year it was suggested that there should be joint meetings between Commonwealth authorities and State departments to go into this problem of decentralisation throughout Australia. On Sth and 6th March this year there was a meeting of representatives of the States and the Commonwealth, which shows a positive action to try to do something about this major problem.
The Minister had not concluded his speech by the normal cut off time of 12.30 p.m. Our Whip moved that the time for the discussion be extended to 12.45 p.m. Government supporters voted against this extension of time for the Minister. The Minister’s name, in fact, heads the list of Government supporters who voted against an extension of time. So once again the debate did not conclude and a vote was not taken before Parliament was dissolved for the 1966 election, over a year and a half later. Then, on 13th April 1967 Mr Beaton again moved a motion to establish a joint parliamentary committee and once again the time for debate ran out while the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony), now Deputy Leader of the Country Party was still speaking but not before he had said that the Government would not allow the committee to be set up. The debate was never concluded and a vote was not taken before the House was prorogued for the 1967 Senate election.
The present Deputy Leader of the Country Party had twice talked the proposition out. In April 1969, 4 years after he first spoke, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) told me, in reply to a question on notice, that there had been three meetings in all of the Commonwealth-State Officers Committee on Decentralisation, which the Minister preferred to a parliamentary committee. The Committee met not only on 4th and 5th March 1955, as the Minister said, but only twice since - on 30th November 1966 and on 7th February 1969. At its first meeting the Committee agreed that the detailed work it was to undertake should be carried on under the supervision of a technical sub-committee. This subcommittee met only in October 1965. There have been three meetings of working groups of officials charged by the technical subcommittee to make technical studies. These meetings took place in April 1966, May 1967 and February of this year.
At its second meeting in November 1966 the main committee asked the New South Wales and Victorian departments to study the costs incurred by firms and individuals locating their activities in various areas and the relative costs of public facilities and services in various locations, including big cities and smaller urban centres. The latter was broken into two parts - the costs of past development and of hypothetical future development. The Victorian department, the Prime Minister told me in his answer last month, has done no substantial technical work on the cost of future development, and in fact waited until December 1968. 2 years after it received its assignment from the Committee, before commissioning an expert at the Australian National University to inquire into the costs of past development. Does the Minister for Primary Industry, who is the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, still assert that this is ‘positive action to try to do something about a major problem’? Is it any wonder that the Country Party member for Indi, whose sincerity in these matters is beyond dispute, should have come to the conclusion that the Government’s policy on decentralisation is a joke? He has, after all, received no encouragement from the Prime Minister to think
Otherwise. The interest and competence of the right honourable gentleman in any matter cannot be judged from his replies to questions on notice, which he admits are supplied to him ‘by those who know’ and thereafter ‘supplied in good faith to the House’.
Questioned without notice on matters of decentralisation, however, the Prime Minister displays an ignorance which is as remarkable as it is reprehensible. Asked by the honourable member for Indi on 6th March 1969: ‘Can he give the House any information regarding the progress that the Committee has made with its study on this matter?’, the Prime Minister could only reply: ‘I would have to get the latest information to date and provide it to the honourable member’. Asked again on 25th March by the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti): ‘When can we expect the long overdue report of the joint State-Commonwealth Committee on Decentralisation which, in 4 years has not produced a report?’, the Prime Minister was still able to say only: ‘I will have to ask the honourable member to let me give him an answer to his question later’. It is no wonder that on 24th April the honourable member for Indi told his Party conference that this Committee was a joke.
Australia’s failure to decentralise has moved Sir Alan Westerman to wonder whether Australians by the year 2000 ‘want three-quarters of our population of 25 million concentrated in nine bloated cities which between them occupy one-half of 1 % of the total area of Australia’. The Vernon Committee has warned of road costs, transport problems and land values in these cities. The Commonwealth could relieve the intolerable strain on Australia’s capital cities by enabling State governments and local government authorities to implement a radical and adventurous policy of decentralisation. By this I mean something very different from what the Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen) means when he talks about decentralisation. For the Country Party this is limited to granting tariff protection and freight concessions to investors to establish factories in country towns. Concealed subsidies in themselves cannot enable Australians to make better use of their resources or bring about a significant reduction in urban sprawl and the costs attendant upon it. They are not substitutes for the sort of sponsored and systematic development which would establish numbers of factories simultaneously in selected regional centres while at the same time creating the standards of urban amenity necessary to attract additional population to those centres. They are in fact nothing more than an additional form of rural patronage for Country Party members to disburse without fear of attracting Labor or Liberal voters in numbers sufficient to upset their Party’s rural hegemony.
For the Labor Party decentralisation has a far more important meaning. It is the beginning of the process of cutting down on the vast social costs of urban sprawl and of making it possible for Australians to develop fully their continent’s resources in the regions where those resources are found. If these aims are to be achieved, it will be necessary to bring about really significant shifts in the distribution of our population. Such shifts will not be brought about merely by policies of dispersed development such as those which the Country Party at elections intemperately advocates and in government indolently and ineffectually administers. Only the Commonwealth has the constitutional power and the financial capacity to create the conditions in which enough Australians will prefer homes in new regional centres to homes in established urban areas. The Commonwealth, in partnership with State governments and local government bodies, should establish a number of new regional development authorities. It should authorise and encourage these authorities to implement the policies of regional concentration and development through which alone decentralisation can become a reality. The only case so far in which this has happened has been the case of Canberra. Australians who once travelled 20 miles for the services of banks, accountants, lawyers, medical specialists, hospitals, shops and clubs can and will now as readily travel 100 miles for a greater quality and variety of services. There is room for another Canberra or Newcastle between Canberra and Melbourne and between Newcastle and the Gold Coast. There is room, too, for new industrial cities processing Australian mineral resources at Gladstone or in the region of Port Hedland.
Cities intended ultimately to provide accommodation, occupation and recreation for up to 500,000 Australians will require sites of approximately 90,000 acres, costing between $9m and $90m. Land costs, however, will be a very small part of the outlay involved. Decentralisation will remain the joke that the honourable member for Indi described it, until the Commonwealth involves itself directly in the development of regions. Decentralisation will remain largely a matter of talk until the Commonwealth takes initiatives in a big way. It cannot be left to the States. The powers and resources of the national Government must be brought to bear. Labor would establish regional development authorities similar in administrative concept to the National Capital Development Commission. Such authorities would operate in consultation with the States and with local government. They would be assisted by grants recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
– Only about a month ago this House debated a matter of public importance which was very similar to the one we are debating today. Of course, the reason this matter has been raised today is to give the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) an opportunity to read out the speech which he intends to produce at Bendigo, because it has not escaped my notice that by-elections are to be held in the electorates of Bendigo and Gwydir. Therefore, the decentralisation tub has to be thumped. The remarkable thing about the Leader of the Opposition is that he has no difficulty in suiting the words which he uses to the place at which he uses them. Today we have heard about the great needs of Australia for decentralisation. But a while ago this is what the Leader of the Opposition said - and I am quoting from an article entitled ‘Concentrate on better cities, says Whitlam’, in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 21st August 1965:
Too much attention is being paid to the wishes and needs of rural areas, and too little to the needs of the cities’, the Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition-
As he then was -
Cities and civilisation go hand in hand’, he told the Sydney division of the Australian Planning Institute in Sydney last night.
By derivation, civilised men are those who live in cities - pagans are those who live in the country’.
Apparently the phraseology he uses depends on where he is making his speech. But, of course, it is obvious to everyone that the Leader of the Opposition has raised this matter today as a stunt to try to whip up a bit of support in Bendigo. All I can say is that if the Leader of the Opposition realises so little about the great development that is occurring in Australia, he is like an ostrich with its head in the sand. In fact, it seems that the considerable amount of money which has been spent on flying him around Australia in VIP aircraft has been completely wasted. I just cannot believe that anyone could possibly travel throughout Australia, particularly some of the remote areas, without returning with a great sense of wellbeing at the development which is occurring in those areas. This is a remarkable and exciting period of achievement. 1 am amazed at the terms of the matter of public importance which the Leader of the Opposition has raised today, namely:
The Government’s delay in planning and implementing measures to promote decentralisation and regional development.
What on earth does he think we have been doing for the last 20 years? Has he not seen the growth that is occurring, for example, at Darwin? At one stage recently Darwin was the fastest growing city in Australia. Already it has a population of 23,000, and it is the centre for considerable exports. In 1949 I remember attending a conference on the development of the north. We were addressed by the then Leader of the South Australian Government, Sir Thomas Playford, who said that the only thing that was exported from the Northern Territory was empty beer bottles. That was virtually the truth, but look at the position today. Over 9,000 tons of frozen meat are being exported annually from Darwin, in addition to iron ore, agricultural products and sorghum. This sort of development has been occurring in the area. Not only is Darwin’s population 23,000 today, but it is expected to be 41,000 in 1975 and 60,000 in 1980.
One can choose other areas outside the capital cities in which this development has occurred. For example, Townsville today has a population of 60,000. Its population growth rate has exceeded the State average for the past decade. All sorts of industries have been established in Townsville, including cement works, meat works and a copper refinery. A university college has been set up there with assistance provided by this Government. The Commonwealth Government has also built Lavarack Barracks which shortly will house 8,000 soldiers. Then there has been the development at Port Hedland, which is in another remote area. It had a population of 965 at the beginning of this decade in 1961. It is expected that the population will increase to over 10,000 by the end of the 1970s. It is also expected that the harbour at Port Hedland will handle the greatest tonnage of any port in Australia. So one could go on.
Recently my Department produced a list of new towns which have been established in Australia. The list shows that in the present decade, that is the 1960s, at least twenty completely new towns will spring up. Some of them have already been developed and some are at the point of being developed. Investment in these towns totals approximately $300m. Not only are these twenty completely new towns to be established - most of them being based on mining, and some on water resources and fisheries - but also there has been the redevelopment of many of the older towns which were once ghost towns. I have mentioned Port Hedland, but there are other towns which come into this category. Because of the development which has been fostered by this Government, these towns are springing up once again and are now developing at a quite remarkable rate. I refer to Karumba, Blackwater, Moura, Gladstone, Carnarvon and Port Hedland As I say, all of these towns were regarded as ghost towns, but now they are going ahead.
The Opposition very often is inclined to say: ‘Yes, we realise this, but it is occurring only because private enterprise is doing it. It is not the Government that is doing it.’ What the Opposition completely fails to realise is that this enormous development has occurred in Australia because of the policies of the present Government. What occurred before the Labor Party left office? Very little indeed. I recall an occasion when an American company was considering setting up here in association with an Australian company to participate in the search for oil. At about that time the Labor Government announced that it would nationalise the banks and the American company immediately said that it had been nationalised in a couple of other places in the world and it was not going to be nationalised in Australia; so that was the end of that proposal.
What we have done is to provide stable government and a stable economy. Australia is regarded throughout the world as having one of the best economies and one of the best climates for growth. One year it was awarded the special prize by the London ‘Financial Times’ - a most influential paper - because of its stable economy. It has been our encouragement of private enterprise that has done as much as anything else to ensure the present development in mining, water conservation and irrigation, forestry and fuel. We have virtually not discriminated against overseas capital. But what would happen if the Labor Party got into office? If the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) were to get his way no-one would be allowed to bring a cent into this country and so there would be no development except what we could undertake from our own resources. We have given incentives and an enormous amount by way of government assistance. People do not always realise the way in which the Government assists development. There are many ways of assisting industries, particularly private industry. In addition the Government - and my Department in particular - has the job of developing Australia’s resources. It must discover resources, map them, assess them properly, conserve them or increase them if they are inadequate, and spend millions of dollars in the process.
Let us consider the Bureau of Mineral Resources. This body costs about $6£m per annum. It is carrying out the geological mapping of Australia. It is as a result of much of this work that mineral deposits are located, sometimes by the Bureau itself. This work encourages private enterprise to go into remote areas to discover mineral resources. This, more than anything else, has led to decentralisation, and when I talk of decentralisation I am referring to true decentralisation. The Leader of the Opposition wasted almost his entire time talking about what I would call bastard decentralisation, because all it consists of is trying to subsidise an industry to establish itself in a country town when it would not normally go there but would set up elsewhere. And what would be the point of doing that? What we want to do is to have decentralisation and development based on the enormous resources that we have in Australia, so we have proceeded with discovering and developing our mineral resources.
Our forestry resources are being developed, too. A few years ago the States were planting softwoods at a very slow rate. The Federal Government has made loans to the States which have enabled them to double the rate of planting and as a result the annual plantings have increased from about 35,000 acres to 75,000 acres per annum. At the turn of the century this will give us 3 million acres of softwoods and we hope that this will make Australia almost self-sufficient, depending on our population then. Of course, we are also developing our resources of indigenous timber.
Let us consider the question of water. There is no greater decentralising influence than the development of our water resources. Here again the Government has a great record. We know, of course, that basically the States are responsible for the assessment and development of water resources within the States, but because we realise that the States are not able from their own finances to develop these water resources to the extent and at the speed that we think they should develop them, we have assisted them in many ways. We have set up the Australian Water Resources Council and have made grants to the States to enable them to increase the rate at which Australia’s water resources, both surface and underground, are being assessed.
We have made vast contributions towards the development of Australia’s water resources. The Snowy Mountains scheme already has cost about $670m and will have cost about $750m by the time it is completed. Over and above that we have made donations to so many State projects. Only recently I visited the Ord River in order to blow the first charge on the major dam, which will be Australia’s greatest dam and for which the Commonwealth has given the State $20m. The Government has advanced a further $27m by way of long term loans for the development of this area. So I could go on mentioning projects that the Commonwealth Government has assisted in developing Australia’s water resources. I instance the Blowering Dam, the comprehensive water scheme in Western Australia and the drought mitigation scheme in northern New South Wales. Then we are advancing money to help the development of the great hydro-electric resources of western Tasmania which the Gordon River Road opened up. Over and above that we have provided $50m for a national water resources development programme. Here again the areas selected are remote areas which will help true decentralisation - decentralisation based on the natural resources of this country. We already have under way the dam at Emerald for which the Commonwealth has given the State $20m. We are advancing to the New South
Wales Government by way of gift S20m as a part share of the cost of developing the Gwydir River. We have advanced to the South Australian Government S6m to open up an area in the Tailem Bend-Keith region. We have arranged to give to the Victorian Government two special grants, one to reduce salinity in the Murray, and thus make the settlements more secure there, and the other to enable that Government to increase the production of tobacco and give the growers stability in the King River area.
These are the ways to develop the resources of a country. It is true that over and above this we have given assistance to primary industry in a great many ways - through research and promotion; through trade treaties; through subsidies, including the subsidy on petrol in remote areas: through transport improvement; through beef roads; through improvements to road, rail and air services; and through telecommunications and so forth. This Government lias a proud record in decentralisation - true decentralisation and not decentralisation associated with giving a subsidy to an industry to go to one spot when it would prefer to set up in another.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) has misrepresented me, although I am sure he did so inadvertently. He quoted a Sydney Morning Herald’ report about which that paper later published a letter of correction from me. I am getting that letter dictated by the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ from its library at this moment, and I will read it as soon as it comes to hand. I think it was published on 12th November 1966. I invite the Minister to check.
– It was 21st August 1965.
– The letter of correction of that was published, I think on 12th November 1966. That letter will certainly answer the quotation which the Minister made, as the newspaper itself very decently and properly recognised.
– The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) has expressed complete satisfaction with decentralisation in and the development of Australia. He is content with the Government’s record. He has said so. But the Minister for National Development is one of the few people in Australia who is satisfied that industry is being developed in the country districts, that population is growing in the country districts and that it is not amassing at an extraordinary rate in the great metropolises of Sydney and Melbourne. When one looks at the statistics from the Bureau of Census and Statistics provided by the Library service it shows in clear language the great growth which is occurring in the capital cities and the loss of population from our country towns and villages. This is the nub of the case being presented to the House this afternoon. We are seeking again to draw attention to the fact that the Commonwealth Government has failed to deal with this important matter which affects all citizens. When one looks over these figures there can be no doubt that Sydney and Melbourne have grown in a remarkable manner. The metropolitan sprawl has gone 40 and 50 miles over the countryside from the heart of the great cities while the towns and villages in the country are finding it difficult to hold their population and only the larger centres are able to advance.
Looking over the population figures for Victoria, excluding Melbourne and Geelong, we find that Victoria has grown by only 299,872 over a period of 55 years. What an appalling record that is. In New South Wales, when one subtracts the population of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, ia 55 years the population has increased by only 437,000. The Government’s delay in planning and implementing measures to promote decentralisation and regional development is causing concern throughout Australia. It causes concern to thoughtful people in towns and cities. It is particularly disturbing to the people in the countryside who find that their sons and daughters are obliged to leave their communities to go to the great cities for educational purposes or in search of employment.
The Gorton Government, like the Holt and Menzies administrations, has ignored the dispersal of industry and population and has failed to act to promote the development of rural districts. In regard to one action only may the Government claim doubtful credit for its work in the field of decentralisation - that is, in the establishment of a Commonwealth-State committee following the Premiers’ Conference of 1964. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has said, there have been very few meetings of that Committee. In two years there were two meetings, and up to the present there has been no report despite the fact that this was decided in 1964. The Government has neglected to adopt policies designed to generate growth in country cities and towns and there is no Minister with responsibility to take positive action to achieve the objectives which are being put forward by city councils, municipal authorities and shire councils throughout the country. These councils have sought tax concessions, a reduction in telephone charges, freight concessions, the establishment of Commonwealth departments in country centres, consideration of the effect of the payroll tax and the way in which it bears unfairly on local government, the need for new industries with financial assistance and incentives, and above all economic direction and control. In this field the Minister himself could have made a very good contribution. He could have helped quite substantially the areas throughout New South Wales, north from Albury, had the Commonwealth Government taken positive steps to deal with the distribution of natural gas found on the continental shelf in Bass Strait. The hopes and strivings of community leaders and citizens generally have been to some extent dampened, if not daunted, because of the failure of this Government to take action.
I have before me a copy of a petition circulated by the local authorities of New South Wales seeking a deputation to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), a deputation which he has now agreed to receive. This petition sets out in detail some of the things they consider should be done. The petition states in part:
The petitioners sought Commonwealth assistance in conjunction with the Slates to initiate a positive programme of decentralisation of industry.
The Minister is satisfied. There is little hope for local government in country areas, whether it be at Narrabri, Dubbo, Bathurst, Lithgow, Geelong or anywhere else. This is something that is urgent; it has been brought before the Government on numerous occasions. In their petition the local authorities have also sought the establishment of a fund from which allocations could be made to the States to provide better balanced development of each of the States in the form of essential public works conducive to decentralisation of population and industry and the provision of additional facilities in the fields of housing, education and transport, etc. The petition deserves the support of the Government; it deserves the respect of the Government.
Whilst the Government has refused and will continue to refuse to act in this important field the Opposition has put before the Parliament this afternoon a positive programme of action as outlined by the Leader of the Opposition. He said:
The powers and resources of a national government must be brought to bear. Labor would establish a regional development authority similar in administrative concept to the National Capital Development Commission operating in Canberra. It would operate in consultation with the States; it would be assisted by grants recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
This is a practical proposal. This deals with the question. It proposes an organisation and the means of achieving that which the signatories to the petition of the local authorities have brought before us. We receive little help in Australia but the Netherlands has a proposal to deal with its surplus labour and industrial employment. The Netherlands Government provides a 50% price reduction for the purchase of land, it provides financial assistance in buying factories and the necessary plant, and it has an alternative plan for capital intensive enterprise to the extent of $828,600. It provides support to the entrepreneur of up to 40% in the purchasing of fixed assets. The
Netherlands has positive proposals. It is doing things. It is achieving things. It has policies to provide natural gas from Holland to industries at a concession rate so that they might commence operations. Here there is no hope from this Government, and I am satisfied that only a change of Government will bring about the necessary reforms.
– In furtherance of my personal explanation, Mr Deputy Speaker, I told Mr Speaker that I was having taken down the letter of 12th November 1966 which the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ published apropos to the quotation which the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) bad read. That letter reads as follows:
On August 21, 1965, you prefaced a report of a speech by me wim these words in dark type: ‘Too much attention is being paid to the wishes and needs of the rural areas and too little to the needs of the cities’. Although much of the rest of your report was in quotation marks and these particular words were not, the impression was given that the words and thoughts were mine. I did not use this sentence nor anything like it. I read from a text which was printed in full in the Australian Planning Institute Journal in October last year. My subject was Cities in a Federation. My theme was that the federal government could improve our existing cities and create new ones if it would only plan its expenditure better. I devoted quite some space to new regional centres with Canberra as a model. It has not been my habit to complain about the summary, selection and emphasis in reports of my speeches unless these reports become a subject for comment in Parliament. I must correct your report in this instance, however, because it is being widely quoted and circulated by the Country Party in the Hume electorate to harm the Labor Party candidate, Mr John Menadue, who has been my secretary since 1960.
– Paraphrasing one remark which the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) made, he said that the Government had failed to deal with this question of decentralisation. Listening to what the honourable member said one would have thought that Australia was going backwards when in fact everybody concedes that it is progressing now at the fastest rate in its history. So far as the question of decentralisation is concerned, it is necessary first of all to define under what circumstances it is in fact desirable, because while certainly an individual area may receive some benefits from an individual decentralised industry from the point of view of the economy as a whole, it may not be desirable. I want to enlarge on that. I think there is a danger in the deliberate offering by the Government of unrealistic incentives. I emphasise the word unrealistic’ because the Government has in the past offered very realistic incentives with great success. I have no doubt that it will introduce other realistic incentives as time goes on, but by the use of unrealistic incentives to establish an industry in an area other than that to which it is best suited - and the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) referred to this himself - there is a very real danger that the industry could be fragmented with a consequent rise in its cost of production.
If the cost to the taxpayers of the Government incentive which got that industry there and the cost to the consumer of the higher prices for the product as a result exceed the benefits to the locality where the industry is established, then I believe that there would have to be very special circumstances to warrant that particular type of decentralisation. I think this is typical of the danger of too much government interference. I would like to emphasise this point. Government involvement of itself can never be a guarantee of success. Of course in many cases governments can offer incentives where there are natural advantages. By natural advantages’ I mean the advantages of the location of raw materials, natural resources or proximity to market. In each of these cases decentralisation has quite clear advantages.
The Minister for National Development gave a most impressive list of tremendous advantages to be gained to the more remote parts of Australia by recent mineral developments. There is no need for me to repeat the list which he gave, but I will give examples of a couple more. One such industry is the prawn fishing industry in northern Australia, particularly in the Gulf of Carpentaria. This industry has been the direct result of research undertaken by the Department of Primary Industry and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. This industry shows signs of becoming a major export earner for Australia, getting population to an area where previously the population was very small. Another industry is the aluminium industry. Aluminium is mined in one part of Australia, smelted in another and refined in another. This all brings tremendous progress to the areas concerned. There are many other industries to which I could refer.
The most important natural resource which Australia has is land and decentralisation can be encouraged by Government assistance to use this resource. Because Australia is the world’s driest continent Government assistance generally is by way of the provision of water. Again, a list of all the examples would take up all the time that is available to me in this debate but I would like to mention the Ord River, which the Minister for National Development also referred to. The Ord River scheme is the most imaginative of all the irrigation programmes undertaken in Australia. I think we should look at this programme as the first effort - or giant experiment if you like - to use the tremendous amount of unused resources of fertile land and water in northern Australia. This programme is a way by which this generation is assuming some of the financial responsibility to find on a very large scale the most economic agricultural techniques to crop problems. 1 want to draw particular attention to the question of proximity to markets. The proximity to markets can provide excellent opportunities for a decentralised industry. There is one in my own area which is near a reafforested area which is planted with soft woods. A highly successful industry has been established in treating pine for pressure treated posts. The raw material is local. The area is highly developed and settled. There is a huge demand for fence posts, so the market is local. The benefit is obtained in both ways. Inevitably this sort of decentralisation will have its bias towards products used by primary producers, because it is in those areas that we are short of population. The scale of production may not be very large but the overall effect of this sort of production throughout Australia is extremely important. There is another type of industry which has a high chance of success away from the main city areas. That is the industry which has a product of which the freight content in the raw materials and the freight content in the final product is very low. In most cases this will occur when the final product has a high value per unit of weight or per unit of volume. I would like to quote two examples of this. They are precision machinery tools and certain textiles.
These are some of the opportunities open to industries to decentralise their activities. It is important to realise that there are hundreds of examples of these sorts of decentralised industries all over the country operating successfully and successfully serving their districts. They have been successful because of enterprise. I want to emphasise this point. Earlier in my speech I said that Government direction of itself can never be a guarantee of success in these fields. Success always remains the responsibility and the reward of efficient management. While the Commonwealth Government is restricted in its ability to assist directly in decentralisation, because the Constitution debars it from measures such as differential tax rates and that sort of thing, it can assist by providing this climate of enterprise which was referred to earlier in this debate. In addition, and quite rightly so, the Commonwealth has to look at Australia as a whole and not at any one State or any one section of a State. It has the responsibility to ensure that the economic advancement of this country as a whole is maintained. Where it has been able to encourage decentralisation it has done so, and I am certain that it will continue to do so.
But in individual areas and with individual products the major responsibility is with the State governments and municipalities, who in fact do offer very considerable inducements by way of concessions and special consideration in the deferment or reduction of municipal rates and in other matters within their jurisdiction. The Commonwealth must continue to regard itself as being responsible for encouraging industry, not directing industry. This is where we have a fundamental difference between members on this side of the House and members of the Opposition, because the direction of industry and the direction of projects are Socialist approaches. This Government’s approach has always been to encourage policies which will enable the most efficient use of our resources. The phenomenal growth rate of this country during the last 20 years gives the best proof of the effectiveness of this Government’s policies, and the ballot box provides proof that the citizens of Australia endorse these policies.
– I have listened with interest to the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) and the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) speaking in defence of the Government’s policy with respect to decentralisation in Australia. I do not know whether the honourable member for Corangamite has been keeping up with the facts in recent months. If he checked his facts he would find that his statements about Karumba and the prawn fishing industry in the Gulf of Carpentaria are a little out of date. The facts are that at the present time this industry, which looked to be a great industry, is completely in the doldrums, and the experienced fishermen in that area are making no secret of the reason for this. The industry at Karumba is extremely worried because of the refusal by this Government to take positive steps, particularly last season, to restrict the activities of foreign vessels which come in and plunder the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria. At the present time the whole industry is in trouble and most of the processing plants have closed down.
The honourable member for Corangamite said that the Ord River project was the first example of the intensive development of agriculture in northern Australia. I would remind him that the former Labor Government in Queensland was instrumental over the years in establishing the greatest example of decentralised tropical agriculture in the world. I refer to the sugar industry. The Ord River project is just another example of the Government being forced to make a decision, on this occasion on the eve of a Senate election. This applies also to the Nogoa project. Government action resulted from the discontent of the Western Australian people and the Queensland people with this Government’s apathy with respect to water development projects in northern Australia.
The Minister for National Development quite rightly mentioned some of the cities and towns in northern Australia that are growing. He mentioned Darwin and Townsville. I am not certain whether he mentioned Gladstone, but Gladstone is certainly a big town. But for every one town or city that the Minister for National Development mentioned as growing, I can name twelve where the population is decreasing. I refer to towns like Cunnamulla, Blackall, Charleville, Clermont, Longreach, Monto, Charters Towers, Barcaldine, Theodore and Wowan. Wowan is almost a ghost town. It is located only a few miles from Rockhampton. We find right throughout Australia a drift of population from the pastoral and agricultural areas to the cities. That is one of the main reasons why the Opposition is concerned with the intensive, accelerated growth, relatively speaking, of what might be called the NewcastleSydneyWollongongMelbourne axis. We on this side of the House do not believe that it is in the best interests of Australia to have this continuing accelerated growth in the growing capital cities at the expense of the agricultural and pastoral areas.
– Does the honourable member support the principle of one vote one value?
– What has that to do with the argument? The Country Party in Queensland receives 19% of the votes and governs. The Country Party maintains that this is democracy. The Liberal1 Party gets more votes than the Country Party in Queensland and has nine fewer seats. Is that democracy? According to the Country Party, it is. Members of the Country Party in this House do not like to hear the truth about the principle of one vote one value. Let us get back to the subject of decentralisation. Each census shows this drift of population from the country areas to the cities. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) have quite forcefully asked: Where is the report of the famous inquiry into decentralisation that was sponsored by the Country Party? Members of the Country Party are very silent now. There are no interjections. Where is the report? The fact of the matter is that it will1 never see the light of day in this Parliament. There is too much hypocrisy in the Country Party about decentralisation. The Country Party in Queensland is advocating the establishment of steel works in country areas. Could we imagine, for example, what would happen to a Country Party electorate if a steel works were placed in it? That is why members of the Country Party talk about decentralisation but do nothing to bring it about.
All Parties in this House apparently subscribe to decentralisation. From a positive point of view, decentralisation is synonymous with people. There are only two ways by which we can get people into an area. They can go there either compulsorily or voluntarily. The best example of compulsory decentralisation in Australia is Canberra, where in the space of something like 20 years we have seen the population jump from 20,000 to 120,000 because of deliberate Government policy. Townsville has also grown in recent years because of the deliberate policy of stationing troops in that city and of fostering a university there. Of course, gaols are another form of compulsory decentralisation. These are examples of compulsory decentralisation, but we are more concerned with economic policies which will encourage the nuclei of population and industries to settle or become established in country areas.
For example, let us look at rail freights in Queensland. If there was ever an iniquitous system in any rail freight structure in Australia or in the world it exists in Queensland. Every year large profits are made on the central and northern divisions of the railways system. In other words, the profitable country railway systems of Queensland are being used to finance the heavy deficits that are being incurred in Brisbane. Of course, this fact was recognised by the Premier of Queensland prior to the State election this year. But whether he will act to do something about it is a different matter. It is quite obvious that it would be difficult to establish a secondary industry north of Brisbane when special, secret - not public - freight rates are made available to manufacturers of secondary goods in Brisbane to give them an advantage over any industry that is established outside Brisbane. Numerous examples can be quoted of people who want to establish industries north or west of Brisbane but who are being hindered all the time by a savage, cruel railway freight rate system which heavily favours manufacturers in the metropolitan areas.
The use of taxation has been put forward by many people as one of the most progressive ways to encourage the establishment of industry outside capital cities. It has been suggested that there should be a honeymoon period and that newly estab lished industries should be free from taxation during the first 4 or 5 years while they are developing. Of course, when the industries were on their feet they would pay taxation in the normal manner. In Queensland we have one of the greatest natural resources in Australia. I refer to the Great Barrier Reef, which is of great importance to the tourist industry. This Government does not even recognise the tourist industry as an industry. People engaged in the tourist industry cannot obtain a loan from the Commonwealth Development Bank because the industry is not recognised. There is tremendous potential in the islands of the Barrier Reef for the earning of export income yet the people engaged in the tourist industry on the Barrier Reef must struggle along with finance provided by the private banking system. With this great natural resource we have an opportunity to practise decentralisation.
Recently the Government called tenders throughout Australia for the construction of small ships. One of the conditions attaching to the tenders was that the vessels must be delivered in Sydney. What chance does this give any shipyard outside Sydney? The cost of bringing the completed vessels to Sydney would have to be added to the cost of production. Why does the Government do these things? Obviously it believes that the most effective way to develop Australia other than by exploiting our mineral resources, which does not cost the Government anything, is to allow the growth of capital cities.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– 1 am surprised that the Labor Party should raise the issue of decentralisation on the eve of the byelections in Gwydir and Bendigo. The argument we have heard from the Opposition this afternoon was the weakest imaginable. The Opposition has no case. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) made a few wild statements but he did not put forward one constructive proposal which a Labor government would implement to encourage decentralisation. He said that there are several ways to decentralise: One is to have more population in country areas.
He said that the Government is able to build cities like Canberra and to put people in gaol, but he did not tell us how we can bring about decentralisation. He should know that people can be encouraged to live in country areas by fostering agriculture. Look at the honourable gentleman’s record in this field. Honourable members will recollect that he opposed the expansion of the sugar industry in Queensland. In debates in the House he condemned the Queensland Government for increasing sugar production.
The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) gave a survey of this Government’s record in developing Australia. I endorse his remarks. The setting up of the meat works at Katherine was one of the best things that ever happened in the Northern Territory. But meat works at Katherine would have been of little use without roads in the Northern Territory along which to transport the cattle. This Government has actively pursued a policy of building beef cattle roads all over the Northern Territory. This has resulted in the Territory going ahead. Before the meat works were built at Katherine cattle from the Northern Territory had to be transported to Western Australia or Queensland to be killed. Now most of them are killed in Katherine. As a result thousands of people in the Northern Territory have been provided with employment. Whereas the killing season in the Territory used to last only a couple of months it now extends from May almost to November. These are the dynamic things which the Government has done to stimulate growth in underdeveloped areas of Australia.
Honourable members will recall how the honourable member for Dawson did everything in his power to prevent acceptance of the Tipperary scheme. The scheme may not have been the success that some people hoped it would be but millions of dollars of free enterprise money is being poured into the area. If the scheme is a success, as I believe it will be, it will be due to the vigour and enterprise of the people involved. The scheme will mean that hundreds of new settlers will come to the Northern Territory, stimulating towns in the Territory.
– Like Humpty Doo.
– The honourable member has a Humpty Doo attitude. He would not have a go at anything else. Recently the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) demanded that the Manager of the Australian Wheat Board and another official be brought before the bar of the Senate to give details regarding the sale of our wheat. This move has been supported by the honourable member for Dawson, who is supposed to represent the interests of rural people. What businessman does not know the importance of maintaining a degree of security about his negotiations? If you tell the world about your negotiations and the terms on which you sell you are aiding your competitors. The honourable member is the shadow Minister for Primary Industry. What hope would the wheat growers of Gwydir and Bendigo have with a Minister such as he? They would not have a hope in the world.
Reference has been made to the cry of one vote one value. The once great Labor Party, which pretends concern for rural activities, supports the principle of one vote one value. This is a drastic change in Labor’s thinking. It was a Labor government which loaded the votes in favour of outlying areas. The honourable member has referred to some outback towns in Queensland. The electorate of Maranoa comprises hundreds of small towns such as Cunnamulla, Eromango Birdsville, Charleville, Eulo and St George. All of these towns have their diverse problems of roads, schools, and postal facilities. Everybody has a different problem. The man who represents Maranoa represents an area 2i times the size of Victoria. Is representation of this kind a fair crack of the whip for all these people? Let us take the other extreme of the electorate of Brisbane in the middle of the city. You could walk around the electorate in a day. It would have problems no different from those of other electorates around Brisbane. They have a central post office and hospitals and roads built by the local authority. Pursuing its policy of one vote one value the Labor Party would double the size of Maranoa. If this were done what sort of representation would country towns have? They would not have a chance in the world.
The Minister for National Development referred this afternoon to the report which appeared in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of a statement made a few years ago by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The report was headed ‘“Concentrate on better cities”, says Whitlam’. The Leader of the Opposition has denied that he said we should concentrate on better cities. I accept his denial. After all, the Press cannot be relied on. It is interested in headlines and anything goes. But the Leader of the Opposition has not denied the statement which was published in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’. It reads:
Cities and civilisation go band in hand’, he told the Sydney division of the Australian Planning Institute in Sydney last night.
By derivation, civilised men are those who live in cities - pagans are those who live in the country.’
– Who said that?
– The Leader of the Opposition. Will he say the same thing in Bendigo and Gwydir? We can forget about the Labor Party encouraging decentralisation; we can forget about the Labor Party bringing people to rural areas. This Government has a wonderful record in decentralisation.
The honourable member for Dawson spoke about local authorities. This Government, through the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, has assisted local authorities in rural areas to overcome one of their greatest burdens. Year by year an increasing percentage of the money provided for roads under the legislation goes to rural areas. The honourable member made an interesting remark about rail freights in Queensland. Rail freights to country areas of Queensland were increased by a Labor government. The northern and central areas of Queensland had to make good the rail losses incurred in the metropolitan area of Brisbane. The Labor Government kept freights high.
– The honourable member should read the history of Queensland because he does not know anything about it. The policy of the Labor Government in Queensland was that the people living in country areas should pay for the losses incurred by the people living in the city area. The taxes imposed on the different forms of motor transport were such that the country people had no choice but to use the railways. The people of Queensland were hamstrung when a Labor Government was in office, but the position is now changing. It is not easy to overcome some of the things done by the Labor Government in Queensland, but a lot is being done in this direction.
The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) announced recently that an additional thirty-eight television stations will be installed in country areas. A total of 96% of the population of Australia will then receive a television coverage. The remaining 4% are the concern of the Government and of the Country Party. 1 think that the people who reside in the electorates of Gwydir and Bendigo will see through the facade which has been put up by the Labor Party - a facade is all it is. The people of Queensland indicated in the recent State election that they are satisfied with the Government they now have after 39 years of a Socialist Labor Government.
– The Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) referred to the size of electorates and said that those members who represent the larger country electorates have more difficulty servicing them than the members who represent city electorates have in servicing their electorates. He also implied that members who represent city electorates do not have many problems. I do not think the Minister has ever represented a city electorate. I have found that the problems of my constituents, who live in a provincial city - and I assume that they are much the same as the problems of the 20.000 new Australians who live in the electorate of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), but who are not included in the electoral figures - are just as time consuming as the problems of the constituents of country electorates.
The reason why the Australian Country Party, of which the Minister is a member, does not believe in having smaller electorates in country areas is not the difficulty in representing the constituents; it believes in having smaller electorates in country areas so that it will have more members in the Parliament. Let us examine the position in New South Wales. The electorate of the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr
Luchetti) covers 5,500 square miles. Because it suits the Government to have all of the Labor votes in that area in the one seat, he represents 57,000 electors. There are more people in his electorate than in most of the Sydney electorates.
– He is a remarkable man.
– I think he is a remarkable man. The electorate of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) covers an area of 3,000 square miles and has 7,000 less electors. How can the argument about the size of electorates be applied in that instance? It is just a lot of rubbish. This argument has been put up for political purposes in order to give the Country Party greater representation in the Parliament. That is the only reason for it. The Opposition has moved a motion deploring the Government’s failure to act in regard to decentralisation. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) has indicated that the Government is not interested in decentralisation.
– He did not say that.
– The Minister said that the Government is satisfied with its record. But in New South Wales, outside of the immediate proximity of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, there has been a population growth of less than 500,000 this century and in Victoria, outside of Melbourne and Geelong, there has been a population growth of less than 250,000 this century - not the last 10 or 20 years but this century. The Opposition wants people who are born and bred in country areas to stay in those areas. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) is interjecting. He represents a city electorate and therefore would not understand the problems of the people living in country areas.
– The jackals on my left are worried about their electorates. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) could influence the Country Party’s attitude. The Country Party moved that the honourable member for the Northern Territory be given a vote in this place. When the Northern Territory was represented by a. Labor member the Country Party voted against such a move on the basis that there were insufficient electors in the electorate to justify the giving of a vote.
– He got the vote.
– He got the right to vote because it suited the political interests of the people in the Country Party and not because it was for the good of northern development. We should not kid ourselves about this. The Government’s attitude towards the provincial and rural areas is that it is better for the children of the people who live in those areas to shift to the metropolitan areas irrespective of the cost to themselves and the country rather than to stay there and encourage the development of industries in centres close to their homes, when these children could remain part of the family unit.
To my knowledge nobody in Australia has ever undertaken a study of how much it costs to house 1,000 people in new areas in the capital cities as compared to housing the same number of peopl’e in provincial centres. Until such a survey is undertaken we will not know the basic economics of the development of provincial centres as opposed to the continued sprawling of the metropolitan areas with the transport and other problems directly associated with the increase in size. In the period between the last two censuses the population of Melbourne grew by over 250,000. That would mean that another 100,000 cars were driven into and out of Melbourne every day, because there was no increase whatsoever in the publ’ic transport facilities during that period. It would also mean an increase in the need for sewerage and a possible overtaxing of the system, which was not designed for this rate of growth. The population of the country areas of Victoria, excluding Geelong, which is in my electorate, increased by less than 20,000 during the same period.
Can anyone say that it would not have been cheaper to encourage industries to go to the larger country centres, which are crying out for more population? These centres need an increased population in order to reach a stage of growth which would make them more efficient than they are at present and would enable the people living there to have a balanced level of employment. In every provincial centre in Australia that I know of there are problems regarding the employment of women and there are problems regarding the employment of young people with professional qualifications. Any person who is over the age of 45 and is unskilled or has any physical defects also has a problem obtaining employment. This situation exists in all provincial centres. It also exists in the capital cities, but not to the same extent. It would be advantageous to Australia, and especially to people who live in provincial centres, if the Government were to adopt a more realistic approach to growth pattern problems and tried to encourage people who are born and reared in country centres to stay in those centres. But these people are forced to seel- employment opportunities elsewhere.
Figures given to me recently by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) indicate just how serious this problem is in all provincial centres in Victoria. Over 200 boys applied for apprenticeship positions in Geelong during 1968. Thirty-two of those boys were still looking for work on 18th March 1969. During the same period twelve girls applied for apprenticeship positions. None of them had found a job by 18th March 1969. Constantly we read about employer organisations and large companies stating categorically that there is a need for more skilled tradesmen in Australia, yet we find that there are people in the provincial centres who are properly qualified to enter trades but cannot obtain employment in the trades they want to enter or, in some cases, in any trade. This is a waste of talent. A proper survey should be carried out by the Government. I believe that the survey which the Government should undertake will disclose that it is more economic to retain the people in the major provincial centres than to have them seeking employment in areas 20 or 30 miles from the capital cities, which is where the expansion is at present taking place. These people will join the morning traffic queue. They will add to parking problems and eventually will cause the expenditure of millions and millions of dollars on freeways. These freeways will become more and more necessary as the growth of our cities increases and as our governments fail to meet the problems associated with public transport. I am not sure that public transport in this day and age can meet the problems that are presented.
Because of failure to deal with these problems, we are in a situation where we are carrying out what I think is uneconomic development. It could well be a lot cheaper to encourage development in country centres, provincial centres and other regional areas than it is to add further to the general urban sprawl that is being seen especially in Melbourne and Sydney today and that will be seen, as the years pass, in the other Australian capital cities.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has raised for discussion a matter of public importance in which he protests about the Government’s delay in planning and implementing measures to promote decentralisation and regional development. This is an amazing thing to come from a gentleman who used in 1965 the words that I am about to quote. It took him 18 months to alter them. He said this:
By derivation, civilised men are those who live in cities. Pagans are those who live in the country.
Now, because by-elections are to be held for the electorates of Bendigo and Gwydir, the Leader of the Opposition has come back to parish pump politics. The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) knows very well - because he was the only member of the Australian Labor Party present at the decentralisation committee meeting of the mayors - that a Commonwealth and State committee dealing with regional development is studying the comparative costs in various regions. Major studies of the question of decentralisation are being made by that committee. This work is going on. The honourable member for Macquarie knows that it is happening. He said that the committee has had several meetings and that these studies are proceeding. The worst possible thing would be for a decentralised industry to be established under the so-called systematic plan of the Australian Labor Party, which would be a socialised, disciplined manpower scheme. If the Australian Labor Party failed in this scheme, it would be the most terrifying blow that decentralisation could get. But this is inherent in what the honourable member has been saying to us this afternoon: There would be this kind of development in Australia.
Let us play politics for a moment. A by-election is to be held in the Gwydir electorate. Nobody has mentioned the present situation in Gwydir. The former honourable member for Gwydir, Mr Ian Allan, has resigned, otherwise he would surely have mentioned it. In Gwydir, asbestos mining by the Pacific Asbestos Co. is about to proceed. By 1971, 20 million tons of short fibre asbestos will have been produced. In fact, 3,500 tons a month will be taken out, at $200 a ton. At the moment, a 10-mile bitumen sealed road is being put in by the local authority at Gwydir and housing subdivisions are going on in the Barraba area. This is in the electorate of Gwydir. Indeed, $8m per annum will come out of the mine that I have mentioned and 120 home sites are being prepared. This is regional decentralisation in Gwydir. The national park at Mount Kaputar is being developed. Honourable members on this side of the House might know about Mount Kaputar but I expect that that would not be the case on the Opposition side because the representation of the Labor Party is shrinking so terribly. The last Labor Government went out of office on Saturday before last in Tasmania.
At Narrabri, an interferometer space measurement of light facility is being put in by the Commonwealth. I ask the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) whether he has heard about that. At Moree the Postmaster-General’s Department is installing a meteorological tracking station. The Commonwealth is providing that station as well as the space measurement of light establishment. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) mentioned the Copeton Dam which is to be constructed under the Commonwealth water conservation scheme. Of the $48m that will be spent on the Copeton Dam, the Commonwealth contribution will be $20m. This dam will bring in an enormous quantity of country for irrigation development. Some honourable members present have heard about the Narrabri cotton scheme undertaken by the Auscot organisation. The growing of 50,000 acres of cotton on the Namoi River is one of the most successful developmental projects ever undertaken anywhere in the world. These 50,000 acres of cotton will produce lint, cotton seed oil and cotton seed meal which has the highest concentration of protein of any known cattle food. This is the parish pump side of the matter raised for discussion.
I do not believe that the Australian Labor Party understands development at all. It had never heard of the Ord River until we went up there on 1st August 1959. The Ord River heralded the start of northern development. At the Federal elections following that 1959 safari, the Australian Labor Party produced a magnificent telecast showing what Labor would do. lt featured the Ord River. But it had never heard of the Ord River until our committee came back and said that these things were going on. On 21st August 1959 the Commonwealth Government signed the agreement relating to the Ord River diversion dam which was followed by the construction of the dam in the Carr Boyd Ranges.
The bottleneck in Australian development is water. This is the driest continent on earth. Our average rainfall is 16.5 inches per annum. The average rainfall in Europe is 24 inches per annum. In the United States of America it is higher than that. The only area to which we can expand after we have developed those areas being developed now - and they are nearly fully developed - is the north, the monsoon area, where all the water is. The Townsville Tropical Research Laboratory has now identified about twenty different strains of Townsville lucerne. This laboratory can be responsible not only for world development in the tropics but also for an increase in the cattle population from Sarina to the Cape York Peninsula from 2 million head to 40 million head. This is with the use of Townsville lucerne and superphosphate. The honourable member for Dawson knows that this is true. This is the kind of development that is taking place.
The honourable member for Macquarie said that there should be a change of government and that the Labor Party would carry on with development. I want to say that any work that I do to further the interests of the Liberal Party - for instance, in forming branches! - is to make certain that the Labour Party does not get into office. When it does, foreign investment in Australia will cease. Development will dry up. Our balance of payments situation will be affected. When our balance of payments falls, unemployment will follow. The most terrible thing that could happen to Australia would be for a Labor government to do to this country what the Wilson Labour Government has done to England. That Government has killed incentive. The whole spirit of the development presently taking place in Australia may be found first of all in the fact that there is stability in government here. This stability in government encourages private enterprise to undertake the kind of development that is going on and leads to investment coming in from overseas.
You know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that $850m was invested last year in Australia. This investment was mostly in knowhow and in the kind of machinery that we see at Hamersley. The nickel works, the aluminium works and all the other developments are the result of foreign investment that has taken place in Australia. The Australian Labor Party opposes foreign investment in Australia. In the records of Hansard is to be found a motion attacking oil development in Australia. That motion was moved by a member who has since lost his seat. He deserved to lose his seat. The Australian Labor Party said that investments in the oil industry in Australia consisted of Americans behaving like vultures picking the bones of Australian people. That kind of talk about oil has stopped because the Australian Labor Party found that, by speaking in that way, it lost support.
The Australian Labor Party has opposed foreign investment in Australia. It has opposed the development of Australia because the overseas investment and activity in this magnificent country has led to the dramatic and exciting period of our development that we now see. It has been made clear in the United States of America over the last few days that the American people hold a very high regard for Australia because Australia has stable government. We could have competition from countries such as Brazil and India in the production of iron ore. But there is really no competition because people can never tell when there will be a revolution in Brazil or when some dreadful thing will happen in India. So Australia will be the place that will develop while this kind of government is in power and while this kind of Treasurer is encouraging investment in and the development of Australia. If honourable members want to see regional development, they should go to Nowra or to Cessnock where the huge manufacturing complex of the Alcan organisation is established. If honourable members want something between Canberra and Melbourne they should consider Wagga and Albury. If they want regional development outside this area they should look at Port Hedland where, encouraged by this Government, fifty-seven major companies are operating. They know there is no risk with this kind of government in power. They know that a Labor government run by militant trade unions would wreck all hope for Australian development.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. This discussion is now concluded.
-I have received advice from the Leader of the Government in the Senate that he has appointed Senator Sim to be a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs to fill a vacancy on that Committee.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr McMahon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment to the States in 1968-69 of special revenue assistance totalling$1 4m. This includes assistance of$1 2m, which was announced at the Premiers Conference held in Canberra on 13th March and which is to be divided between the States in proportion to the financial assistance grants payable to them this year under the formula laid down in the States Grants Act 1965-1968. It also includes $2m which, following representations from the Premier of South Australia concerning the financial position of his State, the Government proposes to pay to South Australia in addition to its share of the$1 2m.
Final estimates of the financial assistance grants payable to each State in 1968-69 are not yet available. However, it can be expected, on the basis of current estimates, that the distribution of the grant of $12m will be approximately as follows:
With the proposed additional grant of $2m, the estimated amount of special assistance to South Australia would thus be $3. 35m. As these grants are non-recurring, they will not be added to the base for purposes of calculating the 1969-70 financial assistance grants.
As honourable members will be aware, the bulk of Commonwealth revenue assistance to the States is in the form of general revenue grants which increase every year under the formula laid down in the States Grants Act 1965-1968. This formula virtually ensures that, over a period of years, the grants grow at a higher rate than the economy as a whole. For 1968-69 it is currently estimated that the formula grants will amount to $995m, an increase of $88m, or 9.7%, compared to last year.
Despite the substantial estimated increase in the formula grants the States made representations to the Commonwealth before and during the Premiers Conference that they were faced with difficult Budget problems this year. They emphasised particularly the effect on their Budgets of the timing of wage awards. As the grants formula includes an element which reflects increases in wage costs, the Commonwealth did not regard increases in such costs as a ground justifying the provision of special assistance. In view of current economic trends the Commonwealth was also anxious to avoid taking any action which might stimulate a further increase in Government spending.
At the same time, the Commonwealth appreciated that the States were faced with budgetary difficulties this year and that some further Commonwealth assistance should be provided. Accordingly, it was agreed that the special assistance of $12m decided upon at the Premiers Conference in March should be made available on the understanding that it would be used to improve the States’ prospective Budget results rather than to add to State expenditure this year. As I have already indicated the decision that South Australia’s share of the $12m should be supplemented by the payment of a further $2m has been taken following representations from the Premier of South Australia. The Government considered that special budgetary difficulties being experienced in that State warrant the provision of this additional help. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 14 May (vide page 1786), on motion by Mr Hulme:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not intend to oppose this Bill because we consider that at last the Government is taking a step in the right direction in respect of the main part of the Bill which deals with broadcasting licences. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), in his second reading speech, said: . . the existing provisions relating to broadcasting stations-
This is as against television stations - which have remained virtually unchanged since 1942, have, in the light of developments, proved to be not only inadequate but leave open ways for the evasion of the basic intentions of the provisions. In consequence, there has been an increasing trend towards a concentration of control arising from transactions in shares in licensee companies or in companies which are themselves shareholders in licensee companies.
This is one aspect of the legislation. A second section deals with the licensing of a new kind of television station known as a repeater station. The third alteration which this Bill makes deals with the broadcasting of certain matter at election times.
This provision of the Bill is designed to cover situations such as the conflict that arose when a by-election was held in one State and a general election was held coincidental^ in another State. These are the three matters that are encompassed in the Bill.
The introduction of television, of course, has had a tremendous impact upon broadcasting. It is interesting to note from the tables that are supplied in the twentieth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that year by year the total revenue of commercial broadcasting stations continues to rise. Of course, at one stage revenue from broadcasting was far greater than revenue from television, and I think the point at which they were approximately the same was between 1959-60 and 1960-61 when the total revenues of commercial broadcasting and commercial television were each in the region of $20m. However, whilst revenue from commercial broadcasting has increased from $20m to almost $28m for the year ended June 1967, revenue from commercial television has risen astronomically from $20m to over $66m. So now the aggregate revenue from commercial television is almost 2i times as great as that from commercial broadcasting. However, commercial broadcasting is still significant, in regard to both aggregate revenue and the profit which it earns. In fact, according to the same table of statistics from which I have quoted, commercial broadcasting had a net profit of $6,727,000 on a revenue of slightly less than $28m, which means a net return of the order of 25%. Television is not quite so lucrative, because on a base of $66m the net profit was $9.5m, which is a net return of 15% on gross revenue as against a net return of 25% for commercial broadcasting. So commercial broadcasting is still significant both in terms of aggregate revenue and the return which it gives to people who invest in it.
There were 111 commercial broadcasting stations in operation at 30th June 1967, of which 107 made a profit and 4 showed a loss. On the other hand, there were 42 television stations in operation, of which 33 made a profit and 9 showed a loss for the year ended 30th June 1967. Appendix H at the end of the twentieth annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control
Board shows how broadcasting licences are held by certain newspaper interests operating in Australia. A few minutes ago an honourable member referred to the United States of America. I should think that the relationship which exists in this country between commercial broadcasting and also commercial television and the newspapers, if it existed in the United States could well be the subject of anti-trust legislation, in that an attempt has been made to monopolise more than one of the mediums of communication. As yet we do not have that kind of legislation in Australia.
When commercial broadcasting was first introduced newspapers rushed in to take up most of the available licences. Similarly, when commercial television came into operation, newspapers also became the principal shareholders in the metropolitan stations which were first established. I suppose that some economies of scale are obtained in this way. After all, one can have news gathering media employed both in the newspaper field and in the broadcasting and television field, although the tendency is to have separate staffs; to be, in essence, separate operations. But this question of control is a significant one. The Postmaster-General has endeavoured to overcome the present position which, as he said, has remained virtually unchanged since 1942. He has certainly come in quicker, so far as television is concerned, because I suppose one should strike before too much damage is done. When action was taken with respect to television stations, a 5% holding by one company in another company was taken as being one of dangerous control, but when it comes to the amendments which we are considering to the broadcasting section of the Broadcasting and Television Act, a holding of 15% is regarded as the test for control by one broadcasting station of another broadcasting station. Perhaps the Minister will explain to us later why 15% has been chosen in the case of broadcasting rather than 5% which has been chosen in the case of television.
I appreciate the difficulty sometimes of unscrambling what has already become scrambled. There are some broadcasting groups which will infringe the new provisions in the Act. The Postmaster-General said that it is not possible, as it were, to undo that; that we have to accept what is happening and we can legislate only for what might happen. I think the position is that most of the groups which are already engaged in broadcasting and television are not likely to vacate the field. There will be permanently a degree of concentration of control, which I think is indicated to some extent in appendix H which appears on page 122 and subsequent pages of the Broadcasting Control Board’s report. The interests are listed as follows: Advertiser Newspapers Ltd, which publishes the ‘Advertiser’ in Adelaide; the Australian Consolidated Press group, which publishes the ‘Daily Telegraph’ in Sydney; Davies Bros Ltd, which publishes the ‘Mercury’ in Hobart; John Fairfax Ltd, which publishes the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’; the Herald and Weekly Times Ltd, which publishes the ‘Herald’ in Melbourne; News Ltd, which publishes the News’ in Adelaide; Queensland Press Ltd, which publishes the ‘Courier Mail’ in Brisbane; and West Australian Newspapers Ltd, which publishes the ‘West Australian’ in Perth. Then there is listed a number of quite significant provincial newspapers which have considerable holdings in more than one broadcasting and television station.
An attempt is now being made to prevent one interest from having control of metropolitan broadcasting stations in more than four States. This would seem to prohibit the establishment of a national empire. Interests have to choose in which four of the six States they wish to acquire holdings. Of course, an interest could choose Melbourne and Sydney as two of the capital cities in which to acquire holdings, and these two cities effectively cover between them approximately two-thirds of the Australian population. Other cities are not quite as significant relatively. Cities in Tasmania are relatively small by comparison, say, with either Sydney or Melbourne. Under this Bill an organisation is not to have interests in more than eight commercial broadcasting stations in Australia. Presumably that means that an organisation could have broadcasting stations in four of the capital cities and in four country areas in one or more of the States. Again, this provision in the Bill seems to be a move in the right direction, but why could it not have been made a sort of divesting process so that organisations which infringe the new law could, perhaps, be given a breathing space of 12 months. They could be asked to sell off their interests in that period in order to comply with the spirit of the new legislation.
The other question about which we on this side of the House have some reservations is that it would still seem possible to have interlocking arrangements which, perhaps, are not covered in the Bill. Ostensibly there could be one group, let us say, with four stations in the capital cities and four stations in country areas. There could be another group which had interests in four capital cities - and obviously two of the cities would have to be the same, and there might be some overlapping arrangements - and interests in four other stations elsewhere. In essence, it would be a national chain rather than one that was confined to the four cities only. Elsewhere in this report there is reference to what is described as the Macquarie network and another network - 1 think described as the Major network. I should like the Minister to indicate what steps have been taken to avoid this interlocking sort of arrangement whereby a person may have 15% of the ownership of stations G and H, but stations G and H may have a 15% ownership in stations C and D which are part of a group of stations A, B, C, D, and so on. This situation is a little intricate and one almost needs a chart to follow the kind of interlocking arrangement that can take place.
Most of us now feel that broadcasting does not monopolise the mass media as it used to do and that the more important influence these days is television because people tend to spend more hours intensely watching television than they spend in what often seems to be casually listening to broadcasting stations. It is true that the whole pattern of broadcasting has changed to adapt itself to the relative competition of television, although often the people who are competing are literally of the same interests. We get the curious spectacle of the night programmes of a television station being advertised on the day programmes of a radio station and vice versa. Even when inevitably - and it sometimes seems never - television transmission ceases, the viewer is told that if he wants to continue listening he can tune to some radio station that is broad” casting all night. So there are these handy inter-station announcements that encourage a person to listen to one group of radio stations and watch one television channel.
The statistics contained in the 20th report of the Broadcasting Control Board relating to advertising are of some interest. On page 51 appears what is called a pi diagram giving the composition of programmes of all metropolitan commercial broadcasting stations between November 1967 and May 1968. It shows that of the total time, 14.7%, which is near enough to oneseventh of the total time, was taken up in advertising; 46.7%, which is slightly more than three-sevenths of the total time, was taken up in what is described as light entertainment; and 8.8% was taken up in what is described vaguely as incidental matter. Between them, light entertainment, incidental matter and advertising took up over two-thirds of the total time of commercial broadcasting in the metropolitan areas of Australia. Of the little time that remained 4.7% was given to what is described as family information, the arts and education, without there being any categorisation as to how much was family information, how much was arts and how much was education. Current affairs took 6.7% of the total time, news services 9.8% and sport 6%.
An interesting feature in recent times has been the relative increase in news services on commercial broadcasting. It seems to be an adaptation to the ravages of television. We get more news in the daytime. We get news flashes every quarter of an hour or every half an hour. We get news sessions of at least 5 minutes duration almost every hour of the day. The proportion of news on commercial broadcasting has risen considerably over the years. In fact, a summary of broadcasting programmes of commercial stations in all capital cities combined shows that the news and sport categories have increased from 13.6% of the total broadcasting time in 1964-65 to 15.8% in 1967-68, and the increase is mainly in the news section. I do not want to say anything today about advertising on broadcasting stations, because I must confess that except for The Labor Hour’ on station 3K.Z very rarely do I listen to a commercial broadcasting station at all.
– Why do you listen to that programme?
– I sometimes feature on it myself and there are also some other interesting speakers. The session is not hindered by advertisements during the whole of the hour. It would seem to me that advertising on commercial broadcasting is less offensive than advertising on television, because one cannot see it; one can only listen to it. I sometimes wish that those very wise gentlemen in the advertising field who claim to know so much about what they think everybody will do from the stimulus that they give via their advertising would wake up to the fact that a lot of advertising, on television in particular, is highly offensive in the way it is done and in the way it is intruded, quite apart from the subject matter of the advertisements. However, I do not want to go into that this evening. I sometimes think that some advertiser on a commercial radio station or on a commercial television programme would do great credit to himself if he allowed the session to run for an hour and put his advertisements on at the end rather than interspersing them through the programme. That is a suggestion that I make as a humble layman who mostly watches the ABC stations for the simple reason that their programmes are not interrupted by commercial notices.
The other matter contained in this legislation which is of some interest is the question of the new type of television station. This is an interesting development and in many respects, while normally I would not applaud this sort of venture, there is something to be said for the idea of the Australian Mining Industry Council taking a limited sort of programme to areas that are at the moment inaccessible, mainly for cost reasons, to commercial and national programmes. The reason given for the new proposal - and I think it is quite a worthy one - is that many of the mining ventures, which are essential to the future development of Australia, have to take place in areas that are relatively remote. Naturally enough, many people who want to be employed in those areas want to have their families with them if at all possible. Often there is an inability for families to go. perhaps because of the lack of educational facilities, perhaps because of the lack of cultural facilities and perhaps because of the lack of entertainment facilities. At least an attempt is being made here to bring to such areas programmes on a limited sort of basis. Perhaps the Minister would outline the hours of programming that are envisaged. He might also explain the provision relating to the regulating of advertising matter on such programmes. This provision is contained in Division 5b in proposed new section 105g sub-section (3.), which states:
The conditions upon which a licence for a television repeater station is granted may include conditions as to the televising of advertisements.
Because the areas are relatively remote and because the number of potential viewers will be comparatively small I do not think it will be an advertising bonanza for anybody and that the greater part of the cost of the transactions will have to be borne by the mining industry groups themselves. They see it - I think they are right in this - as a means of holding family groups in the areas they are developing and perhaps as a means of getting permanent settlement in those areas. This is a practical move in the direction of decentralisation about which we heard so much here this afternoon. Sometimes it is in these rather unspectacular developments that we find practical ways of bridging some of the disparities that exist between the advantages of families living in one area and those in another. I am pleased to see that for the most part the programmes will be ones that are also to be seen on Australian Broadcasting Commission television. Sensibly enough the Minister is linking these with the provision of some other services which the national system is endeavouring to bring to outlying areas.
In the course of his speech the Minister indicated that at the moment, while the majority of Australia’s population is covered by television, there are still very large areas with not insignificant numbers of people such as parts of the electorate of my friend the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) which do not have much hope at all of getting television programmes except perhaps on this basis. He said:
The present position is that when the current sixth stage of development is completed during 1969-70 a coverage of the order of 96% of the population will have been achieved. The remaining 4% of the population is widely distributed over about 85% of the total land area.
This simply highlights the difficulty there is in Australia of endeavouring to cover th: continent as a whole when we have relatively few people. At least this proposal will do something to bring the benefits or otherwise - the blandishments or the blarney - of television to the bush as well as to the city. I am sure that the injection will be much more effective through the national system than it would have been if programmes were provided by commercial stations. I have always thought it would have been a good thing for Australia if television had started on the pattern of the British Broadcasting Commission, with only one sort of programme for a long time and with people’s tastes perhaps being more subtly weaned instead of being brutally ravaged in the way in which services were brought to Australia. We tended to have the most of the worst and the least of the best.
I come finally to the varying of the broadcasting of material, both on radio and television, during election time. All that is being done is to correct an anomaly which I think it was well to correct. We had the spectacle recently where coincidentally there were by-elections in Western Australia and Queensland and because of the 3-day embargo it was not possible to broadcast anything in Queensland about the Western Australian election that was held a week later. I think that roughly that was the story. The provision in the Bill seems to me to be a sensible enough compromise. If there is a State election, let us say, in Tasmania or Victoria it should not matter much if material is broadcast in Queensland or Western Australia. It is not likely to affect the result in either Victoria or Tasmania. It is a different argument, of course, when there is a nationwide election - a Federal election for either the House of Representatives or the Senate or, as happens occasionally, for both. There is a case for uniformity there.
But at least my Party approves of the general intent not to remove the 3-day embargo that still exists because we feel that the use of television, particularly commercial television, gives the advantage to those who have the most money to spend. That is not necessarily a democratic way of facing up to the problem.
If all television stations, commercial or national, had to give equal time and enough equal time to parties, and that time was free, it might not matter so much; but at the moment the commercial stations give a very limited amount of time. I think all time on commercial stations has to be paid for and there is no limit to the time if one is willing to pay for it. That does not seem to me to be the way in which a nation should decide its elections. I think an election is an important event in a democratic community, that it ought to be held in a reasonably civilised manner and that it should not be approached as bits of advertisements on normal programmes on commercial television. I thought that at the last election most of the advertising material presented on commercial stations by all parties was pretty poor and 1 doubt whether in the long run it had a very decisive effect on the result of the election. Nevertheless, it is a medium which, if properly used, could convey to the people quite important matters of national interest and the sorts of issues that arise at election time. But the approach ought not to be that one can sell elections the same as one can sell soap or toothpaste. That is a dangerous attitude to enocurage in any democratic community.
One fault still to be found with commercial television in particular, it seems to me, is that it does not seem confident enough to encourage discussion of public issues. Most of what is done tends to be late at night or at some peculiar hour during the day. Very little is done on commercial television that could be equated, say, ‘Four Corners’ or ‘This Day Tonight’ or some of the documentary material that appears on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Perhaps ‘Project *68’ approaches the standard. There are one or two panel sessions on a couple of the Melbourne stations, but it seems to me that they are thrown into rather odd slots and are not at the best hours of the night. Most of the time they come on when one has had enough and is preparing to turn the television set off.
However, we welcome the correction of this anomaly and we are glad that the Government has not been persuaded by the opinion of some of its own supporters that the whole embargo should go, that it is incongruous that one may have advertisements in the daily Press but not on the commercial broadcasting or commercial television stations after midnight on the Wednesday before an election. We see no great hardship in that. We see no great favouring of one media at the expense of another; we think it is a good thing that the embargo was applied and that it still does apply. At least it is sensible to remove what was a rather odd anomaly.
– I agree with practically everything the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) said about broadcasting at election time. However, I would like to see this restriction extended to advertising in the mass media. Surely the same arguments which have resulted in a restriction on the advertising on television or radio from the Wednesday night before the day of an election apply with equal force to advertising in the Press on the last couple of days, particularly when sometimes there is a nasty bit put in on the Saturday morning, which would be better done without. This Bill does not have anything in it that is particularly contentious. It does tidy up some of the provisions that have been in existence in the broadcasting field for quite a long time, mainly by bringing in the controlling interest that finance has in the conduct of stations.
I wonder what would happen in the event of one station wanting to move into the field of frequency modulation. At present each company is limited to not more than one metropolitan commercial broadcasting station in any one State. If one of the stations decided to give the public a greatly improved reception by the use of frequency modulation, would this Bill require that the company have another broadcasting station? Would the company be contravening the provisions of the Act? Is the Government preventing stations from bringing in frequency modulation at a time when they are rather effectively debarred by the Act from putting it in for the benefit of the viewers. There are so many advantages in frequency modulation over amplitude modulation that I cannot understand why we do not have it in this country. The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), in a statement made to this House on 6th June last year, set out some of the reasons why his Department or the Government is not prepared to allow or put in frequency modulation and why it is not prepared to go back to the trial system which was previously operating - but operating in a very haphazard way. It is of little use introducing a new form of broadcasting unless it is done in an organised way. At the time when the frequency modulation tests which the Postmaster-General’s Department claimed it had done were carried out there was no advertising and no programme was issued. We did not know what we were to get. All that was done was to test the actual method of broadcasting.
Anyone who listens to his television receiver in the off periods, say on Sunday morning, or while the set is warming up, will appreciate the terrific difference there is in the quality of sound that is produced in those periods as compared with the sound which comes from their radio. I do not propose to query any of the things which the Postmaster-General set out in his statement of 6th June, although when I read it I queried a number of items and doubted whether the philosophy which he propounded then was in fact a true representation of the case. Following upon his statement the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) spoke extensively on the advantages of frequency modulation, and in concluding his speech he moved this amendment:
That the following words be added to the motion: ‘and that in the opinion of this House a select committee should be appointed to inquire into all aspects of frequency modulation broadcasting.’
There was no more discussion about that. That was the end of it. It then went on to the notice paper. It stayed on the notice paper until a couple of weeks ago. I have been hopeful all the time that one of these days it would come back into this House for discussion. I think that the Leader of the House was responsible for its removal from the notice paper. I do not know what his instructions were or where they came from. But I am very surprised that the Leader of the Opposition did not raise some objection to this action, because it means that his amendment has been disregarded. As a matter of fact I was in my room when I heard the item being deleted and I grabbed a couple of pieces of paper and I raced down here but I was too late. The deletion had gone through. This is the reason why I am saying a few words in favour of frequency modulation in our broadcasting stations. I still believe that there should be a committee of inquiry set up to thoroughly examine this question to see whether it is possible to introduce something which so many people all over the world have found to be of very great advantage but which is denied to all Australian listeners.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Failes)Order! I remind the honourable member that frequency modulation is not a subject under this Bill.
– Broadcasting is. We are talking about the licensing of broadcasting stations and broadcasting stations - as I will explain in a minute - are quite capable of using either frequency modulation or amplitude modulation. They are still broadcasting stations, and the people who own them and have investments in them are the same people-
-The honourable member might make a passing reference to frequency modulation, but I fail to see that it has any connection with this Bill.
– You allowed the honourable member for Melbourne Ports to talk about programmes and that had nothing to do with this Bill either. I am talking about programmes in exactly the same way as he did. I maintain that I have every right to refer to this, particularly because this is something-
-The Chair will not allow the honourable member to proceed with his remarks on frequency modulation which is not a matter for consideration at the moment by the House.
– In deference to your ruling Mr Deputy Speaker I will leave out the words ‘frequency modulation*. But I point out that many industry leaders have indicated that there should be some changes in the form of broadcasting which is available to the people of Australia. The people who have licences to operate broadcasting stations do so under regulations made by this Government, but the people who build these stations for the people who own them believe that the people of Australia would be better served by having a different system of actual broadcasting of the material that goes out from the studio. The chairman of Amalgamated Wireless Australia has gone on record as saying that to introduce the new system would be for programmes of existing stations to be transmitted simultaneously with the programmes that they are doing now. All they would do would be to put out a wave which goes along on a particular type of modulation and which has a very bad effect because it is subject to distortion and to all man-made interference which we are all so familiar with on our radios. By using a different form of sending out a message it would only be necessary to install transmitters and aerials which would give a different form to the waves that are sent over the air. They would be sent out at a very high frequency and would be received by people on receivers that would have to be adapted so that they would accept the new wavelength on which these messages were sent.
But I want to bring to the notice of the House the fact that industry leaders have unanimously endorsed the need for a change in the method of broadcasting. 1 have mentioned the Chairman of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd. He points out that we could have broadcasting that was not subject to fading. The Postmaster-General has made quite a feature of the fact that his Department wants to serve the people in the outback. The Department is even putting in sufficient television transmitter stations to provide television services for 98% of the Australian public. It intends to spend $5m on extending existing television services to a very limited number of people, but a lot of the people in those areas have the greatest difficulty in hearing the ordinary radio broadcasts from existing radio stations. It is worth while mentioning that Mr Ferris, Deputy Chairman of Ferris Industries Ltd, a name not unknown in radio, has gone on record as saying that he spends his annual summer vacations on the Pittwater, Cowan and Hawskbury waterways, and that these are good places to have a holiday except for unsatisfactory radio reception. He says that this season there have been periods extending for more than 24 hours when it has been impossible to receive even one Sydney broadcasting station. What is the use of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department putting a buffer against the introduction of a technique which is used in fifty other countries but which is denied to Australia?
The leaders of the industry have put the case for frequency modulation broadcasting in Australia in their own words in a publication entitled ‘The Views of Industry Leaders. A Digest of FM Facts’. One person who has contributed an article to this publication is the Managing Director of EMI (Aust.) Ltd. That company has done a lot of work in equipping radio stations and it knows the sort of service that should be made available to the people of Australia. It knows that frequency modulation broadcasting is something that the people of Australia want. The Chairman of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd has said that fifty countries operate the improved form of modulation broadcasting. There are 1,850 such stations in the United States alone. These countries have not introduced this system without there being some call for it.
The call for it was outlined by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) in his speech. He limits his listening on the wireless to the ‘Labor Hour’ and to the national stations. I exclude the ‘Labor Hour’ from my listening and I. find that the commercial stations are awfully hard to take for the reason given by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. They interrupt their programmes with advertising when the people do not want it. It is an offence to their ear?. Advertising on television is most decidedly an offence to our intelligence. I have quite often turned off a television programme in the middle of it because I just could not put up with the nonsense that was thrust at me in an endeavour to sell me some supporting garments that I do not need and some cigarettes that I do not use. A big section of the public is fed up with the present programmes that are broadcast because of the advertising matter that is used.
There are many occasions when crackling and interference makes listening unbearable and when fading makes listening impossible. Some nights at my house we still have duplication of broadcasts, in spite of efforts that have been made by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to overcome this problem. Other stations, particularly those in New South Wales, impinge on our programmes. This is the sort of thing that prevents people from enjoying radio at us best. It would appear from the types of programmes which are broadcast by the commercial stations that the demand today is for noise, noise, noise and for the jazz band type of music. These programmes are supposed to be aimed at the most affluent section of our society, the people who spend the most money, the youths. They are asked by these advertisements to live it up. They are told that things go better with Coca-Cola and all that sort of thing and they are induced to spend their money. The quality of the music does not matter.
However, there is an enormous number of people who want to hear good music. We need only reflect on the fact that Dr Floyd’s programme is still going after an enormously long run. As far as I know, no other programme has had such a long run. People want to hear this good music. It is music people can listen to without their ears being shaken, and it is music that does not jangle the nerves. One of the best ways that the Government could help to provide good programmes for the people of Australia would be to extend the services that broadcasting stations are allowed to give so that programmes could be broadcast free from interference. We would have the pleasure of receiving top level, really properly recorded stereophonic music and we cannot get it with the present broadcasting system. In addition adequate radio reception would be possible in diffiCUlt country areas.
My purpose having been served by bringing these facts to the notice of the Government, I want to conclude by skipping through the publication I have mentioned. I have mentioned the Chairman of Amalgamated Wireless (A’asia) Ltd. Others who contributed to it are the Managing Director of EMI (Australia) Ltd, the Managing Director of Electronic Industries Ltd, the Managing Director of Electrosound Pty Ltd - a company that is particularly concerned with really high quality receivers - the Deputy Chairman of Ferris Industries Ltd, the Managing Director of Kriesler Australasia Pty Ltd, the General Manager of Mullard-Australia Pty Ltd, the Managing Director of Philips Electrical Pty Ltd, the Director and Genera! Manager of Philips Telecommunications of Australia Ltd, the General Divisional Manager of Plessey Pacific Pty Ltd, the Managing Director of Pye Industries Ltd, and the General Manager of Home Electronics Division of Thorn Electrical Industries (Australia) Pty Ltd. These people have presented their case to the Postmaster-General. I trust that he is studying it and that he will do something about it. They are the most highly qualified people in their field in this country. It is incomprehensible that no notice should have been taken of their plea to give Australia frequency modulation. Apparently the only way for Australia to get frequency modulation, except by the grace of the PostmasterGeneral, is to have a committee, as was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, inquire fully into all aspects of the matter. Such a committee could ascertain the demand for frequency modulation and could obtain technical advice of the highest order. Having made a decision the committee could report to the Parliament.
I regret that the opportunity for a full scale debate on the subject of frequency modulation is not possible because the Order of the Day dealing with this subject has been discharged. The Government seems bent on getting away from Canberra as quickly as possible - by the end of next week. The notice paper contains a few piffling Bills and many ministerial statements. Several honourable members would like to speak on all of those ministerial statements but the opportunity will be denied them. The motion relating to frequency modulation broadcasting was discharged from the notice paper on 1st May. In seeking to discharge that motion and a number of others the Government very nearly discharged the motion relating to the report of the Tariff Board but in deference to some noises made by certain honourable members it was allowed to remain on the notice paper. What will happen to ali of these orders of the day if the Government insists on finishing the session next week? We have been advised that we may be required to sit on Friday of next week. I do not want that to happen. If we cannot get through our business in a reasonable time we should sit for a further week.
– The Bill seeks to insert in the Broadcasting and Television Act a provision which in my opinion could be of considerable importance and benefit to remote areas of this country. I refer to the proposal to establish television repeater stations. There could easily be some confusion as to the difference between repeater stations and translator stations, which are already provided for in the Act. The Act defines a translator station in these terms: television translator station’ means a station for the transmission by means of wireless telegraphy of television programmes, being a station of low operating power and designed to receive and retransmit signals from a television station, or from another television translator station, without substantially altering any characteristic of the signals other than their frequencies and amplitudes.
The Bill defines a television repeater station in these terms: television repeater station’ means a station for the transmission by means of wireless telegraphy of television programmes, being a station of low operating power and designed to transmit only programmes recorded on magnetic tape.
It will be seen that translator stations and repeater stations are stations of low power with the means to transmit television programmes by wireless telegraphy. But whereas a translator station is designed to receive and transmit signals from a high power television station or another translator station, a repeater station will transmit only programmes recorded on magnetic tape. It appears to me that repeater stations will be virtually what were previously referred to as package stations. These were described as stations to be set up in areas or towns of small population. They would transmit programmes mainly made up of local content. They were to be commercial stations. The difficulty was that the package station had to be licensed and the Act laid down that any person or company could control no more than two licences. It was ruled that the company which supplied programmes for the package station would have control of the programme content and type of that station and would therefore be judged as being in control of the station. As a result commercial companies operating a station in the metropolitan area were not prepared to use their second licence in a country centre where the revenue would do no more than meet operating costs. As the Government would not alter the Act the idea of package stations fell through, and I am not arguing very much about that.
As far as Western Australia is concerned the two centres which certain companies had in mind for the establishment of package stations have for some time been listed to be provided with a national television service. I refer to Kalgoorlie and Geraldton. My latest advice, which I accept, is that stations will commence operations in those areas towards the end of this year or early next year. Those centres will each have at least one station. I am very pleased for the people of Kalgoorlie and Geraldton. I am proud to have been able to play at least some small part in bringing television to those areas.
Syndicates of local people and perhaps others in both centres have been interested for some time in establishing commercial television stations in the towns. I understand that applications in this respect have been made to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Before the decision was made to establish national stations in these towns a decision had to be made as to whether companies operating commercial stations would be able to function economically. In some quarters it was feared that they may not and that if the companies failed the stations would close down and the public would be left with television sets and antennas which would have no value. This was an important aspect and deserved very serious consideration.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The House is debating the Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2). Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the fact that companies bad decided to establish commercial television stations in Geraldton and Kalgoorlie. I was drawing attention to the fears which were associated with the suggestion made a few years ago that package stations be set up in those centres. As I said earlier, it was feared that the stations might not be able to continue operating on an economic basis and would have to close down. The result would have been that members of the public would be left with television sets and antennas for which they probably had not paid and which would be of no use to them. I said that that was a matter which had to be considered in the interests of the general public before a package station was permitted to commence operations. But with the certainty of a national television station in the area, the fear I referred to earlier no longer exists. Therefore, the general public will not suffer if a commercial station were to commence operations and for economic reasons was unable to continue.
I do not suggest that the companies which are at present interested in establishing television stations could not continue their operations at a profit; they are quite confident that they can. Therefore, unless there is some technical reason why licences or permission should not be granted - and I am no authority on this aspect - I would hope that the companies should receive favourable consideration of their applications. There is no need for me to point out that it is far better to have two stations than one; in other words, it is far better to have some choice of programmes. If this were not so there would not be need for more than one television station in each capital city. Therefore, if a decision has not already been taken, I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) to give the companies to which I have referred favourable consideration if that is at all possible.
Earlier I referred to the local content of programmes televised by package stations and the difficulties in relation to licences. These problems seem to have been overcome by the provision in the Bill that the holder of the licence will be not only able to transmit local content programmes but also, if he so desires, programmes obtained from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This will mean that the viewer will be able to watch a much better type of programme. Clause 1 1 of the Bill states:
The Commission may make available to a television repeater station, on such terms and conditions as are agreed upon between the Commission and the holder of the television repeater station licence, such programmes of the Commission as the Commission thinks fit
Admittedly the Commission is not obliged to make programmes available, but if it does it will be the type of programme that the Commission thinks is the best and most fitting. Certain terms will be applied, which is fair enough. I do not think that we need have any fears on that score. I would certainly be surprised if the companies concerned ran into any insurmountable problems in that regard. Therefore, the problems regarding the control of the stations and the use of the second licence have, as I said earlier, been resolved to some extent.
The Bill does not say whether the licence holder of a repeater station will be permitted to obtain programmes from a commercial station. I would like the PostmasterGeneral to make it clear whether, as was ruled with what I term package stations, the company providing the programmes to the repeater station will be judged to be in control of the station or whether a different situation arises in this particular instance requiring a different application of the rules. In other words, will the Postmaster-General say whether programmes can be obtained from commercial sources without infringing the terms of the Broadcasting and Television Act? Whilst I am fairly happy with the provisions of the Bill generally and with what this legislation will mean to those living in the isolated areas, there are a couple of provisions about which I am doubtful. I feel that if these provisions are carried out to the full extent they might unnecessarily and perhaps unfairly undo some of the benefits that will otherwise flow from the Bill. I refer to clause 10 of the Bill, which states:
The Board shall not recommend that a licence be granted for a television repeater station if, in the opinion of the Board, satisfactory reception of television programmes from a television station or a television translator station is being obtained in the area in which the signals from that television repeater station are designed to be satisfactorily received.
The clause also provides:
The Minister may, by notice in writing to the holder of a television repeater station licence, suspend or revoke the licence where he is satisfied that any of the following grounds exist, namely: (a) that the area in which the signals from the station are designed to be satisfactorily received is an area in which satisfactory reception of television programmes from a television station or a television translator station is being obtained;
This would mean that if a certain area- a mining centre for instance - were receiving what the Board considered to be satisfactory reception from a commercial station, a company interested in transmitting ABC programmes would not be given a licence. As a result, the viewers in that area - unless the Government set up a national station - would not have any choice but to look at the commercial programmes. I cannot talk with any great experience of the commercial or national television programmes, because there is no television coverage in my home town. But from what I have seen, I consider that there is much more value in the programmes of the national stations from the serious side - education, news and general feature programmes - than in those of the commercial stations. Therefore I feel that people should not be denied the choice of viewing some national programmes if they are offered.
The same situation applies to some extent where a commercial station is established subsequent to the repeater station being set up. Where that occurs the PostmasterGeneral may, as I have indicated by quoting from the Bill, revoke the licence of the repeater station. I can well understand his taking such action if the second station is a national station, but if it is a commercial station I hope the Postmaster-General will not take any action to revoke the licence of a repeater station which is to some extent televising national programmes. If such a station were not making use of the facilities available to it under this legislation and not obtaining programmes from the ABC the Postmaster-General could have good reason for revoking its licence. But I do not like the provision in clause 10 which leaves the Australian Broadcasting Control Board no option but to refuse to recommend a licence for a repeater station if the area concerned is receiving reception from a commercial station.
This Bill also contains a provision whereby the conditions under which a licence for a television repeater station is granted may include conditions as to the televising of advertisements. This brings back to mind my probings and examinations of means by which television could be brought to Kalgoorlie and Geraldton during the time when the then Postmaster-General was giving us very little hope that national stations would ever be approved for those areas because of the cost factor and also the little revenue that would be obtained from licences. At that time I asked whether the allowing of advertisements in such circumstances would assist the situation. The Postmaster-General - I am not sure whether the present Postmaster-General held the portfolio at that time - implied that it was not the policy of the Government to allow advertising on national stations and it would not move from that policy. I must admit that I was fairly solidly in that corner also.
Because of the virtual certainty that national programmes will be largely used and because, as 1 see it anyway, the people who will seek licenses for the repeater stations will be companies such as those engaged in the mining of iron ore, nickel and so on, and as these repeater stations will be set up in isolated centres, I am wondering what type of advertising the Government has in mind that may be considered suitable. I could not see the local business people wanting to advertise unless the cost was very minor. I could not see why the mining company concered with providing the service would want to advertise its products. But 1 do realise and appreciate that advertisements of a local nature and of local interest relating to social events, local activities and such matters could be of value as information to the viewers. Perhaps it is to this field that the Government is looking in seeing some need for advertising. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral either in reply to this debate or during the Committee stages will give us some indication in that regard.
As the Postmaster-General has said in his second reading speech, the provision for the establishment of repeater stations can be used with a lot of advantage by mining companies which are mining in remote areas. For instance, we have the sites of Mount Tom Price, Mount Newman, Dampier, Goldsworthy, Yampi and Cockatoo and Koolan Islands. There seems no reason why all the companies operating in those areas should not be interested because each and every one of them suffers from a considerable labour turnover. This occurs because of climatic conditions, the isolation of the areas and so on. This labour turnover is a rather costly exercise and particularly so in areas as remote as are those to which I have referred. No doubt can exist that television would encourage people, particularly families, to remain there, and over some years I imagine that the cost of the television station and its maintenance would be offset greatly by the saving in labour turnover. I for one will be greatly disappointed if the companies in these areas do not take advantage of what this Bill proposes.
With regard to the Kambalda nickel and Scotia nickel operations which, it is expected, will be beyond the range of the proposed station at Kalgoorlie, it could be that they can be better served by a translator station which, as I said earlier, receives and transmits signals from another station. If they could be served in such a manner, of course it would mean that they would receive or could receive exactly the same programme as would be received by people in Kalgoorlie, except, I suppose, that if a commercial company obtained permission and a licence to set up a station in Kalgoorlie it would not be able to transmit to those other places over the one translator station. I take it that the proposals for a television service at North West Cape, reported to be a joint American Navy and Commonwealth Government study, also could be along the same lines as a repeater station, although I cannot imagine the Americans being satisfied with anything but the best - and good luck to them.
At the moment, there is one other matter about which I wish to speak. This is the establishment of other stations to which the Minister referred in his second reading speech. The Minister pointed out that, with the completion of the current sixth phase, 96% of the population of Australia will be able to receive television transmission. This is so. I am not suggesting for a moment that it is not. That leaves only 4% of the population unable to receive television transmission. But that leaves a lot of area not covered by television. Because of the area and distances involved, coverage for some or most of these areas can and will be a problem. But these are problems which will need to be faced up to and solved. It could be that, if the Government joins with some companies to provide repeater stations in the less populous centres, this may be a means towards providing at least a reasonable service. If I may be excused for mentioning again the electorate of Kalgoorlie, parts of which are very sparsely populated, 1 would point out that there are still several centres beyond those to which the Minister referred in his statement last Thursday which are quite important and which must receive consideration. I refer to such places as Meekatharra, and others on the Murchison as well as coastal towns above Port Hedland and, of course, Kununurra. Derby, for instance, must warrant early consideration. But if these towns will be required to wait for the extension of the coaxial cable beyond Port Hedland which, I understand, at the moment is the target - they will have a wait of several years. Surely, in the meantime, they could be served by repeater stations in the same way as companies apparently are expected to bring television to people within the town areas of the location of those repeater stations?
The Postmaster-General has told us that the most recent extensions to which he has referred will be provided at a cost of S5m and will serve approximately 1 10,000 people and some twenty-seven new centres - new, that is, so far as television is concerned. As to the cost, 1 appreciate that no doubt the amount of $5m does not include the cost of coaxial cable or microwave links. But, even so, I do not think anyone can complain because $5m is to be spent to bring television to a number of people in remote areas. Neither do 1 think that we can complain if a far greater amount is spent to bring television to a much smaller number of people in even more remote and distant areas of Australia. All those people are playing a very big and important part in relation to the development and retention of population in outlying areas. We must be prepared to appreciate that fact and to act accordingly. Therefore, we must continue to pursue the further extension of television to these areas even if it does mean a cost that in normal circumstances would never be acceptable.
No doubt, the people living in those centres in Western Australia which, the Minister said last week, will get television would wish me to express their appreciation that a decision has been made in their favour. We hope that most of them will receive a service in the fairly near future and that the 4 years to which the Minister referred in some instances will not apply to Western Australia or that, if it does, every effort will be made to reduce that waiting period. Finally, while the Minister did not mention Morawa in his statement last week, I know that he told me some time ago that a service there could not be determined until there was some experience of the station at Mingenew. I expect that this could most likely mean that at least one translator station would be required to transmit a programme to that particular centre. We can only wait, as the Postmaster-General has said, until we have some experience of the situation at Mingenew. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I welcome the Bill.
- Mr Speaker, the Broadcasting and Television Bill (No. 2) has certain elements in it which I think clearly indicate the concern of the Government for certain fundamental matters associated with the mass media. One element is, of course, that it does not become the monopoly of any particular group of people. However, I am not concerned so much with the actual provisions of the Bill as I am with the prediction that the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) made when he presented the Bill, that possibly he would make an announcement in the near future concerning additional television facilities for the remote areas which I together with the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) and other members in this House represent.
I suppose that the life of a Minister is very demanding. If it is the PostmasterGeneral, he must have a very thick hide and be prepared for many uncomfortable evenings. He will be the recipient of perhaps a greater degree of criticism than most Ministers. It is with very much pleasure that I bring home to the members of this House, most of whom do not have an intimate idea of the great outback of this nation, just what the provision of these 38 television stations will mean to the many, many thousands of people who are playing, as the honourable member for Kalgoorlie mentioned only some minutes ago, such a vital role in the life of this nation. I refer to the production which matters the most, the production that builds up our overseas credits and establishes our economy.
I would say - I suppose I can speak with some authority as 13 of these 38 stations are to be established in my electorate - that a tremendous wave of appreciation swept the State of Queensland when it was learned that the Government had decided at long last to make this facility available to so many people. When we think of these people, we realise that they have not very much else in the way of amenities. In the small remote communities the people have their local picture theatre. They have the community affairs that they themselves create. This is a pretty healthy way of life. By the way, I rather feel from time to time that the people in our great cities have lost this attribute in that the young people find it rather difficult to create their own entertainment. This is all very well but was live in a modern age of which television is a vital part. All of us who represent these areas have agitated for the provision of this amenity and at long last it has become an established fact - at least, we know it is coming. So I express to the Minister the warm and heartfelt appreciation of the various communities involved.
Having done that, I refer to a number of smaller communities. There are not a great number of them - 3, 4 or 5 are involved - but they have not been provided with television. May I get just a little parochial and mention the towns of Tambo, Aramac and Muttaburra. In doing so, I would point out that they are the focal point of probably the most prolific merino wool producing area in Queensland and one of the most significant areas in the whole of this nation. Hence, I appeal to the Minister - I have already done so, as he knows, during the week and I now make my appeal in the House, in the hope that I will get the complete support of the House in this matter - to look again at the programme and examine the possibility of extending television to these communities. I ask the Postmaster-General to see whether the power of the station that is to be established at Longreach can be increased. Of course, if this is done the towns of Muttaburra and Aramac could be brought in. In addition, Stonehenge, Jundah and other small outlying communities which have stood their ground against the most demanding challengers, the more recent one being the catastrophic drought that has unfortunately hit Queensland, could receive television. However, now that this amenity has been provided for some small communities, at last they are given some hope and an indication that they are not entirely forgotten.
I come more to the national scene now. 1 often wonder about some of the Australian talent. For instance, we have Rolf Harris. Here is a man of outstanding talent in his own field. But he is obliged to go abroad and produce his television contributions in another country.
– We buy them back.
– It would appear thai we buy these productions back, as my honourable friend says. Like my friend the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard), I rarely have the opportunity to see ‘elnvision. I live 600 miles from a television transmitter. But at least the honourable member and I follow the trends of television. Even without the most minute knowledge of this subject, one aspect of the production of television is quite apparent and that is that we have unlimited talent in this country. Our artists, if given the meres: opportunity, produce talent which in some respects is unequalled in any part of the world. But let us face it; we do lack sophisticated direction and production. Maybe talent lies in these fields as well. But its use is limited because of the amount of money available. 1 think honourable members will agree that many of our shows do not seem to make the grade. I think this is due to the lack of polish and sophistication which modern production and direction demand.
It seems these days that the people who produce most of the media of entertainment regard the public as having an appetite which is more appropriate to the gutter. They feel that almost inevitably the most degraded form of sex must be put into all of our productions; otherwise it is not acceptable to the Australian community. In this way they pay a pretty shabby tribute to the tastes of the greater number of people in this great country. I am involved in the picture theatre industry. I can produce to honourable members a copy of ‘Box Office’, which is the world-wide mouthpiece of the cinema. Honourable members will find almost entirely that the top productions are the wholesome family pictures. I can name them one after the other - Sound of Music’, Ben Hur’ and so on. These pictures have been great bo. office attractions. Hence, the people concerned with productions here have seriously miscalculated when they think that our appetite for entertainment must inevitably be commensurate with what comes out of the gutter. I think this is an indictment of their evaluation of our tastes. Of course their assessment is refuted by the box office. But this does nol mean very much to many of the people who produce for our mass media. 1 would like to conclude my speech with a few comments in relation to radio reception in the great outback of Queensland. Some pockets of area out there almost do not receive ordinary, normal radio reception at all. Residents in these areas have a struggle to overcome static and they have only one channel. This is the Australian Broadcasting Commission. 1 suppose it would be rather difficult to obtain an alternative channel, even though we think we are entitled to it. But 1 would most earnestly ask the Postmaster-General to examine closely the submissions that have been made by my council. I was chairman of the council for some years and we have constantly placed these matters before him. We have done this with two objectives in mind. Firstly, the people in this area need good, clear reception. This is particularly so in the western part of the electorate of Maranoa. Charleville, for instance, is one such area. If it did not have a commercial station it would have difficulty with reception. I can mention many other areas, particularly the Julia Creek-Cloncurry area. People in this area are greatly concerned about the lack of good radio reception. Hence, after having expressed my profound appreciation on behalf of many thousands of people who will gain from the provision of these television stations, I conclude by asking the Postmaster-General please to look into the matter of extending the provision of television to the towns of Tambo, Aramac, Muttaburra and other small towns in this area and examine again the submissions that have been made to him about the blind spots of radio reception in inland Queensland.
– in reply - I will not detain the House for very long in replying to the matters raised in this debate. But there are several matters that I think justify an explanation. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), who spoke this afternoon, asked why a prescribed interest in relation to television was 5% and why it was 15% in relation to radio. I think the honourable member would know from a study of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s report that the amount of capital involved in a television station is in the area of the enormous, whereas the capital involved in a broadcasting station is minimal. Therefore, to tie a calculation in relation to most of the broadcasting stations down to a 5% interest is getting us down to 100 or 150 shares. It seemed to the Government that 15% is a reasonable percentage in relation to the capital of broadcasting stations. We must remember that people are buying shares, and this is the basis on which an assessment is made of their interest in a station. While I know that in some areas there have been very substantial payments for each individual share, that in itself is not an indication of the actual paid up value or the number of shares that are involved when perhaps quite a substantial amount of money passes in relation to a share transaction.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports also raised the question of the number of stations that could be controlled. The honourable member raised the question of interlocking between - I think I can use the term - two networks, with one operator owning a maximum of eight, another operator owning another eight and then some agreement or arrangement being made between them. But I draw the honourable member’s attention to proposed new section 90(1.) which gives the definition of ‘control’. It defines ‘control’ in the following way: . . includes control as a result of, or by means of, trusts, agreements, arrangements, understandings and practices, whether or not having legal or equitable force and whether or not based on legal or equitable rights;
Sub-section (2.) of proposed new section 90 states:
For the purposes of this Division, a person has a prescribed interest in a licence if he is -
the holder of the licence;
in a position to exercise control, either directly or indirectly, of the licence;
I think that the joining together of those two definitions will avoid the possibility of control being exercised by one group over another group; both groups having a total number of stations exceeding eight.
A question was raised in relation to repeater stations. I want to make it clear to the House at this stage - I thought I had done so in the second reading speech and in the subsequent statement which 1 made - that in the list of thirty-eight low power national stations there were in fact no repeater stations other than perhaps at Alice Springs. The remaining thirty-seven stations were all national stations whose programmes would be taken on relay from the broadband systems, or a thin line operation would be provided for them. Some of these thin line relays will be taken over a distance of 300 or 400 miles. Honourable members will perhaps know that this is the approximate distance from Dalby to Cunnamulla. I have only to mention this fact to indicate that a large expenditure of money is involved in providing national stations, not on a repeater basis - other than at Alice Springs - but on a basis of take off on relay from a broadband system or by the installation of what I may call special mini microwave links. On the other hand, repeater station programmes are transported to isolated areas. In this regard I think in terms of Weipa, Hamersley, Dampier and other towns which are not on a broadband link and where a substantial distance would be involved in providing a thin line operation. I am referring to towns in which the Government believes the population is too small to warrant the same priority which is given to other established towns in Australia.
In these towns a company might be prepared to put in a transmitter, but it would be a transmitter merely for the presentation of programmes by means of magnetic tape. This is why the Bill includes provision to enable the Australian Broadcasting Commission to set up an organisation which can make these tapes and can make them available to particular companies. There is a slight difficulty here, and this is why we have included in the Bill reference to advertising. Honourable members are aware that advertising is not allowed on ABC stations. But it will be allowed on stations using these magnetic tapes because the proprietors of these stations may want to take some programmes from the ABC and some from the commercial stations. Because the programmes from the commercial stations will be put on magnetic tape they will contain the actual entertainment part of the programme and will also contain interpolation of advertisements which we cannot readily omit. This is why we are giving the proprietors of these stations permission to use programmes containing advertisements. If it is an ABC programme there will be no advertising, but if it is a commercial programme there will be a content of advertising on the magnetic tape when they receive it from the commercial station.
It has been mentioned that certain areas do not receive television. I indicated in my second reading speech that when this stage is completed, 96% of the Australian population will receive television. Really, I think this is a magnificent performance. I am not taking credit for the Government. T give credit to the technical people who are able to make it possible for such a large percentage of Australians to receive television. When we put this position alongside that in the British Isles and realise that television is not available to everyone in the British Isles we get a greater appreciation of the magnificent job which is being done in Australia, particularly by the technical people. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) raised a question concerning the establishment of commercial television stations in Kalgoorlie and Geraldton. I want to indicate once again to the House that a person can make an approach to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to establish a station in an area. The Board has a look at the total circumstances and the economic viability of the prospective station. If it comes to the view that the establishment of a station is justified, then it makes a recommendation to me as PostmasterGeneral and I call applications in respect of a commercial licence. Any person or company in the community is entitled to submit an application. Applications are considered at an open hearing which in this case, if past practice is followed, would be held at Kalgoorlie or Geraldton. From the evidence which is produced the Board then makes a recommendation as to who should be issued with the licence. If it is only one person, the Board may or may not recommend that that person be granted the licence. So to the honourable member for Kalgoorlie I merely indicate that if there are commercial interests which consider that they can undertake in Kalgoorlie and Geraldton a commercial operation which will be profitable, I am sure that the Board will make the necessary recommendation to me.
I think it is unnecessary at this point to make further comment on the matters which have been raised, other than, perhaps, to refer to the question which the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) raised concerning the possibility of increasing the power out of Longreach to cover some of the towns a little distance away. It has to be appreciated in relation to television that a twenty-fold increase in power does not mean a twenty-fold increase in coverage from the point of view of distance. A low power station of 5 kilowatts may provide coverage for perhaps 15 miles. A high powered station of 100 kilowatts would perhaps provide coverage for a distance of 50 or 60 miles, depending upon the terrain. So it does not necessarily follow that an increase in power will give a substantial increase in coverage. In many areas the distance between substantial towns, if 1 can use that term, is such that in many caseS the nearest town would not be reached by a signal out of Longreach, Cunnamulla or some other town. I think that is all that is necessary for me to say at this stage. I do not doubt that it may be necessary for me to make further comments at the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 9 - by leave - taken together.
– I welcome many of the provisions in the Bill which we are now discussing. They bring broadcasting stations and restrictions on their ownership into line with the restrictions on ownership of television stations. I have always been fearful, and still am, of the interlocking control of our mass media communications. If we look through the ownership of our broadcasting and television stations and of our newspapers we find the same companies owning most of them. This is a bad sign, because if we are not careful about the control of our mass media the time could come when any government - this one or one of our complexion - could be defeated by the power of the mass media in the community. For that reason I do appreciate the amendments that have been brought down by the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) for the control of broadcasting stations. In his statement of 24th September 1968 the Postmaster-General said:
The Government has for some time been concerned with an increasing trend towards a concentration of control of broadcasting stations arising from transactions in shares in licensee companies which are themselves shareholders in licensee companies.
He mentioned the same matter briefly in his second reading speech on 14th May. What I want from the Postmaster-General is some indication of how many companies or persons were involved in the purchase of shares that caused concern to the Government. Who are they, and what stations do they control? It is not sufficient just to make a general statement like that unless an indication is given to the Parliament and the people of which companies were taking up the broadcasting licences and which companies are now in an even stronger position in broadcasting, television and newspapers than they have been previously.
I know that provision has been in the Act since 1942 providing that no person can have an interest in more than one metropolitan commercial broadcasting station in any one State, more than four metropolitan commercial broadcasting stations in Australia, more than four commercial broadcasting stations in any one State and more than eight commercial broadcasting stations in Australia. The provision relating to eight stations seems to me to be quite generous but as the provision already exists I do not suppose there is much that the Parliament or the Minister can do about reducing the number. The Minister has made provision in the Bill that people who are holding more than the prescribed number at present are entitled to retain those if they held them before 24th September 1968.
One other fact concerns me and it relates to proposed section 90c. sub-section (4.) which reads:
A person shall not be taken to be in contravention of this section in relation to any licences by reason only of either or both of the following:
the holding by him of shareholding interests in any of the companies holding the licences, being interests resulting from the allotment or issue, on or after the prescribed date, of shares in a company to a person who, immediately before that date, held shares in that company, where that person received or receives the shares so allotted or issued in accordance with rights of a kind enjoyed by him in common with other holders of shares of the same class as the shares that were so held.
Proposed section 90f provides that a person shall not be a director of two or more companies that are, between them, in a position to exercise control of licences for certain commercial broadcasting stations. Sub-section (3.) contains provisions concerning a person not being in contravention of the legislation in certain circumstances. I should like the Minister to explain to me whether I am reading the provisions correctly in assuming that if a person holds the maximum number of shares and is subsequently given an additional issue because of his shareholdings which takes him above the prescribed limit he is not regarded as being a person who contravenes the Act. As I read it, he does not contravene the Act in those circumstances. I do not know that I am in favour of this. If a person is sitting on the limit in respect of shareholdings and he secures an issue of shares he should be expected to divest himself of those shares.
Proposed section 90r prescribes that an offence against a provision of this Division of the Act may be prosecuted at any time. That seems to me to give the Government, or the Broadcasting Control Board a great deal of leeway. If an offence were committed this year and the Broadcasting Control Board did not pick it up until 1972, it seems to me that a prosecution could be launched then. I would sooner see a provision that if the Act were contravened, if it were not detected by the Board, and if the person who is expected to declare his shareholdings had not done so by means of a statutory declaration which is lodged each year, the licence should be revoked or suspended for a period. In this way we would have a far greater hold than we have at the moment on these companies. What we are doing at the moment is simply saying that we will prosecute them and fine them a certain sum. These licences are worth a great deal of money to the people who hold them, and if those people contravene the Act, and such contravention is not detected by the Board until later, their licences should be cancelled or suspended, depending on the circumstances of the case.
– The honourable member raised a couple of questions. The first was what was the amber or red light which caused the Government to take the action proposed in the Bill. I give one illustration. A newspaper company which had, under the provisions of the Act relating to television, a controlling interest in a television company also had a controlling interest in four broadcasting stations, and the television company sought approval to purchase a controlling interest in four additional broadcasting stations. So far as 1 could see this was very close to a situation in which this newspaper company would control eight broadcasting stations in one State. This is one illustration and there were one or two other instances of an interest not previously shown by people in getting control of broadcasting stations, lt seemed to the Government desirable that we should nip this in the bud, and that is the reason why this provision is before us now.
The honourable member raised the question of prosecutions under proposed section 90r. There are all sorts of offences that can be committed, some quite innocently, and some of them may not be detected for a considerable period. To cancel a licence would be to take extreme action. The person who commits the offence may not. in fact, be a shareholder. In many of these companies large numbers of the public hold shares and to cancel a licence would be to penalise persons who were not responsible for the act, and it would be an unnecessarily harsh penalty. We believe that some judgment must be exercised in relation to some offences - whether to prosecute or whether to take extreme action. It would be very exceptional circumstances which would cause the Government, in respect of television or radio, actually to cancel a licence which people who are contravening the Act actually hold.
Clauses agreed to.
Clauses 10 and 11 - by leave - taken together.
– Many of the questions that I had wished to ask on clauses 10 and 11, which deal with the new system of television repeater stations, have been answered already by the Postmaster-General in his reply during the debate on the second reading. There are just a couple of points on which I would like some further explanation. One is whether a company that is given permission to operate a repeater station will receive the programmes from the Australian Broadcasting Commission free of charge or will be expected to make some payment to the Commission for the use of them. In the case of film that already has the advertising in the reel when it is put onto the magnetic tape, will the company be allowed to make any charge to the advertising company for having played that film over its repeater station? I know that these stations will cover only a small number of people, but it seems to me that the companies that will be operating these stations will be doing a service to the people in their community. The cost of constructing and operating a television repeater station will be borne by the company concerned, and if there is any opportunity for it to have some of its funds recovered this is a point that could be worth looking at.
The other point I noted is that the Postmaster-General has the right to revoke or suspend a licence. This is done for three reasons. Is this authority purely in the hands of the Postmaster-General or will there be some inquiry into it by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board before this action is taken? If a repeater station has been set up and subsequently the area is covered by a normal licence, will any compensation or any remuneration be paid to the operator of the repeater station, who will be compelled under the provisions of the Bill to close down?
– I ask the Postmaster-General whether he can indicate the fee that will be paid for the television licence. If a company puts in only two sets to service the men’s quarters, or if it puts them into the married quarters, bearing in mind the fact the viewers will get a very poor service and a very short transmission time will they have to pay the same sort of fees as we do in the capital cities?
– I appreciate the information that the PostmasterGeneral gave to the House when he was replying to the debate on the second reading and which answered most of my queries. There is one that I posed and which I do not think he answered, that is, in relation to clause 10 (2.) which states: (2.) The Board shall not recommend that a licence be granted for a television repeater station if, in the opinion of the Board, satisfactory reception of television programmes from a television station or a television translator station is being obtained in the area in which the signals from that television repeater station are designed to be satisfactorily received.
I spoke on this at the second reading stage; so I do not think there is any need to pursue it further except to ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he will agree to give us some information as to why the Broadcasting Control Board felt that it was necessary to refuse a licence to a company to set up a repeater station if the only other service available was a commercial service, whereas I assume that it would use at least a substantial proportion of national programmes.
– I have two other points to raise. I gathered from what the Postmaster-General said that there would be no live content in the programme and no live advertising, and that the only programmes that can come across these repeater stations are programmes provided by the recording section of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Or a commercial programme.
– Or a commercial programme, but it would be on the tape provided by the recording section. Finally, did I gather that at least six companies have asked for repeater stations? Are the new repeater stations likely to be in operation within a short time, or will it be a matter of months?
– To continue further with what the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) has said, would the company be able to make its own tapes, seeing that they are magnetic tapes and that it could make tapes just as well as could the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Could a company, for instance, make a magnetic tape for the purpose of getting some message across to the staff or the men employed on a particular project?
– To take the questions seriatim, the amending Bill does provide that the films will be made available from the Australian Broadcasting Commission on such terms and conditions as the Minister shall determine. In fact, the Government has decided that there will be no charge to the companies for the use of these magnetic tapes. Perhaps I should point out that it is estimated that these companies will spend approximately $400,000 - a reasonable amount - to meet capital installation costs. The capital cost to the Australian Broadcasting Commission of setting up the magnetic tape operation will be in the vicinity of $230,000 or $240,000, and I think the recurrent expenditure will be about $80,000 per annum. The licence fees which are expected out of the areas will be in the vicinity of S60.000. So there will be a loss in relation to the recurrent expenditure - excluding interest and depreciation - on the capital investment.
When it comes to the commercial programmes, of course, the company will have to pay the commercial provider. That will be a commercial arrangement between the parent station and the owner of the repeater operation. So it is not a case of the person owning the transmitter actually collecting in relation to advertising; it will be a case of the company paying, because the parent station may want to charge to cover the cost of the advertising. But this will be an arrangement between them. The important thing is that the Australian Broadcasting Commission will not charge for the films.
The honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) raised the question of my ability to revoke a licence. I think that under the Act the Minister cannot revoke licences except on a recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Even if there is no such provision, I think the Minister would require advice from the Control Board, because this is the only authority or instrumentality which would be able to obtain all the facts in relation to the problem. As to the licence fee, those people who have sets in these areas - even in the areas of repeater stations - will be required to pay the same licence fee as anybody else in the community. The other question was whether there will be six repeater stations. This relates, of course, to my indication that the Australian Broadcasting Commission would not be justified in setting up the instrumentality for producing the magnetic tapes unless there were six repeater stations. I also indicated that the mining industry council had been in discussion with the Board. I cannot give a date. I believe that this will be taken up reasonably quickly - I would expect probably next year or as soon thereafter as the company is able to get the transmitting equipment, and in some cases that the equipment may have to be ordered from overseas. I did not quite get the question asked by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) or the last question asked by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan).
– Will the charge for a licence fee be the same in the country as it will be in the metropolitan area?
– I have already given that answer.
Clauses 10 and 11 agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
– The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) has made an amendment in this Bill to section 116 of the principal Act dealing with the televising of political comment from the Wednesday to the Saturday of the election. This was asked for by the commercial television stations as well as others. The Minister has recognised as most of us have in this House did that this was an embargo that sometimes had an effect in Queensland when there was a by-election in Western Australia and it was not likely that the televised matter on politics in Queensland would be likely to affect the result of the by-election in Western Australia because the programme would not get across there. The Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations sent to all members a letter this week asking for further amendments to section 116 and 117 of the Act. I do not want to go into a long discussion on this but there are some points of it which deserve consideration and there are others which I would be completely opposed to, such as the reference to ‘current affairs’ in section 117(1.). This one seems to me to perhaps have some restrictions about it that are more widespread than I would believe the Minister or the Parliament would want. Section 117(1.) of the Broadcasting and Television Act states:
The Commission or the licensee concerned, as the case may be, shall cause to be announced the true name of every speaker who, either in person or by means of a sound recording device, delivers an address or makes a statement relating to a political subject or current affairs for broadcasting or televising.
On political affairs perhaps I can agree with that, but on current affairs it seems to be a rather wide coverage. I feel that current affairs could cover quite a number of matters without touching on politics as such. Another point I want to mention relates to section 117 (4.) of the Act which states:
The announcement shall be made after the address or statement if it contains one hundred words or less or before and after the address or statement if it contains more than one hundred words.
In the case of political propaganda and the televising of a political statement it means, according to the figures which have been given to me, that if it is a 1 minute announcement the opening endorsement giving the name of the speaker, the name of the author and the name of the Party, would take up 7 seconds, the announcement of 116 words would take up 46 seconds and the closing endorsement of 17 words would take up 7 seconds. I appreciate that if there is no proviso that political propaganda should be admitted to be such then certain tricks could be worked by one political party or another, but I feel that this point could be covered. I believe I understand what the Minister had in mind in allowing this provision to remain in the Act, but I feel that it would be sufficient to flash on the television screen at the beginning of a programme ‘This is a political broadcast on behalf of the Australian Labor Party’ and the same thing at the end of the programme rather than taking up 7 seconds at the beginning and 7 seconds at the end in identifying the speaker, author and name of the particular party. Representations on those two matters I mentioned and also two or three others were made by Mr Cowan, the General Manager of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations. I ask the Postmaster-General whether or not he has had a look at these matters before and whether he is prepared to give an indication to the House as to the reason why the amendments sought by the commercial television stations have not been granted.
– In relation to section 117(1.) on current affairs and the announcement of the name of the person, in all the news sessions that I know of an announcement is made such as: This is the ABC news read by James Dibble’ or on commercial stations it is: ‘This is the news read by - ‘. So there is in fact an announcement of the name, and from the point of view of the public and from the point of view of the description in relation to any later problems which may develop it is considered that in the broadcasting and in the televising the name should be mentioned. I think a different situation applies in relation to section 1 1 7 (4.) and I confess that this is something which I missed when 1 was bringing forward the amendments in relation to that section. I think there is justification for an announcement only at the beginning or at the end of a programme. There is hardly any justification for an announcement at the beginning and at the end of a programme. I will be quite happy to have a look at this and any other matters which the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) cares to bring under my notice before the Act is amended at any future time.
– In explanation of my remarks in dealing with section 117(1.) the letter from Mr Cowan of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations reads in part:
We urge the deletion from the fifth line of the words ‘current affairs’. This would mean that the requirement for names and addresses of speakers would still be mandatory for political statements. The section is included in that portion of the Act relating to political matters, and we believe there is good reason for excluding the requirements concerning statements on current affairs, which are not political subjects. It is too wide a restriction, and surely was not intended to be so all-embracing. For example, a common feature of television is for ‘man in the street interviews’ to be conducted, with selection at random by a roving interviewer. As a matter of current affairs the legislative requirement seems unnecessary that a record is to be kept of the name, address and occupation of all such sections interviewed.
That is covered by sub-section (5.) of section 117. This is the point which the Federation is on rather than the announcement of ‘this is James Dibble of the ABC reading the news’, or whatever it is. 1 doubt very much whether the names and addresses of the people who are interviewed in the streets are being kept now.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hulme) - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 15 May (vide page 1 857), on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– This Bill gives effect to all that appeared in Tariff Proposals Nos 5, 6 and 7 that were introduced into the House on earlier occasions. First of all, Tariff Proposal No. 5 related to the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement and the bearing that agreement has on the tariffs on lawnmowers containing an engine. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) told us when the proposal was being introduced that Proposal No. 5, operating from 28th February 1969, deals with changes arising from the Tariff Board report on ‘Cylinder Lawnmowers with Self Contained Power (New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement)’. That was a report dated 12th September 1968. The Minister told us that the Board found that the duty free entry of New Zealand cylinder type lawnmowers imported complete with engines would substantially disadvantage local manufacturers who do not have access to low cost engines from third countries and the Board recommended the inclusion of lawnmowers without engines in the agreement and the duties in respect of such mowers be phased out over a 4-year period. This period was considered an appropriate time for local manufacturers to adjust to duty free entry of mowers from New Zealand.
The Opposition is not opposing this provision, although my own personal view is that this is not altogether satisfactory. The House will remember that in the Tariff Board report on air cooled engines not exceeding 10 b.h.p. and parts dated 15th December 1966 the Board examined exactly the same part of Australian industry that it later examined in its report dated 12th September 1968. In 1966 the Board made a very detailed examination of the industry. I want to refer the House this evening to that report so that the picture can be complete, because if one simply thinks of the proposal before the House this evening and the report dated 12th September 1963 I submit that the matter is very far from complete. The Board in 1966 was divided on this matter. I think that three members of the Board recommended that protection to the industry should be continued and that two members of the Board, Messrs Cossar and Tucker, entered a dissenting opinion. I remember reviewing the Board’s report somewhere in 1967, or perhaps it was early in 1968, when I pointed out to the House a number of significant features about the industry as shown in that report, and I will do so again in a few minutes. But because of this I would have expected the Board in its examination, the result of which is this report dated 12th September 1968, to have taken up some of the significant matters it had reported on 2 years earlier. However, I can find no indication in this report that the Board was even aware of what had happened 2 years before, let alone the fact that it had looked at the industry to see what had happened in respect of those matters.
Of course, the other odd thing about it is that the Board consisted of two totally different men on the second occasion - Messrs Watson and Boyer. One might have expected, as the Board had made a pretty thorough examination of the industry in 1966, that when it was asked in early 1968 to have another look at it for some different purpose at least one or perhaps two or even more, if it were to be more, of the members who had the look in 1968 would have been the members who had the look in 1966. But they are two quite totally different people. Is this an accident? Did it suit the convenience of the Board, or was there some other reason for it? I suggest that if some of the members who had been present on the first inquiry were present on the second it is highly likely that a number of the outstanding features that were problems in 1966 would have appeared in the second report and the Board on the second occasion would have said: ‘We have looked at these matters of which we were well aware in 1966, and this is what has happened’. But there is no reference to that.
In case anyone is to lose a lot of sleep over what might happen to those employed in this industry, I point out that it is not significant. The 1966 report tells us that at that time that there were 857 people employed directly and indirectly in the industry and in selling, distribution and administration, that 1 year earlier there had been 864 and that 2 years earlier there had been 1,015. I do not know what the employment level in the industry is now because the Board does not tell us that in its 1968 report. I think it was fair to say, as I said a couple of years ago, that the industry’s problem was the problem of one firm, James M. Kirby Automotive Pty Ltd, and not all the firms in the industry. Kirby produces its products at Milperra in New South Wales, it seemed to me that that was the only firm that was in any kind of trouble, although it certainly is the firm that produces the largest number of engines of the type that is being protected. I suggest that what was said in 1966 about the industry should have been taken up in 1968 and that the Board in 1968 should have told us something about these matters. First of all, the members of the Board who supported the maintenance of protection said on page IS of the report dated 15th December 1966:
There are two aspects of the industry’s recent development which are of particular concern to the Board. First, the trend to .2 cycle and away from 4 cycle vertical shaft engines (the latter formerly supplied mainly by Kirby) could result in excess production capacity unless manufacturers rationalise their planning. Secondly, in making its decision to produce the wider range of horizontal shaft engines Kirby had access to overseas manufacturers’ export selling prices of comparable engines, and it should have known therefore the nature of import competition it could expect to meet in trying to establish its engines on the Australian market. The price disadvantages now shown on these engines suggest that Kirby may have miscalculated its ability to compete profitably in this section of the market.
For these and other reasons the Board is very disturbed by the present unsatisfactory position, and the uncertain prospects, of the local industry and its apparent need for a very high order of protection against imports. It has considered very carefully whether it should conclude that the industry is uneconomic and consequently not worthy of protection.
Nevertheless, the majority of the Board decided that to reach such a conclusion at that stage might not be completely fair to the local industry. The majority of the Board gave the local industry the benefit of the doubt. But that was 2 years ago. What does the Board say now? As far as the Board’s report of 12th September 1968 is concerned the Board says nothing at all. In its report of 15th December 1966 the majority of the Board said:
Not without misgiving, the Board has concluded that these considerations warrant the industry being given a further opportunity to demonstrate whether it is capable of producing air-cooled engines on an economic and efficient basis. . . .
There have been 2 years of this. We find that the industry even now is not capable of producing these engines in competition even with New Zealand. If we turn to the dissenting opinion of Messrs Cossar and Tucker in 1966 we see the situation described in a much more unfavourable way. The dissenting report reads:
Messrs Cossar and Tucker are unable to agree with the rates of duty proposed by their colleagues, and submit the following separate statement:
I cannot bring all of that statement to the attention of the House because it covers several pages. Whatever kind of selection 1 make from the dissenting report I run the risk of creating the wrong impression. Nevertheless I will do my best to make the House aware of some things which it might otherwise not notice. The dissenting report reads, in part:
Villiers has maintained its output of horizontal shaft engines over recent years. It has operated profitably in this period and has probably derived some cost advantage from the use of imported components in certain of its engines.
The position of Kirby is far less satisfactory and much of the evidence and of the discussion of the industry’s problems in the majority report has particular relevance to this company. Kirby invested in new plant and equipment and expanded its capacity and range of production while protected by substantive duties at the existing level and without any indication by the Board that a higher level of assistance would be likely to be accorded to it. The evidence indicates that it overestimated the market available to it and underestimated the severity of likely price competition from the United States of America. Furthermore, it apparently did not anticipate the marked swing in consumer preference for lawnmowers from 4 cycle to 2 cycle models.
The duties recommended by the majority of the Board will have the effect of shifting some of the cost of overcoming Kirby’s present problems from Kirby itself to users of engines and those to whom such users can pass them on. lt is pretty clear that Kirby made some fairly serious mistakes both as to what was possible and as to what would ‘ happen in the market. It is pretty clear that the gentlemen responsible for the dissenting opinion feel that it was wrong to protect Kirby against these mistakes; that the mistakes had been made and that Kirby would have to bear the brunt of having made them, lt is clear also that the majority of the Board in 1966 was of the same opinion. Those responsible for the majority report said: We will maintain the level of protection a little longer and see what happens’. But 2 years later the position apparently is still quite unsatisfactory. If under the terms of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement the tariff on lawnmowers with engine included was reduced the Australian industry would be subjected to competition from New Zealand manufacturers who have the advantage of being able to use in their lawnmowers an engine that is imported into New Zealand duty free. Engines imported into Australia have to meet a tariff protection of 50% or 60%. It is here that New Zealand manufacturers have their main competitive advantage.
So on 2nd May 1968 the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry referred to the Tariff Board the following question:
Whether, having regard to the objectives and other provisions of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, the inclusion of the following goods in Schedule A of the Agreement would be seriously detrimental to an Australian industry. . . .
That was the question which the Board had to answer on 12th September 1968. The Board reported:
The Board’s examination of costings and other evidence suggests that the New Zealand industry’s advantages in steel and labour costs are not of major significance. The main advantage of the particular New Zealand manufacturer which exports mowers complete except for the engine is in administration, selling and distribution expenses.
Apparently manufacturers in New Zealand are better at these things than we. Why? The Board gives no indication. Then there is the matter, which has been referred to by the Minister and me, of engines entering New Zealand duty free and being placed in lawnmowers which are then exported to Australia. In the Board’s report of 12th September 1968 this rather significant statement appears:
The Board does not consider that an increase in the flow of imports from New Zealand would greatly reduce local sales of mowers. The Australian products seem to be at least of equivalent quality and the main local manufacturer has an established brand name. Thus the New Zealand product is more likely to capture part of the Australian market now held by mowers of British origin, which do not have the same marketing advantages as the local product.
When I read that statement I thought it would lead the Board to say that the importation of New Zealand mowers would not be detrimental to Australian manufacturers. Despite the statement that in the Board’s opinion New Zealand mowers will not significantly cut into the market of Australian producers but may affect the market of British producers, the Board reached what seems to be a contradictory conclusion.
I think this Proposal is very unsatisfactory. I do not want to take the position of saying that we will pull down a tariff, perhaps thereby throwing a lot of people out of work, unless I am quite satisfied that there is no way of avoiding such a situation. And I certainly am not satisfied in this case. Firstly we had an examination by the Board, which pointed to a number of serious disadvantages and which examined what might happen. Then 2 years later a totally different Board re-examined the situation, saying nothing about the problems to which the former Board gave such emphasis. On the one hand this second Board states that New Zealand mowers have an advantage because of administrative advantages and because the engine used is imported into New Zealand duty free. The Board points out that such mowers imported into Australia could have a detrimental affect on the Australian industry. On the other hand the Board states that the importation of New Zealand mowers is likely to cut into only the British market in Australia. This report is a shoddy presentation; a completely shoddy one. I cannot understand how people who have reached the level of membership of the Tariff Board and who are paid accordingly can produce a report of this nature.
If I were more satisfied with the accuracy, logic and consistency of the Tariff Board’s position I would have recommended to the Opposition that this measure be opposed outright. But because of the completely unconvincing and contradictory nature of the Tariff Board’s report and the inadequacy of its examination, I have to say to the House that I do not have the faintest idea about the position of the industry concerned. I did not recommend to the Opposition that it oppose this measure because I did not want to run the risk of affecting the employment of a few hundred people on the basis of a shockingly unsatisfactory, shoddy presentation like this. If this is the way the Tariff Board performs it is obvious that it is time that some changes were made in the Tariff Board’s make-up. The Minister who is responsible for most matters concerning the Tariff Board is never present in the House. I wonder what he is involved in these days. It is not the job of the Minister for the Interior, who is at the table to follow these matters up. The Minister who is responsible is still up in the high realms of a performance that was established here some 20 or 30 years ago. I do not think the Minister for Trade and Industry is in a position to know whether the Board is doing its job properly. That is all I wish to say on the fifth proposal. I do not want to take up any more time than is necessary. I think my meaning is clear.
The next provision that 1 want to mention is the sixth proposal, which is now included in the Bill. It follows upon the Special Advisory Authority recommending urgent action to protect the manufacturer of sorbitol. A temporary additional duty of 30% ad valorem will apply to sorbitol plus a further temporary duty equal to the amount, if any, by which the f.o.b. price of the imported sorbitol is less than $230 a ton. I have looked at the report of the Tariff Board on sorbitol and can find no reason why at this stage and temporarily it should not be accepted. The House may be interested to know what sorbitol is. The report of the Special Advisory Authority slates that it used for its humectant and bodying properties in the manufacture of toothpastes and pharmaceutical products and in confectionery, cake icings and tobacco. As far as I can make out, when sorbitol is put into these things it affects their viscosity and helps them to retain their form. It also keeps against atmospheric changes and so forth. I do not know what the aggregate effect of this measure will be on the industry, but it seems to me that one can reasonably accept the case made out by the Special Advisory Authority when recommending these changes merely because it is temporary.
Lastly, there is the matter contained in customs tariff proposal No. 7. It arises out of a report by the Special Advisory Authority on band saw blades. The Authority found that the manufacturer in Australia was meeting severe competition from imports. It recommended that urgent protection be provided by means of a temporary duty of 12-]% ad valorem on all band saw blades except the welded type, which are in a higher price bracket than the locally produced blades. This temporary duty represents holding action pending inquiry and report by the Tariff Board. The Opposition does not oppose that action.
Also included in the proposals are amendments in respect of certain stainless steel plate, sheet, hoop and strip, which are apparently subject to temporary duties. The Minister has informed us that the new duties are in accordance with the recommendations of the Tariff Board. He has also informed us that the Board’s report will not be released at this stage pending international negotiations. That was true when the proposal was introduced some months ago and it is presumably still the position. I have not been able to obtain a copy of the report from the papers section. Nobody seems to have seen it. If there is a copy about the place I have not been able to find it. I think it is a very unsatisfactory situation that months after a proposal is introduced into the House we still do not have the Board’s report. We are merely told that it is held up pending some international negotiations.
What are the international negotiations? Whom are they with? How long have they been going on? In what way can whatever is contained in the Board’s report affect those negotiations? The country or countries with whom we are negotiating must already know that we have taken action. They must know that the proposals were introduced in, I think, March. A Bill is now introduced to give effect to those proposals. What is there about these proposals that those with whom we are negotiating cannot deduce from what has already happened? What need is there to keep the Board’s report secret any longer? The honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), who is interjecting, may be able to tell us. But I would rather hear it from the Minister. I have been a member of the Parliament for a long time and do not know of such a thing happening before. I think that the Minister should make some explanation to the House. I think he should say more than what he has already indicated to the House. Only one and a bit lines are devoted to explaining the position to the House. It is stated that the Board’s report is not being released at this stage pending the completion of international negotiations. I think that the House is entitled to much more information. I am not going to branch off into the way in which we are subject to executive government and rule by bureaucracy. Indeed, the House is not even treated as a rubber stamp; at least it has no ink pad.
When one uses the rubber stamp of the House no mark is left at all.
– I thought the honourable member was not going to branch off.
– No, I am not. I could speak for half an hour on this subject. I merely make a passing reference to it. You, Mr Speaker, may not permit me to do any more than that. I hope I have made my points clear. I will not sum up what ‘I have already said before sitting down. I think the Minister is aware of what I have put. I think he has heard clearly what I have said. I shall await his reply.
– The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) has given us all some food for thought. I wish to back him up in some of the things he said about the report of the Tariff Board on lawnmowers. The honourable member pointed out that the Board’s report is another example of the inconsistencies which have resulted from the ad hoc inquiries of the Board. I presume that even the members of the Board are a little conscious of these inconsistencies. The Chairman of the Board has gone to quite a lot of trouble lately, particularly since the last report, to try to justify the attempt he is making to put Tariff Board thinking on a different line altogether - a line that is removed from the traditional lines upon which we have considered various procedures in the past. Without going over all the things that the honourable member has said, I say that it should be the responsibility and the duty of the Tariff Board in a case like this to see that this House does get a full explanation of the points that have been raised. I hope that this will be done. If it is not done in this case I hope that the Minister concerned will see that in future it is done.
When I say that the Chairman of the Tariff Board has been to some trouble to speak of the changes that he has been trying to make, I wish to take the House back a little to indicate the sort of picture we get on the present set-up of Tariff Board inquiries. In its last report, the Tariff Board says that it is considering certain changes. It thinks that they are desirable because changes are going on in the world in the field of trading and economic conditions and so on. It is indicated that the traditional guidelines that were laid down to cover the situation in the 1930s are rather out of date now. This obviously is true. I agree with the statement that some very drastic changes in the approach to tariff making are long overdue. This does not mean that we can accept as being meaningful the over-simplification that the Chairman is adopting by setting up three levels of high, medium and low cost production with corresponding high, medium and low rates of protection.
Tariffs have always been a contentious subject of discussion. The Brigden report set out in 1929 some extremely valuable indicators of the requirements of protection for manufacturing industries. This was debated very heatedly. It was followed by the panic legislation and the Scullin tariffs in 1930, to cope with the economic depression of that time. Sir, as one of the victims of it, I remember this only too well. Just as the economy was recovering in the late 1930s, we had the Second World War thrust on us and a period of necessary controls. The demands for defence purposes came first. Factories were turned over to war production. They often expanded beyond the wildest dreams of their owners. Some very fat fortunes were made, incidentally, at this time in the name of patriotism. Some of these fortunes were made quite unwittingly. The end result was the firm establishment of many new industries and the introduction of a great variety of new products.
After the war, there was an upsurge of activity in import replacement. We saw many new products. I refer to vital chemicals, plastics, metal in sheet form and electrical components. There was quite a swing to the ‘parts’ portion of many products that previously had been assembled as manufactured products. The small parts were beginning to be made here. With this expansion of manufacture and with the extension of our activity in this field came a new look at the tariff levels. But with the introduction of import licensing in 1952 another factor was brought into operation and a sort of built-in protection was established which gave a terrific impetus to local manufacture.
The end of import licences brought another change. In the period from 1952 to I960, many industries were able to become firmly established and to grow without regard for the actual rate of duty imposed on the imported product. At that time, we did not have all the criticism of Australian manufacturers that we hear today. This criticism comes from such quarters as the United Graziers and Woolgrowers Council. Instead of the loose talk that we hear nowadays about high cost, inefficient industries biding behind tariff barriers, we were told of the good job that manufacturers were doing. We were told that they were getting Australia out of trouble in many ways. They were creating much needed employment, laying the foundation for the expansion of tertiary industry which is redundant without manufacturing industry for it to grow on, reducing the strain on overseas funds and so on.
With the lifting of import licensing, Government policy tended to be quite in the other direction. This is the peculiar part ot it. It is becoming a fetish now to claim that the tariff is the only instrument of protection that we should use. Last week, in answer to a question asked by me. the Minister for Trade and Industry (MMcEwen) said: lt is lnc policy of the Government not to use quantitative restrictions for the purpose of protecting Australian industries unless the Government is satisfied that a tariff procedure would not be effective.
The right honourable gentleman said that quantitative restrictions were an unpredictable and unscientific method of protecting industry. He went on to say that we encounter obstacles to our own trade around the world more from quantitative restrictions than from any other means of protection or, in other words, by bitter experience we know that quantitative restrictions are used by other nations to give their industries real protection while we leave our industries open to any and every country in the world which is prepared to shade its prices just sufficiently to beat the tariff barrier that we have imposed. The Australian manufacturer then loses the opportunity that he is striving for to make the savings that greater throughput would give him. Fewer people are employed, both in secondary and tertiary industries and the price of the product is almost certainly more than it would be if the market was not fragmented.
There may be some people who will argue that if there was no overseas competition prices would be kept down, but this argument is not really valid. Too great a profit on the part of an Australian manufacturer results in heavier taxation. It inevitably brings demands for higher wages. The important thing about it is that the greater production that we get by encouraging our own factories results in more jobs for Australians and more customers with money to buy some of the primary products now being dumped overseas at ruinous prices to get rid of them.
The highly industrialised nations know the truth of this. They have no hesitation in using the many other protective devices that so often keep us out. I refer to sellatanyprice practices and to the increasing emergence of low cost production in many countries, particularly in Asia, which has changed the position considerably. Speaking to the debate on the report of the Tariff Board on 28th November last, the Minister for Trade and Industry said: lt is important that it bc recognised that Australia is - so far as I can discover - the only industrialised country which relies on the tariff almost exclusively to provide protection for ils industries.
Referring to quantitative restrictions variable levies and currency controls, he said that the European Common Market countries used such devices ruthlessly. The United States of America uses a variety of devices. One of them is the meat quota which is bearing very hard on our export meat industry right now. Japan uses these devices. We cannot sell motor cars in Japan but we allow the Japanese to come here and to take a generous slice of our market. If honourable members cast their minds back only a couple of months, they will recall a splendid example of loss selling by this country to cut into a market in which it wanted to establish itself.
The speech by the Minister for Trade and Industry on the report of the Tariff Board is a most remarkable one which should be analysed carefully by every student of the tariff problem. The Minister pointed out the coincidence of it being the most prosperous countries of the world that give their industries protection in the way that will be most effective. Australia is the only country that relies almost entirely on tariffs, This means, according to the Minister, ‘that we are more susceptible than any other country to being subjected to a sudden flood of imports which our industries could not survive’. A little further on in that speech the Minister said:
Australia relying on tariff protection is the most open country in the world to which the overseas producer can turn to dispose of his goods.
The reference to goods, of course, means overruns of production to ensure adequate supplies to a producer’s local market or other world markets and the end of season leftovers. Not by any means last, changes in the pattern of trade and technique require producers to get rid of old stocks. They find this country a very good place to dump them. We then have another remarkable statement, which is:
We will never have stable Australian industries in these circumstances unless we show a willingness to protect our industries against such incidents.
This is a sentiment with which I thoroughly agree.
In no circumstances will we stand for this sort of thing in primary industries. Even under the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement imports are watched with a hawk eye and any encroachment made is met with prompt action. I refer to such primary products as peas, potatoes and the very many others that have threatened this market. We will never get away from the jibe of operating behind a tariff wall until the Board changes its policy to one of encouragement rather than setting up hurdles to be surmounted by industry. Too often its reports show its tendency to dig ditches where bridges are required. Yet, knowing all this - and surely the Tariff Board members are the ones who should be more conscious of this background than most people - the last two Tariff Board reports have introduced a completely new note into tariff making. The Board itself, which was set up for inquiry and report into the necessity for new increased or decreased duties, has taken on itself the role of decision making - the conferring or withholding of a favour.
By introducing the question of whether resources employed in any industry requiring a duty protection of 50% would be better employed in some industry which requires only 25% duty, the Board is going far beyond its function. The Chairman of the Board has been at pains to point out that this is not what the reports of 1966-67 and 1967-68 actually, literally, say. But everyone else seems to think that this is what be actually, literally meant. Although the words may be able to be juggled around a bit so that a different meaning can be put on them, reports should be written clearly so that people can understand what is being said in them. I am quite sure that this is the interpretation that was intended when the report was written. The fact that the Chairman has modified its sense is perhaps significant. In the 1966-67 report, which introduced the idea of classifying industries into those which have a high, medium or low level of protection in relation to the overall structure of assistance given to industries faced with competition by imports, warning is given that protection would be recommended more readily to producers in the low cost area. In other words, the Board becomes the judge - not this Parliament.
The Board is asked to inquire into and report on the level of protection needed, not to decide whether it will favour one industry against another. Its job is to examine and report, not to make judgments. In the 1967-68 report we get to a clearer appreciation of the empire building going on in the minds of at least some Board members and particularly of the Chairman. The controversial clause 43 has been argued over from many viewpoints. This clause says that it ‘would usually regard new activities with low protective requirements - that is up to 25% - as worthy of encouragement’. This is in comparison with the higher rates. How else can this be regarded than as a warning to keep away from investment in any industry seeking a higher level of protection? Some modifications are thrown in, such as the phrase: significant use of high cost materials’. But this does not lessen the warning to people interested in new ventures or in an extension of existing manufacturing processes, particularly if it looks as if the rate of duty that will be required is more than 50%. This is the rate which the report indicates would be unlikely to be recommended on other than a short term basis.
Paragraph 44 of this report has given us the most trouble in assessing what the Board really has in mind. The words used are:
In the case of areas of production which are found to have little prospect of operating with an effective rate below 50%, the Board would not recommend protection sufficient to allow the industries concerned to compete for resources on the same terms as low cost industries.
Once again we get the carefully worded ambiguous modification - the let out clause. The Chairman has found it necessary to make extensive explanatory interpretations of this paragraph that do little to clear the air. They seem to have lulled the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia into some sort of acceptance of this as one of the facts of life with which it has to live.
Mr Rattigan has indicated that in the Board’s view protection accorded a high cost production industry should be on less favourable terms than if the industry was fortunate enough to have low cost production. This can only be interpreted as meaning that the opportunity for profitable production will be deliberately lessened and the purpose seems to be to drive investment into industries with production costs in relation to competitive imports which do not receive such a high rate of duty. The Board calls for a drastic reallocation of resources without providing any proof that there has been any misallocation of resources.
For the Board to sit back theorising without having the practical job of conducting manufacturing operations against the intense competition of other countries is all very well. But it will not work. There are no standards against which the Tariff Board can judge an effective duty. Such a duty will be effective against what? Is the efficiency of an industry to be judged by the amount of duty necessary to protect it against overseas competition without regard to the wide variation between wage structures, quality of products and the trading policies of the country concerned? The Board may find that an industry needed 25% at the time of the submission. This may even cover the situation at the time of the tabling of the report.
We must remember that the philosophy of the Board is so to narrow down its recommendations as to permit overseas competition. It needs only an adjustment of prices by some overseas supplier who is anxious to retain or increase the quantum of his share of this market to make the rate awarded - even if it is a low rate of 25% - worthless. It may have cost an industry tens of thousands of dollars to prepare a case in the extravagantly detailed form required by the Board. The industry may have had to operate for a year or more - 2 years is not uncommon - while the Board made up its mind. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission may even have granted two or perhaps more increases in wages and salaries so that they were at a level that would make the 25% unrealistic and require an immediate application to the Special Authority. If the Special Authority did the sensible thing and gave a sliding scale award or imposed quantitative restrictions, the matter would go back to the Board again. The Board would disregard the whole of the previous evidence and set out to undertake a full scale inquiry again - perhaps taking another 2 years.
I could bring forward evidence to show that in many cases companies have indicated that they intended to enter a certain field of manufacture, and on the basis of the prices currently being secured, no protective duties, or very small ones, would have been required. However, immediately this became known the overseas manufacturers concerned slashed their prices. This is particularly common in the chemical field, in some areas of the textile field and in many other fields, notably in the manufacture of components for the automotive industry and in the electrical trades industry. Conversely, I can produce evidence, if required, to show that prices have gone up sharply when local products have ceased to be manufactured. In the Tariff Board’s limited view, an efficient industry one day can very quickly become a so-called inefficient industry if we accept this bench mark concept implied by low, medium and high cost production and corresponding high, medium and low rate protection.
I agree with the Chairman of the Board that there should be a systematic review of tariff procedures. But 1 go a lot further and say that the time has come for a systematic examination of the procedures of the Board and of the traditional approach of a public and detailed examination of all the factors operating at this end without being able to get any data on corresponding costs, profits or government assistance which may be given to our competitors at the other end. If we are going to set up rigid guidelines, or even fairly flexible ones, and aim at setting duties low enough to allow the free entry of products of overseas competitors, then I submit there is no real meaning to protection. Unless duties are high enough to give protection there should be no duties at all - at any rate, there might as well be no duties at all. Sooner or later we in Australia must adopt the sophisticated methods used by other countries, lt is a strange coincidence, as has been pointed out by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), that these countries are the most prosperous ones.
I come back to one vital point in the 1967-68 report of the Tariff Board which I wish to emphasise. Section 44 implies that there are investment possibilities in Australia for enterprises which need only low rates of duty as a form of protection or which perhaps need no protection at all. The Board’s policy is directed towards the possibility of diverting funds from industries in the high bracket into those in the lower categories. Has anyone indicated where these opportunities are likely to occur? Can any Board member point out worthwhile industries which are languishing for lack of capital? I feel sure that there are many industrialists and other people in Australia today who would be only too happy to avail themselves of these opportunities, if they could be informed of them. I point out to the Board that an industry is not necessarily efficient because it needs only a low rate of protection. It may be that the product is so bulky or so heavy or so awkward that freight operates as an extremely high form of protection, and the operation itself may be quite inefficient. However, I suggest that this controversial question might be settled if the Tariff Board itself was given as a reference, or if it initiated for itself, as it can, an inquiry into the opportunities there are for industries which would provide the maximum in economic usage of our resources, consistent with the Government’s economic objectives.
Now I should like to refer again to some of the remarks which the honourable member for Yarra has made. In particular he indicated - he did not put it quite in these words but I take it that this is what he intended - that there is concern because the Minister responsible for this Government activity is not really in very close touch with secondary industries. In the primary industry field the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has a very complete and close accord with primary industries in this country through the various associations with which he has to deal. Because of this close accord between the Minister and the industries an enormous amount of pressure is put on the Parliament to do various things for the primary industries. This is terribly important. For a long time Australia will continue to depend on primary industries for the great bulk of its export income. But the time has come when we must look at the fact that manufacturing industry is now providing, and will provide in the future, the money which is needed to maintain the amazing rate of imports into this country. People seem to want to buy imported products rather than products made in Australia although by buying local products they provide employment for Australians. We have far too great an import bill to meet. Manufacturing industry is shouldering the burden of meeting this bill, and it will have to do so to a greater extent in the future.
I conclude by referring honourable members to a speech which i made in this House on 21st February 1962 and by saying that I believe now, as I did then, that it is time we had a separate ministry for manufacturing industry which would give manufacturers the same sort of close rapport that has been established between primary industry organisations and the Minister for Primary Industry. If nothing else, at least it would give manufacturers a willing shoulder to cry on.
– The Government’s tariff policies defy any attempts to give a definition of them. They elude any attempt at rational explanation of the purposes and motives which inspire them. This is something which ought to cause a great deal of concern to all honourable members. Tariffs have an important influence on any economy. They can have a severely distorting effect on a fully employed economy. They can completely recast the pattern of the economic performance even to the point of creating disproportionate areas of investment in the economy which retard economic growth and in the long run can be extremely damaging to the performance of a nation’s economy.
In the post-war period we have had a relatively fully employed economy. Because of this we ought to view the use of tariffs in such an economy as an instrument which should be used with a great deal of careful discrimination, because if we have an economy which is, in the long term, relatively fully employed, then the application of tariffs can quite easily be responsible for the diversion of productive resources from one sector of the economy into a new sector, and in taking them from one sector we are taking them away from where they are producing efficiently and beneficially into an area where higher costs can contribute to inflationary pressures and where they make a lesser contribution to the economy. There are many other reasons why we ought to be careful about the way in which we allow tariffs to be used. I outlined a number of these reasons in a speech I made last year on the Tariff Board report, but I am trying to stress just how important tariffs are.
I started by saying that it is impossible to define the Government’s tariff policy. There does not seem to be any consistency or any set of criteria which the Government applies when it is going to provide tariff protection. It seems to be fairly much a game of chance. Some organisations get tariff protection in the face of evidence which is quite glaring and convincing that there is no justification for those organisations receiving a tariff. On other occasions it could well be - although I cannot recall any at the moment - that a tariff might be justified but the Government does not seem to have the enthusiasm to provide the tat iff. From what I can see of it, however, the former is the more apparent; that is that when the evidence is quite strong that a tariff should not be provided or if, in fact, it is provided it should be provided at a fairly low level and with fairly careful qualifications, we find repeatedly in this House that tariffs are granted very easily and in a cavalier fashion. All of this is undermining the economic performance of this country in the long term. We cannot keep on going as we have been going and diverting resources willy-nilly and not according to any rational pattern, and in so doing not subscribing to a long term planned goal but rather allowing these things to happen by chance and fortuitous occurrence.
– Where are the low cost industries on which you would place the resources from the high cost industries?
– This is a very important point that the honourable member has raised, and the first point that I would make in reply is that we need an inquiry, much as the inquiry that is being conducted at present by Tariff Board, to analyse the distribution of tariffs within the community - the high costs, medium costs and low costs. This is the first thing. But we must go much further than is capable of being gone in this inquiry. We need some economic planning arrangement. We need input and output tables which are established as a result of a fairly thorough analysis of the economy showing the areas where we want economic growth, the respective areas and the areas of need in the economic development of this country. These are the areas that the Government should foster and support. The people who want to go outside these areas cannot expect the Government to protect them so that they can introduce and perpetuate surplus capacity in the economy.
– What are these industries?
– I said so a few minutes ago in short and simple words and I cannot afford the time to repeat what I said. We need these tables to show areas where investment will be fostered. Those people who want to go outside those areas and introduce surplus capacity into our economy cannot expect tariff protection. I will give some examples in a moment. The case that we have before us of lawnmowers is an excellent example. Although the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) had his eyes open when the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) was speaking he did not seem to be in a state of conscious response to what the honourable member was saying. By his attitude he now confirms my opinion that he was not in a conscious state, because the honourable member for Yarra detailed the reasons why it is difficult to justify a tariff for the motor mower industry, because surplus capacity has been built into the industry as a result of tariffs which have been given. Does the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) understand that? I am afraid I can do no better.
We do not want to provide tariffs for bad business decisions. There is a clear example of this in the case of the firm of Kirby Automotive Engineering Pty Ltd, which is covered by the tariff protection for air-cooled engines to which the honourable member for Yarra referred. What I am pointing out is that a fragmentation takes place in the economy under the present system that we are using where the tariffs are given in an ad hoc sort of way and bear no relationship to the overall needs of the economy and do not establish any coherent economic plan or pattern for development in the country. To whom are we responsible? Are we responsible to fragmentation pressure groups in the economy or are we responsible to consumers? I submit that our first responsibility is to the Australian consumers - the forgotten people, the people who are altogether too often neglected in the Australian community because pressure groups which are powerful and influential and sectional seem to have some influence with the decision makers in the Australian community. But those who are too small or who cannot band together to become an effective voice are the ones who are neglected, as are the pensioners in the meeting of their real needs. So too are the consumers neglected, because they will pay higher prices as a result of tariffs being introduced into the economy.
Let me make this point clear. I am not a believer In free trade - certainly not in the case of Australia - but the thing I am objecting to is the wholesale and uncritical granting, as it would appear is the case in Australia, of tariffs in the Australian economy. We cannot talk about what is done in the United States of America and try to make a comparison with the situation in Australia. There is no validity in the basis of such comparison. America has virtually a self-sustaining market of over 200 million people, and from what I can gather is capable of operating successfully a closed economy if an emergency should arise and she wanted to do this. We are in a different situation altogether. We are heavily dependent on exports. We export something like 25% of our total production, so to be a successful country we have to be a highly efficient country. We have to produce our goods at the cheapest costs and get them on to the world markets to compete against other exporting countries which are continually reducing the margin of their costs. Competitiveness on the world markets is extremely keen.
If we are to hold our position as a world trading nation - and this is necessary if we want to hold our living standards and retain our economic progress - we have to keep up in maintaining the efficiency of our industries. The willy-nilly distribution of tariffs is one way in which we will not do this. It is, in fact, an approach which will undermine our overall objective. I want to talk about two examples which are related to the sort of thing that I have been saying and which sustain my point of view, at least in the areas with which we are concerned. The first concerns sorbitol, which is an item before us in this debate. Sorbitol is produced from sucrose as an aqueous solution. For I ton of sorbital to be produced nine-tenths of a ton of sugar is required. The sole producer of sorbitol is the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. This company, through a subsidiary, has sought a 40% ad valorem tariff with a support value of $340 per ton for aqueous solution of sorbitol. The whole case of this company is based on the high cost of sugar, which is four times higher than the world market price. This is important. The sole producer is the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd, through a subsidiary, lt based its whole case on’ the high cost of sugar on the Australian market, and it has a monopoly of the distribution of sugar in Australia.
I want to say something more about this company because it is highly relevant to this issue. It is a diversified conglomerate in the Australian economy. Let me give some evidence to support this. In the last financial year, 1967-68, the total gross profits of the organisation were over $24m. After amounts were transferred to general reserves and allowances were made for this factor the profits stood at nearly §19m. The unappropriated profits finally carried forward were over $llm. This is a very hefty profit margin for the company to have on hand as unappropriated profits. That is the first point I want to make.
This company has come before the Tariff Board crying poor mouth. It is an extremely wealthy organisation; its capital assets stand at nearly $399m. That is a tremendous capital asset to have. What is this organisa tion? Is it an infant industry? Is it battling to try to get on its feet? What is the justification for an organisation as wealthy as this one, obviously not an infant industry, seeking urgent tariff protection? With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a breakdown of the annual report of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd which shows just how diverse are the interests of this conglomerate, going well outside the field of sugar and related industries into mining, quarry extraction, rice production and other fields.
Here is the evidence. It is not a poor organisation. It is not an infant industry. So what can be the justification for its seeking this tariff protection?
When one reads through the report of the Special Advisory Authority, one gets the clear impression that the price being charged to the Australian consumer is higher than the price being charged on the world market and that the Australian consumer is being asked to subsidise the loss on the world market. The report points out that exports are being made at a lower price than the domestic price but that this has been found to be profitable on the world market. I just do not understand this. This is a very vague and shortly stated area of the report. Referring to the lower price being found profitable on the world market, the report states;
This is due to the fact that export production is costed on a different basis.
What is meant by this? I think we are deserving of some sort of explanation as to how or why it is costed on a different basis. If the company can cost exports on a different basis to that of the domestic market and make exports pay. then it had better apply the same system to the domestic market if it is just a matter of figures. There is something funny here, and it is not clear at all. Quite obviously the Australian consumer is paying higher prices than he should in order to pay for the cost of those exports. The Special Advisory Authority ought to have spelt this out in clearer terms. This House is being insulted when these things are put before it in such a vague and casual manner, and we should not accept this.
The production of sorbital is not an important element in the Australian economy. Where is the justification for giving it such high priority? These are things which have not been dealt with in the report. We need an explanation of just how this industry becomes so important that it warrants an increase in tariff. After all, an increase in tariff is going to be passed on to Australian consumers. Sorbital is an ingredient in toothpaste, in various forms of confectionery and quite a long list of other items.
– In medical products.
– Yes, medical products and a long list of other commodities which are listed in the report. We deserve some explanation as to why the Government believes sorbital is such an important ingredient in the Australian economy that it deserves this sort of protection, and how, in any case, the production of sorbital fits into a long range economic plan for the development of this country. Before I move on to the next subject I want to leave with honourable members the fact that the CSR organisation is wealthy, powerful and diversified and that in no circumstances can it be regarded as an infant industry. I stress this point, because it indicates the dangers which are inherent over a very broad area of the tariff policy of the Government. As I mentioned earlier, tariff policy is an important ingredient in the overall economic development of this community.
We in the Australian community are altogether too casual in our attitude towards tariffs, especially when one takes into consideration the tremendous impact that they can have on living standards and the future achievements of this country.
The other point I make concerns the tariff protection on lawnmowers. I am glad to see that the report indicates that the tariff will be progressively eliminated over a 4-year period for the import of lawnmowers from New Zealand. It is quite obvious that the problem confronting the motor mower industry does not arise from imports so much as it is one of high cost production. The problem arises because the industry is unable, through fragmentation into small units, to exploit economies of scale. The report points out that Australian manufacturers are at a substantial cost disadvantage because of the relatively low volume of production compared with the principal manufacturers in the United States of America. The report points out further that the industry in Australia is at a disadvantage in economies of scale and economies in administrative costs in comparison to New Zealand. Clearly there is something wrong when a small country like New Zealand, which does not have a large economy or industrial establishment, is able to produce more efficiently than is Australia. It is not a matter of New Zealand imports - so one gathers this from the report - threatening Australian production. Rather, increased imports from New Zealand seemed to occur at the cost of imports from Great Britain.
As I mentioned, the great problem in the motor mower industry is the overcapacity which has been built into the industry and the high cost of the investment decision of Kirby Automotive Engineering Pty Ltd. This applies to the industry overall, but the tariff was given to Kirby Automotive Engineering Pty Ltd in 1966 merely because this industry had come into the production of this line. There is no justification for giving this organisation an increase in tariff because it had clear evidence from the 1962 report of the Board that there was a danger of over-capacity in the industry, and in going into the industry it must have been well aware of the risk it was taking. At page 11 of the 1966 Tariff Board annual report the following is pointed out:
The four major producers also gave estimates of unit costs of producing at their most economical levels of output, which showed that reductions of between 5% and 15% could result if manufacturers individually were able to increase throughput to these levels. The main cost savings could be in factory overhead, administration and selling costs. Because of the limited size of the Australian market, however, such increased throughput could not be achieved simultaneously by each manufacturer under present conditions.
Here we have clearly written into the report the real cause of the problem for this particular industry.
If tariffs for these industries are increased, as happened in 1966 in spite of rather trenchant criticism when a majority of the Board recommended increasing the tariff to 75%, there is a real risk that we will encourage additional producers to enter the industry and we will compound a problem which is already endemic in the industry. Clearly the Kirby Organisation miscalculated when it decided to invest in the production of two-stroke motors. It did this when it found that the public demand for four-cycle motors was diminishing. It tried to spread the loss on its overhead investment in four-cycle motors to two-cycle motors, and to do this it had to increase the price of two-cycle motors to the Australian consumer beyond a justifiable level. These motors mainly went into motor mowers. The Government is party to this sort of protection which makes an abomination of all free enterprise. There can be no free enterprise in a situation where bad business decisions are protected and where over-capacity is perpetuated in industry. It is a complete misnomer for the Government to suggest that it believes in a free enterprise society. Just how trenchant was the criticism of the Tariff Board in 1966 can be gained from this statement from the Board:
For these and other reasons,- which were enumerated earlier in the report - the Board is very disturbed by the present unsatisfactory position, and the uncertain prospects, of the local industry and its apparent need tor a very high order of protection against imports. It has considered very carefully whether it should conclude that the industry is uneconomic and consequently not worthy of protection.
The minority of the report states the issue in firmer terms than that. Quite clearly this was a classic case. The Government finally gave a 65% tariff protection to an industry in which the Kirby Organisation was a substantially interested party. Significantly, a member of the Kirby Organisation was also a member of the board of the fund raising committee for the Country Party which eventually built McEwen House in Canberra.
This is a clear example of the sort of misuse of tariffs in the economy and the way in which a misallocation of resources could occur. The decision of the Tariff Board in the 1968 report to phase out tariffs on cylinder lawn mowers over a 4-year period is a welcome one. The main problem with cylinder lawn mower production, as it is with lawn mowers which use a vertical shaft, is that there is over-capacity in the production of the motors that go into the mowers. This is a matter which has been thrashed out in this Parliament before. In spite of this one finds that the Government proceeds in this rather casual and undisciplined approach to tariff distribution in the Australian economy.
If we continue to allow tariffs to be given in this free and easy manner then the problem of inflationary pressures will be a persistent one with us because it will add to the cost of industry and it will encourage resources to leave one sector of the economy and go into another sector without having established in the first place that it is desirable in the national interest and economic welfare of the community that resources should go into this alternative sector. As they go into an alternative sector which becomes a higher cost industry than the industry which it left this adds to inflationary problems in the community and it probably subtracts from the total amount of goods which are being produced by that given volume of resources available in the economy at that particular time.
The report of the Tariff Board which is presently underway is not broad enough. It is narrowed down to tariffs. We need a very broad report on the needs of the economy, aimed at establishing indicative economic planning as has been done in most Western Countries, so that we have input and output tables and targets which industrialists can aim at, and so that people who want to undertake investment policies and take them outside of the area recommended by the input and output tables, do so at their own risk and cannot expect their wrongly advised business decisions and their investments which create over-capacity to be propped up at public expense. Tariffs are probably one of the most important areas that we could give consideration to in the economy of this country. However all that we receive from the Minister for Trade and Industry is empty bombast when criticism which is substantial in nature and constructive in motive is offered. Instead we should be receiving from him some sort of considered response and some sort of responsible realignment of the attitude of the Government to this important area.
– One of the reports we are debating tonight is the Report of the Special Advisory Authority on sorbitol and mannitol of 28th February 1969. Referring to sorbitol, that report, states:
Export sales, however, can continue only if the local market is sufficient to absorb all fixed costs of production other than those directly attributable to exports. In competing for sales on the Australian market the local manufacturer is at a heavy price disadvantage which is due largely to the much higher price which it has to pay for raw materials.
I use that quote because it is the very basis of much of the present discussions surrounding the tariff question. It is now 2 years since the Tariff Board announced in its 1967 annual report its proposals to classify industries into those receiving high, medium and low rates of protection. In my opinion, this was the most hopeful sign for many years that we were about to get a rational approach to tariffs. This decision certainly aroused a storm of protest centred on the proposals to classify these industries into high, medium and low rates. I could not help being reminded when hearing this storm of protest of that other quotation, Me thinks he doth protest too much’ because, from some of those statements, one would be forgiven for thinking that the Tariff Board proposed to eliminate tariff protection on some industries altogether. What in fact was the Tariff Board proposing? It was proposing to codify, to set down for all to see what in fact is the present situation, and to do nothing more than make public such current rates of protection. Why this chorus of protest? One is forced to the conclusion that this was because those engaged in the industries concerned were not keen on the levels of their protection becoming public property.
One is forced again to ask why? The only answer I can think of is that they felt that in all too many cases the levels were so high that it would invite uncomfortably close scrutiny. That is uncomfortable from the point of view of the industries concerned. In fact when the classifications were published in last year’s Tariff Board report I was not at all surprised to find that there was some opposition to the publication of these figures. They disclosed that $2,500m worth of production was getting over 20% protection and that $ 1,250m was getting over 50% protection. Incredibly a large proportion of the industries in this high level group had never - I emphasise the word never’ - been the subject of Tariff Board inquiry and report.
I can imagine trying to explain to a visitor from Mars this amazing state of affairs. The visitor would say: ‘I see that some industries need more protection than others, but surely those with the highest rate of protection would need to make a very substantial contribution to the national wealth or have some special reason for their establishment to justify a much higher than normal rate’. I would reply: ‘Yes, that is so’. Therefore, our friend would say: There would need to be a frequent examination of such industries to ensure that the reasons for granting the high protection still apply’. I would say: ‘It would certainly be desirable if this were done’. Then our friend would say: ‘But from what you have told me many of the industries have not been subject to frequent inquiry. Many, in fact, have not been investigated for over 35 years.’ I would have to reply, I am ashamed to say: ‘It is much worse than that. Many of them have not been investigated at all.’ With that statement, I imagine, our visitor would be delighted to get back into his space ship and return home, because surely nothing on Mars or anywhere else could be sillier than that situation, and he would be glad to make his escape.
As I said, it is now 2 years since the Tariff Board first announced the lines on which it proposes to conduct its very responsible activities. Therefore there has been time to assess the reaction to the proposals amongst the various sections of the community interested in the subject. As I have said many times before, tariffs concern every section of the community. As the consumers comprise the biggest proportion of the community, it affects them most of all. It would be true to say that not for many years has there been such an interest in tariffs and the Tariff Board. With all this critical attention being focused on the subject one would expect a wide diversity of expert opinion. I stress that word expert’. In fact, whenever I get or hear advice or an opinion on a subject I always ask myself two questions. The first question is: Is the advice truly expert? And the second one is: Is it completely disinterested? I stress that word ‘disinterested’. I do not mean ‘uninterested’. So these are the two tests 1 apply to any opinion I hear or read on the tariff question. What do we find when these tests are applied? We find an extraordinary situation. Of all the pronouncements attacking the Tariff Board for its stand, I cannot find one which passes both the tests I mentioned a moment ago.
Just for a moment let us think what this means. It means that, of all the attention given to this subject over the last 2 years, not: one truly expert, completely disinterested person has expressed an opinion on the proposal which the Tariff Board has suggested offers the best prospect for a sound and progressive Australian economy. Experts are not renowed for their readiness to agree on anything, and that makes the present situation even more remarkable. Let us examine for a moment some of the opinions expressing support for the Tariff Board. There has been a flood of letters from professional economists of the highest standing to various newspapers and journals. There have been many lectures and statements by eminent economists all over the country, among the most recent being that by Professor Hogan of the University of Sydney on 8th May. I would like to quote just one sentence. He said:
In almost every respect the Board is attempting to put real meaning into the commitment for protecting economic and efficient Australian production.
Dr Coombs, who until recently was Governor of the Reserve Bank, said:
I think the time has come when we could, with advantage, review the generality of the protection and begin to use it with more discrimination, lt must be remembered that when we are fully employed a subsidy or tariff in one area of industry reduces spending or raises costs in another.
Dr Corden said:
One is struck above all by the high rates of protection afforded in almost all cases.
Sir Leslie Melville said:
The argument is often used, even in official circles, to imply that more protection and a higher general level of tariffs will give a better and faster rate of growth. There is no support for this to be found in either of the reports quoted (1929 Tariff Committee and the Vernon Committee) and it is certainly false … In Australia we can provide ample opportunities for the growth of the economy and for the employment of the people by selecting for protection and assistance only those industries that do not require very much Government help.
Sir John Crawford, who is acknowledged even by our friends from the Australian Industries Development Association to be a man of great eminence and outstanding reputation, said:
Tariffs will still play their part but now we can afford and need to be more discriminating.
Perhaps most significant of all was a quotation from a lecture which 1 understand was given today by the Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, Sir Alan Westerman, to the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, He had this to say:
But I believe the opportunities are becoming even more limited for secondary industry to grow ‘inwardly’ deriving main support from local markets. If this is right then the corollary is that the market place will more and more have to be the world. The handicap of scale can only be overcome by competing in the world arena. The feasibility of development will more and more need to be predicated on and tested in relation to a total domestic and international market.
Sir Alan went on to say:
The alternative is stultified secondary industry relying upon higher and higher tariff barriers with decreasing rate of development based on products with smaller and smaller domestic opportunities and meriting the description ‘uneconomic and inefficient* in the sense we have always used it in this country in relation to tariffs.
These statements, coming from the head of one of the most influential departments in this country, have important implications for the future of the Australian economy and, considering the complexity of the issues
Involved, represent yet another example of the astonishing degree of unanimity in favour of the Tariff Board’s report. Perhaps another indication can be seen in a recent announcement by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia following discussions with. Mr Rattigan, the Chairman of the Tariff Board, that it accepted the Tariff Board reports of 1967 and 1968 and the Board’s broad approach to try to get some order and sense into Australia’s tariff structure. I have no doubt at all why the ACMA has had a change of heart on this question. It knows that, as more and more people are coming to appreciate that with economies of scale becoming increasingly important, any Australian manufacturers with a relatively small home market will find it difficult to continue to contain their unit cost of production unless they increase their output and enter the export market. Their chance of success on world markets will depend largely on their efficiency and the degree cf their reliance on tariffs for their profitability.
If Australian secondary industry is to make a substantial and increasing contribution to export earnings our whole tariff structure will have to come in for critical examination and assessment, as proposed by the Tariff Board. Nor can we forget or disregard recent speeches in this place. Following the trail first blazed through the jungle of tariffs by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), we have the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner). The honourable member for Bradfield and I do not always see eye to eye on matters affecting primary industry, but I am right with him on his views as expressed in what has become known as his ad hoc ad infinitum speech. I congratulate the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) for being apparently the lone voice of sanity on tariffs on the opposite side of the House since the defection - temporarily, I hope - of the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) from the ranks of reason. But I cannot help wondering how long the honourable member for Oxley will be allowed to continue expressing his views as he has done in this place tonight and on other recent occasions. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) has made many sound and logical speeches on this subject. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has long been an advocate for tariff reform. Many other honourable members on this side of the House have also spoken on this subject.
That is one side of the coin. What do we find on the other side? In this place might I take as representing a counter view the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters)? When I first heard him speak on tariffs I really thought that his advancing years must have impaired his judgment but to my astonishment my research has revealed that he has been making the same speech for 20 years. There is a startlingly wide divergence of opinion on tariffs between the honourable member for Oxley and the honourable member for Scullin.
Outside this Parliament we have the Australian Industries Development Association, to which I have referred earlier. I strongly suspect that AIDA must be feeling increasingly lonely since the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia came out in support of the Tariff Board and its broad approach to the question of tariffs. The Austfact bulletin of January 1969 discussed the Tariff Board’s proposals and stated:
It has to be recognised that the Tariff Board has been inspired and is now supported by some men of high academic attainment and wide administrative experience. Perhaps the most outstanding instance in point is Sir John Crawford, Vicechancellor of the Australian National University and a former Secretary of the Department of Trade.
After these comments it was with considerable interest that I read on to learn which men of high academic attainment and wide administrative experience were to be quoted as counter authorities. Alas there was none. Although this did not come as any great surprise to me, it did provide dramatic proof of the degree of unanimity in favour of the Tariff Board.
Two courses seem to be open to AIDA. The first is to continue its present policy of opposition to the Tariff Board, which is becoming increasingly difficult to justify. This is not surprising since the opposition is not based on sound economic principles. Indeed, many of the arguments put forward by AIDA will not stand up to critical examination.
– Tell us some of them.
– I will. In the bulletin of April 1969 AIDA discusses in some detail tariff policy in Canada, with the implication that the Australian Government could learn something from the way in which tariff protection has been used to develop Canadian secondary industry. I firmly believe that we can learn a great deal from Canada’s experience but the lessons are what to avoid rather than what to adopt. Earlier this year I had some interesting discussions in Canada on this subject. I should like to quote from a bulletin published by one of the leading Canadian trading banks - the Bank of Nova Scotia. The report reads:
The Economic Council of Canada attributed much of the cause for this inefficient structuring of industry to the Canadian tariff system which historically ‘was deliberately designed to produce a substantial degree of diversification of production in Canadian manufacture.’
Yet the tariff has contributed to high cost not only by inhibiting greater specialisation but also by adding to the cost of material and equipment purchased both from Canadian suppliers and from abroad. The Council concluded that ‘a reexamination of the effects of cost of the tariff has become increasingly essential’.
The Council stops short of advocating a complete freeing of trade . . . but the gradual un-shielding of Canadian manufacturers, which effects such as the auto pact and now the Kennedy Round have brought, is part of a long term process of trade liberalisation which can hardly be avoided if greater specialisation, research and development are to be made profitable. To maintain its place amongst the industrial nations Canada will have to let industry show that it can stay on its own feet in the rough and tumble of international competition.
Despite the strong growth of recent years, Canadian manufacturing industry continues to suffer from distinct structural weaknesses. Much of the manufacturing activity is oriented to the domestic market and is characterised by a marked diversity of products and short production runs. In large measure this development has stemmed from the past history of tariff protection in this country.
In such a pattern of production overhead and other costs are often higher than they otherwise would be and the short production run has meant that it is often not practical to use the most advanced and efficient equipment or >hat it is used at less than its full capacity.
Those statements have an ominously familiar ring. On some future occasion I would like to examine in much greater detail the problems of secondary industry in Canada and the very interesting measures taken to deal with them, as well as the very real relevance of those measures to Australia. In its April bulletin AIDA touched on these questions and made some pertinent comments on them. In the same bulletin AIDA referred to discriminatory treatment of industry, as if discrimination was a dirty word. I remind the House of Sir John Crawford’s comment:
Tariffs will still play their part but now we can alford and need to be more discriminating.
Let us for a moment think about the implications of the opposition to discrimination. It would mean acceptance of the principle that virtually any industry which asked for protection was entitled to it without considering the contribution which that industry would make to the real national wealth and without considering the level of protection it would require. This is really what discrimination means - to determine between the relative importance of these two very often conflicting issues and come up with an answer which will give the best result for the Australian economy. This opposition to discrimination also implies, since discrimination could result in a lowering or a refusing of protection to some industries, that all industries now receiving protection are receiving it at the optimum level or at too low a level. Now I am a pretty credulous sort of chap but my credulity is stretched a little too far if I am asked to accept that proposal.
To illustrate my point I would like the House to consider the Tariff Board hearing on agricultural machinery. The reference to the Board was initiated, I remind the House, by primary producer organisations, not by the industries concerned. Can we imagine the situation where manufacturers of this sort of machinery sat around a table and the chairman said: ‘Well boys, We think our tariff protection is too low but we will not ask the Tariff Board for higher protection. We know that primary producer costs are rising. Let us see whether we can help to reduce their costs. We will try to rationalise our production so that we can have longer production runs of each machine, cut our unit costs of production and concentrate on the product that we can best make, at the same time maintaining sufficient competition to keep us on our toes’? Can you imagine that happening? I cannot. Let us imagine another situation where the spokesman says: “Well boys, it looks as though in many ways our tariff protection is too high. We know that primary production costs are rising. Let us see whether we can help to reduce them. We will approach the Tariff Board for a reduction in our tariff protection’. Can you imagine that happening? I think it is more unlikely than the first situation.
What I can imagine is that if the firms concerned were quite satisfied with the level of tariff protection which they were getting and were making adequate profits without having to worry too much about the efficiency of their production, they would not have done anything at all. Can it be pure coincidence that this is precisely what has happened and has gone on happening for more than 30 years? Again my credulity is stretched beyond breaking point. I come to the conclusion that this third explanation is the correct one. Therefore not all industries are receiving exactly the right amount of protection. We are far more likely to hear from those industries which consider that their level of protection is too low rather than from those whose protection is adequate or too high, and therefore discrimination is indeed a prerequisite for developing an efficient and strong secondary industry in Australia.
So much for a policy of discrimination. I mentioned that two courses were open to AIDA. I have dealt with the validity of the arguments in favour of the first course. The second course is to reassess its position in the light of Mr Rattigan’s assessment to the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and add its support in establishing a rational and lasting basis for a sound Australian tariff policy. This is an objective essential to the future prosperity not only of members of AIDA but of all Australians.
I have had enough of hearing about the supposed conflict between primary industry, secondary industry and, for that matter, tertiary industry. It is high time we grew up and realised that Australia’s economy is composed of all three types of industry - that if we are to build up and maintain a strong economy it cannot be by favouring any one section at the expense of another. Such a policy will in the long run result in a weakening of Australia’s competitive position in the world, which would affect all industries and all Australians. But this is precisely what will happen unless we are prepared to support the Tariff Board in its efforts to bring some order and system into our tariff structure. The two resources which we are shortest of in this country are people and money. We cannot afford to be inefficient or wasteful in the way we use either of them.
– It is a tragic shame that one must stand up and say that ali we have heard tonight from a man in this Parliament who is as well liked as the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), is a regurgitation of the most shallow arguments that have been produced in many years on tariffs. Albeit the arguments came from one who has had some connection with the examination of logical arguments, albeit those arguments may on occasions - but not tonight - be logically produced, you, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, would know that logic is not the criterion of validity. Where is the reliable statistical data to support what the honourable member for Corangamite and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) have said tonight? No real evidence or proof has been enunciated tonight at all. It is all very well to adopt allegations as the premise of an argument and to endeavour then to draw conclusions from that premise, but if the premise is invalid the conclusions are also invalid. Regrettably, the honourable member for Corangamite made a very shallow examination of tariffs and used an invalid premise on which to base a conclusion on a matter which should be examined in far greater depth.
The honourable member for Corangamite referred to a speech allegedly made today by the Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry and quoted from it. Despite all my erstwhile endeavours to obtain a copy of that speech from the honourable member, I was unable to extract it from him. But let us assume that the Secretary made the remarks to which the honourable member referred - and I am sure that if he did I will read about them tomorrow. It should be remembered that the same person used most extravagant language last week when he said that Australian universities were in the need of being dragged screaming into the twentieth century. In obtaining a glimpse over the shoulder of the honourable member for
Corangamite, I witnessed the following phrase that was apparently contained in the speech of Sir Alan Westerman:
The chemical industry moguls have raided the industry like a band of Vikings.
That is grandstanding nonsense. It is akin to the statement that was made last week in relation to Australian universities. It seems that the honourable member for Corangamite has treated tonight’s debate as a general discussion on tariffs. He referred to the discussions of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia with the Tariff Board. I have previously criticised the statement produced earlier this year by ACMA. Seemingly filled with glee, the administrators of that body had Mr Rattigan, who is Chairman of the Tariff Board, announce an agreement between themselves and the Board. I have previously said, and I will say it again, that it is of little interest to me what a particular group in the community puts out as an alleged agreement, albeit it has the right to put forward its opinion. It is of little interest to me what such a group can allegedly enunciate as a result of discussions with the Tariff Board. The Tariff Board and the Government are responsible for tariff policy and not one particular section of the community, albeit a wide section such as ACMA. I do not denigrate it as a body. I criticise it merely for its statement regarding discussions with the Tariff Board.
It is all very well for those in favour of the Tariff Board’s 50% upper limit policy to stand up and say - as the honourable member for Corangamite has done tonight - that it is a sound policy because a low cost industry is more beneficial to the country than a high cost industry. We all agree, if this is possible. What I want to hear from them, and what I did not hear tonight from my colleague the honourable member for Corangamite - and I have not heard it from the Tariff Board - is just how they get from that basic philosophy, which I have said I agree is sound, to what the Tariff Board wants to do. After all, the Tariff Board’s annual reports for 1967 and 1968, in which this policy has been propounded, did not offer any evidence at all to support the Board’s proposed upper limit policy, other than to say it would encourage resources into low cost industry. There is no doubt that it would do that if the opening were there. If they were not there, then it would be a most damaging policy, leading to a slowing down of our growth and leading to unemployment.
I ask honourable members to bear in mind that the openings must be able to create employment in tune with our population build-up, and should not be merely openings for capital investment. It must be assumed that the Tariff Board’s selection of 50% effective rate as the upper level has some relationship to the opportunities for new investment and expansion of existing investment in the area requiring less than a 50% effective rate. But where is the information or the evidence of this? It is not in the Tariff Board’s reports and it has not been produced by any supporters of the Tariff Board policy. The honourable member for Oxley said tonight that we needed an inquiry to determine this. This is the very thing I have been saying - that it is all very well for the Board to put this proposition forward, but unless it can justify it, it could be most damaging to the Australian community and economy.
It is an alarming state of affairs that a Board can produce concepts such as these while admitting that it has not done a full examination of the economy before reaching the conclusions contained in its report. The Tariff Board has blandly said it will not recommend protection for new investment requiring more than 50% effective rate, without having any idea - so far as is known - of where the new investment debarred by that declaration by the Board would find an alternative outlet. If the Board has some information on this, it should be required to tell us what it knows. It has not done that so far.
Let there be no doubt that the Tariff Board’s declaration will effectively debar new investment believed likely to require protection around a 50% effective rate. I am sure that the honourable member for Corangamite would agree with that, and I ask him and other honourable members to make a personal judgment on whether they would invest in such an undertaking and take the chance that the Government might not agree with the Tariff Board recommendation that no protection be given, lt is no answer to this situation to say that the Government will take the final decision. It is highly unlikely that it would ever be asked to do so. Therefore, despite the remarks of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Ewen) a few weeks ago, we have in fact a policy in action, debarring new industry needing protection above 50% effective rate, without any knowledge of what it will mean, without any facts to justify it, and without Government approval.
The honourable member for Corangamite quoted a number of persons in the community. If one examines the statements of leading industrialists, he oan see that they are repeatedly saying that the low cost opportunities - apparently believed by the Tariff Board to be waiting to take up investment and employment diverted under the Board’s policy from high cost areas - simply do not exist in any great measure. I can accept what they say - that they would like to know where they are, and would like to see them filled if they exist.
– Are they disinterested?
– I should imagine they would take as objective a view as do the rural sectors that advise the honourable member; and I would think that they are probably better placed to form an opinion than the rural interests of whom he is a prisoner in the Corangamite electorate. I recommend to the Government and to the honourable member for Corangamite, as one who believes in a private enterprise system, that some support could be engendered at this juncture and that the Government should commission the Tariff Board to conduct an inquiry to locate, to identify, and to put some measure to the possibilities of these lower cost industries to which I have referred. This is the proper way of approaching the question of whether or not our industries are over concentrated in high cost areas to the neglect of low cost industry.
It is all very well for the honourable member for Oxley to talk about inputoutput analyses. These do not tell us where to invest. Let us find out first where the true position lies and not try to find out by a trial and error policy. The history of industrial development in this country points very definitely to this being damaging and wrong. The Minister for Trade and Industry has said already that the Government accepts that the higher the level of protection goes the more closely the question must be looked at. I would agree emphatically. I think that every member of this House surely would agree also. This is something that the Tariff Board is assumed to have been doing throughout its history. But it is a very different thing to say that, when a certain level has been reached, that settles the matter. Even to say that it settles the matter, unless certain exceptions apply, is equally unsound, particularly when we have no real idea of just what the examination will lead to, and the only evidence available suggests that it may lead in the wrong direction.
The Tariff Board has said that it wants to apply this policy because it will make the operation of the tariff more consistent with the economic objectives of the Government. Let us be honest about that and say that, in the complete absence of any evidence or facts to support that statement, it simply means that the economic objectives of the Government must become whatever the result of such a policy happens to be. I now wish to make some comment on the statement by the Chairman of the Tariff Board and by others that the Board’s proposals do not provide for an upper limit of protection. That sort of statement is simply playing with words. It is an exercise in semantics.
So long as paragraphs 42 and 44 of the 1968 report of the Tariff Board are the principles which will guide it, no amount of assurance or explanation can alter the fact that, in practical terms, there will be in the Board’s recommendations a cut-off point of 50% for new industry and that at that point existing industry will be discriminated against. This is a new tariff policy, announced by an advisory body to be the policy that it will follow in offering advice to the Government. The Government keeps telling us that its own tariff policy is unchanged. Frankly, it is a Gilbertian situation for an advisory body, intended to assist the Government in carrying out the Government’s policy, to decide to base its advice on an entirely different policy of its own. Not only that, but also we have had the spectacle of the same advisory body conducting, over the past year or so, what can be described only as an intense public relations campaign directed towards the acceptance of its new policy by both Government and industry. An advisory body should offer its advice backed by facts, and not engage in a coercive campaign to promote a policy of its own unsupported, to this date, by any real fact or information.
I caution the Government to beware of this situation. It is a very short step from the existing confused position to the Tariff Board developing a campaign for an executive instead of an advisory role. This is being suggested already by people with a vested interest in seeing the Board’s new policy adopted. We should remember that there are many persons with vested interests supporting the propositions enunciated by the Tariff Board. I repeat that this is already being suggested by those people who are interested in seeing the Board’s new policy adopted. It is being said that the Tariff Board should be wholly independent and that its judgments should have force automatically. Surely it is time that this situation was put into proper perspective by the Government clearly telling the Tariff Board that its new policy is not to be the basis for future recommendations but that it is to continue to offer its advice based on a full consideration of every relevant circumstance, social, economic or of any other description.
But the matter could not rest there. Since the Government now finds that it has an advisory body with such a clear desire to see implemented a policy different from the Government’s, one of two things must be done. Either the Government must lay down clear criteria and guidelines for its tariff policy or it must look elsewhere for any advice it needs.
– in reply - One can never be sure with the introduction of tariff proposals into the House whether we are to get a full second reading debate on the tariff structure of the nations or a limited debate confined to the proposals that come before the Parliament, but it does seem to me to be the habit of honourable members to take the opportunity, irrespective of the number of proposals before the Parliament, to have a full second reading debate. I congratulate those honourable members who have taken the time to prepare a speech and deliver it in the way they have. Certainly many of them used a number of generalities and those sorts of quotations that backed up their case. Nevertheless they placed their cases before the Parliament for debate, as ought to be done. My purpose in speaking is to answer the questions that have been raised on the particular proposals, especially those raised by the honourable member for Yarra. The first matter that he raised was the case of lawn mowers from New Zealand. He seems to be getting somewhat confused between the 1966 Tariff Board report on lawn mowers on the Australian industry side and the report in 1.968 on the effect of lawn mowers coming in from New Zealand. There are really two different questions involved. Even in his quotation of his coclusions by the Tariff Board in its report on the subject he read only one part and missed the part that answers the question he raised about the Board’s consistency in its approach. He read:
The Board does not consider that an increase in the flow of imports from New Zealand would greatly reduce local sales of mowers.
He read a little past there but it is in the same context. He came to a strange conclusion. He could not understand why the Board would continue to recommend that there ought to be protection for Australian mowers against those mowers coming in from New Zealand. Had he gone on he would have read in the second column of the conclusions:
The engine accounts for a substantial part of the total cost of production of a mower particularly in Australia where the production of these engines is protected by General rates of duty of 65 per cent or, if higher, $13 each. However, when the engine is imported incorporated in the mower, it is not separately classified for tariff purposes. The complete mower is dutiable at rates of 4-5 per cent General and 30 per cent Preferential.
Mower engines are not manufactured in New Zealand. The inclusion in Schedule A of mowers incorporating engines produced in third countries would therefore reduce the market for Australian made engines without providing corresponding benefit to New Zealand industry generally. New Zealand mower manufacturers would, however, thereby gain a substantial cost advantage over Australian mower manufacturers who do not enjoy similar access to low cost engines from third countries. The Board is thus of the opinion that the inclusion in Schedule A of cylinder mowers complete with engines could be seriously detrimental to both the Australian engine and mower industries.
Thus it was that the Board on this occasion came out with two findings; one, that the inclusion in Schedule A of the agreement on lawn mowers with self-contained power of the cylinder, or reel, type would be seriously detrimental to an Australian industry; and two, the inclusion of this type of lawnmower imported without the engine would not be seriously detrimental to Australian industry.
– Does the Minister say that the first reference refers only to mowers without an engine?
– If the honourable member for Yarra had bothered to read the report he would agree that the Board has done a fair job in assessing the matter. The second matter that the honourable member for Yarra raised is the question as to why international negotiations on alloy steel had not been made completely public in the Tariff Board proposal. I think again he did make a rather - if I can use the word - extravagant claim that it is now some months since this report was presented. I do not want to misquote the honourable member; he can look up the Hansard reports of his speech. I think he said it is now some months since this matter first came before the Parliament. The report not even one month since this matter first came before the Parliament. The report came to the Parliament on 29th April 1969 and some changes in duties were made on certain stainless steel products.
The honourable member wanted to know the international agreements to which we were bound. He also wanted to know why honourable members are not told about them. Honourable members will know that Australia has agreed to some tariff commitments in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In the case of alloy steel it will be necessary for us to negotiate a release from a commitment under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade before all the recommendations in the report can be brought into effect. It will be necessary to make tariff concessions to other countries in the course of the negotiations. We are prepared to make reasonable compensation for the required release. In doing this we wish to avoid over-compensation. These negotiations will be concluded as soon as possible. The report will be released as soon as the negotiations have been completed. I trust that this answers the two questions asked by the honourable member for Yarra,
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 Bil) be now read a third time.
– In concluding the debate on this Bill I want to say that the explanation given by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) in replying a few moments ago is totally unsatisfactory. It does not deal adequately at all with the submissions I made in contrasting the attitude of the Tariff Board in two different inquiries about substantially the same item. His explanation did not deal adequately with the way the Board, even on the second occasion, arrived at and supported its conclusions. His explanation in which he gave the reason why we have not received a copy of the Tariff Board’s report on stainless steel plate, sheet, hoop and strip is not adequate either. I was under the impression that this proposal was presented in March. If it came in April, that is a little later than I thought. But I do not see why the report cannot be made available to this Parliament. I do not see why it would affect in any way the negotiations that have been entered into under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
I will not delay the House now, but I do say that the explanation given by the Minister is totally inadequate. I know that the Minister did not arrive at the explanation himself. I know where he obtained the explanation. T think it is very unsatisfactory for the House when Ministers are placed in this position. I think that the way in which tariffs are supervised by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), who is in charge of tariff making but who never appears in this House to deal with any tariff proposals, is completely unsatisfactory. What has happened is completely unsatisfactory to the Opposition. I can promise the Government that it will have a great deal more critical analysis of and opposition on tariff making from this side of the House in the near future.
– in reply - I do not think the Government will regret the fact that the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) proposes to look more closely at Tariff Board reports in the future. In fact, I think that would be very advisable, having heard his expertise on the subject of lawnmowers tonight. It is obvious that the honourable member has not been able to give this matter the time he normally gives these reports. But on the final point about alloy steel, I suggest to the honourable member for Yarra that he would be placing Australia at some disadvantage if we were to completely show our hand when trying to negotiate something internationally. The fact is that it was on 29th April - not even one month ago - that the report on these items came to the Parliament. I think that the honourable member for Yarra ought not to get too excited when he is not told the complete facts at this time, while we are still negotiating. I am sure that when the negotiations are complete the honourable member will be pleased to hear ali about them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Erwin) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing orders be suspended as would prevent Government Business, Order of the Day No. 3, being called on.
Debate resumed from 15 May (vide page 1858), on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I do not think this Bill should delay the House very long. The Bill is a fairly simple one. There are one or two specific matters that I want to raise on behalf of the Opposition. We do not oppose the Bill, but we are not completely satisfied with the background to it. The position is that since 1963, as a result of excise legislation, an imposition of so many cents per dozen cans of canned fruits - apricots, peaches, pears and mixtures thereof- has been placed on such fruits for the purpose of raising a fund so that costs incurred outside Australia for certain marketing operations can be paid. This Bill reduces the amount to be collected from 30c per dozen 29 oz cans to 5c per dozen 29 ozcans with equivalent reductions for other can sizes. This means that the funds available for the purposes of export development to assist the canned fruit industry in disposing of the increased supplies of fruit will be cut to no more than 10% or 15% of what was available previously. This is a pretty significant change.
We know that the Australian canned fruit industry is not in a very happy situation. We know that it has had marketing difficulties for a long time. Because of these marketing difficulties this levy was introduced and was increased a couple of times until it reached the previous figure of 30c per dozen. I have seen no evidence put by the Government in this House and no indication in any other place that the marketing problems of Australian canned fruit are any less than they were; rather I think that they are worse than they were. In the face of this increased difficulty the proposal to cut this levy from 30c to 5c seems to require a great deal of justification. Is it getting that justification? The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) told us the reason for this reduction. He said:
The funds have been used effectively since the introduction of the measure.
I interpose there and ask why they could not continue to be used effectively. No-one suggests that they cannot be. The Minister continued:
As the international marketing situation developed over this period, however, there was increasing use of these funds in the form of market development allowance payments to canners exporting to markets such as West Germany. This led to friction with a major competitor - the United States of America - and an agreement was reached with the United States last year that the payment of market development allowances would be discontinued in 1969 in certain significant markets for the chief variety exported, that is, canned peaches.
This raised a number of questions. What happened? The Minister has told us that there was friction with the United States. What was the nature of this friction? What has the United States said? What has the United States done? What would the United States do if we did not follow what it required us to do? Is this another example of going ‘Waltzing Matilda’ with the United States? The United States has told us to cut out our market development payments to canners in Western Germany, and we have cut them out. I would have thought that members of the Country Party, and particularly the Minister himself, would have resisted this move a little more. 1 would have thought that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) would have resisted this sort of thing a little more. Recently when the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) went to the United States, he did not take with him anybody from the Department of Trade and Industry.
– Presumably because he was not concerned with Australia’s trade relations with the United States. How strong or weak a case did we make on this question? No explanation has been given. Surely members of the Country Party should be expected to want an explanation - maybe in their own party room, but certainly somewhere. I think it is astonishing that this decision has been accepted so mildly. Maybe it is not such an enormous thing. Maybe it is appropriate for the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes), who is sitting on the front bench now, to be uninterested in this matter; perhaps it is not very significant But I think it is an indicator of the attitude of this Government towards the United Slates. I think we have a right to demand more information on this matter than we have been given. Where did it happen? What was the form of the communication? What did the United States say? What was our reply to the United States? Was any attempt made to justify this market development scheme which has been thought to be so necessary since 1963 but which is now being cut to nothing without any explanation?
– It looks as if the Government has sold out to the Basic Industries Group.
– Of course there are contests and conflicts within the Government Parties which affect this sort of thing. But 1 think mainly this decision has been made because of the Government’s compliant attitude towards the United States. Anything that America wants it seems America will get.
– At a low return to Australia.
– We know how low that can get. We are getting an illustration of these things. I should like some explanation for this decision. I am sure that other honourable members, even on the Government side of the chamber, might require some explanation too. Do honourable members opposite know themselves what has happened? Have they read the Minister’s second reading speech? How many honourable members know what happened? The other question I should like answered is what effect will this decision have on the marketing of canned fruit. There is no indication of that. If this market development payment, which is now to be cut out. was necessary for West Germany, what effect will this have on the marketing of Australian canned fruit in the future? There is no explanation of this-
– Have you any estimate?
– I have none at all. I do not know what effect it will have. But cutting the market development payment to about 10% or 15% of what it was previously is certain to have a fairly significant effect. I do not know what it will be, but I think that honourable members are entitled to have that question answered by somebody who should be expected to know. The Minister in his second reading speech also stated:
Australian industry representatives participated fully in the discussions leading to this agreement.
Since 1963 Australian industry representatives have wanted to maintain this market development payment. They agreed about that. They said that it was essential and they backed the Government in its action. The Minister has told us so. He has said that they participated fully in the discussions.
Are those words chosen deliberately to hide the attitude of the representatives of the industry? In saying that they participated fully in the discussions the Minister did not say that they agreed or disagreed. Is this a kind of inaccurate and abstract statement that is meant to cover the situation rather than to reveal it? What was the attitude of the industry representatives who participated fully in the discussions? If they accepted what is being done, why did they? Is any offsetting action to be taken?
Does the Government anticipate changes in other markets or in the marketing policy of the United States that may offset this move? Can the Government state to us any factor that justifies the move, apart from pressure by the United States? The only reason the Government has given us for reducing the excise to 5c per dozen cans is pressure by the United States. Is there any other reason for the change? I do not think that the reason is to be found in the improved marketing of canned fruit. It may lie in some offsetting arrangements with the United States, or otherwise. If there are any such reasons, it is time that the Government told us of them.
– in reply- The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) has struck the key note in this proposal in quoting from my second reading speech in which I said that Australian industry representatives participated fully in the discussions leading to the agreement. The fact is that the excise was introduced to assist the canned fruit industry to develop a market in Europe. The market was developed considerably. There were objections, as rightly stated by the honourable member for Yarra, by the United States which believed that we were using a form of subsidy which was unfair under our trading arrangements in accordance with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The Australian Canned Fruits Board agreed that we ought to desist, having developed the market, and we pulled out. The Board then said: ‘We no longer need this market development allowance for this type of thing’. It recommended a reduction in the excise. I do not think this is an appropriate occasion to claim that Big Brother is hanging one on us, that Big Brother has spoken and we have to do as we are told. The motive for the change is not as malevolent as all that. It is a relatively simple trading situation. The industry has looked at its responsibilities very carefully and has made its own recommendations. The Government has accepted those recommendations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.40 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As at 31st December 1968:
On 12th October 1957 the United Kingdom Government concluded an Agreement with the Government of Malaya on External Defence and Mutual Assistance. This afforded the United Kingdom the right to maintain in the Federation of Malaya naval, land and air forces including a Commonwealth Strategic Reserve. Provision was made in the Agreement for rights of land tenure. By an Exchange of Letters with the Federation of Malaya which took place in March and April 1959, it was confirmed that the various provisions of the Agreement applicable to the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve, which included Australian Forces, and in particular the provisions dealing with the status of forces, should apply in respect of these Australian Forces.
On 9th July 1963 the Government of the United Kingdom and Malaysia agreed to extend the 1957 Agreement following the formation of Malaysia.
Australia by an Exchange of Letters in September 1963 intimated that it regardedit’s association with the 1957 Agreement as henceforth applying to Malaysia.
Australia has occupied the Butterworth and Terendak areas by virtue of its association with the Agreement and its participation in the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to these parts of the honourable member’s question are as follows: 1 and 3 -
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
What requests or suggestions did Federal and State Ministers and officers in charge of penal systems make at their meeting in Sydney in March for legislative or administrative action by (a) the Commonwealth, (b) the Territories and (c) the States?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following resolutions were passed by the meeting of Ministers concerned with penal administration at their meeting on 27th March 1969:
that penal statistics should be compiled on a common basis for use by the States as a guide for considering and determining future penal policies;
that remissions of sentences for prisoners should be a privilege rather than a right;
that all State administrations should explore alternatives to imprisonment as correctional techniques particularly in the field of probation and work release arrangements.
The decision of the Ministers in relation to uniform penal statistics implements proposals made by the Commonwealth as part of a plan to establish a system of national crime statistics. In the discussion on the resolution, the Ministers also agreed that the information sought from the figures should pinpoint areas in which administrators could recommend reforms in their systems, and that particular regard should be had to the incidence of repeated criminality. Administrators from the States and the Commonwealth are to work together to report to a subsequent meeting of Ministers.
The Ministers also agreed that an adequate and useful diversified work programme was essential as part of prison treatment. They expressed concern at rising prison populations and the high incidence of young people in custody and the need to provide diverse educational and training opportunities for inmates.
The problem of the short sentence prisoner and his proper treatment was discussed and further consideration will be given to the question of satisfactory alternatives.
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 and 2. There are eight offices of the Taxation Office at which income tax returns lodged by individual taxpayers who are residents of Australia are assessed. There are two such offices in Melbourne (one being Central Office which deals with returns required to be lodged in Canberra and returns of taxpayers with income in more than one State) and one in each other State capital and in Darwin. The returns assessed in these particular offices are not restricted to those lodged by persons domiciled in the State in which the office is situated. In addition, persons required to lodge their returns in Canberra include not only residents of the Australian Capital Territory but also persons resident elsewhere in Australia whose income is wholly from the Territory.
Statistics of assessments are kept on an office of assessment basis. Except that statistics of assessments issued from Central Office are prepared so as to distinguish the State of residence of the taxpayer or, in the case of the Australian Capital Territory, that the assessments are in respect of returns required to be lodged in Canberra, statistics of assessments issued from the various offices are not kept so as to indicate the place of residence of the taxpayer.
Some indication of the amount of tax assessed in the aggregate and per head of population in relation to the Australian Capital Territory, the several States and the Commonwealth as a whole may be obtained from statistics of assessments issued which are reported to the Parliament each year in the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Taxation. These statistics have been classified on the basis outlined above and the details set out below do not take into account the assessments of persons who are not residents of Australia.
The amounts of income tax assessed on the basis of returns recorded as required to be lodged in Canberra for the income years 1962-63 to 1966-67 were as follows:
The division of the above figures and comparable figures for the several parts of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth as a whole by the respective populations gives the following amounts per head of population in the income years 1962-63 to 1966-67.
In each case the amounts shown above have been based on assessments issued in the15 months following the close of the year of income and the estimated population at 31 December in the year of income. Details for the 1967-68 income year have not yet been tabulated.
er asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What total amounts has the Commonwealth received in each of the past 5 completed financial years in company tax paid by companies domiciled, established, or registered in the Australian Capital Territory?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Companies resident in the Australian Capita) Territory and companies resident elsewhere in Australia which derive income wholly from within the Australian Capital Territory are required to lodge income tax returns in Canberra. The statistics kept in respect of the tax assessed on the basis of these returns do not show the place of residence of the companies. Nor do available statistics indicate the tax attributable to income earned in the Territory by other companies whose income is partly from the Territory and partly from other sources.
For these reasons available statistics do not indicate the amount of tax levied on companies domiciled, established or registered in the Australian Capital Territory. However, statistics of assessments of companies recorded as required to lodge returns in Canberra are compiled. The amounts of tax assessed to such of these companies as were resident in Australia in respect of each of the income years 1961-62 to 1965-66 inclusive were as follows:
In each case the figures relate to assessments issued in the 18 months following the close of the year of income.
Statistics of company assessments for the 1966- 67 and 1967-68 income years are not yet available.
asked the Minister for Ship ping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 and 2. At 30th June 1968 there were thirteen domestic tankers operating in coastal waters, and during the financial year 1967-68 ten of these vessels traded on occasions to North Queensland ports, carrying a total of 672,593 tons of crude oil and petroleum products to ports in the vicinity of the Great Barrier Reef. In addition, a considerable number of overseas tankers bring crude oil to Australia, and the best indicator available of the number of tankers passing through or near the Reef is the number passing through Torres Strait. For the financial year 1966-67, the latest year for which figures are available, the number and tonnage of the vessels involved was: - with cargo, 143 vessels totalling 3,624,187 dwt -in ballast, 190 vessels totalling 5,931,062 dwt
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What was the percentage change, as shown by statistics collected for. the consumer price index, between (a) December 1963 and December 1965, (b) December 1965 and December 1967, (c) December 1967 and December 1968 and (d) March 1968 and March 1969 in respect of each of the following selected items: Cereal products, meat - butchers’, boys’ clothing, footwear, rent - privatelyowned houses, rates, repairs and maintenance, electricity, household sundries, proprietary medicines, bus and tram fares, car operation, tobacco and cigarettes, beer, health services, hairdressing, drycleaning, postal and telephone services, cinema admission, and newspaper and weekly magazines?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth Statistician has advised that the percentage changes in the selected components of the consumer Price Index for the periods specified are as shown in the following table:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
er asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 and 2. Separate figures are not available in respect of the Customs duties and/or Excise paid on automotive fuels sold in the Australian Capital Territory. Duties of Customs and Excise are paid on goods either at the time of their importation into Australia or release from licensed warehouses or refineries. Duty is not necessarily paid in the State or Territory to which the goods will be consigned. Automotive fuels sold in the Australian Capital Territory are duty paid and are removed from Customs control at the places at which they are imported or manufactured. Under normal circumstances this means that duty on automotive fuels sold in the Australian Capital Territory is paid in New South Wales and included with duty on fuel destined for sale in that State. Consequently, information in the form of separate accounting records for the A.C.T. is not required for the performance of the Auditor-General’s statutory functions.
er asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
In respect of each of the past five completed financial years what total sums have been received by the Commonwealth in duties and/or excise paid on alcoholic liquors and beverages and on cigars, cigarettes and tobacco told through hotels, motels and clubs, restaurants, grocers and other licensed outlets in the Australian Capital Territory?
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Separate figures are not available in respect of the Customs duties and/or excise paid on alcoholic liquors and beverages and on cigars, cigarettes and tobacco sold in the Australian Capital Territory.
Duties of Customs and Excise are paid on goods either at the time of their importation into Australia or release from licensed warehouses, factories, breweries or distilleries as the case may be. Duty is not necessarily paid in the State or Territory to which the goods will be consigned.
The greater part of the liquor and tobacco products sold in the Australian Capital Territory is duty paid and is removed from Customs control at the places at which they are imported or manufactured in the various States.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What alterations to his answers to me on the debts of semi-government authorities on 15th August 1967 (Hansard, page 92) and 27th November 1968 (Hansard, page 3387) would have to be made following (a) the reclassification of New South Wales County Councils as local government instead of semi-government authorities and (b) the incorporation of later statistics concerning State housing authorities?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Pri mary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer tothe honourable member’s question isas follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
In view of the importance of the bi-centenary of Captain Cook’s landings on the east coast of Australia, will he take steps to have a special coin or series of coins struck as a permanent symbol of the importance of this historic event?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On 8th December 1968 I announced the Government’s intention to make an issue in 1970 of the 50-cent coin, which is our highest denomination, with a special design to commemorate the bi-centenary of Captain James Cook’s discovery of the east coast of Australia.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 May 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690521_reps_26_hor63/>.