26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr ARTHUR presented from certain electors of the Commonwealth a petition showing that physiotherapy is not amongst the items included for Commonwealth benefit under the health insurance scheme.
The petitioners pray that adequate refund for physiotherapy treatment ordered by a registered medical practitioner may be included in the Commonwealth benefits scheme in like manner to other medical benefits.
Petition received and read.
– 1 desire to inform the House that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) will leave for New York tomorrow to lead the Australian delegation at the opening session of the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly. He expects to return to Australia on 28th September. During Mr Freeth’s absence the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) will act as Minister for External Affairs.
– ls the Deputy Prime Minister aware of the widespread concern throughout the sugar areas of Australia about the serious drop in world sugar prices to around about £Stg27 per ton, despite the operation of the Internationa] Sugar Agreement? Why has the Government remained silent on this important issue? Does the Minister agree with my contention that the London daily price may not be a satisfactory price determinant for Australian export sugar within the terms of the International Sugar Agreement because of its susceptibility to influences from European beet white sugar and the possiblity of short-term manipulation by sugar dealers, as well as the fact that no Australian sugar is physically traded on this market? Finally, will the Minister give an undertaking that the Government will resist any move to reduce quotas further under the International Sugar Agreement?
– The honourable member refers to the fall in the price of sugar. Almost immediately on the signing of the Agreement the price went very close to the optimum - rising to £Stg38 10s. per ton - but recently it has been £Stg27, £Stg27 10s., £Stg28 and £Stg28 10s. He asks why the Government has remained silent on this issue. I do not know what the Government could have said about it.
– What is the explanation?
– There is nothing the Government could say about it at all. One can read this in the newspapers. I gather the substance of the honourable member’s question really is: Are dealers in sugar able to manipulate the market? I think f heard him use this word ‘manipulate’ in a speech recently. It is a nice question and I do not know the answer. But I am pretty sure of the opinion of all the great sugar experts in the world. We have our own Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd, our Queensland Sugar Board and the highly organised Queensland industry. We can be sure that they are watching this and we can also be sure that they know more about sugar than the honourable member for Dawson does. They have never suggested that the market can be manipulated along the lines he has suggested. When the people who know more about the marketing of sugar than I can ever know and, with respect, than the honourable member can ever know, put this forward as a proposition, I will be the first to take into account most seriously what they say.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. Can he inform the House whether it is correct that the present legal aid system is such that a person can commence divorce proceedings against the marriage partner resident in another State, that the latter, who might normally qualify for legal aid, is precluded from such assistance and on occasions is forced to leave the petition uncontested because legal aid is intrastate based? Will the Minister place the matter of interstate restrictions on the agenda for the next meeting of the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral so that a remedy may be sought?
– In the Australian Capital Territory, where we have the administration of legal aid, it is given to parties who are brought to a particular forum, whether they are resident here or not. There is no residential bar on a party to divorce litigation obtaining legal aid in the Territory under our existing scheme. Our scheme is an interim one and we have in final draft, after negotiations with the local law society, a modern legal aid scheme which it is hoped to put into an ordinance here before the end of the year. The same legal aid principle will be reflected in it. The provision of legal aid will be governed by whether a person is a party to litigation in the Territory rather than whether he is resident here. The position in the States varies and I am not able to give the honourable member, State by State, an account of what the law is. I understand that there is a residential bar in Queensland. On the other hand New South Wales, which is closest to us, does not, I think impose a residential bar. The honourable member suggested that the matter be put on the agenda of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. Divorce costs have been an item on the agenda for the last couple of meetings and will be on the next agenda. This is only part of a very much wider problem, involving quite complex questions between the Commonwealth and the States on the matter of legal aid for divorce proceedings.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: Has a decision been made respecting the route to be traversed by the pipeline that will deliver natural gas from the Bass Strait field to New South Wales? In view of the Commonwealth’s contribution of subsidy, technical assistance and taxation concessions to the companies exploiting this extensive field, will the Minister take action to ensure the widest national benefit in the distribution of this rich resource? If he is not in a position to do so, will he say who is responsible for determining this important issue?
– No decision has yet been made on the route that a pipeline would cover - if there is to be a pipeline - because no decision has yet been made on the sale of natural gas to Sydney. While it is likely - I would almost say highly likely - that if a sale is made it will be from the Gippsland shelf area, this is by no means 100% certain. There are large deposits of natural gas in the north eastern sector of South Australia. In addition to the Gidgealpa and Moomba fields another field known as Toolachee has been discovered. It may be that Sydney will be able to purchase natural gas more cheaply from these areas than from Gippsland but I still say that it is far more likely that if Sydney purchases natural gas it will come from the Gippsland area. As I have said, there has not yet been a sale and therefore no application but if and when there is a sale an application would be made by the prospective carriers. There could well be more than one with a proposal to carry natural gas to Sydney, which would involve applications to the Victorian and New South Wales governments for permission to build a pipeline along a certain route. Such applications would be looked at by the State authorities. The Commonwealth has said that if and when that situation arose it would be prepared, without commitment, to study the route and to see whether, in certain circumstances, it may be advisable to vary the route but I stress that the Commonwealth would do this completely without commitment.
– I refer the AttorneyGeneral to his answer on 4th April 1968 to a question in which I asked that the law relating to abortion be discussed by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. The honourable gentleman said, among other things, that it was probably too early to refer such a matter to the Standing Committee. As a number of State Parliaments have now considered their attitude to abortion, but more particularly in view of the somewhat surprising recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council that the law be changed, as contained in the report of the Director-General of Health, does the Attorney-General now believe that the time is right for discussion of the law by all Attorneys? If so, will he take steps to see that the Standing Committee considers the matter as soon as possible?
– This is a matter which has been discussed informally by the AttorneysGeneral. Whether the time has come for a full scale discussion is something which needs, I think, further consideration. The position so far as Commonwealth responsibility is concerned is that comparatively recently 1 tabled in this House a draft criminal code for the Australian Capital Territory, appended to which were the comments of the Law Council of Australia. The Council pointed out that on matters such as the law relating to abortion or whether homosexuality between consenting males should be legalised policy considerations were involved and that the Council would not in its draft propose amendments to the law. However, I have had a senior officer who is concerned with the Council’s proposals working on the preparation of a report for me.
My Department will be going into these considerations of policy to see whether from our point of view there should be any amendments to the draft proposed by the Law Council of Australia. On the matter of the law relating to abortion I should point out to the honourable member, as I did on an earlier occasion, that we would not wish to get out of step with New South Wales so as to become an area of resort with a different type of law. Indeed, we are watching the situation in the United Kingdom following the relaxation of its laws to see what consequences Sow from amendments to the law in this field. When I receive my report on the draft criminal code I certainly will not do anything without putting the matter on the agenda of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General and discussing it with my colleagues there.
– Did the Prime Minister have a telephone conversation yesterday morning with the Premier of New South Wales about a resolution which a branch of the Liberal Party had passed condemning his attitude to Commonwealth and State relations and which the branch had widely distributed to Liberal Party members of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly and to others in the Party and thus, inevitably, to the Press? In view of the undertakings to discuss these questions, which the right honourable gentleman has several times given to his Party and then deferred, I ask him whether he will at least make a ministerial statement about them before the House expires and permit honourable members to debate the functions and finances of the Commonwealth and the States and the authorities which the States establish?
– The answer to the Leader of the Opposition is yes, I had a telephone conversation yesterday with the Premier of New South Wales arising from a meeting of one branch out of twenty-five, I understand, in North Sydney, attended by fourteen people, who, as the Leader of the Opposition indicated, sought to make public their views on Commonwealth-State relations and constitutional matters. The Premier of New South Wales, of course, made it perfectly clear that he had nothing whatever to do with this small branch’s statement and indeed condemned the approach that was made. In relation to the other part of the question the Leader of the Opposition asks, no, I shall not be making a ministerial statement. The position is that the Liberal Party as a whole, acting through its Council in Canberra, representing all Liberal parties in all States, agreed that it was time to examine and re-examine the operations of the Constitution, which was adopted so long ago. That examination has been and is being carried on by the Liberal Party, and when it is brought before the Liberal Party’s Council it will be there discussed and any changes that are thought necessary in either direction will then be recommended to the Government by the Council. This has nothing whatever to do with the Labor Party or the Leader of the Opposition but is, I think, a good and proper indication that the Liberal Party is moving with the times and is examining the operations of the Constitution, and 1 have no doubt that it will do great good for this examination to take place.
– I address my question to the Postmaster-General. In view of the fact that the recently approved decision to provide a number of television stations in country centres was made some years after this amenity had long been enjoyed in more favoured areas, could the PostmasterGeneral assure the House that every effort will be made to have these stations provided with all urgency? Further, will he give an assurance that every consideration will be given to securing approval for television stations in the centres which, quite rightly, have strongly objected to being overlooked?
– During the last session of the Parliament I made a statement on the expansion of television into some thirtyeight additional areas throughout Australia. I pointed out at that time that it was necessary to complete certain broad band construction links, one across from South Australia to Western Australia and another from Townsville to Mt Isa, and to complete some links that we term mini-microwave links or thin line links, in other areas to make it possible to relay television to a number of these areas. Until these installations are completed it will be impossible to provide television. It was indicated at that time that the programme would cost $5m and would extend over a period of 4 years. The detailed programming is being undertaken by the Broadcasting Control Board in conjunction with the Post Office, and the honourable member can be assured that there will be no delay, consistent with the announcement that I made and with the expenditure of that money over that period. I would not like it to be thought by any honourable member that this seventh stage is necessarily the end of the expansion of television, but this 4-year programme is the limit to which the Government is prepared to go at the moment. But in the meantime the Broadcasting Control Board is conducting investigations in other areas and I have no doubt that at some future time further announcements about expansion will be made.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask: When does the right honourable gentleman expect to make his promised statement on the Government’s policy in regard to foreign investment and the takeover of Australian companies by foreign investors?
– I think the general question to which the honourable member refers goes a little further than he described it. Never mind, I understand precisely what it is. I would hope to make a statement very shortly. In fact, I am seeking to make it tonight. I am not yet clear whether I will be able to make it tonight because of the pressure of time. If not, it will certainly be made next week.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Has the right honourable gentleman’s attention been drawn to the methods that are being adopted in the current series of investigations by officers of the Taxation Branch of the Department of the Treasury into the files and accounts of the clients of sharebrokers? Has the Government’s policy on capital gains changed? Are all gains made on shares, many of which have no dividend prospects at present, to be taxed? Are these raids being conducted at the direction of the Government or are they as a result of the initiatives of the Deputy Commissioners of Taxation in the various States?
– I shall deal with the last part of the honourable member’s question first. The House would be aware that the Commissioner of Taxation operates under powers conferred upon him by the Parliament under legislation and is independent of the Government and myself. I do not and will not attempt to interfere with his exercising of the administrative functions that he has under the income tax legislation. The second point I wish to make is that the Commissioner of Taxation is under compulsion of secrecy and he does not and will not disclose to me - nor would I want him to disclose to me - the details of a particular account or of a particular indi* vidual with whom he is dealing. The third point I wish to make in relation to the articles that have appeared in the Press - I admit I have read them on several occasions - is that disgruntled people, when they feel that their tax evasion activities are likely to be found out, often run to the Press to see whether they can get some publicity for what is happening.
In South Australia and Western Australia the Deputy Commissioners of Taxation, after consultation with the chairmen of the stock exchanges as to the substance of what was to be done and the methods to be used, went ahead and conducted an examination of the accounts in the offices of certain brokers. When the first allegation was made of Gestapo practices the Chairman of the Adelaide Stock Exchange completely dissociated himself from it. Within the course of the last 2 days the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in Adelaide has received a letter from one of the most prominent brokers again dissociating himself from this allegation. Nonetheless, I have had several discussions with the Commissioner as to the sweet reasonableness with which the examinations take place and also in regard to the statements that have appeared in the newspapers about the Adelaide investigations. On his own initiative and without having any discussions with me, the Commissioner yesterday suspended further investigations. This morning the Commissioner informed me that he is looking at the methods which are used to detect taxation evasions. He will take what action he considers is wise in order to have the proper arrangement executed. He wants the investigation carried out in a reasonable and sensible way.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Does the right honourable gentleman know that of all the developed countries Australia has the lowest ratio of engineers to population? Does he have any suggestions to offer about how this shortage can be removed by making the profession more attractive to university graduates? Further, will he ensure that the present arbitration hearing in regard to professional engineers will be finished as soon as possible and the judgment implemented without delay?
– I would doubt the accuracy of the first statment made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Of course he did not specify countries but I would merely doubt the accuracy of the statement.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition would no doubt know that the Government has, through its education approach, -placed emphasis on the training of engineers, of technologists and technicians generally, and has set up for that purpose, amongst others, the colleges of advanced education, which have received such a gigantic increase in finance for this coming triennium, to turn out technicians and technologists of all kinds. This I regard as a very definite step towards providing those engineers and others of that kind which this country will need in greater quantities in the future. In regard to the last part of the question, the arbitration system and the Public Service Board’s operations are not ones that I believe a government should dictate to.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry whether his attention has been drawn to a report which suggested that the Tariff Board had sent its annual report to the Government ahead of schedule to forestall moves by the Government to defer release of the report until after the federal election. Did the Minister ever intend to defer tabling the report as suggested?
– I have seen the article, together with some display on the front page of the ‘Financial Review’, which could only bc read to indicate that the Tariff Board was setting out to play politics with the Government by forcing the Government into a certain position. There is absolutely no justification for that inference. The presentation of the Tariff Board’s report is dictated by statute. The tabling of the report also is dictated by statute. The statute provides that the Tariff Board must furnish its annual report to the Government within 60 days of the commencement of the financial year. The deadline date was 29th August. The Board furnished its report a week before the deadline date. It would take a good imagination to construe that into a device or intention on the part of the Board to force the Government’s hand. In the second place the statute provides that on receiving the Tariff Board’s report the Government must table it in the House within 15 sitting days. The report will be tabled within 1 5 sitting days of its receipt on 21st August. The only thing that is preventing the report from being tabled today is that the Government Printer has not yet completed the printing. It will be tabled just as soon as the printing is completed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. I ask: When he dined with Mr B. A. Santamaria at the Latin Cafe, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, at 6.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 6th August last did he promise to consider alterations to our social service laws as demanded by the Democratic Labor Party? Did Mr Santamaria try to blackmail him on the question of a Russian naval presence in the Indian Ocean? If so, did the Minister express support for his Government’s policy on this matter?
– I am glad to see that the honourable member for Hunter has not forgotten his past as a cop. I am not quite certain what organisation is reporting to him. It would not be, perhaps, an official organisation. It is true that I did have dinner at some stage with the gentleman he names. I do not know whether that gentleman has any official connection with the Democratic Labor Party. I do know that the Democratic Labor Party is one of the parties which are represented in this Parliament, unlike the Communist Party with which the honourable member may perhaps have closer links.
– Mr Acting Speaker-
– Order! The honourable member for Hunter will resume his seat.
– On the question of social services, I am interested in getting responsible opinions from all sections of the community and I do so. I take the opportunity of discussing social service matters with all sections of the community.
– Mr Acting Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I ask that the Minister for Social Services withdraw his remark that I have close associations with the Communist Party.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable the Minister might withdraw the remark as requested by the honourable member for Hunter.
– Yes, Sir. I would be the last person to suggest improper associations to the honourable member for Hunter. I do consider that the views of the-
– Mr Acting Speaker, 1 rise to order. The Minister for Social Services was asked to withdraw a specific allegation that he made. He changed it in the course of his withdrawal. I suggest that under precedents established under your very good management he should withdraw unconditionally the exact words he uttered.
-Order! I understood the Minister to say that he withdrew the statement and that he would be the last person to refer in such a manner to the honourable member for Hunter.
– I am glad that the honourable member for Hunter shares my view that associations with the Communist Party are improper associations. I have no indication from first hand, because I do not have his reporting network, as to whom he has had dinner with or with whom he has associated. Let me say that I, personally, at this moment have no first hand evidence that the honourable member for Hunter has personal associations with the Communist Party. To that extent I certainly withdraw my remark. It may be that the honourable member for Hunter would like to say something himself and would deny that he had any association with Communists.
-Order! I would remind the Minister for Social Services of the Standing Orders. The Minister is not entitled to ask any honourable member to make any comment in this House.
– 1 was only suggesting that if-
-Order! I suggest that the Minister should not suggest anything in this House at this time.
– Well, Sir, I think that the question has therefore been answered.
– Since my interpretation of the speech made by the Minister for External Affairs on 14th August differs greatly from the interpretation placed on it by others I ask him: Has the Government had any negotiations with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics about the security of South East Asia? Does the Government contemplate having any such negotiations in the foreseeable future; or has it conveyed to the Soviet Union or received from the Soviet Union any proposals for such negotiations? Was there anything in the Minister’s statement on 14th August to suggest that such negotiations might take place?
– The simple answer to each and every one of those questions is no. Might I just add, in relation to the last question that, like the honourable gentleman, I have been amazed at some of the fantastic suggestions that have been attributed to that statement. Neither in it nor anywhere else does there exist any proposal to have with the Soviet Union any security arrangement or military pact, or any other of the irresponsible proposals that have been ascribed to that statement.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House whether it is the intention of the Government to introduce in the life of this Parliament legislation to repeal or amend the penal provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act?
– As the honourable member will realise, the Attorney-General and myself have had lengthy discussions on this possibility with the leaders and their staffs of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and also with employers. This afternoon I shall be seeing various other groups. All these people appreciate that any amendment to this Act will involve a very lengthy process and need a great deal of careful sifting. We all are well aware that it would be quite impossible during the life of this Parliament to introduce legislation amending the Act. If such legislation should eventually be recommended it would have to come up at a later stage and certainly not in the life of this Parliament or in the course of the life in the Parliament of the honourable member for East Sydney.
– I direct a question to the Minister for ‘Immigration. Has economic growth in Australia been assisted by the immigration policy of the Government?
-Order! The Minister for Immigration is not present in the chamber.
– In that case I direct the question to the Treasurer.
-Order! The honourable member may direct a question to a Minister only if the subject matter of the question comes within the responsibility of that Minister.
– My question would come within the ambit of responsibility of the Treasurer.
-The honourable member may ask his question.
-JI ask the Treasurer: Has economic growth in Australia been assisted by the immigration policy of the Government? Has the dynamic - and I use that word as a noun - enriched our standards economically, culturally and in the arts and crafts? Can the Treasurer state the cost of the labour force that emigrated to Australia last year? By that I mean the cost of educating and training the people to the standards that they have attained. Will the right honourable gentleman take this opportunity of thanking those who have made Australia their adopted country and request them to assist in bringing to Australia more people of their kind?
– The honourable member is correct in saying that the chief dynamic of growth is the increase in population and the growth of the work force. As I pointed out in the Budget Speech, last year immigrants provided more than 60,000 of the actual growth of 150,000 in the work force. Without those people we would not have been able to sustain a rate of growth of 8.7% in real overall terms, or leaving out the rural sector, a rate of growth of 6i%. Australia welcomes these migrants, not only because of their skills and the opportunities that they give us for development of our capacity to defend ourselves and to play our part in aid in
South East Asia, but also because they enhance the cultural and artistic background against which a great nation should develop. As to the remainder of the honourable gentleman’s question relating to the cost associated with migrants, I have never bothered to take out those figures. Against the general background of the welcome that we give to them, of the splendid contribution that they are making to this country, particularly those who come here as immigrants from war torn or harassed areas of Europe, I think it is unnecessary to take into consideration the money involved. In other words, they are welcome here. The Minister for Immigration hopes that we will be able to step up the migration programme this year by a substantially increased figure. There have been no Treasury restrictions at all on the money that has been made available to permit this to be done.
– I ask the Minister for Education and Science a question. How long ago did he receive the reports df the Wiltshire and Sweeney inquiries, which he announced in June last year, into the naming of awards for courses in colleges of advanced education and into the academic salaries in these colleges? Does the honourable gentleman propose to table these two reports in time for the House to consider and debate them?
-The reports were received by the Commonwealth either just before or just after the autumn session of the Parliament. Since that time they have been forwarded to the States as part of the original undertaking and agreement with the States. After the States gave the reports, especially the Sweeney report, some consideration they asked that there be direct discussions with the Commonwealth before any direct decisions were made in relation to the reports. These discussions have been arranged and will be held next Monday.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development and concerns the Kolan-
Burnett irrigation scheme. Could the Minister indicate the current position in relation to Government support for this scheme? Is it likely-
– I raise a point of order. I draw your attention, Mr Acting Speaker, to a question on the notice paper asked by the honourable member for Capricornia.
– What is the number of the question?
– I am afraid I cannot find it at the moment.
-Order! The honourable member for Lilley will proceed with his question.
– Is it likely that a start will be made on one of the dams in the near future and if so, will the Commonwealth ensure a continuing interest in the social and economic aspects of the remainder of the proposal?
– The history of the Queensland application for assistance from the Commonwealth in the so-called Kolan irrigation scheme is this: When the Commonwealth Government determined that it would assist the State governments by a National Water Resources Development Programme under which the States would get not less than $50m, it asked for applications from the States for assistance in projects which might be considered suitable for inclusion in this programme. The Queensland Government sent the Commonwealth a list of four projects. The first of these projects, which the Queensland Government named as its first priority, was the Emerald scheme. We have arranged for a grant of $20m for work on this scheme to be carried out. The next project was the socalled Kolan scheme. After investigation by a number of departments and Ministers this scheme was not regarded, on a cost benefit analysis basis, as coming high enough in the general programme to warrant inclusion on the shorter list. The Commonwealth produced a shorter list of some six projects and for projects on this list it has made further grants. At about the time the further grants were announced, in about April of this year, a further submission was received from Queensland which concerned a more extensive and a more expensive scheme in the Kolan-Bundaberg area. The new scheme is to cost about S47m. The Commonwealth said that it had committed all of the funds available under the National Water Resources Development Programme but that it would investigate this proposal. This, the Commonwealth has proceeded to do.
The new scheme has some unusual features. Not only my own Department but also other departments which, for instance, are associated with primary industries, particularly the sugar industry, are greatly interested in this scheme. We have been looking at this project. The Queensland Government has now announced that it will proceed with the first stage of the project. I believe that this will cost the Queensland Government $8.3m and will involve the building of a weir and barrage on each of two rivers, the Kolan and the Burnett. So the position today is that this first stage of the project will proceed. There is no requirement for the Commonwealth to provide money until the second stage is commenced, and this will enable the Commonwealth to carry out a closer assessment and evaluation of the various aspects of the scheme. I understand that the main dam in this scheme, the Monduran Dam, will not be commenced until 1972, and this, as I have said, will enable the Commonwealth to assess fully many of the features of this scheme and to determine whether it will assist Queensland or not.
– I take a point of order. Is it now in order for the Minister for National Development to answer a question on the same subject as the honourable member for Capricornia placed before him in question No. 1853 on the noticepaper?
-Order! There is no point of order.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– No. I want to explain why I raised the earlier point of order. At the time I was unable to cite question No. 1853 which was placed on the notice paper by the honourable member for Capricornia and which was directed to the Minister for National Development. In view of the comprehensive answer given by the Minister, I am pleased that at the time I was not able to quote the question number.
– I wish to raise a question of privilege. It refers to an addition to a speech in Hansard which was made by the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) yesterday. In the debate on the estimates for the Department of Health the honourable member for Bowman was heard by a number of honourable members on this side of the chamber to say that no new hospitals had been constructed in Britain over the last 40 years. In the issue of yesterday’s Hansard which has just come to hand, the honourable member has added the word practically’ which, of course, changes the context of the speech as he uttered it, and it is a significant operation in an attempt to overcome his own serious deficiencies.
– I have been wilfully misrepresented. I would be only too willing to have the House examine the green proof copy of my speech. I am particularly careful to adhere to the truth, unlike certain other honourable members. I made no alteration whatsoever in this regard to my green proof copy. When I make a speech the only alterations that I make to the green proof copy are largely from the point of view of grammar.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, I present the report relating to the following proposed works:
Stores Buildings at St Mary’s, Botany and Waterloo, New South Wales.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Debate resumed from 9 September (vide page 966), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
Mi Erwin - May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Loan (Canadian Dollars) Bill, as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Acting Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a genera) debate covering the two measures? As there is no objection, 1 will allow that course to be followed.
– I do not intend to occupy much of the time of the House on either of these measures. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon), when he introduced them on Tuesday night, was very brief. He pointed out that they were technical measures which allowed for the conversion of two foreign loans, one from Switzerland and one from Canada.
The only observation I would make is that the rate of interest that applied when each of these loans was originally negotiated is astonishingly low. This may mean that they were negotiated a very long time ago. One can only reflect rather sadly upon the current rate for international borrowing and suggest that the parts of the world that are most in need of economic development suffer greatly from the prevailing high rates of interest. I would hope that the endeavours of the world will be directed towards making better arrangements for international liquidity and that more attention will be given to the need of the majority of the peoples of the world for economic development. Unfortunately the areas where most development is needed are the areas that are most short of capital and, of course, are least able to pay the prevailing exorbitant international rates of interest, which are somewhere in the region of 8%.
J do not know whether the Treasurer, when he learns the terms on which conversion of these loans is available, will do as he did recently. He believed that the rate on a German loan was-excessive and he chose to redeem rather than convert. I hope that he will keep that option open for these two loans. They are comparatively small sums. One is 60 million Swiss francs, which is about $A12m, and the other is $Can 15m. Both could be redeemed, if necessary, out of our international reserves. However, if we did that we would run our reserves down by that amount, instead of leaving them as they are, when at the moment even on short account with London balances we can earn some 7% or 8%. I suppose the margins of argument become fairly academic. However, we regard the measures as technical ones and we offer no opposition to their passage.
Mr DOBIE (Hughes) [11.241- As the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has already mentioned in his second reading .speeches, these two Bills are mainly of a machinery nature and are intended to open the way for easier refinancing of the loans concerned. I mention that section 7 of the Loan (Swiss Francs) Act 1955 requires the moneys standing to the credit of the Swiss Loan Trust Account to be used for repayment of the loan, which matures on 1st March 1970. While this provision remains in its present form, if the opportunity for a refinancing loan presented itself, this would have to take the form of a separate loan with the maturing loan being paid off from the Trust Account. Under the amendment proposed under this Bill it will not be essential for the loan to be redeemed from the Trust Account and, as a consequence, the refinancing loan can be a normal conversion operation, which the Commonwealth’s Swiss underwriters would prefer to a cash loan. After the loan has been dealt with any amounts remaining in the Trust Account can then be transferred to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. If a conversion loan takes place or if there are proceeds in the Trust Account resulting from investment of moneys standing to the credit of the account, these can therefore be disposed of in a satisfactory manner.
The same considerations apply to the Loan (Canadian Dollars) Bill. In both cases the amendments provide a desirable flexibility to the procedures for repaying the loan and I believe that the Government is acting wisely in putting them forward. The only reasonable sources of overseas funds at the moment for public borrowing are Germany and Switzerland. Therefore it is desirable to accord with the advice of the Swiss lending authorities, more especially as Swiss loan rates are much more favourable than in other countries at the present time. I believe that the current asking rate for public borrowings in Switzerland is something like 6%. I believe it is actually closer to 5i%. In other markets, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) suggested, rates are certainly very high at the moment. I believe they go as high as 10 J % in the London market at the present time. In the United States coupons of 8% are being asked. So I believe that the Treasurer (Mr MoMahon) and his advisers are to be complimented on effecting this technical Bill to facilitate our refinancing on the attractive Swiss market. It should do much to help our overseas borrowing programme in the current financial year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bury) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 9th September (vide page 967), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Bury) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9 September (vide page 968), on motion by Mr Fairbairn:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports this Bill, which provides an amount of $750,000 to undertake irrigation work in the Cressy-Longford district in Tasmania. It is unfortunate that Bills of this nature, providing not insignificant sums of money for very important developmental projects in Tasmania, should be introduced into the House at such a time as to provide very little opportunity for honourable members fully to consider not only the implications of the work to be undertaken with the grant to be made under this legislation but also other developmental projects of a similar nature that should be undertaken in Tasmania. The Opposition acknowledges that as a result of this legislation an irrigation programme will be undertaken in the Cressy-Longford area in Tasmania which will be of substantial benefit to those who reside in this area. It must increase the production of those who are engaged in primary industries in this area. For this reason the Opposition welcomes the attitude of the Government in providing a sum of $750,000 for this purpose.
It would be as well to recall the history of this project. It is not a new project, at least to Tasmanian members who have taken some interest in it over a very long period. Representations were first made to the Commonwealth by the former Labor Government in Tasmania for financial assistance to provide irrigation in this area. The plan was submitted to the Commonwealth Government as a result the Government’s decision some time last year to provide financial assistance under the National Water Resources Development Programme. This scheme was one of four that were originally submitted to the Commonwealth Government. I hope that the Commonwealth favourably considers the other three plans that were submitted for financial assistance to provide irrigation in Tasmania.
Tasmania is a State which offers great potential for primary production generally, not only in the wool and dairying industries but also in the production of vegetables to supply the other States of the Commonwealth. Tasmania has a great deal to offer in this respect. The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) will recall that, as I have just pointed out, four plans were submitted to the Government and the Government decided to accept the plan for the Cressy-Longford area. I would submit that the three remaining plans are ones that might be favourably considered by the Commonwealth Government. I hope they will be considered in 1970 by a Labor Government as worthwhile projects for development in the same way that the present Government has acknowledged that the Cressy-Longford area is an area which can be improved and will be improved in terms of production potential by the $750,000 now to be made available.
It is not possible for me to deal with these other projects in dealing with the Bill that we now have before us. I can think of a number of projects in Tasmania that have been submitted on occasions to the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance not only in the development of water resources and irrigation schemes but also in hydro-electric development and in the provision of a railway between Launceston and Bell Bay. Very few members in this House would not be prepared to acknowledge that in terms of development of Tasmania the Government of Tasmania has been responsible for providing all of the finance for the development of its hydroelectric power and has not received the same kind of assistance that has been made available to other States of the Commonwealth. For example, other States have benefited by Commonwealth assistance for rail standardisation, but Tasmania has received no financial assistance in this way. I might also point to the Snowy Mountains Hydro electric Authority, which received Commonwealth assistance for a scheme that will prove to be of great benefit to three Australian States, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. All of the hydroelectric development in Tasmania has been financed by the Government of that State.
While the Opposition appreciates the assistance thai will be made available under this legislation we believe that a great deal more can be done in Tasmania. When I think of irrigation plans in Tasmania one of the other plans that were submitted to the Government comes to mind. I refer to the plan for the Winnaleah area, which is also only a short distance from the city of Launceston. With assistance for additional irrigation schemes undoubtedly primary production in that area could be increased considerably. If the irrigation scheme which has been proposed for that area and for which plans have been formulated could be given effect to, production would be increased immeasurably. 1 would also like to point out to this House that while we are now debating a Bill which approves a grant of $750,000 to finance the irrigation scheme in the Cressy-Longford area one should not overlook the fact that one of our Tasmanian colleagues, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), has spoken on a number of occasions about the need for assistance for irrigation schemes in Tasmania. 1 think it can be said that if he did not originally suggest this scheme he was certainly very active in the discussions which took place about the possibility of providing irrigation facilities. While a tribute could be paid to the Commonwealth for accepting the scheme and for making the money available, we should not overlook the fact that the honourable member for Wilmot initiated the discussions which eventually led to the acceptance of the scheme following the submission of the plan to the Commonwealth Government by the State Labor Government of Tasmania.
I do not want to delay the House with this matter. As I said, the Opposition supports and welcomes the proposal, lt will be welcomed not only by the Government in Tasmania but also by those who will benefit as a result of the activities that will be undertaken to provide additional water facilities in the Cressy-Longford area. For this reason the Opposition supports and welcomes the measure.
Mr PEARSALL (Franklin) [11.391- The grant that is to be made to the State of Tasmania under this Bill results from a decision by the Commonwealth to make available $50m for water conservation throughout the Commonwealth. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) said that the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), who unfortunately is unable to be present today to address himself to this question, was initially responsible for putting the Cressy-Longford scheme forward. He also mentioned that the former Labor Government in Tasmania should be given the credit for the effort that was put into this scheme and the initial investigations that were made. I do not mean to fight over the bone, but too many people cannot share the credit for this. When all is said and done, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. What would have happened to the scheme if the Commonwealth Government had not decided to make a grant to Tasmania for it?
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also said that he hoped that in 1970 a Labor government would be able to implement other schemes that were investigated in Tasmania. I should hope that such a government would be a little more active than the Government which was recently defeated in Tasmania. In 1964 or 1965 it promised at a public meeting in the Huon area that it would prepare a strong case for submission to the Commonwealth Government by the Premier for a grant in respect of a Huon regional scheme. That was never done. Nothing came of the proposal. Nothing was done until the Commonwealth Government said that it would make a grant available and suggested to the States that they submit a variety of water schemes for consideration. Following the submission of these schemes the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) instituted a cost-benefit analysis and the schemes were investigated by officers of his Department. T naturally have some regret at the fact that a scheme which I believe would have been of more benefit to the State as a whole than the scheme we are now discussing was not accepted. I hope it will be borne in mind in the years that lie ahead.
Naturally enough, the present State Government and those honourable members who represent the State of Tasmania in this Parliament, regardless of the areas in which they live, are grateful for this grant. It shows the Commonwealth’s willingness to recognise that in this the most arid continent in the world we are facing up on a national basis to our responsibility to make the best use of the water that we have.
It is not just a matter of harnessing water supplies. There are perhaps hundreds of areas where water could be successfully dammed and used for primary production. The problem at present is what to produce by way of irrigation when the water is harnessed and what value that product can be to our export income. In regard to the scheme in question, it is proposed to use the water from the tailrace of the Poatina power station. This is an enormous power scheme which resulted from diversion of the waters of the Great Lake north whereas hitherto they had run south. At the time it was undertaken there were certain problems because of the denudation of the streams which traditionally ran into the southern part of the State.
These problems have now been largely overcome, lt must be remembered that in Tasmania there is a tendency to divert this God given heritage of water from the south to the north. 1 believe that a greater diversity could have been achieved if the Huon regional scheme had been accepted. There are alternatives here in that there is a wider diversity of primary production and greater use could have been made of the natural waters of southern Tasmania for the benefit of the municipalities in the area, which are experiencing grave difficulties at present. The problem which presents itself to the residents of municipalities in the southern areas is that there are only a few main streams which can be dammed and therefore the small, fast running streams are the only ones which can be used by local government to serve the municipalities. These streams are often depleted. They run in the winter but are dry in the summer. The result is a limited water supply.
The logical solution to the problem is to go to the headwaters of the Huon and Denison rivers and to put a substantial dam there or, alternatively, to adopt a scheme which has been in the minds of engineers for many years and put a barrage across the Huon River. This would reduce the saline content up to the tidal areas and would ultimately result in the creation of an enormous fresh water lake which could supply not only the requirements of the Huon and Channel valleys but also the domestic needs of many of the municipalities that, at the moment are either short of water or have an inferior quality which they must attempt to purify. This is a larger scheme which would possibly be beyond the resources of the municipal councils at the moment. It could be attempted only with a State or Commonwealth grant. It would result in a greater diversity of primary industry. Most of the benefits which will be derived from the Cressy-Longford scheme would also apply in the Huon and Channel areas. In the area, over the years, there has been an increase in beef cattle, sheep and cropping, apart from the major production of apples and pears. The Cressy-Longford scheme will assist the farmers in the area. A plebiscite was taken which resulted in the scheme being approved. I understand that a poll of the potential users of water in the area revealed that 85% of them were in favour of the scheme. I would like to know whether 85% of the potential users in the area were in favour or whether 85% of those who took the trouble to answer the questionnaire that was sent to them were in favour.
Nevertheless, the point I wish to make is that this scheme has been judged on a cost-benefit basis. The Minister, in his second reading speech said that the land will be used for fat lamb raising and blue and green pea production. There is also a possibility of rearing beef and some of the water may be used on small dairy farms. The fluctuation in recent years in the price of fat lambs and wool has been such that one must pose the question whether it is economical to use irrigation for fat lamb raising. It should be remembered that this area is one of the earliest fat lamb raising areas in Tasmania. A good many of the spring lambs will have been already slaughtered. There are problems associated with increasing our pea production because of the trade agreement that we have with New Zealand. Grave inroads have been made into our market to the detriment of our producers. The agreement has the same effect on Tasmania as it has on the mainland States.
We may find that this scheme will result in the production of more of the commodities that are already difficult to market. When one adds to the fat lamb position the imminent problem confronting us of containerisation, one realises the task that faces the exporters of this product. If this problem can be overcome a scheme of this nature will return the maximum benefit to the State and to the Commonwealth. I realise that this matter is in the hands of others and that it is not applicable directly to the Bill before the House, except to the extent that we are producing a commodity that we hope will compare favourably with anything that is produced on the mainland. We hope only that the scheme will not be frustrated by problems involving the export of the commodities produced in the area. I have little more to add except to express the gratitude of the present Tasmanian Government to the Minister for National Development for his interest in the subject and for introducing this Bill. I am sure that the money will be gratefully received and faithfully applied.
– Like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) I support this Bill. I am concerned, however, with the way in which the priorities are determined in the operations of the national water resources development programme. This project with which this Bill deals was selected for the so-called short list. The Cabinet has decided that it is worthy to participate in the programme. What I am concerned about, as the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) well knows because I have raised the matter before in this House, is the way in which these priorities were determined. I also am concerned with the marked degeneration in CommonwealthState relationships, over the problem of water conservation, particularly when I think of what is happening in the drought devastated areas of Queensland which are being completely omitted from this short list.
In defence, the Minister may say that the Nogoa scheme is part of the programme. The Nogoa and the Ord projects were announced on the eve of the last Senate election. However, just because one project has been announced for Queensland it does not necessarily follow that the others should be ruled out. I am concerned about how these priorities were determined. I have been unsuccessful in this Parliament in receiving an answer to justify the inclusion of some projects in the short list and the exclusion of others. If there are twentyeight projects and six are included in the short list, then the remaining projects must be ranked.
-Order! I point out to the honourable member that this Bill deals with a specific matter, lt was presented to the House and the Minister for National Development made a second reading speech covering a certain subject. This does not permit a general debate on water resources or any other matter relating to water resources in the Commonwealth. The Bill deals with this specific work - the Cressy-Longford irrigation project - and in no sense covers anything else.
– >M r Acting Speaker, with respect, I am not certain that you have read the Minister’s second reading speech.
-Order! I read the Minister’s second reading speech before I reminded the honourable member of the purpose of this Bill. I suggest that before making a speech he should ascertain the reason for the introduction of the Bill. I suggest that he ought not to make a remark to the effect that I did not understand the reason for the introduction of the Bill.
– I did not say that.
-I do not want to enter into discussion with the honourable member. He said that I had not read the Minister’s second reading speech. In debate on a Bill before the House on a particular matter it is allowable to make a reference to a point by way of illustration. If the honourable member considers what he has been doing he will realise that he has been engaging in a general discussion on priorities for water conservation projects and therefore bringing into the debate matters that are not related to this Bill. I again point out to him that the Bill covers a particular project in Tasmania.
– Mr Acting Speaker, this Bill covers a particular project in Tasmania but in all statements made by the Minister for National Development with respect to the Cressy-Longford scheme he has referred to the national water resources development programme. This Bill comes within that programme. It is that programme which I am attempting to examine.
-Order! The honourable member may not base his speech upon the general water conservation programme. If he reads the Minister’s speech he will see that there is a reference to the general programme but that it deals with the particular matters relating to irrigation and water resources in other States. I am suggesting to the honourable member that he should not make a speech about water resources generally or on matters relating to water resources; his speech should be related to the subject dealt with in the Bill before the House.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I bow to your ruling. In debate on every other similar Bill before this Parliament every honourable member has been allowed to discuss priorities. It is apparent that you do not want a discussion in this House on water and therefore I cannot-
-Order! f remind the honourable member that he is going very close to the point of reflecting upon the Chair. The Chair does not decide what is to be spoken about except insofar as the subjects lie within the Standing Orders of this House. T point out again to the honourable member that while reference can be made to illustrate a point relating to the Bill, the entire subject matter of his speech should not be related to water resources generally.
– Mr Acting Speaker, I bow to your ruling. I suggest that you have successfully gagged me in this debate.
-Order! The honourable member is going very close to the line. I have pointed out to him certain things and what I have pointed out conforms to the Standing Orders of this House.
– in reply - Two of the speakers in this debate have spoken on the direct matter before the House. I want to thank them for their constructive remarks. I appreciated the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall). Normally I would not have replied but I want to refer to two points which they raised. During his speech the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the development of water resources ia Tasmania and particularly to hydro-electric power. He said that the Commonwealth had never assisted Tasmania previously in the development of water resources. I point out that if the honourable member looks at the Commonwealth payments to and for the States which are included in the Budget Papers this year he will see an amount of $14,700,000 allocated for hydro power in Tasmania. This is bridging finance and is part of a wider loan of, I think, $47m. In addition he should recall that there was an earlier grant of $5m for the Gordon River Road. While most of this money will be repaid over a period of time the Commonwealth has assisted Tasmania in other ways.
There was a most thoughtful and constructive speech made by the honourable member for Franklin. He referred to a plebiscite and this is the other point to which I wish to reply. He asked whether it was a fact that the plebiscite had included every farmer who is eligible to receive water and therefore eligible to vote. I want to quote a letter received by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) from the Premier of Tasmania in which he states:
The plebiscite has now been completed and I am able to inform you that 52 of the 63 land holders who were eligible to vote expressed a desire to see the scheme proceed. The proportion of landholders in favour of the proposal was thus about 82%. It is significant that the 52 landholders accounted for almost 87% of the proposed total allocation of water rights. Three of the 11 landholders who voted against this scheme had been given a provisional water right only.
I think there is no doubt that the plebiscite was fully carried. Mr Acting Speaker, I will not refer to the remarks of the third speaker because firstly, you ruled them out of order and, secondly, they were obviously political in content and not aimed at this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fairbairn) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 10 September (vide page 1133).
Department of National Development
Proposed expenditure, $39,839,000.
– There is nothing in the estimates for the Department of National Development to excite the interest of the Australian people. The estimates as set out in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) show little change from the figures contained in the Budget papers of last year. It seems to me that the Department of National Development is shackled by the chains of government inertia and an inbuilt attitude to leave national planning and development to someone else. It is true that matters of great significance have occurred in recent times and monumental profits have been made by such organisations as Mt Isa Mines Ltd and Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd which are growing in strength, building vast organisations and excavating from the Australian soil riches beyond the dreams of members of years gone by. But all of this seems to be uncontrolled or maldirected.
This morning I asked a question about the distribution of the great wealth - the natural gas - from the Bass Strait area. 1 wanted to know what the people of New South Wales have been wanting to know for some time. When, where and by what means will natural gas be taken to New South Wales and how will the greatest number of people profit from this great discovery of energy and power resources? The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) was unable to answer me. He did not know. He directed attention to the fact that there have been gas finds in South Australia and elsewhere. He quite rightly pointed to these significant developments, but what the people of Sydney, Bathurst. Canberra, Goulburn and Albury want to know is where will the pipeline be taken - what route will it traverse - and who are to obtain the benefits from the tapping of the wealth on our continental shelf in Bass Strait. Will the Commonwealth exert national control in this national matter or will it leave the question of the distribution of the national gas and oil to Esso-BHP and other companies or to Sir Henry Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, or will a national pattern emerge? This is of fundamental importance.
Other great questions should be considered at a time like this. What is to happen about a national energy policy generally? This is linked by necessity with how we use our oil and natural gas and how we use our coal deposits and whether we will plunder them and export our best coking coals or measure these for the development of Australia and its industrialisation. We are required to pay regard to water conservation and nuclear energy potential and these should be considered not just as a matter for today but for Australia 100 or 1,000 years from now. The question of national development affects every Australian living in the country. A separate organisation of the Department of National Development should be working purposefully to meet the needs of country people who are striving to satisfy their own ambitions for development and wishing to halt the flow of people from the country to the city. The Gorton Government and the Minister for National Development have an unenviable record of squandering opportunities for nation building. The matters to which I have referred have not been considered. There Iws been no nation building. There has been great profit making and the exploitation of resources but where has there been emphasis on the fundamental question of building a great industrialised nation, of providing metals and minerals at the right prices and of seeing a distribution of our resources to the benefit of our people? Mt Pettingell of the Australian Gas Association is aware of the difficulties in respect of oil and natural gas.
No department has had a more dedicated and capable group of officers and technicians than the Department of National Development. The Northern Division of the Department, the National Mapping Council, the Bureau of Mineral Resources, the Forestry and Timber Bureau, the Joint Coal Board, the Atomic Energy Commission and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric
Authority all have men of outstanding quality and character who need only the political green light to go ahead with the development of Australia. The tragic failure of the Government to plan and co-ordinate national policies is to be deplored. The name ‘National Development’ is no more than a facade. The loss of technical men from the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the break up of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority are national tragedies. It is little wonder that Sir William Hudson, the former Commissioner for the Snowy Mountains Authority, has spoken out strongly against what has occurred in the Authority.
This wonderful organisation has built for Australia a great name in the world of engineering and water conservation but it is unquestionably dying. In 1967-68 there were sixty-two fewer professional and technical members on the staff of the Authority than there were the year before. In the finance and administrative section there were eighty-six fewer on the staff. This represents a total decrease in these sections of 148. In 1968-69 the number of professional and technical staff had fallen by 20 and in the finance and administrative section by 103, making a total decrease of 123 for the year. For the 2 years there were eighty-two fewer in the professional and technical section. We can ill afford to lose these men. In the finance and administrative section, where competent and capable officers are needed in an undertaking which is conserving the water resources of the nation, there were 189 fewer officers. In 2 years a total of 271 officers have left this great organisation. The great work force, of course, has decreased considerably too. The latest annual report of the Authority reveals alarming figures of resignations as a percentage of the average number of staff. In 1965 it was 16.23%; in 1966, 17.98%; in 1967, 19.74%; in 1968, 17.14% and in 1969, 14.77%. This tells the melancholy story of the breakup of the Snowy Mountains Authority. There is little that the Minister can say or that any member of the Government can say to excuse the smashing and dismemberment of this great organisation. Unless the organisation is permitted to carry out its full duties in conserving water in this country and in providing hydroelectricity, as it has been doing over the years in the Snowy Mountains, it inevitably will die.
How many men will be required on the technical staff or in an advisory capacity in the future organisation that is envisaged by the Minister for National Development and the Government? I suggest that the number will be very small indeed. The Snowy Mountains Authority has a special role to play in the development of this nation. Repeatedly in this Parliament honourable members have spoken about water projects in their electorates or in their States. These are the tasks which the Snowy Mountains Authority should be encouraged by the Government to undertake. If the Authority is to be preserved as a continuing organisation, I believe that this can only be accomplished by the defeat of this Government on 25th October and the election of a Labor government. A Labor government was responsible for the establishment of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. It will be a Labor government which will use the skills of those persons engaged in the Authority in a national water construction organisation conserving the water so urgently needed in this nation. The skills which have been acquired by the Authority should be maintained and in the interests of Australia it is up to a Labor government of the future to salvage and save them.
The Australian Labor Party is pledged to the establishment of a national water resources authority. The Labor Party, if elected to office, would deal with such problems as the great rivers of Queensland, including the Burdekin, the Darling River and flood mitigation in Australia. Funds would be provided on a national basis to deal with these matters. The Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority would be restored and expanded. There is no reason why the regional headquarters of the Authority should not be retained at Cooma. The progressive policy of the Labor Party would help to assure the future of the district and township of Cooma which, under this Administration, is doomed. Unlike the Government the Opposition regards conservation as a continuing and growing responsibility and not just as an election gimmick. We fiind, with this Government, that when there is to be an election, a referendum or something of the kind, the Government decides that there is a need for something to be done somewhere. The Government said that it would have nothing to do with the Ord River Scheme. The Minister said on one occasion: ‘What would we do with the products gained from the area?’ It was only when an election was forthcoming that the programme was commenced.
I want to say a few words concerning the disregard by the Government of the great disasters affecting Australia. The failure of the Government to adopt a policy in respect of national disasters is to be deplored. Without a constructive plan for the national conservation of water, flora and fauna there can be no consideration of the overall problem which exists. Help is needed in this direction. Invariably the Government provides assistance but it does so after the event, after the bush fire or after the flood, and not before. The Government is not prepared to establish an organisation to deal with natural disasters. It will place an ambulance at the foot of a cliff but it will not build a fence tin top of the mountain. It will not prevent these happenings from occurring. With regard to bush fires it is true that the Minister for National Development recently took a constructive step by convening the Rural Fires Conference in Canberra. This conference was of value but there remains much more to be done. It is only one step of many to be taken in this field.
I would like to see practical evidence of the Government’s intention to deal with the problem of fire fighting and fire prevention. I have the unhappy recollection of pleading in this place with the Government in questions and in speeches for assistance in regard to national disasters. In November last year, before black Thursday, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) moved for the establishment of a standing Commonwealth-State organisation to cope with natural disasters, but no action was forthcoming from the Government. A disaster occurred on Thursday, the next day. Bush fire fighters are unable to claim as a taxation deduction the cost of a helmet or overalls used in fire fighting. These items are not allowable taxation deductions. In regard to four-wheel drive vehicles I rang the Ministers in charge of the three Services and the Minister for the Interior seeking information, and the best information that i could get was that fire fighting organisations desiring four-wheel drive vehicles should go along to the auction, join the queue and enter the auction ring with those engaged in the trade to try to obtain such vehicles.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. Sir William Haworth) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Over the last two decades this Government has been deeply involved in development programmes of many kinds. Recently the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads produced its annual report and as a result tremendous resources will be poured into the programme for new roads. Flood mitigation, forestry, national mapping, materials handling, beef roads, water conservation, hydropower and mining developments have all been given a good deal of attention. The Government has been looking at the problems of the arid outback areas. It is now examining the urban areas, and over the next 5 years vast sums will be poured into the development of access roads to the cities, both capital and provincial. It is true that some provincial cities and towns which owed their birth to the thirst for gold over a century ago have faced serious problems in finding industries to replace the gold mines. Much criticism of this matter has been levelled at the Government and also at State governments, and much of it has been advanced by members of the Australian Labor Party on the floor of this chamber.
Recently there has been some trenchant criticism. I suppose that when Mr Beaton was in this place he spoke on this issue more often than on any other, and no-one would deny his able and sincere representation of the electorate of Bendigo. But I believe the approach of the Labor Party has been negative. Surely these spokesmen have been prophets of doom. New developments are taking place. The retiring Mayor of Bendigo, Councillor Flood, recently stated that the building permits last year in Bendigo increased in value to $4.5m, an increase of $800,000 over the preceding 12 months. Why must we have prophets of doom? Bendigo has a very exciting future. We need in this place representatives who ure optimistic and enthusiastic. We do not want people who criticise every move made by this Government.
Let us compare for a moment the progress of other provincial cities in Victoria which have been represented by supporters of the Government. Geelong, for instance, made great progress when it was represented on the Government side by Sir Hubert Opperman. Ballarat is another city to have made great progress while it has been represented by the Minister for Air (Mr Erwin), as has Shepparton, represented by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). They are all supporters of the Government and are men of vision. They are progressive and optimistic.
– What about Mildura?
– Mildura too has progressed, as we well know. These cities have made great progress. I wonder whether the people of Bendigo eventually will decide that they need a Liberal member to counteract the prophets of doom who are the spokesmen for the Labor Party and who have been unprepared to acknowledge the difficulties which face the Government and to give some credit to those who take action to solve the problems. Bendigo has recovered from the earlier setbacks it had after the gold mines closed down and it is now poised for great developments. The future of Bendigo looks most exciting. I note that the present honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) has suggested that the Government should go into business and establish factories in regional areas. What would this mean - another Socialist takeover? He said recently: ‘We would favour also the establishment of government enterprises and government industries in regional areas’. Well, this is not Liberal Party philosophy. Let us analyse this concept for a moment. I believe the establishment of Government industries in regional areas could immediately mean a rise in costs of production. The managements of the industries would not have a personal interest in the financial results and in the long term we could have uneconomic government industries. I submit that socialised industries have no attractions for Australians. I question whether such a policy would be welcomed by the general public, by businessmen, by industrialists or by the folk who work in these industries.
Of course the Government wants inland cities and towns to progress, but our philosophy is to provide the climate in which private enterprise can flourish; to provide primary, secondary and tertiary education so that young people can be given the experience to establish new industries in their own provincial cities and in their own country towns in their own way.
We are not prophets of doom. We help to provide the facilities, the power, the water, the education and the economic climate for progress. Why, our development is now running at an effective rate of growth of 7% or thereabouts. I believe that the climate that has been generated will ensure that there will be great progress in Bendigo, Castlemaine and Seymour. I believe that this development will be in proportion to the development with which I have been associated during the last 3 years in some of the outer Melbourne areas. I have seen what can be done and I am sure that there will be great progress in these areas. Do not think for a moment, Mr Deputy Chairman, that I am completely satisfied with the progress that is taking place in country areas. There is, I am sure, much more to be done. I also believe that more Government interest is needed. But the work is a continuing one at government level.
Look at the vast sums provided for education in country areas. An amount of $4. 3m is earmarked for developments associated with the Bendigo Institute of Technology. This Institute will develop the skill and the mental capacity of young people who will then go into industry in their provincial cities. 1 am sure that they will grasp the opportunities given to them. Look at what Fletcher Jones has done at Warrnambool. Look what Ballarat has done. Why, I am told that Ballarat has become the caravan manufacturing centre of Australia. Look at what is going on in Geelong, Wollongong and Whyalla. Make no mistake, the wheels of progress are accelerating in the Bendigo area also. Some Bendigo businesses arc almost State-wide already. Indeed, some export overseas. Recently the President of the Victorian Employers Federation visited the city of Bendigo. He is reported to have said that he was amazed at the movement of most industries in that city. And yet. Bendigo seems to be handi capped by Labor spokesmen who seek to undermine the confidence of the city. What has the Government done?’ is the cry. Some of the knockers should be given a big handkerchief so that they can sob quietly without depressing the rest of the community. This is not how we get progress.
Of course, country industries do need some help to overcome freight and communication difficulties, and I will work towards this end. But, basically, I feel that it is the Government’s job to provide the economic climate and to provide the opportunities. The Government already provides millions of dollars for research through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. It already provides assistance for research within the factories themselves. The Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia provides loan funds for approved projects. The Government is wrestling with the wheat problems, problems not of its own making but arising from a world glut of this commodity.
We have reached the stage where we can expect great economic growth. Our natural resources are unbounded. I believe we are a vigorous people; we are not afraid to take a step forward. Our position on the globe, once regarded as being remote, is now much more favourable because of our proximity to the important Japanese market and to the developing countries of Asia. I believe that Australians are saying, as a great industrialist once said in America, that problems are only opportunities in work clothes. The golden era of Bendigo has just begun. Australian provincial cities have a great and important future, lt is true that the breaks in railway gauges and the centralisation of our transport systems upon the various State capitals have been hindrances to regional development. But our railway systems are gradually being standardised and our roads are being improved.
The shortage of people is another problem which limits development. However, with our very able Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden), who is at present setting records in this field and who is prepared to go and get migrants from overseas himself, we have been able to push up our immigration targets and provide trained people to enter our work force immediately they arrive in Australia. Something like half of those entering the work force come from overseas. I believe that increasing numbers of migrants should be going to inland areas. We must look at this problem. I believe that migrants could contribute much to the know-how of country towns and cities. I believe that migrants should be given some greater incentive to go to country areas. I know full well that a lot of migrants are settling around the outer fringe of Melbourne and also in the inner areas of that city. I do not think that many are going to country areas. This is a great pity because they have much to contribute to country areas. I believe that one way to introduce increased know-how to country areas would be to attract migrants to settle there.
In closing, I would like to say something about overseas investment. This subject has a good deal to do with national development. I do not know whether honourable members are aware of the fact that it was the late Ben Chifley who invited General Motors to produce an all-Australian car. Since those days the pace of overseas investment has increased considerably. Overseas investment has now reached the stage where it is coming in for a great deal of criticism. But it is quite clear that most of the large mining ventures of recent years would not have got moving except for the availability of overseas capital. Ore is not of much value until it is discovered and until the great problems of extracting it and proving its quality are solved. Once it is found, arrangements have to be made for the supply of millions of dollars to finance the project. Also, sales outlets and means of transportation have to be found. Sales outlets are not easy to find on world markets unless there is a shortage of the commodity being sold. But for the most part there is no shortage of ore, so it is necessary to have market links overseas. I am sure that honourable members know how difficult it is to break into a market, particularly a world market, that is already well supplied. I think that the larger Australian companies would not have wished to share their enterprise with overseas people if they did not have something of real worth to provide. I should mention in this context the EssoBroken Hill Pty Ltd partnership and the
Western Mining and Alcoa partnership. I am sure that Australian companies would not have linked up with these overseas people if they did not have something really worthwhile to contribute. The people running the Australian companies are quite hard headed business men and they would not welcome Esso or Alcoa to this country if such an arrangement had not been necessary. We must realise that today we live in a world of large international corporations, which by the exchange of personnel and the provision of international capital contribute a good deal towards international understanding and goodwill. I believe that the multi-national company - if that is the correct term - is doing a good deal towards the development of Australia. Let us face it: It is anticipated that by 1974 our mineral exports are expected to reach a very substantial yearly value. I thought it was % 1,100m but I see that according to a recent paper issued by the Department of National Development that it is now anticipated that the figure will be SI, 285m by 1973-74. At the same time I would be looking to see some more equity made available to the Australian public so that Australians can be true partners in these developments. But so long as Australian capital can be fully used in other profitable spheres - and there would seem to be no doubt about this aspect - it would seem that the main thing to watch is that the business, whether it be foreign or Australian, is conducted in the interests of the Australian people. I renounce the prophets of doom and look forward to a great future in Australia, particularly so far as rural areas and provincial cities are concerned. I look forward to a great future in the field of national development under the guidance of the present Government.
– I understand that honourable member for Lalor (Mr Lee) will be a candidate for the electorate of Bendigo under the new redistribution of boundaries. It may be deduced from his remarks that he advocates the closure of both the Government ordnance factory and the railway workshops on the ground that they are obnoxious Government industries.
Coming to the main subject of discussion, a Labor government will have inherited the greatest mess of all times with the chaos that exists in respect of national fuel, power and energy. In the absence of a national fuel policy, or any evidence of the Government’s intention to provide one, if it could, we have no allocation of priorities as between the different forms of fuel, power and energy in Australia today. This, of course, flows from the Government’s deliberate refusal to exercise its known major constitutional powers. The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) made passing reference to the potential shortage of hard coking coals in the steel industry. This is a matter to which I have previously referred. The whole state of chaos today represents a tragedy even greater in its economic consequences than the original mistake of having conflicting and varying rail gauges constructed a century ago in Australia.
This so-called businessman’s government has been most reluctant to apply the principles of cost benefit analysts to the situation in the fields of fuel, power and energy. The nadir of State parochialism has been reached in the statement of the Premier of Victoria, that no natural gas will be made available to New South Wales at prices lower than those excessively high prices which he accepted in a deal with EssoBHP and contrary to the advice of the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria - a matter of double the price which the Corporation recommended should be offered and paid. Today we have the paradox in Australia where the greater the amount of crude oil that is discovered, the more the Australian motorist can be expected to pay for it. When the announcement of the major find pf crude oil in Bass Strait was first made, the Australian motorist, whether a private or commercial operator, expected that there would be some relief from the excessive prices of motor fuel in Australia. Instead, he can expect to pay progressively increased prices due to the ineptitude of the Government and to the shocking backstairs deals which were made between the former Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria.
It is admitted by the Esso-BHP group that in the near future it will be producing 60% of Australia’s crude oil requirements, and that there is more than ample natural gas available not only for the needs of the State of Victoria, but also for the needs of the other States, principally, the State of New South Wales. When do we get it? I should like to hear from the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) on that point. There was, of course, a message of good cheer in the recent annual report of the BHP group, which stated that big profits would be given. There is a matter of tax deductibility on approximately $200m spent on the Bass Strait development. Of course, it is a mining project. Esso can count on receiving double blessings. It will have the benefit of the double taxation agreement as well.
This matter should be stated and clearly understood throughout Australia. Esso-BHP found crude oil and natural gas in greater quantities and with a small ratio of drilling than ever before in any part of the world. The deposits in Bass Strait are of world ranking. The Esso-BHP group was told by Mr Lewis Weeks to go to Bass Strait and that crude oil and natural gas would be there. They were there in the off-shore area. Mr Weeks has said that the Bass Strait field can and will supply the full national needs of Australia. Naturally, as a good defensive ploy we have the statement by the Chairman of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd that it wants depletion allowances and subsidies for carrying out further search and development. Of course, the Esso-BHP group is sitting on the truth. The group comprises very hard-thinking and hard-bitten businessmen. They are very close mouthed as well. They are sitting on the truth as to what their total reserves are. There never was a more opulent beggar with a golden begging bowl than the Esso-BHP group.
As regards the constitutional position, we had no less a personage than the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth of Australia (Mr Bowen) and his State colleague, the Solicitor-General of New South Wales, going into the High Court and in a very soft voice begging that certain decisions should not be given, because they knew full well - as any constitutional lawyer worth his salt knows - that the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth alone, has full and sovereign powers over the whole of the Bass Strait oil fields. When does the Commonwealth intend to exercise its sovereign powers? We, as a Labor government, will certainly exercise those powers. We will see that justice is done to the people who sponsored and actually effected the development, but at the same time we will see that justice is also done to the Australian people.
That brings me to my main point. Buried in the notice paper of the House - order of the day No. 4, as a matter of fact - is the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on the backstairs deal which he, too, made with the Esso-BHP group at least to relieve the Government of some of the discredit associated with the former McEwen proposal. It has been authoritatively stated that a crude oil price of $1 per barrel would fully cover operating costs, the amortisation of capital and the normal 12*% profit payment to the Esso-BHP group. Esso-BHP is now receiving $2.06 per barrel. It is equally well known that 18 gallons of petroleum can be extracted from a 35-gallon barrel of Australian crude oil. There is a case, and a very strong one, for a price reduction, and we will be looking very hard at that matter in the interests of the 4 million Australian motorists and commercial operators.
The Commonwealth has full power to control the price of natural gas and oil produced in Bass Strait, and it can exercise that power at the valve on the drilling platform. A Labor government will do so. It will examine the whole of the sordid transactions that have gone on. It will examine the terms of the royalties. It will examine the areas of the leases. It will examine the term of years granted in those leases. It will see that justice is done and a fair return is given to the developers. But as for the rest, the benefit will go to the Australian motorist. There is a strong case for a substantial reduction in the price of petrol, and we will have a hard look at that matter, too.
The position concerning natural gas is crazy. Again the Commonwealth has full constitutional power, if it wants to exercise it, to bring natural gas from Bass Strait right through from one Federal territory into another Federal territory, here in Canberra. It should be a matter of more than passing interest to the Minister for National Development, who is at the table and who represents the city of Albury. He would have something in common, I would assume, with the State Minister for Mines in New South Wales, who represents
Wagga, as to the siting of the transmission line for natural gas, when it goes through. The cold comfort that we get from Mr Fife, the New South Wales Minister for Mines, is that there is no possibility of obtaining a natural gas supply for New South Wales before early in 1972. Three companies or interests are competing and he has to preside over the wrangle. In the meantime, industry in New South Wales which needs the gas at a fair price can whistle for it.
I want to turn now, in the limited time remaining to me, to the 1969 election gimmick. We are due in the very near future to hear an announcement from the Prime Minister of the establishment of a nuclear reactor at Jervis Bay. The Opposition does not object to the establishment of a nuclear reactor, but it wants to look very hard at the type, the price and the functions of the reactor proposed by the Government. The Government intends to establish on its own Territory at Jervis Bay a nuclear reactor of the Candu type, fuelled by natural uranium and with a heavy water regulator. Let us have a look at criticisms of this type of reactor made by the Bureau of Mineral Resources, which is under the Minister’s control. The March 1969 issue of ‘Australian Mineral Industry’, a quarterly review and an official publication from the Minister’s Department, contained an article written by Mr Gourlay who is a senior officer of the Department. He stated:
The Prime Minister has indicated a desire that when the first power reactors arc established in Australia they should utilise supplies of fuel produced in Australia. However, it is clear from the foregoing that domestic reserves of uranium ore so far proved are inadequate to support even a modest nuclear power programme.
Mr Gourlay estimated that the Government’s proposal of a 500 megawatt station fuelled by natural uranium, over an economic life of 35 years, would need 2,950 short tons of uranium. The known and proved reserves in Australia are 1 1,600 short tons. There are possibly another 3,000 short tons that can be proved. At best that would fuel four reactors with a total generating capacity of 2,000 megawatts. Already Australia has thermal stations, mainly coal fired, and hydro-electric stations with a generating capacity of 11,000 megawatts. The Government’s proposal is economic eccentricity or worse. Mr Gourlay also said:
On purely economic grounds nuclear installations cannot however be justified at present in Australia. The major New South Wales and Victorian systems could absorb 500 MW units but these States have very low production costs because of remarkably cheap coal deposits near their major load centres.
We do not object to the establishment of a nuclear power reactor, but we want to see the right type used. Overseas, every advanced industrial nation is using enriched uranium.
– No, they are not.
– The Minister has France in mind. France is abandoning General de Gaulle’s eccentricity and his excessively nationalistic approach. The ‘Economist’ on 30th August last reported:
The next nuclear power station that France builds will be American in design, fuelled by enriched uranium bought from the Americans.
If with our limited reserves of uranium we hope to achieve anything, we must first look at the question of a reactor fuelled by enriched uranium. We need the technological spin-off that will come from such a reactor. We need to look forward to the ultimate which, as the Minister well knows, is the fast breeder reactor. But to establish a reactor at Jervis Bay, to suggest that it will be economically viable and to suggest that power will be available at a price competitive with that from thermal power stations is nothing short of crazy.
The Government has been warned. In May last Sir James Cunningham, the ViceChairman of the British Atomic Energy Commission, came to Australia to warn the Government that a relatively cheap process of uranium enrichment was now being perfected by the joint research of Britain, Holland and West Germany. The Government chose to ignore him. It has been correctly said that war should not always be left to the generals. I am afraid that science should not always be left to governments. This is an election gimmick. It could be ten times the cost of the Fill. Australia will be committed to a type of reactor that will be just as backward in the field of science as the Wirraway was in the field of aviation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr LEE (Lalor) - I want to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Does the honourable member claim that he has been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). At the beginning of his speech he accused me of wanting to close the Bendigo ordnance factory and the railway workshops. I deny this emphatically. I said no such thing. These are recognised government activities and I would not want them closed. They provide work in the area.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member cannot debate the matter.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2 p.m.
– I realise that the time allotted for the debate on these estimates is drawing to a close. I wish to express my respect for the sincerity of the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) and for the work done by his Department. But there are times when 1 feel that projects of an important nature which would mean a quick and permanent lifting of our economy and suitable development for some areas in northern Queensland are overlooked or possibly shelved until a later date. This may be because of pressure of commitments in other States but I am confident that the projects which I propose to mention in the next few minutes are extremely important from a national point of view and warrant immediate attention. I sincerely hope that finance will be allocated at least to investigate these proposals in the next 12 months. During the debate on the estimates for the social welfare departments a great deal was said about our encouragement of self-help. Here, through the Department of National Development, we have an excellent opportunity to encourage selfhelp.
Some 70 to 120 miles north of Townsville are the sugar districts of Ingham, Tully and Innisfail. The people of these districts have realised that industries other than sugar must be established in order to boost their economy. With this thought in mind the Ingham Research and Development Bureau has conducted feasibility studies of other industries which are applicable to the particular climatic conditions of the Ingham area. One of the major schemes to emerge from these studies was re-afforestation plus the installation of a pulp mill when the forests are established. Time will not permit me to go into complete detail about this project but to the credit of the Bureau it must be said that its studies in conjunction with the Queensland Forestry Department have been extremely thorough. The project is definitely workable.
For instance, within 35 miles of the area’s port at Lucinda there is a prime planting area of 68,000 acres, served by bitumen roads. It is composed almost entirely of flat land and is in a high rainfall area. A further area of 40,000 acres, suitable for the planting of exotic timbers, is available. In addition there are additional acreages in the Tully and Innisfail districts. It is well known that the world demand for pulp will increase for many years. A pulp mill established in this area would be an economic proposition. I understand that the Japanese have moved into Tasmania to help that State to develop a pulp mill. A pulp mill in the north would be an economic undertaking, particularly when it is realised that the water resources of the Herbert River are more than adequate to support a pulp mill. There is already a considerable concentrated production of residue sugar cane fibre, called bagasse, from the sugar mills in the area. With this bagasse and the wood pulp we can create the long fibres for hardboard, cardboard and paper.
Complete studies have been made and it is estimated that the reafforestation scheme, plus the pulp mill, would provide employment eventually for 2,100 people. This would mean an increase in the population of the area of between 9,000 and 10,000 people and would be a practical example of decentralisation and diversification of industry. The feasibility study has cost the people of Ingham a lot of money but they were prepared to help themselves for the ultimate benefit of their district and the nation’s economy. There is no doubt that this project would be of value to the nation. Because of this I trust that the Minister will carefully consider my submission and that he will look upon the project as a Commonwealth project and not just a local or State project. I might add that the Queensland Government is keen on the idea, but I would hate to see such a worthy scheme develop into a haggle between the State and the Commonwealth over finances. This is a scheme which we can get our teeth into. It would be practical decentralisation. We would be utilising the products of a particular area and developing that area. We would be improving the economy of the nation.
A couple of weeks ago I referred to a scheme which would reduce the losses in northern and western Queensland of beef cattle and breeders because of the prolonged drought we are suffering. My proposal was for the construction of link roads from the nearest beef road running north and south in the western country to the wet coastal belt behind Ingham and Tully. Since making the suggestion I have carried out further investigations. I have approached the people engaged in the meat industry, including the Swift organisation, and submitted my proposal to them. I have spoken to the graziers. My proposal would lead not only to a saving of drought affected stock but also to the opening up of 50,000 acres of really good black soil country. The roads which I have suggested should be constructed would open up 705 square miles of good grazing land behind Tully. This would allow graziers a more even flow of cattle to the meat works. Under present circumstances the buyers come out before the season starts and the grazier sells as much of his stock as soon as he can because he cannot afford to keep it. This happens even in good seasons. But under my proposal graziers would be able to send cattle from. the far west to the wet coastal belt for fattening. This would allow graziers to maintain an even flow of cattle to the meat works. In turn - this is important - the meat works would have a longer killing season and so would be able to provide longer employment for workers.
Instead of the present 6 months season there would be employment in meat works for between 10 and 11 months. Bearing in mind that there are thousands of meat workers in northern Queensland, this factor is important. In the next 2 weeks these thousands of meat workers will be out of work in northern Queensland until the season starts again, unless some project gets under way to provide work for them. It is said that we have full employment in Australia. Taking the overall picture this is true, but the picture is different in some areas. The more even flow of cattle to the meat works which would result from the provision of the link roads which I have advocated would lead to a better distribution of export earnings than we have at the present time. The link roads project would be on a scale similar to the beef roads project. The project would cost about $10m but it would be of benefit to the national economy as well as to a large part of the work force in northern Queensland. I venture to suggest that the money would be repaid with interest within 10 years.
I turn now to another subject: For goodness sake let us do something about the Burdekin Dam, and do it definitely. The Premier of Queensland has said that the feasibility study will be undertaken this year. I have heard nothing more on the subject. The Burdekin Dam would serve thousands of farms already established and a city of 68,000 people. Industries would follow in the wake of the dam and so we would be giving effect to the principle of decentralisation. For goodness sake, let us do somehting about it. Up there at the moment there is so much talk about it that it is not funny. If honourable members went up there and moved around this dry country their eyes would really be opened. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was up there last week. I hope he is now on my side because he has actually seen the conditions under which the people in the north are labouring for the want of water and for the want of that dam which would service so many thousands of people and so many thousands of farms.
– I have been encouraged to participate in this debate by the address that was given to this House by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) during the course of the debate on the Budget. The honourable member for Moreton, who incidentally is a Queensland member, dealt to some extent during his speech with the allocation of Commonwealth finance to the State of
Queensland for major developmental projects in that State. Quite clearly, from the comments that he made he is completely satisfied with the treatment which the State of Queensland has received from the Federal Government Because these things have been said by a Queenslander I am a little worried that it may be felt in other States of the Commonwealth that in fact Queenslanders feel that the Government has been quite reasonable and generous to this State. I want to disabuse (he mind of anyone who has been misled by the statements of the honourable member for Moreton. I am one who feels that, with the exception of a triennial scramble just before voting time, Queensland is pretty much left out of the important distribution of funds for capital works by the Federal Government. In a few minutes I will indicate my reasons for putting this argument forward. 1 want to make some reference to the statements that have been made by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett). It is all very well for him to stand up shortly before an election and indicate that he is angry with the way in which the area he represents has been treated by the Federal Government. I would suggest to him that this anger must be manifested more and must materialise in something more effective than an occasional speech in the Parliament. I suggest to honourable members, and particularly to the electors in his electorate, that there is nothing to show in his electorate in terms of acquisitions from the Commonwealth Government for his term of office in this Parliament
The honourable member has been in this Parliament for 3 years. During that period we have seen much discussion in the Press and heard from very competent speakers on this side of the House, such as the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), about the potential of north Queensland for water resources development. Many experts have referred to the area which he represents. In spite of the fact that the honourable member for Herbert has been here for 3 years we have not even had the benefit of an economic analysis of the Burdekin area. At least we have not seen any report If it has been done it has been suppressed. It should not be suppressed if it has been prepared. The honourable member for Herbert should be one of the first to demand of the Government that it present such a report if it has been completed. If one has not been completed he should be consistent and persistent in his demands of the Government that a report be presented, because we want to know what can be carried out in this area of north Queensland. Is the alleged potential of this area being allowed to run to waste? If it is, this is an economic crime, because the potential and capacity of north Queensland are tremendous for development. Its natural resources need to be harnessed.
What has the honourable member for Herbert achieved during his 3 years of office in this Parliament for his electorate? An army base has been built at Townsville, but I have a clear recollection that the previous member for Herbert, who I understand on reliable authority will be here in the new year, was one of the most consistent inquirers about the development of this base at Townsville.
– What was his name?
– Ernie Harding. There is a university at Townsville, which is a significant achievement in this area, but the honourable member for Herbert can accept no laurels for the acquisition of this institution. I have been to Townsville in recent times. There has been quite a deal of development and progress in this area, but nowhere could I see one symbol of achievement for which he is responsible. I ask honourable members and the electors of Herbert how they can possibly continue to vest their federal responsibilities in a man who so far has completely failed to obtain any benefits for that area. This is extremely important.
At the present time we in Queensland are worried about the need for a power house in central Queensland. But during the course of his speech the honourable member for Herbert made no reference to this project. This is a highly essential project for the development of the natural resources of the central Queensland area. Quite clearly, if cheap power is available in the central Queensland area a huge industrial complex can be developed over a term. The Department of National Development has released a publication titled ‘Resources and Industry of Central Queensland’, which justifies the claim I have made that in fact the most important need for Queensland is the provision of this power house in central Queensland. In this report the natural resources of the area are innumerated. It points out the sort of industrial development which can be built on these natural resources and in every case - I will mention these cases in a few seconds - strong reference is made to the need for cheap power if this development is to occur.
It is no good talking about potential development as the Government does. It is no good making a periodic muted speech about the need for more recognition of the development of north Queensland as the honourable member for Herbert does from time to time. We want some positive achievements in this area. The real achievements in this area, such as the Nogoa River dam, beef roads and the development of brigalow land, and even the Ord River project in Western Australia, have largely been brought about because of pressure from the honourable member for Dawson or because of his original contribution and research work in this field. This is in contradistinction to the record of the honourable member for Herbert who, I repeat, does not have one achievement or project in his electorate to which he can point as coming from his representations during his term of office in this Parliament. This report which has been commissioned by the Department of National Development is an official report. I stress this. It is not an outside report and it is not speculative; it is authoritatively based. It repeatedly stresses that an industrial complex can be established in this area of central Queensland provided a sufficient supply of cheap power is available. It says: . . prominent industrialists have indicated that before the full extent of the potential industrial demand for power can be identified there is a need to create a climate of confidence amongst industrialists that such low cost power would be available if the demand warranted it.
The first necessary step is for the Government to indicate that the low cost power is there and that it can be made available. When this is done the industry will come. At the present time the Government is taking the opposite approach. It is saying: You bring the industry here. We will then see how we can provide the power.’ Clearly no industrialist will come to central Queensland or to any other area if he has to come in under the rather dubious conditions that power prices will be discussed at a later date.
Let me show how valuable are the capacity and natural resources of the central Queensland area. According to this report there is a capacity for aluminium smelters, the production of caustic soda, a lateritic nickel industry, the mining of local titanium ores, sulphuric acid production, the production of elemental phosphorus and the production of fused alumina. All of this can be done in this central Queensland area if cheap power is provided. The report further states:
A number of the industries discussed above-
These are the industries 1 referred to: are power intensive and their feasibility is dependent upon the availability of cheap power.
Later on it says:
In all, then, a potentially large demand for power exists in central Queensland. Such a potential demand is, of course, essential before the construction of a large scale power station could De considered practicable.
This report from the Department of National Development was circulated among members in this House. I wonder why the honourable member for Herbert did not make some reference to it during the course of his speech in view of its topical nature in the State which he represents and in view of its appropriateness to the area which he represents and because of the important contribution which can be made to the development of Queensland, if we can get this power house. The Government may have some reservations about the economic cost of the power house, but if this is in fact the cause of its dilatoriness the Australian public and this Parliament are entitled to some explanation. I suspect that the Government is deferring a decision on this issue in the hope that when the forthcoming election is over, if it is returned to office it will be able to ignore the pressure for this particular requirement.
Cheap power is needed if Queensland is to be developed. The problem is that the power provided in Queensland is among the most expensive power in the Commonwealth. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) placed a question on the notice paper concerning this matter. On 16th April 1969 he received a reply from the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) which indicated that eight of the twenty-one largest provincial centres in Australia are in Queensland. Those eight centres have to meet the most expensive power charges in the Commonwealth. Quite clearly centres which have to meet expensive power charges are at a gross disadvantage when it comes to industrial development. It is a simple matter of the cost to the producer. A producer who can go to another area and minimise costs will not be attracted to Queensland, particularly central Queensland, if the costs are so excessively high. The Federal Government has a record of providing assistance to other States so that they can cut their power costs, but it has never given this sort of assistance to Queensland. It is about time Queensland had a share of this sort of treatment too.
Queensland has had to face a large number of development problems. The sort of economic indicators that one can look at to get some sort of impression of how it is growing show that Queensland has a relative disadvantage. Its size and the fact that it is fairly decentralised - more so than most States - are problems that it will have to overcome if it is to engage in industrial development in the future. Incidentally, 1 should have thought that decentralisation would have been regarded as a virtue in these days when the tendency is for the population to concentrate in large conurbations around the major capital cities. In any event, I should have thought that it would have been the purpose of the Government to give as much assistance as it could to promoting Queensland. When one looks - and T am moving into the broad area now - at the sort of assistance that is given by the Commonwealth one finds that Queensland lags behind very badly. Table 41 of the document entitled ‘Commonwealth Payments to or for the Stales 1969-70’ indicates that per head of population Queensland receives a much lower amount of assistance from the Commonwealth than South Australia, Western Australia or Tasmania. Queensland’s total per capita assistance from the Commonwealth in 1969-70 will be §149.32. South Australia, which is not a claimant State, stands to receive the considerably larger amount of $158.99. I am not saying that South Australia should not receive this amount of money, but clearly Queensland should not be treated disadvantageously in comparison to South Australia.
I hope only that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) will add his voice in support of what I am saying. He knows as well as I do that the Queensland public and Press feel aggrieved about the treatment their State has received from the Federal Government. They feel that Queensland is the State that misses out consistently when distribution of major projects is undertaken. 1 know that the Nogoa scheme is being funded by the Commonwealth. That was a rush decision taken before the last Senate election. It happened only because of the pressure that was brought to bear on the Government by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and other spokesmen on this side of the House, including the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham), who is an effective spokesman for his electorate. The figures 1 have indicate that Queensland lags behind badly on per capita finance from the Commonwealth. The results can be seen in the economic statistics. The average weekly earnings per employed male unit in Queensland in 1968 was $62.60 whereas the Australian average was $68.90. Factory production in Queensland was only $383 per head of population compared to the Australian figure of $623. Queensland has had the most persistent chronic unemployment problem in any State of the Commonwealth. The figure for unemployment benefit recipients as a percentage of vacancies registered in Queensland is 174.2%. The figure for Australia is only 45.2%. In other words, the hard core, persistent problem of unemployment during the last 12 months has been four times greater in Queensland than in Australia as an average. Where does the honourable member for Herbert stand on this issue? Where does the honourable member for Griffith stand on this issue? If they claim that they are Queenslanders who are interested in the promotion and development of their State they should stand up and be counted. It is not good enough to be apologists for the Government between elections.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We are debating the estimates for the Department of National Development. Once again the attention of the Parliament has been focussed on the Government’s outstanding record in this field. Despite the tirade of political comment that we have just heard from the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), the facts speak for themselves. I am amazed that an honourable member from Queensland should speak in the manner that the honourable member for Oxley spoke. He ignored the facts completely and showed no appreciation ofthe accomplishments that have been made in Queensland as a result of efforts byt he State itself and by the Department of National Development.
I want to briefly instance the remarkable progress that has been made in water conservation under the good management of this Government, particularly under the leadership of the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). Little has been said in this chamber of the great accomplishment of the Snowy Mountains Authority; on the other hand there has been tremendous criticism. But the fact is that this great work will go on until 1974, which is when the project will draw to a close. There is plenty of scope for the Government to take credit for the expenditure of $696m on this very great national undertaking. This has been possible because this great project was planned.
I come now to the criticism that we so frequently hear of the work that the Government is carrying out in Queensland and the other States. The honourable member for Oxley fails to recognise that the Nogoa scheme was approved ahead of other schemes for a very fundamental reason. I say this as a member from New South Wales because New South Wales expressed concern when this scheme was given priority. The reason quite clearly was that a very good case had been presented for the Nogoa project. The engineering data, the technical information and so on had been so well prepared that there was no doubt that it was a sound proposition. The cost-benefit factors were very positive indeed. It did not suit the honourable member for Dawson to have this scheme approved. He wanted another scheme approved. In
In the remaining moments available to me I wish to express my appreciation of not only the water conservation projects that are currently under way but also of the work that has been done in the field of flood mitigation. This concerns me directly. I am pleased to say that further propositions are coming forward in this regard. They are propositions based on effective engineering and planning and an effective approach to a fundamental project. How foolish one would be merely to talk loosely of a very important project unless the facts and figures are there to be presented. I understand that the New South Wales Government has just submitted further information to the Commonwealth regarding flood mitigation. I look forward with interest to the opportunity to talk in some detail about this subject when the full facts are presented. I believe that this will happen in the next few days. I -should not take the time of the House to talk loosely about a subject when the full facts will be made known in a short space of time. Therefore I commend the Government, the Minister for National
– I thank honourable members who have contributed to this debate, particularly those who have congratulated the officers of the Department of National Development. We have in this Department a body of devoted people who work hard to see that the national development of Australia progresses. It is impossible for me in the short time available to follow every hare that has been started. It is unfortunate that although some of this debate has been on a high plane, a lot that has been said has been what one would call politicking because an election is just a short time away. Therefore the debate has been a great opportunity for a dummy run.
I will confine myself to saying something about the allegation of discrimination against Queensland in the field of national development, the future of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, energy policy, oil pricing and, possibly, if I can squeeze it in, something about forestry in order to reply to the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) who spoke yesterday.
We are accustomed in this House to the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) in his usual language saying that the Government is refusing point blank to help Queensland and alleging that we are discriminating against Queensland. But what are the facts? I was interested to hear the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) quote some figures from the Budget papers. Naturally, he quoted only figures he thought would show that Queensland was getting a bad deal. He did not go on to compare those figures with the other figures which show that Queensland is getting very good treatment. For example, he quoted the figure of $149 for Queensland as representing the Commonwealth payment per head of population. He did not say that New South Wales gets only $114 or that Victoria gets only $112. He did not mention the fact that Queensland gets more specific purpose payments per head of population than any other
State except Western Australia and Tasmania. Nor did he point out that in relation to the specific purpose payments the total amount going to Queensland this year will be S92.75m which is more than South Australia, Western Australia or Tasmania will receive. Obviously, far from discriminating against Queensland, I think there is discrimination in its favour.
Everyone has sympathy for Queensland because of the present drought situation there. I think we all realise that this is one of the worst droughts that Queensland has known in living memory - certainly since the 1902 drought. But Queensland certainly is not being neglected. The Government has helped by means of drought aid, the contribution for the Fairbairn Dam, assessment of water resources, making the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority available to carry out. work for the State Government, tax concessions to encourage the conservation of water and fodder, freight concessions and assistance in regard to bank finance. Obviously all these steps have been of great advantage to Queensland.
Let us look now at the payments that this Government is making to Queensland. 1 have already mentioned the sum of $92. 75m which is being made available for special purposes in Queensland this year, lt is interesting to note that when you talk to a Queenslander he will always pick out some particular thing in relation to which Queensland has not been helped. If you talk to a South Australian he will say that the Commonwealth has never built a dam in his State. A Tasmanian will say that the Commonwealth has never put in a pipeline and has never carried out brigalow land clearance works or constructed beef roads in his State. Obviously someone can always pick on one sphere in which the Commonwealth has helped one State more than another.
Let us just look at what Queensland has received. Let us run quickly through the list. Queensland has received $21m for brigalow land clearance. It has received nearly all the funds for beef roads because, of course, it has the greatest percentage of beef cattle and there is a large area to be opened up. Of the $50m provided by the Commonwealth for beef roads Queensland received $39. 5m. I mentioned the Emerald Dam. Then there is the Mount Isa railway line, lt has been completed but let us not forget that the Commonwealth made a great contribution. Other projects include the forestry grant, water resources investigation, the accelerated programme of water measurement and Weipa harbour. As 1 have said, the total sum for special purpose payments for Queensland this year is $92.75m. But like Oliver, the bowl comes back for another plate of porridge. A week after help has been given in one direction the Commonwealth is asked: ‘When are you going to give us the money for the Kolan?’ This happened after the Government had made $20m available for the Emerald Dam.
Far be it from me to play politics, but let us look at Labor’s achievement in the field of water conservation. In a recent statement by the Queensland Minister for Water Conservation I read that Queensland is to have twelve dams by 1972. The Labor Government in that State, after being in office for 30 years up to 1957, had achieved a total capacity of irrigation storages of 330,000 acre feet. Yet the present government in that State will have, by 1972, when all the dams under construction are completed, 2.2 million acre feet. Let us look at what happened in New South Wales. There was a Labor government in that State for 23 years and it completed only one major structure that it started. True, it finished some projects that had been started by the previous Liberal-Country Party government in New South Wales and it did start some others but in 23 years it completed only one structure that it had started. This always happens under Labor governments. We know that by far the greatest percentage of Labor members come from the cities. Even when there Ls a Labor government the percentage of country representatives is very small indeed.
The honourable member for Dawson made great play with the question of when the Commonwealth is going to help the Queensland Government with the Burnett-Kolan scheme. He said that it was a matter of great urgency and that it was high time the Government made a decision. As I pointed out this morning, the fact of the matter is that the major dam on the Kolan for which Commonwealth assistance is sought will not be commenced until 1972.
A decision should be made some time before that, of course, in order to enable planning to proceed but there is no pressure at this moment for that decision to be made. The honourable member for Dawson at one stage worked with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Surely he would be the first, therefore, to acknowledge that you do not ask for $47m this month and a minute later say: ‘What has happened about the request? Why dcr you not grant it? You are discriminating against us.’ You do not operate in that way. These things take time. Projects must be carefully assessed before anything is done. 1 have to keep an eye on the time available to me and I shall pass on to what has been said about the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Again quite extravagant language has been used. It has been said that we are abandoning the construction side and that we are destroying the Authority. I forget some of the words used but they were certainly most extravagant. It was said that we were smashing it; that we were dismembering it. What are the facts of the matter on this so-called construction side of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority? There is no doubt that the Authority has carried out its work in a highly efficient manner. I pay a great compliment to the Authority for the way it has undertaken its work, but let us not forget that physically the Authority has never built a dam in its life. It has a daylabour force which undertakes some of the work of road construction, construction of townships and some aqueduct work, but when it comes to the building of a dam, tunnel, power house or something of this sort the Authority investigates the site and the overall concept, designs the dam, calls tenders and supervises the contract. This is exactly what the new Snowy Mountains engineering corporation will be able to do. We have said that within Australia they can investigate, design and supervise contracts, so it would be perfectly competent for the future consultant company to carry out works, such as the Snowy Mountains scheme has done, so long as it were commissioned by the Government to do so. I cannot stress this too often. We are not in any way making the Authority less efficient in carrying out works. We are ensuring that it will not be pushed into some scheme in the States over the heads of the State authorities.
In Australia today the greatest shortage is the shortage of money. We can construct - and mainly we are doing it thank goodness - through contracts any work for which there is adequate finance available. The new Snowy Mountains corporation, particularly in the engineering field, will be able to assist to do this. However the Authority is not a constructor. It does not build dams. It supervises contracts. It is true that in time the day labour staff in the Snowy Mountains area will go but if the known work load in the next 12 months builds up as is expected I can foresee that in the long term about 750 men will be employed in Cooma by the Authority and the Snowy Mountains council. This number compares with the present staff of 1,064. This will not be a great tragedy for Cooma. I believe that Cooma will remain permanently the headquarters of the organisation. Although no decision has been made, I can see no reason why it would change. Of course, the Labor Party’s attitude is illegal. It wants to push the organisation into doing work which it cannot do unless the States are agreeable. Members opposite talk about the Snowy Mountains Authority going cap in hand to the Government, but after all has it not always gone cap in hand to the Government? Does not any statutory authority go cap in hand to the Government? If we ever reached the stage where we established an organisation which spent money irrespective of any government decision, where would we be?
I am sorry that I have not time to discuss matters relating to an energy policy and an oil price, which I had hoped to discuss. On the question of an energy policy, it is a case of the Labor Party trying to override the Constitution and direct States, which are mainly the generating authorities, to use fuels which they do not want to use because other fuels are more efficient and more effective. The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) suggested that the Government had paid too much for the gas in the Gippsland area. In Bass Strait we have a price which can vary between 2.6c and 3.1c per therm, depending on the volume sold. This compares with Holland, which has one of the biggest fields in the world, and which pays 3.6c per therm; France, which pays approximately 4c per therm; and England North Sea gas for which 2.6c per therm is paid. It is true that in America the price is lower because America has vast quantities of gas and it is now amortising its costs.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed expenditure has expired.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, $57,657,000.
– I want to touch on a matter that 1 have been trying to hammer in this place for some time now but in respect of which I have not been able to make any headway. 1 do not know of any Commonwealth or State department that comes in for so much criticism as does the Postmaster-General’s Department. The criticism comes from many sections of the community - from business houses, from the public, from unions and from workers employed in the Department. I do noi suppose that there is a member here who has not received many individual complaints about the Postmaster-General’s Department. I know that this is not a problem that is associated only with the Australian Post Office. Similar criticisms have been made against post offices in other countries. When I refer matters from my constituents to the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Western Australia or to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) an investigation is always made and some explanation is given, but the facts are that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is not keeping pace with the growth of population and the rapid increase in business as a result of that growth. One would at least have thought that in this day there would be no deterioration in postal services, but there has been a deterioration when compared with the past services. I do not think anybody can deny that.
In August of last year the PostmasterGeneral advised us that letter deliveries would be reduced from three to two a day wherever operated. Since then there has been a further reduction in letter deliveries so that now once daily delivery conditions apply at all centres outside the inner capital city areas. Let us not forget that there are some big cities outside the inner capital cities where commercial and industrial concerns are well established and growing and where deliveries have been cut to one a day. Then, of course, there has been a cut in services to the householders and shopkeepers in the metropolitan areas. With the exception of the big users, the people are paying more for less. In 1967 postal charges were increased by 25% for the small users but at the same time the targe users were given discounts ranging from 5% to 25%. Most of the customers of the Post Office are now getting a less efficient service. Postal charges go up, but the service goes down.
I do not believe in criticism for criticism’s sake so J propose to submit something constructive. I repeat that it is clear that all is not well with the Post Office. We have suggested - we debated this proposal only last May - that a joint select committee should be appointed to inquire into and report upon the desirability and practicability of establishing a public corporation to control the business of the Post Office. Last May the Postmaster-General expressed opposition to the proposition on the grounds that the party I represent was already bound by its policy to establish a corporation. That may be true, but it does not stop some investigation being made if the Government would agree to it. It is only right to draw attention to the fact that although the Minister was opposed to that proposition he did not suggest any alternative investigation. I ask him: ls he satisfied with the existing Post Office organisation?
– The Minister says yes. If he is satisfied he is one of the few in the Australian community who are satisfied with it. Is there not a lesson to be learned from what is happening in the United Kingdom, for instance, or in the United States of America in regard to the attempts to reorganise the postal departments in those countries? They have already taken steps to reorganise their post offices into public corporations. The interjection of the Postmaster-General indicates that he has a narrow conservative view of the handling of the problems of the Post Office. He says that he is satisfied with the existing set-up. The only reform - if it can be called that - in recent years has been an attempt to establish a fund into which profits, if any, should be paid instead of into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. There is no power to borrow. The Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs must continue to go cap in hand to the Treasurer for funds. The shackles remain. The Post Office continues to be hamstrung. Some years ago the British Government established a post office trust fund similar to that which was recently established by our Postmaster-General. The British Government at that time went further and gave the British Post Office power to raise loans. However, the experience of the British did not solve the problems and legislation was passed to establish a public corporation. The British Bill to establish a public corporation was passed in the House of Lords on 14th July this year. The steps that were taken here, of course, are of little or no use in the reorganisation of the Post Office and I suggest that similar steps to those taken in the United Kingdom are essential. Those steps are in the process of being taken in the United States.
In the ‘Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents’ of 2nd June 1969 the President of the United States of America in a message to the Congress had this to say:
Total reform of the nation’s postal system is absolutely essential
The American people want dependable, reasonably priced mail service, and postal employees want the kind of advantages enjoyed by workers in other major industries. Neither goal can be achieved within the postal system we have today.
The Post Office is not keeping pace with the needs of our expanding population or the rightful aspirations of our postal workers.
Encumbered by obsolete faculties, inadequate capital, and outdated operation practices, the Post Office Department is failing the mail user in terms of service, failing the taxpayer in terms of cost, and failing the postal worker in terms of truly rewarding employment, lt is time for a change.
The President went on to say:
Two years ago. Lawrence F. O’Brien, then Postmaster Genera), recognised that the Post Office was in ‘a race with catastrophe’, and made the bold proposal that the postal system be converted into a government-owned corporation. As a result of Mr O’Brien’s recommendations, a Presidential Commission was established to make a searching study of our postal system. After considering all the alternatives, the Commission likewise recommended a government corporation. Last January, President Johnson endorsed that recommendation in his State of the Union message.
One of my first actions as President was to direct Postmaster General Winton M. Blount to review that proposal and others. He has made his own first-hand study of the problems besetting the postal service, and after a careful analysis has reported to me that only a complete reorganisation of the postal system can avert the steady deterioration of this vital public service.
I am convinced that such a reorganisation is essential. The arguments are overwhelming and the support is bipartisan. Postal reform is not a partisan political issue, it is an urgent national requirement.
Almost word for word that statement could be adopted in describing the present Australian Post Office, but the vital difference is that our Prime Minister and our PostmasterGeneral are doing nothing about it. I want to emphasise the final words in the President’s message to the Congress when he said: The arguments are overwhelming . . Postal reform is … an urgent national requirement.’
Similar criticisms have been levelled at the Postal Department in Australia and similar suggestions made by no less a person than Mr F. P. O’Grady who was the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs until he retired just over 2 years ago. He believed that the Australian Post Office should be a public corporation. When one considers his remarks with the remarks made by Mr O’Brien at the time he was Postmaster-General in the United States, and the remarks of the present PostmasterGeneral in America, who apparently has more freedom to speak than civil servants have in Australia, one can see that there is a relationship. Mr O’Grady since retiring has been able to come out in the open and make public statements which he could not do as the head of a Government department. After he retired he was in a position to criticise the existing organisation of the Post Office, and he has done this. In regard to the Post Office becoming a public corporation he has had this to say:
I think a public corporation would have a different approach to the public if it were given truly wide financial powers. It could arrange its business in a different way. At the present time, a purely government department must adhere to the budgetary system of Parliament. In effect you must not anticipate parliamentary approval for years ahead.
He also said:
This lack of knowledge of the future has always plagued the engineer in the Post Office in Australia . . .
The Post Office has always been debarred from long term planning . . . . . a statutory corporation given proper financial powers would be able to make long term arrangements with banks or other suppliers of funds and it could arrange its affairs so that it could commit itself to very high capital cost projects which would not come into use until 5 years ahead and would still have sufficient funds for bread and butter items.
Mr O’Grady went on and pointed out that a public corporation might be empowered to raise money for its own purposes.
In January last the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) referred to an underlying malaise in the Post Office, but nothing has been done by the Prime Minister or the PostmasterGeneral to tackle this malaise. It has been clearly demonstrated that the present structure of the Post Office is inadequate and that it needs modernising. It is of no use to blame the unions as the Postmaster-General is inclined to do from time to time in this place. The unions are anxious to give the public an efficient service, but cannot do so within the existing framework. Staff relations in the Australian Post Office have become deplorable over recent years. To a large extent this position can be attributed to the existing set-up and the Postmaster-General does not offer any hope of better industrial relations between staff and management. The stoppage last January could have been avoided. It is well known that the management of the Post Office would have liked to make an offer on wages and to negotiate a settlement before the stoppage occurred but it was overruled by the Postmaster-General.
The staff in the Post Office numbers more than 100,000, yet the administration has no power to deal with the wage claims of the employees. The unions must first place their claims before the Public Service Board, then before the Public Service Arbitrator, and the last resort is to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. During this tortuous route the Department of Labour and National Service has its say. Here we have delay pyramided on top of delay. No wonder there is grave discontent in every union associated with the Post Office. Recently at long last wage settlements were reached with the postal workers, but there was a considerable . amount of delay and industrial trouble which could have been avoided. Mr O’Grady said on this point: 1 have found myself completely humiliated when union deputations called on me. No matter what my views, I was required to keep a poker face and not let them think by nod or wink that 1 was sympathetic to their case.
He bad to wait until he was retired before he could say this. The present DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs no doubt feels just as humiliated.
Mr O’Grady had some other things to say. He said:
It would seem that if the Post Office is to be made into a truly business undertaking, the number of outside bodies having a say in such important matters ought to be reduced to a minimum.
He went on to say: ] believe the Post Office should have only two bodies concerned - the Post Office managers themselves and the court. There should be no other intermediary because this at best results in prolonged delays and at worst causes unnecessary friction between employees and management.
Mr O’Grady also said that if the Post Office is to be put on the basis of being a true business undertaking in reality and not just in name, divorcement from the Commonwealth Public Service would be quite essential. I emphasise to this Parliament and to the Australian public that it is the policy of the Labor Party that the Post Office should be a public corporation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– For a while I began to wonder whether the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb), who has just resumed his seat, was debating the estimates of the British Post Office or the United States Post Office. For my part, the estimates for the Postmaster-General’s Department serve to remind us of the gigantic size and enormous breadth of operation of this Department. There would be no other Government department, Federal or State, which comes in for as much scrutiny or criticism by the public as this one. There would be no other department, excepting perhaps the defence group of departments which has the PostmasterGeneral’s complexity of intermixed operations with such a variety and size. Its administration, its operations, its research are so diverse that one is led to believe that there may be justification in considering a separation of functions and a realignment of responsibilities. I believe it is too widespread a department and too heavy a load for one Minister and one departmental head to carry.
– What about the Minister?
– We have a pretty fine Postmaster-General now. However, I do not agree with the suggestion that has been made by the Labor Party that the Australian Post Office should be made a public corporation.
Being a member of the 7th Joint Committee of Public Accounts, it has been my good fortune to see at first hand the scope of this Department’s responsibilities and activities. As an active member within my own electorate, it has been my equally good fortune to witness the dedication of the postal employees at the customer contact level. At this stage I would pay a tribute to the vast number of postal employees who day in and day out deliver mail no matter what the weather, drive the trucks no matter what the pressures, mend the telephones and do any of the many tasks which all go towards making our standard of living as high as it is in Australia today. I would also pay a tribute to those behind the scenes and to those who work on the counters and courteously serve what is often a very difficult public. I would ask members of the public that when next they have a complaint to make regarding the service they are receiving, they are careful to consider the difficulties under which postal employees are often asked to work. Criticise the system by all means; if necessary, criticise the policies of this Government, but remember that the overwhelming majority of postal workers are carrying out their duties to the very best of their abilities and this dedication to duty should be publicly acknowledged, This I gladly do.
I would also like to say that whenever complaints have been received in my area - that is the postal administrative district based at Hurstville - Mr Noel Hall and Mr Rex Brown and their district and local officers have always investigated such complaints expeditiously and mostly to the satisfaction of my constituents. I would publicly thank ail these people for the assistance they have given to me and, more importantly, to my constituents. Since I have been privileged to represent my electorate, I am pleased to say that the S78 deferred applications for telephones which were current in November 1966 due to a shortage of line plant and exchange equipment, have now been overtaken and at present there are no such deferred applications at all. In fact, there have been something like 8,513 telephones connected within my electorate since the end of November 1966. Add to this the vast amount of cables that have been replaced and the recent announcement that some $411,000 of new works are proposed within the electorate during this financial year and we have a most impressive development of postal facilities. I thank and congratulate the Postmaster-General for having made such favourable decisions for the benefit of the district I represent. Of course, there is still some work to do and I hope that the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) will not take too long in recommending that new post offices at Miranda and Cronulla, both of the existing ones being totally inadequate for the work they do, be included in the Department’s new works programme.
Before I pass on to the next subject, I must express my keen disappointment to the Postmaster-General that it is not possible for the House to have his annual report before us when his departmental estimates are being discussed. Last year the report was not presented until 20th November. It is to be regretted if this is to be the case this year, for it will mean that the present Parliament will not be given the opportunity to discuss the annual results of the Post Office during its term of office. No doubt there are difficulties, but I would commend a greater urgency by those who are charged with the responsibility of preparing the report in future. I believe this is the time to pay tribute to the late DirectorGeneral, Mr T. A. Housley, who died in October last year. His loss to Australia is indeed great. I would like his efforts and dedication to be acknowledged here today.
I would now turn to the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission whose functions lie within the administrative supervision of the Postmaster-General. As the House is aware, the Joint Public Accounts Committee recently presented its report on the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Committee made some sixteen recommendations and though some had more significance than others, I would like to mention those findings which relate to forward planning of the Commission’s works programme and to recommendation No. 10 of the report which states:
Except in the cases of Perth and Canberra, the capital city accommodation available to the Commission, particularly for radio and administration purposes, is inadequate and in many cases is seriously sub-standard. In the interests of efficiency, sustained and urgent efforts should be made to provide the buildings required by the Commission.
Under normal circumstances one could hope that this great drawback to efficient operation and administration would steadily be overcome. The start of the radio and administration complex at Collinswood in South Australia early in 1970 is a move in the right direction. But one would have hoped that the Commission and the management would have taken a more aggressive approach to getting more funds for capital building needs than has been the case to date.
In Sydney, for example, the Commission is dispersed over 22 separate buildings, and who can wonder at inefficiencies creeping in? I rather suspect that there has been an unnecessary hesitancy on the part of the ABC to push for accommodation that was not directly associated with the production and promotion of television. Even here, it was obvious when listening to evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee that much more expenditure than was currently planned had to be undertaken if we were going to maintain an effective dual system of radio and television services. There can be no denying the need for such a dual system. The interplay of commercial networks and the national network acts as a cross stimulation which benefits both sides. I sincerely hope that all channels will develop their capacity to produce informed, enlightened and refreshing public discussion on all matters of current interest to a far greater extent than at present.
It is not my intention at this time to canvass the achievement of the ABC in the balance of viewpoints within any one programme it produces. The Public Accounts Committee recognised the claim made that such an ideal is often difficult and in some cases quite impossible to achieve. Page 155 of the Committee’s report goes on to say:
The Committee would have preferred a more positive assurance that an appropriate balance of viewpoints as between programmes is achievable, rather than the claim made in evidence that, over a period of time, a balance of viewpoints emerges.
Personally, I am confident that the Commission’s management is very aware of furthering this policy and achieving the ideal. I was pleased to see an assurance in the 37th Annual Report of the ABC that in their opinion: ‘the presentation of fact and the impartial portrayal of ideas are essential to the development of a literate, socially conscious, adaptable and active society’. This is a magnificent philosophy and I hope that the words are firmly placed before all those who are concerned in the presentation of such fact to the public.
There can be no denying the tremendously high professional standards that exist in the many departments of the ABC and we should count ourselves lucky that they, and their counterparts in commercial radio and television networks, provide so many high quality services to our community. But I would counsel the Australian Broadcasting Commission management constantly to remind itself of the noble philosophy it has seen fit to include in its report.
I know there are many aspects of Australian Broadcasting Commission programming which cause me irritation and, at times, annoyance. But I take comfort from the fact that such irritations and annoyances are similarly experienced by members who sit on the Opposition benches. One point that is worthy of mention and emphasis in this debate is the disclosure during the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry that during the past 5 years, the Minister has only once exercised his power under section 77 of the Act and that was to prevent the Commission from televising an interview with a former Premier of France. Let this lay the shibboleth, once and for all, that this Government works its will on the management of the Commission. Nothing could be, nor is, further from the truth.
Earlier I mentioned my concern at the seeming carelessness by the Commission in its forward planning for its works programme. I believe this is tied up with the fact that the Commission does not have a meaningful system of apportioning integrated expenses between radio and television and of allocating programme overhead costs to particular programmes. The management of the Commission has said that the cost of obtaining this accurate dissection of costs between radio and television ‘would be excessive and the results achieved would not assist in the overall management of the Commission’. This may be so, but I believe immediate consultations should take place with the suppliers of electronic computer equipment to see what the costs of such computer programming would really be.
After all, we can see the problems that have arisen in forward planning of building programmes. We have been made aware of the lack of knowledge that exists in determining even an approximate cost of such allegedly expensive programmes as This Day Tonight’, while over the horizon lies the biggest unknown of them all - colour television. If the Australian Broadcasting Commission is going to press successfully, as it must, for more capital funds to meet the immense expenditure of installing colour television while seeking, at the same time, necessarily greater allocations for capital works for radio operation and administration, then I am firmly of the opinion that the Commission is going to have to take the plunge and undertake the computerisation of cost allocation despite its seemingly prohibitive cost at present.
After all, with the cost to the Commission of conversion to colour television which should not leave much change Out of $20m and a radio and building programme which should amount to this same figure over the same period of time, I believe this Parliament is entitled to know to the finest detail possible the true operating and overhead costs that apply each to radio and television services provided by the Commission. There is no doubt that if we are going to continue to have a comprehensive national network, then this Parliament and succeeding parliaments are going to be required to provide large sums of money indeed. We can never do it on the cheap. The estimates which we are debating are a useful step in that direction.
Before I sit down, as the honourable member for Banks (Mr Costa) is occupying the Chair at the present time, I. would like to wish him, when he concludes his parliamentary life at the end of next month, a very happy and healthful retirement.
-The Committee is debating .the estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department. In the White Paper presented to the Parliament by the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), following the introduction of the Budget last month, we find a paragraph which points out that the overall 1968-69 trading loss of $8m which had been forecast in August of last year had turned into an $8m profit by August of this year. However, the profit all came from the telecommunication services side, while postal services actually showed a loss. In 1968-69 the estimated trading result for telecommunications was a $18m profit, while on the postal side there was a trading loss of $10m. The estimate for 1969-70 is a $22m profit on the telecommunications side and a $1Sm loss on the postal services side. So while next year we can expect to see a $4m increase in profits for. telecommunications, ther will be a $Sm increase in the loss, if I can put it that way, on the postal services side, which will mean a reduction in overall profit of £lm this coming year. The fact that telecommunication services are expected to return a greater profit, and a quite substantial profit, brings me to the matter that I wish to take up with the Postmaster-General in this debate. 1 refer to the attitude or policy which is adopted in relation to services generally for the general public in those centres which are commonly referred to as ‘iron ore towns’ in the north-west of Western Australia. No doubt a similar policy applies in other parts of Australia. In fairness to the Postmaster-General himself, I hasten to point out that with regard to services and facilities which come within the authority or field of State departments, the Government of Western Australia, which is also a Liberal-Country Party coalition, follows the same sort of tine or approach as does the Commonwealth. So perhaps it could well be that it is not just an attitude adopted by one Commonwealth department, but in fact a Liberal-Country Party policy of general application. As a matter of fact, I know from my own experience that the Department of Civil Aviation follows the same line of retreat from responsibility. This particular attitude by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department came very definitely to my notice when I visited all these iron ore towns during the last recess. Naturally I met a lot of people. 1 received a number of inquiries, requests and complaints, but the most general complaint referred to the unsatisfactory situation regarding telephone facilities for the general public in those particular areas.
I appreciate that they are all quite new towns. I appreciate that the population is growing fairly steadily and that as a result we cannot expect everything to be provided as quickly as we would wish. Nevertheless, I want to point out that communications in those remote areas are very important and, to my mind, the requests which I received were only reasonable, and were such that they should receive very favourable and sympathetic consideration at the earliest possible opportunity. But when I made approaches through the normal channelsto the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Western Australia - I was staggered to learn that the Postmaster-General’s Department apparently has little, if any, say over what shall be provided or what shall not be provided by way of telephone facilities for the general public in those iron ore towns.
I became rather tired and disgusted at being informed that iron ore towns are company towns and that the Department cannot or will not intervene in any way. Unfortunately, but I suppose quite naturally, the people in those areas lay the blame for this lack of facilities at the door of the officers or staff of the Department in Perth or in the district office in Geraldton when, of course, the entire blame is with the Postmaster-General himself or his Department or his Party. The offices and staff of the Department, whether they like it or not, are bound to abide by the policy set down by the Government.
As I said, I made approaches through the normal channels. I want to read to the Parliament a couple of the replies which I have received. The first one is dated 25th July of this year. It states: Dear Mr. Collard,
I refer to your personal representations of 14th July, 1969, and 15th July, 1969, (Reference 22/68), concerning the provision of public telephones and improvement to the telephone facilities at Dampier and, as promised, the matters have been investigated. As the two subjects referred to are related, 1 will cover both aspects in the one reply.
At the outset, I would like to explain that Dampier is a Company owned town with the result that all facilities, including communications, are controlled by Hamersley Iron Pty. Ltd., and while these conditions exist, it is against the Department’s policy to establish a public telephone exchange in the area.
Initially, only two radio telephone channels were installed between Dampier and Roebourne, the nearest official outlet to the Departmental network, and the capital cost of providing this equipment was borne by Hamersley Iron Pty. Ltd. Subsequently, a 12 channel system was installed to replace the original equipment and, again, the Company made a cash contribution towards the cost of making available 6 of the circuits for their exclusive use. Of the remaining channels, two have been made available for the exclusive use of two separate Companies by the payment of a direct charge or extra annual rental, and four are used for public telephone traffic and Post Office use. Two of these are used at Dampier and two are extended to Tom Price via channels made available in the Company’s privately owned link between Dampier and Tom Price.
Whilst it is realised that the two existing public telephones at Dampier are being used to the fullest possible extent at the present time, it is not practicable to provide additional facilities of this nature because there are no spare channels between Dampier and the Roebourne exchange. Furthermore, due to the excessive costs that would be incurred in providing additional equipment at this stage, the department has no plans at the moment to increase these channels.
Dealing now with the problems being experienced by residents of Dampier relating to telephone calls, with the exception of the public telephones and the two Companies who have obtained exclusive services to Roebourne, the only telephone connections available at Dampier are to a Private Automatic Branch Exchange, privately owned, installed and maintained by Hamersley Iron Pty. Ltd.
Because of the limited number of outlets from this private exchange to the Post Office network at Roebourne, and the fact that these must also handle the traffic from the Company town at Tom Price, it is only natural for Hamersley Iron Pty.
Ltd.. the controlling party, to place some restriction on any inward and outward calls that have no connection with the Company’s business.
However, this situation is one over which the Post Office has no control and I cannot foresee any solution or improvement to the position while Hamersley Iron Pty. Ltd. are prepared to retain Dampier as a Company town.
So at Dampier we have the situation where the company has exclusive use of eight of the twelve available telephone channels and two of the remaining four are used in a company privately-owned link, which again gives control to the company. The public has the use of two public telephones only and the Department admits that they are being used to full capacity at this time. Of course, the population is growing rapidly. The only other possibility is to make a telephone call through a company private exchange and this obviously is not acceptable or satisfactory when the calls are of a very private nature. The amazing point about it ali is that we are told that this is a situation over which the Department has no control and that no solution or improvement can be expected. In other words, as I see it, this is an admission that a Federal Department has no authority to say what facilities or services of a federal nature can be provided to the general public.
The whole town - even the ordinary privileges and rights of the general public - is under company control. The people at Dampier and other iron ore towns are denied the rights enjoyed by people in other areas. Their requests and their wishes cannot be met without company approval. Even if the towns are company owned, the requirements of the people should not be disregarded by the Department. But I want to refer to a further letter I received from the Postmaster-General’s Department on this subject. It is dated 1st August 1969 and states:
Dear Mr. Collard,
I refer to your personal representations of 14th July, 1969 (41/68), concerning the provision of improved telephone facilities at Goldsworthy.
At the outset I would like to explain that Goldsworthy is a company-owned town with the result that all facilities including communications are controlled by Goldsworthy Mining Company, and while these conditions exist, it is not possible to extend full public facilities into the area.
A Post Office agency is established in the shopping mall and the telephone which serves this office for the passing of telegraph traffic is also used by the public when not required by the nonofficial Postmaster. . , .
Some inconvenience to users of the facility has been experienced owing to power induction in the underground cables serving the .township and administrative area. Unfortunately, this is an aspect over which the Department has no control, but it is understood that the interference has decreased in recent weeks. . . .
Those replies, I suggest, are sufficient to prove that the Postmaster-General’s Department does not exercise any control over or have any say about the Department’s affairs in the iron ore towns and while this Government is in office it never will. The Government falls over backwards to provide technicians and gear not only for the benefit of the companies but also to the exclusion of potential subscribers in many other areas who cannot obtain a service because of the shortage of cable and other equipment. The Government refuses to provide simple adequate facilities to the general public in the iron ore towns and raises the cry of excessive costs as an excuse for not doing so. If the cost of providing facilities in iron ore towns is a problem, it only proves that the governments of the day, both State and Federal, have failed to ensure that Australia will receive its fair and proper share of the enormous incomes that will come out of these iron ore projects.
As recently as 22nd April last, the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) said that the income from iron ore alone from 1967-68 to 1969-70 inclusive would be $500m and by 1973-74 would total $ 1,645m. But despite these amounts, the Government says it cannot provide adequate telephone facilities to the people who live in these areas and make these returns possible. If it is not the policy of the Government to provide these facilities, it should have made the provision of them by the companies a condition of the agreement. Tt is absolutely disgraceful that these facilities are not provided. It is no wonder that the people of Australia, especially those in the North, are coming to realise that the real benefits and the real wealth from the iron ore projects will go to big overseas and Australian business interests and that very little will brush off on the ordinary Australian people. 1 have no argument against the companies having to provide their own private telephone facilities. They are well able to do so, in view of the very generous terms on which they were given the mining rights in those areas. But that should not give them the right also to determine the extent of facilities that will be provided to the public. I certainly deplore the attitude of a government department which is prepared to accept as satisfactory a situation in which a company has complete control of all facilities, including communications, in a town of more than 1,000 people. I hope that the Postmaster-General will, during the few short weeks that he will continue to hold a portfolio, ensure that control and responsibility are placed where they belong and that is in the Department.
I want to make lt clear to the PostmasterGeneral that there is no doubt - in fact, it is admitted - that facilities are much below the standard they should be to meet the requirements of the general public right at this moment and, as I said earlier, the population is growing steadily. It is most unlikely that the company will provide any additional facilities, unless it is forced to do so. If the Government cannot compel the companies to provide adequate facilities, there is only one avenue left open and that is for the Department to provide them itself. I hope the Postmaster-General will not excuse his indifference to the needs of the public by falling back on the story that these are company owned towns.
– The Estimates debate occurs in Committee and invariably the Minister at the table has his advisers, his departmental officers, present to help him answer queries about the departmental estimates. In my opinion, therefore, the debate is not designed for the set speech or the political exchange between the representatives of the Government and the Opposition but rather it is designed for probing questions relating to the estimates and the seeking of information on behalf of each of us. I trust the constant emphasis will be that detailed reporting to the Parliament is demanded. So, as I have attempted in previous years but perhaps a iittle more particularly on this occasion, I will set out in these moments that are available to follow what I would term the old traditional usage of the Estimates debate and I will have a number of questions for the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme), who is now at the table, Knowing him to be an efficient administrator, I trust that he will provide me in Committee with the answers I am seeking.
The Appropriation Bill (No. 1) provides for this Department $57,657,000. I find that this is a provision not for the Post Office as we know it but in this Bill the Australian Broadcasting Control Board receives $1,494,000, the Australian Broadcasting Commission receives $45,158,000 and technical and other services for broadcasting and television receive $11,005,000. It is apparent that these amounts bear no direct relation to Post Office accounts as we usually refer them. The latter amount, incidentally, I would put on record, is for payment into the Post Office Trust Account, which is the account which now controls all of the Post Office operations. No Post Office operations are therefore reflected in Appropriation Bill (No. 1). .1 draw attention primarily to the provision of a large amount in Appropriation Bill (No. 2) listed under Capital Works and Services. For expenditure under the Post and Telegraph Act Trust Fund, using the new one line appropriation method, we have this year a provision of $229m and the total appropriation under this Bill is $233,228,000.
As I have said, if in Appropriation Bill (No. 2) this sum of $229m covers all operations, including salaries and administrative expenses within the Post Office, I ask the Minister: Is not the title ‘Capital Works and Services’ a misnomer? It would be a misnomer, I would suggest - I would hope to have his concurrence here - if it were an advance or a borrowing, to use the term that has been used in the whole of the operations of the Post Office. But if year by year - this year and every succeeding year - the amount in Appropriation Bill (No. 2) is always to be applied to the works programme of the Post Office, then I would agree that the title would not be in error. I would like clarification on that point.
When I turn to Appropriation Bill (No. 1) there are three questions that I would like to ask. I find that last year under Division No. 405 expenditure in respect of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board fairly substantially exceeded the appropriation. I would ask the question: What were the circumstances relating to this excess expenditure? I notice that this year’s estimate for the same item has risen to $1,494,000. 1 ask the question: Why? Is there a ready explanation for this higher provision? I turn to item 04 of Division 405. This relates to the issuing and recording of listeners’ and viewers’ licences. Expenditure last year amounted to $1,195,260 - well below the estimate. I ask: Why was this? The estimate this year, in my opinion, seems to have been set with some judgment at the figure of $1,120,000. The question that comes to my mind is: With this volume of recording what methods are being used in the Post Office today? Is this a computerised operation? 1 would be anxious to know whether the officials within the Post Office are firm in their judgment that they can hold to around the current estimate. This is a task which is so important.
Why the new item 06? There is for the first time in the Bill an item which reads: Contribution to rent and maintenance of buildings shared by Post Office and the National Broadcasting and Television Services’. I wonder whether this is a complete innovation, for there seems to have been no reference to it before.
Turning to Appropriation Bill (No. 2), last year was the first year of the new Post Office Trust Account system. I am curious about the performance for the whole of the year. How will actual spending compare with the appropriation? I agree that in the White Paper submitted by the Minister to the Parliament there is a clear reference to this $ 17.5m shortspent in the last financial year compared with the amount appropriated. I would ask: Can the Committee have the Minister’s assurance that when this occurs it will always be apparent to the Parliament - that is, that the Treasurer’s Advance or the Consolidated Revenue Fund will reflect truly the performance of the Post Office against the aggregate estimate for the Post Office in the one line appropriation and, of course, in respect of other funds used? I would ask: Can we have an assurance regarding the avoidance of panic spending if perchance, as appeared last year in June, there was a shortage in the usage of money - that is, the demand by the Post Office fell short of the funds available to it? I would ask the question of the Minister: Why, in the month of June, were telephone technicians brought from the country to the city to speed up telephone installations? I wonder if this was to absorb some of the millions of dollars that were available. I wonder if any costing was applied to the unit service cost which resulted from men being brought in from the country. These men were not accustomed to city operations and they were installing telephones in homes in city streets. They did not know their way around because for years their duty had kept them in the country. I trust that the Minister can assure me that this was in the normal pattern and was not an effort made in the last weeks of the financial year to use up some of the funds which, for one reason or another, were not in demand.
We were told that the White Paper which was promised to the Parliament would provide a satisfactory explanation of the trust fund that was to be set up. We knew that a trust fund would remove the total estimates of the Department from the scrutiny of the Parliament. This is the document to which we must turn to find virtually every aspect of information at this time of year because, as my colleague the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) indicated, it is not until November, according to the general pattern, that we have access to the financial and statistical bulletin of the Post Office. It appears that it is in this document, made available in November, that the audited statement of the Post Office operations will appear. When I turn to this White Paper 1 would ask: Is this all the information the Parliament will receive at this time? I recall that a representative of the Post Office recently indicated to me, as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, that the Minister would be making a statement supplementary to the White Paper. This I have not been able to locate. I would ask the Minister whether errors in estimating in the administration fields will now be shielded from parliamentary scrutiny. Will the financial and statistical bulletin continue in this form? Is November of each year the very earliest that the audited statement and the accompanying details can be made available? Well do we know that most departments of the Commonwealth are able to bring down their audited statements earlier than this. We know that many of them are included in the Auditor-General’s Report and that it is his supplementary report that is designed to pick up all remaining reports and statements. I am a reasonable fellow, and because of the magnitude of the Post Office I would not expect a report on Post Office operations to be ready as quickly as those for minor departments. But I ask whether there is any statement from the Minister regarding expenditure from the trust fund additional to what has been built up in general and summarised form in the White Paper.
I would ask the Postmaster-General whether he will advise me from the information available to him today of the current estimate for additions to the motor vehicle fleet. This was under the old Division 820, item 307. I am curious to know the figure for this current year for motor vehicle fleet additions. The item on airmail services, which was referred to previously as 405, is not disclosed in the White Paper. Previously there was a small item headed Research Projects*, which was item 602. Could I have this year’s figure for research projects? I want to refer finally to the civil works programme on page 82. There is a reference to my own State of Western Australia. I pick up a few items that link with my own electorate. Item 1 is the erection of a training school at Manning. I ask the Minister whether the small amount of $12,000 left from last year’s expenditure and remaining for further expenditure is to be absorbed or whether this is a small contingency item.
Item 9 refers to the erection of the mail exchange. I would ask the Minister whether the contract, for which there is still a provision of $2im, has been running slowly or whether the Post Office is satisfied with the performance of the building contractor. Finally I want to ask a question regarding the erection of a post office at Exmouth. Qf course it is not in my electorate but it is one I took an interest in some little time ago. There was an expenditure of only $600 in the last financial year, and with $196 available I am keen to know what progress has been made with this contract for a new post office.
I hope that my questions indicate that the Parliament is deserving of as much information as possible and that it is in this Estimates debate that we have the right not only to ask questions, to seek information, but also to have it provided.
– Before discussing the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department I would like to place on record my sincere thanks for the courtesies and assistance given to me by the staff of the Postmaster-General’s Department in the area of Leichhardt and by the Minister himself. There are many problems of communications in the Leichhardt area, particularly in the far outback areas around the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Cape York Peninsula. I know that the Minister is aware of these and I know the problems of his Department in regard to the expenditure of the moneys available. I have had the opportunity of visiting the main telephone exchanges in the metropolitan areas as a member of the Public Works Committee. I know perfectly well that the money must be spent in these main exchanges, but I would be lacking in my duty as the member representing the people of Leichhardt if I did not express my views and their concern about telephone communications in their area.
They look at their problems in a practical way. They pay their taxes. They are adding to the export earnings of Australia with mining, cattle, fishing and even a tourist industry. They look with envy at metropolitan areas where people can view three or four television programmes and receive six or eight radio programmes, while they cannot have even a radio programme. It concerns them very much. There is no radio reception on Thursday Island except from Indonesia. This is no good to the people on Thursday Island at all. They lose contact with the whole of Australia. They do not know what is going on at a given time until they receive their papers at a later date. They are the same kind of people as those in the capital city areas of this continent. I know that the Postmaster-General’s Department has improved all its facilities. The Minister proudly says that 95% of the population of Australia, or some percentage of that order, enjoy television, but 5% of the people are still looking for some sort of assistance by way of communications. The Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York Peninsula are crying out for development at the present time. Better development would occur in these areas if better means of communication were supplied. I asked the Minister a question some time ago and received the reply that Weipa would be getting a radio station under the 1970-71 programme. This will serve the people within the Weipa area, but its broadcasts will not extend to Thursday Island. 1 was wondering whether the strength of this station could be boosted so that its broadcast could reach that area or whether the station that is proposed to be put in at Mossman will be capable of serving the Thursday Island area. There are 6.000 to 8,000 people up there and they have no radio reception. They have poor communications.
I hope a reply is received from the Minister to my question in regard to a telephone line to Thursday Island and that it will be a satisfactory one. 1 hope that a better telephone service will be given to these people. The delay of 2 hours for a telephone call from Cairns to Thursday Island is atrocious at this stage when people up there realise what amenities there are in the capital city areas. One might ask: ‘Why are they staying up there?’ If they did not stay up there or people did not stay in the outback this country would never develop into the country that we know it can be. These areas are capable of holding greater numbers of people. They will develop, but these people must be assisted by the only body which can do it, that is, by the Federal Parliament.
Television has been a source of annoyance to me and I know that it has been an annoyance to the Minister ever since it was mooted that a permanent station would be placed in Cairns. It has been bad enough with the temporary station, which is operating at present and whose programmes do not reach the tableland. Many deputations from many organisations asked me to approach the Postmaster-General, and many deputations were made directly to the Minister, to ask for translators to be installed so that the tableland could receive television. These requests were refused by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Of course it was explained that a permanent station would be built on Mount Bellendenker. The people are now waiting patiently to see what area will be covered by this new station. I am hoping that it will cover the whole of the area adequately as the Minister has explained it will. I trust that if it is not covered adequately the Minister and his
Department will investigate as soon as possible the possibility of using translators to give the people in this area the amenities that their counterparts around the metropolitan areas have.
People in these areas view with concern reports in the Press and statements in the Parliament that sooner or later colour television will be introduced. Honourable members should realise that the people of this area are annoyed at the fact that they cannot get radio reception or good telephone communications. They are contributing to taxation and the export earnings of this country. They ask for the amenities derived from their contributions to be extended to the areas in which they live. In my opinion this is not an unreasonable request if it possibly can be acceded to.
I trust that when the telephone line to Thursday Island is completed the Minister or his Department will give consideration to the installation of a public telephone at Horn Island. The aircraft which service the area land at Horn Island. A coach takes the passengers down to the jetty; which is about 2i miles away. Passengers are then transported to Thursday Island by motor launch. A lot of people, including tourists, travel back and forth between Horn Island and Thursday Island. If any accident occurred they might have to walk 2i miles to a telephone. The telephone is in the office of the Department of Civil Aviation at the airport on Horn Island. I have asked the Minister to consider the installation of some form of public telephone at or near the jetty on Horn Island. Accidents could easily occur to the people who are travelling backwards and forwards. It is not always easy to get from the wharf on to the boat. Sometimes the sea is very rough. If there is a low tide one has to jump about 2 feet. I do not know how some of the women manage. The people in this area have to face problems of this nature all the time, but they do not have good telephone communications or any means of hearing on the radio what is going on in the world. They do not have television and 1 do not know when they will set it, if at all.
I have said before that I think these people would be better off if the Queensland Government handed over responsibility for the islands north of Cape York peninsula to the federal Government. These people are not receiving a fair deal from the Queensland Government let alone the federal Government. I cannot expect the Minister to do any more than is possible, but I do ask him to look at the question of improved telephone services. To ring up Normanton from Cairns one has to go through the Cloncurry exchange. I have been told by technicians that economically it would be possible to run a line direct from the Cairns exchange to Normanton. The same situation applies to Karumba and Croydon. I have been asked to place these difficulties before the Minister to see whether improved telephone facilities could be provided in that area.
Weipa has one telephone line. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) commented on a similar situation existing in his electorate. I do not know what arrangements have been arrived at between the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Comalco group of companies, but Comalco is in charge of the line, lt is impossible to ring through from Cairns to Weipa. I have tried it many times. It is easier to send a telegram and wait for a reply than to try to ring up. I do not know what arrangements have been arrived at, but if the only line is under the control of Comalco the Department should have a look at the matter to see whether a better service could be provided for the people who Jive at Weipa. There are 400 or SOO men and their families at Weipa and the population is expanding. New houses are being built. It is essential that these people have a proper telephone service. I ask the Minister to consider the points I have raised in regard to the electorate of Leichhardt.
– In discussing the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department I would firstly like to offer my congratulations to the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and the Government for the progress which has been made by the Department. The latest evidence of this progress appears in the Thirty-seventh Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and in a Press release issued by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department yesterday concerning the new electronic trunk exchange for Syd ney. 1 note with appreciation that further down in that Press release is the following statement:
While the exchange would be used for switching trunk telephone calls, it was hoped that this was the beginning of an extension of electronic operation in telephone exchanges into the area of local telephone services.
That is an indication of the advances that are being made by the Department. I offer my sincere congratulations to the Postmaster-General. In particular, 1 congratulate the Postmaster-General on the decision to establish thirty-eight low-power national television relay stations over a 4- year period. The Postmaster-General will be aware that J have constantly made representations in regard to the justice and the desirability of providing television services in the western areas of the electorate of Maranoa. It is gratifying to note that the Postmaster-General has accepted the worth of my representations by allocating len stations for towns within the electorate of Maranoa and another one for the town of Mungindi, which borders my electorate. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) worked in close co-operation with mc in this matter. I know that he is also pleased with the percentage of stations allocated to his electorate. 1 know that there are other areas which are desirous of television which have not been included in this part of the programme. 1 was pleased to note that the PostmasterGeneral, who does not make statements lightly, has said that the Department will continue its examination of ways and means of providing services to other remote areas and to those areas located relatively close to existing stations that do not have a good reception. The people who live in outback areas realise that the Government is endeavouring - very successfully, too - to provide them with the amenities that they have looked forward to for so long. I realise that the surveys which will be necessary to decide the most appropriate sites for these stations and for microwave links will take a considerable amount of time because of the area which has to be covered, but in view of the tremendous value of television to outlying areas where there is a lack of alternative entertainment, I make a very strong plea to the PostmasterGeneral to do everything in his power to expedite the installation of these stations and reduce the time limit allowed for the completion of the programme, which is at present 4 years.
I turn now to telephone services. This is one of the great problems of many people who live in the remote, sparsely settled areas of my electorate and, indeed, other electorates. The cost of the construction of long distance telephone lines is of very real concern to the private individuals, particularly when one takes into account seasonal conditions and the low price they are obtaining for their products on the world market. I appreciate the efforts that are being made to help them. I appreciate the assistance that is now provided to country subscribers for the construction and maintenance of telephone lines. It is a matter of great satisfaction to me to know that the Government has decided to assist those country subscribers who are required to construct or upgrade private lines. The Government advances funds through the Post Office to enable lines of high quality to be constructed by the Department, the subscriber or a contractor engaged by the subscriber. Funds for this purpose are made available on the basis that the subscribers pay the amount involved, with interest at the long term bond rate. Once a line has been constructed to Post Office specifications the subscribers are relieved of the responsibility for carrying out maintenance, subject to their bearing the cost of major replacement materials. That is a matter of satisfaction to me. But because of the long distances that have to be covered in some instances some of the people who live in isolated areas are unable even with this help to meet the cost of constructing lines. Again I ask the PostmasterGeneral to give consideration to extending the distance of the lines that it constructs so that the subscribers do not have to go so far to meet them.
There is another matter I want to bring to the attention of the Postmaster-General. I have regularly and constantly drawn his attention to it in the time I have been a member of the Parliament and I wonder why we have not been able to achieve it. I am referring to the enlargement of the extended local service areas in the more remote localities of the State. It seems to me that it there is to be equity in service it is necessary to have larger local service areas in the outlying parts of Australia. I believe that every subscriber should have a local access telephone call to a town with medical and professional services available. The reason I press this request is that so many other subscribers throughout this great Commonwealth have this benefit. Provision should be made to allow everybody to enjoy this service. I know that there will be some cost involved but if the Minister looks into this matter he will see the justification of equal benefits for all. I am not putting this proposition forward only on behalf of the people in my electorate but for the people who live in the more sparsely populated areas. I again ask the Postmaster-General to have a good look at this matter. The cost would be offset to some extent by the increased number of telephone calls which would be made.
The Minister has heard a lot about continuous telephone services. I know that he and his Department have attempted to provide them. It is an essential service for efficient property management today. While progress is being made in the provision of automatic exchanges, I suggest that the number of them should be substantially increased. This necessary benefit should be provided more quickly to those who have been waiting for it. Some people have been waiting for a very long time. I want to mention particularly the people in areas even further out, such as Bedourie and Birdsville. While there are not so many people in those areas they face great problems through living there. I understand that there is an investigation being made in those areas at present and I hope that as a result some of them will be provided with a more satisfactory telephone service.
– What is the population?
– It is not very big but I am not worried about looking for a few votes like a lot of people in this House. I want justice for all. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department is making great progress. More than half the sum provided for capital purposes is to be used to finance the expansion and improvement of telephone services. The provision this year is $229m. This year the Department expects to be able to make 290,000 new telephone connections involving new lines and equipment and to hold the number of applications for telephone services at the current figure of about 55,000. I mention this point because it is necessary to have a balanced presentation. This is only fair to the Department. While I have asked for more than is being granted at present, a good job is being done.
I want to mention one other matter concerning the Department. I refer to the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s national television programme ‘Four Corners’. I readily concede that a programme of this kind can serve a very useful purpose in drawing attention to some of the matters that should be of concern to the community, and I offer no objection to any criticism of authority provided that criticism, whether direct or implied, is fair and takes into consideration and acknowledges what has been done as well as what has not been done. Such a programme no doubt requires a high degree of independence but this independence must carry with it the responsibility to present a balanced picture so that public opinion can be based on all the facts and not only on some of them.
I contend that the recent ‘Four Corners’ programme concerning the Aboriginal settlement at Cunnamulla did not present all the essential aspects of this difficult problem which it should have done in all fairness to the Paroo Shire Council. I consider that a wrong impression was given when ‘Four Corners’ highlighted the fact that five taps were provided in the cemetery and only four taps to serve the settlement, implying a lack of interest by the Shire Council.
Does ‘Four Corners’ suggest that the Shire Council would have been justified in providing more encouragement for people to live in what ‘Four Corners’ itself so graphically portrayed as a very undesirable and unhealthy area in which to live? If ‘Four Corners’ really desired to inform the public fully on this question or, in other words, give a balanced presentation, why did it omit any reference to the progress already made by the combined efforts of Commonwealth and State governments and shire councils in a number of areas where Aboriginal families have been moved from undesirable surroundings to homes provided for them? It is intended that this pattern should also be followed in Cunnamulla and the Shire Council will co-operate fully. This was intended before that programme was put on.
In Cunnamulla and in many other country towns, Aboriginal families, including families which councils have assisted into better homes, are increasingly playing a worthy part in community life and setting a splendid example for others to follow. This is the brighter side of a grave and serious situation and should have received recognition on the ‘Four Corners’ programme because it indicates that success can be achieved in solving a problem which has been engaging the attention of dedicated people for a long time. It will take time to resolve this problem fully and it will require the co-operation of all concerned. I am confident that the Paroo Shire Council and shire councils generally will do everything possible to promote such a programme.
One of the associated problems is in providing satisfactory employment for our Aboriginal people. The Paroo Shire Council is conscious of this and has demonstrated in a practical way its desire to help as far as possible. The Council employs 19 Aboriginals in an outside work force of 98. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, through such programmes as ‘Four Corners’, can provide a valuable service to the community only so long as it retains the confidence of the people by presenting a balanced picture of the subject with which it is dealing.
Any criticism I offer is given with the object of improving the service rendered by the Postmaster-General’s Department. 1 want to conclude on the note on which I began: I recognise the progress made and that it is a credit to the Department and the large staff engaged in serving the needs of the community. I freely acknowledge the courtesy and consideration so consistently extended to me by the Minister, by the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Queensland and by the officials of the Department in the various sections in my vast electorate of Maranoa.
– I want to address a few remarks to the estimates foi the Postmaster-General’s Department. 1 join with another speaker who today expressed his regret that the report of the
Australian Broadcasting Control Board for 1968-69 is not yet available. Therefore in dealing with the question I wish to raise, colour television, I have referred back to the 1967-68 report which, although it may not differ factually from the new report, when presented, does make the subject a bit stale so far as debate is concerned. Firstly I wish to refer the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) to question No. 1857 on the notice paper which I put on notice on 26th August. It states:
As yet, as the question is comparatively recent, I have not received a reply. I have mentioned this question only to support what I intend to press for in this debate, namely, for a statement from the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) on this important topic. In the Twentieth Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for 1967-68 appears a printed statement concerning the Minister. It reads:
The Postmaster-General said that the Government would make no hasty decision on the introduction of colour television. He had been prompted to indicate this because he had been disturbed by publicity accorded conflicting statements on the matter from various sources. The question of determination of a date for the introduction of colour television had not been approached by the Government, nor was this likely in the near future.
I exclude the central part of this report, but the final sentence reads:
The Postmaster-General added that, when tho Government reached a firm decision about the introduction of colour television in Australia, it would give 18 months clear notice so that set manufacturers and station operators would have time to prepare.
The Postmaster-General later indicated that various systems were being investigated. I understand that he has more or less decided on the Phase Alternation Line - the PAL - system. I am open to correction if I am wrong, but that is my understanding. The Postmaster-General indicated that Mr
Morley had been sent abroad to study various matters and that the choice of a system and other factors were under consideration but, as instanced earlier, 18 months notice would be given.
The point I make at this stage is that there is great concern in the television industry not only by the management of companies but by the 10,000 to 12,000 people in New South Wales who are employed directly in manufacturing components. I understand that throughout the community’ generally there is considerable interest in this medium. Black and white television has been established in Australia for many years and colour television has created such an impression in other parts of the world that Australians undoubtedly believe that it is desirable that it should be available here.
– Have you many constituents who would look at it?
– They are intelligent people and I do not doubt that they will take an intelligent interest in it in due course, but at the rate at which this Government moves on most things, including television, not many will be alive when it comes. I understand that in order to provide manufacturing facilities and to be in a position to have colour television receivers available to the buying public as soon as demand starts, manufacturers currently are beginning to invest in buildings, test equipment, plant and engineering time. An approximate calculation of the industry investment required in plant, buildings and test equipment, including that required by component manufacturers, might well give a figure of the order of SI Om. As the likely starting date draws closer manufacturers will have to begin to order supplies which will increase their equipment. In other words, they must be prepared in advance irrespective of whether colour television is 18 months or 5 years away. The longer the announced starting date for colour television is delayed the more the investment in resources to manufacture colour television will be wasted because of under-employment. I stress, therefore, that there should be a target date. Even if a Liberal government is returned - and that will be a real accident - colour television must come to Australia.
I understand that a major capital city studio and transmitter might cost upwards of Sim to convert to colour, if colour facilities are to be provided both for studio and outside broadcast equipment. Honourable members can appreciate that this is a considerable investment. I think it will be agreed that black and white television has changed materially the pattern of life of the people of Australia. Colour television will have an even bigger impact and will add materially to the pleasure that Australian people will be able to derive from entertainment in their homes. This applies particularly in rural areas. Those of us who have seen colour television in other countries will realise the revolutionary effect it has had on the viewing public. It is tremendously popular. 1 stress, therefore, that some definite announcement of a target date should be made. T suppose that the Minister has his problems. I do not underestimate them. No doubt colour television is likely to bc delayed until such time as the Government considers it is in a position to advance funds to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for capital purposes involved in the conversion of its transmitters and studio equipment. It can be presumed that commercial television operators can look after themselves, particularly if we have regard to the profits they are making.
The Government is already subsidising the Australian Broadcasting Commission heavily by means of annual grants. Even it licence fees for colour television are increased above the fees for black and white television, the ABC will probably require loans for capital purposes. I am not unmindful that these may be some of the problems associated with the introduction of colour television. Even taking these factors into consideration I believe that the matters I have mentioned - the need for preparation and the need for the ABC and private industry to be ready - demand some definite action. In the television industry there must be constant changes in order to. maintain employment and to ensure that employees are fully employed and share in the prosperity that comes from the development of our secondary industries. The television industry is an avenue for considerable employment. There is a huge potential market for Australian products and the introduction of colour television presents an opportunity for the Government to stimulate the television industry. It should set a target date enabling those concerned to be ready to participate in the competitive market and fully to employ their resources. It would be tragic if colour television is introduced and Australian industry has not had time to prepare because we could be flooded with imported sets and the market demand for a wide range of Australian products, which would naturally benefit the local industry and those employed in it, could suffer. This is why I believe some target date should be set within a reasonable period. Those engaged in the industry and the viewing public, who will want colour television, should be informed of the position. 1 understand from surveys made by interested parties that the public wants colour television. Colour television not only will provide entertainment in the home but it will stimulate interest in the television industry and other allied industries. The industry wants to be prepared and wants to know the Government’s policy so that it can plan for the effective use of its resources. The industry wants to be ready so that the introduction of colour television will be a smooth operation from every point of view.
I bring these matters to the attention of the Postmaster-General in the hope that if be cannot make a decision now, or does not want to - and I would be surprised if he wanted to at this very moment - he will, in the next few weeks, make an announcement so that everybody will know the position. It is in the national interest that the industry be ready for colour television. Some positive date for its introduction should be announced. I am sure that the Minister knows that this is a nonpolitical approach. It is an appeal for common sense and tolerance on the part of the Government in the interests of all those associated with the television industry, particularly those working in it, those who own it and those who want to view television.
– A number of honourable members have spoken in this debate and as the total time for consideration of the estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department is restricted to 2 hours I believe
I should comment on matters that have been raised up to this time. The first Opposition speaker was the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb). I was surprised that the honourable member seemed to be suffering from a mental drought. It seems to me that the honourable member for Stirling has been caught up with the circumstances which applies at the present time in Western Australia. Most of what he had to say in his speech was in fact read as a transcript from previous contributions he has made in debates relating to the Post Office. A good deal of his speech was taken up in explaining why in fact there is to be a statutory corporation to run the post office in the United States of America. I think it is rather extraordinary to compare an organisation which 2 years ago lost $ 1,800m in a year and which last year lost well over $ 1,000m with a similar organisation in Australia which last year made a profit of $8m.
I really believe that the honourable member was well off beam on this subject. Perhaps he has not read the White Paper I produced to the House a few weeks ago which indicated the result of the activities in the Australian Post Office for the last 12 months. It showed the effect of the changes made some little time ago and which were introduced in a reasonably narrow sense of reorganisation and adjustment of the minds of the people in the Post Office to a new trust account concept. That was in fact a business undertaking concept of the Post Office with a responsibility at all points to watch revenue and certainly expenditure to see that there was no waste of money. The effect of those changes I think are shown in that White Paper. As I say, originally there was an anticipated loss but this turned into a real profit of $8m in the last 12 months, so this is something for which the staff of the Post Office should be commended. There is no justifification for the criticism which flowed from the honourable member for Stirling.
The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Dobie) referred to the non-availability of the annual report of the Post Office. I think it is fair to say that that report, like the reports of so many business undertakings, is just not available within a very short period. He will recall that this morning I tabled the annual report of the
Australian Overseas Telecommunications Commission for the year ended 31st March last, which is a delay of almost 6 months. The annual report of the Post Office will be available in about November. The honourable member for Hughes will recall’ that when I introduced legislation to provide for the Post Office trust account 1 indicated that one of the reasons for the White Paper was the probability that the annual report would not be before the Parliament in time for this debate and that the White Paper would be in the nature of an interim report for the information of honourable members. We will endeavour to see if we can reduce the time necessary for the preparation of the report, but having regard to all the statistical information which is in it the honourable member for Hughes will appreciate that a good deal of time is necessary for its preparation and printing, particularly in the light of all the other paper work that has to be done in preparation for the Budget session.
The honourable member for Hughes made reference to a recent report of the Public Accounts Committee which referred to buildings occupied by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I appreciate his concern in this area. I have had this concern for 5 years. If he will direct his attention to my other area of responsibility, the Post Office, he will know that until recently the head offices in six capital cities were functioning in ninety-three different buildings and therefore we were even in a worse situation than was the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I am not making any excuses in this respect. I would be delighted to be provided with the necessary funds for buildings. I am not quite sure whether the Parliament would be satisfied with the result even if funds were provided for a 5, 7 or 8-year programme. The building industry is not one that has been lagging in recent times. I think that those who are employed in or are capable of employment in the building industry have been employed on private construction work more so than on public construction.
When there is this tremendous demand it is a responsibility of the Government to determine whether more money should be made available and whether it should create an over-demand in relation to labour, thereby forcing the cost of building up and perhaps forcing up wages due to competition between one contractor and another, or whether the Government has some responsibility to try to keep the industry on what might be termed a reasonably even keel. It is because the Government has accepted this as its responsibility that there has been a very substantial lag over the years in regard to Post Office and Australian Broadcasting Commission buildings. I can only assure the honourable member that 1 too would like to solve this problem, but it is not a problem of easy solution. However, it will continue to receive my attention and also that of the officers of my Department.
I remind the honourable member for Hughes that out of the estimates for the Post Office we do spend annually a large sum of money on construction work, but mainly the demand is in the field of telephone communication. I remind the honourable member of the Pitt Street exchange building and of the new South Sydney exchange building to be built in Castlereagh Street, Sydney. Buildings such as these costing millions of dollars are continually being erected and it is difficult to get a balance between the telecommunications area, the Post Office area and the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) raised the problem of telephone f aril i ties in iron ore towns. Specifically he mentioned Dampier, Hamersley and Whaleback Harbour which is associated with the Mount Newman operations. Up to this time the policy adopted by the Post Office has been to make certain provision of money in relation to telephone installations. The amount of money that is made available for country telephone facilities is similar to that made available for the metropolitan area and city telephone installations. In broad terms Hamersley at the present time is about 200 miles away from any telephone circuit. Is it a fair thing for the Government to say to a person who lives perhaps in the electorate of Maranoa or Kennedy that we will spend only about $1,100 on his behalf and he must pay the rest and at the same time go to the Mount Newman or Hamersley areas and say to the people there that we are prepared to pay thousands - perhaps hundreds of thousands - of dollars to provide a telephone facility for them?
I remind the honourable member, as I remind the House, that in fact these people readily undertake the responsibility of building a wharf or putting in a railway, as they have done in Queensland, for the removal of coal and as has been done at Mount Newman or at Hamersley for the movement of iron ore to the coast. Therefore our policy has been to say to them that they have a responsibility. There is one area - and it is better that I do not mention its exact location - where it would require a total expenditure of $960,000 to provide the town and the company with telephone facilities. I believe that we could hardly justify providing telephone facilities in that case when we consider that there are other people within the Australian community who are considerable distances away and who have to make a substantial personal contribution in regard to telephones. Therefore, we have a problem. These people say to me that they want television because they want to keep their employees. Surely, if the employees feel there is a great urgency and necessity for telephones they would bring the same sort of pressure to bear on the company itself to provide a 12-channel line instead of a 6-channel line. It might be necessary to duplicate the 12-channel line to make it 24 channels to look after these people and give them the sort of amenity that will hold them in a particular area.
The honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) asked a series of questions which, because of the limited time available to me, are not easy to answer. The honourable member for Swan asked a question about the provision of $229m which appears under the heading of ‘Capital Works and Services’ in the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1969-70. The principle on which this one line in the estimates was established was, of course, discussed by me and by the Parliament when the Trust Account operation was being considered. The amount of $2 29m merely represents the difference between the total expenditure incurred by the Post Office and the total revenues expected to be received by the Post Office. Under the old system, of course, the Treasury received every cent of revenue and then paid the Post Office’s bills. This does not apply under the present arrangement. The Post Office receives into its Trust Account all of its revenues and out of the Trust Account it pays all of its expenses. Into that Trust Account goes an appropriation of what may be required by the Post Office and our capital works are met from this. But the Post Office keeps its depreciation money which once upon a time went to the Treasury. So, here again is an item which is available to the Post Office for spending.
As I have said, this is the only way in which I can briefly explain the operation of this provision. We have total expenditure on the one hand and total revenue on the other and this one line in the estimates is in fact the difference. It can be said that this amount principally represents the money required by us for capital works of one type or another. I might explain that the Post Office short-drew last year because in fact it underspent and made a profit. One could say that we collected the gross amount and we repaid some back. In fact, we actually drew the net amount. This is the broad basis on which the amount shown in Appropriation Bill (No. 2) is calculated.
– Why would you call it drawings, Mr Minister?
– The point is that the amount represents an appropriation by Parliament, to be drawn by the Post Office if the Post Office requires it, which it believes it will require at this point of time in the year. When dealing with a Budget of $842m I believe it is impossible for anyone to be accurate in the actual amount that may be wanted. I believe it is even impossible to calculate the amount to within perhaps several millions of dollars. But the description ‘Capital Works and Services’ which appears in Appropriation Bill (No. 2) is a Treasury description and not a Post Office description. As I said before, I do not think it is easy for me to answer questions in this way especially when there are only another 10 minutes of this debate left.
The honourable member for Swan also asked a question about airmail services, what was referred to previously as Division 405. An amount of $19,410,000 is being provided for this purpose. Research projects which were covered by Item 02, have received an amount of $30,000. I think there is also a provision for an expenditure of $2m in relation to additional motor vehicles. The honourable member also asked a question about the difference between the appropriation in 1968-69 of $1,292,000 and expenditure of $1,317,000 for the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. In general terms, the additional amount was required, and received from the Treasurer’s Advance, to meet the costs of salary adjustment resulting mainly from the national wage case which was handed down at that time. The honourable member also made a request for information regarding, I think, the provision this year for the Board of $1,500,000 and last year the actual expenditure of $1,319,000. He asked what in fact the difference between the two amounts would be used for. I inform the honourable member that salaries would represent $138,000 of the difference, general expenses would represent $43,000 and a technical equipment item would be up by some $400. These amounts make up the difference of approximately $181,000 between the two figures. This is not the first time that a request for information of this kind has been made, but the honourable member for Swan has asked for very detailed information. I have indicated in the past to honourable members that I would look at their queries and that letters would be sent to them. I will take this course of action in regard to answers that are not at the moment readily available to me.
The honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) raised a question about providing radio, television and telephone services in some of the remote areas of Australia. I have explained to the House on a number of occasions that something like 106 radio frequencies are available to Australia. In fact, there are about 186 radio stations in Australia. Therefore, some of our frequencies are being used twice. The number of frequencies available is the problem in regard to the provision of these services. By international convention this number of frequencies is allocated to New Zealand, Australia and New Guinea. The Australian Post Office has control of frequencies in New Guinea and Australia. Of course, New Zealand accepts responsibility for its frequencies. The use of the frequencies has to be discussed between the countries concerned. Agreement has to be reached as to how the frequencies are used. I have explained previously, when people have asked me questions about frequency modulation, that my first concern is that all people in Australia should get a good medium frequency radio service. I know that there are a number of places in the Centre - and I think Cunnamulla can be regarded as one - where in fact people do not receive a good signal. This is a problem that we are trying to solve. The same thing can be said about television. However, I have indicated the position before and I do not want to repeat it now.
We are expanding into an additional thirty-eight areas. However, the operation is an expensive one and we can only expand a bit at a time. If we are to have a relay system - a type of mini-microwave or thin line or in fact a full broad band installation - the operation will be expensive. At the end of our 4-year period of the seventh stage we will in fact be looking at further extensions. At that time we will be looking really at about 4% of the Australian population. Anyone who has flown over Australia will know how that 4% is scattered and how it is almost impossible to provide for these people except on the basis of serving perhaps a dozen people at a particular point of time. The people of Thursday Island will certainly receive consideration.
I come to the question raised by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). He asked for an expansion of the extended local service areas, commonly known as ELSA. I remind the House that when ELSA was introduced some 10 or 11 years ago, it meant that 45% of all trunk calls then being made became local calls. It is only within the last 2 years that the number of trunk calls within Australia have reached the figure which they were at in 1958-59. At that time a person could make a local call in an area of only approximately 80 square miles. With the change which was made 10 or 11 years ago, the total area in which local calls could be made was extended to 800 square miles. I think that a very substantial concession was given. If, in fact, we are to broaden these areas further, it will mean that the Post Office must receive revenue to cover the cost of operating the telephone system. This will mean an increase somewhere along the line for somebody using the telephone. I do not think there is any need for me to make any further comment on this question at this stage.
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) raised the question of colour television. I cannot announce any date on which colour television will be introduced. I want to assure the honourable member for Grayndler that if he were to read some of the reports which I have received from Japan and from the old country, he would find that in those countries there is not the same enthusiam for colour television which he perhaps displayed on behalf of his constituents today. I will give him a few figures from Japan. A gallup poll in that country showed that 53% of people regarded programme content as more important than whether they had colour or black and white television. I understand that the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) desires to speak for a few minutes, and I am prepared to give way to him.
– I will have to condense all1 I want to say into the space of a few minutes. I think that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in regard to its cultural and education activities, does a remarkably good job. It stands out among all the countries. But when it comes to controversial subjects I think that the Commission is wide open to criticism. I know that all sorts of people are pushing their own ideas, and they do not fully represent the various opinions in the community. I think that that ought to be stopped. I am the only member left in this Parliament who was on the original Gibson Committee which drafted the report which is the basis of the Act under which the Commission operates. I have never believed that the operation of the Commission has been a satisfactory way in which to administer the expenditure of such a huge sum of money. This year there will be an increase of $2m in expenditure, from $56m to $58m.
I think that the Commission should be replaced by a Government department. This happened years ago in New Zealand, and the system has worked satisfactorily. From time to time in this House the Minister says that he has no responsibility or no authority; that the Commission decides what shall be put over the air or on television. I do not think that is satisfactory. I think that the head of the department ought to be Dr Semmler. I think that all the other people in the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be given minor positions. I think that full ministerial responsibility should be vested in the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) or in another Minister who can answer to Parliament as to what occurs on television. I think that the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting should be re-established so that members of all parties can have some say in the way in which the Australian Broadcasting Control Board operates, and in the way in which the Broadcasting Commission operates or a department would operate. The present position is completely unsatisfactory.
What is a danger to Australia is the fact that all radio stations, television stations and newspapers are controlled by only six men representing a little group, and this leads to the moronisation of public opinion. I think that any person who has any interest in a newspaper should not be allowed to have any interest in a television station or a radio station, because democracy cannot breed where a few people can dictate to all the other people and abuse their power, particularly at election time. My time has nearly expired, but I know that very soon the trade union movement will have to start to pull out a few stops in some of these matters if we are to get a fair go on the question of the presentation of our views.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Clark) - Order! The right honourable member’s time has expired. The time allotted for the consideration of proposed expenditure has expired.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
– Mr Acting Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. In my speech on the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department I mentioned that the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) had exercised his power under section 77 of the Act to prevent the Australian Broadcasting Commission from televising an interview with a former Premier of France. This information was provided on evidence by the
Genera] Manager of the ABC, but upon checking these facts with the present Postmaster-General I find that he has never exercised his power under section 77 of the Act. The action referred to was carried out by his predecessor.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, I present the reports relating- to the following proposed works:
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– by leaveHonourable members will recall the short debate yesterday which followed the motion for the reference to the Public Works Committee of the proposal to build high schools at Darwin and at Alice Springs. During the debate, concern was expressed that the reference of the works to the Committee, particularly at this late stage in the life of the Parliament, would mean suspension of design and documentation work until the new Parliament meets and a new Committee is formed. I undertook to take this matter up with the members of the Committee today to see whether they could investigate the work and report to Parliament in the next 2 weeks or to see what other action might be taken.
The Committee met this afternoon and decided that I should write to the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) advising him that we see no reason why he should not give his Department approval to go ahead with detailed designs and documentation on the basis of the preliminary designs we have now received. I have written to the Minister as directed and with the reservation that the Committee’s suggestion should not be construed as an endorsement of the project itself and is made without prejudice to any comments which the next Committee may wish to make after it has completed its investigation. Mr Acting Speaker, members of the Committee consider that as far as they can ascertain, this action will enable the current targets for the completion of the schools to be maintained.
– by leaveI thank the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney), in his capacity as Chairman of the Public Works Committee, for the consideration which he and other members of his Committee have given to this urgent problem. From what the honourable member has said it would seem that there will be no hold up in the Government proceeding with this urgent work. At the same time, it will enable the Committee, as 1 see it, to take evidence, particularly from parents and citizens associations, with respect to the actual planning and layout of the high schools at Darwin and Alice Springs. I believe that this is a sound decision and one which would be applauded by the parents of the children involved, as well as by those who are directly concerned with the high schools. At the same time it does allow a compromise. It enables the Committee to take evidence and to rectify any faults that may appear.
– The big point is that it does not by-pass the Parliament.
– That is so.
– by leave - I support the remarks of the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney), who is Chairman of the Public Works Committee, and of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) about the opportunity being provided for parents and citizens to give evidence before the Committee. Only today I had a discussion with the Director of Works in the area and I gathered that the procedure now proposed will save 6 or 8 months in the period to the completion of the building. I am very pleased with the way the project is heading and that we will not have the delay that it seemed yesterday we would have.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1969-70 In Committee Consideration resumed (vide page 1190). Second Schedule.
Total proposed expenditure, $1,026,403,000.
Proposed expenditure, $23,524,000.
Department of the Navy
Proposed expenditure, $226,044,100.
Department of the Army
Proposed expenditure, $397,619,000.
Proposed expenditure, $281,289,000.
Proposed expenditure, $94,527,000.
Proposed expenditure, $3,399,900.
– The group of estimates that the Committee is now considering, with the exception of social services, represents the largest single item of Commonwealth expenditure. At least with social services the payments are mainly in the nature of transfers from revenue to individuals and to a large extent we can see what is done with the money. However, I would suggest with all respect that quite often- defence expenditure, as it is discussed here, is shrouded with sham and subterfuge. Today I want to make a critical examination of defence expenditure in Australia since that great, dramatic moment in 1963 when the Prime Minister at that time announced that, no’ matter what it cost, Australia, had to have a particular kind of aeroplane, as it was essential to our defence. That announcement was made in 1963 as part of an election campaign. By 1966, the time of the next election, the aeroplane had still not arrived. Now we are told that some weeks before the next election, which is scheduled for 25th October of this year, we will be advised whether we are finally to take the Fill. If a Labor government had been involved in such an arrangement, we would have been ridiculed by 1966 and we would have been laughed off the hustings as a serious proposition for government by 1969.
I want to submit defence expenditure since 1963 to a critical analysis and I ask honourable members opposite to take this seriously and decide for themselves. Surely in the context of total defence expenditure since 1963 what was to be expended on the FU 1 must have had some effect not only on other expenditure for the Air Force but also to some extent on expenditure for the Navy and the Army. Surely the Fill played a critical role in Australia’s total defence activity. We are fortunate these days in that we do get a little more information on defence expenditure than we used to get. It is contained in this very interesting document, ‘Defence Report, 1969’. This is the third or fourth report of its kind.
I will be using figures contained in it to illustrate the points that I make, lt breaks down defence expenditure into major categories. I want to refer to the figures, which are at the end of the report, for the categories shown as ‘Maintenance’, ‘Capital and Other’. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard a table showing expenditure from 1963-64 to 1968-69 inclusive and estimated expenditure for this year. This covers the period that the Fill has been in the defence picture.
This table shows that between 1963-64 and 1968-69- that is, since the Fill was ordered and excluding the projected expenditure for this year - total defence expenditure was $5, 101m. That is a pretty substantial sum by any reckon ing. Of that total expenditure $3,263m or almost two-thirds was expended in maintenance. This includes manpower, the payment of troops and the payment of civilians working in the defence Services. It includes the payment of such people as the officers who are here now to assist us if we need them. Capital expenditure accounted for $1,67 8m. This is expenditure on the sort of stuff that is supposed to frighten the enemy, if 1 may repeat a phrase that 1 have used here before. On that analysis defence expenditure is a mixture of two parts manpower and maintenance to one part machinery and mechanism. That is why this issue of the Fill is so critical. The major part of the total capital expenditure of $l,678m in that period of 6 years has been for items procured from overseas.
Honourable members will see from the information bulletin ‘National Accounting Estimates of Public Authority Receipts and Expenditure’ for August 1969 that nearly $ 1,000m of capital expenditure in the 4 years from 1965-66 to 1968-69 has been incurred overseas. The largest single item, of course, is expenditure for the Fill. I want to ask a couple of questions about the Fill. As was sugested earlier today when we were discussing another department, surely it is in this Committee that some serious examination of the Estimates should be made and satisfactory explanations given. Would the Government have ordered the Fill in 1963 if it- had known what the total cost would be? Would other things have been relevant at the time if the Government had had this information? Some time ago I recommended that the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) should read a very interesting book, available in the Library, called The Murder of the TSR2’. It is not a mystery; it is the story of what happened to another aircraft which the Australian Government, prior to placing all its faith in the Fill, was about to buy. A chapter of the book is entitled ‘The Australian Story’. I suggest that some honourable members opposite should read the book. Notwithstanding the known cost of the TSR2 and the unknown cost of the Fill, for some reason the Government thought the FI 1 1 was a better proposition.
– What happened to the TSR2?
– I want to know what has happened to the Fill. I submit with all respect that it is not good enough to be told in an offhanded way in the next couple of weeks that we will take it or we will not. If it is taken, in my view its role in 1969 will be far different from that envisaged for it in 1963. If the Government does not take the Fill it should be accused of the most colossal bl’under in our military history. Surely this is a matter for scrutiny and judgment at election time. Whether the Government would have bought the aircraft if in 1963 it had known it would be dearer than the price stated is a matter for argument. As things have turned out the aircraft is three times as dear as was first stated and its role, if it is accepted, appears to have been severely curtailed.
Another matter for consideration is what has happened to the defence industry in Australia, particularly the aircraft industry, in the last 6 years. One of the reasons advanced for not building aircraft such as the Fill under licence in Australia was that costs in Australia were higher than they were overseas. Surely such an argument deserves to be examined with scepticism in 1969 when we know that the Government has paid $300m for something that it thought it woul’d get for $112m. And the Government is not certain that it will get it. If it cancels the contract it will be up for something like $200m anyway. What happens to the great build-up in defence in the last 6 years if this showpiece does not eventuate? I submit that these explanations should be forthcoming during the debate on these estimates.
If you examine the documents accompanying the Budget you will see that expenditure on war and defence has increased between 1959-60 and 1968-69 more than expenditure in any other public authority field. Because so much has been spent on war and defence, including the as yet untested mystery aircraft, to which the Government is not finally committed, our ability to move in other fields of public authority expenditure, such as education, has been restricted. Surely a question to be asked seriously in the coming elections is: Has waste in defence expenditure - I use the term deliberately - restricted the Government’s ability to improve the education system? In my view it has. I would like to see the positions reversed. I would like to reverse the position whereby our defence expenditure increased by 14.4% and our expenditure on education by only 11.5%. If we disregard the cost of the Fill - the unknown factor which even the Government does not know will be in or out - the figures would be reversed. Honourable members opposite may jest about this sort of thing. Is not the Fill supposed to be the showpiece, accounting for a large part of our defence expenditure since 1963? Its acceptance for the Royal Austral’ian Air Force is in doubt only a few weeks before the election. Can the Government seriously ask the Australian people for a mandate for several more years? In discussing defence expenditure we are not talking about foreign policy. We are talking about the things we have with which to defend ourselves. The story of our defence capability is a sad and sorry one, as is the story of what this Government has done to the defence potential of Australian industry.
– I do not want to devote much time to the remarks of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) as I know that all of his arguments will be dealt with by other honourable members on this side of the Committee. I make no secret of the fact that the TSR2 was an aircraft with which I was greatly impressed. It is true that it was murdered. If one can believe what one reads, people with a hand in the murder were such people as Solly Zuckerman, the British Government’s defence adviser, and Earl Mountbatten. In my opinion it is a great pity that the British aircraft industry suffered such a setback with the destruction of the TSR2 project. There was a lot of politics in the decision. A big factor was the loss of employment by thousands of skilled workers in the aircraft industry. Anybody who says that Australia should undertake the construction of a sophisticated modern aircraft such as the Fill demonstrates that he does not have the slightest idea of what goes into a modern aircraft. The capacity to build such aircraft simply does not exist in this country. Even England has had to forget about building such aircraft and purchase them instead from America. What chance has Australia, with its population of about 12 million and having regard to the present state of its industrial capacity, of working in this highly sophisticated field?
The FI 1 1 is indeed an expensive aircraft. The decision to accept delivery has not yet been made. If we do take the aircraft it may still prove to be very cheap for an aircraft in this class. Having regard to the cost of any replacement aircraft of the same sophisticated class, even if it were available, we still might have a very good bargain, particularly in view of its performance and the kind of missions it can undertake. Opposition members should stop thinking of the propaganda value in the Government’s decision and start thinking more objectively about it. Then their opinion of the aircraft might change.
The defence report with which we have been presented is an excellent document but it is of no use looking at just one page. You must look at the entire document. Our record in defence, as set out in the report, reflects great credit on the Government. Let us consider the types of things on which our defence vote is spent. Expenditure on salaries, pay and allowances for the defence services absorbs 38.9% of total defence expenditure^ - an increase of about 7% since 1967-68. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) spoke about capital material requirements such as plant and machinery. The figure for this has changed from 30.2% in 1967^68 to 25% in 1968-69 to 18.5% in 1969-70. So if we look at these figures we can see how there can be a drop in defence expenditure without a lessening in real defence expenditure, because major payments do not fall due in any one year. It is terribly easy now for anybody to jump up and say that the Government is cutting its defence spending when in fact it might be doing far more for defence. The expenditure does not tell the whole story.
I do not want to devote any more time to that matter because I want to speak specifically about the Indian Ocean, which has become a focus of interest in defence talk recently. First of all, I challenge any member of this House or any senator to prove that I am less interested in or less concerned with the defence of Australia, and more particularly with the defence of Western Australia where my family lives, than he is. At least I have a vital interest in Western Australia and the Indian Ocean. There have been some terrific misconceptions about Russian ships in the Indian Ocean and about naval bases. In the first place, most of the people who talk about a naval base in Cockburn Sound do not know what a naval base is. I do not know of any naval base in the world that has defended a place. We cannot go out and hit somebody with a naval base. As a matter of fact, there has been a tendency in major wars for people to hit naval bases, which is the reverse. They attract attack.
Since this Government has been in power we have talked about building up mobility in the Forces. If we build up mobility we must be able to provide bases as the need arises. One of the great advantages this Government has had over the period it has been in office is that it has looked for advice to those people whose profession it is to think about defence and offence. I refer to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I suppose if we were to formulate a defence programme based on what the leader writers of the newspapers say we would have the greatest Heath Robinson situation in defence that one could imagine. But people seem to think that now that an election is coming on anybody in this country, whether he be a shearer’s cook or a cook in the Australian Imperial Forces, can get up and tell the country what should be done with its available Forces. I suppose they think the Government is greatly handicapped by having to depend for its advice upon men who are highly skilled in this field and who are trained to give the Government that advice. If the Chiefs of Staff say to the Government that we should increase the mobility of the Army, Navy and Air Force so that they can operate in place A, I for one will never argue for purely political reasons that they should be put into place B. The moment we do that we are becoming traitors to our cause and to this country.
Some people say we should put a naval base at Townsville, in South Australia or in Cockburn Sound. As far as I know the Government’s contemplation has gone towards putting naval facilities in Cockburn Sound. The other day the Minister for
Defence (Mr Fairhall) said that the Government Defence Committee was still looking at this proposal. It is not a matter of whether the Government will do this; it is a matter of when. Whether it is done this week, next week, or next year does not greatly concern me. Every time I have heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) speaking in Perth he has said: For you in Perth I will establish a naval base in Cockburn Sound’. I suppose if he wins the elections on 25th October from out of the Indian Ocean someone will wheel a naval base into Fremantle. I do not know where it will come from but it has been promised. Everything has been promised.
It is obvious that the establishment of a naval facility in Western Australia will not lessen by one small bit the capacity of the Russians to operate in the Indian Ocean. It would merely give us a greater - I stress the word ‘greater’ - capacity to operate on a two-ocean basis. But the real need for a two-ocean capacity lies not in the number of operational bases or facilities we possess but rather in the number of ships we have. I was encouraged by the announcement that was made by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) that a preliminary design study for new light destroyers will be undertaken by the Navy. This might increase the number of our ships available.
On the question of ships, I have seen in the newspapers one suggested solution to the situation in the Indian Ocean. It was to the effect that we should rent, hire or buy two attack carriers from the United States and that this would solve all our problems. I think the two carriers that were suggested were the ‘Bennington’ and the ‘Kearsarge’. This proposal has been examined quite closely but it does not appeal for many reasons. By the latter part of the 1970s both of these ships will reach the end of their operational life. On this time scale it would be clearly impracticable to recruit and train the additional 10,000 personnel that the Royal Australian Navy would require to man and support these units. At the present time the strength of the RAN is running at some 17,500 men in all categories, which is about 2,000 under establishment. The suggestion that retrenched British and American sailors be recruited to man the ships is not very feasible as neither of these countries could spare the number of men required. I would not like to be the captain of a carrier with a crew of a couple of thousand men of which one-third were Australians, one-third Americans and one-third British. It would be a Roman holiday every night. You would not look for the Russians to start a fight; you would have one built into your carrier.
Quite apart from any leasing charges or costs of refitting or conversion work that a detailed survey might indicate to be necessary, vast expenditure would be necessary for the provision of aircraft and spares for the two carriers. Barracks and married quarters would be required for navy personnel. We would also need additional base facilities and a screen of escort vessels and support ships. The total initial capital cost would run into hundreds of millions of dollars. Of course it is terribly easy to solve your problem this way if you are not the one responsible for the decision when it is made. The manpower support and technical considerations that would be involved in the introduction of these ships into our Navy and the money, men and risks involved would be out of all proportion to the relatively short remaining operational life of these two ships.
I come back to this talk about the two things being tied up and the suggestion that we have to have a naval base in Cockburn Sound - and I stress the word ‘base’ because some people do not appreciate what that word really means - because some mysterious force is about to attack us from the west. It would be well for people to read the evidence that is available to us about the Russian navy. It is interesting to note that during the period the Russians have been operating in the Indian Ocean their ships have been picking up satellites which have come down in the Indian Ocean and there is a clear explanation of the movements of some of these ships. The Indian Ocean is where the Russian satellites that are zooming around the world are recovered, and their recovery is dependent on the Russian ships. Similarly, when American satellites are encircling the globe we have recovery vessels and recovery aircraft based in Perth.
When people talk about the presence of Russian ships in the Indian Ocean and what they think we in Australia should do about it, I ask: First of all, have we any right to prevent the movement of ships in that part of the world? Secondly, we want to look at the Americans, whose navy is not nearly as big as the Russian navy, and what they think about the presence of the Russians as they spread their naval influence. The total Russian fleet consists of 1,575 ships as against the Americans’ 820. We also should look at the Australian Navy. Do we say to the Russians: ‘We do not like you. You are in the Indian Ocean. Get out or we will send our Daring class destroyers against your ships’? I would like to quote from the evidence that was given by Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, Chief of Naval Operations, before a special committee of the House of Representatives in the United States on sea power and the armed services. He made no secret of the fact that there is evidence that the Soviets are keenly aware of the growing importance of sea power. He said:
The expanding and aggressive employment of their navy is proof that it is an important element for implementing the Soviet’s global strategy.
He also stated:
The Soviet’s ocean operations are becoming unmistakeably more aggressive, more varied and are being conducted at ever increasing distances from their home bases.
As the possessor of a small navy - small in terms of the number of ships and men but large in terms of the size of our nation, our population and our overall capacity to supply these things - we should look in the atmosphere of the ANZUS and SEATO treaties, for assistance from the navies of the world that can assist us in times of aggression. It seems to me that at present we have the capacity to play a waiting game and a watching game and I believe that this is what the Government is doing. As I said earlier, although I live on the shores of the Indian Ocean, I am not concerned - some people seem to be - about my own safety and the safety of my family. If one wishes to take the matter to an illogical conclusion I suppose that one could say that we should issue a warning that the Indian Ocean is a closed sea and that no-one else can operate in it. The American Sixth Fleet, which is operating in the Mediterranean, has suddenly found itself under the surveillance of Russian ships. The Russians are now sending helicopter carriers to shadow the American fleet. With all their naval capacity the Americans have to sit and watch the Russians moving beside them in the Mediterranean, which is a relatively closed sea. If the Americans cannot do anything about the matter what can we do about Russian activities in the Indian Ocean? lt is part of the world’s waterways. No matter how much one may dislike Russia one has to accept the fact that she has the capacity to operate in the Indian Ocean and that no-one can stop her from operating in that area if she wants to. Russia may deploy her ships in the area for a lunar splash-clown or any other space manoeuvre and no-one can stop her. She has a legitimate right to do this.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Cope) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. ‘
– The honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) is naturally incensed and apprehensive about the reaction of his constituents to the prevarication and procrastination of the Government on the establishment of defence facilities in Cockburn Sound. My predecessor, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), said in 1961 and again in 1963 that the Australian Labor Party would undertake to establish naval facilities in Cockburn Sound. I repeated this undertaking in Perth this year. Throughout the years my colleague the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) has, by speeches and questions, advocated this necessary facility.
– This was before the Soviet presence.
– We did this before there was any suggestion of the presence of Russia in the Indian Ocean; before there was any suggestion of the presence of America in the Indian Ocean, and while the British presence in the Indian Ocean was still a reality. We made this advocacy because we believed that Australia should be not only a Pacific power but an Indian Ocean power. We made this suggestion in not only naval but also mercantile circumstances. Let me give the history of the Government as it emerges from questions which I have hastily assembled during the speech by the honourable member for
Perth. On 26th March 1969 I was told that the late Prime Minister had announced in August 1966 that the Government would investigate the feasibility of establishing naval support facilities at Cockburn Sound; that the Department of Works had engaged Maunsell and Partners on 30th March 1967 to make the feasibility study; and that the firm had given its final draft report to the Government on 18th January 1968 and its printed report on 18th April 1968. So, before the 1966 election the late Prime Minister was holding it out to the people of Western Australia that there would be naval facilities at Cockburn Sound. Before the Senate election in 1967 the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) sailed the Sound for a few days.
What irks the honourable member for Perth is the fact that there is nothing in the Budget about, for instance, the twenty patrol boats that he, as a former Minister for the Navy, knows Australia requires but which the present Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) has deferred or rejected. He knows that we ought to have naval facilities at Cockburn Sound. He was expecting that there would be such provisions in the Budget. There were not. The honourable member hopes that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) will make up his mind on these matters before the forthcoming election. He hopes that, just as the Whyalla railway line is being held out as a last resort to save the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop), the Cockburn Sound facilities can be held out as a last resort to save the honourable member for Perth. Throughout the 1960s th. Labor Party has advocated proper defence facilities, on the seas and around the coastline, in Australia’s interests - naval and mercantile. Not only will a Labor government go ahead with this project, which has been on the Government’s table awaiting determination since January of last year, but it will also collaborate with the Western Australian Government in the companion facilities upon which Dillingham’s has made a report to it.
I said that I have asked questions in relation to this matter. Before proceeding any further in the debate on the estimates for these departments, I wish to emphasise how long it takes honourable members to get information that they legitimately seek. On 24th February 1969 I sought informa tion from the Minister for Defence concerning the military installations at Terendak and Butterworth. I received the answer on 21st May. On 19th March I sought information concerning the cost of installations at Amberley in preparation for the Fill aircraft. I was given the answer on 20th May. Since 25th February I have had on the notice paper a question concerning land held by the Army within 100 miles of Sydney. One does not wonder at the difficulties that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) has with his colleagues in the Liberal Party of Australia who hold office in New South Wales when he is so dilatory and inefficient in providing information for members of this Parliament At the commencement of the sitting I asked him about the ships and aircraft ordered for our forces. I am still awaiting an answer, 4 weeks later. I have asked him, for instance, what payments were made for ships and aircraft during the last financial year. Again I have not received a reply after a month.
– How many questions do you have on the notice paper?
– I suppose I would have a dozen questions on defence on the notice paper. It is a pity that honourable members opposite do not spur on their Ministers to give information. AU honourable members are entitled to this information. We on this side of the chamber will not be fobbed off in the same manner as some of the stooges on the other side.
I refer now to the matter of personnel - not just equipment or installations for the forces. The Australian Labor Party insists that Australia must have adequate defence forces. It asserts that these defence forces must be career services trained to the highest professional standards. A Labor government would take energetic action to attract volunteers to the Services in adequate numbers and to end the present unhealthy dependence of the Army on national service trainees. While the Labor Party does not object in principle to national service it rejects a continuing reliance on the National Service Act at a time when even the Minister for Defence admits that there are no threats pending and the Prime Minister says that nothing will threaten us for at least another decade.
A Labor government will set cil to create a strong citizen army for the defence of Australia and her overseas territories. It will raise or augment that army on a national service basis only after all means of doing so on a voluntary basis had failed or were to fail or if the international situation was deemed to foreshadow an attack upon areas for whose security Australia is responsible. By contrast, the Prime Minister has twice told Parliament that he would continue conscription beyond Vietnam. He thinks it is cheaper to coerce young Australians into the Army than to attract volunteers to it in adequate numbers. He behaves as though 2-year national service trainees are an adequate and acceptable alternative to professionally qualified soldiers with appropriate incentives for regarding the Army as a career. He apparently rejects Labor’s contention that the Australian Army is one of the nation’s most essential occupations. He tolerates a reengagement rate which has declined in each successive year for the last 5 years. Like Prime Ministers Menzies and Holt he has never issued a statement or made a speech to encourage voluntary enlistment in the Army.
The defence forces must be shown to be as necessary, and their conditions as attractive, as any other pursuit in the community. The only way to attract and retain regular soldiers in peace time is to guarantee that they and their dependants will be, and will remain, on a par with civilians of the same age. They should be given war service homes, repatriation health benefits, civilian rehabilitation training, scholarships for their children and generous retirement or resettlement allowances. Where a servicewoman is doing the same job as a serviceman there should be no differential in the basic pay. Allowances would make up the difference in family responsibilities. These are the methods by which other countries have acquired adequate regular armed forces. They are methods which a Labor governnent will employ wholeheartedly in improving still further Australia’s professional army.
A regular soldier should not have to wait until he has served overseas before he can obtain a war service home loan. He should not be denied further war service home loans if his service requires him to move from one house to another. Easing the frequent shifts of house which constitute a major feature of service life should be a major responsibility of the War Service Homes Division. Yet successive Liberal Ministers have refused to repeal the provision that a person who has had one war service home shall not receive another except on grounds of grave emergency. Since 1951 loans have been refused for the discharge of mortgages previously given to other housing institutions and lenders. Since June 1962 additional loans have been refused for road making costs except in cases of extreme financial hardship. Since August 1962 such loans have been further restricted to essential extra sleeping accommodation and installation of water and power services. It is high time that all these rationing schemes were abolished and the full benefits of the War Service Homes Act restored. It is high time that British and allied ex-servicemen were allowed to receive war service homes. After 2 years’ service in the Regular Army or 6 years in the Citizen Military Forces, or if invalided out earlier, a man or woman should be entitled to a war service home loan. The Liberals cannot claim that there is a shortage of finance for these projects. Last year the income of the War Service Homes Division from capital repayments and interest exceeded its expenditure by $22. 5m.
The Repatriation Department should provide health services for Regular Army and CMF soldiers and their families during and after their service. More intensive and generous rehabitation and retraining programmes should be provided for servicemen at the end of their service. Scholarships should be given to their children, whose education is often disrupted as they move from State to State. The Government should ensure that servicemen posted on active service are able to protect their families by taking out adequate life assurance at normal rates and without the imposition of special loadings or premium penalties. Subsidies paid by the United States Government allow United States servicemen to insure themselves for up to $10,000 at a rate of $2.50 per $1,000 per annum. The Australian Life Offices’ Association proposed to the Australian Government in 1967 a scheme under which servicemen on active service would have been able to insure themselves for $10,000 at a monthly rate of $2. A Labor government will take into account the example of the United States and the suggestions of the Life Offices’ Association in arranging for Australians on active service to be covered by proper life assurance under proper conditions. It will arrange for members of the armed forces who are not on active service to be covered for injuries under the Repatriation Act and not under the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act which is less generous.
Australian servicemen are required to pay 25% of the benefits they receive under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. Servicemen in comparable countries such as Britain and America receive their retirement benefits and gratuities without contribution. Former United States servicemen are entitled to receive retirement benefits which after 20 years equal half the pay of a current serviceman and after 30 years a proportion higher still. Their benefits are adjusted automatically throughout their retirement in accordance with adjustments to the active service scale. The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund should no longer be conducted like the Public Service Superannuation Fund since the two funds have to cater for men in greatly different careers. The Government should instead pay non-contributory pensions to all exservicemen and adjust those pensions periodically in accordance with the adjustments in the rates of pay applicable to current servicemen. It should immediately make an interim payment towards the distribution of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund surplus which is now more than 5 years overdue. 1 have a moment in which 1 can refer to regional procurement and training. We should have exercises in neighbouring countries and their forces should exercise in ours. We should pool our procurement arrangements, our defence production in the region and our joint procurement from overseas. I have received an answer to a question - it took only 4 weeks to get it and I must thank the Minister for giving it to me - which states that last year we expended $193m on defence purchases in Australia. Two years ago the sum was $165m. On defence purchases overseas last year we spent $246m. The sum 2 years ago was 5193m. I have a question on notice asking how much has been purchased in Australia in the last 2 years by Britain, America, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia. It will be interesting to see how much they could benefit and we also could benefit from better regional training and procurement arrangements.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has been known among his friends for many years as the small print politician. He has always sought to avoid the big issues of defence and national security by sinking himself in the minutiae of the composition of forces, the housing involved, defence procurement and all these matters. Therefore we want to take just a few moments to have a look at the headlines under which the small print politician has .to operate. There are two such headlines which are worth examining. I think they are opposite to his consideration of the proposed Cockburn Sound base and of regional procurement. If we do have a Cockburn Sound base and if we greatly expand our Navy in the Indian Ocean, for what purposes would it be used by the Leader of the Opposition? Let us remember the large print by which he has to operate. I challenge him to deny this statement: His sense of Australia’s strategic frontiers is that our strategic interests extend no further than our natural boundaries. In other words ships from this proposed naval station would sail 3 miles out into the Indian Ocean and would then be beyond the Leader of the Opposition’s area of strategic interest. I challenge him to deny that statement. It has been made for a long time now by his defence spokesman. It has been asserted and confirmed by him and is supported by the Leader of the Opposition.
The other large headline under which he has to operate is the one that he adopted at the last conference of the Australian Labor Party. I think that this ought to be stated and restated. His sense of regional security and his sense of our strategic interests means that it is no longer feasible for Australia to have military bases and military forces overseas. What is the use of talking about defence requirements? What is the sense of sinking into the minutiae of these matters if they are the principles under which he has to operate? Those principles would nullify every expenditure decision he would be allowed to make by his own Party. I challenge him to deny that.
The defence statement contains two matters which are of great interest. It refers to Australia’s interest in our region, but this does not mean that there is no continuing role for Australia or external power to apply in South East Asia in support of those efforts. That is quite correct and nobody would disagree. But then we come to the statement:
The Soviet Union is equally an Asian power and has recently shown a greater interest and activity in South East Asia and in the Indian Ocean so the significance of these developments needs careful assessment.
I would suggest that much of our defence policy and much of our regional policy depends upon an assessment of these developments. We have to look at these policies very closely and we have to examine these developments very carefully. Australia’s strategic interest extends to South East Asia. This is a principle that was enunciated by former Prime Ministers and this is a principle which still operates. It is a principle which this country learned in the Second World War and it is a principle under which we must continue to operate. This simply means that Australia’s future is tied up with the strategic balance df forces in the region to our immediate north. That region takes in the South East Asian area and it is the strategic balance of forces in that area - diplomatic, military as well as economic forces - that ought to determine our commitment.
Has the strategic balance altered? I would suggest that that strategic balance has altered. It has altered through decisions of the British Government and through a lessening of interest of the United States Government. This area is obviously the third area of interest in the world for the United States after Europe and after Latin America, with the Monroe doctrine. But it remains the No. 1 area of strategic interest for Australia. I hope that this country’s diplomatic as well as military efforts will be designed to redress the imbalance that is developing in that part of the world. For a long time we have said that the principal over-weaning force in that area is Communist China. That still applies. But while that operates it may not be correct to say: ‘Well, we ought to give the diplomatic green light or we ought to afford a tacit acceptance for another Communist power to replace Communist China in her area of interest in South East Asia”. That is a doctrine with which I just cannot go along. Even giving diplomatic approval is giving significant approval and if there is some attempt to argue that Communist China can be encircled by employing another power to do it let me quote again the case of Czechoslovakia. There was an attempt to encircle Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. The French and British Governments co-operated with Russia in the attempt to ensure that encirclement. It was’ Russia that gave the acceptance - that gave the green light - to Nazi Germany to invade the last part of Czechoslovakia, Slovakia in March 1939. We hope that a similar opportunity will not be given to Russia to obviate from its interests, to work what we think may be an encirclement to our own disadvantage in this part of the world. We do it to our own peril and we would allow an utterly irreversible situation to develop.
If it is argued that Communist insurgencies in this region would be mainly Chinese Communist insurgencies and it is argued that Russians would not be interested in supporting such Communist insurgencies and therefore they can become something of a countervailing force because of that factor, we are resting our argument on a very shaky reed. In support of a diplomatic green light, in support of tacit acceptance and in support of a lack of decision we argue that a Communist insurgency in this part of the world which would be predominantly Chinese insurgency would not receive support from Russia. I do not think that that argument is tenable and if we make the kind of bargain that would accept that proposition we make a bargain that is unequal on both sides. We are giving something but we are receiving nothing in return.
I am reminded very forcibly of the Yalta agreement and of President Roosevelt and Harry Hopkins at Yalta. In a similar situation when so much of eastern Europe was given away to the Russians the argument that Harry Hopkins made to his President was this: ‘We might be giving it away but we are getting something in return. We are gaining an acceptance by the Russians of the principles of the United Nations.’ That side of the equation was worth nothing to us or to the people concerned and I hope that any bargain that is made in this part of the world is a bargain that is not unequal with respect to Australia’s strategic position. This position must be examined carefully.
If it is then argued that Russia is no longer interested in insurgencies in other parts of the world and if it is suggested that she is not interested in insurgencies in other parts of Asia let me quote from the theoretical Communist journal ‘Kommunist’- - one of the most important journals that is published. In May of this year it contained an article titled ‘Vital Tasks of the Indonesian Communist Movement, Have they abandoned hope of Communist insurgencies in this part of the world?’ The article goes on to upbraid those in Indonesia who had been too precipitate in the revolution of 1965 which failed, but it enjoined them for a while to lessen their activities but nevertheless to prepare for a day when they can assume total control. I quote from the journal “The Current Digest of the Soviet Press’ which has an abridgement of the article. This was the advice to the Indonesian Communist Party, not a Mao party but a Marxist-Leninist party. It said:
The Communist Party of Indonesia cannot yet set itself as an immediate goal the struggle to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat or the coming to power of a political bloc in which the Communists would participate and lead. Such goals are as yet unrealistic. The Communists are unable to achieve them alone when the masses of the people, most of the workers and most of the working people, are as yet unprepared to support the Communists.
The following advice is appropriate to our interests:
This is why, because of objective necessity, the present demands can be only of a limited, chiefly democratic nature; This, however, paves the way to rallying the patriotic national forces and broad strata of the public on the basis of these demands.
The aims remain and if we think that a temporary interest by Russia in this part of the world is easily reversed I would suggest that both the Brezhnev doctrine of active intervention denies that proposition and the theoretical journal ‘Kommunist’ also denies that proposition. 1 would hope that these matters would be taken into our assessment of the strategic balance of force in this region. After all, whatever assurances we are given, whatever interpretations we place upon current Brezhnev doctrine, I hope it is remembered thai in 1966 Brezhnev said: ‘We do not want active intervention.’ It was the doctrine of the many roads to Socialism. This was the time at which there were variations within the Socialist commonwealth. But that doctrine was reversed completely in 1968 when it was judged to be in Russia’s strategic interest to reverse the doctrine. Dubcek was not only undermined; he was amazed that the doctrine that he had judged was guiding Russia had been abandoned. This, 1 think, has an appropriate place in the consideration of Australia’s position in our part of the world. This would once again affect the strategic balance of force in this region.
While there are those in the Opposition and others who say that there are new forces afoot in this field as well as new judgments, I am afraid that 1 just cannot accept the proposition. 1 do not think modern history or an examination of contemporary doctrine indicates that these new forces are what we would desire them to be. So rather reluctantly one has to express opposition to any attempt to give a diplomatic green light. One has to express opposition to any attempt to gain tacit acceptance of what may appear to be Russian aims in this part of the world. I would say that short of the physical capacity which this country has to build ships or develop an air force, the diplomatic requirements and the current of opinion which accompanies diplomatic-moves appropriate to an examination of this nature, are most vital to this country.
I hope that the Russian imperialist aims are recognised for what they are; that they are recognised for what they have accomplished in recent times; and that we do not rely upon them to engage in an encircling movement, because I mink that such an encircling movement would be to the detriment of this country. I have heard it said that Mr Rogers, the United States Secretary of State, agrees with this new attitude towards the Russians. I do not know that the US will accept the Russians increasing their actual interests within the area of primary strategic concern to the US. The Americans went to the brink of world war to nullify that in the case of Cuba and they do not accept that proposition today. 1 hope that Australia will be as strong in preserving her traditional interests as she has been in the past.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
– On 26th August, during a speech on the Budget debate, the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) made the long awaited defence statement. Apart from the other aspects of defence there are two very important groups of our defence workers to whom I wish to refer. They are the aircraft workers and the naval dockyard workers. These people waited anxiously to hear what the Minister for Defence had to say, believing that his statement would reveal to them that there was no need for alarm as to the continuity of their employment However, these workers, who work in two of the most vital defence industries of this country, were doomed to disappointment. There was nothing in the report to give the workers at the Government Aircraft Factory at Fishermen’s Bend in Victoria any hope of continuity of employment. There were a few crumbs for workers at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, but they were crumbs only.
Arising out of what was contained in the Minister’s speech, the workers at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation moved the following resolution:
This meeting of aircraft industry workers concerned for the future of the industry, in Australia and future employment of aircraft workers condemns the Commonwealth Government for its neglect of the industry and its failure to indicate clearly its future.
We declare that the industry must be saved for defence and civil aircraft production in the national interest.
The workers at the Williamstown dockyard, were also shunned and stunned by the report brought down by the Minister for Defence. I think it is interesting to note some of the remarks that were made by the Minister for Defence. The Minister made a most remarkable statement in view of the fact that members of the Government and even Prime Ministers, present and past, have told this country that it is at war. In his speech on 26th August the Minister for Defence said:
The forces are now better equipped than they have ever been in peacetime, with capital equipment having a life of up to 20 years depending on type.
He then went on to say:
We face no early threat to our security. Nevertheless, ordinary prudence demands that this should not bc taken for granted.
The Minister made this statement at a time when we are told that we are at war. The statement was made at a time when alarm was spread among the people of the downward thrust of Communism which will descend on this country. The people were also told to be careful of the hammer and sickle. But we are now being told that there is no threat. We are being told that there is peace - although hundreds of Australians are being killed in Vietnam. What veracity can be accepted for statements of this nature?
The Minister, in his speech, went on to say:
Naval dockyards need modernising. Capacity for munition production needs expanding.
My colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), has indicated the amount of money that has been spent over the last year. And yet at this stage of the game the docks need modernising. Later in my speech I shall give some history of the docks and show the House how long ago they should have been modernised. However, the Minister now says that naval dockyards need modernising after 19 years of tremendous Spending on defence. Getting back to dockyard workers, the Minister in his speech said:
The Army’s four landing ships medium are aged and becoming increasingly expensive to operate. They are due for replacement in 1973. To replace them, an Australian-designed landing craft, which will be smaller than the existing ships, but will provide a superior and more versatile capacity at reduced cost, is to be built. It is intended to acquire eight of these landing craft.
Where are these craft to be built? The Minister for Defence, who is at the table, has never been able to tell us this. Neither the Minister for Defence nor the Minister for the Navy would make a statement on this matter before the defence vote was brought down in the Budget. I ask: Where will the landing craft be acquired? These are things that 1 have asked but about which I do not receive answers.
The Minister, when referring to the field that interests aircraft workers, said: 1 am now able to say that we have decided to acquire twelve medium-lift helicopters together With associated equipment. This will enable us to provide air mobility for an Army company group. The estimated project cost overall is $37m. What is more, in relation to our acquisition of these helicopters, we will be looking for arrangements covering Australian participation in manufacture. Nor is this the only expected development in the use of helicopters. Other projects are under active study.
Very good, but surely the question of active participation could have been settled when this purchase was arranged. But there is no guarantee that there will be Australian participation in manufacture. If anyone wants to doubt what I have just said I refer him to the answer that the Minister for Defence gave to a question I asked about these matters. However, the Minister in his Budget speech said:
The Navy is to be provided with len Macchi aircraft for pilot training. This will mean a small extension of the existing Macchi production programme for the RAAF.
This is just one of the crumbs for the Commonwealth aircraft workers that I referred to. These are the sort of things we are told after the huge amounts that have been spent on defence in recent years.
It is true to say that the Services are under strength in officers and technicians. Although millions of dollars have been spent on defence it can still be claimed and not denied that all of the Services are under strength in officers and equipment. I believe it is time to ask: Why was the 3-year review and re-equipment policy abandoned for the practice of annua] reviews? Arising out of what the Minister said in his defence statement, I asked him, among other things:
Will the Minister say what the study of the light fixed wing aircraft and advanced trainer aircraft and the small extension to the Macchi programme will mean to aircraft workers at Fisherman’s Bend, Victoria, in terms of continuity of work for their industry?
I went on further and asked.
Will he state clearly that the new ships to which he refers will be built at the naval dockyards, Williamstown, and the aircraft at the Government Aircraft Factory, Victoria?
He would not give me an answer to this. When referring to the programme for the aircraft factory, the Minister said:
There is nothing there for men in the aircraft industry to pin their hopes on. There is no promise of continuity of employment. The Minister said that production could not be started before the product could be sold. The Minister then went on to talk about whether some undertakings could be given about whether the jobs for the Navy and for the aircraft industry will be undertaken. The Minister went on to say:
Unfortunately, at this stage 1 cannot give him precise details of that. After all, there are three units in the Australian industry - the Government Aircraft Factory, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and Hawker de Havilland Pty Ltd. . . .
In other words, this means that if there is to be any preference given it will be given to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation or to Hawker de Havilland Pty Ltd. The Minister went on to say:
As far as ships arc concerned, I am unable to say at the moment what the project will be because these ships are still in the design phase. But the honourable gentleman may rest assured that we are not proposing to up-grade the productive facilities at the naval dockyards for the fun of it.
It is no fun for the workers down there to find this state of affairs in their industry. This is the situation after millions of dollars have been spent on defence in this country over the past 19 years - and a lot of money has also been spent overseas. However, the Minister’s reply to my question indicates clearly that the Government has no positive plans for these two important defence industries.
Looking at the history of the naval dockyard at Williamstown - if I had the time 1 could take honourable members back to 1856-1 find that in 1914, 1,500 men were employed on shipbuilding at Williamstown.’ In 1918 the State handed over the dockyard to the Commonwealth. In 1919 ‘D’ and ‘E’ class National Line ships were built at Williamstown and other yards at a cost of $60 per ton as compared to the then world price of $72 per ton. Now the Liberal Government again comes into focus. With the fall of the Hughes Government and the coming into office of the BrucePage Government, no further work was provided. The staff was reduced to 280, the naval depot was shifted and the business closed. In fact, an approach was made to the Victorian Government to build dredges, without avail. But in 1924 the Commonwealth handed over the dockyard to the Melbourne Harbour Trust at a cost of $220,000. That was another Liberal Government. In 1939 only 178 men were employed at the dockyard. In 1942, after pressure from the trade union movement, the Government took over the dockyard from the Harbour Trust at a cost to the Commonwealth of $640,000. In 1944, 1,333 men were employed at the dockyard. But now, 55 years afterwards - after we have been through two world wars, after countless millions of dollars have been spent on defence and with this country’s requirements for ship’s - we find there are only 1,500 men employed at the Williamstown dockyard.
Considerable work has been done at the dockyard. Excluding Army landing craft, in the last 2’5 years approximately fortynine ships have been built there. But it is strange that when these men asked the Government whether it would allow them to tender for cargo ships, passenger ships and the like, they were told that they were not allowed to do this. The Government will not agree to it. It is strange that the original National Line slipways are still there and are used as a carpark, although the large building cranes are still on the slipway site, unused but still maintained for ready use. I will give some indication of the work that can be done at the dockyard. Between 1944 and 1969, the destroyers ‘Anzac’ and ‘Vendetta’ and the anti-submarine frigates ‘Yarra’, ‘Derwent, and ‘Swan’ were built at the dockyard. Major conversions were undertaken on former Royal Navy destroyers to convert them to ‘Q’ class frigates. This work was done on the ‘Quickmatch’ and the Quadrant. Major refits have been carried out on most ships of the fleet, as well as the construction of thirteen army landing craft. At present three torpedo recovery vessels are nearing completion at the dockyard. This is the sort of work which these men can do and would do if they were given the chance.
The dockyard is finding it difficult to retain tradesmen. The dockyard cannot get apprentices because no new work is being undertaken. New work is required to train apprentices for the type of shipbuilding that is needed at the Williamstown dockyard. A meeting which was held on this question and which was attended by all sections of the community in Williamstown, including commercial interests, representatives of the council and a number of other interests, passed a resolution which asked this Government to do something about the matter. A deputation came to Canberra to see the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly). He was good enough to see the deputation, as was the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair). But the Ministers could not give any guarantee of a continuity of work nor of any programme. This is indicative of the answers which these men have been given by this Government. Although the Government puts down on paper what it will spend and what it proposes to do, there are no definite plans for the aircraft factory or for the dockyard.
In relation to the dockyard it is estimated that 40% of the payroll is spent in the district. The payroll averages between $75,000 to $100,000 per week. If one adds to this amount the money which is spent in the electorate of Gellibrand, which I represent, by the aircraft workers, one has a picture of the disaster which would flow from loss of employment in these industries not only to the workers at the establishments I have mentioned but also to the business interests of the community. I say it is an indictment on the Government when one considers the history of what is happening not only at the aircraft factory but also at the dockyard. If one looks at the history of achievement which the men have performed at both of these establishments, there should not be any worry on the part of this Government in placing work orders in those establishments and knowing that the orders will be filled in a manner of which Australia can be proud.
– I do not intend to waste a great deal of time dealing with the tirades of the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor). However, in a few minutes I will show that this Government has the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd factory in Victoria working on Macchi trainers. The factory is working because of the policy of this Government. If the Party of the honourable member for Gellibrand were in power, there would be no work being carried out at this aircraft factory. Work on component parts is also being carried out at the Commonwealth Aircraft Factory. Light destroyers are about to be planned shortly and no doubt will be constructed in many shipbuilding yards in Australia. At present we do not know which yards. Under the Opposition’s defence policy no such work would be carried out. Let the workers in these factories remember this fact. In addition, the Government has a system of requesting overseas procurement contracts, such as for Hawker de Havilland. Work is being carried out in Sydney on the construction of struts and parts for American civil airliners. It is the Government’s view that these factories should tend towards volume production in these ways.
This afternoon the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) got up and, after talking about the F111, suggested that this Government should be doing something about local production. I hope he did not mean it in the entirety of the F11 because that would be ridiculous.
– It is typical of the mentality of the honourable member for Wills to ask Why’ to that remark. Can the honourable member for Wills honestly suggest any reason at all why this country could build twenty-four aircraft economically? If the honourable member suggests that this should be done, it shows the barrenness of thinking on the Opposition benches on defence capacity in this country. Twenty-four F111 aircraft are to be built for this country, and the honourable member for Wills asks: ‘Why don’t we build them here?’
– It was done before.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. Sir William Haworth)- Order! The honourable member for Wills will have his say later.
– He is not worrying me. If that is not the ultimate in stupid thinking, I have yet to hear it. Does not the honourable member for Wills or the Opposition appreciate the importance of scale of production? Do they not understand that unless one gets a number of articles through, factories cannot pay. The honourable member for Wills is trying to interject but I do not know what he is saying. He is barren of any intelligence whatsoever, as evidenced by his own interjection. I have yet to hear anything more futile than that. I shall go further and deal with other matters. As the honourable member for Gellibrand saw fit to get a bit parochial, perhaps I can do the same. Let us look at Salisbury and at Woomera. What future employment would there be in these areas of my own State with a defence policy which aims to sell the nation down the drain? The honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Whitlam) - whatever official position he adopts, and I am never quite sure what it is because everyone else seems to rule him - got up this afternoon and said that he, as Leader of his Party, will not have a bar of national service training. He will try to keep the defence forces up to the mark without it. He is not saying what the people of Australia should be told, which is that he will allow the defence forces to run down, particularly numerically and in quality, because there is no other alternative.
The honourable member for Wills can run with his banners, leading his captive audiences from time to time and getting up to all sorts of skulduggery - whether it be at war memorials or not - but the fact of the matter is that the Opposition’s policy on defence would allow the defence of this country to run down. Let us not mistake it. Let us look further than Woomera and Salisbury which is another very important adjunct to our defence programme, as regards the industrial capacity produced there. Let us also look at Western Australia. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) made an extremely good contribution this afternoon. In deference to the honourable member for Perth, let us remember that one reason why we have Macchi trainers in Western Australia at present is that the De Havilland organisation in Perth will maintain them. This is another example of this Government’s determination to produce some industrial capacity to back our defence effort. The situation is not as the honourable member for Gellibrand suggested it is. This Government has tried over and over again to get contracts to help Australian industries. Much of the credit for this should be given to the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall). I mention De Havilland in Sydney and there are many other examples.
If I were to be critical, 1 would say that many of the firms which have their parent companies in America are still not doing as much as they could to help Australia in the matter of tendering for equipment, whether it be in the civil field or in the defence field. I do not intend to name them, but honourable members will be able to think of firm after firm operating profitably in this country that could well bear more of the onus and take more risk in defence procurement contracts.
I rose tonight to talk about one aspect and that is reality in defence expenditure and in the thinking of governments. 1 would like to put a few propositions through you, Mr Deputy Chairman, to my friends on the other side. Reality is not the making of speeches to the Fabian Society. Reality is not a refusal to recognise facts, such as the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean. It is not, therefore, an ability to hide one’s head in the sand. It is not the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) making speeches only on detail and ignoring principles of great national consequence to our defence. It is not a matter of political expediency, such as we see at present in relation to Cockburn Sound in Western Australia every time a certain Leader and a Deputy Leader go to that State. It is not a matter of allowing our defence forces to decline. An old friend of mine, who was a Labor Minister in South Australia, said to me on many occasions: ‘Do not get disheartened about people who preach no defence for this country. Defence expenditure is necessary in terms of national insurance.’
– It depends on how the money is spent.
– I would remind some honourable members opposite, whose voices may be resonant inside a boiler, that there is truth in this comment, which was made by a very respected member of their own Party. He had a better understanding of the problems of this nation than they do.
Reality cm defence is an appreciation of defence intelligence and the capacity of a government to act according to this intelligence. Reality also is a simple premise and a real one. Let me expand on my previous statement. It is a matter of listening to intelligence, both defence intelligence and External Affairs intelligence, as this Government does. Our officials have the ability to listen and to glean information from other intelligence services. If these people advise that there is no risk in the next 5 years coming from the Indian Ocean, from Russia, from Indonesia or from China, what is the logical and proper course to follow? To my mind, as I understand the circumstances, it would be proper to make quite sure that we settled down to some fundamental expenditure. By this I mean the sort of expenditure that I and many of my colleagues have been suggesting for some time. I have in mind expenditure on naval establishments and on the industrial complexes backing the defences. This is expenditure to put our foundations right. This is precisely the sort of expenditure that this Government has announced in the Budget and in subsequent statements.
Up to the present, we have put a lot of money into naval defence establishments. We have put a lot of money into fundamental expenditure. This may not be the type of expenditure that suits some Opposition members. It is not spectacular but it is necessary expenditure. It is the type of expenditure that is needed when the defence situation of the time shows that we have a period of grace in which to act. In other words, 1 am quite satisfied in my own mind that the Government’s priorities on defence expenditure at the moment are correct and are based on a study of our strategic position.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) had a few words to say on this subject. His speech was so different from the type of speech he normally makes that one would almost suspect that there is an election around the corner. He seemed more dynamic and departed from his usual careful manner. However, he left us out on a limb. He asked: ‘What was wrong with the TSR2?* He suggested that we read a book on this subject which is available in the Library. He rather loosely asked whether this was an aircraft that fell on bad times because Australia did not go ahead with an intention to buy it. I know of no intention to buy it, and I would not think the makers of the TSR2 would have put much store by any Australian intention to buy it. The TSR2 was rather like the Spitfire. It was built to fly over the English Channel and it was not built to fly as a strike aircraft from the mainland of Australia to the mainland of Asia. It was totally inadequate for our purposes.
The honourable member for Perth was quite correct when he put the blame for the failure of the TSR2 project on to the British colleagues of the Labor members. The Labor Government in Great Britain did more to disrupt the aircraft industry there in a matter of months than any other government had ever done before. At the time the Labor Government decided the fate of this aircraft, I was visiting the Hawker Siddeley people in England on behalf of the Government Members Defence Committee. I was looking then at the Harrier aircraft. At a small private airfield in Suffolk the Victor jets managed to lift it into the air with a thunderous roar. I am not now speaking on behalf of the Government. We thought in those days that this aircraft might enable us to build little cement pads around the coast of Western Australia. The aircraft would be able to operate from them and would not need full airport facilities. We would be saved the mammoth expenditure on full landing fields. What put this new aircraft concept, which was a factor in the future of the United Kingdom aircraft industry, into discard? When the Labor Government took office in England it cut out the experimental work on the very engine we required for Australian conditions. So the Australian Government cannot be blamed. That is what happened. I know this, because I was in England when the Labor Government made its decision.
I have 30 seconds left. I conclude by saying that I have absolutely no hesitation, as a matter of common sense and as a matter of logic, in backing the Government’s attitude on defence expenditure. It has made a correct decision. Let me quote the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), who is sitting at the table: ‘In no area is the uncertainty of planning and the lack of appreciation more frustrating to democratic Socialists than it is in defence planning’. That comment sums up the attitude of Opposition members on defence. They do not believe in it.
– I am sorry that I was not in the chamber to listen to all of the speech made by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles). I recognise that when he speaks on defence matters he puts his point crf view very well on behalf of the Party he represents. I understand that tonight, at least in the concluding stages of his remarks, he spoke generally about the merits or otherwise of the Fill. I do not propose tonight to deal with this subject. I have dealt with it on a number of occasions.
– You have even flown in the Fill.
– 1 have. On other occasions in this chamber I have conceded that the Fill is a very sophisticated aircraft. I have never denied this fact but I say emphatically that it is not suitable for Australia’s requirements. No Government supporter can condone a situation in which the cost of this aircraft has increased from $US125m to more than $US300m. Nobody on the other side can condone the fact that we have paid out almost $US200m and have not yet received one Fill. Obviously the decision to go ahead with the purchase of this aircraft has been made only recently, so the honourable member for Angas could well have found himself tonight defending a decision by the Government not to purchase the Fill.
I turn now to the specific matters with which I want to deal tonight. The debate on the estimates for the defence departments is an important one. Approximately $1 out of every §6.50 of Government spending is going on defence. Expressed another way, defence spending is absorbing about $90 a year from every man, woman and child in this country. These figures provoke a number of questions. How much does the percentage of the gross national product which we slot to defence each year do to protect us? Will it be enough to defend us and maintain our status with our allies? Are we shirking defence or are we spending at a rate which could cripple the economy? According to the ‘Defence Report’ recently made available by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) we have for our money a total of 86,570 military personnel in the armed forces, underpinned by 24,332 civilian personnel. They have at their disposal a variety of equipment - guided missile destroyers, submarines, an aircraft carrier, Mirage fighters and up-to-date Army hardware, to name only the most expensive and sophisticated items. They will probably have the Fill at some time within the next year, although $200m has been outlaid without delivery of a single aircraft.
What does this amalgam of human and inanimate resources add up to in terms of our defence requirements? Does it amount to an adequate system of defence relevant to the strategic realities facing us? A year or so ago the Government would certainly have answered those questions with emphatic negatives. This was the culmination of an era when the Government in a few years multiplied defence spending to hold back the Asian hordes alleged to be threatening us from the north. This was a frenzied response to the ‘better fight them here than there’ mentality which possessed the Holt and Gorton Governments through most of the 1960s. Happily, this ferment has subsided in the past year. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has shown that a cut in defence spending of quite substantial magnitude can be made without selling out the country. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has acknowledged that there will be no serious threat to Australia for at least 10 years. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) have accepted the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean. The war in Vietnam has turned sour. The British are well on the way home from South East Asia. The Americans are moving to disengagement and reassessment. Only the DLP is still militant, claiming that any reduction in defence spending amounts to treachery, and putting forward a defence plan which, if I understand it correctly, is intended to put the country on a permanent war footing.
In this comparatively calm context it is possible to look at the basics of our defence structure as disclosed in the Budget papers. It is distressing to note how little progress has been made in rationalising and streamlining the administrative processes of our defence organisation. I have drawn attention several times in this place to the very high proportion of defence spending devoted to basic housekeeping - that is, the allocations for pay, administration, accommodation, maintenance and general services of that nature. It is an interesting exercise to compare the resources flowing to this bread and butter area with the more conspicuous spending on new equipment. An examination of the figures for the Navy shows that in the 3 years from 1967-68 to 1969-70 inclusive the amount spent on housekeeping will be more than three times the allocation for ship construction and new equipment. For the Army housekeeping costs absorb more than double the allocation for reequipment. For the Air Force the sum spent on new aircraft is just over half the sum absorbed by housekeeping costs, but this figure is substantially distorted by the FI 1 1 purchase.
In total over the 3 years it is estimated that about $893m will go to the new equipment while a little more than $2 billion will be eaten away by the day-to-day costs of running the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. This disparity would be even more pronounced but for the impact of the Fill purchase. It will be impossible to free resources for the re-equipment programmes that will be needed in the 1970s if the lion’s share of defence spending continues to be sunk into housekeeping. The only way to produce the substantial savings that will free these resources is by a much greater integration of duplicated and triplicated functions between the Services; by reorganisation to eliminate areas of waste. This leads to consideration of another issue which I have raised several times - the framework provided for future defence planning, in particular procurement planning. This year’s Budget reflected the drying up of forward defence planning following the end of the last 3 year plan announced by Sir Robert Menzies in 1964. Officially the old 3 year defence plans have been scrapped and supplanted by rolling 5 year plans subject to annual review. Reduced to terms of semantic simplicity, this means that forward defence planning has reverted to year to year planning - a most unfortunate tribute to the indeciveness and wavering of the Government in the past 2 years.
The Treasurer announced a handful of minor purchases in the Budget, amounting in total to a negligible percentage. This lack of forward orders and the vagueness surrounding future re-equipment and procurement programmes reveal how little impact the re-organisation of the planning staffs of the defence departments has had. The Defence Report’ refers to the new joint planning staffs without making any attempt to explain how they are organised, how they are administered and how they function. The report contains an elaborate chart of Australian higher defence organisation which does nothing to elucidate and does much to confuse changes in the administrative structure. I have asked the Minister for Defence on several occasions to make a statement on the joint planning staffs. The Parliament should be told how the joint staffs have replaced old inter-Service committees, how the staffs are functioning and what stage their future planning has reached. The honourable gentleman should also tell the Parliament how the recruitment of systems analysis in the Department is proceeding. These tentative steps towards a reorganisation of the whole defence structure may well prove to be the honourable gentleman’s finest memorial and it would be appropriate if he gave a full outline of what has been achieved and what is intended before he farewells this Parliament. The Defence Report’ contained encouraging references to the development of the planning, programming and budgeting concept within the Department. I have advocated such a development on several occasions in this place. The report rightly points to the relevance of this mathematical analysis to defence programming. It is of vital importance to our defence planning and defence procurement for the next 20 years that this facility be swiftly developed and expanded.
I would like to refer briefly to a matter within the province of the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch). The honourable gentleman will recall a lengthy series of questions I placed on the notice paper about the Phuoc Tuy minefield, which he answered in commendable detail. This minefield was constructed early in 1967 across part of the province. It was intended to stop the passage of Vietcong between the densely populated areas of the province and the uninhabited regions which were their bases. 1 think that the Minister has stated publicly that more than 20,000 mines were laid in the field, which also comprised a number of posts and multiple wire fences. In his answer the Minister said that 4 men were killed, 1 died of wounds and 6 were wounded in laying the minefield, which took about 3 months. The Minister’s answer also makes it clear that the minefield was never patrolled in a satisfactory fashion and that it had little effect in impeding the movement of Vietcong. More importantly, the Vietcong were able to remove mines from the field, although with considerable loss of life.
There is considerable evidence to show that many of these mines were re-laid by the Vietcong and have caused severe Australian casualties, particularly in the area of Dat Do village. I do not suggest that all the mines which have killed and maimed Australian servicemen came from this minefield. The Vietcong would have other sources of supply of mines, as the Minister pointed out. But in the words of the Minister for the Army, this minefield has proved to be a liability to the Australian Task Force. For this reason it is being destroyed, although with some difficulty, by elements of the Task Force. This whole question is a tragic example of the waste and futility of Australian participation in the Vietnam war. I do not attach any blame to any one for what seems to have been an ill conceived venture. If the field had been adequately patrolled it could have been of tactical value. But the whole story of this minefield is an example of the sort of planning which seems to have taken for granted that Australian Forces would be in the Phuoc Tuy province for at least 5 years.
A significant proportion of the Task Force’s operational effort in Phuoc Tuy has been devoted to this wasteful and disastrous project. The Minister said that it was impossible to separate the cost of laying, patrolling and destroying this minefield from the whole operation of the Task Force. There can be no doubt that the cost of the whole operation is completely disproportionate to the benefit achieved by this part of the Task Force’s operation. When the Australian Task Force leaves Phuoc Tuy there will be some worthy memorials left behind. There will be a handful of excellent civil aid projects such as village market places, windmills, water supplies and school libraries. However, an even more enduring memorial is likely to be the remnants of this tragic minefield which symbolises the ultimate futility and waste of Australia’s participation in this war.
Finally, I would like to refer briefly to the conditions under which servicemen and their families live. The tradition in Australia has been for members of the armed forces to live in little enclaves remote from conventional community life. There are abnormal’ social and mental stresses imposed on servicemen by the nature of their work.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We are dealing with the estimates for the Defence Services, which amount to well over $ 1,000m.
– That is too much.
– The honourable member does not agree with his Deputy Leader. I find it hard to draw a line between discussions on external affairs and on defence. In fact, before defence can be planned it is necessary to study international relations and the international situation before a long range strategic assessment can be arrived at and before we can benefit from defence pfenning. In this country we see a wide divergence between the defence policy coming from the Government and the defence policy coming from the Opposition. This is highlighted by the speech that was made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), who is the Opposition’s defence spokesman. I felt that his main complaint tonight was that there was insufficient expenditure and insufficient to show for what we are spending. I find it particularly hard to reconcile the speech that he made tonight with a speech that he is reported to have made to the Fabian Society in Victoria on 22nd August. I have here a document which purports to be a copy of that speech. The first sentence reads:
I would like to speak tonight about Labor’s defence policies in the context of the Federal elections to be held on October 25. if this is a true record of that speech and if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who is recognised as the spokesman for defence in the Opposition, made a statement like that, we can take it that that is Labor’s policy. The first few pages of the speech give what Labor considers to be an outline of what their alternative government would take over from this Government if elected to office. I have no comment to offer on that. Only one paragraph struck me. lt reads: lt will also inherit the languishing SEATO Treaty which, for all practical purposes, has been a dead letter for ten years.
I repeat the words ‘for all practical1 purposes, has been a dead letter for 10 years’. We can have our own views about that. As I see no further reference - I may stand corrected on this - to that Treaty in the speech I presume, I think quite justifiably, that the Opposition is prepared to leave it as they think it is at the moment, that is, leave it as a dead letter for ever. So that looks like the end of the SEATO Treaty so far as Labor is concerned. I go a step further, to the first of what appear to be 7 points set out in this speech. It reads:
The first act of the Labor Government will be to tell the American Government that Australia will withdraw its troops from Vietnam.
I add here that a little later he pointed out the difficulties of immediate disengagement. The Labor Patty says that withdrawal wilt take place within 6 months of the election.
– Why does the Government not sign the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons?
– If the honourable member listens for a minute he will hear.
– What about the American alliance?
– I will speak about the American alliance in a moment.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Reid will have his say later on.
– The speech further reads:
In this context the announcement of the Labor government’s intentions will not surprise the Americans-
He is dead right - it will not endanger the American alliance.
I disagree entirely with him. I think it will endanger the American alliance. 1 consider the third point of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s speech on that occasion can be summed up in the following statement:
In Australia, the whole process of recruitment and reinforcement for Vietnam would have to be suspended.
This, of course, would include the immediate suspension of future call-ups for national service.
I do not want to read anything into that statement that is out of context, but I take it that under a Labor government there would not be a national service training scheme as we know it today; in fact, there would not be any national service training scheme at all. I proceed to the fourth point. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said:
After Vietnam, the main priority would be to negotiate the return of the military units stationed in Malaysia-Singapore.
I am still quoting from the speech that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made to the Fabian Society in Victoria. I proceed to the fifth point. He said:
With this clear understanding-
If I do not say what it is I will not be quoting him out of context - a Labor government would negotiate the early return of the Mirage squadrons; certainly there would be no suggestion that the squadrons would remain in Malaysia after the completion of British withdrawal.
To be quite fair to him, I think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made some mention of training assistance.
– I think the honourable member should read the whole speech.
– It would be most interesting if I did. The people may be quite interested to hear the whole speech. They could then compare it with the speech that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has just made. He went on to say:
The third problem which would require a quick decision is the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
And here is the sixth point:
The Labor government will immediately sign the treaty-
It would immediately sign the treaty irrespective of the reaction this would have in our part of the world. We have heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s comments on the FI 1 1 aircraft tonight. In his speech to the Fabian Society he went on to say:
On this assumption, the reaction of the Labor government would be to cancel and re-negotiate with the US before more payments fall duc.
That is the seventh point. Upon reading that statement one could gain the impression that a Labor government would renegotiate for the same aircraft at a different price or something of that nature. But in his next sentence the Deputy Leader of the Opposition stated:
This would open the way for purchase of a more modest plane with greater relevance to Australia’s limited budget and requirements.
In the eighth point he gave what I think was the king hit. He said:
We have now reached an almost Utopian situation where a Labor government has withdrawn completely from Vietnam, negotiated a satisfactory disengagement from Malaysia, signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and made alternative arrangements for the Fill.
I emphasise the reference to an almost Utopian society. He went on:
It has swept aside the immediate debris inherited from a discredited military strategy of forward defence.
In relation to his reference to a discredited military strategy of forward defence, I ask: Has isolationism - like rigor mortis - set in? I know that when the honourable member was addressing the Fabian Society he went on to emphasise that Australia must not wash its hands entirely of Vietnam after the withdrawal of Australian troops. Let us be fair about this. He referred to civil assistance and to a just and equitable contribution to assure the restoration of Vietnam. I wonder what would happen to our civilians who are in Vietnam at present trying to sink wells, build schools and roads and improve the lot of the people if there were no military presence in the country. I should not say that I wonder what would happen because I know.
This wrecking of the present position is proposed in the face of what? It is proposed in the face of a potential tremendous change in the balance of power in the part of the world in which we are most interested. It is proposed in the face of a potential tremendous change. There is to be a withdrawal of some United States troops from Vietnam; there is a projected withdrawal of British forces from all points east of Suez; and there is the situation that is occurring in regard to the presence of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the Indian Ocean. I make no apology. I state the facts as 1 see them. Which is the most powerful naval force in the world, speaking in terms of tonnage, is debatable. With so many different types of ships it is hard to delineate what is a warship and what is not. My reference is the United States Military Review’. An article was compiled from a variety of unclassified sources, including the ‘Soviet Military Review’, ‘La Revue Maritime’, ‘Jane’s Fighting Ships’, and ‘Changing Strategic Naval Balance USSR v USA’ - a report prepared for the Armed Services Committee of the United States House of- Representatives. Another informative document is entitled ‘Military Balance 1968-69’. lt is available in the Parliamentary Library to anybody who wants to read it.
I have mentioned that there has been a tremendous change in the balance of power. The Soviet Union is now a Mediterranean power. It is virtually in control of the Suez Canal. Perhaps the Canal is considered to be a broken toy now, but it is one which could be repaired very quickly indeed. The Soviet Union has a naval presence of some sort - I do not know exactly what sort - in the Indian Ocean. It also has a naval presence at such Pacific ports at Vladivostock. Let us compare submarine forces alone. 1 have only 3 minutes left in which to do so. The references I have obtained indicate that the USA has 113 attack submarines of which 35 are nuclear powered. The USSR outnumbers these by 3 to 1, with 330 conventional submarines and 50 nuclear powered submarines. I could read a lot more into those figures; that is just one particular aspect. The change in policy on the part of the Opposition is made against that background. Look at the eight point programme put forward by the Opposition. I do not expect, and I certainly do not forecast, any added belligerence on the part of the Russian forces. The point 1 wish to make is that I do not think there is any sense in creating a greater vacuum than there is at present in this very sensitive area by withdrawing forward defence.
I would have liked to make some comments on the various Services. However, I merely draw attention to the two different points of view that have come forward from both sides of the chamber. According to the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) the defence expenditure this year will total $ 1,1.40m, which is a flat $3m a day for every day of the year, including holidays and weekends, it is true that defence expenditure is down by 5% in actual cash outlay. In his speech on 26th August the Minister explained the decrease. He pointed out that one item which was responsible for a $16m decrease was the deferment of the Fill payment. He pointed out that most of the decrease was due purely to an accounting process. I know that some people make the mistake of using capital expenditure as the yardstick for military efficiency. Military preparedness cannot be judged on the amount of money spent alone. Efficiency, ability to use equipment, and morale all come in to it. This is apparent in the recruitment level. The government is working on this factor. Housing and accommodation have a tremendous effect on the womenfolk of servicemen. If a serviceman’s wife and family are unhappy the first thing that will happen is that morale will start to drop. In 1969-70 the number of married quarters will be increased by 1,584. This planning goes on. I would like to have the time to refer to naval planning. The fighting strength and the hitting ability is increasing outstandingly. There is more work for Australian shipyards.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Bosman) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Unlike honourable members opposite, I believe that everybody in this House and in the other place is interested in defence. We arrive at different conclusions but I believe that the effort on all sides to produce a sincere solution is a dinkum Australian one. The Opposition simply disputes the concepts of the people opposite. The Liberal Party no doubt always has been interested in defence. Its members always talk about it. Members of the Country Party will always talk about it so long as the Liberal Party members do. Members of the Democratic Labor Party will maintain their interest in defence now that they are over military age. The honourable member for Calare (Mr England) avoided the difficulty of making a speech by quoting substantially from a very good speech made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). But out of all that he said I gather that this is his defence policy: Leave the troops in Vietnam. When the last Americans are gone the honourable member for Calare still will be sending battalions of Australians to Vietnam. He will place more troops in Malaysia and will not sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty; he will maintain conscription and will neglect Australian industry.
That does not add up to a defence policy at all. The honourable member for Calare made, I think, an erroneous statement about the attitudes of Americans to a possible Australian withdrawal. My understanding is that a senior American official said it would make no difference to the American attitude. I believe that statement ought to be on the record.
Members of the Government as well as its supporters are stricken by the cliches of the past. They do not have a defence policy; they have only habits. They do not learn anything. The honourable member for Calare, a man with a distinguished war record, is still prepared to put troops in Malaysia. Yet be says that we are threatened by the presence of Russian submarines between us and our troops so far away. Has the honourable member no military memory at all? Does he not remember what happened to every isolated outpost manned by Australian, British, American and other troops during the last war? Does he not remember what happened in Korea and what is happening in the present battles in Vietnam? What happened to Australians who were put in isolated outposts in Timor, Rabaul, Ambon, Java, Singapore, Greece, and Crete? We tost the lot.
For myself it is not a question of having a forward posture or having a Fortress Australia; it is a question of plain strategic common sense. The person who will place
Australian troops beyond the possibility of support from the home base will commit an act of extraordinary strategic folly. That is my belief and that is the opinion I shall sustain.
The defence position is that we have a Navy which is light on transport and the capacity to move around Australia. We have an Air Force that has been geared to the Fill. Apparently we are now to continue with the Fill project. We hope the aircraft will turn up one day and that it will fill out our needs. We have an Army which is bogged down in Vietnam and an industry which is treated as a reserve rather than as a front line element of Australia’s defence capacity. I do not think the Government can deny that any of these things are fact. 1 want to deal particularly with defence industry and the Army. On the strategic side we do not seem to have any strategic concept of the needs of Australia’s defence. [ hear nothing from the Government side about the geographical concept behind our defence or where we fit the kind of manpower and technical resources that wc have into the possible needs of a modern war. There is no consideration whatsoever given to the relative strengths of our possible opponents. T do not think we have any opponents. I do not often agree with my great friend and colleague the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) but he has said that we are unlikely to have any strategic, difficult or dangerous position in this regard for the next 10 years; Yet honourable members opposite are acting and talking continuously as if we are under threat of an assault tomorrow night.
We are continually confounded by cliches. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) laughed a while ago when I mentioned this. Let us consider some of these cliches that we have heard flowing tonight so liberally from honourable members on the Government side. One of them is the power vacuum. I wonder what a power vacuum really is? Why must Government supporters bedevil us with these physical analogies? Does this phrase mean that there is a door behind which there is a great flock of battleships and that if we open it they will fall through. What do they mean by the phrase power vacuum? Will some honourable member on the other side stand up and say what that means? What is meant when they talk in terms of forward defence? The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) interjected a while ago about forward defence. What did he mean? If you place a battalion of Australians in Malaysia, 2,000 or 3,000 miles away from possible support, with the 75 or 35 Russian atomic submarines between us and them, does that give us forward defence? It is forward folly.
Then there is the phrase Fortress Australia. This, of course, is one of the symbolic inheritances from the Hitler era, festung Europa, transferred to the Australian mystique to give us something to talk of instead of thinking for a change. Does the Government talk about fortress Indonesia because Indonesia has no troops scattered throughout the world? Does it talk about fortress Switzerland? Perhaps it would be true to refer to fortress Switzerland. Does it talk about fortress Italy, fortress Cambodia, fortress Philippines or fortress Japan? Of course it does not. I ask: When is the Government going to arrive in 1969?
We also have this other beautiful physical analogy: The imbalance of the strategic forces. That is a wonderful phrase. If a person says it often enough in a 15-minute speech one does not have to think at all. Just exactly what do Government supporters mean by the phrase imbalance of strategic forces? Then we have isolationism. It is isolationism, apparently, to bring Australian troops home so that they are under the Government’s hand and seal when it wants to use them - that is if they are not under somebody else’s command to be lost irresponsibly on the minefields of Vietnam in a battle that they cannot win. The Government is guilty of the crimes that are happening to our young men in Vietnam. The Government knows that it cannot win in that country. It knows that every sacrifice there is needless. So isolationism is another thing dredged out of the past.
All the evidence of military history shows that if you want military power you have to keep it close at hand. Every time you isolate it or send it beyond your own immediate support you place it in great peril. So we come back again to the balance of power. The honourable member for Calare used this phrase three or four times when he came to the end of referring to the speech made by the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard). What do we mean by that phrase? Has something happened to Cambodia, to Ceylon, to India, to Japan or the Philippines? It is true that the Royal Navy is going home and that the Americans are going home. In what way does this represent a balance in modern times, when there is all the power of modern industry, research, techniques, rocketry and so on behind them? I am asking honourable members opposite to think about these things in clear cut Australian terms. The honourable member for Angas is, I understand, head of a bull breeders association and he uses that background in most of his thinking in regard to defence statements.
The Fill is a symbol of the defence fantasy of Australia. Firstly it was bought to fulfil some dream or some wishful thinking aimed at getting us power, punch, pep, status and prestige but what has it done? I advise honourable members to read the speech made tonight by my friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). I do not have time to go through all of it just now. The Fill has taken countless millions of dollars from the Australian Treasury. It has made us alter the whole system of defence. We are building special airfields for it. I do not believe from anything I have read that it will fulfil the needs of Australian defence. It does not have the range, the power or the distance.
– It has the range.
– If it has then the honourable member for North Sydney should produce the evidence. Like honourable members opposite I visit the defence establishments and I have seen what people in the other Services have had to say. I do not believe you can defend Australia any better with the Fill than you could with countless other weapons. The honourable member for Angas, along with other honourable members, said that it was fantasy to think that we could design or build an equivalent aircraft. Why is this? Those honourable members have a national inferiority complex. They do not understand our defence research capacity. They do not realise that the Australian defence industry has behind it brains as good as anywhere in the world. Countries such as Sweden have been able to develop things of a similar era. We have a great potential in rocketry. We are amongst the 10 or 12 nations which have an atomic potential in the next 10 or 12 years. None of us on this side and nobody on the other side, I presume, would want to develop our atomic potential in such a way.
Honourable members opposite do not realise that we are the ninth or tenth industrial nation in the world. Yet they say that we cannot do these things; that we cannot build our own ships and planes. Of course, this is the great infliction made upon us by the Government. It has developed this inferiority complex into a kind of national mystique. Then we come to the failure of national service. If we abandon national service we are giving the game away completely. National service, as we have it now, is a recent development. It is a conscription system under which people spend 2 years in the Services. We have had various forms of national service or universal service in our Australian history but what has this done to us? What has it done to recruiting? What has it done to the morale of the young people of Australia?
– What would you do?
– I will tell the Minister what I would do in a moment. What has national service done for Australian recanting? The facts are that it has killed recruiting to the Australian Army because of the follies of the Government’s foreign policy. No young person is going to join up and be drawn into the kind of fantasy that takes place in Vietnam. The Minister for Air (Mr Erwin) asked what we would do about it. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said, Australia’s national frontiers are our strategic frontiers. Why is it that Canada is able to get a higher proportion of its young people into its forces on a voluntary basis than we are able to do? What has the Government done to the Australian national spirit that it should make service in the armed forces so distasteful to young Australians when such service is apparently reasonably attractive to Canadians? Why is it that Britain is able to get a higher proportion of volunteers into the Services than we are capable of getting? These facts and figures are all available in the Parliamentary Library. The research officers will get the information if honourable members opposite cannot find it for themselves.
At this moment we have only some 81,000 persons in the Australian Forces. The Opposition believes that there are a number of reasons for this but tonight is not the time to debate them. I should like to see the Citizen Military Forces upgraded once again to a more significant position in the Australian Forces. I should like to see members of the Citizen Air Force taking to the air in jets just as I have seen the National Air Guard of America doing, and as is done by the Swiss. The Navy should be given a specific capacity whereby it can shift around the Australian coast and deliver a punch anywhere within a reasonable distance of our frontiers. When we saw British equipment here about a year or so ago I was very impresed with it. It seemed to me to answer the needs of a nation such as ours. There were specialised ships, specialised aircraft and specialised equipment. These would be invaluable to us in the area in which we find ourselves with a ring of islands to our east and north and with the Indian Ocean to our west.
The error that we have made continuously is to allow our thinking to be done by others. Instead of recognising that we are part of the Southern Hemisphere we have allowed ourselves to be bedevilled by European concepts which, I am certain, are no longer valid. We have to think for ourselves. The British are going home and if the Americans go home we will not be isolated for, in fact, we are among friends. But it is reasonable for us to think of our particular strategic and geographical position. I believe that we ought to sit down and make an appreciation of our position just as a corporal or field-marshal makes an appreciation of his position. We should ask ourselves what we want to do. Unlike honourable members opposite I do not know the answers absolutely but I believe that we ought to have the kind of capacity whereby we can deliver a fair punch anywhere within 1,000 miles of our Australian borders. Can we do that now? Can we get our forces off the ground and into the air? Of course the Australian Army has established itself as probably the best that there is in the jungle, but it is not in jungles that we ought to have Australians fighting. This is a waste of our manpower and our technology. The jungle is the last place in which to use Australian men. We should be able to keep watch and ward over anything happening up to 2,000 miles away and we should be able to keep security on the coast of Asia up to about Hong Kong. We ought to sit down and ask: What do we need to do? How do we get men? I believe that there is an Australian national spirit. I believe that I could design a citizen army system which would attract people rather than scare them away. I believe that the answers lie within Australia’s own thinking and Australia’s own technology. We cannot buy defence, we have to build it, make it and think it and until we bring a proper strategic concept to our role in this part of the world we are going to continue to waste money and we are going to bring this area not into public debate but into public discard.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to my gallant and honourable colleague, the member for Wills (Mr Bryant), conscious of the fact that although his military service is past he has a record behind him which we recognise in this Parliament. I equally regret that he has not kept himself up to date with the most modern of information that I know is available to him. In speaking on the estimates for the Department of Defence I have many things that I should like to say but within the time limit of 15 minutes it is almost impossible for me to strike back at my political opponents who have been putting forward this evening a series of arguments which are calculated to destroy the confidence of the people of Australia in our Services which are, in effect, the real defence of our country. Honourable members opposite have been, in truth, mouthing a series of arguments which are bereft of the most basic reality - bereft of elementary logic.
I deal first of all with the comments of my friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). Knowing that he is an accountant and a shadow Trea surer I find it difficult to believe that he could say the things that he did say and believe them. He said that in 1963 the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, had made statements about the need for an exceptional aircraft for Australia’s defence plans and had said that no matter what the cost Australia must have it. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports knows full well that this is quite an unfair and unreal presentation of the facts and a gross misrepresentation of the truth. In 1961, to this country came what is called a ‘presentation team’. It presented to the Government of Australia a series of facts in relation to the existing intercontinental bomber, the B58, known as the ‘Hustler’. Because of the problems associated with this aircraft and the cost of its attacker support organisation - its fighter support - the Royal Australian Air Force was not able to convince the Government that it was possible for Australia to meet the cost of having such equipment in our Services. From the end of 1959 it was well known to leading officers of the Royal Australian Air Force that the Canberra bomber, which is our standard aircraft in the bomber field, had to be replaced. During all of that period of time the best technical brains available to us were looking into the matter and recommending to the Government what ought to be done.
The truth of the matter is that when they looked at the TSR2, as one honourable member stated earlier, and considered what its future was to be - and I will admit, as the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) said, that it was an attractive aircraft - they faced the problem of development. The TSR2, which was to fly across the European plain at about twice the speed of sound with an atomic weapon, reached its development stage of £stg756m. This, I might mention, represents about $Al,700m. At that stage the United Kingdom Government could not see its way clear to carry on with the development of this aircraft which did not have the range or the capacity to meet the Australian specifications. For this reason - and for good political reasons which are familiar to all honourable members of the Opposition and of the Government - the Government of the United Kingdom decided to cut its losses and not to proceed with the TSR2.
T feel that at this stage I ought to say something about the progress that has been made by the Soviets in their modern aircraft production. I can do no better than to quote from a person in the United States of America who has been oft quoted in this place and uplifted, if T may say, as a very distinguished representative. I refer to Senator Stuart Symington, a member of the United States Senate, who had the distinction of being Assistant Secretary of War in the United States some 21 years ago. I do not want to quote his criticisms but I do want to quote him on this statement of 7th October 1968 when he said of the Soviets - and these are the people to whom we look for aerial development that may constitute at a future time a threat towards us - the following:
Last year, at their Domodedovo air show outside Moscow, the Soviets showed the world a superb array of new aviation development, with no less than seven new aircraft models. (A total of 18 new models have been flown since . . .
lt was their first show in six years; and contrary to our policy, it is now obvious they have been pushing a research and development program designed to explore all possible military options that modern technology has made available to airpower.
New fighters, new attack bombers, VTOL planes, STOL planes, variable sweep models, all Hew in this show, with two and even three different prototypes in each category; and while it appeared some of these planes were to be used purely for exploratory development, or for service trials to gain field operating experience, many are destined to be frontline aircraft in many ways superior to our present inventory.
He went on to refer to a number of aircraft by the names that are given to them by our own intelligence people. These are the aircraft that we may hear of in the future. One is called the Foxrat, a supersonic interceptor which holds the world’s combat speed record. Another is called the Flosser, a supersonic variable sweep tactical fighter of unusually clean aerodynamic design. An aeroplane called the Faithless is a supersonic STOL tactical fighter, unmatched by anything in the United States inventory and the United States has nothing of the kind even in contract definition. This is one reason why the British Harrier is being purchased by the United States Marine Corps. Another aircraft is tho Flagon B, also a supersonic tactical fighter.
I mention these things because I know that my friends in the Labor Party have this information available to them. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and other honourable members opposite wore the uniform of the Australian Army, which is as proud a uniform as one could have. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the FI 1 1 is a very sophisticated aircraft but not suitable for Australia’s requirements. Surely it is reasonable for me to ask: What does he mean? This is the man who may be the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. What effrontery? He does not go on to state Australia’s requirements. Whilst Australia has no intention of stepping into the United Kingdom’s shoes in South East Asia, the inevitable withdrawal of the UK forces from the area will do little to improve the stability and the security of (he area. Anyone who has been there and seen Scottish, Irish and English soldiers in Singapore, in Kuala Lumpur and in various other places will know that that is fundamentally true.
– They did not do loo well in Belfast.
– The reference by the honourable member for Wills to Belfast comes ill from him. The honourable member stands convicted of endeavouring to encourage what one might call allegedly peaceful demonstrations by a group of young gentlemen at Monash University. I will continue with my remarks. The very uncertainty of future developments in the area serves to emphasise the importance of Australia having the capability to defend itself and its areas of interest, and of demonstrating this capability. In this regard, the possession of an effective offensive air capability to be used from Australia, and from bases in South East Asia in concert with allies if required, was never more important to Australia’s strategic situation and its defence policies than it is today. The F111C aircraft provides this capability. I would like to make clear in this Parliament my belief, my conviction, that this aeroplane is absolutely vital to Australia’s welfare in the next decade or so. It is my hope that the Australian Government will see ils way clear to have these aircraft in Australia, functioning from bases which could enable them to operate on the west coast of Australia far out across the Indian Ocean in the defence of our country. As my friend the honourable member for Perth said, he has no argument with the decision the Government will make about Cockburn Sound because his family is in Perth and it is his conviction that Australians will stick together. And I think, in looking at the honourable member for Wills, that members of the Opposition will agree with me on such a contention.
I have only a few minutes left in which to speak in this debate and 1 cannot possibly deal with all the matters that I wanted to discuss, but I will say this to honourable members opposite. Over the last 20 years they have consistently, whilst in opposition, made comments, speeches and statements designed to attack the faith of the Government in the welfare of the Australian defence forces and its conviction that Australia could provide for itself real Services on the sea, on land and in the air. They have done this because they have been in opposition. If one reads the speeches which they made when they were in power one will see that there has been an absolute change of opinion. I will be the first to admit that when the ‘Melbourne’ class carriers were bought by their government the speeches that came from the Opposition, which was then the Party that I represent, were lamentable in the extreme. They indicated an anxiety to do what the Labor Party has been doing for the last 20 years. I think it is called politicking, as I heard a Minister say at the table this afternoon.
I will conclude my remarks with the hope that the Committee will permit me to make one or two comments in reference to my friend and colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) who leaves this Parliament in a few weeks’ time. I know that all members of this Parliament respect and admire him for the work that he has done. I am well qualified to say that in all the years I have been in this place since 1949 - on and off, I admit, with the aid of the odd election - I have never heard one comment from a member of the Opposition or a member of the Australian Country Party or of the Australian Liberal Party which cast any reflection upon the integrity of the honourable gentleman. I place on record my own judgment that wc have been privileged to have the distinguished services of a member of this Parliament who has brought great quality to his office. He has been a great Minister for Defence. He has in so many ways become a vital, a vibrant, a real image to young men in the Navy, the Army and the Air Force upon whom we depend so much. The fact that he is leaving this place at the end of this time after 20 years of endeavour in this Parliament is something that we will all lament. I wish him well and I express the hope that he will enjoy his retirement and see his country go forward in peace, progress and prosperity in the future. I am quite confident that my friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, who sits in a distant corner in this chamber and is looking at me at the moment, will agree with me.
– We are discussing the estimates of the various departments which in general make up the defence complex. This is one of the greatest areas of expenditure that come before the Parliament. Unfortunately these estimates are being discussed without any certain knowledge of whether or not the Government will proceed with the purchase of the most expensive item of defence equipment ever ordered by this country. I refer, of course, to the Fill fighter aircraft. The honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) indicated that the aircraft was ordered in a proper manner and with proper procedures.
The honourable member also indicated that the replacement of the Canberra bomber was a matter of some urgency. I would suggest that information that is available to honourable members who wish to check on previous debates on this matter indicates that this is not so. The present Government first indicated to this Parliament that the Canberra bomber was in urgent need of replacement in 1954 when the then Minister for Defence made a statement to this House. This was 15 years ago. It was indicated to the House 6 years later that it was a matter of considerable urgency to replace the Canberra bomber. However, at that time it was considered that no suitable aircraft was either available or in the developmental stage anywhere in the world and thus nothing could be done about it
In 1963, on the eve of an election, it was decided to seek a replacement for the Canberra bomber. It would appear from a reading of the events of that time that seeking a replacement for this aircraft was against the better judgment of the government of the day, and that this decision was a result of a reaction to political necessity because of the force with which the Opposition pressed for such a replacement. A technical team of the Royal Australian Air Force was sent away to seek a suitable replacement. This team was given the task also of having a look at the Fill, then the TFX, and the TSR aircraft. Information that is available to honourable members indicates that on return to Australia the team thought that the TFX might on future development be a suitable replacement for the aircraft which might be purchased to replace the Canberra bomber. I understand that the recommendation at that time was for the Government to purchase the Vigilante’ aircraft. It was expected that this aircraft would have a useful life of from 7 to 10 years and that by that time the Government would have been able to gain a firm appreciation of whether or not the FI 1 1 - or the TFX - was a suitable replacement aircraft.
As I said before, against its better judgment the Government was forced into this situation mainly by political activity and pressure. The Government of the day felt it could kill two birds with one stone by ordering a more advanced aircraft which would not be available for some time, and it could also sell itself back to the Australian public. The Minister for Defence of the day was sent away and he negotiated some form of contract. Those of us who have studied the records of the American Senate committee of inquiry and the terms under which we signed this contract are still wondering whether or not we actually sent a Minister to handle this matter or whether the Government of that time was a group of kindergarten children playing at being businessmen. But the fact is that the contract was signed to purchase this aircraft. The Government announced that the price we would pay for the Fill aircraft was to be £56m or Si 12m. It was known by the Australian Defence Department and the United States Defence Department at the time that when this estimate was made, and an authoritative statement was publicly made in Australia by the Government, a false figure was given. It was known that this was the lowest estimate of price that had been submitted for the aircraft. It was known that General Dynamics Corporation, which at that time had submitted the estimate, was practically bankrupt. At that time the United States Government was concerned about its own political survival. When one looks at the American political scene one finds that in Texas there are some 32 or 33 electoral college votes while in New York there are 40. This makes General Dynamics, which has its major plants in these two places, an awfully important political organisation.
The Australian Government made statements about prices which were not accurate and which it knew were not true. Subsequently, we have had quoted almost every price one could imagine. Also, we have had almost every story that one could imagine about this magnificent aircraft. The only thing we know at the moment is that the aircraft is going to cost about $300m if we buy it. We do not know what it will cost if we do not. But what effect has the purchase of this aircraft had on our defence? In 1954 it was said that the Canberra bomber was obsolete and needed replacement. This was indicated in a statement made by the Minister for Defence of the day. I do not know whether honourable members opposite would support him now. This is 1969 and the Canberra bomber is still our front line bomber. At the rate we are going it is possible that we could get the Fill in the near or distant future. It is also possible that we may not get it at all and that some other aircraft may or may not be purchased. But there does not appear to be any urgency at all in the mind of the Government in this matter. If one looks at the haste and urgency with which the Government has treated the purchase of this aircraft one can well imagine that the Government does not give a damn if it never gets the aircraft. As long as it does not have to get a replacement immediately it will satisfy its political needs to have the people believe that one is coming. Well, the year 2,000 is also coming, but it is a long way off.
The Australian aircraft industry, in the meantime, has been utterly disregarded. The Government made repeated statements in this House that it is examining this and that and doing this and that to further this industry. In 1961 the Minister indicated that at no time, even though no aircraft suitable to Australia’s requirements was available anywhere in the world and had not been for 7 years when it first decided that the Canberra bomber should be replaced, had any serious consideration been given to asking the Australian aircraft industry whether it could supply anything suitable to replace the Canberra bomber. I am not saying that the industry could or could not. But the fact was that nothing was available in the world to meet Australia’s requirements. This state of affairs is not unreasonable. The requirements of the United States of America and the requirements of continental Europe are vastly different from the requirements of a nation such as Australia. Our defence requirements are not those of continental Europe or of the United States and I would’ doubt whether they are those of the Soviet Union or China. They are defence requirements especially applicable to an island continent such as Australia.
The Australian aircraft industry has shown a tremendous degree of skill and capacity in the work it has been given. No task it has been given has proven to be beyond it. The industry has initiated original work on projects such as the Jindivik. The industry has been successful in designing guided missiles and other things. But at no time was sufficient confidence shown by the Government to ask the Australian industry if it could even think about designing an aircraft suitable for Australian conditions. Neither the Government Aircraft Factory nor the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation nor any other portion of the Australian aircraft industry associated with our defence has any knowledge of what they may be doing in 12 months or 2 years time. What sort of a basis is this with which to build and retain the basic skills which are vital to any country when it has to defend itself? It would hardly seem possible that even people of the calibre of those who would order the Fill would suggest that at a time when we are fighting an election on the issue of defence we could sit back and not have a front line bomber for a period which has now extended to 6 years and will probably run into 7 years. It is difficult to believe that these people would think that we would have the maintenance and the necessary servicing of our front line aircraft done in America, Britain or France or somewhere else in time of emergency. The basis of any successful defence policy in a country such as Australia is the capacity of our industries to maintain the men in the field.
Soldiers in the field are not worth twopence if you cannot supply them with equipment. Napoleon found that out in Moscow, and so did Hitler. If you cannot maintain your supply line and keep up your technical advantage over your opponents, then you may as well leave your troops at home and save their lives. We are neglecting the basis of defence when we neglect what is possibly the most important single industry in any defence structure in time of emergency - the aircraft industry. People who in many cases, after spending a lifetime in the aircraft industry in Great Britain, left the industry when the TSR2 was cancelled because they felt it had no future and came to Australia on the understanding that the Australian aircraft industry had a great future, have become disillusioned and have left the industry, and we will not get them back into it. These are men whose skills are invaluable to Australia, but the Government does not give a damn. It just serves redundancy notices on people as though it was handing out cards.
It is unfortunate that we cannot retain these people because there is no work for them. On various occasions we have heard it said: ‘We may have work in 12 months time.’ I wonder whether the Government would dismiss the crew of the HMAS Melbourne’ when it tied up for a refit, because the Government did not have work for the crew for 12 months. The Government would retain the members of the crew because it knows that it needs their skills. The Government needs the skills of the people in the aircraft industry just as much, if not more, because it cannot refit the ‘Melbourne’ and it cannot refit a Mirage or any of the other aircraft which we have unless it has skilled personnel capable of doing it. The Government can train all the pilots it likes, but if aircraft have not been properly maintained they will finish up like the Indonesian aircraft. The Government will have cannibalised all of its equipment because it is incapable of maintaining it. It will have wasted millions of dollars. This is exactly what is happening in Australia. Highly skilled people are being thrown out of work.
In this debate it would appear that the Ministers do not even care about defence. So far not one Minister has entered into the debate, and the indications are that they will not. One wonders why. It may be that if they enter into the debate they might have to tell us on what they are spending our money; whether or not they are just handing it out and at some future time will say: ‘Look, we have spent this money but you won’t get an aeroplane.’ But worse still, they are most likely thinking that they might be able to keep secret from the Australian people the fact that they have bungled the purchase of the Fill. 1 feel sorry that the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) is being forced, through illhealth, to retire from this Parliament. I am sure that he would have liked to continue in this Parliament and to have brought to fruition a real defence policy for Australia, because I think he is that type of a person. But the manner in which Government policies are proceeding at the moment makes any planning for defence an absolute joke. While the Government neglects Australian industries, such as the aircraft industry, and, for that matter, the naval dockyards which are in as parlous a position so far as future orders are concerned, it is wasting its time calling people up and putting them in the Army. Once we get into a defence emergency the Government will not be able to maintain supplies to the soldiers, and they will be just as defenceless as the Austrlian troops were without air support in Singapore in 1941-42.
– Listening to the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) one might imagine that Australia had never been in worse shape in terms of defence. I would like to answer in one sentence that in peace time Australia has never been in better shape in terms of defence, nor has it ever been able to look ahead with a greater sense of security in relation to the quality and quantity of those provisions which are being made against a future emergency. However, Australia needs defence against two types of attack. During the debate we have spent a lot of time talking about the defence that we must have against encirclement or against military action of an aggressive nature leading to the invasion of this country. But there is also vital to our defence the continued recognition of internal subversion and disintegration. It would be unfortunate if our preoccupation with hardware should give us a false sense of security with regard to the latter.
Let us face it. As Australians we have no ultimate defence. With this sized nation, with this sized land mass to defend, we have no ultimate defence against a determined assault by a major power, except it be through the assistance of another major power. But we must prepare to keep our lines open and guard against harrassment via lesser activities. This does not mean, in my view, what has been suggested elsewhere recently: That we should, immediately we see activities of other great powers in our vicinity, turn to the requisition of attack aircraft carriers, no mention, mark you, being made of the host of destroyers, supporting ships and the numbers of aircraft which would be required to put to sea in this defensive, if not semi-aggressive, way, and the fact that the bulk of our air power would be taken to sea in an area in which we could not expect to have naval or air superiority. But we can use our vast land masses to provide mobile, if necessary, and other types of airfields which could give all the advantages of mobility, surprise and defensive movement against attack. This is something which is of vital importance in the position in which we are placed.
But in this context of defending the island of Australia, I feel that we must, once again, warn against our vulnerability in terms of the essential supply of petroleum. Nearly all of the oil of which we are aware is in coastal waters which are highly vulnerable to seaborne attack. Recently, unhappily in Australia, we have seen on our stock exchanges the exploitation of the Government’s provision of generous incentives by greedy financial operators which has jeopardised the legitimate subscription to oil search by the public. I believe the answer does not lie in the present blitz on all share dealings, but perhaps in new legislation and new thinking to ensure that there is widespread and reasonable availability of the taxation benefits of section 77 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, for instance, to all investors who wish to avail themselves of them; perhaps even in an acceptance of a reasonable capital gain from the re-sale of speculative, and necessarily speculative stocks in oil exploration companies or mineral exploration companies as nontaxable.
Turning from this area which has to do with the military aspect of defence, I believe that the major assault on Australia is not military, but is already far advanced in the other ideological field. I refer to the assault of internal subversion and corruption. There is a simple logic about this which I challenge all responsible Australians to ponder. It is simply this: Any nation, in order to survive, must have rules to run by - rules of behaviour and laws relating to individual and collective behaviour. From the earliest days of the Code of Hammurabi and the Decalogue of Moses down to the present, this has been so. People will obey those rules in a nation from one or other of two motives. Either they will do so because of personal conviction and voluntary acceptance, or else they will be forced to obey them. There are no alternatives. Directly as their personal acceptance of responsibility for obedience to these essential laws of behaviour declines, so enforced acceptance must ensue if anarchy is not to prevail. The most effective way of destroying a nation like ours, and the most effective way of undermining our national defence, is by removing or undermining the sources of voluntary acceptance of the rules of behaviour, or by confusing and contradicting those rules. In other words, the destruction of a nation’s moral values is the prime objective of an enemy who seeks to subvert it from within.
Do I need to ask whether that warfare is proving successful inside Australia today? Even the traditional citadels of defence of our mores are being challenged. Increasing sections of mass media - our newspapers, television, radio, arts and theatres - are prepared to stoop to the gutter and sell the nation down the drain for power or dollars. The fear of censorship, which is a very real fear indeed, is all too often used to shield purposeful pornography. But the fault is not all or even primarily with the mass media or the churches or governments, although all these share the blame. The mainline of national integrity lies in the homes. Children who are not trained in definite behaviour patterns, in respect for proper authority or in the realisation that breaking of rules brings punishment grow up to behave in mobs like petulant infants demanding their own way or else.
Can this rot be stopped? Must the Communist plan, which clearly outlines this procedure, inevitably work out as its prophets have delineated? I think not. 1 am in this place as an optimist because 1 believe that there is a better way than Communism and that the Communists are wrong when they talk about the inevitability of the success of their programme to undermine and to white ant the security of the West from within. I believe that Communism is fundamentally wrong. It is wrong about man, about society, about behaviour and about values. But it is wrong only insofar as we do not conform to the caricature of man, of society, of behaviour and of values that the Communists paint as the reality of our world. The only hope of avoiding a Communist victory lies in the redelineation of and the recommitment by all sections of the community to a pattern of behaviour, and of standards of individual and social morality that must be endorsed and accepted and, if necessary, enforced by a majority of the citizens. It is just not true, as so many protestors say and as is being taught from so many pulpits today, that every individual must be free to choose for himself which, if any, of these basic rules he will or will not pursue. There is no significant society on earth where this is so or where this has ever been so. On the other hand there is a frightening roll of nations and civilisations that have disappeared when the same kind of moral blindness has afflicted its people.
To sum up, I point out that there are these two kinds of attack on Australia’s defence and security. It is perfectly true, as the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) said recently, that we in Australia must accept as a fact of life that Russia, for instance, will seek an increasing role in our environment. To take one illustration, when the Americans have a space project in hand American ships and aeroplanes encircle the globe. We see them in our environment, it is necessarily so that Russia, pursuing a similar programme, must have its ships and its aeroplanes deployed on a global scale. This is just one illustration. I leave aside fisheries and other legitimate global activities. How are we then to react to the presence of Soviet ships, for instance, in the Indian Ocean? By re-arming and trying to frighten them out of these seas? That is nonsense and is utterly beyond our resources. Like the proposal to put attack aircraft carriers in our waters, it neglects the facts of size and economy.
But we must not forget, by the same token, that Russia is dedicated to the destruction of our way of life by other means than military victory. Let us try to contain the Russian presence within the bounds of legitimate trade or diplomacy by all means, but always with our eyes wide open to the fact that a Communist power seeks an ideological as well as an economic advantage in each transaction. We can and must live, work and hope for the day when Communism will be seen by its own supporters to be second best. Perhaps we can look forward to the decline and fall of Communism as a system from within. But unless we have a way of life that is more compelling, more persuasive and more attractive than Communism, we and not they will be the victims. So I maintain that the defence of Australia needs all that the Government is providing in terms of hardware. I agree with the way in which these estimates have been compiled. At this stage in Australia’s history, we need the reinforcement of the substratum of provision that is contained in this Budget. But we also need a new initiative from governments and people alike and a new dimension in thinking and planning.
I wish to conclude .by asserting what to me is an affirmation of faith. I believe that, despite a lot of the cafuffling that one reads in the Press today, I belong to a good Party. I belong to it because as of today I believe it knows that the pervading and dominating foreign policy consideration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, amongst other Communist powers, is the subjugation of the rest of the world to Communism. I believe that the Party knows that no Russian policy decision, whether it be in the field of literature and the arts or economics and trade, is taken unless it is considered by Communist political experts to be likely to serve that ultimate goal or be compatible with it. I believe the Government Parties know that the most seemingly innocuous and innocent occasions may be the means of exacting an ideological price for any concession. I believe that our Parties will never employ a gangster to live in the house because of the fear of burglars. This reduces to an illustration some of the absurdities that I have heard around the country recently.
By the same token, I believe this illustrates the way in which Australia today is moving into an environment of its own inter-dependence and its own independence in its foreign policy. We are adventuring into a new dimension as a nation. We are developing a new stature as we move out from under the umbrella of our former parent country and as we face the future in South East Asia. I say quite frankly that if ever I find my Party going soft on these inescapable historic facts there will have to be drastic changes either in the Party’s policies or in my political life. But this is not to me an occasion that appears on the horizon. I have no such basic fear at the moment, even if certain words have been twisted in this pre-election silly season into extravagant non sequiturs. I believe that this Government now stands as firmly on the great issues I have enunciated as ever it did and that today it is moving ahead into a new significance in South East Asia and in terms of Australia’s defence.
– The honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) has clearly stated tonight the real divisions that exist within the Government ranks. He has shown clearly why the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) has retired, although the reason given for this is ill health. The real reason, as we all know, is that the Minister for Defence believed in forward defence. He was a man who took the hard line against all sections, whether they were Russian Communists, Chinese Communists or Vietnamese Communists. He was one of those people who wanted to be involved militarily in Asia. Consequently a few days after the 14th August 1969, when the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) made his statement to the Parliament, the retirement of the Minister for Defence was announced.
The truth is that the Government has changed its defence and foreign policies. It is a follower of big powers, lt first followed Britain and became involved in Malaya, both in the insurgent war and later in the confrontation with Indonesia, lt became involved with the United States in Vietnam. Now that both of these powers are withdrawing from Asia, it is looking to a new force. If the honourable member has any doubts left, let me dispel them by quoting from the speech delivered by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) on 14th August last. Under the heading ‘The Soviet Union in Asia’ the Minister referred to the speech delivered in Moscow on 7th June by Mr Brezhnev who told the World Conference of Communist Parties that the Soviet Union was ‘of the opinion that events are putting on the agenda the task of creating a system of collective security in Asia”. The Minister said:
The Australian and USSR Governments have also been in contact, both in Canberra and in Moscow, on matters of bi-lateral interest-
I have no doubt that those matters of bilateral interest included entering with the Soviet Union into security arrangements in South East Asia. Honourable members opposite have, we know, magnified their fears not only of the Chinese but also of rising nationalism in Asia. The Government parties have never tried to understand the historical development of the people of Asia. They feel that the only way to solve problems that arise is to lean more and more on big powers. Government supporters have learnt no lesson from Australia’s involvement in wars in Asia. It does not try to solve problems by economic, social, educational and political means instead of military means. Foreign affairs is in the front rank of our defence policy, as is a policy of trade with other countries. There can be no doubt that the remarks of the Minister for External affairs have divided the Government’s ranks. They are responsible for speeches such as those we have heard in this debate from hawks like the honourable member for Evans. For the information of the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) who, I understand, is to follow me in the debate, let me quote further from the speech delivered by the Minister for External Affairs. He said:
If the Russian proposals-
These were Brezhnev’s proposals to the world Communist movement - proved to be in line with these general objectives, and would assist to facilitate their achievement, we would naturally consider them wilh close interest.
Of course the Government would consider them with close interest - as long as it could work in co-operation with the Soviet Union. Have no doubt: There has been a revolutionary change in the Government’s defence and foreign policies. The Minister for External Affairs and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) were the only members of Cabinet to know about the statement on international affairs before it was presented to the Parliament. It was not discussed with the Cabinet. On the television programme Four Corners’ the Prime Minister stated publicly that he did not think it was necessary to discuss the statement with the Minister for Defence. A few days after the statement was made the Minister for Defence announced that he would retire because of ill health. We know that the Minister for Defence is a hawk, as is the honourable member for Evans. We know that there has been a division in the Government’s ranks over recent defence and foreign policies.
Over the past 6 or 7 years there has been an astronomical increase in defence expenditure. The vote for defence is the largest in the Budget. This increase began in 1962-63, when the defence vote was about $400m. In 1968-69 total expenditure on the Defence Services amounted to almost $1,1 64.7m. Earlier this evening the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) examined expenditure on maintenance and manpower for the Defence Services compared with expenditure on capital works or hardware. In the last financial year 8778m was spent on hardware out of a total expenditure of $1, 164.7m. The estimate of total expenditure on Defence Services in this financial year is approximately $l,105m - a decrease of 5% over last year’s expenditure. However, expenditure this year on items of hardware will decrease by more than 5% compared with last year when we have regard to the fact that this year wages and maintenance costs will increase. There is no proposal to equip our Army, Navy or Air Force with modem weapons for the defence of this country.
I see no reason for hysteria and fear about the security of our shores. Unlike the honourable member for Evans, I do not fear an attack on our shores. The honourable member is concerned because of his investments in oil exploration. He fears that Australia may be attacked by sea and that our oil deposits, 70% of which are off-shore, and in which he has a financial interest, will be threatened. But nobody has identified our attacker. China, the great bogy, has no sea-going navy. All of its naval vessels are designed for river patrol work. The Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) knows this to be true. The Chinese navy is a defensive navy, as are the navies of all Asian countries. The only country capable of developing a large navy is Japan but its constitution prevents it from re-arming.
I hope that the people of Japan make sure that their country never re-arms because Australia should be very concerned about a re-armed Japan. We have little to fear from a peaceful Japan. Our transactions with a peaceful Japan - our trading intercourse - will be healthy. Those people who would re-arm Japan as a counterbalancing force in world affairs are being very foolish, just as the people who re-armed Nazi Germany between the First World War and the Second World War were very foolish. They used the excuse to re-arm Germany as a counter to the Soviet Union, but ultimately we had to fight Nazi Germany. If Japan is re-armed as a counter to China, which many people would like to see happen, the time may come when Japan, with its military and technological might and the availability of raw materials, possibly from a country such as Indonesia, could present a real threat to Australia and the countries of South East Asia. Therefore, I do not want to see this.
The people of Australia want to feel secure. The Australian Labor Party has advocated that we should have a sound defence policy. We have stated that our defence policy should be based on a foreign policy of independence. We should be an independent nation and we should be able to fight with our own forces. We should be able to have striking forces based on Australian soil and able to go out as far as possible. As I heard the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) say tonight, they should be able to strike between 1,000 and 2,000 miles to our north or anywhere from our shores. Of course, to do this we would need to have another aircraft carrier. It seems to me that the Fill aircraft will not have the range to go out to the areas where it might be necessary to strike in the future. This could be done from a strike aircraft carrier. I would like to know what planning has been done by the Government about this.
Most of this defence expenditure will be going on maintenance and cost of labour in the Air Force, Navy and Army and not on equipping ourselves for the future. I would like to see the Government scrap the decision to purchase the twenty-four Fill aircraft, which were originally estimated to cost $112m but which will now cost over $300m. I would like to see us buy an aircraft carrier and equip it with Phantom jets. Phantom jets would be more effective from an aircraft carrier than these flying opera houses, the Fills. We feel that the purchase of the Fill has been a blunder by the Government, and I hope that the people in the forthcoming election will judge the performance of this Government in a rational way without any real hysteria and will decide that this Government has bungled the defence requirements of this country. I hope that they will again return a Labor Government.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We have heard a typical exercise by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). He attempted to give credit to inaccurate Press statements concerning the statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Freeth) in this Parliament recently. If people digested the statement in detail they would realise that there is no departure from policy. I feel that the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) this afternoon put this quite clearly when he said: ‘Who has the right to forbid the entrance of any ships into the Indian Ocean? How can we in any case assert ourselves against a navy of 1 ,500 odd ships?’ The Minister has stated that we have the situation under careful observation, and I feel that it is foolish to read into this any departure from policy.
I want to refer briefly to the activities of the Department of Supply in South Australia, particularly at the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury and the long range weapons establishment at Woomera. The activities of the Department in that State have provided tremendous economic advantages to South Australia as it is one of the States’ three largest employers, providing work for some 6,000 people. I notice that in the estimates for the Department of Supply salary estimates for these establishments amount to $25m. In South Australia we have come to expect periodical pessimism concerning the future of the Department’s establishment at Salisbury and the rocket range at Woomera. However, I pay a tribute to the wisdom of the Commonwealth Government in continuing to place great importance on the technical ability of these areas in contributing to the development of ground to air missiles and in the critical work of the space tracking of satellites.
Scientific personnel at Salisbury are engaged in work vital to Australia’s defence. This work is associated with high speed aero-dynamics and propulsion, electronics, chemistry, physics, instrumentation and guided missile systems. The Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury is continuing its activities in that place and at Woomera in support of the joint European Launcher Development Organisation project and various Australian defence projects, including weapons trials and studies, and various types of research and engineering development. People in South Australia were concerned when it was announced that the Blue Streak project was completed and this seemed to spell the doom of the Woomera rocket range. In spite of this the Department has an impressive list of works arranged for Woomera this year. This involves continued development of the Black Arrow vehicle and the launching of three more development vehicles is proposed for November this year. Currently work is continuing on the ELDO attempt to put a satellite test vehicle into orbit, and it is anticipated that this will take place in the first half of 1970.
Important scientific activity is being carried out in co-operation with Australian universities and the Bureau of Meteorology in connection with upper atmosphere research. The European Space Research Organisation has plans for several launch.ings this year in support of a research programme involving the upper atmosphere. Work is contemplated next year involving development trials of a target drone for the Royal Australian Navy based on the Ikara missile. In addition to these a number of other Service armament and equipment trials are planned for 1969-70, including various trials for the Army and Air Force. There are also visual target acquisition trials to be completed on behalf of the United Kingdom in 1969-70. Valuable work is being carried out at Salisbury on the development of the laser terrain profiler for the Division of National Mapping.
Mfr Andrew Jones - That is most important.
– It is because national mapping in this country is of critical importance at this stage in national development. Considerable interest is being taken in the latest decision by the Government on plans to enter into a joint agreement with the United States by providing a defence facility at Woomera. I understand that planning is proceeding and that before long we can expect some further announcement concerning details of this establishment. This will mean that a considerable number of people will be employed on the construction and manning of this facility. This, I might add, will give greater confidence to the South Australian economy.
Having drawn the attention of the Parliament to the importance of this area, I want to suggest that the provision of adequate access road facilities for Woomera should be given serious consideration by this Department. The Department of Supply has accepted the responsibility of providing a water pipeline to serve Woomera from the Morgan-Whyalla pipeline. It has also accepted financial responsibility for the erection of an electric power transmission line from the Port Augusta power station to serve Woomera. The Commonwealth has also accepted the responsibility of building schools in this town. Also the Department of Supply, as the operating authority for the Commonwealth, is responsible for the finalisation and completion of the appropriate agreements and the financial arrangements to provide the Mount Gunson copper project with a water and power supply. Some time ago the Department of Works in South Australia invited tenders for augmentation of the water supply from Port Augusta to Woomera and for a branch water line to the copper mining site 35 miles from that town. Spur power lines were also envisaged to provide power for a sub-station to supply this mining project.
– They will be of great benefit.
– Exactly. The estimated cost of these projects is between $450,000 and $500,000. At this stage there is some doubt as to who will accept the responsibility of financing these projects, but I understand that some agreement will be discussed between the Commonwealth and State Governments and also the mining companies. The Department of Works has not yet had a clearance from the Department of Supply that the necessary agreement has been signed, and as a result it has not yet received an authority from the mining company to accept tenders. I am confident that it will soon eventuate and that the Commonwealth will help to promote a very valuable mining industry in the northern part of South Australia. Surely the Department of Supply must accept greater responsibility for the provision of a sealed road to enable Commonwealth employees to travel to and from Woomera? I know that money is provided for the maintenance of this road. As it has accepted this other responsibility, surely sufficient finance should be found to provide a sealed road for the 5,000 residents of Woomera, whose main form of transport is by private car.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) shares my concern about road facilities. He has asked many questions in this chamber and made many speeches on this subject. It means a lot to South Australia and the Northern Territory to have adequate road facilities. They assist in development. I consider that the Commonwealth has a moral obligation to provide a sealed road to Woomera. If the Department of Shipping and Transport is not prepared to make the money available, I feel that the Department of Supply should give serious consideration to providing funds to enable the work to be carried out. I submit that precedents have been set in this and other directions. Ever since I have been a member of the Parliament I have been most conscious of the need to provide better transport facilities for the electorate I represent. Probably there has been more attention drawn to these needs since I have been a member of the Parliament than ever before.
– Good representation.
– Thank you. I appreciate that comment. Recently the Leader of the Opposition visited my electorate. In fact, this afternoon he made the assertion that the Commonwealth Government would provide a railway line from Port Augusta to Whyalla in order to keep me in my seat. I submit that this is an indication of the concern that is going through the mind of the Leader of the Opposition. When he visited my electorate recently he used one or two unusual gimmicks. In order to attract an audience the Australian Labor Party inserted an advertisement in the local Press saying: ‘Ladies, come along and hear the Leader of the Opposition. We will offer you a free afternoon tea’. The organisers even said that they would have a jewellery display. This is a typical of the lengths to which the Leader of the Opposition will go in order to attract an audience. I believe it is completely unreasonable. I raise this matter, Mr Deputy Chairman, because the Leader of the Opposition referred to my electorate during-his remarks this afternoon. I know that you will be tolerant towards me, Mr Deputy Chairman. The Leader of the Opposition seems to show a peculiar interest in the fact that I specialise in transport facilities for my electorate. He has placed a lot of questions on the notice paper in an attempt to keep me from asking questions on this subject.
– Is this the honourable member’s swan song?
– No. I am demonstrating to the honourable member and his colleagues the concern of the Labor Party for the future of the electorate of Grey. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition has said that the seat of Grey will be a pushover at the forthcoming election. This occurs to me as being strange when he has paid more attention to my electorate in the time that I have represented it than has any other Leader of the Opposition during the last 20 years. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition suspects that, due to my representation, better transport facilities will be provided for the electorate I represent. I hope that is correct. I am glad to see that the Leader of the Opposition recognises that the electorate has energetic representation. I thank you for your tolerance, Mr Deputy Chairman.
– It cannot be said that the honourable member for Grey (Mr Jessop) did not speak on defence: He spoke in his own defence. I suggest to him that the next time he reads an advertisement concerning where the the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) is appearing he should get along because it will be one of the few chances he will have to talk to an audience. His electors may see him, too. After all, the Leader of the Oppostion has to look after the electorate of Grey because the local member cannot do so. One cannot blame the Leader of the Opposition for showing an interest in the seat and inevitably doing what the honourable member is incapable of doing - convincing the electors who is the right one to represent them.
After that slight diversion, I come back to the estimates for the departments we are discussing. I have been intrigued tonight by the fact that only one supporter of the Government Parties has seen fit to congratulate the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), when recently announced his resignation in very mysterious circumstances, on the Government’s achievements. 1 feel that I should not allow the mystery surrounding the Minister’s resignation to pass unnoticed. It is not something that can be taken lightly. The Minister ranks fourth in seniority in the Cabinet. The only Ministers above him are the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) and the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). This fourth ranking Minister in the Government has tendered his resignation under circumstances that have never been satisfactorily explained to the Parliament. He is the Minister in charge of the defence of this country which, according to honourable members opposite who believe in defending the country against our potential enemies, is a most responsible task. But wc find that the Minister has resigned on the eve of an election. The reason given is ill health.
As the honourable member far Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) said in this chamber, the Minister is the healthiest unhealthy man the country has ever seen. Therefore, that excuse is not good enough. I suppose it would also be fair to say that he is the fittest sick man in this sick Government. Nevertheless, the Government gives this as the reason for his resignation. We have been told that the Minister did not even tell the Prime Minister that he proposed to resign, but that he attended a Cabinet meeting in the normal manner and at about dinner time announced his resignation to the nation. Everyone will admit that the Minister for Defence is a capable and dedicated man; yet he resigned one night at about dinner time without telling anybody at all about his intention and without any indication of ill health or anything else. Apparently he suddenly felt that he was not fit to carry on in the Government. There can only be one reason why and anybody with any common sense knows it. He resigned because there is disagreement, discontent and dissatisfaction in the Government in regard to its defence policy.
We all know that the Fill aircraft- or should I call it the F-trouble-one aircraft - has worried everybody in this country. We all know that cancellation of the order - although the Minister for Defence has stated that it is a flying angel - will be announced before the forthcoming election. In fact, the Minister himself said that on occasions one has to make a liar of oneself to save a situation. I think that to save this Government you would have to lie day and night. On the subject of defence, it probably got too much for the Minister for Defence. We find that there has been no explanation given for his resignation. Only one honourable member has seen fit to congratulate him. Everyone knows that the Australian Press has paid tribute to his capacity; yet the Government glosses over his action. The people of Australia might be well aware that in regard to defence there is a great difference of opinion between the Prime Minister and the various Service Ministers, particularly between the Prime Minister and the man to whom tribute has been paid by the Australian Press and whose record in parliamentary administration is one which cannot be challenged by any honourable member on any side of the Parliament. 1 think the Minister for Defence was in a dreadful state of mind in respect of defence.
Where is the Government going with its defence policy? Why, the Government is in the Indian Ocean with the Soviet Union. What would honourable members on the Government side have said if the Labor Party had done that a few years ago? The Government is trading with China, yet it says that the Chinese are a danger to us and are threatening to invade this country. The Government has men fighting today in Vietnam to save us from the Chinese, yet it is trading with them at the same time.
I think that the Minister for Defence did not know whether to go Cossacking with Kosygin or, to use the words of the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), to tick tick with tricky Dick. That is why the Minister has to go walkabout and to walk right out of the Defence portfolio. The fact of the matter is that his resignation must be explained to the Australian people because nobody knows where the Government’s defence policy is taking us. The Minister for Defence did not know. With due respect to the active, young and enterprising Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch), sitting opposite me at the table, he is one of the few bright sparks in the rather dull collection of Ministers who run the defence of this country. No explanation at all has been given to us in respect of the resignation. The Prime Minister should have explained why the resignation came about. Is it not unusual in a Parliament like this, when there is a huge expenditure on defence and when the Government is basing its real existence on defence, that the fourth senior man in the Cabinet should walk out without telling anyone anything other than to say that it is due to ill health? I know of many people who, in days gone by, were exterminated in Russia. The reason given for their disappearance was that they died as a result of ill health. The fact is that they were not wanted around the place.
The Minister for Defence knew that the Prime Minister’s policy was different from his own. Is the Government’s policy Fortress Australia? Are we to fight all over the world? Just what is the policy of the Government? The resignation of the Minister must instil in the mind of every Australian a feeling of great concern and distrust regarding the Government’s policy on defence matters, particularly when a member with the capacity of the Minister for Defence sees fit to resign, not in the middle of a parliamentary term but on the very eve of a federal election. 1 do not want to do the Minister an injustice. 1 think he did what any sensible person would do. He received a raw deal from this Government. He had a look at the unintelligent people around him who were handling defence portfolios. He knew that he was carrying the baby. He said that he was sick and tired of doing this and decided that he would get out on the eve of the election and embarrass the Government as much as possible. That there is a lot in this view is proved by the fact that even my friends of the Country Party are fighting with the Liberal Party in the Minister’s electorate in order to try to win it and to put in their own defence policy which, when all is said and done, probably is different from that of the Government.
The Government must explain why the Minister is resigning. It must explain to the Parliament whether there is disagreement over defence. If there is no disagreement, the Prime Minister should assure this Parliament. All this silence and the acts of glossing it over will not go down with the Australian people. The fact that the Minister said that one had to make a liar of oneself sometimes in order to save a situation does not exactly help the Government’s case. 1 do not wonder that the Minister resigned. Anybody who signed an agreement to buy the Fill would have reason for some restless nights. When all is said and done, the Fill is a remarkable aeroplane. There is only one thing wrong with it. As you know, Mr Minister, it will not fly and that is terribly important with aeroplanes. They have to go up. You know as well as 1 do, even though you, in one of your brash moments - and you have a lot of them-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Grayndler should address his remarks to the Chair.
– I shall, Mr Acting Chairman. The Minister came in in a brash moment and said that the Fill was a wonderful machine. Do you remember his first speech to the Parliament about it? Well, none that have gone up since he spoke have come down the right way. The point I make is that the Government is worried about these matters. On the very eve of the cancellation of this $350m order for which nothing has yet been delivered, the Minister for Defence found another nail being put in his political coffin and consequently tendered his resignation.
As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) said today, I wonder what the Liberal Party would be saying if the Australian Labor Party, as a Government, had spent $350m for aeroplanes and did not have anything to show for the money after years of ordering and all the other things associated with this aircraft. Again, imagine the attacks that the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) would be launching at us across the floor of the Parliament for our incompetence and our inability to purchase the right things. Yet this Government has spent $350m to date for Fill aeroplanes and at this stage it has nothing at all to show for it. We have no assurance that the aircraft ever will be delivered. A committee is now sitting to decide whether the order will be cancelled. There is no greater public scandal of our time than the ordering of these aircraft and the scandal is exemplified by the resignation of the Minister for Defence who realised that he could not continue in the Government after being responsible, in the main, for ordering and praising them in this Parliament.
Is it any wonder that resignations are rampant amongst Ministers? We all know that the only reason for the defence portfolios being held by the present occupants is that they are camp followers. They vote for the Prime Minister. Have a look at them. You would not pick them on competence, would you? They must be there for another reason. Have a look at the Minister for Air (Mr Erwin). You know as well as I do that he is not there for his competence.
He is a nice fellow but after saying that I think you have said the lot. The fact is that the present incumbents of those offices hold their positions because they support the Prime Minister of the day. But the Minister for Defence who is resigning - an able man in his own right - would not tag along and has done the sensible thing. He is getting out of a decaying Government.
– A sick man in a sick government.
– Yes. He saw the light and got out. Accordingly, the Government cannot explain away his resignation. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) also tells me that the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) is on the way out as he is about to be appointed by this Government to the High Court. So, you see, those of you who sit opposite, that the Government of the day-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order!
– I am coming back to the business before the Committee in a moment, Mr Chairman. I am not getting personal. I am just giving you a broad resume of the people who are asking for the confidence of the Australian people in respect to defence matters. Let us look at a few other defence matters. I will take the Minister for the Army to task. President Nixon announces every day of the week that he is pulling 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 men out of Vietnam. They are being withdrawn in their thousands. We are told that within the next few days he will withdraw many more thousands of American servicemen from Vietnam. But at the very time that President Nixon is pulling out the American forces in their thousands, 8,000 Australian soldiers, many of them conscripted 20-year- olds, stand in Vietnam facing death and disaster in order, we are told, to defend this country.
Every person in Australia knows that nothing is further from the truth. If America can pull out 100,000 men, then not one Australian ought to be fighting in Vietnam today. What is the good of having 8,000 Australians there when America can pull out 50,000 servicemen from the front line? That is why the people of Australia do not know where the Government is heading in regard to defence.
Every time 1 hear of a casualty in Vietnam, of a boy being killed or wounded, I cannot help but think with horror of a Government that sacrifices 20-year-olds - not all of them, just a few- and tells the people that they are defending Australia, while at the same time the Americans walk out past them in obedience to withdrawal orders from their President. President Nixon knows full well that there is no need for Australians to be there at this time.
These are the things that are bringing about the state of affairs that causes resignations. One of the tragedies of this nation today is that a section of our 20-year-old boys, conscripted by this Government by means of a rotten ballot system, are fighting and dying in Vietnam although we know that this country is not in danger. This is happening simply in order to keep up with the slogan ‘all the way with LBJ’, under the policy laid down by this Government. Mr Chairman, if you want any proof that what I am saying is correct and that we are not endangered, the Country Party members sit here, parties to the Government, while they sell their wheat, wool and whatever else possible to China. While the forces opposing our troops are wearing suits made of Australian wool and are fed on Australian wheat, Australian boys fight them after being conscripted by this Government in the most vile system of conscription ever introduced in the history of any democratic country. Why, they said that Soviet Russia was behind the Vietnam situation. But the Government chooses to be waltzing around with the Russians on the Indian Ocean. It is lovely to see the change. The fact is that this Government’s defence policy is in a shambles. There is no doubt about it.
– That it is in a shambles is exemplified by bungling, incompetence and indecision. In every way Australia today is floundering along. Mr Andrew Jones, the boy from Adelaide, interjected ‘Rubbish*. He ought to be in Vietnam himself. As I said, the Government’s defence policy is in a shambles. The Minister for Defence has resigned and I am certain that the Government will be rejected on 25th October because of its incompetence in this important field of endeavour.
– The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), of course, is well known for his verbal dexterity. He acts out in this Chamber an entertaining role but none of the smoke screens emitted by the honourable gentleman tonight can obscure the disarray and disorder which characterises the policy of the Australian Labor Party in the field of defence which is so vital to Australia’s security. It is obvious from the Labor Party’s recent Federal Conference and from what honourable members opposite have said tonight, particularly the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), that their attitude of ‘while we do not need you, we do not want you’ is manifest in their whole orientation to Australia’s defence. I have no doubt that if the Labor Party’s policies were put into operation they would damage the- American alliance upon which we depend so much.
The Labor Party, in fact, offers a return to isolationism in calling for the withdrawal of all troops from Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. Labor policy is opposed to the existence of foreign owned, controlled or operated bases and facilities in Australian Territories. It is not unreasonable to suspect that if in government it would close the joint defence facilities on Australian soil which would impair this country’s defence capabilities. Further, a Labor government would abolish national service which, today, is so vital a part of the present strength of the Australian Army and of Australia’s defence structure. A Labor government would demand a willy-nilly signing of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty without regard for the safeguards which the Australian Government believes necesary and which are currently under examination. Against the background of the Government’s responsible approach to the defence of Australia is this possible alternative - the fragmented indecisive policies of the Opposition. An application of these policies would, rather than carry out a government’s greatest obligation - the protection of the country - tend to weaken the entire defence structure.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has been critical of the minefield laid in Vietnam by the Australian Army in March to May 1967 between Dat
Do and the coast. The minefield, in the judgment of the responsible operational commanders of the time, was both necessary and successful in meeting the objective for which it was intended. The problem facing the task force in early 1967 was to regain control of Phuoc Tuy Province from the Vietcong. Strong Vietcong main force units were known to be in the Province and their limited logistic system made them dependent on local resources which could only come from the populated Dat DoBaria area. In fact, a well organised Vietcong supply system ran from the Dat Do complex to nearby advanced bases, thence to trans-shipment points for the main base areas primarily to the north east and north. The mine field was required to limit the previously unrestricted flow of supplies by channelling movement through a few check points. It was, in fact, one aspect only of a very comprehensive programme to achieve this essential control, and in conjunction with the many other related control measures it did achieve its basic purpose of restricting to a high degree the previously unrestricted flow of supplies to the Vietcong. So far as troop movement is concerned, it was never expected that the mine field would prevent all infiltration by the Vietcong but rather that it would make it difficult for the enemy to withdraw rapidly after an attack. I say again to the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) who is more than persistent in his interjections that in the view of the operational commanders at the time the mine field was both necessary and successful in meeting its objective.
I do not want to weary the Committee with a lengthy recital of figures which are available to honourable members in the Estimates documents. I believe it will suffice to draw attention to the fact that the appropriations sought for the Army this year amount to $397,619,000 to which must be added purchases from the United States of America under credit arrangements of $5,479.000 - a total of $403,098,000. The net result is a reduction of $7,523,569 for planned expenditure this year against actual expenditure for 1968-69. I point out to honourable members that this is a relatively small decrease of less than 2%. I remind the Committee that the votes of approximately S400m given to the Army in the last 3 years are substantially greater than in any year since the 1939-45 war, except for the peak year of the Korean war. The small reduction in this year’s vote does not mean a reduction in defence capability, particularly when viewed against the defence programme announced by my colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall). This programme foreshadows the spending of $130m for equipment and the technical and other works necessary to support it. Rather it indicates, as the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) pointed out, that many of the goals previously set for items such as the purchase of capital equipment and the provision of accommodation have been achieved by the defence policies adopted by the Government in Budgets dating back for many years.
The main element of our capital equipment objectives has been the purchase of equipment to outfit a full division plus essential supporting units. In 1959-60 we devoted less than $20m towards this aim but by 1968-69 it had risen to $63m. I remind honourable members that approximately 80% of this amount was spent in Australia. The result of these efforts, despite what the honourable member for Wills has indicated, is that today we are capable of sustaining a well-balanced Army using equipment which, for a force of our size and role, compares favourably with that in use by our major allies.
Perhaps the most significant reduction in the equipment votes is that relating to the maintenance and replacement of equipment. This has been reduced from $66m to $54m. The Opposition, of course, would seek to infer that this reflects some slackening in Army efforts in this field. The facts are that the Army is now equipped with such a large number of new vehicles that the money normally allocated for replacement spares for vehicles can be considerably reduced. A similar situation exists in the fields of clothing and general stores where modern technological advances have been incorporated in the design of these items and have resulted in lower wear and tear with consequent cost savings.
Similarly, the reduction in expenditure on capital equipment in 1969-70 must not be taken as representing any impairment of our defence capability. Let me mention three factors relative to this. In the first place, the flow of expenditure on capital projects, whether in government or private enterprise, will have its peaks and troughs.
It is not always possible to phase the letting of large contracts so that total equipment expenditure can run at precisely the same figure year after year. Secondly, it must be borne in mind that the delivery times for different items of Army equipment vary considerably. Some items can be delivered in a short period after the letting of the contract. This applies particularly with items of commercial pattern which may be available virtually off the shelf. Other items of a purely military nature require to be manufactured to Army specifications and the lead time from the letting of the contract to delivery is necessarily, of course, greater. Where substantial research or engineering development is required before full scale production can be commenced, the lead time is even greater, and an order placed in one financial year may well result in deliveries, and therefore expenditure, in two or three subsequent financial years.
As production proceeds there can also be changes in delivery patterns which can upset the forecasts of payments upon which programmed expenditure has been based. It would be surprising, therefore, if capital expenditure were to run at the same level from year to year, or were to remain at a regular percentage of the Army vote. The reduction of Army equipment expenditure in 1969-70 is due to the fact that orders placed in 1967-68 and in 1968-69 were principally for items for delivery in the short term, such as locally produced vehicles, whereas the proposed capital equipment ordering programme for 1969-70 has a high proportion of items for long term delivery. Orders will be placed for items such as heavy landing craft and radio relay terminals, but due to long lead times for delivery the bulk of expenditure will not come to hand until subsequent financial years.
The third point I make in passing is, as my colleague the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has made clear in his Budget Speech, that the Army will be authorised to enter into forward commitments this year for capital equipment which will involve expenditure of up to $60m next year. As the orders will include items with long lead times they will involve continuing commitments for expenditure in later years. I did intend to make some reference to the major items of capital equipment which the Army will in fact be ordering, but in view of the limited time available that might best be left to another occasion. I want to refer tonight particularly to the importance of the Citizen Military Forces to this country’s military defensive arrangements because in recent times there has been some criticism of the CMF. On the one hand it is regarded by some as an anachronism, outmoded in these days of rapid technological development and the requirement for compact, highly skilled professional forces ut a state of instant readiness. At the opposite end of the scale some critics see the CMF as too small, and various opinions have been expressed as to how and by how much it should bc expanded. Let me make it quite clear on this occasion that the Government has no doubts whatsoever about the importance and the significance of the CMF and its role in relation to that of the Regular Army. The Army today comprises a substantial Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces, welded together to form a field force, organised and equipped primarily for operations in South East Asia and backed by an Australian support area structured to support the Army as a whole.
Whilst the Regular Army is intended to provide a fully trained combat force immediately available when required as a sustained contribution to South East Asian and home defence, in concert with our allies, the role of the CMF is to provide in war or in defence emergency the vital follow-up forces and the basis for such expansion of our military effort as may be required. The size and composition of these forces is determined by the Government on the basis of the best professional military advice available to it in the light of the likely threat to our security and the current and foreseen strategic situation. The Government has provided an organisation which meets the present strategic situation without imposing undue strain on the economy, and one which is geared to meet changes as they may occur in South East Asia. In fulfilling its role, one of the CMF’s major traditional tasks is to provide a nucleus of officers, NCO’s and specialists as a basis for expansion if and when required. This it has done and this it is doing. In the process the CMF members concerned have displayed commendable zeal and a high sense of purpose without which our plans for the defence of this country would undoubtedly be seriously jeopardised. lc has been well and accurately said that an Army is the only Service which counts its strength in terms of men instead of machines. Instead of a plane or a ship, man in the Army is the basic factor. He is the Army’s weapons system. He is our prime mover, and whilst modern arms and equipment - the best we can provide - are essential, they are but secondary to the courage, the skill and the brains of the fighting soldier. This is as true today as it was in the days of the Roman Legion. And with this in mind, although I have not on this occasion sought to cover, even in passing, our commitment in Vietnam, it would be remiss of me if I did not say that the dedication with which our officers and men have accepted the unparalleled challenges in Vietnam is at least equal in excellence to that of their predecessors in any previous conflict in the history of this nation. This praise, of course, in no way detracts from the manner in which the remainder of the Army is quietly and efficiently carrying out its responsibilities in Malaysia, Singapore, the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and at home in Australia. I think the fact that the Army has carried out its responsibility both in Australia and overseas so successfully and purposefully is a reflection of the dedication of all those involved, whether at home or abroad, of whatever rank. I want to say that I have been privileged to be associated with this Service during the past 18 months. I commend these estimates for the approval of the Parliament.
– There are a few things in the speech made by the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) about which one ought to make some comment. He said that the Army, apart from its equipment and its manpower, has to depend upon the courage and morale of the fighting soldier. It is fortunate that the Australian Regular Army has always had that great courage and morale. It has always had since its existence an exceptional training system for the work which it is called upon to do. One thing that this Government has done in the last few years to damage national morale as distinct from the morale of the Services - and this is one reason why there is a shortage of recruits in the Services - has been to introduce compulsory service or conscription, as we know it. The involvement in the war in Vietnam is part of the reason why so many young Australians fail to see any future in the armed Services. To that extent the administration of the Army has damaged the national morale and so has damaged the defence system. I believe at this time - I have asked for this before and I believe it is important - that the Australian forces in Vietnam should be removed from any active role and placed in some position of non-involvement with the enemy. 1 can only regard it as an act of national irresponsibility to lose lives at this stage. It is quite apparent that there can be no military solution whatsoever to the war in Vietnam. The Americans themselves have decided that there can be no military solution. The Australian Government, I am sure, has arrived at the same conclusion that every life lost in Vietnam is a life wasted needlessly. I believe, to this extent, that the whole defence system, and particularly those Ministers responsible, have been guilty of acts of great irresponsibility.
I ask that at this stage at least the Ministers concerned take active steps to ensure that no active operations are embarked upon by the Australian forces in Vietnam and that the young men who are there currently are preserved from any needless risk. Towards the end of the last war it was an established practice for the Australian Army to take care-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed expenditures has expired.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Bill presented by Mr Wentworth, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is to some extent interlocked with the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill No. 2, and I therefore suggest to the House that it might suit its convenience to debate both Bills together, although, of course, separate votes would be taken.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)There being no objection I will allow thai course to be followed.
– In presenting this legislation I think I should give honourable members at the same time a brief account of Commonwealth policies and activities towards Aboriginal advancement during the past year, and make clear the principles on which we have worked.
Firstly, the Commonwealth did not wish to move precipitately into a new field of responsibility. We preferred rather to build a firm base for progressively positive action. Through my Office of Aboriginal Affairs and the Council for Aboriginal Affairs we began to collect and collate the best existing information, and to fill the many gaps in it, in order to identify the problems and to measure their causes, scale and incidence more accurately. We consulted as widely as possible with the Aboriginals themselves as to their real as distinct from their supposed wishes. We sought the knowledge, experience and suggestions of all people known to be interested in Aboriginal advancement, including voluntary bodies, church and mission organisations, and academic scientists. We conferred with the State administrations and with Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities. These tasks involved me and my officers and the Council for Aboriginal Affairs in very extensive travel and discussions in every part of the continent. Although much remains to be done we are already in possession of a store of reliable information of a kind, quality and range that no Commonwealth Government has hitherto possessed.
Second, we have been at pains, while this necessary work was being done, to avoid interrupting or inhibiting the good work already being done by the States, private organisations, and the Commonwealth itself in respect of its own internal territories. It seems to the Government wrong in principle for the Commonwealth, even if it could, to assume or seek to assume total responsibility for all the affairs of the day to day life of one ethnic group of the population. The new legislative powers which the Commonwealth possesses as the outcome of the 1967 referendum are of course only concurrent powers. But, more than that, very different circumstances exist in each
Stale or region, lt seems to the Government obvious that if Aboriginal policies are to be effective they must be implemented on a regional - that is, a State or Territory - basis. Our approach has been in keeping with this view of the realities. The Commonwealth wishes to act co-operatively, pragmatically, and in a complementary way, in this aspect of its role. It tries to respond to existing and developing needs as they become apparent, or are brought to our notice by the States. We do not seek to enter unnecessarily into the fields of State responsibility or activity but to give substantial financial and other support to State programmes which are acceptable to the Commonwealth. In so doing the Commonwealth exercises a policy-co-ordinating role to an extent.
Third, and quite apart from its administrative task in the internal Territories, the Commonwealth conceives that it has a particularly important role towards Aboriginal citizens within its responsibility for Australians generally. This is rapidly taking shape in the form of specific Commonwealth activities, which are already many and varied. I would like to give honourable members a brief account of the more important ones before dealing with the Bill which is now before the House.
Our aim is to restore Aboriginal initiatives and independence in both the social and the economic sense. Indeed, 1 do not believe that it is possible to achieve either of these two objectives in isolation. Social independence cannot be effectively exercised unless it is built upon a secure economic foundation. Conversely, economic independence can end in frustration and contradiction unless the social infrastructure exists to sustain it in the eyes both of the Aboriginals themselves and of other Australians. We seek, therefore, to advance on each of these two fronts simultaneously. We aim to get rid of the ‘mentality of the handout’ and to make our Aboriginals v.lfsupporting in the economic sense. At the same time we hope that they will retain a pride in themselves and that other Australians will share this feeling with them.
One of the most significant of the Commonwealth projects has been the establishment of the Capital Fund under the Aboriginal Enterprises (Assistance) Act 1968. The Fund has a nominal capital of $5m of which $350,000 was earmarked in 1968-69 for a special irrigation project at Bamaga in Queensland, to which 1 will again refer later. The guiding concept of the Fund is to provide capital and technical help for individual Aboriginals or groups of Aboriginals who wish to undertake productive enterprises which are or have prospects of becoming successful.
In accordance with the requirements of the Act, I will shortly submit to Parliament a report on the activities of the Fund up to 30th June 1969. I will not anticipate all that is contained in the report but I would like honourable members to know that the experience so far has been distinctly encouraging and that since that date - 30th June last - progress has been made at an accelerating rate. Approximately 200 applications for assistance have been received, most in a quite undeveloped state, and some 23 of these have been approved, the commitments entered into respecting them totalling $328,096 at 31st August 1969, exclusive, of course, of the Bamaga project.
At the present moment we have a number of major projects in the pipeline. As a result of my recent visit to Arnhem Land when I had an opportunity of meeting Aboriginal councils on the spot, I obtained a list of the projects which they had in mind. On the basis of that list, I put certain proposals to the meeting of Arnhem Land Aboriginal councils which took place on Goulburn Island last week. As soon as I receive a report of that meeting’s views, I shall, I hope, be making a statement in this House and approving a definite plan of action.
Similarly I recently visited the Aboriginal communities in the north and west of South Australia and I would hope to put forward similar proposals for that area. Let me make it quite clear that I am not endeavouring to impose a Government scheme of development upon them; instead I am endeavouring to ascertain their views and to frame for their acceptance a plan which is based upon the initial expression of their views.
My officers have been investigating a number of major projects for Aboriginal missions where we hope that we can finance ownership by Aboriginals of economic developments. In three or four cases the initial difficulties now seem to be ironed out, and capital projects involving some millions of dollars, designed to make some thousands of Aboriginals eventually self-supporting, will shortly be coming forward for approval.
May I take this opportunity of thanking the missions, both Catholic and Protestant, for the spirit of co-operation and dedication which they have shown here. They are working most genuinely in the real interests of the Aboriginal people, and we should all be grateful for their efforts.
As the operations of the Capital Fund gain momentum, I look forward to an increased rate of lending for a great diversity of projects all over Australia. It is only 8 months since the Fund was set up. Since the legislation was passed in December we have had, without a permanent staff, to develop procedures and techniques for an unprecedented type of banking operation while at the same time studying closely and sympathetically all the applications flowing in. I must record the Commonwealth’s gratitude to the trading banks which generously made available on secondment officers who have helped us to organise the working of the Fund and to process the applications.
A second important achievement has been the development of the closest liaison between the Council and Office of Aboriginal Affairs and those Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities which have had increased responsibilities placed upon them by the 1967 referendum. These include the Departments of the Treasury, of Labour and National Service, of Housing, of Health, and of Education and Science. I would like to acknowledge the great assistance we have received from the Ministers and their staffs.
The basic aim has been to develop with them, in their respective fields, the precise lines and kinds of Commonwealth policy towards Aboriginal citizens throughout Australia. Their advice, and that of others, has been sought on State proposals to be funded through the appropriations made available by the Commonwealth Parliament for Aboriginal advancement generally. Honourable members will readily agree, I believe, that by bringing the wisdom and competence of such departments to bear jointly on the problems and circumstances facing Aboriginal Australians we are more likely to make a measurable impact in a shorter time than would be likely if we were to try to set up an omnibus organisation to carry out all these different functions.
The fruits of this approach are already apparent. May I recall to honourable members that an outline programme to assist Aboriginal employment was developed in this way with the Department of Labour and National Service and, after consideration and endorsement by Ministers, was announced by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) on 1st June 1969. My colleagues and I have great hopes that this programme, and particularly the plan for assisted employment for Aboriginals newly entering or trying to enter the workforce, will have a markedly progressive effect.
In the field of housing, most of the building is carried out of course by the State Housing Commissions, but my officers have developed with the Department of Housing the conditions which will ensure that Commonwealth grants for housing in the States will be applied on the best possible basis. At the moment my Office and the Department of Housing are engaged in further developing an overall Commonwealth policy towards housing. Some fundamental questions are under review. One of them is the question whether the Commonwealth and States between them, and voluntary organisations too, are utilising to the full all the approaches and facilities that exist. I am at present in consultation with the various State Ministers concerned with Aboriginal affairs on two important projects in this field, and I would hope to be in a position to make a statement to the House upon them before the end of the session. The problem of keeping pace with the increased rate of demand for Aboriginal housing is a very real one.
In the field of Aboriginal education, my Office is working in close concert with the Department of Education and Science to develop broader lines of Commonwealth policy. One product of this joint consideration was the announcement by me and my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), on 19th November 1968, of a scheme of study grants for Aboriginals at the post-secondary and tertiary levels. Already more than 100 Aboriginals are being assisted under this scheme. We are also financing some actionresearch studies through the States. In the course of the present year it is our joint intention to undertake some special work in community schools in the Northern
Territory. At the same time we are pushing ahead with inquiries into some major questions which remain unanswered in the technical aspects of Aboriginal education.
Likewise, my Office and the Department of Health are seeking to develop a specific line of Commonwealth policy in particular fields of physical wellbeing in which it is believed the Aborigines are at disadvantage or disability. We are financing two significant research projects into infant care and mortality, and we expect to develop and endow further projects both for research and for remedial or preventive activity during the course of the present financial year.
Honourable members will, I believe, appreciate that until recently there was no Commonwealth centre for the collection, co-ordination and interpretation of reliable information about Aboriginal life conditions throughout Australia. My Office is trying to remedy that deficiency as rapidly as it can. Yesterday I tabled in this House the annual report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. The work of this body is tradition oriented rather than welfare oriented, but it is still not without relevance to the research of the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, which is welfare oriented.
It was apparent from the start that there would be a continuing - indeed, an expanding - need for special research in this welfare field to produce the data and the critical assessments without which major decisions of policy may go awry. A strong research section is therefore necessary within the Office of Aboriginal Affairs. The establishment scale of the section is still very modest, and even so its staff remains incomplete. However, considerable research has been or is being undertaken either directly by the Office or by contract with individual scholars or consultant firms. The research ranges from relatively straightforward studies of proposals made to us by the States or by the Northern Territory Administration to complex longer-term studies which possibly have major implications for policy. Among the latter are three regional studies of areas which present characteristic assemblages of problems for substantial Aboriginal communities. Each is designed to examine a whole region, to identify its special problems for the Aboriginals, and to indicate possible solutions.
One is in a previously undeveloped region in which a major mining enterprise is taking place; another is on an extensive coastal strip which contains a number of depressed Aboriginal communities; another is in a country town with a large ‘fringe’ community of Aboriginals and apparently poor employment opportunities. In each case a basic aim is to try to match the existing and anticipated Aboriginal work force with the life and job opportunities in the region. We will do what we can to equip the Aboriginals to take fuller advantage of the opportunities and, if it is possible and necessary, to expand the opportunities.
We are also undertaking research into the feasibility of developing craft industries for Aboriginals who are at present unemployed. One such project is the utilisation of a semi-precious stone known to a group of Central Australian Aboriginals. Some quite extensive research, often in association with State or Territory officers, is part and parcel of our Capital Fund investigations, and the investigations themselves frequently highlight the need for particular types of research. Further, we have begun to finance or support other researches through the State programmes. For example, in South Australia we are contributing haH the cost of research into social problems resulting from the abuse of alcohol, and have made a grant to the Service to Youth Council to assist its effort to place Aboriginals in the urban workforce. More widely, we are encouraging and supporting generously policy-oriented researches by individual scholars and academic institutions. In sum, the research effort carried out or stimulated by the Council and Office of Aboriginal Affairs is already quite extensive and promises to be very fruitful.
I believe profoundly that the future of Aboriginal policy can be no better than the future of consultation with the Aboriginal citizens themselves. I am seeking to bring this about in a fuller fashion by two means. One is to assist wherever possible with seminar-type discussions, in particular those in which Aboriginals themselves take part. We have already given considerable help in this respect, and we have found the information and comment provided by such occasions very valuable. The other and more important is to push on with direct consulta tion with representative groups of Aboriginals by my Office and the Council for Aboriginal Affairs. The Government believes it is essential to provide Aboriginal citizens with regular opportunities to make their desires and views known to those at the centre of policy formation and as far as practicable to help in the formulation of policy. Members of the Council and the staff of the Office, which now includes amongst its Aboriginal members four distinguished and well known Aboriginals, have travelled over the whole face of Australia and have made direct touch with thousands of Aboriginals. I am sure that honourable members will sympathise with my wish to place on record my particular appreciation of the work of the Aboriginal members of the Office. In particular Mr Saunders, Mr Roberts, Mr Perkins and Miss Lawrie have travelled far and wide, have worked indefatigably, and have made an already invaluable contribution. I see them as the forerunners of a new time for their people.
In addition to ad hoc consultations which have occurred in the course of visits by councillors or officers to various areas, the Council has by now convened meetings of Aboriginals in all States, except Queensland and the Northern Territory, as well as a conference in Canberra last March of Aboriginal representatives from all over Australia. Meetings with Aboriginals from Queensland and the Northern Territory are scheduled for the next 2 or 3 months.
I now come to the last of my introductory remarks. Parliament last year made available $100,000 for grants-in-aid to Aboriginal welfare organisations. The judicious allocation of this amount has assisted some of these bodies materially. Most of them have in the past depended largely on their collections from public appeals, and this has not given them adequate finance to enable them to undertake the full role which they see for themselves and which could contribute so much to the well-being and advancement of Aboriginal Australians in certain circumstances.
I now turn to the substance of the Bills before the House. I deal first with the major Bill. By way of background, I would recall that, as I indicated in my statement of 22nd August 1968, an amount of $3,650,000 was made available to the States in 1968-69 for Aboriginal advancement in the fields of housing, education and health. These funds have already been spent or committed, and have contributed substantially to an improvement in the three fields that have been tackled. I myself, members of the Council and staff of the Office have visited throughout Australia numerous houses, schools, hostels, hospitals and clinics financed with these funds. I seek leave to lay on the table a brief statement setting out details of the expenditure by the States of the funds made available in 1968-69, and ask for leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-If the Minister has the statement incorporated in Hansard, which is the official record, there will be no need to lay it on the table. That would be superfluous. As there is no objection, leave is granted for it to be incorporated in Hansard.
– The statement is as follows:
For 1969-70 I seek a substantial increase in the grants to the States. As compared with the basic grant of $3,650,000, last year, I now seek approval for basic grants totalling $5m for 1969-70 to support State activities in the fields of housing, education, health and, now, employment and vocational training activities complementary to those of the Department of Labour and National Service. The legislation also includes provision for certain other grants to the States totalling $410,000, the nature of which I will describe later.
The legislation provides for grants to the States during 1969-70, the 1968-69 grants being set beside them for purposes of comparison. With the concurrence of honour able members I incorporate in Hansard a table showing grants to the States.
Of the global amount proposed as grants for 1969-70, by far the greater proportion will be devoted to the four fields of housing, education, health and employment and vocational training. The approximate allocation envisaged as between these categories is as follows: $ Housing . . . . 2,658,000 Education . . 987,000 Health 848,000 Employment and Vocational training . . 507,000 lt is my intention that the amount available in each of these four categories will be divided between the States as shown in a table which, with the concurrence of honourable members, 1 incorporate in Hansard.
In addition, the proposed legislation contains provision for some smaller grants which may be made to particular States specifically for expenditure on Commonwealthinspired projects. Thus, an amount of $120,000 is being provided for what 1 will call special work projects, divided as between the States on the basis of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia each receiving $35,000 and South Australia $15,000. The purpose of these grants is to allow governments, shires or other authorities in particular regions of Aboriginal unemployment to provide employment for Aboriginals on necessary projects, thereby enabling these Aboriginals to undertake useful community work and regain their self-respect. A further $250,000 is provided for what I will call relocation projects on the basis of New South Wales receiving $220,000, and Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia $10,000 each. As I mentioned earlier, the Council and Office of Aboriginal Affairs have been undertaking regional studies in certain areas, and these grants are intended to provide for the next stage of development of the projects, namely, the undertaking of certain work, mostly of a capital nature, in these particular regions. It so happens that two of the regions already studied or under study are in New South Wales, and it is for this reason that the allocation to that State is substantially larger than that in others. However, as honourable members will see from the preceding figures, this has been taken into account in dividing the rest of the available funds with the other States, so that the total is fair as between them.
The bulk of the funds envisaged in the case of New South Wales will be expended on the provision of additional housing in those urban areas close to employment opportunities, with the object of assisting Aboriginal families to move from their present hovels and take up normal community life. A further amount of $40,000 has been included for special adult education projects on the basis of $10,000 each to New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. The need for such adult education speaks for itself, if the parents of the new generation of Aboriginal children are to be assisted to see the value of education and other benefits of our society for their children. It would be our intention to arrange the adult education projects in full co-operation with the Commonwealth Department of Education and Science and the State Departments of Education.
The States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill (No. 2) relates to the Bamaga irrigation project on Cape York Peninsula. Honourable members will recall that an amount of $350,000 was provided in the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Act 1968, but in the event, due to the shortage of time remaining after the passage of the Act, it did not prove possible for the details of the terms of the loan to be concluded with the Queensland Government. The present Bill amends the earlier one by providing that the amount may be made available in 1969-70 instead of 1968-69. I am confident that the details will have been concluded very soon enabling us to pay this money over to Queensland. However, I am glad to say that these formalities have not been allowed to hold up the actual work. The Bamaga project, for which these funds are provided, is now nearly complete. The main pipeline is operating, water is already in the big reservoir at Bamaga itself and only minor reticulation is still incomplete - and work on this is proceeding. I have very great hopes that the present Bamaga irrigation project will succeed and justify future extension. If so, it should open up new horizons for the Aboriginals in the north of Cape York Peninsula and perhaps eventually in other parts of that area.
In conclusion I would merely say that our objective is that all Aboriginal Australians shall come to enjoy the same benefits of our society as do the other members of the community. It is evident that in order to achieve this we shall have to extend certain privileges to Aboriginal Australians - on a temporary basis. Our aim is to break the existing vicious circle of paternalism, dependence and pauperism which has become self-reinforcing and selfperpetuating, sapping Aboriginal integrity, self-respect and vitality. We seek to create conditions, as far as they can be attained by public agencies, under which the Aboriginal citizens of Australia can be helped and put in a position where they can help themselves to develop a dignity of life, a command over their own activities, a full opportunity for their aptitudes and a place in the nation’s counsels equal to those of any other Australian citizens. The provisions of the present Bills are an important step in the direction of attaining these objectives. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Stewart) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Wentworth, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill was explained in my second reading speech on the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill and I do not think it is necessary to add anything.
Debate (on motion by Mr Stewart) adjourned.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1969-70 In Committee
Consideration resumed (vide page 1240). Second Schedule.
Proposed expenditure, $41,506,000.
Department of the Cabinet Office
Proposed expenditure, $242,000.
– Before I deal with the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department I must say how pleased I was to hear the speech made only a few minutes ago by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). I am sure that the goods will be delivered. For many years we have had all sorts of promises with regard to the Aboriginals. It is refreshing to know that at last something is to be done for them.
The hour is late, but better late than never for the things I have to say. I wish to announce my retirement from this Parliament when the House rises in 2 weeks time. I do so with happy memories of the 20 years that I have spent in this place. I take this opportunity early in my speech to thank each and every one of the people who have assisted me to carry out my work in the interests of my constituents. I also thank my constituents who have helped me in no small way. Naturally, my thanks go to my friends and supporters in the Labor Party.
I also thank my electors in West Sydney, my colleagues in the House, the members of the staff in the House and the members of the Hansard staff who have put the final touches on my speeches. I thank the dining room staff, the refreshment room staff and the transport officers. T am very pleased to note that the responsible authority has recognised the good work done by the Chief Transport Officer, Mr Gordon Pike. He has done excellent work here and for many years was paid but a very small wage. I am (old that the Government has now seen fit to give him a rise. At one time it was argued that his position fell within a certain grade and it was therefore impossible to increase his wages. I pointed out that he was doing perhaps twice as much work as other people in that grade and that some compensation should be paid to him. r understand that he is quite satisfied with the increase he has been given.
Before coming to this Parliament, 1 roamed about the country for some time. I then spent 10 or 1 1 years in the Sydney County Council. There I had for a colleague the present honourable member for Bennelong, Sir John Cramer. I wish he were here tonight. If he were, I would tell him something. However, we must part good friends. Every time there was a by-election in the city of Sydney the member for Bennelong would have a strike. The lights would be turned out on the Friday night. There were no lights on the Friday, and that was good work for the Saturday. Those were the tactics that he adopted when he was on the County Council.
In all the positions I have occupied 1 have tried to do my best for the people whom f have represented and my adopted country. As 1 look back, I remember many humorous and satisfying experiences. I would like to have seen more work done in the last 20 years. But who can expect anything when a Liberal Government is in power for the whole of that time? I ask honourable members to look back and see what Prime Ministers in the days before that time did. I refer to Mr Chifley and Mr Curtin. They fought two wars to a successful conclusion. Since it has been in office, the Liberal Party has done nothing but make war on working people. I would like to have seen during that 20 years far better social services more homes for the aged, more community centres for the pensioners and less poverty.
I will not let this occasion pass without paying tribute to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), who was the Minister for Social Services some 3 years ago. At that time he brought in legislation to give assistance to people who were prepared to build homes for aged people. On that occasion I got to work, and with the assistance that was given by the then Minister for Social Services, we got very near the mark. But I am sorry to say that my comrades in another place are to blame for the fact that the home we proposed to build is not built today. They dilly-dallied in that place until such time as the Liberal Party took charge of the City Council in Sydney. A cheque for £90,000 that had been signed was withdrawn because at that time the Liberal Party had placed the Glebe end of the city under the control of the Leichhardt Council. That Council cancelled the money that was to be made available after all the time and energy I had spent. But 1 am glad to say that the committee concerned is still alive. We have some $6,000 in the kitty, and possibly this Corn.mittee will be one of my works when L have a rest and go back into retirement. I will do my best in the future, as I have done in the past.
I would like to see better schools and hospitals and greater recognition for the nuns and brothers in Catholic schools, who for years have worked with no recognition from the Government except for election purposes. If ever a true word was spoken in this Parliament that is it, because they were no good to anybody until such time as an election was coming up, and then the Government started to do this, that and the other and to make promises. We have a member sitting on the other side of the Chamber who protested strongly against State aid but when the Government offered State aid to independent schools he was the first to run round and knock on the doors of churches, schools and convents to tell the people there what the Liberal Party had done. The Government could not do anything else than it did at that time. It had to build accommodation for Army, Air Force and Navy personnel. When the workers in the three Service departments said that they could not come to Canberra unless there was schooling for their children, which in many cases meant Catholic schools, there was no talk about giving money for those schools. The Government said it would make provision regarding the payment of interest on money borrowed to build the schools, lt said: ‘We will take credit for the schools although we would have to build them ourselves if the Catholics were out at Timbuktu’. So we can see that it is only at election times that the Government gets going along. Unless I get along a bit faster than 1 am going I am afraid that 1 will get left.
The Commonwealth should make available to the States an immediate grant of another $100n1 to be spent on education. Over the next 3 years we should aim to increase spending on education from 4% of the gross national product to 5%. That would mean that at the end of the New Parliament a further $300m would be provided. It is silly and sinful to deprive young children, irrespective of religion and colour, be they black, white or brindle, of the opportunity to be educated. They should nol be kicked about at election time. The only thing to do is what is done in most countries The Government should provide the schools, whether they be for Catholics or Protestants. England, Scotland and other countries do …this. Six months ago the Catholics were the people who were supposed to be short of money for schools. Now, when the Government is providing them with a little money in an attempt to get their votes, it is revealed that the Protestants are left high and dry. Their school accommodation is not adequate. The Government should provide school accommodation for all children. How can we tell mothers and fathers on a low income that they will have to wait until next year or the year after that for money to provide school accommodation for their children?
Time is running out and I must move along. Before dealing with Australian representation in Ireland, 1 think I should say something about the Soviet Union. When Dr Evatt was Leader of the Opposition he was accused of selling the country out because he wanted Australia to sell wheat to Communist China. Now the Government is frantically trying to get buyers for outwheat, whether they be Chinese or of any other race. It serves the Government right. I fought hard for Australian representation in Ireland and I was successful in getting a man sent there as ambassador.
– Even if he was a Scot.
– Yes, he was a former Minister for Social Services. My heart bleeds for disputing brothers and sisters in Northern Ireland. But do we hear one word about them in this Parliament? When the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia and murdered its people, every member of this House condemned that action. But not one word have I heard about the action of the British in building a Berlin wall to separate the Catholics and the Protestants in Northern Ireland. 1 must congratulate my Leader; Mr Whitlam, a very good man. able, efficient, diligent, energetic and popular, who will lead Labor to victory. He will become a great Labor Prime Minister and many of my colleagues will be able Ministers. I will watch proceedings with great interest. I have served under some great Labor leaders such as Mr Chifley, Dr Evatt, Mr Calwell and Mr Whitlam; I’m not forgetting Jack Lang. During the depression, after the antiLabor governments had sold out the Australian people, families from around Surrey Hills and Paddington were forced out of their homes. The mcn had to work shifting sand on the beaches around Sydney to earn 5.0s a week dole. Earlier Jack Lang had wanted to delay repayment of overseas loans. (Extension of time granted.)
I thank honourable members for allowing me to continue. 1 have a lot more to say. 1 hope and trust that my efforts will achieve results. I am sorry that the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) is not in the chamber tonight. When I first came to Australia he was a rabid Sinn Feiner. I know that in a roundabout way he is still a lover of Ireland. Bui he has not engaged in any debate on the troubles that are occurring in northern Ireland at present. He speaks often on the latest dilemma of the Liberal Party and its shaking hands with Russia and saying that we should be good friends, but he has not said one word on behalf of the people of Ireland. That is not altogether what I would expect of him. I have in my band a map of Ireland which, if it were not for printing difficulties, 1 would have incorporated in Hansard. The map shows that the people in nearly the whole of the country are against partition, that in a very small part of Ulster between 25% and 50% are against partition and that in a slightly larger area of Ulster fewer than 25% are against partition.
– Is it in colour?
– 1 do not know what that has to do with the matter. I know that I gave the Minister a bit of colour when he was getting married in New York. I told his good wife that she should beware of him because the day the Democratic Labor Party dropped him he would not have a cent. I think I was giving her sound advice. People are being shot in their tens and dozens. Where are we heading for if this sort of thing is allowed to occur in a civilised world? The other day an organisation with which I am associated was set up in Sydney to appeal for money to help the people of Bogside who lost their homes. I believe that 500 homes were lost. We have raised $2,000 so far. I expect that we will raise a lot more when I have a bit more time to tell the people what is happening. I am also thankful to those who selected me for four overseas trips.
– Is that all?
– It is enough. Very few people who are reared on farms receive the same opportunity. My father died when I was 13 years of age and my mother had to look after the farm, which was 70 or 80 acres in area. I ..decided that I would not go to school anymore but that 1 would stay at home and help her along. That is possibly why my schooling and education are not all that could be desired. Nevertheless, I am very pleased to have had the privilege of making these trips overseas with some very good men. One such person is the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), who was on the latest trip. However, my colleagues and I did not give him a good introduction. We said: ‘This is a mate of the Nixon in Washington’ and so on and left him to explain ( thank him for the very good time he gave us. Mr Turner, the Clerk at the Table, was with me on two of these trips. I went to Rio de Janeiro. I nearly had a fight there. I told the people there that Sydney had the best harbour in the world. They went to great pains to tell me that Rio de Janeiro had the best harbour. I believe that they won that battle.
– They had the numbers.
– They did not have the numbers, but they had the harbour. So Sydney ran second in the list of cities with the best harbours in the world. Now I come back to reality.
– To the Prime Minister.
– Yes, to the Prime Minister. I think it would be better for him to dig in and do something for the people of Ireland who are here and are waiting for him to do something for them, even - if there is a vote hanging to it, instead of going over to the side of the Russians and telling them what he will do for them in the future. Anybody with any common sense at all knows that neither China nor Russia is a friend of ours. Let them fight it out between themselves. Why buy into a fight? We have seen what can happen in Melbourne when people buy into a light. We have seen what has happened in many other places, too. The best thing to do is to stay out of the fights.
– It is not like an Irishman to miss a fight.
– No, it is not. But this is what I would like to see: I would like to see the Labor Party win the next election. I am sure that it will do so. After all, 20 years is a long span. Twenty years is about breaking point for governments, especially governments that do not deliver the goods. Nobody can say that prior to the last 6 or 8 months the Liberal Party helped us along, as we would like to be helped along in many walks of life. In the field of social services, it is only recently that my friend, the present Minister for Social Services, took a hand. It was not the first time he took a hand in helping me. I fought very hard to have the Sydney General Post Office clock re-erected. I make no bones about it when I say that the assistance I received from the present Minister for Social Services helped to have the clock re-erected. He made no bones about telling Mr Menzies, as he then was, that if the clock was in Melbourne it would be up in 3 months. I am glad to say that it was up in 3 months.
I am also pleased to remember a very good Prime Minister, namely, the late Harold Holt. With a little help from my colleague the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), I set about doing something that 1 thought was my duty. As there are no women here at present, I will tell honourable members about it. I tried hard to obtain compensation for a man who came to my office and said: ‘What can you do for me?’ I said to him: ‘What has happened?’ He said: ‘I had an accident. I worked up at Taits in Elizabeth Street’. He worked there all right. He and another man were carrying a sofa. The other man dropped his end of the sofa and the other end hit my friend in the wrong place. He was taken away to hospital and lost one of his testicles. I went to see him at the hospital at King’s Cross. He left there with a bill for £100 but with no money to pay. After 3 weeks he came back again and he started to work. He went to work for a week and then had to go back to hospital again and he lost the other one. lt was not. funny for him and it was not funny for his wife. She went to see her solicitor and the solicitor said: ‘If you had money 1 could win the case for you. You are entitled to conjugal rights.’ We had half a dozen Queen’s Counsel and King’s Counsel in the Labor Party and I put the case up to them. They did as honourable members are doing now. They started to laugh. The story was published in the ‘New York Times’. 1 came back to this House and 1 said: ‘If it is good enough to be published in the “New York Times” and two of the local dailies in Australia I will have another go’. Mr Roberton, who was Minister for Social Services at the time, said: ‘Oh, that is terrible. Do not say anything about it.’ But not a thing would he do at that time. (The case came before Judge Rainbow and in his judgment His Honour said: ‘This man is not making his living by what he has lost’. I said to him: ‘I can assure you that he cannot make his living without them because every day of the week he is complaining about being a sick man.’ He was not in a union, as it happened, and could get no help with regard to barristers, solicitors and all the rest. They all left him at the mercy of Dan Minogue. I gave him £2 and advised him to go to Queensland because the weather up there would be good for him. He went to work for a couple of days and then came back again.
I notice that my time is dwindling. I would like to thank honourable members for giving me this opportunity of coming back to reality. I thank you one and all for the time you have given me in this Parliament in the last 20 years. 1 had 10 years in the council before that. I was once a hotel keeper. 1 never had a drink while I was in the hotel. My good wife did not either. We went stony broke and we would have been out of it only for Jack Lang. This was in the depression days, lt was nobody’s fault. There were three bedrooms upstairs. There were three men occupying them but they did not pay me for 2 years. They did not have the money. They were on five bob a week. This was under a Liberal Government. I hope and trust that, for the good of Australia, for the good of the education and welfare of the Australian people who are struggling, Liberal governments throughout Australia will go out of office and that we will have Labor governments, whether they be Federal or State, upper house or lower house.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. Sir William Haworth) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, 1 wonder whether you would grant me the indulgence of permission to speak for a couple of minutes without depriving my colleague, the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles), of any of the time available to him. I do not wish to speak about the estimates at this stage. I think it would be unfortunate if this valedictory speech of the honourable gentleman after he has spent 20 years in this place went unnoticed and if we do not say what a lovable character those of us who know him have found him to be. There are many members of the House who in fact will be retiring voluntarily and each of them will be making his valedictory speech. We have heard one of them tonight. I would like to associate myself and friends and colleagues on this side of the House with a very warm appreciation of the character, warmness of heart and the willingness to associate himself with causes of the honourable gentleman and hope that the years that lie in front of him will be very warm and happy years for him. There are a number of causes he has taken up. With some of them he has not achieved the result he would have wished, but in relation to the very last cause he has espoused in this House tonight I am quite sure he will find that when the Commonwealth employees compensation legislation comes into the House he will have achieved his point. To the honourable gentleman I would like to say: Well done and good wishes for the future.
– I should like to be allowed to speak for about 2 minutes.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - I want to remind the Committee that the time allowed for this particular debate is fast diminishing and we have very little time left for anybody who wants to speak on this item of the estimates. But, of course, I am in the hands of the Committee and I think that the honourable member for Watson will have an opportunity, probably later on, of adding to the remarks that have already been made by the Minister for Immigration. I call the honourable member for Angas.
– I rise just to put a couple of points to the Committee in relation to the proposed expenditure for the Prime Minister’s Department and Cabinet. Perhaps before I do so may I also join with the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) and wish the honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue) the very best of good fortune in his retirement to take place shortly. I think honourable members and many people throughout the nation will miss his colourful phraseology, if not the substance of his remarks, and I am sure that we will lose some colour from this Parliament when the honourable member for West Sydney does depart from this scene. I do not believe that there are any back benchers either on this side of the House or on the other who could be unaware of the tremendous demands made on members of Cabinet. They have to read in some cases, I would imagine, immensely long and complicated documents. In some ways, as they represent the executive of this Parliament, this has a very great implication for the future of this nation. 1 do believe that, as the business of this nation becomes more and more complex, equally the demands on Cabinet Ministers must rise, and I think many of us as we see them sitting well into the night and being up again extraordinarily early next morning and putting in hours in serious consultation, must be impressed with the sheer magnitude of the task they attempt. I do think that there should be in some way provision made for Cabinet Ministers in particular and the Ministry as well in many ways to devote a high proportion of their time to matters of policy. I think it is very urgent that this should be done for the sake of the future of this nation. I stop to consider what sort of help they can get. Unquestionably, the departmental officers behind them are extremely competent in nearly every case and the secretarial staffs that they have at their disposal probably do a lot of the hack work which enables Ministers to put more time towards policy consideration. If we follow this through we must get to the point where we consider the load that is borne by one man - the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). More and more as the years pass does the Prime Minister of Australia have an immense responsibility on his shoulders.
It occurred to me not long ago that there is quite a chance that the John Gorton Government will be returned at the next election with an even greater majority. If this is so it is proper that we should consider how best to utilise the enormous resources of ability of competent members of the Parliament. I will leave it to the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) to discuss his ideas about committees. I shall refer to a subject that received consideration in the past - I gather not altogether favourable - the idea of parliamentary secretaries. I believe that a government tried this idea some time after the war and I understand that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) is the only member remaining who was a parliamentary secretary. Two former members who were parliamentary secretaries were Mr Falkinder and Mr Howse. I understand that when the Government exercised its discretion and permitted parliamentary secretaries to take up their duties there was some objection from the Chair. Mr Speaker Cameron believed that under the Constitution he could not recognise the validity of parliamentary secretaries and consequently their work was somewhat restricted and they were not able to perform the duties that the Government had hoped they would perform. Could the Prime Minister re-examine the question of parliamentary secretaries to see whether the legality of this position could be clarified somewhat? If the legal position cannot be clarified could he have investigations made to determine whether any useful function could be served by reintroducing a scheme of parliamentary secretaries?
Before 1 conclude my remarks I should like to refer to the Library Committee, two members of which are present at the moment. 1 commend them on the great research assistance that honourable members can get from the Parliamentary Library. 1 have always believed that not only do Cabinet Ministers and other Ministers need assistance to be able to do an effective job but backbenchers also need help. Several honourable members from time to time employ part time additional secretarial or research staff. I know of probably eight or ten members who do, but this is becoming an onerous matter for members of Parliament. If the government of the day wants to improve the ability of honourable members to research matters in depth and to do their job without all the hack work, consideration should be given to some form of government help in providing additional secretarial facilities. From my point of view the easiest way would be to find out what a member of Parliament is prepared to do for himself in this field and then to subsidise additional help. I appreciate that some honourable members may have young families, heavy family commitments and no other means at their disposal. They might find this difficult, but I cannot see any way in which backbenchers can expect additional help other than to be subsidised when they are prepared themselves to make a financial effort for this purpose. J feel that there is a need in this field and that this opinion will be backed up by many members of this Parliament. Having made that small suggestion 1 leave it to other people to take it up and consider in greater depth. I support the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department and the Department of the Cabinet Office.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
The Parliament - Census Motion (by Mr Erwin) proposed: That the House do now adjourn.
– Yesterday morning at the end of question time I raised the matter of what I believed to have been an amendment to the Hansard report by the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs). In the honourable member’s speech last night he said that practically no new hospitals, if any, had been constructed in Britain for over 40 years. At the time I was quite convinced that he had not used the word ‘practically’. Some of my colleagues agreed with me. This morning I raised the matter and in fact accused the honourable member unjustly of having amended Hansard. 1 withdraw the imputation, if that is what it was. I know that the honourable member took it badly. Therefore I withdraw any imputation that he would do such a thing. Indeed, I am quite certain that he did not.
However, [ would like to remind honourable members that the honourable gentleman’s statement is quite wrong. I have before me the report of the British Ministry of Health for the year ended December 1963. lt states that during the financial year 1962- 63, the sum spent on hospital building was £stg33,900,000. It goes on to say:
Among the largest schemes completed in 1963 were the Queen Elizabeth 11 Hospital. . . .
– I suggest to the honourable member for Wills that he is reviving, or getting close to reviving, a debate that we had on this subject matter. It is of course contrary to the Standing Orders to revive a debate on a matter that has already been decided in the House.
– With due respect, Mr Acting Speaker, I am talking about the national health service of Britain, which has not been the subject of debate in this House. Admittedly it has been the subject of reference, but not of debate. There will be no other opportunity to place on record some of the facts relating to this matter.
-Order! T have told the honourable member for Wills that he is getting close to reviving a debate in the sense that the subject matter to which he is referring was the subject matter of a debate in Committee. I think this is contrary to the Standing Orders. The honourable member has actually linked what he is saying with the debate that was before the Committee. I suggest to the honourable member that he not proceed with a matter that is related to an earlier debate.
– In that case I shall refer honourable members to various documents. I suggest that they read the following sections of annual reports of the Ministry of Health: The 1963 report at page 28; the 1964 report at page 31; the 1965 report at page 166; the 1967 report at page 183 and continuing.
– What for?
– So that you will be guided towards the truth. I refer them also to page 192 and following pages in the annual report of 1968.
– I accept the apology tendered grudgingly by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). I do think that the remarks he made this morning were over-precipitate and did nothing to improve the general tone of the House: I think he has now endeavoured to detract somewhat from his apology by impugning my veracity when I said that practically no new hospital building had taken place in Britain. He went on to quote from the British Ministry of Health report for 1963.’ At 1963 no new hospital had been built in Britain. The honourable member for Wills used the phrase ‘hospital building’. This is not new hospital building. I would not like the Parliament to be misled.
-Order! The honourable member for Bowman is now proceeding into the same sphere which the honourable member for Wills was in when I drew his attention to the fact that he was reviving a debate.
– I accept your ruling, Mr Acting Speaker, but I felt that since my veracity had been impugned and the honourable member had debated this-
– It has been completely restored. Nobody ever really thought it had been impugned at any time.
– Thank you, Sir. In conclusion I would like to reaffirm this point.
When I was in Britain in 1964 I had extremely extensive consultations with everyone who counted in all divisions of the health service.
– I rise to a point of order. If the honourable member for Wills was reintroducing a matter which had previously been debated, I suggest that the honourable member for Bowman is now doing likewise.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Bowman that he has made his point in relation to the remarks of the honourable member for Wills and that he should not proceed any further on that point.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Speaker. The point made by the honourable member for Wills had not been fully covered. I bow to your ruling, Mr Acting Speaker. But I would suggest that honourable members should check up on these matters themselves. If they do they will find that up to 1963 no new hospitals had been built in Britain.
– I wish briefly to raise a matter which is of some concern to a number of constituents in my area. It relates to the census forms which have been sent out by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. These forms are causing considerable problems to business undertakings, in particular to the small business man. The extent of these forms is such that the time consumed and the cost involved in completing them is a matter of serious concern to business houses. Although the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) is not in the House, I am sure one of the Ministers who assists him will take note of this. It would be wise if the Government were to examine this position and were to endeavour to have census forms of a less complicated nature which could be completed within reason by business undertakings and the small business houses.
I have received a complaint from a woman whose husband is an invalid and who is operating a mixed business. She told me that she had to spend on these forms an inordinate amount of time which she could ill afford because of her domestic duties and the fact that she was operating a business. She was not in a position to employ professional assistance to compile them. Once she was on the list she had to remain on it for 5 years. This is a serious matter, especially for small firms. It is also a matter of concern to many of the larger organisations. I had a communication today from one of the largest wool brokerage organisations in Victoria protesting most strongly about the census forms which are being distributed to businesses.
The honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) has just qualified a statement that he made last night. It is a pity that he was in Britain when there had been 12 continuous years of Conservative government. I hope that he can visit Britain again shortly.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 12.27 a.m. (Friday)
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Defence Equipment: Australian and Overseas Supplies (Question No. 1669) Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What was the expenditure in 1968-69 on defence equipment for the services and the Departments of Defence and Supply which has been (a) purchased in Australia and (b) purchased overseas.
What was the value of equipment received by the Services and departments in 1968-69 what had been (a) procured in Australia and (b) imported.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What payments were made in 1968-69:
for each class of ship and aircraft which has been ordered for the services from overseas, and
for ammunition which has been imported for each of the services from overseas.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
What concessions and reimbursement arc made in each State and Territory for rates, charges and fares payable by pensioners.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question, insofar as the information is available from the records of my Department, is contained in the tables set out below:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 September 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1969/19690911_reps_26_hor65/>.